Grief Snuck In

    You’re never truly over the loss of someone you love. You don’t get over it, you move past it. Jesus gives us the blessing of time. The Bible shows us that Jesus is never closer to us than when we are brokenhearted. 

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18 

      Last month, I turned 25. I was looking forward to going out to dinner with my parents, and we were having everyone over to our new house for a big cookout. Once you hit 21 birthdays are just another number but that doesn’t really stop me from big parties. What can I say? I’m Brazilian, it’s in my DNA. Being Brazilian means I have a pretty giant family and being 25 means I’m incredibly blessed to still have almost all of my grandparents around. My dad’s mom (Mimi) lives next door, my mom’s mom lives right down the street, and my mom’s dad and stepmom live just a couple hours away.

        My Vovo, my grandmother’s husband, passed away when I was a kid. I have some pretty incredible memories of the two of us – he taught me how to play cards (even though I never developed a poker face), he taught me how to swim, and he taught me how to cook french fries on the stove. Vovo did some insanely amazing things with his life – he was an Olympic swimmer who won a bronze medal, he competed in several golf tournaments, and he served as an ambassador for Argentina. I thought he was invincible – and then he got sick. In the last few years of his life he had a couple of serious illnesses that really robbed him of the ability to connect with us. He passed away and it was the first time in my life I had lost someone. I didn’t really understand what happened, and when high school rolled around, I threw myself into Life Teen.
      Flash foward to being 25, happily married, and having a party. It’s a tradition in my family that when we have a birthday we go to Mimi’s house to visit. She’s 93 and not as mobile as she used to be, so no big parties or travelling for her. I was sitting next to her talking about my husband’s new job when she handed a present to me. I. Love. Presents. I will totally and happily admit to that being my love language. When I opened the bag and pulled out the tissue paper I was holding a large silver cup that my grandfather won from a golf tournament exactly 50 years ago.
      I thought I was over my grief. I didn’t expect it to sneak in through my defenses and punch me in the face with all the subtlety of a Bruce Willis movie. There’s no shame in the fact that when Mimi handed me that silver cup, I started crying like I was four years old again and my cousin told me unicorns weren’t real (we can talk about denial in another post). But there are proper times for everything in life. Ecclesiasties 3:1-14 tells us that there is a time for everything.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;”
       It’s now been a few weeks since I got the cup, and it’s sitting proudly on my bookshelf. I see it every morning when I get a cup of coffee and I think about the good memories my Vovo left me. I went through my season of mourning, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to be sad sometimes. Life is about being authentic. Jesus tells us to live the truth: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The Father wants us to come to Him will our worries, our joys, our grief. The Bible is full of places lamenting those who turn away from the face of Jesus. There is no greater comfort than sitting in front of Jesus in adoration or participating in the mass. So the next time grief sneaks in, make room in your heart and spend some time thanking Jesus for this beautiful life we’ve been given. I’ll salute you with an old silver cup. 

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First Blog Ever

It’s the best time to wear a striped sweater, sweater. Welcome to my first blog, first blog. Ever 🙂

Hey guys! I was just thinking, while eating my punkin’ pecan ice cream, that holy cow Christmas is in three weeks. THREE WEEKS. I have, like, SO MUCH to do. I have projects to complete and speeches to write and Taylor Swift’s new album just came out so there’s that, and ministries to give my heart and time to, and of course I have to work too, and I need a new laptop, and probably a new car! It’s kind of crazy. But you know, with all that stuff on my mind, I just want to snuggle up with my sister and listen to music and watch comforting romantic movies and laugh at stupid things. But let me tell you a little something about life, it demands to be lived! I was at work today, I’m a nanny for five kids so I do laundry A LOT, and I was putting clothes away inside the master closet where I was literally brought to my knees. This has been happening a lot lately) (I don’t know, maybe it’s a wardrobe to Narnia) (Narnia as in heaven?) Okay, so I was brought to my knees because so often I show up to work already exhausted and I forget who my God is. I’ll show up to work without a prayer behind me, without even a thought towards Him, and you just can’t live like that. And as soon as I so much as speak His name, I’m on my knees because everything makes sense in His name. All of the stress, all of the confusion, all of the heaviness of my heart and weight of my life and the world, all of it becomes sweet with God. No, it doesn’t disappear. I still have a lot of stuff to take care of (like the socks that are still in my hand), and I’m still confused about a few things, (like why is there literally no match to this stupid blue sock) but I have a greater purpose than this life. I have a greater purpose than myself, and that is Love. This Love is so big, and so understanding, and so deep, that nothing in this world can come in between it and me. It’s CRAZY. And it demands to be received, and it demands to be released! We just can’t keep it inside ourselves, it rots in there! And with all that love inside me, the rest of the day is a slime trail of love that keeps overflowing out of this cup God gave me. I have a purpose, a purpose that fits in with everything I do, and We are all given this love, and a cup, and a slime trail, and we were all given this gift of life. So I encourage you, friends, to pray. Often. And be comforted in the fact that sometimes prayer is you listening, and sometimes it’s God listening, and sometimes it’s both of you listening at the same time. Prayer, in its way, is you centering your life on God, it’s you refocusing. So pray pray pray, and take heart in your purpose, and know you are so so loved. Praying for you 🙂

