Each week Blessed Is She features one of the team members for Sister Speak. This week it was my turn to answer questions such as who is my favorite saint, what virtue am I working on, what is my biggest struggle, what keeps me Catholic, what is my favorite motto and what prayer is on my heart. Here is a snippet:
Do you have a special Saint that you feel a strong connection to? How so?
When I was younger I had a love and devotion of St. Anne. She was my patron saint and I shared her name. (My middle name.) I prayed to her often, especially when I was looking for a holy spouse and later when I was dealing with fertility problems. However, another saint has made her way into my heart these last few years — St. Martha. The busyness of motherhood and my natural tendencies helps me to identify with Martha who was busy and worried about many things. I find myself turning to her often for guidance.
Which virtue do you find yourself working on the most throughout your day?
Patience and acceptance of God’s will. Throughout the day there are numerous times when things don’t go the way I want them to go — someone spills juice all over the table, the washing machine breaks down, a driver cuts me off on the road or a project deadline is moved up. There is always something. My first instinct is the flare up and get mad or frustrated. I am trying to learn how to calm down, be patient and accept that little crosses are a part of life. More importantly, God uses these crosses to help me grow in virtue and they can be prayer opportunities to “offer it up” for the special intentions of loved ones and the world at large.
Also, please keep the Blessed Is She team in your prayers. We are meeting in Wisconsin this weekend for a retreat/conference/get-together. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I will be attending. Yay! The last time I went on a plane by myself was literally 10 years and three babies ago.
Please pray for all our safe travels and (for those of us who are married) please pray for the sanity of our hubbies and for unbelievable calm in the kiddos we leave behind.
I’ll be posting about the trip on Instagram and you can follow the team using the hashtag #bisteamretreat. I’ll share more about it when I get back. 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are enjoying a blessed time with family, friends and loved ones. Today is a perfect day to stop and think about all the numerous blessings we have, but living a life of gratitude should be a daily goal. God has been teaching me a lot about gratitude over the years – during the good times and during the more difficult times. It is a life-long lesson but there are seven things that have helped me cultivate gratitude. I share them on the Blessed Is She Blog. Here is a snippet:
Last month I participated in a writing challenge for bloggers in which we posted 31 days in a row on one topic. I chose to write about Gratitude. It is something so simple and so needed, yet there are times when it is hard to be thankful, especially when you are stressed or carrying a heavy cross. But life without gratitude sets us down the path of bitterness and negativity. Nobody wants that!
Here are some practical things I’ve been doing to cultivate gratitude in my life:
Turn It Around – This is the simplest solution; yet, I struggle with it the most. When I am up to my neck in a messy house and the noise level in our home is about to make me explode, I have to force myself to turn it around. I have to see those dirty dishes and thank God that we have plenty of food to eat. I see mounds of dirty clothes and thank God we have clothes to wear. I look at that dirty toilet and thank God that we have running water. When the kids are driving me crazy, I recall the years I spent crying myself to sleep for want of a child of my own. Re-directing our thinking can sometimes feel weird in a Pollyanna sort of way, but eventually God’s grace helps you to find perspective as you practice the habit of gratitude.
Think of Others – When we live in our own little bubble, it is easy to get caught up in our cares and forget the bigger picture. If recent news has taught us anything, it is that there are people who are suffering unimaginable pain. When we reach out to those who are hurting we are acknowledging that we are blessed and we want to share that blessings with others. Whether it is volunteering at a soup kitchen or collecting Christmas toys for a homeless shelter, giving money to a non-profit helping refugees or bringing a meal to sick friend, we are not focused on what we want but are thankful for what we have and desire to share it with others. This is gratitude in action.
Let the Holy Spirit Do His Thing – Along the same line of “think of others,” helping out with time and money are not things we can do all the time but practicing gratitude can be turned to a missionary’s prayer…
(This post was originally posted on the old Revolution of Love website. The interview was done in 2003 but over a decade later it still gets numerous hits and yesterday I got a request to put it back online. This one is for you V. ) 😉
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When I found out that Crystalina Padilla was engaged (update: now married with children) to Jason Evert, I was curious to find out more about her since I knew she had to be someone special to capture his heart. Now I can see that she is the perfect match for him…a beautiful young lady inside and out. Although she had made mistakes in her past, Crystalina is a living witness of the power of God’s mercy and love. As a chastity speaker she is inspiring numerous girls and young women to strive to be the true women of God they are called to be. I hope her interview touches your heart as it touched mine. -Bobbi
RoL: Hi, Crystalina. I’m so happy to have this opportunity to get to know you a little better. Why don’t you start off by giving us a little background about your life. Were you always a practicing Catholic or was there a definitive point in your life when you made a change of direction?
