Saturday, August 29, 2015

"These scars will be the artwork etched into my soul." Discussing Suffering, Healing, & Hope with Artist Camille Mica

When I was a freshman in college, there was this one particular woman in my Theology class. She seemed pretty nice, and her big eyes always twinkled with peace and joy. We lived in the same dormitory, studied together a few times, and shared some meals in the cafeteria. Occasionally, I would join in our school's Monday night homeless ministry, and this woman would always be there, totally present and overflowing with love, joy, and grace for all of the people we encountered. Whether in classes, meetings, in the hallway, or at an anti-trafficking event that she organized, an encounter with this woman was always  an experience of God's love. 

The other day, I ordered a print from this woman's Etsy shop as a gift for a friend. I hadn't looked at her art for a while, and I thought, "wow, I bet she has a cool story or two to share." While falling asleep that night, I suddenly had the idea that I wanted to interview this woman, because I wanted to have her words recorded where I could go back to them. I then realized that the whole world-not just myself-can benefit from this woman's story. So, out of the blue, I messaged her, and she was gracious enough to share her heart, soul, and story with vulnerability, humility, and love. 

Today, I bring to all of you the story of Camille, who operates Etched into my SoulThis story is one of suffering, redemption, healing, and hope. It is a story of God's work. We see that God truly equips us with the tools necessary for His work-the young artist I interviewed has only taken one still-life drawing class in her life, yet she creates gorgeous paintings to further God's glory. This story has moved me to tears MANY times, as my heart and soul are touched so profoundly by Camille's words. I pray that you allow God to touch you through this interview, and that you open yourself up to His grace and healing! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'll Take Some Marian Devotion with a Side of Nutella, Please!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! It's been a while since I've done a modern sanctity post, so I figure that today is a great day to jump back into things. First off, I want to call y'alls attention to the fact that yesterday, the Carmelites celebrated the feast day of Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified, a.k.a. Mariam Baouardy! She's pretty cool, and you can read about her here!

But let's get talking about Nutella & Mary. Because what could be better? Right???

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Horses, Hippies, & some Really Good Waffles: Discovering Epicness in Oklahoma City!

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope that you all are enjoying a day of rest, relaxation, and prayer! I'm sifting through some pictures and memories of our past few weeks, and am so abundantly grateful to God for all of the blessings and adventures!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Discernment, Detachment, and Donna Noble

Happy feast of St. Bernard! Today I’m linking up with #BISsisterhood to discuss discernment. Ah, discernment. Such a word causes many emotions—fear, trepidation, joy, despair, peace, anxiety, excitement…you get the idea. Discernment about career choices, life changes, and vocations (to name a few) is part of our lives, and causes all sorts of craziness. Anyone who has embarked on the Journey of Discernment knows (or will soon find out) that he or she is in for a wild ride. Just look at Donna Noble.

Some of you may be completely lost right now. 
What's Doctor Who?
What does this BBC show have to do with discernment? (I'll get to that in a minute)

But first, a brief explanation for my non-Whovian friends out there:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Will We Choose to Love Today?

Happy Monday! I hope that you all are having an amazing start to the week! I would like to start off today by looking at the Diary of St. Faustina. Let us be challenged and inspired to change our lives and choose to love each day!

"The Lord God grants His graces in two ways: by inspiration and by enlightenment. If we ask God for a grace, He will give it to us; but let us be willing to accept it. And in order to accept it, self-denial is needed. Love does not consist in words or feelings, but in deeds. It is an act of the will; it is a gift; that is to say, a giving. The reason, the will, the heart-these three faculties must be exercised during prayer. I will rise from the dead in Jesus, but first I must live in Him. If I do not separate myself from the Cross, then the Gospel will not be revealed in me. Jesus in me makes up for all my deficiencies. His grace operates without ceasing. The Holy Trinity grants me Its life abundantly, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Three Divine Persons live in me. When God loves, He loved with all His Being, with all the power of His Being. If God has loved me in this way, how should I respond-I, His spouse?"
(Notebook 1, #392)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

#MidwestCatholicFamilyConference2015 was Epic!

Hello, everyone! Happy Sunday! It's incredible to think that just one week ago I was at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference. Wow. Ever since my husband and I got home last Sunday afternoon, I feel that I've been playing "catch up" on life. But, I would feel remiss if I did not take a moment to share the wonderfulness of the Conference with all of you. Here are some of the highlights from last weekend, and some very cool resources for all of you:

First off, I should inform you as to the drama that was playing out prior to the Conference. Since the theme of the Conference was "The Wedding Feast of the Lamb," my husband and I were honored to be guest presenters in the Children's Program. We would dress in our wedding day clothes, visit each classroom, and give a brief (approx. 10 minute) talk to the children about preparing for marriage, Mass, and Heaven. I was super excited. Getting to evangelize and witness to the beauty of marriage? Wearing my wedding dress? Celebrating this gift of marriage just two days before our Wedding Anniversary? YES!!!!! But...would my dress fit? 

