My Trip To Rome

-How My Trip Came About-

I have to say that the reason my trip to Italy came about is because I seriously have the most considerate husband on the planet.  Months ago, Joe informed me that he had a couple of big work trips come up that would take him out of the country again. (One trip to India, one to Australia).  We engaged in a familiar conversation, which once again had me working hard to hide my jealousy and swallow any sign of resentment.  I mean, it’s his job after all.  I am incredibly thankful for all his hard work, and that he has a great job to support our family.  It’s also pretty amazing that he gets opportunities to travel the world once and a while.  However, when the really big trips come up I have to fight against having the “I wish I could do that” look in my eyes.

This last time around, I think I took the news quite well!  I had a hard time when he left for his first big trip (to Tokyo), primarily because Lucy was still so little.  But now that we are in a good family groove, the news was a lot easier to take.  We left our conversation about the matter on a good note, so it was big surprise when he came to me the next morning telling me that he thought I should go to Italy.  I was quite shocked.

What?!  Where did that come from? Me? Got to Italy?  What about the kids?  What about your work?  What about the cost, and the time away, and the fact that I have never traveled alone to another country by myself??  What about the fact that these kids need me!  What ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

But he was dead serious.  He explained how he thought it was important for me to go because it has been a dream of mine since before we were dating.  He told me that now is a good time, before our family begins growing again (God willing). He told me that I needed to have this for myself, and assured me that everything would be fine and taken care of on the home front.

I couldn’t believe it.

Since he caught me so off guard, it took me a good couple of months and a lot of prayer to actually decide to go.  I had so much anxiety and fear of leaving my babies behind.  I also felt incredibly guilty about doing something so amazing without my family.  I thought the decision to go would make me selfish and a bad mom.  How could I leave my babies?  How could I leave all this behind for my husband to take care of on his own?

After A LOT of prayer and deliberation with people, especially other moms I respect and admire, I felt closer to saying yes to the whole idea.  But I needed God’s help.  I prayed that he would help me make the decision because it was too much for me to make on my own.

And he did!

The day after I prayed that prayer, I spoke with one of the women in need of a roomate for the pilgrimage.  She was also trying to decide if she should go, and her decision hung on whether or not she could find a roommate.  The only thing, she told me, was that she needed to know by the next morning, because if she couldn’t find one she planned to go on a cruise with her friends.  She had to know the next day because that was the deadline for the cruise her friends were going on.

Her deadline made the decision for me.  We both decided, I’ll go if you’ll go.  

Prayer answered.

-When I Leave-

In just over a Week! I really can’t believe it is that soon.

-Who I Am Going With-

Dr. Ted Sri!  Funny story, not long after I booked my trip with him I was sorting through a few old files from college for a talk I was giving my RCIA class.  As I was sorting, this sheet fell onto my lap:

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I completely forgot that when I was in one of Sri’s classes he handed out these flyers to all his students.  I remember wanting to go on this pilgrimage so badly back in 2009.  I remember praying to God that if he could just make this happen somehow, how eternally grateful I would be.  It turned out it just wasn’t a possibility at that time.  In the end I was okay with that, but the thought that I would someday get to go never left my heart.

I forgot about that pilgrimage, but God didn’t.

It’s amazing how he answers prayers in their due time…

-Where I Am Going-

Saint Peter’s Basilica

Santo Spiritu Church

Many tombs of the martyrs

The Pantheon

The Church of the 12 Apostles with the tomb of the Apostles Philip and James the Less

The tombs of St. Ignatius and St. Catherine of Siena

To see Pope Francis

The Catacombs of St. Calixtus

The First Century Roman Coliseum

The Vatican Museums

Assisi

*So much more.

-How I Am Feeling-

I am feeling a lot of things.

+Pretty anxious about leaving my babies. (Pray for me?)  I’ve never been away from these beautiful faces more than 3 days since both of them were born.  The idea of it has me in knots and up late at night.  Overall, I know they will be well taken care of and loved while I am away, but I am more afraid of the pain that will come with being so far away from them.  Praise God for Facetime.

+Sad that my husband can’t go with me.

+Nervous for what it means to navigate my free time in a foreign country.  My roommate (whom I’ve never met before) doesn’t know it yet but I am going to cling to her and never leave her side…ha

+Fearful of being in the air for 7 hours.  As the years have passed, I’ve gotten more and more afraid of flying.  I find a lot of comfort in the divine mercy chaplet whenever I take off and land, and especially when we hit a lot of turbulence…but the idea of flying for so long in the air really scares me.  Pray for me?

