“…Happy is the one who dwell in their shelter”

“Encourage the souls with whom you come in contact to trust in My infinite mercy. Oh, how I love those souls who have complete confidence in Me-I will do everything for them.”

Periodically, I will go through bouts of anxiety, feelings of apprehension of God’s plan, and then guilt over doubting His great Love for me.

None of these concerns are from the Lord, but rather I have come to believe that He allows me to experience them because they bring me closer to Him.

I’ve noticed that I typically experience these feelings during liturgical seasons when we have the opportunity to go deeper into our walk with Jesus.

However, in His merciful Love He has continued to heal me of them and has brought me to a place where they are becoming rare.

Recently though, I was struggling with prayer and a sense of distance from Him. We had a beautiful Easter and I was frustrated that I was feeling this way during such a celebratory season.

I was reading the book Mother Angelica: Her Great Silence, which goes through the end of her life and the spiritual battles that many people go through. There is a part in the book that describes her feelings of dryness in prayer, but her faithfulness and deep love for Christ in the Eucharist would overwhelm her with passion.

I decided to go to Adoration. On the short drive there, the image of Divine Mercy kept popping into my head. I figured it was because this Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday and Jesus, I Trust in You is one of my favorite prayers.

I entered the Adoration chapel and began to pray my intentions and others. When I was finished and about to get up, I felt the Lord telling me to wait and pray for a little longer. I began to pray more about some worries I was having and then I started repeating the Jesus, I Trust in You prayer over and over.

When I opened my eyes there was a elderly woman in front of me holding a large painting of the Image of Divine Mercy. She quietly placed the image next to her as she knelt down in the pew in front of me.

I stared at the image and then suddenly I was overwhelmed with the smell of incense. It was so strong and it seemed to envelop me. I could smell it on my hands, my veil, all around me. I even looked around to see where it could possibly be coming from because it was so overwhelming.

Then my eyes fell back on the image and I could feel Jesus saying,

I am here. I am with you. Trust in me daughter. Trust. 

I was immediately flooded with joy. Joy and thanksgiving for all the ways in which our Lord loves us and cares for us. I walked out of Adoration with a smile and a lightheartedness that reminded me of a quote from Pope John Paul II.

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

He is among us.

We sing Alleluia!

Blessed be His name forever and ever.

 

 

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The Not Perfect House

As I was stirring dinner one evening with my favorite cooking spoon that has a melted handle from the time I forgot about it on the burner (I call it magma spoon) I looked down at our kitchen floor.

We have three different floors in our home, and in our kitchen we have a very fancy flooring called 1987 vinyl.

It looks like this:

floor

Oooh pretty…

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, all those tiny (and not so tiny) black squiggles you see are scuffs and scratches from all the years that this floor has endured little tap shoes stomping on it, pots and pants banging on it, and dogs (one of whom’s paws you see pictured) clawing at it and/or eating it.

I stared at it tilting my head from side to side. There are parts of it that are missing completely exposing the gray cement floor underneath it. I made a mental note to ask the vet how dangerous it is for a dog to consume vinyl. I glanced around at the rest of my kitchen, taking it all in. My old worn cabinets, my plain white plastic counter tops, and oh this thing:

dishwasher

“Is that a time machine?!”

Nope, but it does take you back in time to dishwashers from the 80s. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for over 20 years. In fact, there is a photograph of my brother and I when we were babies sitting next to it, and even then it was dilapidated and filled with old Tupperware.

As I looked at every corner of my kitchen I thought to myself, “If Joanna Gaines came in here she would faint.” Either that or she would say that she could gut the entire kitchen and remodel it for about $25.94.

We’ve done a few cosmetic updates to the kitchen. We painted it a bright teal color. I had wanted to paint the entire interior of our house bright yellow, like Big Bird yellow, with the teal kitchen and then all the bedrooms some other bright color, like a happy rainbow house, but then I succumbed to the suggestions from the style experts on HGTV and Pinterest. Instead we went with gray and we painted two walls bright red for no reason.

I once went to a friend’s house who gave us a tour. Their home was absolutely stunning. Room after room straight from a magazine. In good humor, I tried to imagine what I would say if I gave a tour of our home.