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What I learned from a child

I think I’m slowly learning what Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 18 1-5:

“At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

This weekend I had the privilege to Altar serve at a Mass for our Confirmation students to conclude their retreat. The Mass started as usual with myself and two other Altar servers processing in before the Confirmation students and our priest. When we reached the Altar, we discovered that we had another server joining us who happened to get to the church a little late but refused to let that stop him from serving. He must have changed faster than Clark Kent becoming Superman in order to serve at Mass. Upon seeing him up there before the rest of us I had to smile and laugh a little to myself. You see, this kid is around 11 years old and he never ceases to amaze me to see how fervently and passionately he serves at Mass. As the rest of us join him I happened to look at his little hands, folded and ready for prayer…when I see a rosary wrapped around his hand.

*For those that don’t know me, I have been wearing a rosary around my hand for the past 3 years and it all started as a challenge from one of my teens early on in my ministry. That teen challenged everyone to always have their rosary with them and even wear it, if necessary, but the one requirement was not just to wear it like a piece of jewelry – but to pray it. So being a very challenge driven person, I said, “bring it!” This also happened to coincide with a promise I made when joining the Knights of Columbus – to always have a rosary on my person (hint hint, nudge nudge, brothers) and this helped reinforce my challenge. So I told myself I wouldn’t wear my rosary if I didn’t pray it.

Back to the story…I immediately starting thinking to myself, “I wonder why he decided to do this and where he had learned it.” We go through Mass and even while focused on everything going on, I just couldn’t get seeing that rosary around his hand out of my mind. So at the end of Mass I see him with his family so I walk over and tell him I love his rosary (while being attacked and wrestled with by his younger brothers; they won, for the record). So I go back to our parish hall to finish cleaning up from the Confirmation retreat and was invited out to dinner by the father of the boy (who is a Catechist who helped put on the retreat). So while at dinner, I asked his parents what caused their son to start wearing a rosary around his hand? They both laughed and told me to ask the boy, who wouldn’t answer but just looked at me. The father then answered for him and said, “he learned it from you”. I was in disbelief. I have known this family for probably less than a year and here their son was copying something I was doing. I went home that night and really started to think about this. Of everything that happened that day, why was it that this one moment stood out to me the most? Then the above verse came to mind. I have always said that in my ministry I have learned more from those I minister to than they probably get from me. Here is this 11 year old boy who started doing something that I have been doing, and will probably never realize the impact in made on my life. You see, I had been struggling for a while and had even stopped wearing my rosary for a little bit (though I never stopped praying, just took away my constant reminder). I’m not saying it was because of me that this kid started doing that, because that takes a movement of the heart from God, but the fact that he attributed the thought of doing that because of my example. My heart sank that night as I reflected because it made me realize that I have been, and will continue to be, an example for those that I may not ever know. The more I reflected, the more my heart became reconvicted in my prayers and in my wearing of the rosary around my hand. Not for vanity, but as a constant reminder of God’s presence and Mary’s intercession. This 11 year old boy reformed my failing faith, reconvicted my tired heart, and the only thought I had was, “thank you, God”. From the countless spiritual directions, deep conversations with friends and all the ministry I do, it was this simple moment from a young pre-teen that changed my heart. I am constantly amazed how God uses the ones we see as the weakest or littlest to change our lives and to show His glory and power.

