Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas, Everyone! Happy 11th Anniversary, Blog!

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) 

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you've all had (and are still having) a lovely day full of happiness, joy, laughter, and love. 

My mom had the rare Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from work so we went to Midnight Mass last night. It was our first ever Christmas Midnight Mass (or Midnight Mass, period) and we fell in love with the Latin Mass all over again. It was a High Candlelit Mass and it was the most beautiful and reverent Mass I've ever had the blessing to witness. If ever I needed anything to breathe new life into my spiritual life, this was it. I was already planning on stepping up my Mass attendance to at least 2-3 times a week but now I'm downright giddy with anticipation about the next time I can attend daily Mass at my parish.

Today also marks the 11th (!!!) anniversary of this blog! I know I went M.I.A. for a month but I had a good reason. Basically, I was burnt out. I've been busy with work while running on empty from social media overload. I needed a break from everything and the last 10 days of Advent seemed like the perfect time to take that break. Thankfully, I also got a break from work this week so I'll be able to de-stress even more. Cue a self-care montage of me watching movies, reading books, drinking tea, baking, and silly dancing around my apartment for the rest of the week. lol.

To be completely honest, I was also unsure if I was going to continue this blog. It seems like almost no one reads blogs anymore. After some soul searching, I decided to keep my blog... and severely cut back on my social media usage. The break from writing and social media showed me that I truly missed blogging and that social media brings out the worst in me. Yes, it's wonderful for catching up with friends and all but I saw a very vain, proud, and angry side of me coming out lately and I hated it. I didn't feel like myself. I wasn't sure what was triggering it... until I completely cut social media out of my life. Not only do I feel like myself again, but those horrible traits -- especially anger -- also seem to have virtually disappeared. There is peace in my life and I feel happier and less stressed. I'll keep my accounts to catch up with those who choose to contact me through them and to post newly published articles but I'm done using it as I had for the past couple of years.

I also decided that I'm going to change the format of my posts. They'll be a lot more like the ones I posted when I first started this blog 11 years ago. If you weren't around that long ago, you'll see what I mean. ;)

Anyway, this is just a little update for y'all. 

Yes, the winners of the Magnificat Advent app were notified and given their codes before Advent, even if I didn't post it on here. 

Yes, we were able to do the 54-day Rosary novena (thanks, everyone!), even if I had to schedule the tweets and FB page posts for the last couple of days while I was on a social media break. :) 

Yes, I will be returning to blogging more often... God willing. 

Again, I hope you are all having a wonderful day and that you continue to have a lovely Christmastide season. For those of us who celebrate through February 2nd (Candlemas), let's do this! ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, November 24, 2018

2018 Magnificat Advent Companion App Giveaway!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of the year once again! The awesome folks at Magnificat Magazine have sent me 2 iOS and 2 Android Advent companion apps to give away to the lovely readers of this blog! That's the app, not the physical booklet.

No, I don't get paid for any of this and, no, I don't gain anything out of this. This is simply a giveaway for you faithful readers.

Normally, I'd use Rafflecopter for these giveaways but there was some shady business that happened last time I used them so we're going to do this a bit old school.

Here are the instructions:

  1. To enter, leave me a comment on this blog (with a way to contact you if you win), send me a tweet (@MelissaCeciliaG), or leave me a comment on the blog's FB page.
  2. You can enter once a day from now until November 30th at 8 a.m. PT.
  3. If you want additional entries, tweet the link to this giveaway (and be sure to include me -- @MelissaCeciliaG -- so I can see the tweet) or share the link from the blog's FB page onto your page (make sure the privacy setting for the shared link is public). I'll give you two additional entries per day (per social media platform) if you do this. That's 4 more entries per day if you share them on both.

That's it.

I'll be putting all the entries in two little jars -- one for the iOS app entries and the other for the Android app entries -- and I'll randomly select the winner in the afternoon of November 30th. I'll even post a video of the process so you guys can see that I did it fair and square.

And, that's it for now. I have two blog posts coming up that aren't giveaway OR article related that I really want to share. I'll schedule those for next week so there's no post overload for y'all. It's been a while since I've shared anything of substance and there are two amazing things that have happened lately that have been too good not to share. 😉

I hope you're all having a lovely Thanksgiving Day weekend!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway by the 30th!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 😊

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Written Wednesday #6: Favorite Saints and Millennial Debt

Hello, everyone!

I have a deadline to meet in a couple of hours so I will make this a quick post. Don't worry, I hope to have at least two (yes, you read that correctly) more posts by next week... including a giveaway! Intrigued? Stay tuned...

First, there were only two articles published this week: one for EpicPew and another for Verily Magazine, both posted on the same day.

For EpicPew:

For Verily Magazine:

  • In Overcoming Debt, There's Motivation in Numbers (November 20, 2018)
    In this article, I introduce you to the #debtfreecommunity which gives everyone (especially Millennials) in debt some hope and resources to eliminating debt and stay debt-free!
That's it!

I'll give you guys two hints about the giveaway that begins on Friday:
1) It's Advent related
2) It's now become an annual tradition on this blog.

Any guesses? 😉

Okay, now I must get back to my writing frenzy. Three more articles to finish this week and I have my novel to (still) finish editing.

I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving Day weekend! Come back on Friday if you want to enter the giveaway! ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 😊

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Written Wednesday #5: Thursday Edition

Um... oops. I'm a day late but I have a good excuse: I've been busier than usual. I'm actually slightly behind on a couple of things; it's been so crazy hectic.

I'm in currently in a season of life when I have more on my plate than I have time for. God has blessed me with more work but sometimes the work and the deadlines are short notice with an even shorter turnaround time. All of that stresses me out because it messes up my schedule. That's the nature of the freelance work, I'm afraid. I'm learning how to deal with the stress of having to modify plans on such short notice and with a lot on my plate, which I know I'll need to get used to if and when God blesses me with a family.

After helping take care of my father those 7 years between his initial cancer diagnosis and his death, I feel as if God gave me some time to really get to know myself and have a little bit of selfish independence. I was 17 through 24 years old when my father had cancer and a lot of that time was spent helping him, especially towards the end. Then I had a couple of years to focus on degrees and career paths that led me to where I am now. Now I feel like God is preparing me for whatever is coming next. It's exciting... and a bit of work because it means challenges that take me out of my comfort zone and undoing years worth of habits and routines I'd fallen into. I know it's all for the best so I welcome them... and all the naps I can manage to smuggle in on particularly exhausting days. lol.

Because of the lack of time, I dropped the ball reminding people of day 12 of the 54-day Rosary novena (we're on day 15 today!) and now I'm a day late on the blog post. Oh well. The important thing is I'm catching up now so... here we are. Verso l'alto, right?

Although I've been busy with work, only two articles were published this past week. (reminder: I have no say on what is published when but I share what is published during that particular week.)

