Tuesday, December 4, 2007

journal 1

Jesus,

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….

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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?

Yea.

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

Intimate

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!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Info

So I am going to Atlanta. I am so excited--Jesus has been teaching me humility and bulldozing me with graces....more details to come.

But here is my new address--I already have it memorized, sick, i know. I guess I'm hopeful....

Maria Lees
Domus Mariae Atlanta
4040 Gunnin Rd.
Norcross, GA 30092

and my email is leesmaria@gmail.com

love letters and care packages are always accepted. i actually need some new nylons, specifically some thigh highs in the "nude" hue if possible.

Thanks for your continual prayers and love! Count on my prayers!

More to come soon...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hello Friends!

Well as promised, I have a long awaited love story, and I’ll explain later. I want you to be waiting in suspense because 1.) it is that good and 2.) God is that good and 3.) Mary is an amazing mother.

So the YFE….

Fun and jam packed—5,000 plus personas allĂ­.

I was working mostly “behind the scenes” and didn’t receive much of a chance to get in the action unless it was with 7-9 years olds, because I was a K4J team leader….the teams were supposed to only be 10 kids and somehow I ended up with 14, with 10 of them boys. Every morning was an interesting morning, we’ll leave it at that.

Thursday I believe it was, once again all the days blur into one giant day, I experienced a bit of a meltdown while in adoration and it went something like this

“Jesus….i love you. But I am so done with this, these rules, these norms, these nylons—I am going straight to back to Cincy after this”

And then the rebuttal, “Maria, that’s funny, because I think this is where I want you to be. So I guess you’re gonna have to decide, your will or My Will.”

Fine. If you put it like that…….

But then, all the amazing things started happening, and I realized that in fact Jesus does love me (I don’t believe I have actually ever doubted that reality).

Friday I was asked by one of my best friend, Ashley’s, parents to go to a special dinner with Fr. Alvaro, our General Director. What an amazing experience. I arrived in front of the largest house I have ever seen, I thought it was a museum, was admist the elite of Regnum Christi and found myself completely enjoying watching the interaction of priests with these individuals. Cardinal Rode (he is in charge of religious in Rome), who invited himself to the YFE because he is obsessed with RC was there and I called him “Father” on accident…whoops. And then I met an older woman named Claire from California who has basically adopted the Legionaries—seriously. She has bought a pool table, fuse ball and decided to buy a air hockey table while we were talking to they come over often. So this is how the other half lives. Awesome. She also invited me to visit whenever I wanted and assured me that I will always have a place to stay in Callie….dude (I feel as though that is the way you respond in Californian.)

So this is my thought process, “good things come in 3s….those were 3 goodies, and I know (exercising my childlike faith) that I will meet Eduardo. There is no way in high heaven that my Father would not let me meet him.” Well, being Saturday and all, I placed my desire to meet the man of my dreams in Mary’s hands. I guess I figured that my mother would do anything for me that was within her control and power, so Mary who is tight with Jesus, my Savior, can pretty much pull some strings for me.

Lets just say that the entire day was a tease. I would see Eduardo from a slight distance, I would get oh so close to stroking his beautifully luscious black locks, but I always missed the moment. I decided against the crowd of 15 year old girls running after him to become like that, because who wants to say that they basically attacked their husband upon their first meeting? I mean, that would be so embarrassing.

At last I finally saw my chance to steal a moment with him—and then got called away to partake in a special mission—transporting a full drum set from the world congress center to a hotel on the other end of the street. Ok, this was a special mission—and now it is time for you to sit down, or else the excitement will overtake your body, you will start shaking, possibly go into convulsions and collapse. Quite frankly, I don’t want my fabulous love life to be the cause of any injuries—it would them loose all spunk for me, not to mention what it is ultimately going to do to you.

While in the middle of transporting this large, bulky, awkward drum set, a very charitable dad asked if he could help. We graciously accepted his offer, but shot down his suggestion of crossing the street to go directly into the South Tower of the Omni Hotel. We were on the side of the street with the North Tower and found it prudent to just go in there and go across the skywalk to get to the 15th floor of the south tower. Once inside the lobby, I volunteered myself to venture to find a pushy thing to pack up and take across. I found one downstairs, got in the elevator and started up to the lobby. Once out of the elevator lost in my thoughts about only God knows what, I turn the corner and see can’t believe my eyes—straight in front of me are the luscious locks I longed to stoke. You know how Bugs Bunny sees like a girl bunny and his jaw slams to the floor? You now know what I looked like for a split second. Quickly I composed myself, I think I may have pushed a priest out of my way (sorry Father), grabbed the beautiful hand of my love and sinking deeply into his transcending blue eyes said, “Hi.”