This is our entryway, you’ll notice on the tile there are small hand prints from the last time my children painted that I haven’t Swiffered yet. On our pillars you will see some stickers from our four year old’s sticker book. To your right you have a train table covered with cars, and balls, and blocks. To your left there is a laundry basket and a vacuum cleaner with the cord unraveled so that it is a tripping hazard. You also have a computer desk with unopened mail and drawings of dinosaurs strewn about it. 

If you take approximately two steps you will see our dining room. We had the tile done. It’s all uneven. We play a fun game with the kids called, ‘which tile square will stub your toe really bad.’ In the corner of the dining room we have a very dusty artificial tree. I think it gives our dining room an earthy, relaxing feel, as long as you don’t have indoor allergies. If you do please sit on the other side of the dining room table. 

Speaking of dining rooms…

dining room

This is ours.

That is what our table looks like when it’s clean. My advice, if you want to get that trendy “old wood” look, just get a dining room table and keep it for 20+ years. Bonus if none of your chairs match.

I share all of this because by today’s standards we live in the, “not perfect house.” Most everything in our home is old, worn, very much lived in. Definitely a First World perspective because compared to some parts of the world, our little old house is mansion. A mansion with running water and electricity. A mansion that has more things than are needed to simply survive. I should kiss the floor in gratitude for this, “not perfect house.”

Admittedly, every now and then I do what I did in the kitchen that day and look around at all the things that would look so much better if we would just replace them. But then my mind is flooded with memories and affection.

My grandparents purchased that old dining room table in 1973. It was the first table they ever purchased. Over the years it has seen a lot of meals, a lot of birthdays, a lot of laughter, a lot of tears, a lot of fights, a lot of friendships. Stories. Beautiful stories. Etched into that cracked, scratched, stained wood.

The truth is, no matter how much I joke at the expense of this old house, it is precious to me. Every corner of it. The 80s light fixtures covered in the brassy gold color that everyone despises so much. The lifts in our carpet that my kiddos pretend are hills. I love it all.

I once had a friend say to me that she loved coming to our house because she could just be. She didn’t have to worry about her kid breaking something, or spilling something, or touching something they shouldn’t. She knew she could just walk through the door, and there would probably be a mess here and there, and she could just relax.

Of course you can do that in any home, not matter what it looks like. I appreciate a gorgeous house as much a the next person. I admire my friends and family who have such a gift for design and who have homes that they put a ton of work into. I could definitely use some of their advice on proper organization!

But I hope and pray that when they come to our home they feel joy. I pray they are encouraged. I pray that they know that in our home, whether they are flawed or put together, they are loved. They are welcome here. After all, it’s not about the home, but the heart, and this old place has a lot of heart.

No matter the state of your home, or what you feel is lacking, open your doors. Invite people in and love them, share meals, pray, talk, laugh, pour out your hearts. That will be what makes your house a home.

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

~Hebrews 13:1-2

The Man in the Newspaper

The newspaper reminds me of the grandfather I knew.

The grandfather who I spent every waking minute with.

The grandfather who got me addicted to coffee before I could even tie my shoes, who would play the guitar and sing La Bamba for me whenever I asked him to, and who would take us driving through Arizona summer thunderstorms until the gas tank was almost on empty because he loved the rain, and so did we because of him.

He’s the grandfather who bought me a Happy Meal every day, without fail, even on the day when I enthusiastically carved a heart on the side of his car with a screwdriver. He said he wouldn’t that day, but I knew he would anyway, and he did.

He was just that way.

Always giving.

Always loving.

Always telling stories.

The scent of a newspaper reminds me of him, sitting at the tiny table in our tiny kitchen drinking his coffee and eating his eggs saturated with chili.

The smell of strong cologne and black combs remind me of him.

The smell of a fresh pot of beans reminds me of the time I invited him and my Nana over for dinner at our tiny apartment and he brought me a bouquet of the most beautiful daisies I have ever seen.

The sight of a guitar will remind me how he sang to me on every birthday, and at my graduation in front everyone. I was so proud of him that day.

The sight of the hallway in our house, his house, remind me how would stop at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and pray. He was always praying.

That was the grandfather that I knew, the grandfather who knew me, and the grandfather that I couldn’t picture saying good-bye to until the time came when he had to go.

Recently, I met the grandfather that I didn’t know, not in person, but in the pages of the newspaper.

A name and a headline.

The Body of Curtis Neal Sr. Found.

You see, my father’s name is Curtis Neal Jr. and I didn’t know him either, I still don’t actually know him, but I was able to meet him about 2 1/2 years ago.

