Travel for the Soul: Family Ties

        Family reunions — they are just like ice cream sundaes — mostly sweet with a few nuts.  Oh but how fulfilling!  We had our share recently during our Spring Break getaway.  This year once again we traveled to Peachtree City, Georgia to spend time with my brother and the rest of the gang, and our mom, who had flown over a few days earlier.  We had a great time; it was fun and also relaxing.  

       Ah yes, relaxing is an understatement when you talk about Peachtree City or “Pleasantville” as I like to call it.  It’s definitely a change of pace from Miami life that’s for sure.  But what really attracts us to Pleasantville time and again is our clan over there.  Even though we do keep in contact daily via phone and e-mail, there is nothing like live interaction and the touch of a loved one; just no substitute for that.  And we made sure we had plenty of that going on while we were there.  

        Of course, for us is a given that when in Georgia, a visit to Conyers is going to take place.  And so it did.  Our pilgrimage to the Farm,* the site of our Blessed Mother’s apparitions, provided us this time around with a different experience, but just as special as the last.  It was similar though in that again we were the only visitors there during our entire stay.  Nothing like some solitude for the spirit.  Wow!  Our detour there is always an added bonus on these trips.   

        Speaking of added bonus, both my husband and I are very close to our families.  That is a blessing for which we are thankful to the tenth power, if you know what I mean.  We’ve had some tough heart-felt losses along the way, so we’ve learned to appreciate the time we have with those still here and take advantage of every opportunity to spend time with those who love and support us.  And so on the way back home we made a scheduled stop in Gainesville to attend my other nephew’s graduation at UF, where we hooked up with all of my husband’s family.  More ice cream sundae.   ; )

        Like I said, it was a great getaway.  You know, it never ceases to amaze me how our families recharge us.  For us it doesn’t matter what’s going on in our lives, or how much we think or feel we need to get away and disconnect, and do.  Right after, we promptly look to reconnect like craving lunatics.  No matter the array of characters, because trust me, that is vast in our families.  But I think it’s our own perfect imperfections that bring balance to one another and ultimately what has taught us acceptance on many levels.  Bottom line is, at the end of the day, it is difficult for me to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul than our faith and our families.  This getaway was definitely travel for the soul.   : )

        It’s no wonder Jane Howard was so right when she said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”  

        May God always bless you and your families with time together.  +

*[For background and details about the Farm, link to my 3/31/08 post entitled Travel for the Soul: A Different Kind of Farm].

What’s in Your Basket?

The events of this weekend wrap up Holy Week. Tomorrow we remember the day Jesus was crucified – – Good Friday. Good Friday? Right, I know, some are confused by its name, but the sad commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion and death remind us that it was human sin that caused His death, that He alone is good enough to save us, and that the fact that He did so is of great cause for celebration. So yes, sad, but Good. And then on Sunday of course we celebrate Easter. Yeeepeee I can eat chocolate again! Dig into those goodies! Wait Connie, contain yourself, because first and foremost we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and that’s inside a different kind of basket.

His resurrection to me represents hope. Pure hope. Hope that the day I step through that transcendent doorway I will be able to continue in all of its fullness the kind of life that God intended for me, in His company and in the company of my loved ones, for all eternity. Wow, that’s big hope you say. No, no, that’s godzilla-size hope. But it’s precisely what enables me to march on in this life, which is no easy task as you know, given the state of our world today. A state which unfortunately causes us to be bitter about life in general and lose focus of what’s important, prompting us to behave in ways that can lead us away from salvation. But in the resurrection Easter basket I find a way back. I find this big hope that jump-starts my faith and gives me the spiritual strength I need to work towards being a better person, the kind of person worthy of the kingdom of heaven. And I want that. You do too, I’m sure. In that basket full of hope I find the drive towards readiness, something I need to work so very hard for – – you know, for that day when God comes knocking on my door.

So yeah, that long-awaited bite of chocolate will be ever so sweet, but that boost of hope, oh, well, that boost of hope is…heaven. My friends, what’s in your Easter basket?

Blessed are those to whom Easter is not a hunt… but a find; not a greeting… but a proclamation; not an outward fashion… but inward grace; not a day… but an eternity. ~ Anderson

The stone was rolled away from the door,
not to permit Christ to come out, but to
enable the disciples to go in.
~ Peter Marshall

THE DOOR
Amen, amen, I say to you, he who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.  But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  Those others who have come are thieves and robbers. I am the door. If anyone enter by me he shall find salvation, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures.
~ John 10: 1-2, 7-9

I wish all of you a hopeful Easter.   : )
God bless.

The Holiest Week of All

This Sunday, April 5th, is Palm Sunday, a prelude to Holy Week. A day commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, where crowds rejoiced and greeted Him with waving palm branches. Shortly thereafter, His journey to the cross began. Who would’ve thunk it? Certainly not those palm wavers on that day. Those followers who witnessed the events that transpired that week 2000 years ago experienced quite the roller coaster ride – – joy, anticipation, love, fear, sadness, anger, disgust, awe, wonder. And at the end of that week, some were left confused and scattered. But others were left with the knowledge and the hope His crucifixion and resurrection embodied: forgiveness and eternal life. Thankfully, that group of others bravely shared the extraordinary experiences they lived through that week, and incessantly preached its greatest fruit, and so now we too can benefit from that knowledge of forgiveness and hope of eternal life.