This is the question that was nagging my mind. It's not like I've outgrown any clothes in two years, but my dress is very fitted. So would I be able to get the zipper up all the way? On top of that, the Transfiguration was a couple days before, and we had cheesecake in the house. So, I was eating gobs of cheesecake, not knowing if I was dooming my chances to fit in the dress. The day we left for the Conference, I had been chugging water all day long, eating as healthily as possible...and then my husband brought a piece of cake home from work. Of course, I can't refuse cake, so I ate that, too. With a satisfied tummy, though feeling a bit uneasy in my mind, we drove up to Wichita. fit! Praise the Lord! Not only did it fit, but I could breathe, which is a plus. Now that you have this little background, I shall continue with the saga.

We took things easy the first night, August 7, and we didn't even head over to the Conference. We needed to go over our talks, make sure my dress fit, and sleep. On Saturday morning, we went down to Century Two to check in. Along the way, we ran into bunches of people we whom we had not seen since our wedding, so it was really great to chat a little bit with them! It was also funny because I was wearing the exact same outfit I was last time many of these people saw me! After we checked in, this fabulous woman introduced herself. She was our "Room Angel," and took us to the classrooms. She also made sure we were somewhat on track time-wise, and she would check in with the teachers to make sure they were ready for us. This woman, Lynn, was fantastic! Talking with her was really fun, too, and we came to the realization that she possibly sang in the choir for our wedding Mass. Talk about a small world!

Speaking with the children was really fun. My husband and I spoke with them about how we prepared for our wedding, and related to similar ways in which we can prepare for Mass. Then, my husband drew it all towards how we prepare for Heaven, and how we must intentionally choose to love God each day. I don't know how much the kids retained (especially the 3-4 year-olds), but we gave it all to God, and hope that we planted some positive seeds in their lives. It was really cute, towards the end of the day, when I was walking around the area with the booths. I was no longer wearing my dress, but I was still wearing a tiara. All these little girls kept waving at me. One of the little girls had an older sister who asked why I had been wearing my wedding dress. Hoping to get a good teaching-retention moment in, I asked the little girl to explain to her older sister why I had been dressed like that and what I talked about. With an exaggerated sigh and smile, the little girl said, "Oh, you know...MATRIMONY." Well, at least you remembered that I talked about marriage, so that's a plus, right? 

Earlier in the day (sorry, backtracking...), after going to four classrooms, my husband and I took a break for Mass. Before we headed into Mass, though, we caught up with my family.And then, I received an incredibly epic, fantastically amazing surprise: my friend Rebecca had flown in from the East Coast to surprise a whole group of us! Apparently only a couple of people had been in on the secret, and she completely managed to surprise the rest of us. I was super excited!!! It was awesome. If you'd like to read about her Conference experience, check it out here. So then we went to Mass. The music was fantastic, Mass was epic, there were tons of religious, families, seminarians, and friends of mine, and it was great. After that, we received a free pizza lunch (with really good pizza), and then it was back to the talks! The afternoon flew by, and before we knew it, we were done. My husband and dad went back to the house, and I stayed at the Conference for a couple hours more, chatting with people and visiting a couple booths. Then, we chilled at my family's house for the evening, spending time with some friends, playing games, and relaxing.

The next morning, my husband and I woke up bright and early for 7 a.m. Mass at my family's parish. Mass was peaceful, beautiful, and celebrated by the priest who had been my high school's chaplain when I was a student there! So that was cool. My husband and I went down to the Conference for a talk at 8:30 a.m. by Luke Maxwell, which was pretty amazing. 
This guy is 18 years old, has an amazing stage presence, and for the past year or so, he has been bringing awareness to the depression that many teens may unsuspectingly face. Luke Maxwell survived a suicide attempt a few years ago, so he courageously shares a lot about his experience prior to the suicide attempt, as well as his long process of healing, hope, and recovery afterwards. He started a website which I highly encourage all of you to check out: 

Let's admit it: Many people face depression daily. As Luke said in his talk, "Depression doesn't discriminate." It doesn't matter if you are home schooled, private schooled, or public schooled; if you have lots of siblings or no siblings-you can still deal with depression. We need to let go of the negative stigma of depression, and not be afraid to admit that we might have depression. We need to become aware of how we can help others who have-or might have-depression. So visit Luke's website. Check out his Facebook page. You never know how God will use you in the lives of others!

After hearing Luke's fantastic talk, we went down to the booths. I love listening to the talks at the Conference, but since we had to leave the Conference in just a couple hours, and I hadn't looked at the booths much, I really wanted to look around. 
It was fun to stop by the Marshall Photography booth,
and play a game of
"How many people in those pictures do we know?"
He also had a book with photos from all of the weddings he's shot,
so showing my friends some wedding photos was fun :) 
We stopped by the Discalced Carmelite booth, where we ate samples of the almonds that the Carmelites prepare. And then, since my husband loves granola, I wanted to get him an anniversary present, and we wanted to support the Carmelites, I bought a 1.5 lb. bag of their homemade granola. They make and sell the granola (well, lay people sell it) to help support their monastery. If you are interested, check out their website to obtain a catalog! 

