The Heavy and Light of World Youth Day

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I’ve been home from our World Youth Day pilgrimage for about 2 weeks now and am (mostly) caught up on sleep and back to our regular routine. I’ve also had some time to ponder my WYD experience plus the highs and lows of this pilgrimage of life.

Before leaving overseas, I listened to Switchfoot’s new album on repeat and a line of one song hit me hard. In “Heavy and Light”, Jon Foreman sings, “On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light with the heavy heart. On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light and heavy.”

That lyric was stuck in my head during our entire pilgrimage and I’ve realized it reflects my experience with both World Youth Days I’ve attended. Let me explain…

I went to WYD in Rio de Janeiro back in 2013. At that point, Jason and I had been struggling with infertility for about 5 years. I’d just had surgery a month prior to the trip which did a major endometriosis clean up and I had no idea what the future held in terms of being able to have children. I was holding on to hope but deep down, tried not to get those hopes too high since I’d already been disappointed over and over again. During that pilgrimage, I insist that mama Mary was stalking me (another story for another day) and by the end of our journey, I’d found incredible peace in God’s plan and will for my life, whatever that might be and according to His perfect timing. It was a huge turning point for me and I felt like most of that heavy weight on my shoulders had been lifted. Then sure enough, we were able to conceive our sweet Clare right when we returned home and went on to have no problem getting pregnant with Catherine. I’d gone to Rio with a heavy and uncertain heart but God made it light and revealed his beautiful plan with our long awaited children.

Fast forward to 2016 and our recent WYD pilgrimage to Krakow. I went into our travels with a heavy heart once again. My grandmother (the only living grandparent on my side of the family) was seemingly in her last days when we departed. Thankfully we were able to visit her before leaving and say what we thought could be our last goodbyes. Traveling overseas, knowing that your family, especially your mother, is going through such a difficult time, is tough. I honestly had a feeling that she would pass away while we were gone and sure enough, while at the airport in Rome heading to our next leg of the trip in Prague, I got the dreaded news.

Talk about a heavy heart. I shed some tears right away and got hugs and comfort from my husband, but I had my hands so full with the girls that it was hard to fully enter into the fresh grief and mourning. I only told a few people in our group and just wanted to keep the sorrow private and not make it into a huge ordeal.

While I hated being away from my family, being on pilgrimage was a pretty great second best place to be and truly helped lighten my heart. I was able to pray at countless holy sites and plus, it being the Year of Mercy and visiting the city that promulgated so much of Christ’s divine mercy was ideal for the tough situation. So while my World Youth Day experiences have certainly been fun and exciting, they’ve also been met with a heavy heart along the way. Thankfully, we have a Lord who promises to ease our burdens, carry our yoke, and turn our heavy hearts light on this pilgrimage that we call life.

Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner – Book Review & Giveaway

For several years, I worked in the hospitality industry at hotels doing event coordination among other things. Weddings were always fun to help plan and oversee but as you can imagine, I saw a little bit of everything over the years, moments both beautiful and crazy. So when I saw that the lovely blogger, Stephanie Calis, had written a book named “Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner”, I was intrigued. She was lovely enough to send me a copy to review and I’ve just gotta say – I loved it!

My first thought was “Why didn’t they have a book like this when I was getting married?”. I said “I do” almost 8 years ago and while I don’t think I did a terrible job planning our wedding and reception, a resource like “Invited” would have been beyond beneficial to have along the way to keep me on track and make sure I didn’t forget anything. I absolutely recommend this book to any Catholic couple that’s preparing for marriage and honestly, engaged couples in general. There’s so much helpful information for planning any wedding, especially if you’re not sure where to start.

On the practical side, there are extremely helpful checklists and guidelines included to help keep you organized along the way along with resources for further information on a variety of topics. It helps you navigate planning the wedding mass and reception, plus the wedding preparation process itself. There’s also a section from the groom’s point of view and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter which really help make it a well rounded resource. “Invited” also provides the Catholic Rite of Marriage and samples for important things like invitations and programs.

