Saturday, June 30, 2007
Here's me, at least the image I think myself of, perhaps I need to sport the 'soul patch' full time! BTW, I am praying because sinners need more time with our Lord than those who have it all together! If St. Francis of Assisi called himself the greatest among sinners, what does that make me?!
Curtis Martin had an interesting story about when he was pitching FOCUS initially to a Bishop friend, back in the early days, he invited this Bishop over to his house. They had a great dinner, and the Bishop was pumped about FOCUS and having them in his diocese. On the way out after the dinner, Curtis was walking the Bishop to the door, and the Bishop stopped, put his hand on Curtis's shoulder, and said, "Curtis, if you get this organization going, save millions of souls, and bring many into the Church, and you neglect your family, you will go to hell."
Strong words, but true to the core: we mustn't forget our primary vocation, whether it be marriage, family, the priesthood, or religious life. In fact, if you are married go thank your spouse right now, go buy your wife flowers, or reaffirm your devotion to your other half's heart.
May God smile on us tonight. I'll leave you with a brief comment from St. John Vianney, that has become my motto:
"Let us prepare ourselves for death; we have not a minute to lose!"
Monday, June 25, 2007
This weekend we went to Kansas City on both Friday and Saturday. It was really great to get out of Atchison for a while; this place doesn't have much to do - here's the shocker: there's not even a Starbucks. I think that tells you something! lol Anyway, on Friday we went out with our new friend Shaun, a missionary from Denver at the Colorado School of Mines. He's here without his wife and little daughter, which has to be hard! Anyway, we had a fun time doing some shopping and getting some Kansas City barbecue at the plaza (above)! I needed some things for the baby, and it was great to get all that taken care of. I only have a few more things I need before she comes, but I think that those will wait until we get home!
On Saturday, we went back to Kansas City with Charlie's team of missionaries that he'll be working with this year at UNC. We had lunch and then went to the home of one of the women's parents who live in KC. They had invited the whole team for the evening and dinner - having a home cooked dinner was so exciting! We played croquet in the yard for a while and generally had a fun time!
Yesterday was just relaxing; Charlie played golf while the girls and I napped after mass and then yesterday evening we cooked a pizza and had a picnic outside with the girls. We ate lots of fruit, something seems so right about little girls eating bright red strawberries in the summer! Reminds me of one of my favorite children's books growing up!
In other news, last week it was decided that we will not be going back to Houston after training is over on July 7. We are going to go straight to Greeley from here and have the baby in Colorado. It turned out to be the best decision as far as the insurance goes, but there are defiantly some kinks to work out. I am particularly worried about having the baby with a doctor I don't really know and in a hospital I am unfamiliar with, since I am forever branded a VBAC patient after my c-section with Felicity (even though I had a successful natural birth with Gabrielle). It's all very tricky. I beg for your prayers for a successful and peaceful natural birth. Secondly, all of our baby stuff is in Houston with my mother-in-law! Baby clothes, infant car seat, all of my post-birth necessities, etc. Things we'll need right when she gets here...but I'm sure it will work out somehow.
The good news is that I am about 98% sure that we have finally found somewhere to live. Hopefully we'll be signing the contract this week and then once we get to Colorado on the 7th, we can rest on Sunday the 8th and start moving in on the 9th. I can't wait to get "home" even though I don't know where home is quite yet...
Hopefully the next 2 weeks will fly by since we have classes on lots of interesting topics. The only thing that is really daunting is that this is a very hilly part of the country and my body is getting extraordinarily tired from walking all over campus! This morning (and this afternoon really, but I had to skip afternoon due to nap time) was philosophy by Dr. Jim Madden.
Last week was ALL on Salvation History - I learned SO much. It's completely embarrassing to share that I never really read the Old Testament, much less connected the dots on the story. It was exciting for me, opened my eyes, and has made many aspects of our faith make so much more sense. I'd love to write more about it, maybe I will in the coming days, but I'd hate to make this post too long!
Anyway, I haven't had my camera out much, I'll have to get some good pictures this week so we can share more of the excitement!