Crystalina: I was a cradle Catholic. I’ve been a Catholic all my life but I didn’t always follow the ways of Catholicism. When I was about fifteen I was pretty wild just doing my own thing and I became very sexually active. I lost my virginity and from that point on – and it lasted for about three years – I was in and out of sexually active relationships. It just all went downhill from that point on. At the end of those three years I went to a retreat my mother had forced me to go to and there was a young man there, who was not too far from my age, who got up and just laid it out for me. He talked about all of the girls, all of the pornography, all the sex, all of the partying…everything he had been into. I felt like he had grabbed my hand out of the audience and he walked through my life. As if he could see the things that I was most ashamed of and hiding. He put them right in front of my face.
I thought to myself, what is the difference between this guy and me? What’s the difference there? I just watched him for awhile. He had this peace and this joy and this confidence that he carried about himself. I didn’t see that in my friends. I didn’t see that in the places I went to and I definitely didn’t see that in the guys I was dating. I noticed one thing in this guy that I couldn’t find in anyone else, something that he had above all of them. It was that he wasn’t ashamed of himself. I sat in my seat at that retreat trying to find one day that I actually hadn’t been ashamed of myself, but I couldn’t find one. So I think from that point on I really just turned my life around.
I devoted my life to chastity and purity and I think I just got this overwhelming rage, in a sense. As the years went on, I was really preaching this message of chastity and trying to help all of the young girls that were living that lifestyle I was once living. I was trying to get them out of it and tell them, “Look it’s okay…you can turn your life around. You can stop living this way.” I think half the time these girls that are living this lifestyle just need to hear that…”You can stop living this way and you can turn your life around. It is never too late.” They are never really hearing that.
RoL: What do you do to maintain and deepen your own relationship with Christ?
Crystalina: Well, every day Jason and I do an hour of Adoration, the rosary, Mass, confession every two weeks and honestly just trying to always maintain and keep Christ at the center of my life…the center of everything I do. That is really my strength in that it keeps me pure and keeps me living this lifestyle out. I think I tried so many things to stop living that horrible lifestyle I was in and nothing seemed to work. But the minute I did it with God, that was when my 180 happened. Honestly, I tell people if they really want to live this lifestyle out, they’ve got to do it with God or they’re just not going to do it at all. They are fooling themselves and they are going to fall on their faces just like I did. So if they really want to live it out, they’ve got to do it with God.
RoL: I read that you were involved with a program called “Challenge”. What it is and how did you get involved?
Crystalina: The Challenge Task Force on Chastity that I attended was a conference they were having in the Bahamas, where I met Jason. It was for young people who wanted to live out chastity and preach it in their own archdiocese around their homes and start a ministry or learn to become speakers. I think it was my starting point of really getting involved with chastity. I was doing some work at home but I think I more or less got really involved with it when I went to the Bahamas and met Jason.
RoL: There are a number of Catholics who have fallen into the trap of thinking that they can be sexually active in areas other then actual intercourse and still consider themselves virgins or at least “not as bad” as those who go “all the way”. How would you respond to someone who thinks this way?
Crystalina: Well, I actually met a lot of girls who think this way and live this lifestyle out but when it comes down to chastity and purity you’ve got to either pick “yea” or “nay”. It’s one or the other. You can’t always try to push the envelope because eventually you just go to far. I was always pushing the envelope and sin took me further than I ever wanted to go or ever expected to go. When those that live this way do approach me, I try to point out how they are lying to themselves and how much they are hurting themselves. Purity is a way of life. It is a way of thinking. It is how you act, how you dress, what music you listen to, and the way you carry yourself around the opposite sex. If you think you can push the envelope and that you’re still being pure, it’s a joke. Either you pick the lifestyle of chastity and embrace it or you just don’t. It’s that simple. There’s no in-between.
RoL: What would you say to a person reading this interview who has already been sexually active but wants to make a clean break and start living a chaste life. What would they need to do?