After over 20 years of not seeing him, hearing from him, or knowing where on God’s beautiful earth he was he found me on social media.

I remember the long drive to his house and wondering why I wasn’t nervous to see him.

This person was a stranger.

A stranger that I had nothing but compassion for because I couldn’t imagine not seeing my precious children for so many years. My heart ached. Not for myself, but for him. He had missed all the beautiful moments that I had been blessed to experience with my children. Moments I cherish deeply and store away in my heart. He would never have those.

Jesus loved this broken man who hadn’t seen his daughter’s first day of school, her first time riding a bike, her first time climbing a tree to the top without being scared.

Jesus loved this broken man who wouldn’t get to smile while he watched his daughter try to jump rope, or get dressed up for her first dance, or scold her when she got into the trouble that teenage girls sometimes get into.

Jesus loved this broken man who didn’t get to see her fall in love, get married, and have children.

Jesus loved him.

I had to love him too.

He was simply one of the broken ones. We all are. Some of us just have cracks that are easier to see, easier to dwell on, easier to judge.

I wasn’t nervous on that drive because the past was the past. I didn’t need explanations. My Father in heaven was the ultimate healer and I was just going to meet a stranger who happened to be part of me. I had already forgiven him. I was only praying that this would help heal him in some way.

It’s odd meeting people who you should already know. I met a half brother who looked just like me, even down to the fact that we both could eat whatever we wanted and never gain a pound. I met two little half sisters who weren’t much older than my daughters. I met an aunt who is terrified when other people drive her places, just like I am.

I met a grandmother, his mother, who he had just found after 40 years of not knowing where she was. She was dying from complications related to years of drug use. She was kind and quiet. That was the first time and the last time I would see her.

I didn’t meet my grandfather though.

I met him on a page in the newspaper.

He was found in a wash at the base of a mountain in Coolidge. A mountain that the grandfather I did know would drive past, while we sang oldies.

The grandfather I didn’t know was only 65 years old.

In his picture he is smiling with his eyes crinkled up, just like mine crinkle when I smile.

I may not have known him, but God sure did. God knit him together in his mother’s womb. He was an unrepeatable, irreplaceable, beloved soul that was put on this earth by an all-powerful and everlasting God.

I don’t know what his life was like.

But I know it had meaning.

I know it had purpose.

I pray it had happiness, and love, and hope, and dignity…even if only tiny glimpses of those gifts.

I know what it’s like to love strangers.

Strangers who wander in this world.

Strangers who deserve love no matter their pasts, their faults, their choices.

Strangers who live in my heart thanks to perfect plans that only God knows.

To grandfathers I know, and grandfathers I don’t.

I’m glad you get to know each other in heaven.

 

Faith and Parking Lots

A few weeks ago, as I was getting out of my van to make the short walk to pick up my girls from school I spotted her.

An older woman was sitting on the curb on the other side of the parking lot holding a few heavy looking plastic bags. I assumed she was probably waiting for someone, although my heart told me otherwise.

My other two little ones were playfully running ahead of me, so I rushed to catch up with them, but kept looking back at that woman.

We don’t live in an area where there are a lot of homeless people. The ones that do wander through our fairly wealthy suburban neighborhood I know. I know their names. I know where I can usually find them. I know that they deserve so much more than walking down the sidewalk in filthy clothes, usually in the blistering heat since we live in Arizona, while people in very nice cars pass them by more often than they stop.

I know that the ones who do wander here have days when I can talk with them…and they have days when they are talking to people that I can’t see. I know that I look for them every time I’m driving and so do my children because we love them. They are our friends.

After picking up the girls and spending some time chatting with the other moms at the school while our kiddos ran up and down the hill, laughing and getting covered in grass we headed back to our van.

I had loaded up the kids in their car seats and was putting their back packs in the trunk area when I looked up and there she was. She had sweat stains down the front of her worn shirt and the most beautiful tired eyes. She said to me in extremely broken English,

“Are you go to Walgreen’s?”

I smiled and told her that I wasn’t going to Walgreen’s.

This beautiful woman in her dirty clothes with all her belongings in plastic bags asking me to give her a ride. A stranger. All I could think of was Jesus. Jesus standing in a parking lot asking me to take Him somewhere. I heard my children in the van laughing and hollering for me to put on the Moana CD.