Hhhhhhhmmmmmmmmm……(sweet sigh)

Our conversation continued for a few minutes while all time stopped and it was just him and I holding hands expressing to each other how we were praying for each other and we would continue to do so (I’m not kidding) and then he was whisked away, gently saying, “it was great to meet you”. As soon as a turned from him, my body started to frantically shake, my friends assured me that I was totally collected and I invited them all to our wedding on the spot. I knew he would want the first witnesses there.

The rest of the night I was floating. I still levitate when I think about it—and thank Mary for being such an amazing mother and pulling through.

Those of you who are curious to meet the man I will be marrying can go to www.bellathemovie.com and not only meet him, but also get extremely pumped for Bella’s world premiere October 26. It is going to be super important that there is a huge presence at the box office that opening weekend so to show Hollywood that it is possible to have a successful movie with moral values. Please, please, please check it out and mark your calendars!

I am sorry it has taken me so long to update….i hope it was worth the wait! Blessings!

PS—I’m going to Atlanta….and am totally excited! Sorry Begona! J

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You Are Loved

So much has happened since I last updated. I hope I expressed my deep emotions for Roger the Defensive Driving course instructor…I think I have. (I draft on word because I can’t get on the internet in my room…I pull the whole copy and paste business)

This installment of the recap of my journey is going to really long, but totally exciting. So much has happened and I am on the brink of so many exciting things to happen. My question, where do I begin?

I think I will begin with my announcements….tomorrow, Thursday July 19, 2007 is a day to mark down as one of the best days of my life….I will be embarking upon mankind. Yes, after 2 weeks of being formed in my spiritual bubble at Queen of the Family Retreat Center, I will be escaping the premises to take a trip to the amazing, the wonderful, the Mecca of consumers all across the U.S.—yes I am describing the one, the only, my haven, Target (I really hope you have said Tarje as if I am speaking to you in French, or it is not as exciting). Jesus has been blessing me left and right this week. Target is merely the icing on the cake. But first, allow me to explain my sick obsession with Target. While I was still a resident of Colerain, I would make my visit to Target at least 3 times a week. I just enjoyed looking around. Walking up and down the aisles de-stresses me. It’s totally sick and twisted, I realize. But I have been really yearning to just venture down the aisles marked in red, searching, imagining, picking up and putting down….and tomorrow at last my day has come! I actually told my Spiritual Guide yesterday that I was really missing it, and after announcing the dress code for the YFE (which is in less than a week! Eeeeeeee!) me and many others going through the realization that no we did not own a black skirt or multiple white shirts, a Target run had to be put on the agenda. What a sweet surprise.

The other ways Jesus has touched my heart this week…..

  • ECYD workshops instead of classes
  • Cinnamon rolls at breakfast
  • Ice cream sitting in the dish room—we all got to finish it out of this huge box—but see, you have to imagine this. 45+ young women swarming like bees to honey, spoon in hand, willing to sacrifice people’s eyes for chocolate…hilarious, totally unlady like and oh so freaking delicious after I was raving chocolate all day. Thank you Jesus.
  • On the day I am craving pizza, my favorite food on this planet, I sit down for lunch and what is put in front of me, none other than steaming fresh pizza
  • That night, we had French fries and real salad for dinner (by real salad I mean romaine lettuce. Yum!)
  • Adoration….I got to sing to Jesus and it was amazing.
  • New jeans in the smallest size I have ever bought in my entire life

So that’s been my little gifts from Jesus. I am so spoiled.

Now for the meat of this “installment”. As promised a recap from Missions. Let’s just say that I was not aware that I have potential to be as flexible as God proved that I am. He’s kinda sneaky.

Now lets talk about this quickly—I am told we are going to the ghetto. I was reminded that I was going to the ghetto about 27,000 times in one sentence. So I’m prepping myself for Over the Rhine, right? Like I am expecting to get shot. No big thang. I exercised my new favorite prayer, “Lord, give me the grace to be a saint, the stamina to be a missionary and the courage to die a martyr” and hopped in my car for a day of Missions.

Well, much to my surprise, we arrive to a parish in an area equivalent to College Hill. Laughter burst from me (charitable laughter). The other girls I was with were FREAKING OUT. Like ridiculously freaking out. One told me she was scared for my safety because I didn’t see the danger in the situation. At this point I am choking on my laughter as I mutter a “thanks for the concern”, but want to let out, “do you realize I want to me Mother Teresa. I want to be in Calcutta, with the poorest of the poor, in probably one of the more dangerous countries to be in right now” but, out of charity and prudence, I left it there. Hysterical. I’m laughing right now thinking about it. Mom, dad—thank you for nurturing my love for all people even in “dangerous” situations.

