Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Tune for a Tuesday - Tribute to my Dad :)

"Here's a song I would like to have written for you. Love, Dad"

That was the email I got from my Dad today, with this song attached. My dad's always loved music. I remember the days I'd be in his truck, a song would come on, and he'd ask, "Who is this?" I'd respond with an annoyed, "I don't know, Dad." "Oh man! It's ______." If a song he particularly liked came on, he's say, "listen" and sing along with the lyrics, emphasizing the lyrics he liked, which was pretty much every word. These are still not uncommon occurrences when riding in a vehicle with him, but I'm more amused than annoyed at this age! :) It wasn't until just now that I realized I may have gotten my love for lyrics from him. Thanks Dad!

The song he sent me today doesn't have a single lyric that doesn't fit us. I'm the youngest, his baby girl. Winter snows: particularly reminds me of the winter snow (and ice) when us kids got stuck at the bottom of the hill behind our house. I was terrified we'd never make it up. The famous quote is "Call Dad and tell him to call the fire department!" I was so upset when my mom and siblings laughed at me. Horse shows: We went to the horse auction when I was a kid, I remember picking out the horses I liked and pretending I'd get them. Dancing on the beach: I don't remember ever actually dancing on the beach, but since before I was born, our family vacationed to Myrtle Beach (technically Garden City Beach) every other summer. Many of my childhood memories revolve around the beach houses we rented.

I got a little teary-eyed when I received this sweet and loving email. It was great to stop and reflect. God blessed me with a really wonderful father. Needless to say, this will likely be the song for the father-daughter dance at my wedding this fall.

I'll take this slow sweet walk with you.
You let go of my hand to say "I Do".
And he will discover just how blessed a life can be.
I know 'cause all those years ago, someone handed you to me.

Every step that we take brings back the memories.
Winter snows and horse shows and dancing on the beach.
I can't help thinking that I'm the lucky one;
You're still my baby daughter, and now I've gained a son.

I'll take this slow sweet walk with you.
You let go of my hand to say "I Do".
And he will discover just how blessed a life can be.
I know 'cause all those years ago, your mom handed you to me.

Don't miss a chance to put each other first.
Now that you've vowed "for better or for worse".
And don't let the beauty of this life pass you by.
In the times of trouble, you'll stand side by side.

I'll take this slow sweet walk with you.
You let go of my hand to say "I Do" . . .

Picture a slow sweet walk yet to be.
You'll take my hand, say "Daddy, come see".
Then you'll know what it feels like, you won't believe what it feels like,
Then you'll know what it felt like when she handed you to me.
. . . She handed you to me.

"Walk with You" - Edwin McCain

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Tune for a Tuesday - Your Bride

Here I am - I offer you my hand.
The hour has arrived to celebrate our wedding feast.
And I know this was the Father's plan.
I was born to live for you were born to die for me.

Walking down the aisle I long to come to thee.
You are waiting there to marry me.
Walking down the aisle I long to come receive.
Your body, blood, soul, and divinity.

I am your bride,
I am one with my Beloved crucified.
As you offer me your body, I offer you my life
Now and always, I am yours -
I am your bride.

As you lift the veil before my eyes,
You gaze into my soul and say, "Beloved, you are mine."
And I know you take me as I am,
Loving me with all my sin you take me by the hand.

In my vows to you and yours to me,
Our covenant declared eternally,
Laying down our lives we consummate our love.
I cleave to you and to the cross.

This one is at last bone of my bones.
United as one flesh, our love becomes a home,
Where every child is welcome in our love's embrace.
Their lives reveal their Father's face.

Your Bride - Danielle Rose

This song was like buried treasure for me. I found it through an internet search. I've known Danielle Rose for years, but had not heard this album yet. My priest, and officiant of our wedding, told me to listen to "Holy Family" (a song I included in my previous post about St. Joseph). When searched for that song, I found "Your Bride" on the same album. This song has some of the most beautiful lyrics about Christ and the Church. Written about her entry into a religious order, this song has so many meanings!

It's a picture of:

You MUST go check out this awesome song: http://popup.lala.com/popup/1657606185550498364

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why St. Joseph is so important to me . . . Episode 2

If you haven't read Episode 1, you may want to read it first! :)

. . . I praise God that I clung to Him during this time. I firmly believe that crisis' in life either make you, or break you. And though I was broken, this made me who I am today. God slowly and tenderly began to heal my heart. We broke up in March, and I finally truly forgave this man that summer, and was able to move on with my life. I was genuinely happy again, and just stoked for where God was leading me next. I was so happy to have moved past this time, and leave it all behind me.