I told her I would be happy to take her there. Tossing a few toys and books off the passenger seat into the back I motioned for her to hop in. It made me a little sad how surprised she looked and how hesitantly she sat down.

Throughout the drive there she repeatedly said, “Thank you,” “God bless you,” “I sorry…I sorry…” There are two Walgreen’s in our area and the one that she needed to go to would have been a terribly long walk. Her name was Stella and my children made her smile with their loud singing voices. She asked if they were all my children. I told her yes they are. She said quietly that they were such a blessing. I told her yes they are.

When we arrived at Walgreen’s she thanked us again and said God bless us. The kiddos said God bless you too and one of the girls told her Jesus loves her. I looked at her in the review mirror until I couldn’t see her anymore. I wondered what her story was. I prayed that she be taken care of and provided for.

The girls were talking among themselves about what a nice lady she was. I turned off Moana and flipped the radio to our favorite Christian station because I had to drive all the way back to where we picked her up from to drop off some mail at the post office that I had forgotten about. The radio announcer was talking and said something that gave me God-bumps, as I like to call them.

“Mark your calendars because today is a very special day! It is random act of kindness day! Go out and do something kind for a stranger today!”

I haven’t seen Stella since.

I still think about her and how she blessed us that day. Her kindness and thankfulness for something so small that took no effort on my part was such an example for me and my children.

Jesus bless Stella wherever she is.

Everyday should be random act of kindness day.

 

 

Orange Band Club

I said that my word for the year would be, “follow.”

This year I would faithfully follow the Lord wherever He leads me.

How hard could that be?

After all He’s Jesus so He knows a thing or two…or everything.

The thing is, following Him can sometimes mean that the path is very bumpy. You’ll get there, but you’ll get a little beat up on the journey. I suppose this happens because there is strength to be gained in stumbling again and again. Not our own strength, but the strength that He provides…His great grace.

This year began with us feeling in our hearts that we were being called to adopt.

Then the path got bumpy.

It all began with a rainbow.

If you’ve been reading my posts for any amount of time then you know that rainbows have deep meaning in my life, hence the title of this here blog.

Around two weeks ago, as I was driving home I spotted the most beautiful rainbow and I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to take a pregnancy test. I was hesitant. While we are always open to life, we weren’t trying to get pregnant. Our plan was to adopt. We were certain of it. Besides I was still breastfeeding my little guy around the clock, and although I know that you can indeed get pregnant while breastfeeding I assumed the chances would be extremely low.

The rainbow shone prominently in my line of vision throughout the drive home and so I decided to take a test, thinking the entire time that surely it would be negative.

It wasn’t.

It was positive…as well as the three more I took after it to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

We were thrilled!

Our hearts immediately filled with joy!

However, that joy was soon replaced with sadness when it became clear that we were miscarrying. We had been at this place before. As many of you know we had a loss before Little Billy Dean. He is our rainbow baby.

Now here we were again. Saying goodbye before we even said hello. The sadness was there, but not the hopelessness. Not this time. Instead, I was so thankful that the Lord made this precious life known to us.

If I hadn’t seen that rainbow, I might have never known that this beautiful life existed, even though it was only for a brief moment. What a gift! Our Father in heaven is so good to us.

Of course it confused things with our adoption plans and where we feel the Lord is leading us. In our weakness we desire clarity so very much, an obvious sign about where we should go and what we should do. But then that word came back to me, “follow.”

If you know exactly where you are going then you don’t need to follow. Following means surrendering, which is something I’m pretty bad at, which is probably why the Lord wants me to keep having to do it.

Less than a week after our miscarriage, our four year daughter Naleiah ended up being admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

She was born with something called a preauricular pit, basically a teeny tiny hole near the front of her ear that marks the entrance to her sinus tract. They are fairly common and usually don’t cause any issues at all, however she developed an infection that didn’t respond to the antibiotics that were initially given.

She woke up one morning with her ear horribly swollen and red. They immediately sent us to Phoenix Children’s to be admitted and told us she would need IV antibiotics and surgery to remove the infection. Since it is RSV/flu season, our other three children were not permitted to come to the hospital.

Praise God, Naleiah didn’t have any fever and she was her usual happy self. The wonderful staff brought her tons of toys to play with and she got to watch all her favorite movies on repeat. At the end of each day I would have to go back home to nurse my little guy and take care of her sisters who were upset and missing her, while my incredible husband stayed the night with her.

