Has it been that long???

Dear readers,

I again find myself asking your forgiveness for my lapse in posting. Life has been a whirlwind since I returned from New Zealand at the end of March. When I left, I had no job and was unsure exactly where the Lord was calling me. One of the most incredible realizations I had while there was that, during my initial two year mission to the country, God had made me a new wineskin and poured new wine into me, expanding the capacity to which I believed I could stretch. He demolished the boundary walls of what I thought I was capable of giving or accomplishing and showed me how much more I was capable of when trusting in him. I came home knowing full well that I was, now, only living out of a small portion of that capacity. Thus, I was filled with a desire to know the fulness of abundant life that I once did. God quickly brought these desires to fulfillment, providing two jobs in my field; the courage to pursue Nova Vita Designs, my furniture refinishing business; volunteer work that I love; a renewed vigor for my studies as I near the end of my Masters program; and a new found drive for some of my favorite hobbies, guitar, singing, dancing, and writing. He also shed light on the unhealthy relationships and habits that were preventing me from fully living, and supplied me with grace as I began clearing them away. All in all, it’s been a “full on” three months. I may be busier than I’ve ever been, but I am also happier and more fully alive than I have ever been. Because the more I allow myself to be transformed by God, trusting that his vision is bigger and better than mine, the more it seems I end up experiencing my favorite moments, forming my truest friendships, and enjoying the best wild adventures of my life.

So, here’s to being transformed, to crushing the limitations we, or others, place on ourselves and on our lives, and to LIVING life out of the fullness of our capacity!

So while I hope it will not be another three months before I write you again, know that if it is, it’s just because I’m living. 😉

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Up and Coming Kiwi Catholic Music Artist

I love this girl’s voice! When thinking about what to write this week, I could think of nothing better than to feature her music. I had the pleasure of getting to know Monique during my two years as a missionary in her parish in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. She has a gorgeous heart and it radiates through her music. Her song, Temporary Warfare, is one of my favorites! You should check it out! Her music is not available for purchase, YET, but I can’t wait for the day it is! For now, I’ve asked her to share a bit about the inspiration behind her music. You can also follow her on Facebook on her page, Monique Holden Music. I encourage you to like and share this, if you feel so inclined! Hopefully, this is only the beginning of her story….
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My name is Monique Holden, I am an eighteen year old musician living in Tauranga, New Zealand, where I am currently studying music performance and production at my local Polytechnic. I have grown up in the faith and teachings of the Catholic Church all my life and to this day I am deeply in love with the Eucharist and treasures of Catholicism. Growing up as the only girl among four brothers life could, and still can be very interesting at times as you can imagine. However, I cherish poetry, flowers and love all things that sparkle so you could say I definitely never lost my sense of femininity, much to my mother’s delight!

I discovered my passion for singing and music around the age of eleven, where I would practice for hours on end to CD’s of musicians such as Taylor Swift, Hilary Duff and Brooke Fraser. After recording myself on tape cassettes, I would listen back to them critiquing myself and, as a perfectionist, I would try to perfect every out of tune note. After a year of singing with backing tracks and silence, I decided it was time to challenge myself further and find an accompaniment for my vocals. I dedicated my time to teaching myself the guitar and since then have discovered my love for the strikingly full sound of the 12 string and most recently the Mandolin, however my wishful list of instrument possibilities could go on forever. Within four months of playing the guitar I was offered the opportunity to be praise and worship leader at our Parish prayer group. This involvement in the Church lead me to becoming a part of the youth band and leading worship at youth groups, festivals and Masses. This time was a period of real growth and challenges for me. Through this I began to discover that music ministry is a true gift from God and it was in that discovery that I found my desire to use it wisely and for the glory of God.

My musical journey has also included a range of incredible opportunities such as, professional gigs at festivals and shows, the thrilling experience of busking and performing in cafes and giving lessons to passionate children on music and guitar. Aside from singing and playing instruments the one thing I find myself most passionate about is song writing and how the use of words can create lyrics that are powerful and that have the ability to mesmerise, causing and allowing the imagination to run wild. One of the many reasons why I love song writing is because of the way it enables me to express emotions and experiences in such a creative and enthralling way. Like most songwriters my songs are inspired and constructed from personal experiences and to some extent slightly exaggerated. I aim to write in a way where the messages of my songs are disguised by the use of metaphors and other elements of figurative writing. I write in hope that people will be able to relate in their own way to my lyrics.