To the family, if you see this, thank you for the way you are raising your children. Thank you for inviting me out that night. And to the boy in this witness: You are and continue to be an inspiration to me, especially because of your age. You and your family are being prayed for by name each and every day on this rosary that you reconvicted me to wear.

It is amazing what God can do with the faith and openness of a child. Anyone who thinks they are mighty will be humbled and those that are humble will be made mighty.
Myself and the rest of the Mobile Mission team are praying for all of you

– Evan

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The Greatest Miracle of All: Letting God be in Control

So…a few weeks ago I was on a retreat with my parish’s Life Teen youth group. I was asked to be the emcee for the weekend and leading up to the actual retreat I started to feel more and more pressure. You see, there is a lot of work that goes into making a retreat happen and being the emcee means you have to know everything that is going on in order to make things flow smoothly; something I don’t take lightheartedly. So throughout the retreat I kept worrying about what to do next and making sure things were flowing; yet there was one thing I forgot to do, and sadly enough, it was the most important. I forgot to let God into everything I was doing. Instead of letting Him lead through all our preparation, I tried myself to make sure everything would go right. So why do I mention this to you? Well, one of the things I was in charge of was setting up for Mass, which would be outside and across the lake from where the main room was. While everyone was spending time in Adoration and/or waiting in the Confession line, I was setting up for Mass to make sure everything would keep flowing from one thing to the next and to make sure the priest was all set up. I saw a teen who had just finished with Confession and asked him to help me bring some items we would need for Mass across the lake. Here is where the story really begins…

We put out 55 hosts that would be consecrated for the 52 people we had in attendance and we both laughed that we almost didn’t have enough, as there was only around 15 hosts leftover. The teen then returned to spend more time in Adoration and I continued to set up; all the while patting myself on the back for being so prepared and setting up so early…in hindsight – I was a moron. So I start to walk back around the lake and start to talk with a fellow core member, when all of a sudden…THE BIGGEST GUST OF WIND EVER sweeps through and we both happened to look up as we hear the “cling” of the ciborium (the thing the hosts are all in) and paten (the thing the priest’s host is on), and see unconsecrated hosts fly away into the lake. (Side note: the Army would have been proud at how fast I ran around the lake and I am sure that if I had tried I probably could have ran on the water itself). So I get to the other side of the lake to find all hosts in the water, along with the ciborium, its cover, and the paten…all submerged in the water. At this point, if I had hair, I would have pulled it all out because I had just ruined the Mass for these 50+ teens. My fellow core member tried to help but I had asked her, rather bluntly, to leave me alone so I could process what had happened and figure out what I (notice that pesky “I” again) was going to do. So there I am…alone, upset, and frustrated. The teens would be released outside soon and Mass would begin shortly thereafter. Most people who have been in ministry for a while surely would think, “hey, this looks like a great time to offer up a prayer for guidance”, but what did I do? Instead of doing the right thing, I decided to “get to work”…MORON. So I fish the ciborium, its cover, and the paten out of the water and clean them off – and now comes the miracle. I knew we only had around 15 hosts leftover in our travel bag so I knew I would have to pre-break them into smaller bits for Mass in order to have enough. Well, right as I start to open the Mass kit that had the extra hosts, in my mind I sarcastically said this very humble and sincere prayer, “I bet you won’t do that whole multiplying the bread thing will ya?” Once again…moron. I opened the bag and right before I started to break the first host I decided to count them out to see just how many I would need to break. 1…2…5…10…20…30…40…52. I counted 52 hosts! I knew there were not another 52 hosts in that bag! So before Mass I asked the teen that had originally help me count the hosts to verify that there were only around 15 in the bag – he did, and that’s when I told him the story and showed him the hosts still in the water; he couldn’t believe it either.

The bag was empty, not a single host was broken and the number was the perfect amount for those we had on the retreat. I had been so caught up in making sure things went the way that I had planned and that things were perfect that I had forgotten the most important part – to trust in God. I tried doing everything myself and when I wouldn’t listen God decided to show me. In writing this, I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha:

Luke 10 39:42

“She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

While everyone else was busy enjoying the “better” part of adoring our Lord in Adoration, I was busy being “anxious and worried” about everything else. God decided to change that. I am so thankful for that day and for the reminder that it served to me. This, my brothers and sisters, should show us that God does listen to us and will provide for us whenever we need it. That doesn’t mean it will always be something we notice right away, but He is there. He does listen to our prayers – even when they are sarcastic at times.

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