+EXCITED. JOYFUL. READY! I can’t believe this day is almost here…it won’t entirely hit me until I am in the air, but I am so excited for this pilgrimage! When we had our group meeting conference call a week ago, I found myself in tears! The whole experience is something I look very much forward too, and though I am nervous about leaving, I also can’t wait to take off! I’m excited for the experience, the friends I’ll make, and for the opportunity to pray at so many holy locations!

-What I Am Doing to Prepare- 

Honestly, right now? Pretty much just making lists.  Lots and lots of list.  But the packing and prepping will begin asap.  I plan on starting my meal prep grocery shopping tomorrow.  I want to make sure that my family has some good meals while I’m gone and that Joe doesn’t have to worry about it after he gets off of work.

 

-Purchases I’ve Made-

+Superga Shoes.  I’ve been wanting these forever, so it was a good excuse to get them.  Am I right?  They say it’s good to have really comfortable walking shoes and I prefer not to be in my nike’s all day.  Hopefully these will do the job.

+Straightner/Curling Iron.  This is a dual voltage iron.  I’ve heard that using a power converter can still fry your electronics, so hopefully this will work well.  It doesn’t heat up as fast as my usual straightener, but it accomplishes the job well enough.  (Especially for the price.)  It is super compact and perfect for traveling!

+This umbrella, because I hear it often suddenly rains in Rome.

+A scarf for Church visits, just in case I need it.

+This book was assigned reading by Sri, to help prepare our minds for all that we will be encountering on our pilgrimage.

-Things I Am Most Excited For-

+Being so close to Pope Francis

+Visiting the tomb/relics of Saint John Paul II

+Visiting the tomb of Saint Monica

+My trip to Assisi

+Vatican Museums

-My Hopes For the Trip-

+That everyone stays safe and healthy.

+That my babies are happy and adjust well to me being gone for 8 days.

+That my husband and my other awesome helpers have an easy time with the kids while I’m gone.

+That this trip becomes a source of prayer and hope that I can carry back to my home and especially to my family.

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Though I am extremely nervous to leave, I am so glad I decided to go.   Since God answered my prayer so immediately and so clearly, it changed from feeling like an opportunity, to that of a calling.  Our faith—our beautiful, rich, Catholic faith–is steeped in tradition, and I am so thankful that God is calling me to travel on this spiritual pilgrimage to Rome to experience that tradition on a whole new level.

A pilgrimage is very different than a vacation because it is a journey made with the purpose of honoring God.  As I gather all the prayers of my family and friends, the reality of honoring God with my trip becomes all the more clear.  I get to take their prayers along with me and offer them up at all the holy places in Rome.  When I visit the tombs of so many holy men and women who fully lived the faith, I get to ask them to pray for my loved ones.  In that way I get to experience the community of faith (both here and in heaven) in a way that is so new to me, yet so familiar because that is what our faith is built upon; it is a tangible, sacramental faith built upon a rich history and tradition that leads us to Christ himself.

Though I am scared and nervous to leave, I have high hopes that God will bless me on this journey, strengthen my Catholic faith, and bless those prayers that I bring along with me.

Please pray for me and I’d love to pray for you! If you have any intentions you’d like me to take with me, please send me an email at byloverefined@gmail.com so I can pray for you in Rome! 

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What I Read: Quarterly Review

Hi Everyone!

I took a little break from my blog for a while.  While I love pouring my thoughts out in writing, it definitely takes a lot of mental work and effort!  In keeping with my lenten observance (to focus first and foremost on resting in God), I found myself a bit freer to put my energy towards my family and some of the other things I love to do, like reading! 

One of my New Years resolutions was to actually finish the books I start.  I’ve always had a terribly bad habit of picking up a book, only to get pulled in by another, and another.  Before I know it, I end up reading multiple books at once and as a result so many remain unfinished.

Since I made this resolution, my reading has improved dramatically. (Go figure!)  I’ve read some really great books, and have decided to share what I’m reading with you on a quarterly basis!

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“John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father” by Peggy Noonan

If you know me, you know I love just about anything Saint John Paul related. If a book acknowledges the greatness of the man in its very title…well, you know I am in.

My dad gave me this book, and I quickly threw myself into it.  I couldn’t put it down!  I obviously loved all of the stories about John Paul, but the thing I loved about this book was the author’s particular perspective.  She was a woman touched personally by this Saint and his life deeply impacted her conversion of heart.  I loved hearing how he touched her life personally (as he did so many people) and how her encounters with him helped shape and strengthen her faith.