Allow me to explain Missions to those of you who don’t know what Missions are. Missions are when a group of missionaries go door to door and talk to people, inviting them to church, confession, etc and then invite the children to a mini-camp for the afternoon. Can you understand why I flipped when I heard this is what I would have to do? But Mary gave me the graces to suck it up and just do it. By the end of the weekend, I actually enjoyed it. There are 2 amazing stories I have to share, but first I have to say that I love little boys. I want to somehow upload pictures onto this page (I don’t how, and of course I did not take any of the pictures. Everyone else did. I had my camera, but I was just too busy living.) but there is the cutest picture of me and my little boy fan club. Adorable. This weekend God confirmed my vocation of motherhood and told me to take a deep breath because there are going to be a lot of little boys and all of my hair might be gone by the time they are grown, but there are procedures for that, right? J

Anyway, my stories…the first day as I was wondering the streets with my team member, I approached a homeless man aimlessly pacing the sidewalk. Confident, I walk right up to him, my partner Arlene dragging behind me, “Maria is this a good idea?” My response, “Of course it is! We are here for Jesus. If we die, we go straight to heaven!” I felt like MT. I know she was with me in this encounter. The eyes I looked into were the eyes of Jesus—gentle, curious—I immediately fell in love with stammering Leo. Despite the fact that I could barely understand what he was saying, we managed to get to the common understanding that he would be attending Mass on Sunday with me. Perfect! 1 soul! YEA! From Leo, I proceed to give a group of the nicest drug dealers I have ever met Rosaries. We even prayed a decade on their “corner”. Isn’t God funny? It was hilarious, because Arlene and I didn’t know they were drug dealers until we went to the next door and they told us. After this little adventure, we had the kids camp, and then came back home to debrief and get ready for Saturday.

As we were talking that night, I was discouraged to not have an amazing story to share and being typically selfish and being about “me”. God kinda put me in my place this weekend. Saturday, my group went to this house of Malaysian immigrants. Only one of them, a younger woman, spoke English. Our theme for the day was Mary, so that was our mission, to really share our love of Mary, whatever. So we start talking to this woman, and you could just see the desire fro truth in her eyes. Luke’s Gospel came to mind and the Annunciation, so we get it out and read it with her. Low and behold, her name is Mary and she has always wanted to know where it came from—all her mother told her was a Priest delivered her, and so she gave her a “Catholic” name. I gave her the Bible and assured her that Mary was with her in a special way—her whole face changed as my attitude toward Missions changed. God revealed to me in this encounter that He has called me to be a missionary since I was born. My idea of what that would entail (saving the starving children in Africa) and His invitation to be a co-worker and live my day to day life as a missionary in every single circumstance are both necessary and equally important. After that day, I can proudly say I am a missionary, but I am still asking for the grace and for the courage, but I think that is a process and a prayer that will be a part of the rest of my life.

And this brings me to Sunday. I miss parish Mass! You never know what you got until you don’t got it any more. Mary, unfortunately did not come, but I’m praying that mustard seeds were planted and will harvest. However, Leo did come. I saw him from above (their music director had a family emergency, so I sang and pulled one of our team members to play the piano), left the choir and went to sit with him. He was so excited! I gave him a huge hug, and lets just say that having the Good Samaritan as the Gospel was amazing. During that weekend, I was given the opportunity to be the Good Samaritan…what a privilege! This is funny—I know Jesus smiled. I asked Leo if he was Catholic, if he knew what the Eucharist was, etc. and he stuttered, “yes, yea” whatever. So I go with him up to Communion, whatever, I’m walking back and when I get to the pew he is still holding the host and says, “so I eat this?” all that is going through my mind is “Glory said to make sure they didn’t get Communion if they weren’t Catholic” and then there was peace. “Yes” I replied. I know Jesus was welcomed into Leo’s heart that day. It was actually simplistically beautiful. My quote to conclude Missions is one from our founder, Nuestro Padre. He says,

“Love gives an eternal value to our words and deeds.”

I came home exhausted, I couldn’t even dribble the ball down the court while we played basketball. People aren’t kidding when they say apostolates suck energy from places you didn’t even know you have it stored.

