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

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Pope Announces Year of Mercy: A Story of Mercy in my Life

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Pope Francis has declared December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016 the Year of Mercy. For me, mercy brings to mind forgiveness. God’s repeated and inexhaustible forgiveness is perhaps one of the greatest mercies He affords us. That even though sinners, we are not only forgiven, but saved by His Son. I would venture to say that all of us are in need of God’s merciful forgiveness; however, many of us are also desirous of receiving this mercy from someone we’ve wronged, or in need of offering it to someone who has wounded us.

The declaration of this year’s theme, ignites within me a hope of God’s mercy being poured out on my life, but it also demands an examination of my conscience. It beckons for me to take stock of any unforgiveness residing in my heart, any hardness. It suggests that it is time to bring these items out of the darkness, where they are covered in the cobwebs of my stubbornness, anger, or pain, and place them in the light. To grapple with them, working them through with the Lord, until they darken my heart no longer. Until I am free of them. Isn’t that always the goal of our Mother, the Church? To guide us to true and complete freedom? For only when we are truly free will we ever be truly happy. I want freedom. But, do I want to do the work of assessing the darkest parts of my life, seeing again, in my mind’s eye, those who have hurt me most? I can’t say that I want this. However, if I want the end goal, I must be willing to trod the path necessary to get there.

For me, Pope Francis’ announcement was strangely timed. One of those coincidences that could only be attributed to the Divine. You see, August 28, the feast of St. Augustine, marked the two year anniversary of the night I was sexually assaulted. These last two years have been the most arduous and dark of my Christian journey, as I ventured to do exactly as the Year of Mercy calls us to do. That I am here on the other side, a new creation, living and breathing in the light, filled with joy, hope, and an insatiable trust in the Lord is most certainly a mercy and a miracle. There were times I could but cling to the Lord. I couldn’t see Him, feel Him, talk to Him. We just went on beside each other. The Lord descended into hell with me more times than I’d like to count those two years. Each time bringing me back from the land of the dead. I made horrible choices out of pain. I was angry and confused. Still He stayed with me.

In the midst of it all, I promised myself that I would never allow the depression, or my confusion of “how God could allow this to happen to me,” to keep me from the Sacraments. I determined that I would go to Confession at least once a month and attend Mass every Sunday, though I felt nothing for the one to whom I was united in the Eucharist. I was numb to His grace; and yet, His grace flowed still. And thus, united with the Lord, I chose to do the hard work of grappling with the difficult questions. Struggling through the ugliness, the self-hatred, the pain, the distrust, and the non existent willfulness to live. So many times I thought how easy it would be to give up, on God, on life, to just quit. But, instead, by God’s mercy, I fought back. Sometimes, the victory was simply to make it through the day before me. Other days, I worked with God toward the forgiveness I desired, for myself, for my assailant, for God.

It may seem blasphemous to suggest that I needed to forgive the Lord, but you’ll note, I did not say that God was in any way in need of my forgiveness, but I was most certainly in need of forgiving Him. I loved God, but my whole world seemed turned upside down after the assault. And while, I knew He loved me and did not desire for me to be harmed, that it was my assailant’s misuse of his free will alone that led to my assault, I still needed to go through the motion of forgiving the God I loved, for what happened to me. How merciful is our Lord, that He will climb back up on that Cross for us, become the wrongfully accused criminal once more, allow us to blame Him, be angry with Him, and question His motives. And still, the words from His mouth remain…Forgive them, Father…for they know not what they do. 

Is there anything more merciful?

God has shown me repeatedly that He is truly a God of mercy, and a God who calls His people to be merciful. I am grateful to stand freely in the light, following two years of grave darkness, full of nothing but a pure love for God, forgiveness for my assailant, and a trustful surrender to the Lord’s plans for me. However, I am not off the hook. In each of us, there remains a need for greater mercy. As we prepare for this Jubilee Year, may we search for any unforgiveness in our hearts, for our journey to mercy begins there. May we do the hard work of bringing it to the light and allowing God to transform it. Once released from these chains, may we ask the Lord to show us where in our lives we are in need of His mercy, and beg Him for it in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and then may we ask Him to show us how He is calling us to move forward, living more fully in the light of His mercy.