At this Sunday’s Mass we will receive the blessed palms representative of this day that begins this year’s holiest week of all. As faithful people, we are asked to take the palm home and display it as a reminder that Christ enters into our lives daily, and therefore, we should rejoice. I invite you to partake of this week’s events and ceremonies at your parish of choice. It can be quite an inspiring, fulfilling, and emotional encounter.

For instance, the most touching celebration of the week for me occurs on Holy Thursday, which it’s said to be the most complex and profound of the week’s observances. It’s the night on which Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, so at this Mass we celebrate Christ’s institution of the Eucharist. A procession takes place adoring the Blessed Sacrament, which remains ‘entombed’ until the communion service on Good Friday. It is a very solemn and moving observance. I personally feel a special connection with the Holy Thursday Mass because in our parish, for many years, my father sat in as one of the apostles during our live representation of Christ’s washing of the feet. After my dad’s death, my hubby proudly took his place in this short but very symbolic act, and so this Mass continues to hold a special place in my heart.

And so to those of you who share in my faith and observe this holiest of weeks, I wish you a blessed one, full of enlightenment, peace, hope and love. To those of you who don’t, I wish you a blessed one, full of enlightenment, peace, hope and love. : )

God bless.
The biblical account of Palm
Sunday can be found in
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11;
Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19.

 

A few stamps for a life…

Hi folks! Just wanted to remind you: March 31st is Red Envelope day. Click on link for info.                                                 RedEnvelope
Help make a difference in the fight for human life. What’s it gonna cost you but a few stamps.

On that note, I leave you with an excerpt from the Brief amicus curiae of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to the U.S. Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade:

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts – a child – as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

I know a lot of you share in my pro-life view. To those friends and blog visitors who don’t, I beg you to educate yourselves on the methods of abortion, and to reconsider. And to those of you who are not sure of what your position is on the matter, excercise your right to “choose” already, because there should be no fence sitters on the most vital issue of the century.

~ When someone sympathized with Helen Keller on her blindness she replied, “How much worse to have eyes and refuse to see.”

~ No law can give me the right to do what is wrong.  Abraham Lincoln

Worth Watching: Coca-Cola’s anticrisis recipe

My nephew sent me a link to this short video.  It’s pretty cool.  It is an ad taken out by Coca-Cola España to give people a little touch of optimism during this world-wide crisis we are living.  The company promoted this ad summarized in three words:  “Destapa la felicidad” — “Uncover happiness.”  The ad focuses on answering the question, what would you say to someone who came into the world in a time like this?  A question answered in this ad by a 102 year old man.

The video’s narration is in Spanish, but the images and message transcend language.  Enjoy.

Sources:
YouTube.com
Expansion.com

They’re home…

I wanted to take a minute to thank you for your calls, texts, and emails asking about Lauren while at the Leadership Retreat in New York. She and her classmates arrived home safe and sound on Saturday afternoon. They all said they had a wonderful experience and made a lot of friends.

I’d like to mention here in particular La Salle High School teachers Ms. Acosta and Ms. Shaw for the excellent job they did keeping our kids safe and seeing them through this week-long event. Taking on this mission with the time, planning and effort it entails, is no small feat, and I think I speak for the other parents when I say that they are both to be commended. Thank you to both of them so very much. : )

God bless.

 

Because you’ve asked…

As a follow-up to my last entry, and in response to some of your calls and emails asking about Lauren and her group, I share with you a couple of shots taken at the airport on Saturday morning. They arrived safe and sound, and we know they are doing well. Thanks so much for your concern, I appreciate it. Please continue to pray for them. : )  MLR_Paul                                    Lauren (dressed for NY), Kevin and Paul.

MLR_Group                                                 The group checking in.

490481653308_0_ALB                                      Laura, Paul’s mom, Paul and Lauren.

MLR_Group_2                                      After a quick Versailles breakfast.

MLR_Danny_and_Lauren                                Sibling Love — they’ll miss each other for sure.

 

The Inevitable is Here

The thing about the inevitable is that it comes. Sooner or later, but it comes. There are many “inevitables” during the course of one’s life – – dental work (my favorite…NOT!), taxes (yes, even for politicians), death of course, and a parent’s first real separation from a son/daughter. The latter, my friends, is my inevitable at this particular time.

Lauren leaves to New York at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Her first outing without us. That’s especially big for us because those of you who know us well, know that we’ve travelled in a pack since inception of this family. Even to do as mundane a thing as grocery shopping. Right. So the thought of our baby girl leaving us for a week is a bit unsettling. Don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t be happier that this opportunity arose for Lauren. Being part of this event is something she had been hoping and praying for since her freshman year at this school. She, along with 6 of her classmates, will be representing the State of Florida at this Leadership Retreat, where they will not only be injected spiritually, but also socially, as they will be meeting and interacting with teens from Salesian schools from other states.