For EpicPew:

For Verily Magazine:
And that is it for now. I have two new articles I write, a third article to edit, the third novel to edit, and other things to do. I hope to blog about something wonderful that happened the last time I attended a low Mass (I'm attending only Latin Masses nowadays) in the near future. It has a lot to do with what's been going on with me lately. That's all I'm saying! 😉

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far! 😊

As always, thank you for reading and God bless! 😊

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Written Wednesday #4: Cemeteries and Charities

Hello, everyone! This is going to be a quick post because I'm in the middle of a crazy month that's full of work... and NaNoWriMo... and more work... and the third novel deadline coming up in 2 weeks... and other stuff. I have to remind myself that I need to breathe, drink water, and basically practice fundamental self-care. I'm currently in this sort-of stress-cocoon that is not healthy and will make me forget to eat and rest if I get a little too into my writing zone. I'm trying to carve out some non-work reading and lots of prayer time two hours before I drift off to sleep because it's the only way I will not burn myself out.

Anyway, down to business...

There are only two links to share with y'all this week, both from EpicPew:

I'm not sure when CatholicChemistry and Verily Magazine will post the rest of my articles but I'll keep y'all updated. As far as I know, the third novel publishing date is still set for November 22 (the feast of St. Cecilia!), unless something happens and it needs to be pushed back once again. We shall see.

And that is it. Seriously. I told you I was crazy busy. I hope to blog again by the weekend... if I manage to find the time amidst the chaos. 

Also, if you make a drinking game out of the number of times I wrote "crazy" in this post, please use tea or something that won't get you drunk. Thanks! 😄

I hope you are all doing well.

For those of you doing the 54-day Rosary novena with us, you've got this! We're already a week into it (how?!) and only two days away from being a third of the way done with the first half of the novena. We can do it!

Have a lovely rest of the week!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Step-By-Step Guide to Praying the 54-day Rosary Novena

One of my many rosaries. 

Hello, lovely readers! Happy All Saints' Day and happy first day of the annual 54-day Rosary novena.

I decided to post a step-by-step guide on how to pray the 54-day Rosary novena after I had a couple of people -- my mother included (she forgot how to do it) -- ask how to pray it. The instructions on the website can be a bit confusing -- been there, felt that -- so I'm here to help you out.

Before I start I want to tell you the most commonly asked question is about what days you pray which mysteries. It doesn't matter if the Rosary novena mysteries for whatever day you're on doesn't match up with the order of the regular Rosary.

Here's an example: this upcoming Tuesday (Day 6 of petition) you'll either pray the Glorious Mysteries (if you're doing the traditional order) or the Luminous Mysteries (if you're doing the updated version). Those are the mysteries you do for the novena, not the Sorrowful Mysteries which are normally done on Tuesdays. You'll be praying whatever mysteries are assigned for whatever day you're on during the novena.

Step 1: Do the Sign of the Cross and say: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen."

Step 2: Pray one Hail Mary.

Step 3: Pray the prayer that follows the Hail Mary assigned for that specific day on the website: "Hail Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, my Mother Mary, Hail! At thy feet..."  (side note: this prayer's words will be different every day; it'll depend on which day you're on and which mysteries you're meditating on.)

Step 4: Pray the Apostle's Creed

Step 5: Pray one Our Father, three Hail Mary's, one Glory Be, and one Fatima Prayer ("Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins...") in that order.

Step 6: Go to the first mystery of the day, pray the prayer under the mystery, and pray the Rosary as you normally would (one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be, and the Fatima Prayer).

Step 7: Pray whatever prayer is under the Fatima Prayer, which begins: "I bind these..."

Step 8: Go onto the next mystery and repeat Steps 6 and 7 until you reach the end of that mystery.

You repeat steps 6-8 until you reach the end of the 5th mystery of the day.

Step 9: Pray the Spiritual Communion prayer.

Step 10: Pray the Prayer in Petition and the prayer that follows under it. (Side note: if you pray the Rosary during the day, you will say "... thy blessings give to us this day" and if you pray it at night you'll say, "... thy blessings give to us this night.")

Step 11: Pray the Hail, Holy Queen.

Step 12: Pray the Memorare

Step 13: Pray the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

Step 14: Do the Sign of the Cross.

Step 15: Kiss the Crucifix.

Step 16: Do a happy dance because you've done the prayers for the day (optional, lol).

Important: During the second half of the 54-day Rosary novena -- the 27 days of Thanksgiving -- it's basically the same order, except the prayers in Steps 3 and 10 (which will become Prayer in Thanksgiving) will have the biggest changes because we're no longer asking for something but thanking Mama Mary for her intercession, even if we've yet to see the petitions answered.

I cannot tell you which days you'll be doing what because some people opt to do the traditional order (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) while others will do the updated version (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous). That choice is up to you and you'll have to keep pray of it for yourself; I can just tell you "we're on day 1/4/8/23/etc on petition (or thanksgiving)." I highly recommend marking a calendar or keeping track of what day/mystery you're on somewhere you can easily access.

I hope I haven't confusing y'all even more! If you need the link to the prayers, you can always go back to this link and click on whatever set of mysteries you're doing for the day. Bookmark this blog post and visit it as often as you have to until you get the hang of it.

If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to ask; that's what I'm here for!

Alright, y'all, I'm going to go say my prayers (and I'm including all of y'all!).

As always, thank you for reading and God bless! :D

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Join Us for the Annual 54-Day Rosary Novena!

Hello, you lovely blog readers!

It's that time of the year again. No, I won't (and have never!) hit you up for cash. Instead, I want to invite you to join what has become an annual tradition for both Casa Guerrero (my mother and I) and blog readers/friends.

For those of you who may be new to this blog, I'll give you a quick history. A couple of years ago, I started inviting Twitter friends to join in on praying the 54-day Rosary novena when I prayed it. There's strength in numbers, right? I didn't ask them to pray for my own specific intention; I left it up to each person to pray for whatever massive intention they had with the option of adding the intentions of everyone else praying the novena. It went well so I did it again the following year and I invited blog readers to join in. To my surprise, many did join in and the number of people praying the novena grew that year... and the year after that... and the year after that, etc.

Last year we had the biggest group of prayer warriors since this tradition began. To this day, I still get messages about the amazing graces and answered intentions following last year's novena. If you want just an example of what I'm talking about, here's a sample of an intention answer last year's novena. I had so many other intentions answered (hello, steady work all year so far!) but that's just an example of a huge intention that needed the 54-day Rosary novena.

As per tradition -- and as recommended -- we'll begin the novena on All Saints' Day and end on Christmas Eve. If you do the math (and I have), it's exactly 54 days between All Saints' Day and Christmas Eve so, you know, perfect timing! This novena is recommended for intentions of all sizes and severities. I will also be offering to send you a daily reminder you need one -- either through Twitter, the blog's FB page, a text message (if we already have contact outside of social media), or an email.

Every year people ask if it matters if you do the traditional Rosary (without the Luminous Mysteries) or with the Luminous Mysteries added and the answer is: No! I personally do the traditional order without the Luminous Mysteries because that's how it was first prayed from the beginning of the devotion but the choice is all yours. The website I use has both versions so it's totally up to you and your own preference.