On the spiritual side, this book seriously emphasizes the fact that as a Catholic, your marriage is a Sacrament and points your focus to the lifelong vocation rather than only the one day and event. One of my favorite lines in the book says, “It’s your spouse, not your stuff, that makes a marriage” which is a great reminder of your priorities when preparing for the big day and your life together afterwards. “Invited” also delves into the hard but necessary topics such as cohabitation and contraception and also the deeper topics of authentic love, beauty, and dignity. There is great advice throughout the book about navigating the difficult parts of wedding planning like family disagreements/drama and offers advice on how to keep peace in your life during this exciting but stressful time.

On a related note, Stephanie is the co-founder of a lovely new website, Spoken Bride, for engaged and newlywed Catholic women. It’s full of beauty and inspiration for those preparing for the Sacrament of marriage and includes everything from style/beauty advice, spiritual guidance, and vendor information. Plus you have the opportunity to submit our own wedding photos to be featured on their site!

“Invited” can be purchased online through Pauline Books and MediaAmazon, and various other sites. Or, check your local Catholic book store!

Finally, I have a copy of “Invited” to give away to one lucky reader! There are several ways to enter, so pick which ones you want and please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway will end on Friday, 7/1/16 at midnight Central time.

Comment on this blog post and tell me what you wish you’d known when planning your own wedding OR if you’re not married, what you’d like to know. (1 entry)

Visit Spoken Bride on Facebook and if you want, please “like” the page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Visit Vita Dulcis on Facebook and if you want, please “like” my page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Follow Spoken Bride on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Follow Vita Dulcis on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Follow Spoken Bride on Twitter. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Subscribe to Spoken Bride via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Subscribe to Vita Dulcis via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current subscribers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Good luck!!

*Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post or giveaway, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own.*

CWBN Texas 2016

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This time last week, I was heading down to Fredericksburg, TX for the first ever Catholic Women Blogging Network (CWBN) Texas conference. After months and months of planning, it was hard to believe that the weekend had finally arrived. We were actually supposed to have the event last October, but then crazy Texas hurricane weather throughout the state deterred our plans and we decided to reschedule for the spring. As much of a bummer as that was (I seriously had my car loaded when we made the call to cancel – womp womp womp) I felt at peace with the decision and just knew that it was God’s will that we postpone the event.

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Special cookies for the swag bags!

And as awesome as the fall conference would’ve been I’m sure, as I drove into town last weekend, I knew that it was meant to be at this place and time. Fredericksburg in the spring is amazing, y’all. I headed down from Fort Worth and picked up Haley at the farm on my way. I may have had a brief fan girl moment as she’s one of my fave bloggers but Haley, you are so easy and fun to talk with and I had a great time with you as my copilot! And hey, I can proudly say that I used the infamous compost toilet. It wasn’t bad, I promise! 😉

We took winding back roads and got to see the gorgeous terrain of the Lone Star State along the way. As we entered Fredericksburg, we saw tons of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes plus found out that F-burg is home to lots of beautiful vineyards and is famous for their peaches. After running a few quick errands, we met up with a small group of ladies who were also already in town for dinner at Hondo’s, enjoyed some mighty delicious burgers, and started getting to know each other. Afterwards, we walked down quaint Main Street and chatted, checked out an art gallery, then met up with Erin and Katie who made it safely from Louisiana.

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Haley kicking off the day with her talk!

On Saturday, we heard amazing talks from Haley, Erin, and Kathryn and had some great discussions about topics ranging from being an authentic writer, finding your voice as a writer, social media, time management, and online privacy issues. We had some free time for lunch and shopping in the afternoon then after wrapping up the final talk and discussion, enjoyed a quick happy hour then headed to a phenomenal dinner at the Farm Haus Bistro. On Sunday, those of us still in town went to mass together at the beautiful St. Mary’s and then had brunch at Vaudeville (best crab & asparagus quiche, btw) before heading our separate ways.

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The beautiful St. Mary’s on Divine Mercy Sunday

Needless to say, like most of you who’ve hosted events before can understand, my attention was a bit torn. I put so much work into planning and running the event and wanted it to succeed so badly, that I found myself working to balance Mary and Martha mode the whole time. I wondering if I should take notes during the talk and discussion like most everyone else was or just try to soak it all in. Then I checked my phone to make sure we were on time with our schedule for the day. Then I was thinking about our budget. Then I found myself going through my mental to-do list for the next thing on the docket. Then my attention was back to the speaker and the words of wisdom she shared.