I also loved that, as a convert and journalist, she kept things real.  She talked about some of the deep and hard realities that faced John Paul in the his time as Pope, and she didn’t water anything down for the sake of her readers.

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“No Greater Love” by Mother Teresa

I don’t know why, but I have never read anything by or about Mother Teresa before.  It is shameful to admit, but I’ve always just chalked it up to the fact that I already kind of knew who she was.  She’s Mother Teresa after all! 

I was really wrong.

Hearing about Mother Teresa’s life (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta)is entirely different than hearing about it in own words.

Some of the stories I’ve heard about her work came to life in this book, and it was so special to read about all she did through her own words; reading this book was truly humbling, to say the least.  Saint Teresa was not extraordinary in any superhuman sense; she was an ordinary person accomplishing simple acts of love for the sake of human dignity.  Through her life and her actions, she reminds us that loving authentically and responding to God’s will oftentimes means taking care of the weak, suffering, and needy who are already within our very midst.

Her words on the Eucharist, prayer, love, holiness, death, and Jesus were all very moving.

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“On the Other Side of Fear: How I Found Peace” by Hallie Lord  

I flew through this book!  After reading two books from a couple of spiritual giants, breaking open this one was a bit refreshing.  That’s not to say that Hallie isn’t saintly, but rather that her book felt a bit more familiar.  Reading it felt similar to sitting down with a friend for a cup of coffee, chatting about our thoughts on motherhood and marriage, while our kids play in the background.  She shared a lot of wisdom about what it means to shed fear and learn to rest in God, amidst the chaos of marital and parental life.  Her book was a sweet reminder that all of us are called to holiness. 

 

temperament“The Temperament God Gave You” by Art and Larain Bennett 

This book was recommended to me by a couple of friends in my women’s group at church.  They kept talking about it non-stop, so I thought, I’ve got to see what this is all about. 

It didn’t take me long to become enthralled with this book, either.  I took the test right away and discovered my temperament to be a very close combination of the sanguine and choleric temperaments (sanguine being the slightly more dominant). At first, I wasn’t convinced that I entirely fell into either categories, but after reading the synopsis of the combination of the two, I was amazed that it described me almost to a tee.

This book has been beneficial to me in so many ways.  I have taken some of the other personality tests out there and found some to be pretty good (I am a ENFJ-A Protagonist), but what I really loved about this book was that it was written from the perspective of the faith.  It shined a light on the fact that God made each and every one of us uniquely different, but at the same time, he stuck to a sort of template.  There are four basic temperaments that everyone falls under, each referring to the natural tendencies and reactions we all have.  I found that especially helpful in coming to understand myself a bit more, and how I relate to other people.  The things that mark my temperament have always sort of been the things I want to push down and wash over.  The book described my combined temperament to have the tendency to be overly talkative, brassy, opinionated, loud, rash, swift to jump to conclusions, and forgetful.  Who wants to be any of those things? What I began realizing, though, is that with all the negative qualities of particular temperaments, there comes a lot of good and unique characteristics.  This book helped me understand that God created me with the temperament I have, and I have the ability to use that temperament to glorify him with my life.   Reading this book is helping me own who I am.   A lot of the things that I’ve always been ashamed of about myself are actually ways in which God wants to use me for his glory!

This book is also beneficial in coming to understand how we relate to others in our differences.  It was eye opening for me, because it really allowed me to see that the things I often dislike about others are due primarily to a difference in temperaments.  Understanding that has helped me to be more patient with others, and to respect that when they do and see things differently, it’s because they are different–and that’s okay.  It’s also helped me respect and come to understand my husband and my kids on a deeper level!

I definitely recommend this book!

 

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“The Atheist Delusions” by David Bentley Hart

This was the only book that I got through in February.  That kind of tells you what kind of a book it is.

It was super chewy and took me forever to get through! 

David Bentley Hart’s thorough review of the Christian revolution and analysis of the many misrepresentations of the Christian past was incredibly revelatory and sophisticated.  The ease with which he poured out his grueling assessment of the cultural challenges we face today, as well as his brilliant knowledge about Christianity’s influence on the Western Civilization, was impeccable.  He dismantled so many of the modern-day arguments for atheism, simply by explaining and laying out historical facts that have been diluted and distorted to fit a certain “narrative” against Christianity.

If you have the gumption and the energy, this is a fantastic read.

