My Fish Bowl

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a Facebook Live event at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference by Father Mike Schmitz.  Since then, I have listened to the recording at least five times and have forwarded it on to many women in my life.  The talk was THAT GOOD.  (In case you want to watch it, here’s the link; https://www.facebook.com/focuscatholic/videos/10156231444499887/.)

I have struggled throughout my life to find authentic virtuous friendships.  I have been in and out of groups of women who left me feeling alone and unfulfilled.  It is rare in this life that we find friends who do not judge, who love you even in spite of your faults, who don’t gossip about you when you walk out the door, and will be there no matter what.  Over the past five years, my friendships have completely changed.  Because of my new found deep faith in Jesus Christ, I lost many friends and the road become very lonely.  By focusing on Him, challenging myself to extend invitations, and striving for virtue in my own life, God brought women of virtue into my life in abundance.

Finding true authentic friendship requires recognizing God in the other person.  It also requires stepping out of your comfort zone and inviting someone into the bowl.  It’s hard to invite someone into friendship, but when you recognize God, your soul opens and begins to become vulnerable.  That vulnerability is what leads to a deeper friendship and the beginning of a walk together through life.

I want to share the stories of my friendships with the women in my fish bowl. I will race with these women to the end because they have loved me, faults and all, and continue to strengthen my belief in God with every encounter.  My friendships with these women took time to build.  It wasn’t an instant friendship, but the effort put forth by each of us has touched my life in immeasurable ways.  I have given these amazing women their own “name” based on what they mean to my life.

My Racing Partner – To say that my  friend Sarah and I are soul sisters is an understatement.  “She completes me” (yes, I had to throw something corny in).  God brought her into my life exactly when I needed it.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dear friend.  She is a rock.  She gives me hope in this world and in working toward eternity.  I recently told her that when I first met her I never would have imagined how close we would become.  She concurred.  She shares all of my struggles and successes.  We are both deeply in love with our faith and the Catholic church.  I admire her and the choices she has made through the most dire of circumstances.  I thank God for bringing her into my life.  She has taught me more than she will ever know.

My Life Changer – When I first met my friend Jenny, she had just experienced the tragic loss of the love of her life and father of her three beautiful daughters.  I didn’t know Jenny before the accident.  I arranged meals for her family following the tragedy and one night when I delivered my meal, we began to talk.  The friendship that bloomed from such horrible circumstances has taught me so much about life, suffering, picking-up-the-pieces, strength, courage, and finding love again.  At the end of my days, I will look back on this friendship as one of the most important relationships of my life.

My Fellow Convert – When I met Rebecca, she had just moved to my neighborhood.  Jesus brought us together by fate.  She has built me up when I am feeling low, she has reminded me just how much Jesus can change a soul, and she gives me hope that no matter the circumstances, your faith in Jesus is all you need.

My “Good for the soul” friend – Last Saturday I spent the morning over coffee with Bridget.  We hadn’t seen each other in several months, but we picked up right where we left off.  Laughter is the key to our friendship.  We respect each other, we laugh at each other’s faults, and we love one another for what each of us brings to the friendship.  Bridget has been through some very difficult times, but through it all, her faith remains strong.  She has faith that it will all work out and I love that in her.  Seeing her does my soul good because I never smile as much as I do when I’m with her.

My Church Buddy – Jen is my sister in Christ.  Our “happy place” is the church.  I have known Jen for years, but it wasn’t until my conversion that she and I grew to be great friends.  We both love kids and dream of the day that every child has an Encounter with our Lord.  She is my sounding board, my confidante, and the one person that challenges me to give more of myself.

My Best Friend – And of course, my mom.  She brought me into this world.  She has loved me like no other and she has been an incredible witness to faith in God.  She worked tirelessly when we were children to ensure we made it to church every week.  She planted the seeds in our hearts that brought us back to Jesus even after straying for many years.  Without my mom, I would be nothing.  She is my best friend.  Nothing more needs to be said except, I love you mom.

The women in my “fish bowl” are diverse, few of them are friends with each other, and most of them jumped into the bowl through the most unlikely of circumstances.   They are my witnesses in this life.  We walk together through good times and the most unbelievable struggles.  I may not see one of them for a month or two, but when we are together, our souls speak.