Ok, its Thursday. I fell asleep while writing last night….today was possibly the best day since we got here—most definitely the best outing. Lets just say that the Super Target we visited today will never be the same. 45 girls burst through the doors with a time constraint. Talk about pressure. Now I don’t know if I explained the reason for the Target run….for the YFE we have a dress code that no one brought with. So now, we all have the same black skirt and the same 3 white shirts. Awesome. But oh my goodness, I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see or be in a Target. And that as only the beginning of the day—so if you can possibly imagine, it only got so much better.

We then went to a park to play sports have lunch and go kayaking. I can’t help but burst into giggles just thinking about what happened. But before I go into the story, it has taken me 4 tries to finish this. I will not give in until it is finished tonight!

Okay so we are kayaking, I’m self-proclaiming myself Pocahontas, I had braids and everything, quite appropriate. The day couldn’t be more perfect, blue skies, sun shining…. So my French-Canadian friend and another girl are trying to catch up to me to splash me. Now I am going to shar a piece of information about myself to you—I absolutely 100% detest with a big burning passion to get wet while wearing clothes and underwear. I can’t begin to explain how much this irks me. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, I am hauling you know what down this lake to escape those two. Well on the way back around the riverbend, after they had given up, they decided to try again. This time, I am just laughing so hard, and at one point as I am trying to glide away, I look back, a bit too fervently, and TIP MYSELF. Shocked, I could do nothing but laugh. When I went to turn over my kayak, it was filled with water, so I had to call over two more kayaks, one with one of my favorite consecrated, Glory who is sometimes hyper-responsible. (but thank God there is one in the group). After what seemed hours and the use of muscles I didn’t know I had, we finally got the kayak flipped, which left me to get in. hahahaha. I literally, flipped over the side like a fish out of water. Curled up in the kayak, a single kayak, I add, Arianne, the mischievous French-Canadain is out of her kayak and wants to get in with me. As she tries to get in the kayak flips again. We are dying in the water, completely useless and suddenly, the sky turns black. I’m talking night here people. I thought the stars were gonna come out of hiding. Glory is freaking out, “GET IN YOUR BOAT. GET IN YOUR BOAT” which is not helping the situation whatsoever, I start laughing, Jan—it was a show, if you will. J eventually, as the waves (where did those even come from?) begin to dance to the shore, I flop again into the kayak in one of my more gracefully moments of my life and try to turn around for the dock. I’m not strong enough to fight the waves, and I am STILL laughing hysterically. All of a sudden, the lifeguards come out perched on their little motor boat saying into a megaphone ,”EVERYONE OUT OF THE WATER! EVACUATE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY!” I am already significantly far away from the others going my own little way toward a rocky shoreline, significantly from the beach the lifeguars were herding us to. In that moment, I decide to just go with the flow (hahaha) and stop paddling and trust that God would lead me to the rock—so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I was finally washed ashore, got out of the kayak, pulled it onto the grass and 2 girls came running after me to help me carry the kayak to the beach. While I am walking back, Arianne sees me, comes running toward me yelling, “I thought you died!” Glory sees me and begins to laugh a “Maria I should want to kill you, yet I am slightly jealous you got to live that adventure not me” laugh (she’s a thrill seeker) and then says, “we just told the lifeguards to go find you because we thought you were gone!”

And then we got pizza donated to us.

It was then dubbed the best outing ever. How awesome? And I haven’t been able to tell that story with a straight face since it happened, which was Thursday and it is Sunday.

There has been so much going on this week—I played basketball on our team against the Consecrated (huge deal) and knocked over our special guest, Monica Traveno, who is the head of the head if the consecrated women, like she works side by side with Nuestro Padre..whoops. My 5th grade aggression came back Dad, proud? HahaJ we lost, but they have a 6th player…JC.

Today was Co-Worker Appreciation day—and it was fabulous—we did nothing all day! And we were allowed to run to Starbucks for sports—yes I have been investing in a lot of running and have high aspirations to run a 5K at Christmas. I’ll have to see, and then next year the Flying Pig Half marathon? Seems like a nice goal. 2 days until we leave for the YFE and I can’t tell you the excitement buzzing through here. Aunt Meg got to yfe.org and click on the guest speakers I think and check out Eduardo and then google the movie trailer for Bella. Like do it right now—I will be meeting him in a few days, falling in love and getting married. I don’t think you will be at all disappointed in my choice. As one of the other Consecrated has said with such wisdom, “you have already given your 50% by falling in love with him at first sight. Now all he has to do is put in his 50%. Easy.” Mary Maher, how I love your logic!