Of course, I'm also going to throw the annual word of caution: this novena is not for the faint of heart. Many people (myself included) have experienced what I call a "Murphy's Law streak." If something can go wrong, it's likely that it will go wrong. That's not to say that everyone will experience it. I've known people who've had no problems during it. Mom and I had just one minor hiccup during one of them. I've also known people who've only seen the good that has come from the novena. Still, I know there are people who've abandoned the novena because they've gotten overwhelmed with the obstacles they've encountered while doing this novena. The graces have always outweighed the bad (in hindsight) and if you have a huge intention that you really feel stuck on, I cannot recommend doing this novena enough.

Please don't let what I've just warned scare you off. I'm only informing you that this novena can really test someone so that you're prepared if you want in. But, you should also keep in mind that that's what the devil wants. He doesn't want you to pray for our Blessed Mother's intercession, especially for a big intention. He'll put obstacles in your way... but God is greater and Mama Mary will always crush his head. Keep frequenting the Sacraments, constantly invoke our Lady's protection, ask your Guardian Angel for some angelic backup, and you should be fine.

Having said that (and having potentially scared some of you off; lol, sorry!!), I'd still love for as many of you as possible to join this year's novena. Please let me know by All Hallow's Eve (next Wednesday) so I can add you to the list of those participating, especially if you want to daily reminders. There are already 4 people signed up (even before I started writing this post) and I'm excited to see how many more will join this year!

That's it from me for now. I hope you all have a lovely rest of the week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 😊

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Written Wednesday #3: Feast Days, Saint Quotes and Books

No, you aren't seeing things. This is indeed a second blog post in less than 3 days... and the 2nd of maybe 3-4 this week. Whaaat? Yes, there's at least one more blog post coming your way. I'm sure you longtime readers will be able to figure out what it may about. (Hint: annual tradition involving a specific prayer/novena...)

Anyway, this just a quick post to share a couple of articles that were published in the last two weeks.



Other articles:
Verily's associate editor -- who's my go-to person when I submit articles -- said my second Verily article would be published this month but I don't know when. With the month almost over, it should be in the next couple of days. I also have several articles I've written for CatholicChemistry (at least half a dozen that haven't been published) but I don't know when those will see the light of day. Either way, I'll keep you all posted.

And, that's it. Yes. these Written Wednesday posts tend to be on the short side because I'm usually swamped with work on Wednesdays; about to submit a new EP article after this, too.

I hope to publish the next blog post either tomorrow or Friday -- it'll all depend on how crazy tomorrow is, work and time-wise. However, if you've figured out what the post is about and want to participate, please let me know as soon as you can so I can write your name on the list and send you reminders throughout. :) If you're currently scratching your head, asking yourself what in the world I'm talking about... you'll see. It's become an annual tradition for some of this blog's readers (as well as yours truly). 😉

Alright, back to finishing and submitting my next EP post. 😉

I hope you're all having a lovely week so far. 😊

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 🙏

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sometimes a Girl Needs Her Dad...

I saw the cemetery as I was driving home from where I had a meeting this morning. I wasn't planning on stopping... but something nudged me to make a detour. Without thinking twice, I pushed the turn signal down and went in through the cemetery gates.

Now, before any of you think this is a weird start to the post -- especially those of you who are new to this blog -- let me explain something: this is the cemetery where my father is buried. He died a little over 9 years ago from colon cancer that eventually metastasized and spread to other vital organs. I will occasionally go visit him on my own but I usually go with my mom... and it's almost always planned.

I knew, driving to the spot near where he's buried, that there was something greater at work with my split-second decision. I've driven by the cemetery (only a couple of miles from where we live) several times recently and I always do the Sign of the Cross but I haven't stopped by. Today, I just knew I couldn't do that.

The cemetery was empty. I was very well aware of that as I drove through the cemetery and even more so as I was walking to Dad's grave. There is a somber peace about an empty cemetery. It will make you really have a Memento Mori moment.

I'll admit that I started crying before I even made it to my father's grave. The second I reached it, I broke down in a full-blown sob.

I was always very much a "daddy's girl." When I was growing up, it was just my daddy and I. My mother always worked during the day and he worked the graveyard shift so I spent most of my waking hours with him. Whenever he would grab his car keys, I would grab my dolls and get ready to leave with him. Sure, there were (naturally) a couple of tense years during my teens and even more so when I reverted to the Faith, but I always loved my dad. He was overprotective and strict but I know he was that way because he wanted to protect me.

Lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed and stressed out about circumstances beyond my control. It's when I feel this way that I miss him the most. He always made me feel better; always made me feel loved. So when I reached his grave, the first words out of my mouth were, "Daddy, I miss you... and I'm feeling overwhelmed."

Logically, I knew that he wasn't physically there. Yes, what's left of his earthly body may still be there but I know his soul is elsewhere. Still, I had a "chat" with him because sometimes a girl just needs her dad. I unburdened my heart and my troubles. I know that, wherever he is, he knows exactly what I'm talking about; that he might've had similar experiences with the same person who has been causing a lot of problems in my life now.

I sobbed the entire time I was there. I asked that, if he was already in Heaven, he pray for me. I prayed for his soul and promised to return to his grave soon. I like to decorate his grave marker with marigolds so I'll be back to do it next week. I walked away, feeling both lighter and also very sad.

I don't think I will ever "get over" his death. He was the first person who told me I was worthy of respect; that I was worth being loved. He fought hard and sacrificed to make sure I got a good education. Though he used to grumble and we used to argue about my wanting to go to Mass and confession frequently -- he was away from the Church for 40+ years before his reversion a few months before he passed -- he made sure I was in a better place, spiritually, than he was.

All of this also made me reflect on how I also still have my Heavenly Father. I usually go to our Blessed Mother when I find myself in tears but I know I can go to God and talk to Him. I have, but not for a long time. Perhaps I should carve out some time in my crazy busy schedule and just have a chat with Him as well.

Sometimes a girl needs her Dad... and I'm so blessed and fortunate to have had an earthly one that taught me my own worth and showed me so much love in the first 24 years of my life... and a heavenly One Who has always shown me so much love throughout my life, even when I haven't been at my best.

Anyway, just some ponderings since I had little free time today. :)

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Written Wednesdays #2: Quick Beats and Novel News

My lack of blog posts lately has been due to both a busy schedule and less time spent online. I have a lot to share but, goodness, not enough hours during the day to do so. I had a couple of free hours today so I've been catching up on emails, reading other articles, and (now) blogging.

I've actually scheduled a blog post into my crammed schedule for every Wednesday, even if no articles of mine get published the previous week. I hope this means you'll be hearing from me at least once a week. ;)

I still have a lot of stuff to do and not enough hours to finish them in so here we go with some quick beats.