It wasn't until November that God started moving in ways I wasn't expecting. I was leading a middle school youth group at the time, and our topic that night was "Are You Ready?" In small groups, we discussed many quesions. If today was the last day of your life, would you be going to heaven? If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you spend your last 24 hours? But the one God used to show me his will was, "If today was your last day on earth, are there any relationships you would want to mend before you go?" I thought about how devastated I would be if this man died with the situation being as it was. I knew that if I died, he would be just as upset.

Immediately I knew that even though I forgave this man in my heart, I needed to tell him. God knew he needed to hear that. I decided to write him a letter. I put the topic on the back burner for a while, this wasn't a door I was excited to open. I knew that this letter would pull the bandage off the wound and pour peroxide inside. I knew it would clean it out and lead to healing, but I knew it was going to be painful.

A few days later, I was headed to dinner with a friend of mine. We were chatting and using our "outside voices" as we walked out the door of our dorm. Right as we walked out, a Eucharistic procession came around the corner. Our conversation immediately ceased, and we fell to our knees in silence as the Eucharist passed us. I quickly realized that God was speaking to me again, saying, "You're not ready, Amanda." I wasn't ready for Jesus that day. I didn't expect him to come and I wasn't prepared. It was clear that God was urgently telling me to write this letter.

I began to pray about what God wanted me to say, and when he wanted me to write it. Each time I would come to him in prayer, I would ask, "Do you still want me to write the letter." And his response was always, "Yes, but not yet." After about 4 weeks of this, he finally responded, "Yes, it's time."

I knew I needed to take time to write this letter in deep prayer. Each evening, I headed to adoration, prayed a novena to St. Joseph, and then write (and revise) the letter. On the fifth day of the nine, I got a letter in the mail. It was from him. I couldn't believe it! After nine months of literally no communication, we both wrote a letter at the same time. God is so good.

The letter was 7 pages long, explaining everything that had happened. He told me how deeply sorry he was for hurting me so badly. He explained the depression and how foggy things had gotten for him. He explained how difficult it had gotten for him to see the good in the relationship when we were arguing. He described the path he had chosen, and how much he regretted leaving God's path and heading down his own. He talked about hitting rock bottom and how horrible things had gotten. And then he talked about his slow return to God.

He said that he recently started going to Mass and praying again. And that during Mass more than a month prior to writing the letter, God intervened in a pretty big way. he said, "During mass, it felt like someone grabbed me firmly by the shoulders. Then a face appeared in front of me. He siad he didn't know if it was an angel or being or what, but it addressed him by name and basically told him 2 things: that he needed to get his life back on the right path, and that he needed to end the relationship he was in and wait for what God wanted for him.

That week, he ended the relationship, and slowly began trying to fix all the mistakes he had made. He explained that writing this letter was part of that. He told me he understood if I did not respond, and that that's not what he needed. That he just needed me to know that he was sorry for how he had hurt me.

Well, needless to say, I revised my letter a bit. I finished the novena, and sent my letter off 5 days later. During all of this, I never imagined that God would ask me to enter back into a relationship with him. I thought this was just healing and truly closing the chapter. We slowly began to talk, first through emails, and then, finally, I let him call me. After many tearful, emotional, and difficult conversations, we started to be able to talk again.

It was at this time that I asked him, "so, what was did it look like, seeing the angel or whatever?" "Well," he responded, "It wasn't like waht you would expect. It wasn't bright white or anything. I could only see his face. He had darker skin, dark hair, and a dark beard." We both paused and thought the same thing as I said outloud, "I think it was St. Joseph . . ."

I fully believe that it was St. Joseph that appeared to my now fiance. It was a clear answer to my daily prayer: "Lord, please send him someone to get him back on the right track. St. Joseph, please pray for him, protect him, and guide him." I remember later praying, "God, when I asked you to send someone to get him back on the right path, I was thinking a friend or something . . . but St. Joseph works too!"