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Trust, it is the theme of the week. Our family trusting in God's mercy and providence, and in a bigger way the human race trusting that God is good and has our good in His Divine Plan. Jim Jansen made a great point that there is no Atheism, we can prove that God exists; there is doubt in God's love for us, and we don't trust in Him.
Today my theme of trust comes with a question for you, dear reader. My family and I are trusting that God will provide for our needs. I want to invite you and yours to journey with us on this Apostolate which Christ has called us to. Please pray about joining our monthly support team with any donation, large or small, we are hoping to find 50 donors at $60 per month. Thank you for your continued prayers for us, and hopefully, your generous gifts to our family, through F.O.C.U.S.
Monday, June 18, 2007
These last two weeks have been not only intellectually demanding, but deeply spiritually fulfilling. I have come to many new places in prayer, my faith, and my mission as a son of the Triune God. On Wednesday of last week, I had a chance to pray with some very holy men for about an hour, just four of us sitting around interceding for one another for the wounds we have received in our struggle for manhood. Every person at this place is way beyond me, and I hope to continue to strive for holiness through prayer, fasting, and simple yet profound acts of sacrifice.
Today we had the Mass (complete with two priests and 150+ missionaries) offered for the Walther family and Andrea's parents and sisters. It is humbling to be here for others, it is interesting as you dive further into the Christian experience you begin to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Church more fully, and with that comes realizations, both exciting and daunting. On one hand, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, the righteousness of a few can cover up for the sin of many. Juxtaposed however is the case of sinful kings of Israel's past, where their sin causes the entire population to fall into exile. Thus is the weight of Christian service, one can see the sin of a few (e.g. the priest scandals) leading to the apostacy of many (leaving the church due to faith in men, not God). Contrast that with the witness of John Paul the Great: his faith, service, and witness of the Gospel led many many young people to find a faith they thought was only about rules, until they found a relationship both with Christ and the Church.
Also today we did a five hour version of what is normally a 12 week course on "The Great Adventure" Bible study. Jeff Cavins came and did a fantastic job for the limited amount of time he had, and really opened up a lot for us. We were blessed because Andrea attended the entire presentation, and she really soaked up everything. It's tough for many moms who have the desire, but lack the time and ability to attend things like this, and I hope it was fruitful for her. She said many times, "WOW!" "AMAZING" etc.
Please continue to pray for us, we have still yet to find housing in Greeley; God will provide, and we will continue searching diligently for a place. Thanks again for your time in reading this, if you visit, please comment on what we can pray for, for you and/or your family.
My mother-in-law sent us a box full of fun craft projects. Here are the girls painting on Friday.
Saturday night we had a BBQ with all the other families to celebrate Father's Day. We shared some delicious food, chatted, the kids swam, and the men all played a game of volleyball.
Yesterday for Father's Day we endured a pretty miserable mass with the girls (you'd think they could behave by now, we go every day!!!!!) and then went to brunch. In the afternoon, Charlie went and played baseball for a couple hours, and then we just had a quiet evening together while the girls played outside.
Charlie got this from some of the guys for Father's Day:
Lastly, just a cute pic of my sweet girl:
Saturday, June 16, 2007
It was a truly beautiful movie that really spoke to the dignity of life without being pushy or political. It just spoke to the heart of the human person. Here is a synopsis from the Toronto International Film Festival website:
At the beginning of Bella, handsome, dapper Jose (Eduardo Verástegui) is on top of the world. He is a young soccer star on the rise. A few years later, he's a taciturn, shaggy-haired chef at the upscale Mexican restaurant owned by his prickly brother Manny (Manny Perez). But what led Jose from point A to point B is only one small strand of the story. More important is the one fine New York day he spends with a complete stranger.
When the striking waitress Nina (Tammy Blanchard) arrives late once again for her shift at the restaurant, Manny fires her on the spot and she runs out, distraught. Jose - who knows her only a little - gives chase in order to comfort her, offering the frazzled young woman a much-needed shoulder to cry on. Nina proceeds to blurt out all her troubles to the sensitive and attentive hunk - a hint: she was late because she's, um, late - so he decides to play hooky from the bustling kitchen to go for a walk around the city with her.