I finally get a chance to share with y'all more written content! Hooray! I don't have a say in when things get published on EpicPew, CatholicChemistry, or Verily Magazine. Sometimes one website will space articles I've already written out over a couple of weeks or months or they'll have them in the drafts for a week or two for whatever reason. Hopefully, I'll have something to share next week as well but, again, it's up to the editors. :) For now, here are four new articles for y'all.

1) 20 Prayers for Busy People on the Go (September 20, 2018)
2) 10 Quotes the Saints Definitely Didn't Say (September 20, 2018)
3) 15 Things All Catholic Women Love (September 27, 2018)

Verily Magazine:
1) Tips for the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in High-Energy Environments (October 2, 2018)

Novel news: I know, I know... the third novel was supposed to be out in the summer. Due to summertime craziness and a deluge of work I had in recent weeks (thank you, God; please send more!), it's been on hold since I still have to finish editing it and also finish the cover. Yes, I'll also be doing the cover so, you know, lots of work! I'm aiming the new publishing date to be on November 22nd, the feast of my confirmation patroness, St. Cecilia. If anything else comes up, I'll update y'all but it seems like it's finally going to happen.

And that's it for now! Did I mention I have given myself an 8 p.m. cut-off time for online things which means I have roughly 2 hours to finish this blog post and catch up on several emails? I'll let you all know how this experiment goes. Yes, it has to do with changes I'm also making to my spiritual life so you'll be getting details about it. ;)

I hope you all have a lovely rest of the week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why September, God? And What About My Vocation?

September has been associated with my spiritual life since my reversion. Well, really, since my baptism.

I was baptized on September 1st, 1985 in my hometown of Los Angeles, CA when I was only 3 months old.

I officially reverted to the faith during the first week of autumn, September 2006, when I was 21.

I saw on the "On This Day" Facebook memories that I had written, "I hear you, God. Loud and clear" on this day 4 years ago.

This year, I've been going through a major spiritual awakening (if I can call it that) that heavily involves our Blessed Mother.

I dislike summer (oh, how I really dislike it) and I start counting down the days until the autumn season official begins starting in July-August. I used to think that it was because I loved school and fall semester was the start of the academic year. It was either that or perhaps because I disliked summer very much due to my terrible memories associated with it (past illnesses, my father's death, etc.). Now I'm thinking that perhaps there's something more.

As I said, this year it seems like my major growth will involve our Blessed Mother. This is something that, like my reversion, began in June but isn't really becoming clear until this month. It started with my consecration but it's been building up steadily over the past couple of weeks/months.

Earlier this week, I posted a tweet which somehow blew up (I've never had that many "likes" or "retweets" before) based on an experience I had.

This is actually something I've been wanting to write about for a while but, for whatever reason, I never did until a couple of days ago.

Upon some very heavy (and prayerful) reflection, I realized just how much I desire to be a wife and mother. I mean, I've known this was what I've felt called to as my ultimate vocation but it didn't really settle into my heart until a few weeks ago. I want nothing more in this life than to get married, have a family, and completely dedicate myself to taking care of them; to doing what I can to ensure that they all make it to Heaven at the end of their lives.

However, I haven't been able to voice this without opposition... even within my own household. I get these comments about how I'll be throwing away my life; how I would be throwing away my entire education (and how my student loans will never pay themselves off) if I devoted myself to having and raising a family. I get told that having a career is more important; that if I don't have one and I get stuck with a deadbeat husband who will cheat on me and eventually divorce me, I'll have nothing to fall back on and support my own family. All of these things I've heard throughout my entire life -- ever since I was a little girl -- and they instilled a major fear in me that I haven't been able to shake off until recently.

This is where our Blessed Mother comes into my life. I've come to slowly lose that fear through my recent devotion to praying the Angelus; to the reflections I have when I meditate on her fiat. Without knowing what was ahead, she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38, DRA) Even writing it now, I feel myself wanting to tear up because it's so beautiful. She said "yes" to God's will and His plans without fear... which is something I've sadly been unable to do in my own vocation discernment.

I see what a beautiful witness she is to the world. She was so humble and (to those who don't recognize what an important role she played in humanity's salvation) she did "nothing extraordinary." She was a wife and a mother, taking care of her household and of her family. It seems like such an ordinary life -- and, in that sense, it was -- but she did extraordinary things in her simplicity and humility. The more I think about it and about her life, the more I aspire to become more like her. Of course, I will never get anywhere close to being like her but I can by trying to be the best wife and mother I can be. 

Yes, there is the little hitch that I'm still woefully single. If I'm completely honest, I fought the idea of dating for as long as I could because of those fears so many women instilled in me -- that finding good, faithful men was impossible; that I should just resign myself to the idea that I would get hurt by them and thus make myself strong for the inevitable. What a horrible, jaded, and fearful view I had of the vocation of marriage. No wonder I was always reluctant to date.

Full disclosure: I actually didn't go on my first real date until a couple of weeks ago, for that same reason. Yes, I'm 33 but I didn't go on my first date because of that lifelong fear. It took a lot for me to work up the nerve to allow myself to date and to say "Yes" to God's will for my life. I'm done worrying about what could happen. I'm going to fully trust God to lead me to the right man and to not fear my vocation. (side note: there's still no fella in my life, despite the date, but the hope remains!)

All of this is happening in the month of September. Why September, God? And what about my vocation? I don't even know where to start with that... well, beyond preparing myself for when the time comes. Even then, there's only so much I can do on my own.

Please say a prayer for me, y'all. I feel like God (through our beautiful Mother) is helping me shed fears and awakening something in my heart that has been dormant for a long time. Besides a deep yearning for going to daily Mass and immersing myself in learning more about the vocation of wife and of motherhood (using Mama Mary and various saints as examples), I feel like God is doing some major work in my interior life that is just about to radically change my life.

Anyway, I just felt like sharing this with y'all. I have no "Written Wednesday" update for you this week because EpicPew still hasn't posted what I wrote last week and I don't know when the other two sites (CatholicChemistry and Verily Magazine) will post the articles I've written for them as well. I'll keep you updated. ;)

I hope you are all having a lovely week thus far! And, if you're observing Ember Days like I am, keep going! It's only 2 more days after this. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

God's Plans for Me and Written Wednesdays #1

A couple of big things happened to me recently, most life-changing.

First, I got to help on a project for a huge Catholic ministry/company. I don't think I'm allowed to say who it was for (and I know, for sure, that I can't say what it was on) but let's just say I proofread a manuscript for a very well known Catholic author/speaker. It was my first experience as a proofreader and I was a bit intimidated since I didn't know what to do. Still, I mustered up the courage I had and I dove right in. I loved the experience and I hope it opens up new doors for future projects either with this company or other companies. Also, I will be recommending the book to friends when it gets published because it was that good.

Second, I started on another major project but this one is a lot more personal and it will take some time to complete. I'm almost two weeks into it and I'm nowhere near being done. Long story short, I was fortunate enough to catch up with someone whom I highly respect; someone who has been there for me -- mentoring me when they can -- for years. Sure, we will sometimes catch up via social media but it's always good to really catch up either in person or through a phone call since it's easier than just via messages. 