And That is why this day, March 19th, St. Joseph's Feast Day, is quite possibly our favorite day of the whole year! I say with confidence that if it wasn't for God sending St. Joseph, I would not be engaged to this man, the man God clearly created for me!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph! :)

Holy Family-Danielle Rose

O loving Father make our home in Nazareth
where you may reign
A holy family of love where Jesus' manger lays

Help us to stay together Lord, in joy and sorrow as we pray
Teach us
to see Christ in disguise, upon each other's face, upon each other's face

Where two or more are gathered you reside
Mary be our Mother, Joseph
be our guide
to make your Son the center of our lives
Jesus may Your
name be glorified

We gather round our table blessed to share the
heavenly bread he gave
to strengthen us that we might serve our family with
to love each other as you love with humble hearts and patient faith
and to forgive each other's faults as Jesus Christ forgave, as Jesus Christ

Where two or more are gathered you reside
Mary be our
Mother, Joseph be our guide
to make your Son the center of our lives
Jesus may Your name be glorified

Help us take what 'ere you give and
give what 'ere you take from us
With smiles upon our faces as we place our
trust in You

Jesus may your name be Glorified


Why St. Joseph is so important to me . . . Episode 1

Happy St. Joseph's Feast Day!

In October, I will be marrying the man that God created for me. We started our journey together six years ago as seniors in high school. We met when we both visited the same college (now my Alma Mater). He was from the city, I was from the country. We kept in touch and months later began to date.

Anyone who knows our story or has walked through our journey with us can tell you that our relationship has not been an easy one. We've been through our share of ups and downs.

I studied abroad in Italy the fall semester in 2006. It was during that trip that for the first time, God confirmed to me that this really was the man I was meant to marry. And it wasn't until that moment that I started to say "when we get married" instead of "if we get married".

I came home from studying abroad and shared my experience with my boyfriend. That Christmas break we looked at rings for the first time. We consecrated our relationship to St. Joesph (basically just officially asking the patron of purity and marriage, to pray for us). We began to move forward from dating to preparing for engagement. After a while, he began telling his friends (and a few of mine) that he was planning on "popping the question" and some of them knew his plans.

Long story, short (or just short-er), he didn't propose as he has planned. And shortly after the date of his planned proposal passed, he ended our relationship. I was devastated. I had never, and have never, felt my heart break before like this, but I really truly felt it. I sobbed for hours, and when Monday rolled around and I got up for classes, I just couldn't do it. I was somewhat well-known for always having a smile and being cheerful. I couldn't bring myself to pull it together and left that morning, driving the 4.5 hours home.

I spent a few days dealing with everything (and crying . . . a lot . . .) and really felt God was calling me not to give up on us quite yet. So, I asked if I could make the 2 hour detour on my way back to school to come talk to him. When I arrived, it was so clear that he wasn't thinking clearly. It was not until many months later that I learned he was going through some deep depression. All he kept saying was that he just wasn't happy anymore. I tried desperately to understand how he'd given up on 3 years for a two week rocky patch. In the end, I just couldn't reach him. He had already made his decision. I made it clear that if he wanted to turn around right now, and work back to where we were, that we could. If, however, I walked out that door in the same situation as I walked in, that this would be it. That this was not a break, that this was over. After many tears on both ends, and hitting the brick wall over and over, I accepted his decision and left.

I still hadn't quite given up on us yet. That next weekend, we both had school dances, and had planned on going to one of them together. Needless to say, I did not attend my dance. But, on Sunday, due to our dear friend "facebook", I learned quickly that he had gone to his dance, and he hadn't gone alone. I was completely devastated. After talking to him and verifying what I already knew to be true, I made it very clear that I never wanted to see him again. I told him . . . what I thought of him . . . that I couldn't believe he could do this and hurt me so badly, and that I never wanted to hear from him again. "I hate you. Never call or contact me again. You've lost me, forever. Get out of my life."

Years later, I can still remember saying these words. And in all of the mess, this is the only thing I regret: telling him I hated him. It was a lie. I didn't hate him. I was angry, deeply hurt, and shocked, but I never once hated him. And, that was it. I purged my life of him that week, throwing away everything that I had of our relationship. I deleted pictures, threw away gifts, and ended up deleting my facebook profile (many of his friends were my "friends" and also had pictures I just couldn't handle seeing). And when I finally did open my facebook again, I deleted him, and just about all of his friends, from my "friends".