Crystalina: The first and foremost…the starting point is confession. If you’re Catholic, go to confession. Make a very good confession. I avoided confession like it was the plague. I wouldn’t even do a confession; I would lie in there. It was just terrible. When I really turned my life around I sat down and made a list of all my sins because I knew once I got in line or was there in front of the priest, I’d be freaking out and I wouldn’t want to go through with it. But the fact that I had this list really showed me how bad I was living this lifestyle and how much I didn’t want to go back to it. Then when I was in there I wouldn’t get nervous and forget these things. So I took this list in there, which came to five pages front and back. But it was so beautiful the peace and the joy I had leaving that confessional. I hadn’t experienced that in years and it was just awesome. It was only through the grace and power of God that I became who I am today. So the starting point is confession.
Another thing, every morning say a simple Hail Mary or even a rosary every single day. And if you are in a sexually active relationship, take the sex out and see what your relationship is based upon. If there is no sex then you can really step back and say, “Okay, is this love or is this lust? Do they love me? Are they using me? What’s truly going on?” It really gives you that clarity of mind to see what your relationship is about and what it’s truly based upon. And from that point on, keep the sexual element out of the relationship. Know that sex is something that is meant for marriage and the gifts of marriage are to stay in marriage. You will be rewarded for that. You can’t get the peace and joy that comes with chastity in random sexual relationships. It just doesn’t happen. Chastity is so freeing. So go to confession as a starting point, say a Hail Mary every morning or even a rosary, spend time in Adoration and keep the physical out of the relationships. And know that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done or if you have fallen, you can start over. God can make you a new creation like He has me.
RoL: Working with so many young women, what would you say is the main thing they wish guys would understand about girls and relationships?
Crystalina: Well, I think girls are always saying, “respect”. Why don’t guys respect us? Respect, respect, respect. Girls just want so much respect from these guys and for them to really understand their feelings. But the thing is… when I was younger I wasn’t acting much like a lady so the guys didn’t feel the need to rise up and act like a gentleman around me. The problem with girls these days is that they don’t act like ladies, therefore they are not getting the gentlemen they would like to have around them. Girls need to rise up if they want to get that respect. The way you act and the way you dress is the way you will be treated. Honestly, there is so little respect for a woman these days… for her body and for what she does. It’s very hard but I think the way a woman carries herself demands respect, to an extent. So she needs to really check herself… how she dresses and how she acts. Yes, women have the power to turn a guy’s head but we also have the power to turn a guy’s heart. I think it is mainly up to us how a guy treats us by how we dress and act. So yes, I always here that girls want respect from guys but the girls have to learn to earn it in the same sense too.
RoL: Lastly, I want to congratulate you on your engagement with Jason. I’m so happy for you both!
Crystalina: Thank you very much.
RoL: Tell me, what did you think of Jason when you first met him? How did you know he was the one for you?
Crystalina: When I first met Jason I knew that I was going to marry him. When he walked in that door it was the strangest thing. My stomach just dropped and I knew there was going to be something so far and beyond that day and that trip. It has been beautiful because we’ve been friends for a year and then we courted for a year and now we have a nine-month engagement and on June 7th we’re going to be married. It was just amazing that we both had the same passion [for chastity] and we’re living it out and we’re going out to help all these teenage kids. It is so fulfilling…how God has worked through both of us to do this. Actually, living and having a relationship with purity it just awesome. I’ve been on both sides of the tracks and there is just no comparison to chastity and purity.
RoL: That’s beautiful. Any last comments?
Crystalina: One last comment is to those who have made past mistakes. If you’ve “been there and done that”, you can stop and you can turn your life around. You can become a new creation of God just like I did.
RoL: Thank you so much, Crystalina. It was wonderful to get to know you better. I know you and Jason will have a wonderful future together! Our prayers are with you both!
(This post was originally posted on the old Revolution of Love website. The interview was done in 2003 but over a decade later it still gets numerous hits every week. It’s new home is here.)
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Back in late 1998, I had the great privilege of working at Catholic Answers in San Diego, CA. While there, I became acquainted with one of their apologist Jason Evert. Jason made an incredible impression on me – this (then) twenty-something guy was personable, funny, sweet and handsome, as well as devoutly Catholic and in love with his faith. He didn’t just preach it; he lived it! I haven’t talked to Jason since I left in ’99 to get married so it is an honor to interview him and his (equally sweet) wife Crystalina Padilla. I hope you enjoy getting to know Jason through this interview and if you ever have a chance to see him live, do so! You won’t regret it! -Bobbi
RoL: Hi, Jason. I really appreciate you taking the time to share with us. Why don’t you start off by giving us a little background about your life. Were you always a practicing Catholic or was there a definitive point in your life when you made a change of direction?
