Tuesday, December 4, 2007

journal 1


Thanks for this day. You always know exactly what my soul needs—all those beautiful women and their children…what a gift.

Never let me forget that I am called to be Your hands, Your feet, Your mouth, Your heart—continue teaching me how to love, really love. Generous true love.

Today I could have given myself so much more—I could have loved more, I could have given more in the time I had, I could have reached out more…I’m really sorry for not giving all that I could. I need your grace to do better tomorrow. Charity, self-denial and generosity—I need all these.

Never allow me to forget what touched my soul so deeply today—

One of the clients of the Women’s Day Shelter, Misty, verbalized what I have known since I was 5. “it means so much to see y’all here today—it really makes us feel like people care about us, ‘cause in the eyes of society we’re not nothin’ to anybody. So seein’ all you young people coming here today to help us, really makes us feel like we’re worth somethin’.”

Jesus, that was you.

I saw you everywhere today—in the eyes of some many women worrying about where they would sleep, sleeping on the couches so they could watch over their babies that night and keep them safe…how many times today did I take meeting you for granted, how many times did I not give you my full smile because of the “differences” I saw? I’m sorry for taking you for granted today.

Today was the best way to open my heart for Advent—open my eyes to the gunk I need to clear out of my heart so I can prepare it for Your birth—I want it to be nice and soft and cozy so its not more of a shock coming into our world.

I love you so much—thank you for loving me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

jessica, this one's for you

i've been meditating on love a lot lately, and i think i can summarize my conclusions in this phrase,
"it hurts so good". i have decided that whatever God wants from me in my life, i might as well say yes without hesitation even if it kills me because He knows what will make me happiest--and why would i deny Him what is rightfully His? it's not my place to say no to Him. No matter what i do, no matter what my vocation is, no matter what He asks of me there are two types of days in anything and everything, the ones that suck and the ones that rock.

just embrace love and love generously.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I am sorry to keep you waiting....

Well hello there friends! I wonder if anyone still checks this since I am so spontaneous in updating….


It was very odd to have a different kind of celebration this year. I spent it in Rhode Island for those of you who didn’t hear—all the coworkers from all over the USA met there for a week of renewing ourselves—it was totally needed. currently I am sitting on the plane back to Atlanta (its no longer so hot…) and I feel like kinda a big deal typing away on my laptop. J then there is this guy from first class who keeps walking back to my aisle, looking at me and then goes back up to first class half smiling. I can’t decide if I should be flattered or creeped out. I think if he comes back again, I think I might ask him if I can help him with something, but then again maybe I won’t because it is really funny to just watch him walking back and forth.

Anyway—life has been interesting. Last weekend I had the privilege of my dad visiting for a father/daughter event with Pure Fashion (an apostolate I am working in) and just spending QT with my Daddy was so much fun! He left Monday and Wednesday I was off to Boston to then get to RI. Boston is so beautiful! I actually (mom, I didn’t tell you this yet because I didn’t want you to freak out…)met this woman on the plane—she was an artist from Russia who created Russian icons for churches. Needless to say we had a lot to talk about and somehow through her broken English and my smile and nods we carried on a conversation for about 2 hours and when we arrived in Boston, she asked what I would be doing. i had a few hours to kill, and she suggested I go into the city—and she would show me where to go. So together, we hopped onto the metro and she helped me into the city. About an hour later, the rest of my team met me in the city and we walked around watching the shopping centers amidst the cobblestone streets turn into Christmas wonderlands. I decided I am even more obsessed with Christmas this year than ever before for two reasons:

1. my family—I have a whole new appreciation for them. I miss them terribly and God has opened my eyes tot the fact that it doesn’t matter what I do, where I live, but it does matter about who is with me and my family is the most important. Thanks goodness I have fallen in love with the Nasti, cause that’s where I’ll be for awhile I think.

2. JESUS! This year I am so excited to live Christmas and Advent. Christ is the most amazing gift I could ever ask for and He has chosen to be born in my heart. This year, I choose to love Him.