I went through a few weeks of being unable to eat and throwing up every morning when I woke up to the real life nightmare (the one positive, I lost 10 lbs! haha). I fell into Jesus' arms, and just laid there . . . for days . . . letting him hold me as I sobbed in his arms. Slowly, though, I began to get up from this terrible fall. I began to attend mass every day, and clung to the Eucharist for strength to stand. Music was a huge source of strength for me (to this day, I still have my "break-up" playlist). I started to eat again, and then began to run. I would just run and run everyday. Thinking back, I think it was the only way I felt like I was moving forward. Running was my escape. I wanted so desperately for this man that knew everything about me not to know me anymore. And since I couldn't move or change my life, I began to change my body. I began to pray for him everyday. Each morning, it was a simple 2 sentence prayer: "Lord, please send him someone to get him back on the right track. St. Joseph, please pray for him, protect him, and guide him." I couldn't keep myself from praying for him, even when I wasn't sure it was good for me to keep thinking about him. Everyday, for 9 months, I prayed this prayer.

The only time I contacted the man that broke my heart was in an email a week later, to tell him I was sorry for saying I hated him. The only time he contacted me was a month later to let me know (by demand of a mutual friend, and my now maid-of-honor) that he was now dating the girl from the photographs I'd seen, and wanted me to hear from him. For 9 months, we had no contact. Due to mutual friends, I heard about him once in a while. I knew he had turned down the wrong path, away from God. I knew his relationship was not a good one. 7 months after we split, I heard about the depression. With that information, many of the things he had said the last time I saw him finally made sense.

So, why am I telling you all about the horrible break-up? Well, it's probably more for me than for you. Every time I re-tell the story, I re-live it, and heal a little bit more. But, the reason I began to tell you about all of this is so you can truly see the beauty of how God worked next . . .

I will post the conclusion of the story on a new post . . . this one has ended up being much longer than planned!

stay tuned for the next episode of "Days of Amanda's Life". haha.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blinding Light

Have you ever looked at a bright light? At first, it may have been painful, but if you kept looking at it, your eyes adjusted and everything else seemed to disappear in the darkness? Ever think this experience would be a life lesson?

I've been having a difficult time lately focusing on God. It all started with not giving enough time to God in prayer. And when our relationship began to struggle, it became more difficult for me to live the life He asks me to live. It was harder to not be anxious about the future, harder to love in difficult situations, harder to keep my mind pure, and ultimately harder to stay away from the temptations of life. I was so frustrated with myself. I just kept falling short of what I was called to be. In the midst of this disappointment, I attended Catholic Underground (an amazing ministry in LA that starts with a holy hour and continues with some kind of artist "underground" in the basement of the Church).

During adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Church is dimmed and a spotlight is directed at the monstrance. At the particular location I (or rather God) had picked, the light hit perfectly on the metal to shine right into my eyes. At first, the blinding light hurt my eyes and I tried to avoid it, but then I realized that God was telling me something through this experience.

Instead of avoiding the light, I stared right into it. After moments of squinting and bearing the pain, my eyes adjusted to the light. It became easy to stare right at the monstrance. And the more I focused on Christ, the less I could see anything else. Everything outside of the path of light faded until it disappeared and I could only see the light. It was truly a "blinding light". And that's when it all made sense!

So many times in life, we get so distracted by everything and start stumbling along our path so much that we forget how to keep moving forward after we keep falling. Jesus was showing me that if I would only focus on Him, everything else wouldn't be so difficult. That the more I focused on Him, the more I would adjust and get used to focusing on Him. That if I'd only keep my eyes on Him, soon I wouldn't even be able to see the temptations that were in the darkness anymore. Just like focusing on the light made all that was out of it's path disappear, so would focusing on Christ make everything not in the path to Christ fade and disappear. He was showing me that it wouldn't be so difficult, I just needed to put my spiritual blinders on and focus on Christ!

As I began to re-center on Christ in my life, it wasn't long before everything that was distracting me in the shadows faded away into the darkness and disappeared.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mondays Miracles - Leading Teens Closer to Christ

Today, my Monday Miracle is that I not only made it through last week, but with flying colors! Let me give you a little taste of my world . . .

I work as a Youth Minister in a Catholic Church. My position requires many hats, namely: Coordinator or EDGE Middle School Ministry (including first communion preparation), RCIA-Teen Coordinator, RCIA-Children Coordinator, and Lux Dei Young Adult Ministry Co-coordinator. Needless to say, this job has been quite literally full-filling. I often find that I end my days wondering what happened to my personal life. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I've wanted to minister to the youth of Our Church since I myself was a youth. And every time I make that connection with a kid, I remember why I chose this profession.

The problem with my job is that I simply can't put all I want to in each of the ministries. I am not one to only do something half-way, so it's been a difficult journey. Though I am confident that each of the ministries I am leading are better now than they were when I moved to California, it's difficult for me to accept that I simply can't do everything. This past week proved me right!