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The Life of Christ in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”

I am currently (slowly) working on obtaining my certificate in the Catechism of the Catholic Church from Catholic Distance University.  In my last course I was assigned the Life of Christ portion in the Catechism.  I know it’s kind of cheating to include this in my “What I Read” list, but it was a huge portion of the reading I did in March (about 200 pages).

You guys…the Catechism is so rich! (I know I am stating the obvious.)  It is not a book meant to collect dust on your shelf.  It should be read hand in hand with Scripture!  It reads really well from cover to cover, and I highly encourage you to pick it up and start reading it today. Read a few portions a day, or follow a plan to read the whole thing in a year!

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“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis 

The Screwtape Letters was another sort of assigned reading for me this month.  It was picked by my women’s group at Church, and I was excited to participate in this one.

 

I’ve read most, but not all, of this book before, so I was so glad to finally finish it.  It was so good, and so applicable for every day living.  It was a great reminder that the devil and his demons are always at work, seeking to distort and twist God’s plan for love and for our lives, and to distract us from our ultimate goal: eternal life with the great Enemy of the devil, Our Lord, and Our God. 

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“Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton 

It’s a bit hard to say which was my favorite read since the year began, but if I had to choose…it would be G.K’s Orthodoxy.  

I was listening to one of Bishop Robert Barron’s podcasts on G.K., and he describes Orthodoxy so perfectly.  He described it to be the kind of book that is so rich and so sparkly that, like champagne, you just want to sip on it slowly, savoring every delicious taste.

While reading this book, I found myself  time and time again placing it on my chest, closing my eyes to really relish all that he had to say. It is a great read, and one which will both inspire and awaken your faith–in God and in the Church.

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“Padre Pio: Man of Hope” by Renzo Allegri 

This book was one I was really into about a year ago, and for some reason (again, probably my incredibly bad habit) it ended up on my shelf, half read.  I still had it bookmarked where I left off, so I picked it back up and read the second half I still had left to read.

So much of the profound beauty of the life of Padre Pio came in his being rooted to deep suffering and pain.  Padre Pio endured so much suffering in his life–physically (with the stigmata and his failing health at the end of his life), mentally (with the constant scrutiny and opposition he faced), and spritually (with his frequent battles with the devil)–but it is in and through that suffering that he exemplified his great love for God and hope in His plan for his life.

Reading all the stories written by his personal friends had me wishing I was one of them.  He took such loving care of the people he was fond of, and any closeness to him meant being closer to God.  What an incredible gift we are given in the lives of the Saints.  It is such a blessing to be able to develop and grow in friendship with these people who are already in the company of our Lord.  Though I wasn’t one of those blessed to call him a personal friend in this life, I know that I can still grow in friendship with him, and come to him for intercession and prayer.  Since he endured such spiritual and physical sufferings, he is a powerful ally to have in this cosmic battle between good and evil that we all face.

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“David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell 

After reading so many books from the perspective of the faith, I wanted to change things up a bit.  My husband Joe read this book a couple of years back and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I really liked it!  The book examined the lives of certain underdogs, misfits, and “nobodies” who ended up accomplishing amazing feats in life.  His idea was that those who appeared to have disadvantages, really had many advantages because of the difficulties they had to endure in life.  He showed how the difficulties, pain, and suffering lead people to accomplish great things that they otherwise would never have even thought of if they hadn’t been handed a tough load in life.  He also described how sometimes, what we think to be advantages in life, often turn out to be the things leading us in the wrong direction.  Sometimes it takes someone who offers a different perspective, or shoots from a different angle to make things happen.

Though I thought the book was really good, I couldn’t help but think that something was nonetheless lacking.  In all the author’s talk about great “underdogs” and “disadvantaged” players in history, there was no mention of Jesus.  No matter if you believe in him or not, it is undeniable that the historical Jesus had a profound effect on Western Civilization.  He is one of the greatest examples of someone who defied people’s expectations and challenged the societal norms of his day.  And all of that is just the beginning of the impact he had on man throughout history.

Also, while I thought the book was a good read, the idea that great things can be accomplished through weaknesses, suffering, and disadvantages is nothing new.  In fact, that is God’s m.o.       

It was a good book, but for me, it left something to be desired.

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I am also working through my read-the-bible-in-a-year plan and loving it!  It’s just a few chapters a day and it organizes my scripture making it easier to get through the more difficult books.  Check it out!

My next read is Fulton Sheen’s, The Life of Christ. I am already loving it and looking forward to digging into some more great books!

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Have you read any of these books? What are you reading right now?  What are some of your favorite books?  

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