My getaway to RI is just what my soul needed—I’ve needed time to process so many things that have happened and Christ just helped me walk through all of it. There is a song I heard at the first Mass I went to at Pinecrest (the high school I work at) that goes “see I am making all things new, heart of my heart let me die with you, Father my heart is ready, I am your servant, I am your handmaid” well I started sobbing in church when I heard it. (welcome to my life) everyday in prayer since that day those words have been constantly in my thoughts. This pat week, I was praying about all the crap I was feeling and He sang that song to me so gently, and when he was through, He just softly added, “you are here Maria, because I want to make you new.” And once again the flood gates dropped down and I just sobbed. He loves me so much, sometimes I just get so overwhelmed. John 15:16 says “you did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Basically that was my AHA! My thanksgiving was all about that, that Christ has chosen me, and not only that, but that also Mary gave me the grace to choose Him too. Pretty much everything that is going on above us is completely amazing.

I also got a shot of spiritual expresso—I am so excited to get back into gear with my girls and doing fun stuff with them, to pump them up about Jesus. I realized all I want is for everyone to realize the gift of Jesus, how if you love Him, you there are no problems. If you love Him, you’ll love others, and you can do anything as long as it is done and is for love…so the moral of this is just love Jesus.

I am shamelessly listening to NSYNC Christmas. Oh wow, I know—nothing says Christmas like NSYNC. Totally kidding. I don’t have anything else of my computer…something is going to have to be done about that. Josh Groban has a Christmas CD out if St. Nick wants to send anything to me…you can buy it at Starbucks I know for sure, but I’m sure other places too. J

I know this is short considering the time it has been since I last updated…I have a problem just living in the moment, and then moving on….maybe I’ll get better eventually!

Know that I love all of you, I appreciate your prayers and know you are in mine!

28 days until I hit da nati again!

Ps—Mariah Carey Christmas just came on—mom your favorite secular Christmas song (you gotta love Jan, you totally know she said that) “All I want for Christmas is YOU!”

See you soon!

PPS—he just walked back again. Hysterical.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Life is Full of Blessings...I love it.

Jumping out of bed this morning at 4:55 a.m., pulling on the sweats and throwing on a tee, searching through my drawer for a matching pair of socks, grabbing my Nike’s as I scurry out the door for my morning run, I was PELTED (which means as I began my run I began crying, do you even realize how exhausting that is? Not to mention it is 5 in the morning) with this immense amount of gratitude. And to top it off, the first song on my iPod was Beautiful One and I LOVE that song and I also love Jeremy Camp and that is the version I have, so it was amazing. You know, God has been slowly “breaking” my heart so it can grow bigger, and when I say slowly, I mean like watching the clock all day sitting in your seat doing NOTHING, just watching time pass you by. SLOWLY. But it is good slowly, I think.

The first thing was my family—its so funny how the best thing can be so close to you and you overlook it, or push it away. I don’t know what I would do without each one of them. I had the light that mom, dad and all you crazy siblings I love so much—each one of you create my ‘church’ and I love you so much.

Then my extended family, which I can no longer limit to only blood relatives, because as everyone saw at my birthday, there are so many people whom I love so much, I can’t limit the term “family” just to a few—you all are play an integral role in my formation as the person I am today, and I thank you so much.

Ok, JESUS! I am left without words to describe how much I love Him….its kinda a healthy obsession J while I was in adoration today I just cried, because for the first time in my life I can honestly and peacefully say to Him, “Thy will be done”. He is always going to take care of me, and all He wants is for me to be happy. What a relief!

My past—the good, the bad, the ugly, but especially the ugly—how much Christ has trusted me, to let me mess up and bring about His glory…WOW. What a privilege. I mean this in a good way—if He would ask me to do it again, knowing everything I would go through, I would say yes without a hesitation. He is that good.

So there was more to the list, but it consists of things without much explanation, I feel that these are the biggies, because I could go on and on and on and on. Allow me to spare you more of my babbling.

