1,826

Praise of Thanksgiving for every breath and every moment these past five years. 

1826 days.

Looking in the mirror every morning and evening, more than 3600 times, seeing what cancer took. Some days I have moments of normalcy where I forget what this earth handed me to deal with. Wearing a prosthetic allows others to not think about it since everything “looks” normal when they see me. Then a tightness or pain, in the breast that no longer exists, brings me back to reality. How can there be a phantom pain five years later. But there is. Pain as if being stabbed. Pain that gets your attention. It never leaves me. A reminder of my loss. My view in the mirror some days reminds me of the darkness that was cut out of me. Thankfully, most days, the scar reminds me of a God that moved mountains for me because of His great love. His love is more powerful than any darkness in our lives.

He brought me through my battle.
He gives me life to enjoy, even with battle scars and all my other flaws.
My missing breast doesn’t define me, it refined me in the grace Jesus provides me.

We all have challenges in life. It could be addiction, unemployment, loneliness, stress, or chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer recurrences or MS. Our attitude through our challenges defines us. We are never alone through these stages of life. We always have a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. Just this week I led children in a prayerful meditation. Guiding them to spend time with Jesus in their mind’s eye. Seeing Jesus sitting under a tree, calling us to spend time with Him. Gently listening to our every need. Holding our hand and carrying our burdens right beside us.

Praise to God for giving me the blessing of reaching my 5 year mark! Looking forward to celebrating the 10 year, 15 year, 20 year and so many more.
God is Good! All the Time!
Celebrate today! Celebrate tomorrow! Celebrate Everyday!

Psalm 68:20-21 Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation. God is our saving God for us; the Lord, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.

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Perfectly us, four increases to five!

Today my family expands! ZachKarmen
Our son, Zachary is marrying Karmen!
The joy and love we feel is real…strong…and true.

As parents we have so many hopes, dreams, and desires for our children, yet ultimately the most important one is; we want them to be truly happy and live faith-filled lives. Both our children, Jaclyn and Zachary, have found joy in life with their careers and friends. Now to watch Zach and Karmen grow individually and as a couple these past two years, has been a true blessing for our family.

Our family of four is a typical close, in your business (sometimes), Italian family. We love passionately, care deeply and have been known to have arguments occasionally (infrequently now, but those teen years…Yikes!). We are far from perfect, but we are perfectly us.

I wonder if we our family was a shock to kind, calm, and quiet Karmen, who’s family life and culture is different. Which is true for each one of us comes from a unique and special family. Each of us bring with us a lot of family “stuff”, it makes us who we are. Melding their new lives together, I trust the Lord to  guide Zach and Karmen, to create their own ‘perfectly theirs’ family.

I knew Zachary’s heart was taken the first time I met Karmen. We met Zachary and Karmen at the Museum of Science and Industry the day after Thanksgiving 2013. Watching Zach talk with her, hold her hand, and treat her like the incredible woman she is…was it.

I love Zachary with her. He was comfortable, confident and loving…he was completely himself. I love who Zach is with Karmen, true to himself.

Then in June of 2014 in Venice, Italy on our family vacation Zach talked non-stop about why he loved her and how he missed seeing her. He was head over heels in love, I was no longer the most important woman in my baby’s heart and I was so happy to share his heart for this reason. Seeing how happy he was made this transition much less painful, because you see, he is my baby…the one I held when he was sick or hurting. Yet, now I see the man that the Lord created and am so grateful He allowed me to be part of Zach’s life.

So…
As they begin their marriage, I have to reflect on a life of marriage and the graces received (and lessons learned) through my 32 years and 2 children with my husband, Kevin. This will not be and cannot be a comprehensive guide to marriage, just my reflections as thoughts come to me.

Begin each day with a prayer of praise for all that you have been blessed with.
Put each other before yourself in life, honor and cherish every breath together.
Never lose yourself, be individuals who respect each other.
Always hold hands and snuggle all the time, especially during movies.
Share dinner together, even if it happens to be leftovers or cereal.
Take time to spend alone together.
Make birthdays and your anniversary special each year.
Listen more than you talk.
Forgive easily, especially when it is not easy.
Cheer each other in good times and cling to each other in storms.
Look for rainbows and stop to watch sunsets.
Make financial decisions together and never hide purchases from each other.
The mountains are calling you, spend time breathing in the clean, pure air of God’s beauty.
Stay close to family, they are your biggest supporters and loyal confidants.
Remember you are joined and entwined together as three cords, keeping God in the center will keep you strong.
Pray each night for each other and with each other.
Love always.