My weeks schedule:
Monday - EDGE (Middle School Ministry with 180 kids attending one of two sessions)
Tuesday - RCIA adapted for Teens
Wednesday - RCIA adapted for Children (Penitetial Rite and Anointing of Catechumens)
Thursday - Interviews for 1st Reconciliation all day, class for the same kids that evening. Plan stations of the cross for Saturday's retreat.
Friday - Set up and prepare for Saturday's all day retreat (Many hours . . .)
Saturday - All Day RCIA-Teen Retreat (9am-9pm)
Sunday - RCIA 1st Scrutiny - My turn to dismiss with them to discuss the readings.

Needless to say, it was a LONG week. All this aside, I also got a difficult message from a friend at the beginning of the week. And just as a joke from God, he also decided to make this my . . . we'll say "emotional" week.

I was dreading the week just coming to work on Monday. But as the week slowly moved forward, I found that I was able to meet all off my responsibilities, come to peace with my friends message, and get my emotions somewhat under control. And as I trusted God with the crazy week ahead, He simply used me as an instrument in His plan.

Monday went pretty well, and the activity we used to process the Liturgy of the Word really taught the kids how to use the Bible for prayer. Tuesday was a little hectic when one of my catechists had to cancel last minute. But thanks to a wonderful team, the situation was quickly taken care of. Wednesday was the first time I lead a Rite all by myself, and it went rather smoothly. Many commented on the beauty of the event. Thursday began to get even more stressful. Every second of the 8 hours I worked was occupied by the day's scheduled activities. My interviewees actually went very well, and I think the kids enjoyed our activity on how to go to confession. The stations of the cross also went well and were somewhat planned by the time we finally left the building. Friday was a busy, yet enjoyable day. Filled with pulling together our resources to create a retreat environment and shopping for the days supplies and food. I spent most of the late evening/early morning fighting with my computer to make CDs.

Saturday came so quickly, and I was scared all day that it would go terribly wrong because of something I probably forgot. But fortunately for us, God had a plan. The retreat was long and took alot of work out of the team, but it was a beautiful retreat that I think really hit home with the kids. And very few things went wrong all day! :)

Thank you, God, for getting me through this week. Thank you for using me to get your work done in this world. I praise you for all you have done through me to "Lead Teens Closer to Christ".

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm Thankful for:

  • God being constant when my emotions are not even close.

  • The parents that thanked me today: One for being an encouraging and positive teacher, one said her son never did this well, that I work so well with them, and another for being an understanding and great teacher. Those parents have no idea how much I needed that today!

  • God giving us encouragement (through others) just when He knows we need it.

  • Volunteers that give of their time to help serve the youth of our Church

  • A clean apartment and a clean car!

  • Parents that always taught me to take responsibility for myself (in school, work, activities, etc.)

  • The priests of our Church and their service to us

  • My loving family

  • My fiance's generosity

  • The many hundreds of friends that have crossed my path through the years of my life

  • The Eucharist

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Tune for Tuesday

Well, today is not Tuesday . . . but who cares about boundaries! :)

I was searching the internet for different songs today, when I ran across this song. It may be well known to many, but it was a first listen for me. I grew still, listening to the simple, meaningful lyrics. It didn't take very many bars for tears to begin trickling down my cheaks.

In these simple words, is not our whole desire written? Is it not our simple desire to just do His Will? To be used by Him? How many times do I stumble and fall along the journey. Trying to do things right, to get things done on time, to make things perfect, when all we need to do is simply lay it at the foot of the cross and give our daily lives to Him. I pray this song moves you to lay all you have before our Lord today.

My Desire: Jeremy Camp

You want to be real, you want to be empty inside
You want to be someone
laying down your pride
You want to be someone someday
Then lay it all
down before the king

You want to be whole, you want to have purpose
You want to have virtue and purify your mind

You want to be
set free today
Then lay it all down before the King

This is my
desire, this is my return
This is my desire to be used by You

want to be real, you want to be emptied inside
And I know my heart is to
feel You near
And I know my life
It's to do Your will
It's to do
Your will

This is my desire, this is my return
This is my desire, to
be used by You
Oo yea
This is my desire, this is my desire
To be
used by You

All my life I have seen
Where You've taken me
all I have hoped
And there's more left unseen

There's not much I can
do to repay all You've done
So I give my hands to use

This is my
desire, this is my return
This is my desire, to be used by You
Oo yea
This is my desire, this is my desire
To be used by You