It hurt my heart to have to leave her for any period of time, although she could of cared less, because she was enjoying watching TV, eating french fries, drinking endless amounts of apple juice, and no bedtimes.

The day of her surgery I was beyond nervous. It was simple procedure, but the idea of my sweet girl having to be put under for any period of time worried me tremendously. However I knew I had to trust that the Lord would take care of her. She bounced around on the hospital bed giggling and throwing her Cat in the Hat stuffed animal in the air, while the ENT surgeon went over the details with us.

Then they gave her some medicine that sent her into a giggling fit that gave Bill and I some much need comic relief. I started praying the rosary as they wheeled her back into the OR and before I knew it the doctor was back letting us know that her surgery went perfectly.

She woke up from surgery raving mad. Hitting, screaming, yelling for a Popsicle and to go home. She kicked Bill in the groin twice so hard that he doubled over and the nurses (and myself) had to conceal our laughter. She called the doctors, “dummy heads.” They called the anesthesiologist and he gave her two sedatives which did nothing. The anesthesiologist let us know that some people have this adverse reaction to anesthesia and that if she ever has to have surgery again to let them know so they can give her a different concoction of medication.

As Bill and I were passing her back and forth to each other and sustaining some good left hooks to the face, I had such a overwhelming feeling of thankfulness throughout my entire body that it had me near tears, because while we were all getting a kick (literally and figuratively) out of how strong our teeny tiny girl was and the funny phrases she was uttering, I spotted a mama wearing the same orange band we were across the way.

She was crying and kissing her little one who lay completely still and in between her sobs she looked up at us as we wheeled the hospital bed of our strong, screaming girl and gave us a weak smile.

I prayed for her all the way back to Naleiah’s room and continued to pray every time her tear streaked face flashed in my mind.

Bill and I wore orange bands like all the other parents at Phoenix Children’s hospital do. But our circumstances were vastly different. We would get to take our sweet girl home. She will heal. Our stay was short. Our stay was  filled with more laughter than worry.

The majority of the other parents there, the ones who we ran into on the elevators or in the cafeteria, the ones with the tired eyes and weakened smiles, they were the ones I thought of whenever I saw my orange band.

No we hadn’t had the easiest past few weeks, but I could be nothing but thankful. I could do nothing but praise God. We are blessed beyond measure in ways that we often take for granted.

I get to watch my kiddos play, laugh, throw fits, and make messes.

I get to hear them joke, tell stories, whine, and pray.

I get to clean up after they play dinosaurs and scatter dirt all over the floor.

I get to lay my tired body next to theirs while they elbow me in their sleep after a long day of cooking, cleaning, school work, and playing.

I get to tell them over and over and over again not to climb on the kitchen counters.

I get to hear them tell our two little saints in heaven to pray for us.

All these little and big things that I get to do are huge blessings.

These everyday moments that often go unnoticed are tremendous gifts from our Lord that we have to remind ourselves to cherish.

I have more rainbows than storms.

Thank You Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginning

“Trust” was my word last year.

Trust in the Lord and His faithfulness.

Trust in the Lord and His abundant mercy.

Trust in the Lord and His insurmountable love.

I am thankful for the trials and triumphs that led us to trust.

What a beautiful gift from our Father in heaven!

These precious little ones of mine are the fruits of trust. They are the fruits of saying, “yes” to God and being open to His miracles. Each one of our children, including our little saint in heaven have taught us tremendously about Christ’s love for us.

The Lord shines through each of them in ways I cannot explain.

This year my word is “follow.”

Follow Him.

Follow Him wherever He leads.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

As many of you know, we have a strong devotion to Our Lady. Her intercession has resulted in many miracles within our family. I often repeat her words, especially to my kiddos, whenever I am at loss for any other advice…

“Do whatever He tells you.”

Quite simply listen to Jesus.

Follow Jesus.

Well, I had to learn to take my own advice, or rather Our Lady’s advice and follow His new plan for our family.

God has placed it in our hearts to grow our family through adoption. He placed the desire there awhile ago, but I resisted. I had all the usual excuses I have when the Lord tells me to do something and I don’t listen.

We can’t Lord.

Well, we can’t right now Lord.

Are you really telling me to do this Lord??? Can you be more clear about this???