Discerning God’s Voice: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Discerning God’s voice, finding the whisper in the storm, is not always easy. It can be especially difficult when choosing between two apparent goods. For me, this difficulty is multiplied again when the decision to leave involves walking away from a need that I could fulfill, a service that I could provide.

With only a week left in Chicago I find myself at one of those very crossroads. Packing has begun, not that there’s much to pack, and Ava’s new nanny, Miss Vivianne, arrives for a trial run this Friday. These past two months have been filled with such unexpected treasures. When I think of the weeks I spent here, I’m not reminded of pull out couches, tiny closets, or city driving, but rather, the many evenings spent talking with my brother, my sister-in-law’s sage advice, building deeper friendships with them, and the countless moments shared with Ava watching her grow and change, as she becomes her own person, full of personality and an independent spirit. Knowing their need for someone to continue caring for her during work hours, it is difficult to not want that person to be me.

How are we called to decide? Staying to care for my niece would not be a bad decision. I’d argue it would be a good one, but are we called to make good decisions, or to dig deeper, quiet ourselves, and inquire as to God’s decisions? When facing a similar situation many years ago, as my time in New Zealand neared its close, a very dear priest friend said to me, “Danielle, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.” This simple, yet profound statement has served as my pause button on a myriad of occasions: deciding whether to stay or to go, take this job or that one, where to give my time, what relationships to pour into, what ministries to take on. In such situations, repeating that simple phrase, helps me to slow down and place the decision back in God’s hands, asking Him to reveal His Will for me.

Practically speaking, how do you go about letting God make your decisions? I’ve been asked this question so many times. For me, it involves being in a quiet place, where I can still my mind and heart, and listen for God’s voice. Once in that state, I begin to envision whatever situation I’m trying to make a decision about. I picture myself, where I would live, what I would be doing, who I would be surrounded by, the good I see coming from it, any difficulties I foresee, etc. As the vision of whatever I’m placing before the Lord washes over me, I find that I am almost always filled with either a sense of peace and joy or a sense of unease. For me, when the peace comes, I know I have found God’s whisper.

And so it is, that as much as I would love to stay and care for my niece because it would be a good thing, it seems God is calling me elsewhere. The peace of my heart currently rests in Norfolk. And so, I prepare to journey south, knowing that God is not in the business of willing my good at the expense of another. Trusting in this knowledge, and my many experiences that support it, I know that my decision to leave is also the best decision for my brother, sister-in-law, and Ava. Though I can’t see His plan, God has a perfect plan for them, just as He does for me. I don’t know where this stage of the adventure will lead any of us, I can rarely see beyond the next bread crumb, or the next sign on the road, but I trust in the One who’s guiding me. He has never steered me wrong. True happiness lies in Him alone.

RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) Hotline PSA: Survivor Testimonies

I had the privilege this past May to participate in a Public Service Announcement for RAINN, who runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The video aired yesterday as part of their Campus Sexual Assault Awareness week. If you know anyone who has been directly affected by sexual assault, or indirectly through the experience of a loved one, I invite you to share this video with them and encourage them to #TalkToRAINN. This is a vulnerable thing to have gone viral, but I also invite you to share it on your own social media, as you never know who, in your life, may need to see it. Share with the caption #TalkToRAINN.

Thank you all so much for your love and support!

A Life Choice: Hear No Evil, See No Evil

IMG_0529These days, our preference is to hear no evil and see no evil, so we don’t have to deal with the evil. How often do we steer clear of news headings that might make us uncomfortable, or even still, wrench our very souls? We like to make evil a vaguary that exists as an abstract concept. By doing so, we’re able to separate it from ourselves and saunter on with no need of action or response. When considering what to write about this week, I’m embarrassed to say I was tempted to do just that. My newsfeed has been filled over the past month with news headings, articles, videos, and photographs that seek to horrify our senses and appall our hearts…if we let them.