Things here are going great…I am still just chillin at the Academy (Pinecrest, that is) and loving it! The consas are going out of town next week, so you know what that means…HOLLA! Totally kidding. It means my butt is going to be kicked by apostolate! YEAH! But that’s why I’m here….first a woman and then a saint….step by step.

I love all of you. I am so thankful for your part in my life—my Holy Hour tonight is for you!

LIFE is full of Beauty.

Notice it.

Notice the bumble bee, the small child, the smiling faces.

Smell the rain and feel the wind.

Live your life to the fullest and fight for your dreams.

~Ashley Smith

Monday, September 24, 2007

Alright, alright already!

So after i have received multiple complaints(fr. kyle, mike burke and dad, cough,cough) that i basically ignore y'all (yes, i am developing a southern drawl, but only in writing. weird...)

i have an excuse...ok, no i really don't. i just get distracted. oh, and i have been planning 1,001 retreats--i hope i'm a pro by the end of all this.

the girls always make fun of me because i claim (behind the consas' backs of course) that all i do is hang out at Pinecrest Academy. they never believed me until they came one day and realized, that yes, in fact, i never have any reason to get stressed, because i make people hot chocolate.

i am the personal attention professional--and let me tell you, it totally stretched me everyday--i suck at details. i forget everything, and quiet frankly, i am lazy, so i do the bare minimum always. with everything. i am breaking that habit. slowly but surely. in confession and in spiritual direction weekly, i am constantly taking deep breaths and reminding myself that i am in fact taking baby steps, but they are moving forward. and the tortoise wins the race, so thats inspiring ( i hope you are hinting at my sarcasm).

so i can't express how excited i am to coem home! only 3 more days!

i just got back from a Triduum--and i just want you all to know my tactics and then i have to go to bed. i tend to be slightly blunt and this brings people to unexpected reality checks. well, there were many girls who were resistant to come on the retreat becasue they would be missing the football game. now, despite my sympathy for missing a social event, you don't understand--they are 1. obsessed with their school, 2. all their girlfriends will be at the retreat 3. aren't you over football games by junior year? and 4. their football is quite a disgrace.

so my sympathy is about nonexistant also going through these points, and my mind is focussed on the fact that we all need to work on making sacrifices. so this is my speech at one of the lunch tables on the tuesday before the weekend.

there are a few disclaimers i should make:
1. i do not at all feel bad about anything that escaped my mouth
2. my "supervisior" is probably the sweetest, calmest most charitable woman i know--so gentle and nonoffensive, and i had to tell her what i said (which makes this even funnier, imagine how she reacted)
3. this little schpeel got 37 girls to the retreat--the largest ever--i'm learning how to follow the Holy Spirit, finally.
4. the devil is a little shit. i'm sorry, it is very necessary. he THRIVES on destroying goodness. DUH, you may say, but you could feel his presence in prepping for this weekend.

imagine--high school luch room. all girls, planning (on a tuesday) what they will be wearing to the game and about homecoming and who is going with Max the hottiehottie German exchange student who is forbidden to have a girlfriend. they still all fight over him.

Maria saunters in and begins: "so why are you guys talking abotu what you're wearing to the game? you're coming to the retreat."

girls reply: "yea, after the game"

maria: "then i guess you are coming"

girls: "WHAT?"

maria : you know what dorrie said about coming late--she's not having it

(a plethora of whining begins and i begin to see red...i HATE whinning)

maria: ok, seriously. lets be serious here. 1.) your football team ,well girls out of love, i need you to know they suck. 2.)i don't know if you know this, but Christ was CRUCIFIED, which ,means He DIED, as in His life was over, done, kaput, on a CROSS for YOU.
i don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty big deal, a HUGE sacrifice. i think that if He in His humanity could do this for your unworthy soul, you could probably give up ONE weekend for Him.