The charming pair fall into an easy confidentiality over the course of their eventful day, but every so often one of them jolts upright with the awareness that they barely know each other. This is particularly apparent when they decide on a whim to go to the beach near Jose and Manny's parents' house in the suburbs. Within the colour and comfort of Jose's family home, Nina keenly feels she is missing the intimacy, support and, well, peace, that such a close family provides, and she makes a decision that is key to the enigmatic Jose's redemption.
Although the elements of the story may seem familiar, there are many twists and turns in Bella, and the film charts the duo's blossoming relationship with a dynamic and casual rhythm. It is a credit to the freshness and vitality of writer and director Alejandro Monteverde's vision, and his engaging cast - especially the charismatic Verástegui as Jose - that we are grateful to go along for the ride.
The movie won the top prize (People's Choice Award) at the Toronto Film Festival; some of the other movies that have won this prize are American Beauty, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hotel Rwanda. The main character is played by Eduardo Verastegui, who the producer describes as "Mexico's Brad Pitt." He was (is) apparently quite famous in Mexico as both a singer and actor, but after crossing over to the American entertainment industry, had a "re-conversion" to the Catholic faith. He met producer Leo Severino in daily mass and the production company and movie came from there. Here is a video about Eduardo:
After watching the movie last night, we got to go back for a reception where they had some refreshments and a man who is connected to the movie gave us a very moving pro-life talk that was connected both to the movie and the campaign for Senator Sam Brownback's 2008 campaign for President.
Later on, one of the producers, Leo, and the lead actor, Eduardo, came in to give us a talk! It was really neat to hear their stories, to find out how the production company started, to hear about future projects, and to hear the stories of miracles that occured during the production and showing of the movie so far. Leo was encouraging us to promote the movie, since opening day sales in Texas will determine how wide-spread the movie will be across the country. He said that it can be and has been, literally, a "life and death" situation in some cases. Apparently there have been people who have changed their minds on having an abortion after seeing the movie.
Anyway, I want to encourage everyone to GO see the movie when it comes out in August! I know that we will.
Here's a preview:
Thursday, June 14, 2007
On Thursdays, the moms get together at the park before lunch with the kids. The park has some fountains that the kids can play in. Gabrielle cried the whole time, but Felicity had such fun!
Gabrielle does have a new trick though. She likes swinging from the sink. I'm sure that one of these days it will result in a head injury, but she thinks she's funny and so do we (sorry the video is sideways)!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
Friday during the day, I went to all sessions with Charlie because they dealt with the practicalities of the job: explanation of health insurance, how to fill out personal expense reports, intro to who works at headquarters ("HQ"), how and when to expect to get paid, etc. It was really great that I got to go to those sessions for a few reasons, one being that I do the majority of our household's paperwork. I feel much better prepared to deal with health/vision/dental/life insurance issues than I would have (since we've never had insurance as a family), I know how to fill out the paperwork and when I'll need to pay bills, etc.
The other reason that I was glad to go to those sessions in particular is that I walked away really and truly feeling like FOCUS genuinely cares about their people on all levels. Most missionaries are right out of college, and I think that FOCUS is a perfect stepping stone for a young adult coming into the "real world." They help you develop your character and integrity, they foster your faith and spirituality, they teach you how to manage your money from a Catholic Christian point of view (heavy emphasis around here on TITHING and ALMS GIVING by missionaries), they don't just toss you into a corporate world where, for example, you may have great health insurance, but don't understand how it works. They explain it to you. They put a great emphasis on health; you should see the people doing all sorts of workouts around here at break times. They teach etiquette. They even do classes for the single people (which is the majority of the missionaries) on proper Christian dating techniques, and really emphasize the roles that your respective gender plays in dating (single, first year missionaries have a "dating fast" though, so they can really focus on their ministry). I am just so impressed with the care this organization puts forth for their people.