Jason: I was raised Catholic. My family would always go to Sunday Mass and say grace before meals but that was pretty much the extent of our spirituality. I began to dig a little deeper probably my junior or senior year in high school when I went through Confirmation. I had a very solid priest and solid youth minister who were both very devoted to Our Lady, to the Pope, and to the Eucharist – those three, in my estimation, are pretty much a grand slam. Because of their spirituality I was greatly influenced to start looking more into why I was Catholic and why I was not some other faith. I started to ask some tough questions and found some answers. I began to fall in love with the faith. So it wasn’t an overnight “St. Paul conversion” experience. It was definitely something gradual that began with the faith and the fervor of this priest and youth minister.
RoL: How did you get involved with Catholic Answers? What’s your main role there?
Jason: I landed an internship with Catholic Answers after I finished my undergraduate work at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I flew to California and did that for about three months and they invited me to stay on board. I said I’d love to but I wanted to finish up my Masters. So I went back to school, did my Masters in about ten months and then came back to California. I have been employed by Catholic Answers for about four years now. My role is an apologist, which means any number of things, but basically it’s explaining and defending the faith. My main task in doing this is traveling around with my fiancé Crystalina to different high schools around the country speaking on chastity. I also write for Catholic Answers. A couple books I’ve done is Pure Love, a booklet on chastity and Answering Jehovah Witnesses, which is pretty self-explanatory. A new one coming out is called If You Really Love Me. After that will be Love, Sex, & Babies, which is a little book about NFP. So I write for Catholic Answers, do radio shows, and I speak on chastity.
RoL: With your work as an apologist, how important is it that a person knows their faith well? If someone wanted to learn more about their faith or be able to explain it to others better, where should they start?
Jason: I would say that it is imperative that a person knows their faith. St. Peter tells us in his first letter that we should be prepared to give an explanation, or even a defense, for the hope that is within us. So we need to have reasons for why we believe and not just blindly accept these doctrines that have been passed down from our parents and spoon-fed to us but to really know… why am I not Episcopalian, why am I not Buddhist. Fundamentally, there is only one reason to be Catholic and that’s because it is true. If it is not true then life is too short to be spent on believing pious little fairy tales but if it is true, then the whole world should kneel beside us. So it should be a lifelong endeavor to learn our faith and spread it. If you want to learn your faith a little better I’d say to start off with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Start reading that. Visit such web sites as Catholic.com or Jimmy Akin.com is another great site. Just start to study up about the questions you might have.
RoL: What do you do to maintain and deepen your relationship with Christ?
Jason: A couple of things… one of them would be morning prayer time, ten minutes in the morning just to be with Christ and talk with Him about the day and give the day to Him. Secondly, I make sure to go to Mass every day of the week. I try to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation every two weeks and I try to do an hour of Eucharistic Adoration each day. I think those are really the pillars of faith, especially the rosary every day as well. I think if you have your life imbedded in the Sacraments and, as the Pope says, have an intensely Eucharistic life and are devoted to Our Lady then you’ll always stay close to Our Lord.
RoL: As a chastity speaker I know that you work with a lot of teens and people may associate you more with relating to high schoolers. Yet I believe that your message is just as relevant, if not more so, to single Catholics trying to live a chaste life, whether you’re eighteen, twenty-five or thirty-five years old. Any thoughts on that?
Jason: I would say, certainly. The virtue of chastity is not simply for single people. It’s a virtue that must be practiced by the married and by religious because chastity is essentially the proper use of God’s plan for the gift of sex. Because chastity is a virtue, it applies to all of us no matter what age you are or what vocation you are. We are all called to make this total gift of ourselves.
RoL: When I first heard that statement I found it particularly interesting – the concept that chastity doesn’t mean to simply “not have sex”. You’ve said that it’s more than what you can or cannot do; rather, it is what you can do and can have.
Jason: Definitely. Abstinence basically means no sex. Chastity, as I explained is a virtue that frees us from the selfish attitude of using other people as objects thus making us capable of authentic human love. It is not a negation of our sexuality. It is not repressing our hormones. It’s basically taking love and overpowering the lust so that we can be truly free. If we can’t say ‘no’ to sex, then what is our ‘yes’ even worth?
RoL: An excellent point…but everything in our society – from TV, movies, magazines, etc – seems to tell us that a normal, single, young adult is sexually active. A handsome, intelligent guy in his 20’s or 30’s is almost never portrayed as an emotionally balanced virgin. Yet you are a living example of true manhood…are you blushing yet?