During our time catching up, I believe the Holy Spirit used him to get some very clear messages across to me; things I didn't particularly want to hear but most definitely needed to hear. And, if I'm being completely honest, things that were way overdue; things I should've dealt with a long time ago. It was one of those wake-up calls that feels like you've just been waiting for it. Does that make sense? For months, I've felt like God has been preparing for something major but I haven't exactly known what or how. I had an inkling what area of my life it would involve but I wasn't sure if it was just wishful thinking. I got a much clearer "this is part of my plans for you" message from God with this conversation. What I've embarked on since this conversation took place will only help me get what I feel God is ultimately leading me towards.

I currently can't openly talk about it because this feels like something that God wants me to do -- to experience -- and see through before I can share it with everyone else. I will share it someday when I feel like I've finally reached the destination God is pushing (a very reluctant) me towards... but it's not the time yet. I will just bookmark this blog post for future reference. All I will say is that it's going to be a very exciting time in my life; one I've been waiting a very long time to finally reach (when God thinks I'm finally ready to get to that point). How's that for vague, eh? lol. And if you've noticed a recent change, yes, that's very much the direction things are headed in. Good eye!

All I'm going to ask is that you all keep me in your prayers. There are various components that need to fall into place for it to work. I'm doing my part (and it's a major overhaul on my part; you'll know all about it when the time come) but there's only so much I can do. All of this is going to require me to trust God in a way I never have before; to abandon myself to his Divine Providence and follow His lead. As I said, I'm doing my part but it feels like a team effort with God has the (obvious) leader. I'm just following Him and I look forward to seeing where His love and will takes me.

Before I close this blog post, I wanted to share something new I want to do; it's called "Written Wednesdays." Basically, I'm going to share what I've written in the past week that's been published around the 'net since some of you don't have social media (shocking, I know, lol) and still, want to read articles of mine that get published.

Articles published in the last month (will become weekly after this post):


And that's it for now. I have a lot still do (have I mentioned that this big project takes up most of my day, most days?) and I want to get to it before I call it a night. I'm trying to use the laptop and social media as little as possible these days so once the laptop runs out of juice, that's it until tomorrow. :)

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far!

As always, thank you for reading and God bless!  :D

Saturday, September 1, 2018

This is What Happens When I Pray the Entire Rosary Daily...

Only 2 blog posts for the entire month of August?! Goodness, I was more swamped with work than I thought. Not that I'm complaining! I'm so grateful that I was given the opportunity to write for a new website as well as being able to proof a manuscript that I will eventually be able to share with y'all; the name of the manuscript, not the actual thing. Triple the amount of work. I ended the month tired but very happy.

I keep asking God to send me more work if writing is my (small v) vocation and I keep getting new work so... Your will, God, not mine. I learned (the hard way) that doing what I thought was the right path -- due to my own fears -- never ends well. I'll keep letting God guide me since He always knows the best path for my life; I know nothing. lol.

Anyway, I now have time to blog so I wanted to share with y'all my experience with praying the entire Rosary daily. And, by the way, when I say "entire Rosary" I don't mean just whatever Mysteries are assigned for the day. I mean all 15 traditional Mysteries.

Before I get any "you're such a trad snob" comments, yes, I will occasionally incorporate the Luminous Mysteries on Thursdays but I tend to stick to the traditional ones. If you want to do all 20, go for it. I prefer doing the traditional 15, even when I do the 54-day Rosary novena (which we're going to be doing again this year).

I got the idea for praying the entire Rosary after reading The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort. I read it at the beginning of summer and I've tried to do it as often as I can. Some days, I can only manage one full Rosary (e.g. Glorious Mysteries on Sundays) because of crazy busy my day is or because of how terrible my fatigue is but I can usually do more than one. I have noticed one thing about the days on which I can manage to pray the entire thing: my heart and mind are at peace and very little disturbs me.

Things that would normally test my patience, upset or sadness me, things that would "ruin" my day don't even make a blip on my radar. That doesn't mean that I'm not aware of them. It simply means that the graces that come with praying the Rosary help me get through the negative. I feel more confident, more courageous, and happier overall. I feel our Blessed Mother's protection. I'm less prone to doing dumb things I'll later have to tell a priest in the confessional. I don't normally pray for personal intentions when I pray the Rosary -- I try to focus solely on the Mysteries -- but I have no doubt that I would receive what I asked if I did.

If I have any worries, they no longer seem to matter as much as they did the day or even hours earlier. If I'm feeling upset over anything, I'm able to look at any silver lining I can find in the situation. If I have fears or doubts, they are soothed and I'm able to think about things more clearly.

It all goes deeper than that, too, but I don't know how else to put it into words. I guess the closest I can get to describing it is in this way: my weary soul is refreshed and at peace and I feel close to both Mama Mary and to her beloved Son. Like I said, those words don't even adequately describe or even scratch the surface but it's as close as I can get without getting into what others have described as "syrupy sweet St. Therese mode."

Have any of you ever tried praying all of the Rosary mysteries (either the original 15 or all 20) in a single day? Do any of you pray the entire thing frequently? If so, do you sort of understand what I'm trying to say? It feels weird to be at a loss for words but that's where I am. In fact, I've frequently found myself in this state; unable to speak eloquently about the wonderful changes that have been going on in my interior life.

For this month of the Seven Sorrows of Mary -- and as an idea for those who are unsure of what they can do following the abuse scandals -- I propose you give it a try. Even if you only do it once this month, I lay this challenge down for whoever wants to do it. You will not regret it.

Anyway, I just wanted to get these thoughts down today because 1) it's the beginning of a month of Mary (and her birthday is coming up), 2) some people need more ideas on what to do for the Sackcloth and Ashes campaign, and 3) it's the 33rd anniversary of my baptism and I wanted to celebrate by blogging about this. Yes, I already went to confession to celebrate it but this part two of my celebration. ;)

Alright, that's it for now. I hope to blog again soon but it's all contingent on my workload. The fewer blog posts I write, the more work I have... and the closer I get to paying off my student loans. Oh yes, the war paint has been applied when it comes to paying them off. lol.

I hope y'all have been doing well... or, I should say, as well as you can be while feeling heartbroken,  hurt, and/or angry due to scandals that have hurt us Catholics in recent weeks. Keep praying, doing Acts of Reparation, and fasting.

As always, thank you for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Surprise! I'm A New Contributing Writer For...

Gather 'round, everyone. It's story time! (side note: Yes, I promise this will all lead to me telling you where my new writing gig is along with the link to my first article for them.)

Once upon a time, in the not-so-magical land of Los Angeles, CA, lived a young woman named Melissa (nicknamed Emmy by all who knew her). From a young age, Emmy loved writing. She loved it so much, her best friend growing up gave her the gift of more notebooks and pens (which she quickly went through) for every birthday. This was her gift until the age of 18 when her best friend -- the person she knew from the age of 5 -- moved away.