Anyway, after afternoon sessions and dinner, we came back to our dorm suite to find quite a surprise. There was a huge box right inside the door addressed to "Charlie and Andrea from Texas" from Target. Inside this box was the double stroller that I have been wanting!!! A very generous woman from the Real Learning message boards had found out that I was struggling with walking all over this hilly campus, pregnant with two small children, and so she bought the stroller I wanted for us! She had asked me through a PM for our address here, saying that she wanted to send me a "note," so I thought maybe she had some connection with FOCUS and just wanted to send a note of support or something! But, I was just moved to tears, and as I hope you could tell from my last post, incredibly grateful. I am so unworthy of such unprecedented kindness!!!! And, of course, the stroller has been quite literally a "God-send," all the walking is so much easier and quicker now!!!!!
Saturday we went to the lake for an "All Staff Outing," which was nice. Felicity is becoming quite the social butterfly here; she spent the entire afternoon sitting by random people and just chatting. Everyone here is so kind to my children.
Yesterday was a very nice and relaxing day, a perfect Sunday! We went to mass and then out to breakfast with a bunch of other people. Then the rest of the day was spent napping and playing outside. A bunch of priests and sisters showed up, and the Nashville Dominican Sisters are excellent athletes! Not every volleyball game do you hear, "Nice hit, Sister!!!" (It's impressive to watch them in their full habits...what beautiful women!) Charlie played sand volleyball for several hours. We had dinner with 2 other families in the suite next door. My evening was spent sitting out on the lawn chatting with another of the wives (who is having a parallel experience: has a 3 year old, almost 2 year old, pregnant and due this summer, moving across country to Fort Collins, Colorado where her husband will be a Team Director after having done several years of youth ministry - we are on the same track!!! lol) while our husbands played volleyball and missionaries played with our children.
When I got in last night, there was a batch of cookies and card for me on the table. All the missionaries are split up into small groups called "colleges" that live together here and meet together a couple times a week. Each group is named after a saint and there is one named after St. Gianna (If you don't know about her, you should read about her! What an inspiring woman and mother!). The college of St. Gianna had baked the cookies and left the card for me (and I assume the other mothers!):
Here are the girls in their new stroller!
They were wiped out after such a fun weekend! We have an exciting week ahead!
Friday, June 8, 2007
Thank you, my dear friend, if you read this. I have no words to express the thanks my husband and I have. You will hear from us via mail very soon.
To the rest of our readers, I'll share later, once I am sure that proper thanks are given!
Thursday, June 7, 2007
They had several available, but we have a bunch of them already. However, there were a few that were required for classes in the next couple of weeks (we'll have series of classes on Scripture, Apologetics, and Philosophy to name a few). Here are the ones we got today:
Gorgias by Plato
Funding Your Ministry by Scott Morton
My Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
My Daily Bread by Anthony J. Paone, S. J.
More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World), an Apostolic Exhortation by Paul VI
Redemptoris Missio (Mission of the Redeemer), an Encyclical Letter by John Paul II
Conversation with Christ by Peter Thomas Rohrbach ("The teaching of St. Theresa of Avila about personal prayer.")
And lastly the Beginning Apologetics Series (1-8) by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham
1-How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith
2-How to Answer Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons
3-Yes! You Should Believe in the Trinity: How to Answer Jehovah's Witnesses
4-How to Explain and Defend the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
5-How to Answer Atheists and New Agers
6-How to Answer Tough Moral Questions: Abortion, Contraception, Euthanasia, Test-Tube Babies, Cloning, and Sexual Ethics
7-How to Explain and Defend Mary
7-How to Read the Bible: A Catholic Introduction to Interpreting and Defending Sacred Scripture
8-The End Times: What Catholics Believe about the Second Coming, the Rapture, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Indulgences
As if that weren't enough, they also gave us copies of the June Magnificat, MUCH to my delight, as I was going to beg Charlie to take me to St. Joseph, Missouri this weekend, which is where the closest Catholic book store is, to get one! Yaya!!! I would love to get a subscription some day, but it is so expensive and we would really need two. For now, we can just get them monthly, but sometimes they're hard to find. Either way, I'm super excited!