RoL: What words would you share with other guys out there – for I think a male virgin is more ridiculed than a female one – who may feel uncertain or even embarrassed about being a virgin?
Jason: Chastity needs to be rehabilitated nowadays but the fortunate thing is that the tide is turning. The majority of high school students now are virgins. It’s no longer a four-letter word. In fact a lot of high school students are very proud of the fact that they’re virgins. It used to be that if you were having sex and you were sleeping around it was “wow, you’ re bad, you’re living on the edge.” Now it’s almost boring because it’s so common place. I think women, and even men, long for a better kind of love. We are saturated by sex, we’re not satisfied by much, and sometimes we don’t know what the problem is but virginity is not a curse. It is not a stigma. It’s a gift and we need to return to that sense of virginity being a gift of yourself. There is no greater gift that you could possibly give than that total gift of your body to another.
RoL: I know a couple years back you were struggling with finding the right spouse and knowing where God was leading you. I was so excited to hear that you’re now engaged to Crystalina.
Jason: Thank you.
RoL: What was it that most attracted you to Crystalina and how did you know that she was the one God had chosen for you?
Jason: When I first saw her she offered me a piece of pizza so I knew she was a keeper because she’d feed me well. (Laughter.) Actually no, we met in the Bahamas at a chastity conference and we immediately hit it off. We both had a passion to spread the message of chastity and she really was pure. She was living a sacramental life. It wasn’t one of those relationships where you have to hope and pray that you could fix the other person and bring them into the faith and convert them and make a project out of them. It was one where God had really prepared us for each other. She, and I, had taken a break from dating for years before we met, just to sort of sit still and say, “Lord what is it that you have in mind for me?” We wanted to do His work unreservedly; instead of jumping from relationship to relationship. I think once we really did that, that is when He brought us to each other.
RoL: My sister went to a chastity talk you and Crystalina were giving awhile back and she was telling me some amazing Catholic love stories. Would you mind sharing some of them with us?
Jason: One is of a fourteen year old girl that I know of who fell out of bed in the middle of the night and freaked out and said, “Oh, I really need to pray for my future husband.” So she got on the floor and prayed for her future husband. Ten years later me the guy, fell in love, got married, and said to him, “Honey, I prayed for you one night.” He said, “Well thanks.” But she wanted to figure out when it was so she opened her diary and found the exact day and said, “Look there it is. That is the night I prayed for you.” He opened up his journal and flipped to the exact same day, because he had kept a record of his life back them as well. He was a veteran and had fought in the war. He said to her, “Honey, that was the night when the enemy troops came across our lines. They slaughtered almost every man in my platoon but they spared me. So thank you for your prayers.” That is a little love story about the power of prayer.
RoL: Do you have any last comments about your new book or do you want to give us your two cents about your favorite things in life?
Jason: My new book will be out in March. It’s called If You Really Love Me. It is the 100 top questions teens have on dating, relationships and sexual purity. And two cents on my favorite things in life… I love living down here in San Diego and surfing in my free time, whenever I do get that, and that’s about that. But my last comment would be – the peace and joy that comes form chastity is worth more than all of the pleasures of the world.
RoL: Thanks so much for your time. It’s great to hear from you again, Jason. Our prayers are with you and Crystalina and your work!
Jason: Thank you. God bless you and what you’re doing!
Over the weekend I attended the CWBN (Catholic Women Blogging Network) conference and it may seem like an exaggeration but it was a pivotal moment for me. God wanted to use it to teach me far more than blogging tips but to dig deeper and work on some areas that have been bothering me lately. As my mom would say, it was an opportunity for healing. 🙂 Part of me thinks, do I really want to put all this down in black and white and send it out there for all to see? Another part of me says, it’s good to show not just the pretty and fun but the tears and struggle so someones else will know that they are not alone. I think the easiest way to do that is to just do it journal style. So here we go.
The Months Leading up to CWBNCA.
When I first heard about the upcoming conference in California, I was ecstatic because it was close enough for me to drive and the dates fit into our family schedule. However, as the dates got closer I seriously thought I would not be able to do it since my FIL was not doing well and doubts were filling my mind about meeting friends that have only known me through the screen. What if they meet me and think I’m weird or too old or too fat or too loud or too quiet or too whatever… Normally I am happy and ready to give someone a smile and a hug but sometimes feelings of inadequacy creep in and instead of participating in a group conversation I’ll just smile and nod. My mind will want to respond with a story or something that happened to me and instead I’ll hear a voice that says, “That’s so dumb. No one wants to hear that story. It’s best you just keep quiet.” It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does I feel like an introverted extrovert. So I worried that those negative thoughts would make me spend the weekend sitting quietly in the corner. But recalling, sweet Hallie’s battle cry to love fearlessly, I pushed the doubts aside. My enthusiasm returned and I was counting down the days.