I love this headband! Also, please excuse my crazy hair.
I was having a crazy hair day when I took this photo. 
I also visited one awesome booth at least three times: Sanctus Clothing Company. Their Etsy page is currently down, but I will be checking back soon to see when it is updated. What's so cool about this company? They have gorgeous hippyish skirts. They are absolutely beautiful, handmade, and incredibly unique. The store owner told me that she typically only makes 3 skirts (one in each size) out of the same fabric, to create a wide variety. But my favorite part about the skirts? Each one is inspired by a saint or virtue. For instance, the "St. Gianna Skirt," which featured a wide, roll-down waistband, which the owner told me was purposefully done because that kind of feature is handy during pregnancy. Or the "St. Cecilia Skirt," which was made out of "musical notes" fabric. My younger sister purchased the "Queen Esther Skirt," which was made from a royal purple polka dot fabric.  Each skirt also featured a nifty little pocket on the front, to hold your Rosary. I really wanted to buy a skirt, but my favorite skirts were all too small. So, I bought a very cute headband instead (made by the store owner's daughter), and I am eager for the Etsy store to be updated so that I can buy a skirt for myself!

After going through all of the booths and saying "goodbye" to different friends of mine, my husband and I ate lunch with my family and came back to Oklahoma. It was a fun, enriching weekend, full of wonderfulness. I hope that you enjoyed reading about our adventures! Have an awesome rest of your Sunday!

Friday, August 14, 2015

On the Bookshelf: It's time to talk about trafficking & exploitation

Happy Friday (Oh, and happy feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe!), and welcome to this week's installment of literary discussions! As I have mentioned in the past, I like to share my recent library or bookstore finds with all of you, to help cultivate discussion and reading lists (because what bibliophile does not want to expand his or her reading list??). Today, I'm going to share with you two books that, at face value, might seem COMPLETELY different: the memoir of a former stripper, and a Catholic dystopian novel. As a fair warning, this post may be a bit uncomfortable to handle; these books both cover extremely sensitive topics. So, I ask that you please open your mind, take a deep breath, garner all of your respect, and join me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Celebrating 2 Years of Epicness-an Avatar Anniversary!

Happy Wednesday and feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, everybody! I hope that you are having an abundantly blessed week! Over here, I've been doing lots of catching up (since the weekend was super full), but amid all of the craziness and all of the struggles that have come along, God has truly been present! 

On Monday, August 10th, my husband and I celebrated two epic years of marriage. I was super excited, because 
1. I love being married to my husband
2. Since this took place on a Monday, we got to hear our wedding readings at Mass!
3. Anniversaries are great ways to celebrate in extra-special ways
4. PARTY!!!!!

My friends, if you desire to hear more about this extremely epic day, come right along!

Monday, August 10, 2015

What is so special about Today?

Hello, everyone! I hope that you all enjoyed your weekend, and that your Monday is going swimmingly so far. I am very excited for today, because lots of exciting things are happening! Today is a very special day to me for many reasons: 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Unlikely Salvation through an Unsuspecting Thenardier?

As I announced to y'all the other day, I recently finished reading Victor Hugo'sepic masterpiece, Les Miserables. And immediately, I knew that I would have to write some posts here and there about it, because the novel is extremely thought-provoking, deep, and gives many experiences worthy of discussion. So if you haven't read the novel or seen one of the movies, these posts will most likely contain spoilers of some sort-and you should really get off this blog and watch one of the Les Miserables movies ASAP (I loved the 2012 musical with Anne Hathaway, but if you're not into musicals, the 1998 with Liam Neeson is also quite lovely). So consider yourself forewarned. For those of you who wish to stay for this (hopefully) stimulating post, do read on!

We need to talk about Thenardier. Because even if we utterly hate him, we have to be open to how God uses this man in the story-because Thenardier is unknowingly an instrument of salvation. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Do You Hear the Symphony?

I have to be straight-up honest with you: I don't know what has happened to my brain. (I'm going to blame it on excessive sugar and sleep deprivation) Yesterday, I was so excited that it was "the feast of St. John Vianney," and I was appalled that the priest did not celebrate him at Mass. Today, I woke up, prayed Morning Prayer for the dedication of St. Mary Major, and started writing this blog post. And then a quick Google search revealed that today is St. John Vianney, and tomorrow is St. Mary Major. So, um, happy feast of St. John Vianney!

Welp, I guess those cookies last night "for the feast day" still went to a good cause (ie: my stomach). 

Anyway, moving on to a less embarrassing topic...