I acknowledge my music as a total gift from God, and I am excited to discover where and how He will use it to work according to His plan. We are told countless times throughout the Bible to praise the Lord with song, to sing and make music to Him. There is nothing more rewarding to me than making music for His glory. I hope to encourage aspiring musicians through my gift just as I have been inspired by those who use theirs to their fullness. Please keep me in your prayers as I further my study and development as a musician.

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”

-Ephesians 5:19

People Acting Like Animals

Image

This is just one of the delightful images that came up when Googling “people acting like animals.” Why you may ask, would anyone want to google such a thing? Pure enjoyment reasons aside, the image search was in fact inspired by a quote from one of the books I’ve been reading lately: Prince Caspian of the Narnia Series.

“Such a horrible idea has come into my head, Su…wouldn’t it be dreadful if someday in our own world…men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”

Spoken by Lucy in Prince Caspian by CS Lewis

I’ve read the Narnia series once before, but, this time, this line struck me like an arrow to the heart or a punch to the gut. I was in awe of the relevance of such a quote, both in CS Lewis’ time and perhaps even more so in ours.

We live in a society where our animalistic desires are praised and virtue, compassion, and generosity are contained to convenience where it can least affect our first and foremost right to pleasure seeking and self interest. We are a society of entitlement. Believing we are always and everywhere entitled to what we want. We’ve abandoned the need to ask such questions as, “How will my actions affect other people? Is this for the greater good? Is this helping me to live abundantly and become the best version of myself or is it merely providing immediate gratification? Is my choice selfish?” and focused solely on one simple determining question when choosing whether or not to pursue something, “Will it please me? Do I want it?”

You can see this simply by watching or reading the news, but unfortunately, recent events have also given me a front row seat to broken humanity, to “people acting like animals,” thus the pondering on such topics. While we share a great many characteristics and needs in common with our brother animals, there is a major factor that separates us from them. We alone were created in the image and likeness of God. What does this mean? Well, it means that while we are creature (like other animals in need of food, shelter, reproduction), we also have a unique soul (like God in that we are free, able to love, able to be selfless, we have choice and compassion, suffering and joy).

Another favorite from recent reading has been the following fable of a Cherokee Chief talking with his grandson, quoted in The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he told the young boy, “a terrible fight between two wolves.  One is evil, full of anger, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity and false pride.  The other is good, full of joy, peace, love, humility, kindness and faith.”

“This same fight is going on inside of you, grandson…and inside of every other person on this earth.”

The grandson ponders this for a moment and then asks, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The old man said, “That’s easy…the one you feed.”

The truth of this statement is applicable to all we do. Including the person we will become. We will become, not the person we “dream” of being, but a person made up of each of the characteristics we’ve chosen to feed each moment of each day. So, if we continue to feed our animal instincts in place of love, self sacrifice, compassion and generosity, then we cannot be surprised when we become people driven by pleasure and immediate gratification instead of thought for others and for the common good.

In the saints, we see individuals who have chosen ceaselessly, growth in love, humility, service, compassion, wisdom, purity, relationship with God, contribution to their community. In many of the news stories, we often see the culminating effect of individuals who have repeatedly chosen self pity, anger, selfishness, envy and greed. More often though, I wonder if many of us fall into some middle category: sometimes feeding the wolf of goodness and other times fueling the wolf of self interest.

I believe that what our brothers and sisters, fellow humanity needs most from us, as believers, is simply for us to act more human. First, to begin to remedy the areas in our own lives where we are not choosing to grow in goodness, love, compassion, truth and life. Because the truth is, that while society tells us that we will be most “free” when we are looking out for ourselves and the things that will bring us pleasure, the truth is that we are never more free than when we are giving of ourselves for others, thinking of their well being before our own, conquering the temptations and sins (that claim they’ll bring freedom and pleasure, but in fact only ensnare us). Experience, not only faith, tells me this truth.

So which wolf are you feeding and which one will you choose to feed from here forward? May we all grow to be people of integrity and love.