Attendees were posting photos of what they were wearing on Saturday. I posted my mine too.
I started packing for the weekend in typical Bobbi fashion, the day before I had to leave. In the morning I pulled out outfits from my closet and tried things on. Everything was blah, blah, blah. For those of you who have been reading about my health goals, I wanted to lose another 10 by the conference and I was well on my way until Easter came. Darn you, Reeses’ s peanut butter eggs! My total weight loss is small in comparison to my goal but there was enough if it to need a size down in some of my favorites. Since it was a Thursday, the kids were all in school (at least until noon when the younger ones were out) so I jumped in the car and went to the local shopping center to see if I could find something to wear on Saturday. Since we were getting head shots taken, I needed to look a little put together. I debated about dressing up but I’m just a jeans kinda girl so I went with it. I found cute jeans at Macy’s, a orange tank at Old Navy and a short white sweater (YES! WHITE, anathema to moms with young children!) at Khol’s. I tried them on and everything clicked. I felt like me, not me dressing up pretending to be someone else or me stuck in clothes I hate because I couldn’t find anything else that fit me right. Score.
I dug into my closet and found some cute shoes I hardly wore. They were open toed flats and begged for painted toe nails. I know this is going to sound weird but I don’t paint my nails and have never painted my toe nails. But this was a going to be a historic weekend so that evening I raided Bella’s polish collection and sat down to pretty up. Brian gave me a dumbfounded look that said, “WHAT the heck are you doing?” I told him this weekend I just want to feel like a girl! As opposed to?? Am exhausted mom with peanut butter on her shirt, broken fishy crackers in her purse and sore feet from stepping on Legos all day. This was my mini-vacay!
I felt bad leaving Brian alone with the kids for three days but I left him with the essentials – a rosary, bottle of wine and chocolate. 😉
By Friday morning I was so excited. Self-doubt be damned, I was going to have a good time! But saying goodbye to the kids left me a little teary. Matthew clung to my leg and John-Paul shed tears as he said he’d miss me. Andrew kept blinking back his tears but was putting on a brave face. Bella and Brian didn’t want to see me go but I think they understood that I needed this little get away.
I decided to take Highway 101 South for the journey. It landed out adding an extra 1/2 an hour but driving along the ocean made every minute worth it! Everything went smoothly and I arrived at my hotel without a problem.
Friday Late Afternoon
A few of us had made plans to meet up for dinner and a movie later that evening so I took the time to just relax until it was time to go.
Meagan, Kendra, Emmy, Micaela, and me. I love this photo but I have to laugh because, first, I am so short compared to the others and, second, I look like a tag-along Mertz who photobombs the shot. 😉 (Photo courtesy of Emmy’s bestie.)
I headed down to Poquito Mas for dinner and was the first to arrive. I sat their nervously until Meagan came. Her warm smile and friendliness put me at ease and we chatted and laughed until the door blew open and in walked the queen of Catholic blogging mamas, Kendra from Catholic All Year. At her side was the incredible Micaela from California to Korea. My mind was officially blown! I mean deep down I knew they are just moms and bloggers and awesome women and not “famous” BUT they were famous in my world and it took a few minutes to snap me out of it and not be tongue tied. We had fun sharing stories over tacos and salsa.
From there we headed to the theater to watch Little Boy. Micaela knew some of the people involved in making it and we wanted to support their efforts. Emmy and her best friend were saving us seats. We chatted a little more then enjoyed the show. It was a sweet movie that had a lot of tender moments. I’ll do a review later but for now, let’s just say that Emmy and I went through a heck of a lot of tissues!
I didn’t sleep very well that night and my allergies were really bothering me. My eyes were bloodshot and Visine was not working but I was still excited to start the day. I spent some time in prayer and the day’s devotion from Blessed Is Shewas perfect. What really hit home was the following:
So my challenge to you is to discover your gifts. Pay attention to what it is that makes you feel the most excited about your faith and keep doing it! If you feel like your spouse or a loved one has a particular gift, let them know as they might be afraid to share it with others. And as you’re reflecting on your own gifts today, think about these words from Saint Catherine of Siena as she says, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
The quote from Catherine of Sienna is one of my favorite quotes! It was as if God was reminding me to be brave and just be myself.