My “bowl” runneth over with love for these women who I never would have connected with had it not been for Jesus.  Changing my focus from the things of this world to focusing on Him and the life He wants for me has healed every hole in my heart and has filled my life with such joy.  Joy that I share with these women every day.

If you are struggling with finding authentic virtuous friendships, you are not alone.  I too was there.  Look for God.  Let Him lead you on your journey, and when you find someone, jump into the bowl together and glorify God with your every encounter.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 – “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.”

A Glimpse of Heaven

Yesterday, while I was reviewing some religious content for a project I have been working on at church, I stumbled across a video called “VITA” by Father John Burns (http://www.ahavaproductions.com/vita/).  After watching the video, I felt this overwhelming sense of joy.  Joy in knowing that I am working towards an inconceivable goal; heaven.

I wrote about “my glimpse of heaven” a little over a year ago when on retreat at Gethsemani Abbey.  When I was on retreat, I experienced God in a way I had never before and I may never again until I see Him again in eternity.  I hope I can convey the feelings that I had in words.

The retreats at Gethsemani are silent.  During my retreat, I spent five days with approximately thirty people, complete strangers, in silence.  The silence allowed me to hear God’s voice.  God spoke to me in many ways that week showing me the beauty of His creation and what life with Him can be.  It was through my experience at Gethsemani that I believe God gave me a glimpse of heaven.

While on retreat, every day, seven times a day, you meet in the sanctuary for prayer with others on retreat.  You hear the wonderful church bells calling you to prayer.  No matter where you are; in your room, in the dining hall, taking a hike, or sitting under a tree, you are called to worship.  You arrive in silence.  You see the monks arrive, one by one, to take their seats and prepare themselves to praise God with beautiful chants and prayer.  They sing at a slow pace that is almost hypnotic.  This pace allows the words to penetrate your soul.  The prayers are simple and beautiful.

Morning prayer is followed by Mass.  Mass at Gethsemani is unhurried.  You enter the sanctuary early to sit in silence and prepare to enter into the most intimate relationship of your life.  When Mass begins, the tune of the hymn is simple but sweet to the ear.  It is sung at a slow pace for you to really enjoy and listen to the words while lifting them to His ear in praise.  Even the responses are said slowly.

The first mass I attended felt strange.  I was done saying the response while the monks were still on the first few words.  As I started to slow my responses and really listen to the words and their meaning, I felt a deep sense of love for the liturgy come over me.  When it came time for the Gloria and the Lord’s Prayer, they were sung slowly and purposefully.  This was like angelic voices being lifted to heaven.  The slow, intentional voices of men who have dedicated their entire lives to living as Christ lived was like the sweetest choir of angels surrounding our Lord in heaven.  For the first time in my life, I understood Mass and how every Sunday when we are celebrating Mass, Jesus and all of the Saints are in heaven doing the same thing. We are in union with our most high God and all of the angels and saints.

On the last day of the retreat, I was overwhelmed with love.  Love for God, love for the monks, and love for the others on retreat.  It is a kind of love this is difficult to explain.  It is the purest kind of love I have ever experienced.  I didn’t know any of their names, races, how much money they had, sexual preference, political persuasion, etc.  All I knew was that seven times a day we were united in one goal; loving Christ with the utmost of our being.  I miss the monks and the others on retreat.  Many times, if I am feeling low, I sit and remember their faces.  I recall each of them and the love I have for them.  I remember the people I sat next to in prayer and at Mass: each one uniquely wonderful, created in the image and likeness of God.  I left changed.  I left longing for heaven, longing to see God’s face.  I am home sick for sure.  Home sick for the day I too will meet our heavenly Father face to face.  I believe the experience I had at Gethsemani is a glimpse of what heaven is like; pure, unchanging, unconditional love found in perfect communion with God and His beloved.  A love that is hard for humans to comprehend because it is such goodness and mercy beyond our understanding.

I struggle to express what my encounter was like because in this life, we will never achieve the kind of love waiting for us on the other side.  Heaven is like a mother nursing her child where two become one with life giving food.  It’s like the wedding night when a husband and wife join their bodies together in oneness and love.  It’s like pure joy that radiates from a child’s face when they discover something new and wonderful.  It’s like the sweet smell of a baby’s head when they first get out of the bath.  Heaven is pure, perfect, unblemished, sweet, joy filled love.  That is what we are working towards.  Heaven makes every moment of every day worth it when we are growing closer to being with Him in eternity.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” – Colossians 3:1-2

What are you looking for?