Paying it Forward

Dear Blog Readers, if you still exist, I can’t believe it’s been since July that I’ve posted anything to this blog! I suppose there have been a few things keeping me away, including a big move to Virginia from Ohio, but all the same, I have missed putting “pen to paper” and forming thoughts into entries. So, here’s my first, returning blog…

Ever since I saw the movie Pay it Forward, I fell in love with the concept. Not that it was an extremely new idea. In fact, the idea of doing a good deed for another is a predominant Christian teaching. The Bible story of the man robbed and beaten on the side of the road displays it incredibly. Jesus says that the man who served him, was the one who picked up the robber’s victim, cared for him, took him to a local inn and payed for him to be cared for until he returned. The part that I love is that this wasn’t simply a “nice” thing to do. The passerby chose to inconvenience himself for the sake of a stranger. He likely had work to do, a livelihood to make, probably a family to take care of. It makes me think too of the woman who gave two pennies. Others scoffed at her minuscule offering, but Jesus rebuked them and explained that this woman gave not of her “extra,” but rather, she gave all that she had. I love the challenge in this. Not only financially with tithing, but in the way we give of ourselves to our fellow humanity. Do we give and serve others, only when it is convenient, only when we have “extra” time or “extra” money, or do we allow ourselves to be inconvenienced for the sake of another.

This is the opportunity I was given last night. While standing in line at the airport counter, waiting to figure out whether or not I was going to make it home that night, I overheard the man a few people ahead of me trying to make arrangements with the airline personnel. He sounded distraught and broken that he would not make it into our final destination that night. As I finally made my way to the counter, I had the opportunity to ask the gentleman if everything was ok. He shared that his father had had his fifth heart attack, was scheduled for major surgery the next day and that without getting in to our final destination that night, he would miss the ride he had lined up to take him the remaining one hour to the hospital. The thing that struck me was the lack of hope and dejection in his voice.

Meanwhile, the airline stewardess informed me that they could fly me half way to my destination, book me a hotel room for free and fly me home in the morning. This sounded like an incredible idea, as it had already been an extremely long day. But on a whim, I asked if there were any flights that would get us into another local airport that night. She said she could get us into an airport an hour and a half from our original destination that night. I knew it was an opportunity. I told her to book both of us through to that airport and called a friend to see if she’d be willing to pick us up and drive us both the hour and a half to the other airport, where he could be dropped off and I could pick up my car and then back track the hour and a half back home (It took her no time at all to realize, what I had realized moments before, that this was an opportunity to love heroically, particularly because it would mean only three hours of sleep for her before work in the morning.) She was willing and so I shared the plan with the gentleman. Once seated on the plane, he told me for the hundredth time how grateful he was and that he would try to pay me back for the gas needed for the late night drive ahead of us. I told him simply, “There’s no need. I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to pay it forward one day.” We eventually landed at 11:30pm, were picked up by my room mate and driven an hour and a half to the other airport. When parting, no last names were exchanged, no email addresses or phone numbers, I wanted him to know that there was no obligation to “return the favor,” that this was simply one human being helping another, asking nothing in return. Arriving home, finally around 3:00am this morning, I said a quick prayer for the man, his two daughters, deceased wife and ailing father and thanked God for the opportunity to inconvenience myself for the sake of another.

I do not write this because I think I am in any way saintly because of my actions. There have been likely too many opportunities like this one that I have passed up for my own sake. I write this only because I think that each of us are given these opportunities day in a day out to love another, in spite of the small disruption in may cost us. I hope that God will continue to open my eyes to these instances, as he did last evening.

Brandon, Alley, Eva, Amanda, and Brandon’s father, you are all in my prayers.

Verso L’alto (To the Heights!)
Danielle Adelina

*Note: It can be dangerous to drive a man you just met anywhere. This should never be done alone, or without taking precautions. It’s sad that we live in a world where we have to be scared to help one another, but it is necessary to be safe. If considering doing anything that may be dangerous, talk to several people about it before doing so. Make sure that it is a safe idea. I am not suggesting anyone drive a random stranger anywhere, alone or otherwise. There are many ways to help others.

“The Greatest Hazard in Life is to Risk Nothing”

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool
To weep is to risk being called sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken
Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow or really live.
Chained by their servitude they are slaves who have forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is truly free.

William Ward

Perhaps some of you will remember this quote from my final entry before embarking on the Camino de Santiago last year. However, I find that it is once again appropriate as I reflect on last week’s pilgrimage to France.

“…The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

This past week, my dear friend and mentor Theresa risked a great deal. Flying overseas was entirely new to her and traveling in general a not so favored past time; and yet, she harkened to the Lord’s invitation calling her to Lourdes and Lisieux. What a great pleasure it was to be her companion for this epic journey?! And how blessed were we both indeed?! With great risk, comes great reward!