(maria experiences shocked faces and more whining)

Maria: ok, let me ask you this--if Jesus was sitting here in front of you in my place and asked you to come spend a weekend with Him, what would you say?

(they all mumble, 'well, yes')

Maria: YOU HYPOCRITS!!! Jesus lives inside me, so in me asking you, i am acting like Jesus and you are telling me no, which is you also tellin Jesus, your Love, your Savior, no.

(Maria gets up and leaves)

Smooth...way smooth.

At the end of the retreat, i have 5 or so girls come up and thank me for guilting them into going to the best retreat of their life. Thank you Jesus, for using me as your spokes-person. Anytime you want to cause a ruckus, i'm your gal.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Greetings from HOTlanta!

Only the best city ever!

I am having a great time here—life is amazing. God is so good—I live in the most amazing apartment, it doesn’t have any furniture in it except 10 beds—there are only 5 of us that live here—we really only sleep and shower here and on Friday nights have girl night….

I work in the Legionary High School here and if I ever doubted what God has wanted me to do with my life, I have totally found it here—I am basically a youth minister—planning the retreats and just meeting the girls and having fun with them and they are so great!

I actually have my first retreat on Monday, so please pray for me and all the girls!

We have had a plethora of hilarious things happening here—our apartment has been infested by cockroaches and I thought I was going to pee my pants when one of my fellow coworkers freaked out and then jumped up on our island and cried how the babies were crawling all over her—it was so funny, I hope I can attach the video to this because we watch it everyday and laugh harder and harder each time—it never gets old.

Well for those of you who know about my obsession with Mother Teresa, get a load of this—I started reading a book with many of her insights complied in it—its called “No Greater Love”—I cry everyday because she is so amazing and inspires me so much. I am working on giving until it hurts, because that is the only way I will really be able to love to the fullest capacity, but anyway the exciting thing is that I am going to go to PA for a weekend commemorating her 10 anniversary into Heaven—the consecrated women didn’t even know about my obsession until after they asked me to go and I nearly cried. I am so excited! It’s the first weekend in October, and you can bet I am counting down.

I think I need to describe to you the individuals I live with—right now there are only 5 of us, like I said, but we are waiting for 2 more—a Mexican and a German, but that’s all we know.

Let’s begin with Elyse. Basically all you need to say is Columbus and that’s her. For some reason the nickname totally fits. She has just graduated high school and has the most amazing boyfriend who writes her one letter a day (I try to not be jealous, I just live vicariously through her). She is extremely hysterical—she’s the one who thought the cockroaches were crawling all over her.

Angela is actually from the Atlanta area and was a co-worker last year in Chicago—weird—her and Elyse are long lost bff’s. We live in a small world. Angela is another crack up—she has a big smile and bigger heart, but is a pistol. She is number 4 of 11, and the typical middle child, extremely sarcastic, but it is so nice to have her here letting us know what to do yaddayadda.

We just had a new girl come, Clarissa, she was unexpected, but totally welcomed. She’s really quiet and a neat-freak, which is good because none of the rest of us are, and our apartment hadn’t been cleaned until she arrived. She’s warming up and helping me learn my espanol. I will be fluent by the end of this year.

And then we have all our favorite, Kritzia. Kritzia is from the Philippines and so kind she almost seems stupid. But she is hilarious. Its just little things that she does that is so hysterical. She has an accent, so I think that is why so many things are hilarious—like she said, “maybe I should just walk it out, walk it out”. Now, this doesn’t seem funny, but those are lyrics to a rap song and hearing her say that in the context of which she did was so funny Elyse fell to the ground. We also call her Princess Kritzia because she has never ironed or done the laundry or cooked before (she looked at the stove and said, “what do you do with this?”) because she has ‘helpers’ at her house. Now, this is a cultural thing in the Philippines, but absolutely hysterical. Everyone just needs a Kritzia.

I just got back from my first retreat experience, and the person I wanted to see most was Kritzia—that’s just how she is for us. We love her—basically, she completes us.