It has hit her hard all this religion stuff. We noticed her interest when at the tender age of 8 she asked to join our Catechism staff to help out every Saturday. She’s still doing that. And since her freshman year at La Salle, she has progressively gotten involved with various service clubs and with helping out during retreats given for other students, etc. She’s got the fever in a big way. But before you go assuming that we think we have a daughter who’s “all that,” let me assure you that Lauren is not a “perfect teenager” — that being an oxymoron if I ever heard one. She’s your typical attitude-filled teenager, with a wide array of moods, and who makes mistakes she later regrets (thank goodness for that because we all know that’s when most of the lessons come). But yes, we are very happy that, at least for now, she has chosen this road. The other day she told me she had come to a realization. She said, “Mom, you know how I don’t really like any sport and never been involved in any? Yes, I said (the girl is not sports-inclined at all, is she really our daughter?). “Well,” she said, “it came to me that all this service stuff I do, well, that’s MY sport.” I like that, I said, that’s cool. I can only hope and pray that this will be a life-time sport for her.

Meanwhile, back to the inevitable. “Now it’s your turn,” my mother said to me, referring to my first outing on a missionary trip when I was a teenager. “Preparate.” Prepare yourself, she said. I remember my mother’s concerned look at the airport that first time; and actually come to think of it, each and every trip that followed. I thought I knew and understood to a certain extent how she felt, and appreciated her letting me go. But no, I really didn’t. Not until now. This type of inevitable is hard to swallow for parents. Both of us will be going through some serious separation anxiety this coming week, I can assure you. Even as I write these words I think I feel the freak out mode kicking in.

Okay, forgive my restless tone. We are newbies at this type of preordained separation. Some people tell me it gets easier. Does it? Oh God I hope not. As much as I hate the anxiety it causes, I love the affection and connection it stimulates. Not to mention the faith it triggers, as we confidently put her in God’s hands.

My family and friends, may I ask that you keep in your prayers Lauren and the rest of the teens attending this event? That our loving Virgin Mary sees to their health and safety. And that the the grace of God instills in them enough spiritual energy to carry them through years to come. As I wrote to Lauren about this retreat: soak it up and breathe it in, so you can later live it out.

Thanks to all of you.

 

Lent 2009: Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow we awake to Ash Wednesday. May this be the beginning of a meaningful and faith-fueling Lent season for all.

Jesus, you place on my forehead the sign of my sister Death: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

How not hear her wise advice? One day my life on earth will end; the limits on my years are set, though I know not the day or hour. Shall I be ready to go to meet you? Let this holy season be a time of grace for me and all this world“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

– a meditation by Victor Hoagland, C.P.

Change Is In The Air

        Change, change, change is in the air.  I don’t think we had ever heard the word “change” mentioned as much as in the last year.  But no, I’m not talking about THAT change, not in a political context. The change I’m talking about is not an external one of conditions or behaviors, but rather an internal one that transforms us.  The type we experience during Lent.  Yes, it’s incredible, but Lent is around the corner once again.  It begins next week on Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite days of the year, and continues until Easter, Sunday, April 12th

        It is a perfect season for cleansing and renewal.  A time for us to take stock of our lives and our relationships to figure out and adjust those glitches which may be distancing us from the Lord.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t rely on Lent to make these adjustments; this would be a year-long effort.  But let’s face it; it’s not a perfect world.  Fortunately Lent affords us this specific time in which to look within, and hopefully experience a change of heart and a deeper conversion.

        I came across a question once that asked, “Do you need a faith lift?” I loved that.  I can tell you that I live in constant need of that kind of spiritual makeover.  Because just when I think I’m good in that department, something happens that shows me I’m not. There is always room for growth in the faith department.

        This Lenten season we should ask ourselves what we need to do to strengthen our faith and get closer to the Lord.  Is it to spend more time in thanksgiving and gratitude? We are so blessed on so many levels that we should be in a continuous state of gratitude.  Is it to practice forgiveness and humility? Yikes! This is my area.  There may be people in our lives we need to forgive or from whom we need forgiveness, and pride should play no part in this.  Is it to serve? This is a good time to put into practice the love your neighbor part of that greatest commandment.  Is it to attend Mass weekly? The opportunity to receive the Eucharist should be right up there on our list, we should honor this invitation from Jesus.  Or is it maybe to dedicate time to prayer? Without prayer our faith just wouldn’t be. You could say it would be like not making time for someone close to us.  He or she probably wouldn’t remain close for every long.  

            This Lenten season, let’s take a look at what’s inside of us and ask the Lord to help us tweak those glitches that need adjustment so that we can be better towards ourselves and others, and in turn feel closer to Him.  And let’s definitely strive for this to become a a year-long practice in our lives.  On that note, I leave you with some very good advice:

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

-Unknown Author

Wishing all of you a blessed Lenten season.  May the peace of the Lord live in your hearts.  : )