There are some other things we have been reading the last couple of weeks that I thought I'd go ahead and share since I'm on the topic of books! Charlie got his Amazon order the other day with his new Ignatious Bible RSV that is just beautiful! I think I'm going to get one too...the cover is stunning. Anyway, we have also been reading:
Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within by Thomas DuBay (Charlie)
Fire Within: St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel - On Prayer by Thomas DuBay (both of us)
Mother's Manual by A. Francis Coomes, S.J. (me)
The Hidden Power of Kindness by Lawrence G. Lovasik (me)
In other news, this weekend should be fun, there is supposed to be beautiful weather and we are heading to a nearby lake for an "all staff outing" on Saturday! I think that should be enjoyable! Next week will include all sorts of interesting classes to attend, I can't wait to share!
Today I went to Fr. Brendan's class on prayer, the holy "half-hour," and a really great class on character and virtue. I'd love to share more about that, but this is getting awfully long! After that, the other mothers and I took our children to a playground down by the Missouri River that had some fun water fountains for the kids to play in. They are exhausted now, but had such a fun time!
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
At 8:00 we have a holy hour with adoration. This week and next week it is more like a holy half-hour because it is preceded by a teaching on prayer by one of the monks, Fr. Brendan. He is a young man (I would say late 30's?) who has such profound things to say, but is also engaging to listen to. He has been using scripture, quotes from the Saints, and the Catechism to teach us how to pray more effectively.
Following our holy hour, there are 3 sessions. All of them are optional for me, and differ each day. Yesterday, was a general overview of the FOCUS program, which was nice for me because it really filled in the gaps of what is going on from what Charlie has told me. Today, I didn't go to any of the sessions because the married women met after prayer to get to know each other, organize future meetings together, and to pray together. Tomorrow includes an extra session on prayer by Fr. Brendan and some practicals that I will attend with Charlie.
After morning sessions, we pick the girls up from babysitting and are SO happy to see them! We walk over to lunch and usually sit around the other families, which is a fun adventure! From there, Charlie heads off to more sessions and the girls and I come back to our rooms to take naps! I think I am getting more rest here than I would have been at home, just because I don't have so many homemaking chores to attend to (much less, meals!). So the girls go down for naps and so do I!
By the time we wake up, it's just about time to get ready for daily mass. They have a couple of rows in the back reserved for the families, and it's always like a zoo back there! Felicity is usually pretty good...today I had to scold her for licking the pews. Yes, I said licking. I was pretty grossed out and mortified!!!!!! And, as delightful and sweet as Gabrielle is these days, she is also proving to be a challenge in mass. At lease we're not alone!!! No matter their behavior, though, the girls seem to enjoy sitting among their friends at church. Felicity is awfully perceptive, and picks up on things about mass that I don't realize sometimes! For example, the other day, she woke up from her nap before I did, and she startled me awake by shoving my rosary bracelet in my mouth and declaring, "Body of Christ!" THEN, just the other day, she positioned a piece of paper on a table, stood behind it and said, "A reading from the book of...(inaudible)!" I couldn't believe my ears that she repeated it so clearly!
Mass is followed by dinner, which is followed by all sorts of fun! Some missionaries have sessions occasionally at night, but not always. So we just walk out our front door to find all sorts of activities going on: bocce ball, bean bag washers (like horseshoes), sand volleyball, people working out (running or doing the kettle bell workout), praise and worship with guitars, people chatting, etc. We come out with our sidewalk chalk and 4-square ball to find a handful of children to play with, as well as other adults who wander by and are hooked in by Felicity's charm! One of the women next door made a comment that evenings here at the dorm suites reminds her of Jewish ghettos! Everyone comes out and recreates together in the evening. It's very fun.
Night time is hard for Charlie and I, because after all day of having all sorts of experiences, we keep wanting to stay up and talk about various aspects of our day, ideas we have, and do night prayer together. We end up staying up too late!