Today’s gospel message (John 1:35-42) has so many captivating parts to it.  First, John the baptist, who has just baptized Christ, the Son of God, says to Andrew and another disciple, “Behold, the Lamb of God” as Jesus is walking by.  He uses the word behold, not just “Hey look” or “see”, he calls us to behold Jesus.

When you think of the word behold, what comes to mind?  Behold makes me think of giving birth to my children.  When I first looked into their eyes, held them to my breast, and examined each and every inch of their bodies, there was such awe, magnificence, and wonder.  That is how John the Baptist asks us to look upon Jesus.  He recognizes that this man is special and should be revered.  By using these words, Andrew and the other disciple are drawn to Jesus.

It’s at this moment, that Jesus turns to them and asks “What are you looking for?”.  Have you ever asked yourself that same question?  What are you looking for?  We are all searching for something.  We all use things of this world to fill the void in our heart, the longing we feel that causes us to search and search throughout our lives.  But Andrew, acknowledging that there is something different to be found with Jesus, asks where Jesus is staying and then goes with him to learn more about this man, the Lamb of God.  And Jesus’ response…perfect.  He looks at Andrew and says “Come, and you will see.”

Andrew follows Jesus.  He sits with Him all day.  He listens to Him, and Andrew realizes something that will change his life.  He realizes Jesus is the Messiah, the long awaited one who will provide salvation to the world.  What must Jesus have said?  What must he have done that would have allowed Andrew to realize this after only a few hours?  Jesus spoke as God would speak; perfect, sinless, lovely, honest, and full of humility and truth.  How many conversations do we have these days that fit into that category?

Andrew came, saw, listened and found the Messiah.  It’s at this moment that Andrew jumps up and runs to find his brother and evangelizes Simon to come and see for himself, the long awaited Messiah.  Simon follows Andrew and before Simon even has a chance to speak to Jesus, Jesus turns to Simon and says “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.  Jesus identifies Peter as “The Rock”.  Jesus knows Peter, inside and out, and He knows the gift Peter has been given by God the Father.  The gift that will bring the world the Church that Christ founded.

The next time your heart feels empty, you are struggling to find meaning, or you find yourself filling your life with things of this world, ask yourself  “What are you looking for?”.  That is your chance to “Come, and you will see”.  Come to Jesus, open scripture, let Him speak to your heart, and let Him provide your heart the salvation it truly needs.  Then go tell everyone you know “Look what I found!”.  When you find Jesus, you will never want to leave.  Jesus has already found you.  He calls you by name.  He has given you a gift.  Go out and use it.

 

 

 

Jesus Heals Jarius’ Daughter

Today, as I sit watching the sun peak through the clouds after a night of ice and snow, I wanted to share a meditation/reflection that I wrote for our youth group.  This type of meditation is a great way to open your kids’ hearts to our Lord through biblical passages.  Have them close their eyes and imagine they are there.  What do they hear?  What do they see?  What does the air smell like?  Who is there with them?  After you finish reading the passage, have your child sit in silence with Jesus to see what He has to reveal to him.

Based on Mark 6:21-43

It’s a beautiful day, sunny, warm, just a few wispy clouds in the sky.  There is just a small breeze that keeps you from getting too hot as you walk with your parents following a crowd down toward the sea shore.  As you walk, the crowd gets larger and larger.  There is so much excitement as the people in the crowd keep talking about a teacher who can heal people, a teacher who is coming to see those gathered here today!  