As she grew up, Emmy wondered what career path to take. She dabbled in the arts of drawing, of acting, and of music. She changed her major several times before settling on Religious Studies. Why did she pick Religious Studies? Because her heart was on fire for the Lord. She wanted to teach others about the faith she'd fallen deeply in love with. A degree in Religious Studies would open up options for this -- either teaching or doing something else. Also, Creative Writing was a harder field to break into; less stable.

Anyway, she could still write. She had started a blog on Christmas Day 2007 and had kept it up for many years. Before she even graduated, she had been published in Envoy Magazine twice. When she graduated, she began freelance writing but it was grunt work. She was paid literal pennies per word. Sure, she also got a sweet contributing writing gig for H&R Block's (now defunct) Block Talk blog but once that gig ended, ghostwriting dried up, and she found herself low on options with a student loan debt to pay off.

She felt called to write... but the field was not so kind to her. Deflated and feeling defeated, she thought it was a sign to abandon her dream as a writer. She applied (and was accepted) to a program for a second Bachelor's degree to become a speech-language pathologist. She put all her efforts into it, leaving a writing career that barely paid.

For the next 3.5 years, she tried to finish both the second Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in  Biblical Theology. During this time, her health began to fail. The further she got into the second Bachelor's degree, the sicker she got. She took a break and tried a Master's in the topic that felt like home to her. A terrible accident and a decline in health following it forced her to take another break. With a mountain of student loans still looming -- as well as other familial financial responsibilities she chose to take on -- she decided to finish the second Bachelor's degree once more. She knew she had to be less gung-ho. She finished enough courses to get her license as an SLPA (speech assistant) but her heart was not in it and her savings were zilch (thus not allowing her to pay the $4-6k to get the  SLPA license).

She decided to give up on her own plans and let God completely take over. "Jesus, I trust in You. I will do what You want me to do" became her new motto. Facing the now crazy mountain of ($46+k) student loans (all of which she knew she could pay with an SLPA job; that's why she kept going), she stressed about how she would be able to pay it off. Providentially, for weeks before she gave up on the SLPA goal, St. Francis de Sales (patron saint of writers) kept popping into her life. She wondered if it meant she would be better of giving her writing career a second chance. It was when she decided to give up the SLPA goal that her lovely friend, Theresa, told her about an opportunity to write for a Catholic website Emmy often read. "What? Writing for EpicPew?! Sign me up!" Thus, Emmy's writing career was once again revived.

Now, she didn't actually get paid for a couple of weeks while she was on trial but she didn't care. She was writing once again! It was something she loved and something she felt guilty about letting go. Deep down, she always felt like it was what God might've been calling her to do but it was fear that kept her from pursuing it. Fear... and lack of trust. After stubbornly doing things her way, she let go and let Divine Providence take over. "Alright, God," she often said, "if you want me to do this, I will."

She loved writing for EpicPew. She let her inner Catholicism nerd run free. She also called on the Holy Spirit to enlighten her mind when she felt writer's block would keep from meeting her weekly deadline. Some articles her hits (and how!) and some were misses. It was all par for the course.

Then, one week, disaster struck. She couldn't think of anything to write! She had a looming deadline and nothing to write. Sure, she had back-up topics on reserve but they weren't what she normally wrote about. Still, she felt a tug to use one of them -- on Catholic pick-up lines -- to write that week. Trusting it was a nudge from the Holy Spirit and fresh out of new ideas, she went with it... and she quickly saw that she'd made the right decision.

The article blew up in a way no other previous article had! She was surprised -- most of her previous articles had a more serious tone to them. This article, which allowed her to explore her more fun side, was shared by Catholic publications she often read. She was humbled and in awe. "Okay, Holy Spirit! Thank you for that!" Still, a surprise lay ahead for her.

A few days after the article hit, she was offered a new writing gig as a contributing writer for a new Catholic dating website called CatholicChemistry. The pick-up lines article was just what the creator of the site was looking for. Would she be interested in writing for them? Sure!

She kept the news to herself (and a handful of friends). Then, on August 22nd, 2018, her first article with CatholicChemistry (5 Relationship Discernment Novenas) was published and she was finally able to share her news with the world!

What does this mean for the heroine of this story? Only God knows. All Emmy knows is that God continues to supply her with more writing work, making it clear that He wants her to continue down this writing path. There are, of course, more articles that have been and will be written for EpicPew, CatholicChemistry, Verily Magazine, and other places. She will share them on social media and on her blog. She will continue to write until God calls her to do something else. In the meantime, she hopes to help people grow a little more in their faith and/or vocation by what she writes...

This story has no end as it's still being written. Stay tuned... ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My Hollywood Experience: How I Avoided Becoming a #MeToo Casualty

17-year-old me near the CBS studios, January 2003.
(Note: I've had this post sitting in the drafts since March 9th but I've finally gotten the chance to go back and finish it.)

Some of you longtime readers might've caught the fact that I've alluded to having had a brief flirtation with the entertainment business in my teens into my early 20s. Those who've known me for years remember those days. I honestly don't like talking much about it because I really dislike who I was at the time... and who I was surrounded by during that time. The character of Candace (in the first Will and Lina novel) was inspired by the type of people who were in my life during this time. There was a lot of lying, backstabbing, and mental abuse that I endured from people who were supposedly my friends. Despite my hating going down that memory lane, I'm going to open up about certain things for this post.

I've talked how happy I was to have been able to escape Hollywood in time but I've never really talked about the harder things I faced. After reading all the horror stories when the #MeToo movement exploded, I was grateful that, by the grace of God, I was able to avoid some of the more traumatizing experiences that seem to be the norm with other young actresses and models.

Those who've known me for years -- since before my reversion -- know the obvious key to my not having been another #MeToo casualty: my parents. My father had the nickname "The Lord of the Keys" because of how strict he was. He drove me practically everywhere, even into my early 20s. Part of the reason for that was because my anxiety was so bad that they didn't want to risk having me get a license. The other part was that my parents were overprotective of me my entire life.

I used to hate it. I still cringe when I think about it. I knew they were worried about me and that they wanted to protect me but it was so uncool to have your parents drive you everywhere when you're a teenager. Let's not even talk about how embarrassing it was to still be driven around into my early 20s. Oh, sure, I went out with friends. They used to come to pick me up and then drop me off at home at the end of our outing. I always pitched in for gas money so all they had to waste was a bit of time driving me home.

When I had auditions, my father always took me. Even if he waited outside in the car, he insisted on taking me. Neither of my parents was keen on me entering the biz but they never stopped me from trying... so long as I understood they would not pay for any of it. If I wanted it, I had to work for it. If I wanted headshots, I had to keep working as a retail slave until I earned the money. Dad drove me to auditions but he did it somewhat reluctantly.