Lets see what else…..God is still daily telling me to shut up and be still and know He is God regularly in prayer…..and to continue to form my will….But I know without one doubt in my mind that this is where I should be, and if I wasn’t, tonight confirmed it yet once again—Mom you will so appreciate this.

The Consecrated made us a powerpoint with pictures from The Passion of Christ (which I have still not seen and might be counted as a mortal sin here…whoops) and Mom my song, “You Are Loved” by Josh Groban was the song that played through it. I cried like I did Christmas Eve when I head it for the first time. He loves me—and He would do it all over again just for me. I am now trying to ease His pain and lighten the load of the cross my completely giving Him my life this year.

If you’re having a bad day, meditate on this as your personal message from Jesus—

You Are Loved

(Josh Groban—I have decided Jesus totally sings like him. If you have never heard him, buy, borrow—just get your hands on his music!)

Don’t give up

It’s just the weight of the world

When your heart’s heavy I

I will lift it for you

Don’t give up

Because you want to be heard

If silence keep you I

I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood

Well I can hear you

Everybody wants to be loved

Don’t give up

BECAUSE YOU ARE LOVED

Don’t give up

It’s just the hurt that you hide

When you’re lost inside

I will be there to find you

Don’t give up

Because you want to burn bright

If darkness blinds you

I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood

Well I can hear you

Everybody wants to be loved

Don’t give up

BECAUSE YOU ARE LOVED

Don’t give up

It’s just the weight of the world

Don’t give up

Everyone needs to be heard

YOU ARE LOVED

Jesus loves you.

I miss you and am praying for you.

Until after the YFE! (expect am exciting love story)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Life is....

What day is it? All my days have been morphing into one giant day….but guess what is totally exciting? It’s Wednesday night, 10:57 pm. I am sitting at the desk in my newly arranged room (I got bored with the way it was a few nights ago and while praying, was inspired to move the furniture) after the best day yet after getting here.

I am in complete awe with this man whom I call my boyfriend Jesus. I don’t even know where or how to start what I want to say—there is just so much. I find it totally hilarious how God works in my life first of all—there is not a lot of in between—I am either with it or not with it if that makes sense. I think I will begin with my prayer experiences the past few days, because prayer is my oxygen. I need it for survival, I need it to wake up, to function, to run my apostolets, to be charitable, to just be fully alive as Maria.

For those of you (Jan) who were mildly freaked out about my state of mental stability from the last long post, things are on the upswing. Allow me to describe what has been happening. “Developing a Strong Interior Life” has been the theme of the week. For most of you, you realize a large motivation for me to give a year was to get my shit together (sorry, it is necessary) which basically boiled down to developing a life rooted strongly in prayer. Knowing that was a need in and for my life, this program was even more enticing. Our morning mediations have been based on forming prayer and having dialogue with Jesus. For our compositions of place, we have been guided to travel with Jesus and learn from Him how to pray. So this is Maria in the 5th pew of the chapel every morning: Jesus, I am focused. I approach you this morning with a humble heart. I desire to pray like you, to know how to love you more, how to form my heart like your heart so I can love like you. Please, let me join you….oh that is a cute skirt…..whoops. sorry Jesus, I got distracted..

He invited me to follow Him—where did we go? Let’s see to the top of a mountain (He wouldn’t let any of the other apostles go with Him, just me) I sat with Him in Gesthemane, but nothing was working. My heart desired to meet Him personally, so I could see Him as a real person, my best friend and the love of my life. Its hard for some to believe, but I am impatient, and even go so far as to challenge God with His timing of things. God what the heck? I am praying fervently. I am even not dominating the conversation. Do you remember yesterday? I didn’t even talk once—I listened even during my extra visits. What are you thinking?

Today, this morning, after breakfast I went into the chapel to visit Jesus. Sitting in my seat, the 5th row, I squinched my brow to begin my fervent silence of prayer. And then, it happened. Something just clicked—I was in a coffee shop. As I begin the whoops Jesus, distracted again, the glass door swings open, the bell rings and in walks a man in jeans, a t-shirt and sandals. His hair, shaggy and misplaced slid to the right and fell a bit in His eye. Eyes that glistened and spoke directly to my soul. He smiled—a beautiful, warm, welcoming and completely, totally loving smile, and He just said “hey Maria. Thanks for coming to see me.” Well not only was I stunned by His good looks, but it finally happened. Jesus was sitting down in front of me. In an atmosphere no one imagined I would find Him, not even me. Caught off guard I asked Him—“have you been listening to anything I have been saying?” and he just laughed, which caused me to crack a smile. In this moment, I made the commitment I have been longing to make for so long—the commitment to accept Jesus and welcome Him into my life as my best friend. We met all day in these casual ways—passing on the street, we got some pizza and walked down a crowded city street at sunset. It was beautiful and exhilarating. As we walked He stopped and looked at me and said The battle is over. You are mine—by your own decision. This doesn’t mean that you won’t fall, or it’s going to be easy, but now you know how to find me, how to ask for my help and my love.