Just as you reach the shore and see the teacher getting out of the boat, a man pushes past you.  He is dressed in simple clothes, but you can tell he is important.  Your mom recognizes him as someone from the synagogue.  His face is sad, so distraught.  He seems anxious and scared.  He is seeking help from the teacher.  He reaches the teacher and falls to the teachers’ feet.  Begging, pleading with him.  His voice is full of anxiety.  You look around.  Others in the crowd are starting to look concerned.  What is happening?  Why is this man under such stress?  His face, his voice, he needs help.  Finally, he speaks to the teacher.  “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”

Now you understand.  He is fearful of his daughter’s life.  He truly believes the teacher can save her.  The crowd becomes more agitated.   The teacher takes the man by the hand and leads him through the crowd.  They are talking.  The man is pointing in the direction of his house.  Your parents and the crowd decide to follow them.  As you walk through the streets of the town, many people come out of their houses and shopkeepers look out their windows to see what is causing the commotion.  The large crowd begins to grow in size once more.  You want to see, you want to see the teacher and the man, but the crowd is pushing you back.  You let go of your mother’s hand and make your way zigging and zagging through the people until you are right behind them.  You can see them continuing to speak, the anxiety on the man’s face is almost too much to bear.  The teacher touches his shoulder and he immediately calms down.  

Just then, a woman pushes you from behind.  She has long dark hair.  She looks frazzled.  Her clothes are torn and tattered and there are tears streaming from her eyes.  She stretches out her hand as far as possible.  She needs to touch the teacher.  She needs to reach him.  She has one finger outstretched as people are pushing in on her from every side.  She speaks.  “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”  Finally, that one finger reaches the cloak.  Immediately, the look on her face changes.  She is calm, peaceful, happy.  

Something happened when she touched him.  What happened?  Who is this teacher?  Just then, the teacher turns around in surprise.  How did he feel that?  How did he know she touched him?  Her finger had barely reached the edge of his cloak.  He asks “Who has touched my clothes?”  I stop dead in my tracks.  It wasn’t me.  I’m nervous.  Is he angry?  I can barely breathe.  The woman steps forward, she is trembling.  There is a look of fear on her face.  She falls to her knees and tells him the story of how she has been afflicted with a horrible disease for twelve years.  She believed the teacher could heal her.  She just needed to touch him.  The teacher looks at her with such compassion in his eyes.  I sense a deep love for this woman.  He spoke to her at that moment saying “Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”  

While the teacher was speaking to the woman, there was a commotion coming from a group of people walking toward the man.  They say to him “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”  Immediately the man begins sobbing.  Cries of pain and anguish come from his mouth.  Everyone is stunned.  Gasps and cries go up from everyone in the crowd.  Immediately, the teacher holds up his hand to quiet the people and says; “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  I look around.  People are confused.  They want to have faith in the teacher and what he is saying, but the girl is already dead.  What can he do for her now?  

We continue to walk up a hill to the man’s house.  People are standing in front of the house weeping, hugging each other, trying to comfort one another after having just lost their little girl.  I hear someone say the girl was only twelve years old.  That’s how old I am.  Oh no!  Do I know her?  My heart begins beating rapidly.  Fear creeps in again.

The teacher continues inside the house.  I sneak inside behind him.  Anxiously waiting to see what will happen.  The teacher says “Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  What?!?!  Family members approach him and ridicule him.  How can he say such a thing?  The girl is dead!  The family members are in such pain from her loss and this teacher comes in and chastises them saying she is only sleeping??  

The teacher takes her mother and father by the hand and leads them into the room where the girl is.  The girl’s skin is as pale as can be.  She is lying still, not breathing.  Her eyes are closed.  She doesn’t move.  I start to cry because I realize this is my friend.  She goes to school with me.  We sit together at lunch most days.  I will miss her dearly.  As I wipe the tears from my eyes, the teacher stretches out his hand to hold hers.  He then spoke to her saying “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

As if I was in a dream, her cheeks returned to a beautiful shade of pink, she took a deep breath and stood up.  Her parents eyes lit up with happiness!  They gave her the biggest hug you could ever imagine.  As they hugged her, they cried tears of joy.  She was alive!!  The teacher healed her!  He healed my friend!  Who is this man who heals the sick and brings the dead back to life?  I never want to leave him.  I will follow him always.

The Ultimate Resolution

With the beginning of the New Year, I wanted to choose a resolution that would change me, really change me.

I’ve made resolutions in the past that focused on changing my body by eating better or working out more. I’ve made resolutions to improve my relationship with my family by being more patient or being truly present in every moment I’m with them. I’ve set goals in my working life to promote or earn a specific incentive. I’ve committed myself to reaching out to friends, the poor, and the lonely. I’ve sworn off chocolate, swearing, social media, etc.