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Erin’s captivating talk about humility

Along the way with planning, gearing up for the big weekend, and even while I was there, people were asking me why I took on this big task, especially in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy. (35 weeks now, wow!) At times, I honestly doubted my ability to successfully pull it off with everything else already on my plate and felt a little nervous about being in charge of things for such an awesome group of bloggers. But the whole experience was a true lesson in using the talents that God has given you and taking a leap of faith.

 

 

Before becoming a stay at home mom last year, I worked for many years in the hospitality industry and helped plan tons of events at various venues along the way. So when this conference was in the beginning stages and a call for help was issued, I felt moved to raise my hand. God was totally nudging me toward this great opportunity to use my experience and skills. While it was a lot of work, I’m so glad that I trusted God to use me and my talents in this little way for the benefit of others. Now if only I could say “yes” without hesitation to what Christ asks of me all the time! Baby steps, right?

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Kathryn discussing her love of sweet tea & Dr Pepper…among other things 😉

 

Thankfully the event ran really smoothly – the only negative was that I wish we had more time together! To all the ladies that attended, I truly appreciate your kind and easy going attitudes. It was a pleasure to meet and connect with all of you and I hope to do it again! And to Kate, my partner in crime during this whole thing, thank you for the teamwork and help with getting this all together. You’re a rock star!

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What a wonderful & beautiful group! (Photo cred – Kathryn Whitaker)

If you’re interested, here are the blogs of the ladies that attended. Check them out!

The Rhodes Log
Erring on the Side of Love
Cajun Texas Mom
The Salt Stories
Humble Handmaid
Team Whitaker
The Littlest Way
Re-Visions
The Catholic Wife
Making History Today
Carrots for Michaelmas

PS: Huge shout out and thanks to our sponsors for the event! Charity Mobile and eCatholic

Resting in Christ this Lent

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The other day, I was pushing Clare around the house in her stroller, trying to calm her ever busy body for afternoon nap time. I could tell that she was getting close to sleep when she looked up at me through the mesh window in the stroller canopy. Her big brown eyes seemed tired and I looked down at her and said, “I love you sweetheart, get some peaceful rest”. She gave a sweet smile and while still looking up at me, immediately closed her eyes, slipping into sleep.

I found myself thinking what a glorious moment I’d just witnessed. Not only because I had a long list of things to try and accomplish while she napped, but because of the complete peace, love, and comfort she displayed. Hearing a calm voice, seeing a genuine loving smile, and feeling the joy that she bring – that’s the same type of peace and comfort that God brings to each of us. And that’s what I’m seeking this Lent.

Life has been blessed but busy as always between everyday mom/wife duties, cookie orders, planning an event, and obligations to family and friends. And oh yeah, this little corner of the blogosphere too. So this Lent, along with some other little things I’ve given up and taken on, I’m allowing myself to take a blogging break.

I know, you’ll miss those 4 posts a week that I consistently crank out. (sarcasm)

But even when I’m not writing, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking that I should be writing, letting myself feel guilty for not giving it the attention I’d ideally like to. So on this second day of Lent, I say bye bye till Easter. I’ll still use social media sparingly along the way, so might run into you there. But I’m off to soak in some much needed rest in Christ during these 40 days. Know that I’ll keep yall in my prayers and I hope you and your families have a holy and fruitful season of Lent! God bless+

March (for Life) Madness

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Now I love traveling, but don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be home after a trip. Last week, a group of youth from our diocese (led by my husband) headed up to DC for the annual March for Life. Clare and I were also able to join and this marked my 10th year in a row to participate in this yearly celebration of life and peaceful demonstration in our nation’s capital. Of course we’d been watching the weather forecast and knew that an epic blizzard was headed that way. So needless to say, plan B’s were in the works in case we were snowed in. And oh did the snow come!