Okay I’ll pray about it.

He is so merciful and patient with my stubbornness that He gave us many signs. Scripture verses kept popping up. We kept running into people involved in adoption. I even came across a podcast where the host said, “If you have been thinking or praying about adoption and waiting for a sign, this is it! This is your sign!”

Seriously Lord…

I shared some of my concerns with a wonderfully faithful mom friend of mine who gave me the perfect advice about some of worries I was having. She has such a gift of encouragement and among other incredible wisdom she shared one thing that stuck out to me.

“Those fears are not from the Lord.”

Those words struck me in the best way because I had been at this place before. I had been in the place where God was placing something beautiful on my heart and fear was getting in the way. Thankfully He flooded me with peace and I trusted. Through that trust we have been blessed beyond measure!

I started reflecting on this and I realized that the Lord has multiplied my faith again and again whenever I have trusted Him! The power of His glory was made known that He can do all things. He is with us!

Therefore we are following Him on this journey and growing in our hearts. This is just the beginning. We feel called to adopt a little one with down syndrome, so right now we are researching resources and seeking counsel from friends who have adopted.

We have already seen the Lord’s hand in all this and cannot wait to see what He does!

Pray for us on our journey sweet friends.

God bless and Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

Present

I had several grand plans for Advent this year.

I figured since the kiddos were all getting slightly older, as in, we didn’t have any newborns in the house this year that we would really get into all the special traditions.

I envisioned us joyfully singing around the Advent wreath, celebrating feast days, and sitting around the fireplace reading all the beautiful Advent readings in adorable footie pajamas, and everyone would be bathed with combed hair.

That is not at all what happened.

In fact, quite the opposite occurred.

For the first two weeks of Advent the candles on our wreath remained unlit.

Feast days passed with very little acknowledgement.

Everyone in the house, except Buddy (Praise God) got a horrible stomach virus.

As soon as it seemed someone was feeling better, they would throw up again with a force that defied gravity. There was a lot of running around holding buckets while simultaneously willing ourselves not to throw up.

Between breastfeeding Buddy and not being able to keep anything in my stomach I was in a stupor of exhaustion. Normally, since he is an active toddler now, Buddy doesn’t nurse as much, BUT he was cutting a few molars so he was comfort nursing a lot.

We were snuggled around the fireplace as I imagined we would be, but with sweaty heads and pale faces while Buddy did all he usual toddler boy things like climbing, jumping, and chasing the dog.

A week or so prior to getting this yucky virus, Bill had purchased a new van for us. I was happy with our old van affectionately named The Minion Mover, but Bill thought I needed a van where the sliding doors worked and stuff.

He surprised us with this amazing white van. I wasn’t sure about purchasing such a nice vehicle, but as I was fiddling around with the music that was downloaded by the previous owner I discovered that they had all the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary downloaded on audio.

That was convincing enough for me.

Anyway, while we were all at the peak of our illness I insisted that I needed to run to the store to get a few items. I left the little ones with their Nana and headed out. As I was driving through the parking lot a sweet little elderly woman didn’t see me and hit me smack on the front side of our new van.

fenderbender

This was the last thing I needed. I was nauseous, exhausted, and I needed to get back home quickly to my kiddos.

I said a prayer to Our Lady for her intercession.

The woman was kind and lovely. She immediately began apologizing. I didn’t want her to think I looked like I got hit by a semi-truck because of her, so I smiled and told it was okay. We exchanged information and talked for a bit.

Her name was Guadalupe, which made me smile and want to hug her.

Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us…

This Advent has been rough, but yet, oh so wonderful. It hurt my heart to see my little ones sick, and I had to do my best to push through being ill myself to care for them which wasn’t easy.

However, I could feel the Lord telling me that this is what I needed to do this season.

I needed to slow down and simply be.

Loving on these precious souls that the Lord blessed me with was my prayer. Tenderly caring for them with joyfulness even though I felt terrible and every bit of my body ached was a gift.

Watching my son place his tiny hands on his big sisters and lovingly share his favorite blanket with them was a gift.

Meeting Guadalupe who just exuded kindness in a moment when I really needed it was a gift.

God gave me the gift of reminding me to simply be present in the moment, even if that moment was not ideal, His glorious Presence and His endless love and His overflowing grace exist in every moment, especially when we feel suffering.

I couldn’t ask for a better present.