And now, a few photos from our trip for your viewing pleasure:

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Setting Forth

Ladies and Gentleman,

It is time again for this traveling vagabond to pack her bags and head to the airport. This time with a ticket to Paris in hand. As any of you who know me, or read my blog, may be aware, I feel deeply and passionately that the Lord has created us to live our lives abundantly. He says, “I have come to set the world on fire. How I wish it were already blazing!” Luke 12:49 And in another place, quite plainly, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

I think part of this call to “abundant life” is a call to live the wondrous adventure the Lord has for each of us. The deepest desires of our hearts were embedded in our being before our hearts beat. They are gifts from the Lord. Gifts to bring us joy and peace. Gifts to draw us nearer to the One who only wishes to give us more joy and peace.

Sometimes, the Lord blesses us and allows us to be a part of one another’s adventures. Sometimes, we have the rare opportunity to help another’s dream come to fruition. This has been the inspiration for my up coming adventure to Paris, Lisieux, and Lourdes, France. It has been the lifelong dream of a dear friend of mine to make the pilgrimage journey to Lourdes. I am blessed and honored that she has requested for me to join her. As we leave behind our sometimes all too distracting daily lives, we journey to make ourselves available to the Lord.

It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday, in the things of this life. Schedules are important, an income is necessary…but only here. Only for a time will we need these things. May we remember that we must prepare ourselves not only to provide for our needs tomorrow, but that we must prepare our souls for the life that awaits us, for all eternity, after death.

I carry each of you with me during my travels.

Maybe today, stop for a few minutes and just contemplate…What are the deepest desires of my heart? Who knows what that question alone could lead to!

Here’s To Lives of Abundant Life!

A Citizen’s Plea

Wow, my friends! So, a little over a month has gone by since I last posted. Reasons for the delay…travel, a new job, and a move. Ok. Ok. Enough with the excuses…let’s get to it.

A month has passed and as we enter November, we find ourselves on the eve of perhaps one of the most important elections of our times. Up to now, many of us have been complacent due to the luxury of comfort we experience in this country and have therefore taken for granted our nation’s political proceedings. We were frogs placed in luke warm water, enjoying a nice relaxing bath, while all the while the temperature was being turned up.

My dearest friends, consider this post a citizen’s plea. May we each awake from our comfort or wishful thinking induced comas and recognize one VERY important fact: This November 6th, One of Two people will be voted in as our next president. One of Two people will be given the right to steer the fate of our beloved nation and see to the safeguarding of the freedoms we hold dear.

I will not suggest to you, whom you should vote for. That is between your conscience, God, and the election ballot. I will however plead for you to not waste your vote, by not voting or voting for someone who does not stand a chance of being elected into office. This is an important election and not one to risk anything.

I have heard many complaints towards each of the candidates, and to be honest, agree with both sides…we do not have a Perfect Candidate running for President…one in whom I agree with Everything that they stand for. I pray, though, that we not get hung up on this idealistic thinking. I don’t deny that I too dream of our nation thriving as all that she has the potential to become, under the leadership of one who has the knowledge and the wisdom to lead her. But, as Christians I believe we have an obligation to be wise as serpents, as Christ states in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Wisdom in this case shows us that our nation’s identity and our rights as Christians are in grave danger and that we must take a “Step” towards the ideal we seek.

We have never before had so much at stake. Why is it that we allow laziness or thoughts of “my vote doesn’t really matter” to keep us from the polls? Do you realize that there are approximately 75 million Catholics in the United States and approximately 55 million American votes will elect our next President?! And this is only Catholics! This is astounding. Don’t you see…MY vote doesn’t really count for anything, but OUR vote does!

So please, as one citizen to another, let’s make OUR VOTE count this Tuesday by electing a president who will be a step in the direction of regaining this nation as a “Nation under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

What Price Freedom?