At that time, my anxiety was at its peak. The doctor had put me on Paxil which messed up my system. I dropped down to about 105 lbs on the medication, which is very underweight for someone who is 5'7". To give you ladies an idea: the day I turned 18 I was a size 00. Yes, that's a double-zero. I didn't do anything to avoid eating nor have I ever had an eating disorder (thank goodness!). The medication was just incompatible with my body and I couldn't keep the weight on. You'd think that someone that skinny would have no issues with being told to drop weight but... wrong! I vividly remember someone called me a "cow" once; telling me that I needed to lose more weight. I remember standing in front of him, thinking, "What the heck are you smoking?" (Yeah, teenaged me didn't mince words.)

I was told what I needed to change, physically. I was never perfect and I've never been perfect (thank goodness!). I needed to have this and that surgery. I don't know how that didn't bother me or send me into a state of depression but it didn't. I had parents who always made me feel like I was fine as I was. I had an amazing core group of friends who would voice how stupid they thought other people (especially those in the biz) were for wanting to change me. I even remember once, when I was a senior in high school, we all went to the local Carl's Jr to eat after classes were over. I had told them that someone had suggested I lose more weight earlier that week. They promptly told me I was too thin and to ignore them. That was followed by a major junk food feast for all of us. lol.

Things went beyond that, though. The closest I came to having a #MeToo moment was when I was 19. A well-known Hollywood writer on a (then) popular show tried to charm me... and failed. Long story short, I was on the Universal Studios backlot filming something that day. I had arrived early and hadn't had anything to eat at that point so I decided to have lunch away from the ruckus of the shoot. Being an introvert, a sought a somewhat secluded area not far from the backlot cafe to sit and take in the experience I was having that day.

Next thing I know, this guy comes over and starts talking to me. He had business propositions but my warning radar and the red flags went off from the beginning. I was flattered but, please, I knew better. He offered me his information and talked about how his office wasn't far from where I sat and ate. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. I had heard the horror stories of the infamous "casting couches" so I was always on my guard. I didn't (and still) don't think of myself as being this super attractive person but I knew guys with power in Hollywood preyed on young women trying to break into the biz. Strong pass, amigo. I politely excused myself and went back to where we were filming.

There were other minor blips along the years. I dated an actor in my late teens and there was mutual interest with other actors over the years but I gave myself a "no actors (or musicians)" rule for a reason. That one actor was enough for me. To this day, he's still known as "the evil poopy-diaper" (we were super mature 17-18 year-olds when we gave him that nickname) by those who know me during the time that I dated him. He's the reason why I had absolutely no interest in dating for a while. He's the reason why I made a vow to never get involved with actors, at least not in a romantic capacity, ever again. Cliffs notes/spoiler version: he presented himself as being one way (very morally upright) and he was completely different (read: utterly depraved) in private. This, unfortunately, isn't uncommon in the biz.

After years of "yes, no... maybe... I like acting and screenwriting but...", my moment had come. I had recently turned 20 years old when I was offered a contract with a top agency. It was offered less than a week after my meeting with them. They "liked" my look; I looked "racially ambiguous" and a lot younger than I was. I "photographed well." I could book a lot of different jobs. They wanted to make sure I was over 18 so I could go out for commercials and print ads that featured alcohol in them... and book jobs that would allow me to present myself as the adult I was. Yeah, I knew what they meant by that -- they wanted to make sure I was old enough to be dressed in skimpy, revealing outfits (or less) if the job required it.

Immediately, I was uncomfortable with that idea. Those who've known me since childhood known that I've never been comfortable flaunting what God gave me. It was never a "modesty" thing. My parents never told me what modesty was -- I didn't even hear the term until I was in my early 20s after I reverted -- but they did raise me to always keep myself tastefully covered. Not in a way that made me ashamed of being a woman but in a way that said that I was worthy of respect. That was what my parents had drilled into me from a young age: I was a young woman worthy of dignity and respect. No one -- man or woman -- had any right to any part of my body without my consent. The way I dressed should always reflect that respect I deserved.

Did I really want to disappoint my parents (and, really, myself) by signing a contract with an agency that had absolutely no problem pimping me out for jobs? Did I want to be objectified for the sake of selling something? Absolutely not! Even at that time -- and this was a year before I reverted to the faith -- I knew that those print ads exploited women; that they used women's bodies to sell products. (side note: See, everyone? That one Women's Studies course I took my freshman year of college wasn't a total waste, lol.) I didn't want to be just another piece of meat; another woman who used her body for the pleasure of others.

When they called to offer me the contract, I declined it. They were shocked. In fact, everyone was surprised because of how much I had wanted to act. It was my creative outlet (before I realized how much more I love writing). I just couldn't do it. I wasn't comfortable with the prospect of having to go out for jobs that made me uncomfortable. There was something inside of me that yelled, "Run fast and far away and never look back!"

My parents would've supported me. When I told them that I was just going to continue going to college and figuring out what I wanted to major in, they were supportive. In fact, my mom actually told me (only a couple of years ago) that they were relieved when I had declined the contract. My parents always allowed me to make my own mistakes and only stepped in when they thought I was going to make a huge mistake I'd greatly regret. One of my most prized memories is of my father -- a few days before he passed -- telling me he trusted my judgment when it came to guys and in general. That's how I know they didn't step in when I was offered the contract. They knew I would make the right decision when it came down to it.

I know that, despite being away from the Church, my guardian angel and the Holy Spirit were looking out for and guiding me. That inner voice that told me to not sign -- to walk away and not look back? I know that was the Holy Spirit. God had greater plans for me. I can see that now. He was preparing me for my return to the Church. Sure, my life was much easier back then. The only thing I had to worry about was homework for classes and having a ride back home from a concert I went to that week. And, yes, I've had to endure a lot since, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not only was I able to keep myself from having the burden of carrying around shame for something that I would've later regretted, I've come to see just how terrible that lifestyle is.

I'm not saying that everyone's experiences in Hollywood are similar but after hearing all the #MeToo horror stories and reading Leah Darrow's book, The Other Side of Beauty, I became even more grateful for the Holy Spirit's guidance from that lifestyle and all that potential danger. I can now sit here, before the crucifix on my bedroom wall, and thank God for helping avoid being another #MeToo casualty.

Before I end this blog post, I want to say that (small spoiler alert!) my third novel sort of touches on all of this -- what the acting world is like from the POV of those who live it. I started working on it last summer (June 2017), months before the whole #MeToo thing exploded. As many of those in the know will tell you, I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to write it after witnessing the intense idol worship of celebrities, particularly of young women obsessing over young celebrities. My novel doesn't really go there (there are no #MeToo situations in it because I didn't experience it and my novels tend to be cleaner in content) but it will touch on things I've experienced... and still experienced until recently. Even though I'm no longer in the biz (and haven't been since I was 20), I still have a lot of behind-the-scenes insights that most people don't have access to.

So that's my story. If you missed it: I avoided becoming a #MeToo casualty thanks to my parents and (really) the Holy Spirit and my guardian angel. Like I said, God had (and still has) bigger plans for me and that scene was not something that He wanted me to be involved with. I'm so incredibly grateful for having avoided so many potentially traumatic situations and will never take it for granted. Sure, some days I miss how carefree that time of my life was but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world -- not even all the bad I've experienced since.