Through all of the years of resolutions, I relied on myself for change. It was up to me to get to the gym or not eat that second piece of cake. I relied on myself to pickup the phone to call a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. I relied on myself to be less stressed and more patient with others. But relying on myself has lead to disappointment time and time again. Sure, I exercise for a period of time and eventually get out of the routine for one reason or another or I contact friends only to get really busy and fail at the follow through for getting together with them. Year after year, I fall flat with my resolutions. And you know what? I’m tired of it.

This year, while trying to decide how I could better myself, God spoke loud and clear. You see, this mama had forgotten how to say “no”. My greatest passion is Jesus Christ and my happy place is the church. Whenever someone would need help with a project, I would absolutely volunteer knowing that I would get to spend more time with Jesus and bringing others to Him. However, I allowed myself to get wrapped up in too many different things and I found myself getting more and more frustrated over silly things at home and at church. The worst part was that although I was “working” for Jesus, I wasn’t spending time with Him. Over the past year, I have spent hundreds of hours creating curriculum, planning youth activities, running bible studies, teaching PSR, and just plain giving myself to everyone but Him.

Most mornings, I wake up with the intention of spending time in prayer, reading the bible and going to adoration, however, by 7:30am my morning has hit a snag here or there and I am unable to devote any time to just being with my friend Jesus. By 9:30, I’m at the church setting up the social hall, having meetings, sorting donations, or just BS’ing with the people I see in the hallways. Before I know it, it’s lunch time. I eat lunch, relax for a few minutes, change the laundry, clean up around the house, and then head out the door to pick up my daughter from preschool. The afternoon and evening fly by with homework, soccer, riding, dinner, family time and the bedtime routine. After everyone is in bed, I’m excited that I finally have the chance to meet Jesus in prayer, in the pages of the bible, or in a book I am reading, but before I even have a chance to read the first page, my eyes droop and I am asleep. My intentions have been good, but the follow through needs work.

This year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my spiritual life hit a snag. I have been in the Easter season of my faith for the past four and a half years, and suddenly, that Easter season ended. It was shocking to say the least. All of a sudden, my fire was completely extinguished. As I sit and write this, tears come to my eyes. The sense of euphoria is gone.

For years I have heard people compare marriage to Christ’s relationship with the Church and now I have been completely awakened to this truth. Successful marriages take time, effort, forgiveness, trust and love. When the honeymoon stage is over, the real work begins. That is where I am in my relationship with Christ and his Church.

This year, during the Advent season, God’s words came loud and clear. Stop all that you are doing and focus solely on me. When you focus on Me, you will find love, trust, hope, peace, an end to your loneliness, and a truth for your life that is immeasurable. This is where my resolution was born.

So, here it goes. I resolve to spend time throughout each day focused solely on Christ through prayer, reading sacred scripture, and spending time in front of the blessed Sacrament. I resolve to be fully present with my children and husband to be able to respond to their needs before the needs of others and to allow them to see God’s love reflected in me. By focusing on Christ, everything else will follow. No one knows what this year holds for me or my family, however, I do know with absolute certainty focusing on Christ will allow us to celebrate the highs and the lows.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Fighting the Good Fight

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith….The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.  The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.  To him be the glory forever and ever.”  2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

I’ve been having a rough month in my faith.  I’ve been so incredibly busy and stressed out that I’m not finding the time to pray or read.  My head is in it, but my heart hasn’t been.  I’ve noticed thoughts and temptations creeping in.  I really needed God to reach down and show me that it’s ok and He is never far from me no matter where I am.  

Yesterday was the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.  I was driving to my husband’s work to take our annual wellness exam, and I turned on the radio hoping to hear my favorite priest, Father Ricardo, however, he wasn’t on.  EWTN was having Mass in celebration of these two amazing men who lived their entire lives even to death on a cross and death by beheading for Christ.  I remember thinking “I don’t want to listen to mass, I need something uplifting and exciting to listen to this morning”.  Then, I stopped myself.  What could be more uplifting and exciting than Mass???  So, I listened and God spoke.  I live every day to “fight the good fight” that Paul talks about in this scripture passage.  Isn’t that what we all long for?  Like Paul, nearing the end of his life here on earth, who looked back and said “I did it, I gave the Lord everything I had, I followed him even to death”.  When temptation creeps in or self doubt starts weighing you down, remember the Lord will rescue you from every evil threat.  He is there, ALWAYS there for you.    