All good heart-felt advice from me is solid, I still giggle at my sister Toni’s great marriage advice of “always fight naked and no one will ever run out of the house.”

And know that all our family looking down upon us are smiling and guiding you…and know deep in your hearts that Kevin and I pray for you both and your union.

Welcome to this crazy, passionate, loving family Karmen…we love you!

#KarmenandZach
#ZachandKarmen
#marriage #love #happiness

Grace embraced through the young, pure love and happiness of this day as we welcome Karmen to our family through the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails   1 Cor 13:7

The Power of a Touch

Do we take for granted the hug we receive as we leave the house or holding hands as we walk down the street?Touch

How does touch effect our lives? Do we even notice when someone touches our shoulder or brushes our arm when walking past us? We definitely would notice a touch if we had not had human contact in weeks. We would be keenly aware of the loss of it and excitedly healed when we were able to feel it again.

Those working with the homeless, home-bound or so called “undesirable” of society would tell you a touch of another is very missed. There is something about human interaction that we are made for.

Jesus understood this. My favorite gospel story always has been found in Mark 5. A crowd is pressing against Jesus form all around. His disciples are trying to protect and move him along to Jairus’ home where Jairus’ daughter is sick. Jesus stops abruptly. He felt a power leave him, as if someone had robbed him of his strength. Without him asking God to heal someone, a simple touch healed. Just a touch of His cloak, she did not even get to touch His skin. His apostles think Jesus is crazy, tons of people are touching Him trying to get His attention. But Jesus felt one powerful touch from a woman who had been without human contact for years because of her suffering. How much more powerful would it have been if she reached out and actually touched the leg of Jesus?

A simple touch healed. Do we possess a power to heal with a touch also?

Absolutely!

Be aware of those around you, there are many people that live alone, away from family. It may be weeks since they were embraced or kissed on the cheek…or even high-fived someone. Our children whom live away, our parents whom we have not seen in a while, neighbors who are widowed, co-workers whom are single, those in nursing homes and homeless shelters…and those who are societies lost. We must begin to “see” them and to “heal” them with a simple touch.

Statistics show children whom are not shown affection or are without physical contact at young ages suffer emotionally and intellectually. Our touch is powerful. It can heal and it can help our growth. Parents would never even think about not rocking a child and placing their tiny hands into ours. There is no image more beautiful than a mother snuggling with their child against their chest. Feeling their tiny heart beat and seeing them sleep against the rising and falling of your body’s breath. It can be healing for mothers as well, to know their child is safe and taken care of. Each person needs to see others as they do their own. We are all family…we belong to each other…we are connected in our humanness…we must share in our ability to help each other by a simply hand on a shoulder or embrace.

Yet when we refuse our brothers and sisters in this world, in not reaching out, we weaken ourselves as well as others.FreeHugs

Embrace each other, laugh together, hug one another…not just family, not just those who are nearby, embrace everyone. It doesn’t matter their status in society, or their nationality, or the color of their skin, or their political affiliations…or anything. The only thing that matters is there is someone in the crowd that is so desperate they are crawling on the dirty, dusty ground to reach out to you and just touch a corner of your clothes.

A touch can give someone peace and healing today …”go in peace and be healed.”

Grace embraced through touch…
“If I just touch his clothes, I will get well. She touched his cloak….and she had the feeling inside herself that she was healed of her trouble.” Mark 5:28-29

#thepoweroftouch
#gospelofmark
#kindnessmatters
#lovematters

 

 

The Priority of Faith

“It was revealed this week that, for the first time in its history, Harvard University, which had been founded for religious purposes … has admitted a freshman class in which atheists and agnostics outnumber professed Christians and Jews.”

Be Brace

Did that make you pause and read it again? Did it make you sad, mad or upset? I had all those emotions when I read it for the first time.

This statement has been heavily weighing on my heart since I read it on Thursday, September 18th in an article by Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary of Los Angeles. Incoming freshman, not graduating seniors from college. Incoming freshman, those sons and daughter that are leaving our homes for the first time to spread their wings as young adults. Incoming freshman, fresh from our homes where they should have received a foundation of faith.

I’m sure the rest of Bishop’s article was also informative and enlightening, but I still can’t get past the first sentence. Every day since September 18th, when I read those words, I ask myself, what can I do better. I have worked in Faith Formation for 14 years, these atheists and agnostics could have been in homes of families I ministered too. This is not a Catholic thing, it’s a faith thing…or a lack of faith thing.

