The Heavy and Light of World Youth Day

heavy and light

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.

Resting in Christ this Lent

rest in christ Lent

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

IMG_1242

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? 😉

IMG_1205

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.

IMG_1187

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.

IMG_1215

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.

IMG_1211

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.

12549067_10107632185241474_8649344674764742158_n

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

call of 9.11

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.

Budapest and the Rich Young Man

Budapest Rich Young Man

I love finding (or creating) deeper meaning in mainstream music. (you might remember my Taylor Swift analysis) Especially when songs are about love, music just tends to make me contemplate faith and my mind starts wandering to Scripture, the Catechism, and the lives of the saints. Maybe it’s because God is love. Just a theory.

One song that’s gotten lots of air time lately is “Budapest” by George Ezra. It’s a sweet love song about giving up everything for the person you love. Ezra swears he’ll give up acres of land, artifacts, treasures, and even his house in the namesake Budapest for his beloved. *swoon* While the song totally appeals to my romantic side, every time I hear it, I can’t help but think of a similar story with a slightly different ending.

In Matthew 19:16-22, we read the well known passage about a rich young man who approached Jesus with a very important question. Let’s take a look:

“Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Granted, the passage doesn’t say that the young man never gave away his prized possessions, but from what we do know, he definitely struggled with this challenge from Jesus. The song and this Bible passage lead me to think – would I be able to give up my most valuable things if Christ called me to? Do I love Him enough, like the love described in “Budapest”, to leave it all? I’d like to think that I could, but honestly, it would be a real struggle. Sure I could give up my iPad, my KitchenAid mixer, and my hair straightener. I can get by without those. But our beautiful new home? (in Texas, not Budapest) Our savings account? Heaven forbid, my husband or daughter? Oof. There’s where I cringe. Detachment is tough.

I’m also reminded of Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus calls the first Apostles. He approaches Peter, Andrew, James, and John while they’re fishing on the Sea of Galilee and asks them to join Him. The passage says that “immediately” and “at once” they drop what they’re doing and follow. Again, could I do that? Am I willing to put my faith in God to the point of making a quick radical change in my life to follow His call? Something to definitely think about.

One last thought is about the final verse of the song where Ezra sings, “My friends and family, they don’t understand. They fear they’d lose so much if you take my hand.” Again this is talking about a romantic relationship, but how true is this also of a deep relationship with Christ? Besides our own personal fears, often times our loved ones are hesitant about our faith and relationship with God. Especially when we get extremely passionate and boldly live it out. And if this relationship with God causes extreme changes and conversion in our life, it can freak people out. But like the Apostles, we must be ready to go where God calls, even if it means that our friends and family might not understand.

…are you willing to leave it all?

Nightmares and Daydreams

PicMonkey Collage

For whatever reason, I’m one who tends to analyze songs for deeper meanings and theological connections. Though she’s had a few hits on the radio since,  Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space” has a certain lyric that’s stuck with me. At the end of verse two she sings, “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”.

While she’s singing about a romantic relationship, this line made me stop and think about the reality of sin in the world. Sinful things are presented as attractive. If they were shown for their true nature, then why would we want to do it? The nightmare of sin is disguised and portrayed as a daydream of happiness, fulfillment, and excitement. Then when we fall into the temptation, we awake to the reality of the situation. The fall of man in Genesis 3:1-7 is the perfect example. Satan didn’t approach Eve with a rotten egg and warn her about the woes of disobedience. Rather, he cunningly offered an attractive piece of fruit and the promise that her eyes would be opened.

And all it took was one bite. Adam and Eve didn’t have to devour a four course meal to change the course of human history. So too, if we’re not careful, the smallest misstep can easily turn into a serious issue. All it takes is a little poop to ruin a whole pan of brownies. (See more on that reference here)

I once heard a wonderful homily regarding this similar topic. The priest spoke about sheep and how they (along with other livestalk) are attracted to a plant called nightshade. This plant is appealing to them in every way. It has lovely flowers, tastes delicious, and has a nice scent. To the sheep, it seems like the perfect food. However, despite its appeal, nightshade is poisonous to animals.

Similarly, so many things in our own lives are toxic – they seem appealing but are harmful to our bodies and/or souls. The examples are endless, including things like drugs, drunkenness, theft, pornography and sexual promiscuity which are all portrayed in pop culture as thrilling, fun, and normal experiences. This is where having a well formed conscious, discernment, and virtue are vital to recognize the false promises that we encounter. And if we are able to recognize the red flags ourselves, lets use that knowledge and experience to prevent others from falling into trouble. Thankfully, even if/when we do fall, there is forgiveness in Christ who makes the worst nightmares into beautiful daydreams.

Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death. CCC 2847