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

-Ronald Reagan

        This past weekend, I had the privilege of enjoying the new film “Last Ounce of Courage.” While it may not contain the highest quality acting I’ve ever seen and it most certainly has its moments of cheese, I am eternally grateful to my brothers and sisters who upon seeing our freedoms increasingly stripped from us, decided to take a stand and create this inspiring film rather than to steep in the apathy that seems to rule so many of us.
         The movie opens with the above quote from Ronald Reagan. From its inception, and down through the years, this has been a country known and desired for its freedoms, most of all its religious freedoms. Did you know that if you place a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out of the pot; however, if you place it in luke warm water, the frog will become so comfortable in the pot that it will not notice as you slowly turn up the heat to boiling. I think that we, like the frog, became so complacent in the luke warm water of enjoying our freedoms in this country, that we are asleep to the fact that the heat is being turned up and our life of freedoms is being drained.
       What does freedom mean to us anymore? And what is it worth? Freedom used to mean, a country in which we were free to worship our God, free to love our neighbors, free to stand as a nation for all that is good and true. If we really ask ourselves…what does it mean to us today? To many, including those in charge of this great country, it seems to mean I am free to do as I please and you are free to do as you please. We are of an age where for the first time ever in this nation, we are seeking to redefine some of the most foundational terms: freedom, marriage, life.  Terms that are not ours to redefine.
       We must wake up to the wool being pulled over our eyes. We must call a spade a spade and then be brave enough to act. What Price Freedom? This was the title of a paper I had to write in the 10th grade. One of the only projects I kept from those early educational years. We were assigned to write a response to the question What Price Freedom? For me, the price of freedom was already clear in my mind, even at 16. I wrote my paper on my Grandfather’s only brother who gave his life in WW II upon the SS Franklin. His concrete gift to my family and each of our successive generations was a trade-off of his life, for the sake of our continued freedoms. Many continue to sacrifice their lives in service for all that this country was created to be and has the potential to become.
     While not all of us are called to defend our freedoms by fighting those who seek to attack us from the outside, I believe that we are ALL called to defend our freedoms from the enemies inside our own borders. The enemy of our own ignorance or apathy, the enemy of individualism versus community, the enemy of the media who often seeks to control the American population through propaganda, persuasion, and lies, and of course…the many enemies in Washington, who seeking their own agendas, care little for the long-term good of this nation and its people.
      We must wake up and LEAP out of the pot. We must become informed citizens of this great nation, so that it may remain a great nation for generations to come. In so many wars and so many countries before us, there was an understanding that there were greater goods than one’s own luxuries, namely Truth, Justice, True Freedom. In memorial of the French Revolution, there is a line in one of the songs from Les Miserables that says “…who cares about your lonely soul? We strive towards a larger goal. Our little lives don’t count at all…”
       Let us ask Christ to give us his eyes. To help us to see the reality of our homeland and the state of our freedoms. And may I say, with deepest sincerity and genuine gratitude…Thank you.
Thank you Great Uncle Charles.
Thank you Great Uncle Dave.
Thank you Great Uncle Gino.
Thank you cousin Buster and Sonny.
Thank you cousin Alex.
Thank you Aunt Erin.
Thank you Josh.
Thank you Sam.
Thank you Tim.
Thank you to every one of you that has fought for our freedoms and continue to do so. I pray that today, we will join you in the fight.

Feast of Santiago (St. James)

It seemed only appropriate that I should update my blog on the feast day of St. James (Santiago).

Dear "Flechas Amarillas" How I Miss TheeOne of  Many Yellow Arrows (Flechas Amarillas) That Lead us Across Spain!

Funny Thought:
Who knew that when your feet are subject to walking/hiking approximately 8 hours a day in hiking boots for 32 days…they build up extra layers of skin as protection from blisters, etc…More importantly, who knew that for weeks following this excursion, your feet will peel, like a snake, each of these extra layers?!

Funny Story:
A story from Galway, Ireland which I felt it only prudent to share post my “safe and sound” arrival back to the United States (for the sake of those who may worry).
While most of our time in Ireland was spent taking in the beautiful country side and meeting some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met, we decided to really encounter Galway was to experience a night out at the pub. Unfortunately, some of the local gentleman had been “over served.” One such gentleman, unbeknownst to me, decided to lift me up into the air; however, during the execution of this plan, he lost control, and all he succeeded in doing was throwing me onto the stone floor of the pub head first…and then falling, all 200 lbs, on top of my head. Leaving me with a lasting token of remembrance from Ireland going into the beginning of the Camino, namely a bruised cheek bone and head, paired with a mild concussion. Perhaps I’m simply not a “Galway Girl.”

PS. As promised here are some more photos from the Camino:

Blessings this day in particular to all those pilgrims who have walked the Way of Saint James!