OH! One more thing: please don't bother looking for me in credits for anything. I've always liked using pseudonyms to keep the craziness away. That and I'm hoping to keep the past in the past. I don't want any of that craziness dug up and brought back into my life. I spent years in cognitive-behavioral therapy due to it. Let's not add to it. lol.

Alright, I have two articles and the third novel to work on so I'll be getting back to that.

I hope you're all having a lovely start of the week.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What Happened During My Divine Office Experiment

Confession: I got sidetracked by my brother's visit which is why I didn't blog sooner. Sorry!

Ah, the Liturgy of the Hours. My former spiritual director thought it would be a good match for me and recommended I try it out. I have tried it... and it's never stuck. I got back into the rhythm of driving Mom to work in the wee morning hours so I figured that since I was up from 4 a.m. until 6-7 p.m. (and then up again at 9-10 p.m. to do nighttime prayers), I could get almost all of the hours in. 

I know I have the luxury of sleeping when I want and doing what I want with (most) of my time. I get up at 4 a.m. to drive Mom to work. Unable to fall back asleep immediately after, I have the chance to pray in the peace and quiet that accompanies the pre-dawn hours. There are no distractions... there is no noise... there is no worry about anything else. Sounds ideal, right?

Let me tell you why it didn't work for me as I was doing it: I got too overwhelmed.

I'm one of those "go big or go home" people. Moderation is hard for me; it's not something I was taught as a child and am having trouble with practicing as an adult. It works out in some situations but backfires in others... and this was one of those times when it backfired. Long story short: I got so caught up in doing the LOTH and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which I love and have been doing for a couple of years now) that I started to sacrifice sleep when it finally hit (the sleepiness, I mean).

I kept saying, "No, I'll never get another chance to pray like this again, especially if God has a husband and family in store for me in the future. If this is going to stick, I need to get in the habit of it now. Besides, I want to be a Benedictine oblate and this is one of the things that's recommended we do." I thought that if I couldn't get through it, even for a couple of weeks, I would fail at being a Benedictine oblate. Oh, poor, sweet, not-too-bright Emmy. lol.

Okay, here's what I learned during this experiment: my perfectionist tendencies made the Divine Office completely overwhelming. Why? Because I tried to hit every hour, on the hour, on top of the other devotions I have (Little Office, Rosary, and the Angelus). It was too much, too soon. I didn't wade into the Divine Office; I took dove off into the deepest part forgetting I had a (metaphorically) weak limbs that couldn't help me to break the surface again. "Faithpalm," anyone?

This is what I decided to do: this week, I've let myself take a break from continuing the LOTH as I try to catch up on sleep. Okay, I don't actually have a choice when it comes to this because I've already missed two nights of prayers (Rosary included one of those days) because I'm so exhausted that I just sleep through the alarms from 6-7 p.m. until 3-4 a.m. the next morning. I need to sleep because without sleeping I cannot focus on the prayers; they just blur together and I go through the motions without actually focusing on what I've just read. Depending on how the rest of this week goes, I may also take the following week to try to get back into my regular sleeping schedule and then try the Divine Office once again.

New game plan: 
  • Continue with the Little Office... but I'm not setting my alarms to hit every hour (6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m.). Instead, I have my usual alarm at 8-9 a.m. I'll try to pray Matins and Lauds (and depending on the hour I wake up, Prime or Terce) when I wake up. 
  • Once I have that down (again), incorporate the Divine Office whilst reminding myself that as a future oblate, I'm not required to pray ALL the hours. I am a laywoman and I have things to do; though, ideally, I would like to be able to do all the hours. This one will be hard because of my perfectionist tendencies.
Has anyone else fallen into a similar pattern with the LOTH? Does anyone have any advice of how best to go about incorporating it into daily life... and/or not feeling bad about having "so much time" yet not being able to pray all the hours? Your suggestions would be most welcomed!

Alright, that's it for now. I have several days of emails to catch up on and want to get to them while everything is nice and quiet at Casa Emmy.

I hope you're all having a lovely start of the week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pre-Dawn Hours and the Angelus

Lately, I've discovered two very important things:

1) I love the fact that I'm up at during the pre-dawn hours. There's something so beautiful about watching the world change from dark to light; about seeing the first rays of light of the day peeking over the local mountain range. I've always loved it but I've become fonder of it recently. This is how I learned that much more of an early bird than a night owl. Who knew?!...


2) I may never give up praying the Angelus at all 3 times a day, ever again (barring circumstances out of my control).

The Angelus is a new prayer/devotion for me. I was first introduced to it by the FSSP priest who serves as the spiritual adviser for the young adult group I'm a part of in our FSSP church community. During a field trip we had -- which was also my first time meeting with the group -- visiting a local California Mission, the bells rung at noon and he gathered us together and led us in praying the Angelus. It was such a beautiful moment (one of many during the trip) but I never really picked it up until about a week or two ago.

I honestly don't remember how it began. I think I was searching for the "correct" times for the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours (e.g., "Sext" for noon, etc.) when I stumbled into the Angelus again. I remembered it from the trip and decided to read more about it.

Did you know that laity used to stop what they were doing to pray 3 Hail Marys in honor of the Incarnation when they heard the church bells ringing (which signaled a time for prayer for the monastic community)? This was done during "simpler" times and there are few places that still do it, most notably the Vatican and traditional convents and monasteries.

"Well," I thought to myself after reading about it. "I can't get back to sleep after getting up at 4 a.m. and I don't really have much to do in these pre-dawn/early morning hours so I'll give it a try." (side note for new readers: as the sole driver in the house, I drive Mom to work at 4 a.m. to save on Uber/Lyft. That's why I'm up that early.)

I saw that most people who take up this devotion pray it at least twice a day -- at noon and 6 p.m. -- but that it was traditionally prayed 3 times a day; at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. "Okay, I can do that..." and I have done that every day since. I've even gotten up at 6 a.m. (my iPod touch alarm is set for that time) on days that my mother has off because there is something about it that has enriched my prayer life and my life in general.

I don't know how else to describe it other than feeling a peace when I pray it every day, 3 times a day. I'm very fortunate to have the flexibility to pray it that often and I certainly am not taking this luxury for granted because I don't know what God has in store for me, in terms of my vocation. I don't know if I'll be able to do this for the rest of my life or not but I'm so grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Does anyone else do this? Perhaps you may not get to pray all three but perhaps one or even two of them? I'd love to hear if you do since I personally don't know of anyone else and I'd love to hear others' experiences praying it!

Anyway, I just wanted to share this and ask if anyone else has done/does it as well.

This is just part one of a series of "how these new (to me) prayers and devotions have transformed my life." Like I teased in the previous post, this blog is taking a new direction to coincidence with the personal changes I've gone through recently so... expect more of these "brief" posts, written more frequently. :)

I hope you all have a lovely start of the week!

As always, thank you for reading and God bless!