I do not often post my thoughts on topics outside of my daily experiences, topics that bring with them extreme emotions, defensive opinions, and opposing sides. Most often, this is because I am blessed to know so many wonderful people across both sides of these issues and would not for a second want my words to be received as a judgement. I stand in judgement of no man, not in mind or heart.

Perhaps you’ve already guessed this, but I’m speaking in light of recent videos unveiling the business taking place within the Planned Parenthood facilities. While the visual of tiny babies being torn apart for pieces will certainly never leave me, I am more saddened by our hardness, our ability to hear of such things taking place in our own homeland, not some far away barbarian dictatorship, but here in the United States of America. Have we become a culture who can hear such news and not act? I commend those who have responded, but how are there not more? Medically speaking, time of death is declared when a person’s heart has stopped beating. How then, scientifically, do we not declare a person alive when it starts to beat (only 21 days after conception)?  While I understand that people disagree on this topic from an emotional standpoint, I cannot conceive how individuals disagree on this topic from a scientific one. Do we simply not want to see? Have we become a nation so intelligent and developed that we can see our unborn children’s faces on 3D scans as clear as if they were already in our arms; and yet, so hardened that we choose to ignore logic when it seeks to inconvenience our lives?

Whether you agree or disagree with me, my hope is that these shocking videos will awaken both pro-choice and pro-life advocates alike to dig deeper into why they believe what they believe, to really take a look at facts surrounding the issue (how abortions are performed, the stages of development within the womb, the emotional effects, either positive or negative, of the procedure over the course of women’s lives). My hope is that we can set aside whatever our prejudice, whatever emotions may complicate our judgement, if our position on the issue was handed down to us, may we seek our own understanding, and allow our hearts and minds to be opened to the atrocity of what these videos reveal.

I encourage you, if you have not already, to take a look at the following video. It is one of the many that unveils what’s been taking place at Planned Parenthoods across the US. Decide for yourself. I am not here to decide for you. I hope only that it may be approached with an open mind.

A Fighting Chance

It’s been two years since my assault and while those around me seem content to believe I’ve moved on and am “fine” now, every day is a battle. Every morning I wake up and make a choice to fight against the darkness that threatens at every moment to overtake me. Some days it seems I’ve run a thousand steps forward and other days taking just one step towards healthy healing is a major success. I refuse to stop fighting though. Even if it seems sometimes that I’m making no progress at all, I know that the day I stop fighting to thrive, will be the day my rapist has truly won.

Tiny Closet

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Featured above is the whole of my material existence for these two months. To some this may still seem like a lot, to others it may seem like nothing. Either way, I am in love with my tiny closet. I have some clothing, books, toiletries, and my guitar. I find opportunities to simplify my life exhilarating, as they teach me of life’s truest priorities. My tiny closet reminds me a great deal of a tiny backpack I once carried across the gorgeous, though sometimes brutal, Spanish countryside. That pack contained two tops, two pairs of shorts, one dress, a sleeping bag, and the necessary items for a days journey. How I miss that pack! In it’s absence, my tiny closet serves to remind me of the perspective gained when one’s possessions are minimized. Suddenly, time that would have been spent sifting through a wardrobe to pick an outfit is spent enjoying another precious snooze on the alarm, a good book, a great conversation, or simply reveling a few minutes longer on the final sips of coffee in my cup. Sometimes I think it can be easy in our culture to become enveloped by our things. And even if not entirely engulfed, we are often distracted by the many possessions which fill our lives. They steal away our attention and our time. Tiny closets transport us back to less complicated times, when people, not things, were priority. For all that it teaches me and for the ways it frees me, I just love my tiny closet.