My first retreat was amazing—God worked His magic as always. I am obsessed with the retreats and once again I am totally excited to do this for the rest of my life! it was with sophomore girls, and lets just say that working with sophomores has never been high on my priority list because I don’t like them. I like to say I am allergic. Seriously, I’m sure I was allergic t myself at that time, that’s why I was such a piece of work, I was having a reaction to myself. But praise be to Jesus, I a.) did not kill anyone and b.) won them over completely. At school on Wednesday they all saw me in the hall and were like “hey, what’s up”—we’re tight. It’s a wonder what God can do…

Just yesterday I had the most beautiful meditation—the passage we were using was the loaves and fishes, and when I began to pray on it, Jesus gave me this awesome image. He and I were in this stadium ( I have a hard time with numbers), it was totally full, and He looked at me and said, “ok, what do you have to give them?” and I just looked at Him and almost started laughing…. “ugh, nothing—I don’t have something for all of them” and He just looked at me and asked me to give Him my heart. Of course I gave it to Him, but didn’t expect what next happened. He took my heart and broke it into pieces and began passing it all throughout the stadium. Looking at me, He said, “I need you to love them. Every one of them. You need to give them all of yourself—that’s how they will receive me.” After He said that, there were baskets placed at my feet and He continued explaining, “and because of that, I will give you all the love you need, in excess, like all this left-over.”

He is so good to me—I also felt like He told me in adoration the other day when I was freaking out about life, that He has pursued me, and I need to expect some guy to pursue me in the same way He has if he is really worth it. So, basically….Jesus loves me!

You’re all in my prayers—and I promise I miss you. Its weird, especially with school starting and everything….bittersweet. I guess I’m learning to sacrifice, and that’s awesome!

In closing, some good ole Mother Teresa to warm the soul,

“This is something all of us need to learn. The chance to share our love with others is a gift from God. May it be for us just as it was for Jesus. Let’s love one another as He has loved us. Let’s love one another with undivided love. Let’s experience the joy of loving God and loving one another.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Little Ditty about crazy Maria

So…I use that word a lot to begin things….maybe I should stray away from it, but I feel like it is so me.

Alright, so I’m heading to the ATL, the 30092 zip code, the 770 area code and I am so excited I can hardly stand it. Now for those of you who know me, (and I hope all of you feel as though you slightly know me through this blog) you know that there is a story behind this excitement. If you know me, you know that I like things to go my way, and remaining in the great USA was nowhere in my plans. I can picture you thinking, “this is not a natural Maria reaction” and you are correct, it is not. It is supernatural, I have received, let me rephrase, been FLOODED with graces from the love of my life, Jesus.

Here’s the deal—we had a silent retreat, a Tridium (I am completely perplexed as to how to spell it…I’m sure I’ll learn before this year is over) but anyway, I was able to have 72 hours of silence to spend time with Jesus. It was great—I needed it. Granted, I had a hard time staying awake during all the talks even though they were fabulous, I just can’t focus. The most fabulously funny old Mexican priest, Fr. Lorenzo Gomez and my favorite things he said were a.) (in regards to a children) I told her just to grab her monkeys and go home. b.) just pick up your cross and shut up and c.) if God really wanted, he could have a raccoon do it (in regards to spreading the Kingdom). Hilarious.

Jesus had an agenda for me….you know how I feel about agendas—I am slowly learning to appreciate them. I had my first general confession—for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is confessing all you sins of your entire life. Basically, I had a panic attack in the chapel when Christ asked me to do this—I love confession. Hahaha. But in all seriousness, this was the BEST experience of me life. After I went, I was completely transparent and all smiles. My spiritual director stopped me, smiled and said, “you just had your first general confession, huh?” Shocked, by her inclination, I asked, “how the heck did you know?” giggling she replied, “I could see your smile a mile away. And there is only one reason for that-extreme grace.” Jesus, you are beautiful. He kinda was like “hey re, you trust me yet? I always know what is best for you” little did I know those graces would come so in handy.