Not only was Jesus meeting with me today, but Mary sent me some graces today that were amazing—one in particular. I hope Peter Donald my favorite friend, won’t mind me sharing this….you all know how athletic I am—I enjoy picking flowers on the soccer field and braid girls hair on the side lines and when the ball comes toward me I run away from it….Believe it or not, I am getting better and am becoming totally obsessed with playing basketball. But that’s not my story. So in the spirit of the movement, I am trying to offer up events in my days for souls. Each of my family members has an event, and Peter D’s just happens to be sports. Today, I was running (yes friends, by my own free will I was running) and after one trip around the loop I was panting, dripping sweat and my legs were sore. Turning to go in, my little angel Ashley calls, “c’mon, lets go around again.” Today was supposed to be my “hard” day, which constituted another lap that I was going to give up. But how could I let that request go? So I continued. When I was about ¼ mile away from the house, I felt like I was going to fall over. A voice inside nagged, “just stop. Walk the rest. You’ve done enough” and these comments were followed by an almost cackle. Satan. While this was happening I passed a statue of Mary, and suddenly I received a new spurt of energy that no joke sent me into full blast sprint for ¼ mile to the house. The whole time I combated Satan saying “by the power of Jesus and the grace of Mary, you WILL NOT touch Pete. You may not have him—and you can’t touch me either” and for the whole ¼ mile (that was a lot for me people going full blast) I said that over and over again until I somehow ended up at the front door in front of our statue of Mary. Talk to be about graces—so Pete, I hope you felt that one buddy. Literally, I was dripping in sweat—but I don’t think the running is all to blame—there was a minor battle going on also. My devotion to Mary is growing—I have asked her to meet Grandpa at the gates of Heaven with St. Therese, of course. One of the girls here says a beautiful decade of the rosary for Mary. For every bead, you ponder a virtue Mary possessed. I’ve started to say it everyday after lunch, and I encourage you to also and encourage your daughters to do it also!

Angelic Sweetness

Ardent Charity

Blind Obedience

Constant Mental Prayer

Divine Purity

Divine Wisdom

Heroic Patience

Lively Faith

Profound Humility

Universal Mortification

This is the prayer that accompanies it:

Ave Maris Stella

Hail, bright star of the ocean,

God’s own Mother blest,

Ever sinless Virgin,

Gate of heavenly rest.

Taking that sweet Ave

Which from Gabriel came,

Peace confirm within is,

Changing Eva’s name

Break the captives fetters,

Light on the blindness pour,

All our ills expelling,

Every bliss implore

Show thyself a Mother;

May the word Divine

Born for us thy Infant,

Hear our prayers through thine

Virgin all excelling,

Mildest of the mild

Free from guilt, preserve us,

Pure and undefiled

Keep our lives all spotless

Make our way secure,

Till we find in Jesus

Joy forevermore.

Through the highest Heaven

To the Almighty Three,

Father, Son and Spirit,

One same glory be,

Amen.

Isn’t that beautiful? I am obsessed. This is how I got it figured—I have her and St. Joseph covering my husband….I think we are in pretty good shape! ;)

So…a bit less deep—yesterday we had “Defensive Driving” with probably the funniest and cutest “baby boomer” ever. Roger…God love him. Unfortunately I was completely immature, I giggled through the whole class, but he totally loved us. My friend Ashley and I were sitting at the front table (yes of course, I was obnoxious out in the open) and we compiled a list of Roger quotes. I will share with you my favorite quote “If someone is tailgating you, don’t suddenly stop—they will get out of their car and shoot you with their gun.” I’m sorry—after four hours of this I couldn’t help myself. And also—it all goes back to Murphy’s Law. That was our Defensive Driving Class.

Today was our outing day and it was so much fun! We explored Christmas Town, otherwise known as Frankenmuth, MI. Cute and extremely German, we spent the day trying fudge, eating ice cream and exploring the shops including the extensive CHRISTmas Shop and we visit Stille Nacht Chapel. For those of you who are not up on your German, that translates to Silent Night. J And now we are back, writing letters and getting ready for our weekend of apostolates—I am working on Missions in a “ghetto” of Michigan. I am so excited to take what I have learned in class and apply it—I love to “do” Jesus and here I go. I am a team leader and once again I have no idea what to do, but am learning slowly but surely. Its also really funny, becasu e everyone thinks that I would love Missions, but I feel a bit uncomfortable, so it will be a stretch—but stretches are great—God is gonna teach me something!