I have to be part of the solution. I have to help parents provide the tools to foster faith. No matter how I plan and execute faith formation, the 30 hours a year I see the children is not enough to form their faith. As parents we have to model and mentor. We have to set rituals and traditions. We work hard to form our children’s social and moral characteristics. We, together, need to mold their souls. Those souls are yearning for God, where they belong!

Our days of forming our children pass quickly. They grow, it seems, over night. We blink and they are moving out and leaving us, which causes parents to think of what did we not pass on to them.

Faith…at least basic understanding of the Golden Rule, “do unto others they way you want them to do unto you” if practiced daily shows children the Golden Rule in action. We need to bring God into our homes and into our daily lives. No…let me correct that. God is already in our homes and daily lives. We need to open our hearts and recognize His work in our lives. He wants us to know Him and He wants to be in relationship with us.

How do we change that statistic?
How do we take responsibility for making the world a more peaceful place?
How do we instill in our children that God, Allah, I Am, Yahweh, whatever your tradition calls Him, freely give us LOVE?

First we can pray!
I have seen the power of prayer in my own life and in my work. Prayer makes a difference! Any type of prayer and any time for prayer works…just pray.

We can live as examples. Living our lives with our brothers and sisters in peace, compassion, and mercy shows our youth how they should live.

Have a missionary heart. As we encounter people on the streets, in restaurants, at work and in our own neighborhood, share the joy of faith with them. Reach out to those in need and give of your time, give of your talents, and give of your treasure, you will never regret a moment you spent helping others.

Love. Love is the foundation for everything. Share Love. Speak of Love. Show Love. Be Love. priority

I created ways to spread the Love of Christ and promote faith online. Check out my social avenues:
https://www.facebook.com/sjcyc
https://twitter.com/youthsjc

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

I see God’s grace and mission for me…to help others, especially the families I minister to, to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Relish this remarkable life

Grace fills my life and surrounds me with God’s eternal love.
How can we capture the love that Christ offers us and share it with others?

Grace dice

This blog began as my diary for a journey I never intended to take, but a journey which I was chosen to take. It often can be personal and when I type I forget that others will read it, but that is when we are most honest with ourselves. I believe with all my soul that my breast cancer journey was a blessing, not a cure. Was it easy…Absolutely Not! Was it necessary…NO! But was it fruitful…YES!

This coming week I celebrate my 3 year anniversary of being cancer free. May 4, 2012 doctors took part of me, which created a roller coaster of emotions for me as I dress each day being reminded of what was taken. But on May 4, 2012 doctors also took the ugly darkness that threatened me. With the darkness gone, I focused on the LIGHT!

The tumor removed had a 50/50 chance of returning within the first 3 years! And by God’s grace I will hit that marker on Monday! Praise God! Now it drops to 30%…but I’ll look at the opposite…70% it will never return!

Although I have not blogged in a while. I am hoping this blog begins to transform into sharing grace moments in everyday life. Grace is all around us, it is within us and it forever embraces us. It is in sharing the grace moments that we strengthen each other, carry each other and inspire each other.

MIT meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, created one of the most intriguing ideas that moved from lab to pop culture: the “butterfly effect,” the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences. In a world that can be cynical, depressing and negative; I can only effect those around me..or do does it? What would happen in a world where all our “wings” were spreading grace to others? I would give anything to see that world!

Last weekend I embraced grace is a simple meal. Okay pizza at Giordano’s may be simple, but there was nothing simple about getting 17 of us together! Kevin and I along with our son and his fiance met in Naperville with some of the Caschetta cousins. Two nieces and a nephew, their spouses and children (7 children…5 under the age of 6 years old)…what a beautiful and wonderful family. The craziness even prevented us from snapping a picture together, but the grace flowed throughout the table.

Catching up with their lives and watching the little cousins laugh was grace enough for me. As Kevin and I sat at one end of the long table, I realized the incredible family we have. As my children’s generation begin families and I sit in my empty nest with Kevin, I am able to reflect on all the amazing things God has provided for our family.

Seeing Lindsay, Nick and Britt in strong marriages, facing the challenges of raising children while balancing work and home makes me feel blessed. The fact that these extremely busy 30 somethings were able to make time for us touched my heart deeply. What a gift to spend time with family! I love all my big crazy family!!

God is a family, one in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He created us to flourish in families, even mucky families. We are able to choose our actions and reactions to whatever life throws at us. When you do it from a place of faith, God gives us wiper blades to get the musky-ness out of our line of sight. It’s not gone, there is just a clearer vision within.