This morning, as I made my coffee, I asked St. Paul to pray for me to continue to fight the good fight.  I asked Jesus to protect me from evil and allow me to keep the faith even through suffering, and you know what I saw next…this glorious rainbow.  God is good!!

Created in the Image and Likeness of God

Every morning I wake up, roll out of bed, and get in the shower.  After showering, I stand before the mirror to go through my morning routine of doing my hair, brushing my teeth, and putting on makeup.  As I stand before the mirror, I always have at least one comment that runs through my mind about how I need to start exercising more, look at that new wrinkle, my hair needs dyed because I see some new gray hairs coming in, my smile is crooked, my teeth are yellow, my neck is starting to see the signs of aging and gravity, my pants are a little tighter today than they were yesterday, I need some new bras (the current ones aren’t helping my sagging breasts as much as they used to) and so on and so on.  Within the first 15 minutes of my day, I have stood on the scale, looked at myself in the mirror and judged everything I see as wrong with my outward appearance.

Yesterday, as I went for a walk in the woods asking God to reveal something to me, something I needed to change in my life, my walk took on a completely different path than I expected.  As I walked through the woods, the beautiful red, yellow and orange leaves falling all around me, I could feel the presence of God.  The cool breeze, the rustling leaves under my feet, the sound of water rushing over the stones in the creek, the faint sound of reeds blowing in the wind, and the sun reflecting on pond all reminded me of God’s love for the earth; His beautiful creation that He has entrusted to us.  

As I continued to follow the makeshift map that had been provided to me, I decided to visit Vineyard Knob on this walk.  The word knob made me think that this could become more of a hike than a walk, but I was anxious to see what would await me at the top of the hill.  I made the right turn to follow the path and began what would be a very difficult climb to the top.  At first, it started as a slow upward climb.  My lungs were filling with cool clean air and it felt wonderful.  With each step and breath, I began to thank God for my health and the ability to make such a journey.  I was using using my God given strength step after step all the while taking in my beautiful surroundings.  

As the climb began to become more difficult, I started to second guess myself.  Would I be able to make it to the top?  How can I focus on my beautiful surroundings when I can’t hardly breathe?  What are my legs going to feel like tomorrow morning?  I’m out in the middle of the woods all by myself, what if I fall?  But then I remembered, God will never leave me.  He will lead me gently through even the greatest suffering.  I stopped, took a deep breath, and realized God has blessed me with two legs to climb, two arms to catch me if I fall, two lungs to breathe, two eyes to see, two ears to hear, and an able body that enables me to make this climb.  

As I came upon the summit, it was breathtaking.  A makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross to remind us of our Lord’s trials as he faced certain death by crucifixion.  As I sat among the trees, the wind blowing, leaves falling, and squirrels gathering nuts, I realized God created me in His image and likeness.  He created me to be perfectly me, exactly who He wants me to be.  He will not let me fall.  

My body, a temple of the Holy Spirit,  has experienced laughter, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and the birth of three beautiful babies.  I have played soccer, tennis, golf, volleyball, softball, and football throughout the course of my life.  I have witnessed the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, I have played the slots in Vegas, I have laid on the beach at Waikiki, I have climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower, and I have been to 40 of the 50 states and to many countries.  I have jet skied, water skied, swam in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and I even swam with giant sea turtles.  And I did all of this in a body that God formed in my mother’s womb.  A body that He sees no imperfections with.  A body that is perfect in His eyes.  With this body, I have been blessed beyond measure.  And the greatest blessing of all is that God has given me the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.

God always works in ways we never expect.  The problem is, we are sometimes sleeping in our walk with God and don’t see the ways he works in us.  I hope we will all wake up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror and see the goodness of God especially in the wrinkles, gray hairs, sagging breasts that sustained the life of our babies, rolls of skin and stretch marks from pregnancies, and the lifetime of happiness and trials we have experienced in our own temples, our bodies, God’s gracious gift.