I can’t wait for my next post—I’m sure I will have some great testimonies after Missions. Until then, you are all in my prayers. I’m taking your names to Adoration tonight! Keep me and the souls we will be reaching this weekend in your prayers! Love you!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Dad this one is for You

My daddy asked if I would update the blog more than once a week--I can't make any promises, but here I am!

Thanks everyone for the prayers--life is going a lot better. I am the PR representative and am working on helping the girls fund raise--Jan, you've taught me well. I'm lighting some fires if you will.

This is to all you coffee drinkers out there--I am slowly immersing my way into that jungle....Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccinos are an amazing mid afternoon pick-me-up (hint hint for any care packages....you can buy them in packs of 6 from any grocer/target or walmart!)

i love all of you and I'm especially praying for you Peter today!
hopefully a deeper reflection will come later this week!

until then--"if you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze!" JP2

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hey There!

So I’m here, on day 5.

I don’t think I exactly realized I had signed up for spiritual boot camp—I’m realizing how sneaky God sometimes is. It is amazing for me to feel the spiritual growth I have experienced in the past 5 days—I can’t imagine what my insides will feel like in a year! Its so fun to be me, 100% crazy, fun Maria, and throwing into that mix a zeal for Jesus—I don’t think it is possible for life to get better.

The schedule is demanding—630 wake up, mass at 7, breakfast at 815, class 1 at 1015, class 2 1115, afternoon prayers 1130, lunch at noon, GLORIOUS NAPTIME! Class 3 at 215, free time until 5, sports 5-6, showers, dinner at 6:30, class 4 at 730, 815 night activity, 930 night prayers, 1030 lights out (thank God). That is typical, I guess, however, we haven’t had a typical day yet—the days have been crazier. They are long, but go by quickly if that can possibly make any sense.

Our group is AMAZING! We not only have barrels of fun together, but we all mesh—its unbelievable what loving Jesus can do for your social life. I am known as the exclamation point—the first night my team made up a song to the “YMCA” tune, but subbed the letters “COW” (a term of endearment for us CO-Workers), and we needed an extra letter or something, so I volunteered….you can bet that has gotten me a lot of publicity within the center—I am constantly throwing my arms over my head, smiling and yelling “EXCLAMATION POINT” to random things. And you can bet it has landed me many a job creating new activities—tomorrow night we are having “CO-Worker Ideal”—it’s gonna be a riot!

The Fourth was a ton of fun minus the fact that I missed my best friend’s birthday—we has an outing which included a trip to a park with a beach, a grill out there, ice cream (a rarity….there are no sweets here, so I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you I stocked myself up with chocolate at Dairy Queen—chocolate blizzard with Kit-Kats, cookie dough and Reeses….yum, yum, yum!) and ended with an awesome firework show on a lawn where we learned belly dancing, salsa dancing and swing dancing from each other. Talk about a blast!

I didn’t think I was going to have any second thoughts, or that I even made any real sacrifices, but its amazing how Satan has the ability to leak into our thoughts and make us doubt ourselves, or try to convince us that the one thing really wanted to escape is really what we are desiring. I told him to go to hell…..

In these past five days, I have had some amazing insights and convos with Jesus—I would like to enlighten you with a few key lines so you know where I am….

  • Listening is key to my relationship with Jesus. He has flat out told me to shut up and listen to him.
  • Along those lines, he has always been with me. I just have been too loud to hear him.
  • When I feel his presence/love its easy to love him back. But the most important time to love him is when I don’t feel it—it doesn’t mean he’s not there, because he always is. My passions are my gift, but also my cross.
  • Right now I need to focus on Jesus’ love for me, and my love for him.
  • PEERSERVERE! Don’t give up! Don’t allow your sensuality to rule you.

I feel like that it a lot. And I almost forgot—I like getting letters—my address for the summer is The Fabulous Maria (just kidding.)

Maria Lees

Co-Worker Program

751 W. Drahner Rd.

Oxford, MI 48371

I’ve been praying for all of you. I have asked Jesus to bless everyone who is praying for me in a special way—I know he will because he totally and utterly loves me…..and you too!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Surreal

You know, its amazing-the day is finally here! I can't even believe it!
Surreal is the only word that comes to mind.