Fun fact: Jason and I were in the DC area for both Snowmageddon in 2010 and now Snowzilla in 2016 – the only record snowfalls there since we’ve been alive. How about those odds? 😉

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We headed over to the pre-March festivities on Friday, the anniversary of Roe v Wade. It was such a bizarre feeling. The weather was cold of course, but it didn’t seem like a massive blizzard was heading our way. After hearing some dynamic speakers, the March officially started and everyone was ready to get moving. Typically it’s more of a shuffle than a swift march due to the number of people packed into the streets but this year, we were moving right along.

The snow started falling towards the end of the route and was absolutely beautiful. By the end, Clare was crying, was totally over it, plus needed a nap/snack. Our group hustled back to the Metro and headed back to the hotel to hunker down for the impending snowfall. And it snowed.

And snowed.

And snowed some more.

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Thankfully we had warm shelter and plenty of food and weren’t stuck on a bus like others. (though hey, they made the most of it!) Our original flight was cancelled, the Metro we depended on was closed, and we hoped to make it out on Monday. (which, praise God, we did!)

So us pilgrims made the most of it. We had a day retreat that Jason masterfully put together on Saturday in a small conference room that the hotel let us use. There were great talks, mass, and a holy hour along with times for fun and fellowship. Although, I must admit, I missed most of it. But I quickly learned…

…toddler cabin fever is tough.

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Throughout the whole trip, Clare and I joined in with the group activities as we were able, around nap times and earlier than teenager bed times. Which is fine, such is the mom life, especially when your hubby is in charge of the group and dealing with crazy curveballs. But after being cooped up in close quarters, Clare started going stir crazy. During one of Jason’s talks, she would. not. sit. still. and wove in and out of the youth the entire time, wanting to play and get their attention. Then during mass, she played the same game.

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It was ok at first, but then got to be beyond distracting and I got annoyed. She refused to stay with me at the back of the room and no toys or snacks would convince her. On top of that, she was tired and started throwing a fit complete with pulling my hair and slapping me in the face. I had enough. With tears welling up in my eyes, I darted out and headed to our hotel room.

And I cried. Like, seriously bawled. The pregnancy hormones played a big part I’m sure, but this mom just felt fed up and frustrated. My mind and emotions were running with thoughts of “Why did I bother coming this year when I can’t even fully participate?” and “What am I thinking, traveling to World Youth Day this summer with a toddler AND baby??” to name a few.

Thankfully Clare settled down and took a great nap while I calmed myself and got some much needed quiet time to just think, pray, and chill. And I quickly realized that I did need to be there. I was growing as a mom and a person, learning how to navigate life more independently without always having help available. I was gaining experience and knowledge of what works when traveling with littles, which will seriously help this summer at WYD. I was acting as an example of the culture of life by being there with my toddler and obvious baby bump, even though it was exhausting and difficult at times. I was being an example of marriage, family, and motherhood to the youth in our group. I was showing how motherhood is worth it, despite the challenges, which is what women in crisis pregnancy situations need to hear and see.

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God surely wanted me to be there and once I got over my own stir crazy feelings, hormonal emotions, and insecurities, I’m beyond blessed to have been stuck in that blizzard and experience this year’s beautiful March for Life madness.

…were any of you at the March for Life this year? What was your experience?
…do any of you moms have crazy toddler travel stories and similar challenges?
…any advice for traveling overseas with a toddler and baby this summer?

Photo cred: Myself (photo 3, 4, 5), Jason Spoolstra (photo 1 & 2), and Randell Labio (photo 6)

Mommy, Mommy, When You Pray – Book Review & Giveaway

CP Book Cover

A friend of mine, Kimberly Cook, recently wrote and illustrated a children’s book named “Mommy, Mommy, When You Pray” and I have the pleasure of writing a little review! Let me start by saying that it’s a completely darling book. The message is perfect for little ones who see their prayerful moms and are curious about what exactly she’s doing. The rhymes are so sweet and make it easy for both moms and kiddos to read. Even as a newish mom, I can already relate to so many of the scenarios in the book and the joys that they bring to a mother’s heart. And though moms often have hard days and pray for other things like patience, I’m sure that little ones will love to hear that their mommy is very thankful to God for even the simple everyday things that they do. The words will make a child feel loved and cherished by their mother but also by God who made them unique and full of reflections of His own love.