I dressed and headed out to Kendra’s house, which was lovely! She removed the furniture from her family room and set up chairs for some of the talks. However, the introductions were out in the backyard. Everything was set up so pretty!
Kendra made cookie as name cards.
There was a directory of participants (smart!), a beautiful print from Blessed Is She and a pretty notebook to take notes. As I walked around, it was the oddest sensation to see faces I recognized and to have people come up and hug me and say they felt like they already know me. I am big on family and sisterhood and the level of sisterhood at the event was incredible. I never felt so comfortable with a group of Catholic women in all my life. Even with the ones, I did not know well, there was already an instant connection.
I was so excited to finally meet Karianna (left)! Out of all the attendees I’ve been online friends with her the longest. 🙂 Amber (middle) was someone I just met that day. She immediately won me over and by the end of the day I felt like she was my long lost bestie. The name of her blog alone guaranteed I’d love her – Laundry Is Never Done.com! 😉
A group shot of all of us.
Kendra (the host) and Micaela (the coordinator) started off the introductions. I cannot tell you how moved I am by all the work and preparation these ladies put together to make this such a special weekend! After we enjoyed some refreshments and introduced ourselves to each other we joined together in prayer.
It was beautiful to hear everyone join together in one voice as lifted our heart and prayers to Our Lord through Our Lady.
Next up, we went into the house for Kendra presentation. She shared her image making skills using PicMonkey. I use PicMonkey for all my photos yet there were still a couple of tricks that were new to me.
My PicMonkey fave tip: Use the color eyedropper to match the exact colors you want and choose a color pallet that suits your blog design. You can make those your signature colors for uniformity. Next up was Kristin from This Inspired Life. TIL is in my Top 5 Podcasts so it was interesting to hear what she had to say. I can’t wait to see how many of the bloggers decided to give podcasting a try as well! (I’m looking at you, Mary Ruth!)
My fave podcast tip: The most recommended IOS app for listening to podcasts is Overcast.
Towards the end of the talk, the room started smelling really good with a Panera lunch waiting for us. I have never tried their food before but they just opened one where we live so I’ll be taking Brian for a lunch date soon!
My fave lunch tip – Try the asiago steak sandwich. It is delish!
About half way through lunch, our four speakers led a panel discussion where we could ask blogging questions and get their input.
My fave personal tip – Pay more attention to the panel and stop spending so much time posting play by play photos on Instagram. 😉
In between all the activities, the amazing photographer Jiza of Olive and Cypress took head shots of all the participants.
After lunch, Micaela shared her story about how she started blogging and her struggles with feelings of pride. She shared how God helped her to over come it and she closed her moving testimony by praying the Litany of Humility with us.
My favorite quote – “We don’t get a free pass to not use our gifts but we have to keep it in perspective.”
Afterwards, we found out about the earthquake in Nepal. We paused to say a decade of the rosary for all the victims.
Next up was the beloved Catholic evangelizing super hero Jenna from Blessed Is She. She shared her stellar social media skills.
My fave Facebook tip – Make a Facebook group for your blog instead of just a FB page. That way your posts will show up in the group members’ feeds more often.
My fave Pinterest tip – Make a “Best of” board for all your best blog posts AND make your blog post logos uniform so when people see them, they know right away it is a post from you. (She recommended Cristina’s board/photos as a good example.)
My fave Twitter tip – Make conversation. Don’t just be a link dropper.
My fave Instagram tip – Figure out what your favorite “look” is and keep your photos cohesive using that look. (She recommended Grace’s post about using Afterlight.)
The final presenter of the day was Andrea Boring, who made the gorgeous CWBN website. She shared that after fourteen years away from the church, her reversion back was sparked by a single social media post.
My fave quote – “We’re all called to be disciples. Our voice is important. It is up to us to use it for the glory of God.”
* * * * *
At this point my head and heart was so full I could nearly bust! Besides all the amazing info and testimonies, the friendships were hands down the best part. I no longer have to say my “online friend” but can just say my friend because we have officially met in real life! Here are some random shots of some of those new friends. 🙂
The conference was officially over for the night but the majority of us wanted to go out together for dinner. I was feeling tired and my head ached but I really wanted to go too so we headed to California Pizza. I sat next to Micaela, Amber and Kristin. We ate and chatted but I wasn’t feeling great. Maybe the previous sleepless night was catching up with me but I wasn’t super talkative and my mind started playing tricks on me. This is crazy but I swear the devil was attacking me. As I was talking to Micaela thoughts would run through my head like this: “Micaela is so intelligent and interesting, she’s going to think I’m an idiot. Was that a “look” she just gave me? She’s going to wish I sat over there instead. What am I even doing here? These women are so much better than me. I feel like a loser…” Ack!!! What the heck?? Get thee behind me, Satan! And get me to bed because I clearly need sleep.