Surreal that Jan and I had our last chat around the island until Christmas.
Surreal that today was the last day that I jammed to country music in the car with my sisters.
Surreal that today is the last time I will see my grandpa.
Surreal that I am not completely packed, that I haven't said 'good-bye' to all my friends, that I haven't seen Josh in a week and I won't see him until the end of July.

Surreal is currently my reality. I've decided it is sometimes confused with denial, but I'm not in denial-I am totally excited, totally ready to begin my adventure, but it is weird all that my life as I know it, is going to be put on hold, or in some instances, will change completely forever. I guess that if life wasn't being seen through my "surreal glasses", I couldn't call this an adventure.

Friday, June 29, 2007

God's Sense of Humor--a little about where i've been and where i'm going

first off, two posts in one night is not only excessive, but it will never happen again.

i feel like i need to tell my story-why i am leaving, what i am doing too clear up the unknown if you will.

back in december i came home from college to take a hiatus from the emotional roller coaster college had me on. it was the best decision i had ever made, all though at the time i was lost in the confusion of my uncertainty. immediately i began working 3 jobs, one being at my dad's office which offered me immense flexibility. i was yearning for a silent retreat, or a retreat of any type to get me out of the pace i was racing downhill and then stagnant. when presented with the opportunity by my mother dearest to attend a junior high retreat as a chaperon through a movement i wanted to stay away from like the plague, i replied "yes"to this idea that didn't exactly line up with my idea blinded by what i thought was desperation. now i see it as the first real "yes" i have ever given God. i have come to believe that it is really amazing what faith/self-diagnosed need for Christ, where in reality it finds you. for me, it was still a sub-conscious surrendering that i was doing, but i knew the "yes" needed to be given.

at the retreat, i had spiritual guidance with one of the consecrated women of regnum christi. after spilling my guts, excited she exploded with the proposal for me to attend a 'youth formator's convention' in MI that started that wed....it was sunday and you were supposed to be signed up weeks prior. neither of us knew exactly how, but both knew this was God winking. and this was my first acknowledged encounter with God's sense of humor.

making the trek to MI that wed, not yet knowing exactly where i was staying, or how i was going to be paying for the 5 days, or even knowing anything about Regnum Christi except that i wanted nothing to do with it, i giggled the entire way. i knew what i wanted to get from this "retreat"- wanted to sort through the crap of the previous 3 months, i wanted to receive the grace to move on and the inspiration to become less impulsive.

shortly after arriving, i felt a warm-fuzzy feeling i had never felt before being in this huge white house busting with buzzing women completely on fire for Jesus. that night, i was introduced to the term "co-worker" and the next morning i learned more about it and was confronted with the term throughout the rest of the two days. a co-worker is a young woman who feels called by God to give Him one year (or more) of her life serve Him. well, of course this was right up my alley! i was immediately like "sign me up!" and then i remembered that whole working on impulsivity and i backed off. as the convention continued, i had more and more people asking me if i was a co-worker, or if i was at one time and i started to take that a bit more seriously. i think you should that i have never experienced a direct message from God. like direct words, clear as day. while i was in adoration that day just crying, (yes, i am turning into my mother) i heard it like no big deal, "maria, i want you. this is not impulsive." i tried to gain composure, and went down below to my dwelling area and called home. the conversation i feel was completely hysterical and i wish i were a bystander. here it goes--

ring ring ring
HOME: hello?
ME: hey-can i please chat with jan? (for those of you who don't know, my term of endearment for my mother)
JAN: hello?
ME: hey mom (sniffles begin), am i getting you at a bad time?
JAN: no not at all! its so good to hear your voice! how is it going? i've been praying for you!
ME: well, ugh, thats an interesting subject (ball forming in throat) things are great--(sniffle) i need to tell you something (flood gates just dropped. sobs begin) this is not impulsive i swear!
JAN: you want to be a co-worker, thats it isn't it?
ME: (shocked, but not really--jan and i are like this) mom i know this is what God wants(sob)He told me today in adoration(sob) it's not impulsive, i promise (sniffle)
JAN: honey, i know. God told me the day you left. i've talked to your dad, and i want you to know, we both completely support you and think it is great.

ok--that is basically the conversation. and here i am. less than 48 hours and i'm on my way. i haven't looked back-i know in the deepest dwelling of my soul, that this is where i belong. I am now a member of Regnum Christi, and I am obsessed-i'm not an expert, and i don't know very much about anything still (all i am certain of is that my apostelate is love) but God loves those with child-like faith, and i believe thats what is going to pull me through