The next little surprise was a beautiful image me shedding a layer of myself at the foot of the cross. I’ve been struggling a lot with become dependent and obeying the schedule and rules…surprised? Didn’t think so. I have this incredibly hilarious way of thinking that all rules and boundaries exclude me. But I have really been trying hard, and the fact that I desire to surrender that pride makes Jesus smile. When my first layer shed off, He smiled at me and said, “thank you for surrendering your first layer. Now things are going to change.”

I really really love Him and His gentle tenderness.

Another grace—I was just rackin’ up the graces. I was totally loving it—like yea Maria! You are so gonna rock out Jesus when you go out of the country. Ha!

So the big moment came at the conclusion of our retreat—revealing of the destinations! As the suspense grew, we grabbed hands and the room looked like the Miss America Pageant—we’re all awaiting the judges final results, squeezing hands, tears in eyes, breathing quickening….it was disgustingly hysterical.

First announced, international. Mexico, not me. Phillippeans, not me. Ireland, not me. Even Canada, not me. Jesus….are you thinking?

Now we’re in the states….ok, well I better be going to California. That’s the only cool place. Chicago, whew! Not me. Louisiana, thank God not me. St. Louis, whew. Not me. Naples, FLA., not me….little bummer. Atlanta, GA—dundundun! Maria Lees! You’re joking—it’s not possible—I plastered a REALLY fake smile across my face. We go to the chapel before we call our new directors and parents. I kneel in my usual place and the screaming begins. I think I should take this moment to express a slight disclaimer. I need a man who treats me like Jesus treats my mildly (ok, lets be honest, flaming) hot side. I go nuts. JESUS! What are you thinking? You are crazy mad up there in high heaven! You better come down here right now and inspire in my directors that there was some kind of mistake and I am hightailing my way outta this country! You are nuts! You, you, you, I am soooo mad at you! What are you thinking?

His comeback—are you finished?


I’m sorry you’re upset. But I know what is best for you, where you are most needed, where you will most grow. You have to trust me and be at peace.

And just like that, that comforting pep talk washed peace over me. From that moment, I was excited. And let’s be serious—I will be in the American hub of the movement, I am going to learn so much, it’s not even funny! I’ll be working with the Young Women section, which is high schoolers, so that is a total blessing and my team gets the best of both worlds, an apartment 2 minutes from the consecrates—our own space, but all the graces of living with the consecrates. Jesus does spoil me. J

And so my adventure is about to begin—in less than 48 hours actually. I’m afraid my suitcases are going to be over weight, and that my carry on is actually too big for a carry on. God will take care of it though, He always does.

I am also very excited because I will probably be able to come home for my birthday, which would be so exciting—I always forget how much I love my family, which is my church, which is the ultimate human reality of Christ for me, until I am away from them and can’t call when I want to hear all their sweet voices and entertaining news—there is ALWAYS something new going on.

I am sorry I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like too, or as much as you would like me too….i’m going to try and be better, but I only have email time once a week and it takes quite a chunk of time to relay to you all the exciting things that are going on!

Which reminds me—please keep me posted on you and what is going on with you and your family—I love hearing stories and keepin’ one foot in the “loop” if you will.

I have another song for you to ponder—Jesus love me to sing to Him, and He has a funny way of giving me the songs to sing. This is the most recent—I hope you enjoy, and if any of you have it, can I please borrow it when I come home for Christmas?

Your Love is Extravagant

Casting Crowns

Your Love

Is extravagant

Your friendship


I feel like I am movin’

To the rhythm of your grace

Your fragrance intoxicating

in our secret place

Your Love

Is extravagant

Spread wide

In the arms of Christ

Is the love that covers sin

No greater love

Have I ever know

You consider me a Friend—

So capture my heart again.

Allow Jesus to capture and completely love your heart—and love Him completely back!

Count on my prayers!

My new address is directly below this post—I will state once again love letters, care packages, are always accepted and appreciated!