New Life

Last Post on my Previous Blog:

Ok. Ok. Let’s talk about where this blogging girl has been the past two years. The short answer is blogging elsewhere. I kept a private blog throughout the last 24 months where I was able to express my thoughts and reflections on a topic I wasn’t prepared to share with the world yet: sexual assault. Two years ago, I was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance who offered to give me a ride back from a birthday party. For some of you, this may be the first you are hearing about this, and for that I am immensely sorry. There is no way to soften the blow of such information. I have ceaselessly wrestled back and forth with the desire to protect those I love from this information and the need to share all that God has done in the midst of it.

Truly, there were times I wasn’t sure I would survive the process, but God in his insane goodness has made me a completely new creation in spite of it all. I am literally amazed by how small my concept of being made “new” was in comparison to what he did! While my slate has been wiped clean and the emotions tied to the assault no longer plague me, it is a part of my story, and an important one to share I think. When the Lord works a miracle, how can we help but shout it from the rooftops, even if by proclaiming the healing we must also reveal the leprosy that preceded it.

And thus, I have decided to move all of my entries to the address of my most current blog site. Embracing every chapter the Lord has written and inviting you into them. This also means, however, that I will be letting you into the darkness that pervaded much of my life for the last two years, as I sought the Lord’s face in the midst of a storm. For some of you, it may be better if you never read of my experience. Perhaps our relationship makes it such that it would be better for you to not have any thoughts or images of my trial. For others, it may be enlightening, or even beneficial, to read of my journey through the healing process and through the court system. These entries include everything from wrestling with the meaning of mercy and grappling with the question “why?,” to accounts of the assault and repairing the foundation of my identity in the aftermath.

If you decide to read these entries, they can be found throughout my posts on the new site; HOWEVER, if you decide it would be more prudent for you NOT to read about this time in my life, the SIDE BAR will be your best friend! You can avoid these entries entirely by selecting a chapter from which to read posts, RATHER than simply scrolling down the main page, where you will stumble upon all of my posts. ALL entries from the assault are in the chapter Assault in the City.

I hope this is helpful!

This will be my last post on twelvestars.wordpress.com. I hope you’ll come with me to my new address and continue to follow my journey!

The new site is: diaryofasojourn.com

Thank you so much for your support thus far. I pray for each of you! Also, I know that what I’ve shared may come as a shock. If you have need of reaching out to me with any questions or concerns, please feel free to do so. My blog response email is d.lina.lucci@gmail.com.

All for the Glory of God.

Three Adults and a Baby

**Prelude: More to come on the reasons behind my two year disappearance from the public blogging world. Also, a potential url move for Abundant Life in the coming months!

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What happens when you move into a 420 square foot apartment in downtown Chicago with your brother, sister-in-law, and four month old niece? I’m about to find out. That’s right, my newest adventure has begun and while it may not be off in foreign lands, I think it may be the most daring yet. When my brother and his wife found out they were expecting their first little bundle of joy, they began, like all good parents, to plan for the future. They knew the day would come sooner than they’d like that Megan would have to return to work after four months of maternity leave. I was honored by their request for me to come and live with them for a few months as Ava’s (my niece) nanny.

That was six months ago. Today, I can’t believe the insurmountable insanity which must have overcome each of us when we agreed to this arrangement! And yet, as I look around the new apartment I now call home, my brother and sister-in-law asleep in their bed, my niece in the crib next to them, and me on the sofa bed, having successfully survived our first day, I can’t help but think that this just might be crazy enough to work! I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I hope you’ll join me on this crazy ride.

“If we are able to communicate only one thing about your role in a survivor’s journey, it is this: never ever underestimate your power to affect its course.”

“If we are able to communicate only one thing about your role in a survivor’s journey, it is this: never ever underestimate your power to affect its course.”

– Maile Zambuto, Joyful Heart CEO

This is an amazing quote from a phenomenal article on how you can help support a survivor brave enough to share their story with you. They have some excellent tips on what to say, how to take care of yourself, and the most important thing you can offer a survivor…

http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/blog/6-steps-supporting-survivor