The illustrations are adorable and were completely done by Kimberly too. Which is so impressive, especially to this lady who can barely draw a stick figure. The pictures are bright and perfectly portray family interactions and the children’s lively antics. They certainly made me think of my own little girl and her silly, sweet, and curious ways!

Kimberly wrote all about her inspiration for the book on her blog, The Lion of Design, and the entire process of writing, illustrating, publishing, and receiving the final product. Her children were the spark for the book and in her own words, “My mind began to turn to my young son, and how he observed me praying, and began asking questions. The Holy Spirit was moving in me, and I knew he was drawing my attention to this lesson for a reason. As a parent, I needed to be faithful to prayer for own soul, but also for my son’s. He was always watching and imitating, and kids can tell when things are genuine, or just for show. I started reflecting on what I wanted him to know about my prayer life. I hoped that he saw the joy, peace, and consolation I received in prayer. I also wanted him to know that I talk to God about him! How to raise him to be a man of God. How to give him a Godly example. How to discipline him, as the Psalms have laid out. How to create a house of peace and prayer, so that he may go forth into the world, and know how to return to God in prayer at any moment.”

One other neat thing that came to mind as I read was that this book is perfect for any Christian moms and kids. Of course I’m not opposed to obviously Catholic books, but it is also nice that this book can be given to Christian families of all sorts and appeals to a broader audience of prayerful moms. It would make a great gift (hint hint…Christmas present!) for any new or experienced mom to read with their little ones and convey their own thankfulness and joy along with God’s divine love.

For more info about this and other great books (along with a link to purchase) please visit Ministry 23. Also, the book is being translated into Spanish and should be available before Christmas!

Now for the giveaway! Kimberly has been gracious enough to provide a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. There are several ways to enter, so pick which ones you want and please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway will end on 12/11/15 at midnight Central time.

  1. Comment on this blog post and tell me what you’re currently praying for. I’ll add these intentions to my prayer list! (1 entry)
  2. Visit The Lion of Design on Facebook and if you want, please “like” Kimberly’s page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)
  3. Visit Vita Dulcis on Facebook and if you want, please “like” my page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)
  4. Follow  The Lion of Design on Pinterest. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)
  5. Follow Vita Dulcis on Pinterest. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)
  6. Follow Vita Dulcis on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)
  7. Subscribe to The Lion of Design via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)
  8. Subscribe to Vita Dulcis via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current subscribers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Good luck and I hope that all of you are having a lovely and prayerful Advent!

*Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post or giveaway, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own.*

The Call of 9/11

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We all remember where we were at that fateful moment – when we first heard or saw the news of the 9/11 attacks. It was a day that started like any other but quickly turned into one that changed our country forever.

I was sophomore and in my high school choir class. We were rehearsing some songs for our upcoming fall concert and had broken into small groups to practice our individual parts. I was a soprano at the time and our group went outside to an alcove area next to the Fine Arts hall. We were soon called back into the choir room and our dear director, Mr. Baker, broke the horrible news. We were all shocked to say the least. We cried, we hugged, and tried to wrap our heads around the tragic events that occurred.

Then something beautiful happened. In the midst of the fresh suffering and pain in our hearts, Mr. Baker asked that we rehearse one particular song before class ended. It was an arrangement of the poem “The Call” by George Herbert. The words that we’d already been rehearsing for a month took on new meaning and emotion that day.

This song is what I always think of on 9/11. Sure, I remember the news reports and the horrific videos of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. I remember the realization in my 15 year old mind that terrorism is a reality in our world. I remember the way that Americans banded together in such a patriotic and loving way. But above all, I remember “The Call”.

It is a reminder that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gives us the gift of life, ends all strife, and removed the sting of death with His own. He is our light and our strength, especially in the darkest hours. He is joy and love that none can move or part. Not even terrorists who take the lives of innocent people.

Here are the words of Herbert’s poem and the lyrics to the song that will forever have a special place in my heart. Especially today, on 9/11, as we remember the victims of such a senseless act of hate and terror. If your hearts are heavy, I pray that you find peace, love, and strength in the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

God bless+

(I also have a recording of our choir singing it at a concert back in 2001, if you’d like to listen)

The Call

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, My Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joys in love.