I said my good byes and tried to get some sleep. Unfortunately, a neighboring traveler had a herd on tweens who were running up and down the stairs and at one point around 11pm one of the kids was banging on my door. His sister (I presumed) yelled at him that his mom was in another room. Meanwhile my other hotel neighbor must have had too much to drink because I could hear him getting sick. It was no bueno! Thank God I finally drifted off to sleep.
On Sunday morning I woke up feeling better. My head ache was gone and although my eyes were still red and itching (this always happens when I visit So Cal!) I felt good. As I was taking a shower I was thinking about all the things I had learned on Saturday. I also kept thinking about the movie we watched Little Boy. The premise of the whole storyline was the Scripture, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will be able to say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
God was speaking to my heart, that I may feel as small and insignificant as a tiny mustard seed in the grand scheme of things, but when I put my faith and trust in him, when I let go of fear and choose love, joy and courage, then He can do miraculous things. I may never see them but I can trust that the Holy Spirit will take care of everything. I just need to keep myself docile in His hands.
All weekend I kept hearing the message over and over in my head, “God wants to use your voice. God desires your gifts. You have a special place in God’s plan…” Tears started running down my face, even now as I am typing, they are escaping me again. As much as I mess up and despite all my shortcomings, God sees me as his beautiful daughter. He sees someone made in his image. He sees what I could accomplish if only I’d let go of the chains that bind me down. It is hard to see myself like that but God is slowly peeling back the layers. He is showing me the rotten that needs to be cut out and the good that needs to be nurtured so it can bloom. It is scary as all hell but also liberating! Blessed be God. 🙂
Well, after that enlightening 15 minute shower/retreat, I got dressed and as I was searching through my makeup bag for a barrette, I found Lego Spidey hiding in there. Aw, I missed my babies but knew I would see them by the end of the day. I finished dressing and headed to the San Fernando Mission.
The Mission is beautiful!
After Mass, a few of us headed into the gift shop. I wanted to pick out something that would remind me of this weekend.
I saw this and knew it was the perfect reminder.
My driving buddy Amber joined me again and we headed to Kendra’s house for brunch. It was fun to see some of the husbands and young kids there and match them up to the wives/moms.
After breakfast there was one short closing talk given by Jenny Cook. She shared how she started reading Catholic blogs when she was a Protestant. She reached out to specific bloggers to answer her questions and she was moved by how the Catholic blogoshere embraced her and accepted her her into the community. She was moved not only by the blogs that specifically shared about the faith and apologetics but was also touched by blogs about daily life as a Catholic. Ultimately Jenny joined the church and her kids were just baptized a couple weeks ago. She reminded us all that you never know who is reading your blog and that God can use your words to change lives. It was the perfect ending to the conference!
I gave my last hugs and said my good byes. Jenna, who is almost a foot taller than me, was sitting down so I took a quick selfie so we’d be at eye level. LOL. I love this girl! She is like a younger sister. She is just on fire for God and sisterhood community!
Although I don’t have a photo, my last hug was from Micaela. Her hug, her smile, her kind words to me was a healing balm to my heart. It was God’s final reminder of the weekend to let go of the crazy thoughts and embrace the love that is before me. (Thanks, Micaela. You have no idea how much your presence meant to me this weekend!)
On my way out the famous red door, Kendra suggested we all pose for a WIWS (What I Wore Sunday). A few of us were in traveling clothes (like me) but we were happy to oblige.
The drive home went smoothly and relatively quickly. I lifted my phone and took this shot without looking. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw how pretty it was, despite the dirty windshield. 😉
When I got home I was greeted by these cute faces. They kissed me and clung to me not wanting to let go. It was so sweet. I am so thankful for this time. I am thankful for my sweet husband for letting me go. Even more than the book knowledge, the self -knowledge and the community I experienced was truly priceless! I can’t wait until CWBNCA 2016!! Sign me up! 😉
Oh, and I only mentioned a small handful of bloggers but I met so many incredible women! Next I’ll post a list of the participants and put links to those who have conference recaps as well. 🙂