Life experiences help us to also see much clearer. I honestly don’t know how I would have handled breast cancer at 25 or 35. There were so many wonderful friends, mentors, bible study members, teachers, priests and family that taught me vital lessons throughout my life…and created the person I am still working on today. Thank you.

Each step we travel, especially if we have God at our side and entwined in our lives, is a stepping stone to a grace filled life. Travel with me on this journey!

Every year, I snuggle with my daughter and husband and watch About Time. It is a beautiful story about family, love and life. In the closing moments of the movie, the main character says “we are traveling through this life together, every day of our lives, all we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.”

Grace embraced through lives small steps each day with people we love and people we have yet to meet and love. Our wings bring grace to so many, every day of our incredible, remarkable lives. Enjoy a grace embraced life!

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

A Year of Thriving

DSC_4295

My mom, brothers and sisters…Love you all!

August 8, 2013 – Last treatment
of the targeted chemotherapy, Herceptin.

August 8, 2014 – A year free of treatments- JOY. A year free of needle pokes and IV bags-PEACE. A year of hair growth and personal growth-LOVE. A year filled with love of family and friends-KINDNESS. A year filled with sunshine blinding my cloudy days because I wake up every morning-GOODNESS.

My daily prayers still include some personal intentions, but they are mostly prayers of thanksgiving. I have faced the evil that cancer is and am still thriving. A sweet cousin, who also overcame breast cancer, wisely told me as I began this journey in March of 2012, that she doesn’t consider herself a survivor, she is a thriver. I have come to realize that my life too is about thriving! My prayer is that I continue to thrive and bear the fruits of the Spirit to others.

I was blessed this past year of good health to spend beautiful moments with my sisters, Diane, Teri and Toni and my brothers, Don and John. I believe our relationships grew stronger and deeper. There were many moments that I treasure with friends too, but siblings share a special bond that runs long and deep. They have seen me at my worst and my best and they continue to stand by me. I pray I have shown them and will continue to show them the love, kindness and gentleness that they have shared with me. Some of the years highlights were…

Kevin and I were blessed to vacation just before my last Herceptin with Teri and Diane for Teri’s Hawaii wedding to a wonderful new brother-in-law, Nick. Teri’s children Mindy and Jack joined us for an incredible 5 sunny days.

Kevin and I were blessed to vacation with Don and Mindy in Cancun for a glorious week in January. Yes during Chicago’s below zero temperatures we were all glad to get away and relax at the beautiful gulf waters. Their friends Tony and Diane joined us for an amazing time filled with lots of laughs.

In March we stole a few days away for my nephew’s wedding in Arizona. Pete and Melissa filled the air with the love that radiated from them. And the time with the extended Caschetta family was so much fun…lots of little ones running around the reception and leading the moves on the dance floor.

The abundant blessings came about at the end of May when we could put off no longer the trip that we had been planning in our minds and hearts for 8 years. Fifteen days in Italy…Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terra and Lucca. My heart felt at home in Lucca. Maybe it was because it is where my Nonno and Noni met, or maybe it was because I knew my father had walked those streets too. I don’t know what it was, but I felt a connection to a place I had only heard stories about.

There may have been hard moments, scary moments and moments of distress this past year. But I choose to remember the moments I spent with my husband, my daughter, my son, my mother, my siblings and my friends. Laughing, loving and living…no, laughing, loving and thriving!

Grace embraced through the love I have been blessed to share with others throughout the past year. May the Lord use me to help others bear their burdens, so that I may lighten their load in some small way.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22-23

 

The Almighty Physician

If you have ever faced an illness you understand when I talk about all the physicians necessary to care for you.almightydoctor

Over the past two years I have met with a gynecologist, breast surgeon, radiologists, cardiologist, oncologist, internal medicine, nuclear medicine, dermatologist, otolaryngologist, gastroenterologist, dentist, ophthalmologist, oncology radiologists, generalist, podiatrist, nephrologist and I’m sure I am forgetting someone (sorry). Each of these doctors were wonderful and a specialist in their field. I am so blessed to have the top-notch professional available at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Although they may have helped me along the way, the only true physician I needed was the Almighty Physician.

When I sat back and allowed The Physician to treat me, not only was I treated physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Now I see the scar that a surgeon left, but The Physician healed.
I have neuropathy in my feet left from treatment, but The Physician knows my pain.
He was there in the surgery, He was there for each appointment, walking right next to me.
He knows what I feel, what I need and what I can carry…and I will continue to trust Him with my life.
He is my constant, always faithful and always present.

Grace embraced through the moments I remember to pause and acknowledge the healing touch of our Lord Jesus.

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do” Luke 5:32