In fact, right now it is too late! We have to go to bed! The alarm is going off too early at 6:30 AM!
Sunday, June 3, 2007
This is the inside of our room, there is another connected on the other side of the bathroom that the girls have their beds in.
This is the outside. It faces a rolling hill with all sorts of nature's beauty.
So our friends know how to find us!
Yesterday, Gabrielle found a frog in the grass! That started all sorts of excitement for our family! We found out through one of my favorite websites, www.enature.com, that it was a Eastern American Toad, something that we would have never found in Texas! Gabrielle liked him the most and chased him around until we made her come inside for some reason. She kept telling us, "Frog! Kiss!" More than anything she just wanted to catch him and kiss him!
All sorts of activities were going on yesterday afternoon and the girls loved drawing with sidewalk chalk with all their new "friends." Anyone who walked by was invited to draw something on our sidewalk. Felicity has become quite friendly with people, so friendly in fact, that she no longer hesitates to ask people's names and if they want to come to "her house." She's been like that for a couple of months though, always inviting people over! Anyway, if she can't remember some one's name, she just refers the them as "Friend." Everyone here has been so kind to the girls, they get plenty of attention from the adults and lots of play time with the children. Here are some pictures of the weekends' activities and new friends:
Gabrielle was fascinated with this workout the men were doing, here she is with our new friend Mark, who is one of the most genuinely kind people I have met yet!
Felicity playing with her new ball.
A sand volleyball game broke out in the afternoon, much to Charlie's delight. He's in the green shirt.
Gabrielle and her new friend Jane playing with rocks after breakfast this morning. We went to a phenomenal little place for brunch called Cedar Ridge.
Playing with chalk.
It was such a lovely weekend, and now we must rest to prepare for the week ahead!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY MAMA!
Today is my Mom's birthday! We are too very far away today, but we wanted to wish her a happy birthday anyway!
Happy Birthday, Mama! I love you! I am praying to Our Mother specifically for you today!
Here is the prayer we have learned in Latin most recently:
V. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genitrix. R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Now that our "pre-training" week is winding down, more and more people are starting to arrive for the official start of this 5 week training for FOCUS. Among the many are some wonderful families!
The other day, a very sweet family showed up with two little girls, one who is about to turn a year old and one who is only 3 weeks older than Felicity! Their parents have been with FOCUS since practically the beginning. The girls get along so well that yesterday they were playing after lunch and the other mother said to me, "Aren't they like little angels?!" They really were...just existing with joy, in complete innocence. Their mere existence praised God. They were beautiful.
We are starting to make friends around here. Obviously that has been a bit easier for Charlie since he has been more involved with training and he is also so likable and easy to feel comfortable around. For me "Ora et Labora" is quieter, more in the background, with less access to other people outside my family. However, now that so many other families have shown up (and will continue to do so for the rest of the weekend), I think that the girls and I will discover plenty of friendship and fellowship!
Last night, the TD (FOCUS likes to use acronyms lol - "TD" is "Team Director," and is what Charlie is going to be, Team Director for the missionaries at UNC) here at Benedictine College so kindly invited us over to his house for dinner with himself, his incredibly sweet wife, Elizabeth, and their little daughter. Elizabeth is due with their second baby at the same time as me! In fact, just about every married person we have met is either expecting a baby or has a wife who is! There are a few exceptions, but for the most part...everyone who is married is pregnant. lol
We moved out of our lovely little house across campus today into a dorm suite on campus. It was decided that it would be more beneficial for us to stay here, closer to all the other families and missionaries. It is considerably less room, but it is a)less for me to clean up, b) more than enough space for the 4 of us, and c) just outside our door is a huge space full of lush grass, a variety of trees, colorful flowerbeds, and all sorts of recreational space. I have a feeling that Felicity and I will be able to put all sorts of new pages into our Nature Journals this month! To add to the charm, there are tons of fireflies at night to entertain our little ones! I am so happy to be in this living space with the view onto this part of campus - I really experience God's love through His gifts in nature!