Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ready or not...

He's coming!  Advent is almost over and I can't believe how quickly it has flown by.  Gabriella is almost three months old and she is teaching me to relax in the hustle and bustle of the shopping season...this is mainly because she doesn't really allow me to go shopping anymore.  She is now at "that" stage (supposedly everything is a stage) where she doesn't want to be in her carseat if we're not driving...she has to be out and looking around at all of the action around her. 

Case and point...we had over a hundred Christmas cards to get out in the mail and I refused to write out our return address on every single one so my brilliant idea was to go to Staples and have a return address stamp made for all of the other Christmases to come.  I did my research and found out that they take 45 minutes in store and you're ready to go!  So I feed, burp and change Gabriella, throw my hair into a "messy bun" (that's still stylish right?) and head out.  I get to the store only to find that G has fallen asleep and I foolishly think I have extra time...so I go next door to petsmart first.  Bad move.  We walk into Staples and order the stamp and I start my little trek around the store hunting for some home office things and G wakes up.  I love when she wakes up in a place other than our house and she's confused until she sees me...it makes me feel loved...until her lower lip comes out and she starts screaming because she realizes that not only is she not home...she is also strapped down.  So I take her out after the usual struggle of getting her out of the contraption that will save her life if I ever drop the car seat and immediately she stops crying and my little bobble-head does her customary perusal of her surroundings.  People are walking by saying what a little angel she is (did they not just hear the glass breaking screams?) and what great head control she has.  I look at my watch thinking that it must be close to 45 minutes at this point...10 minutes have passed.  So with baby in one hand and stroller in the other...we walk around and around the store spending too much money because what else can I do and wait.  Finally the stamp is done and we're headed home, now with a very hungry baby and I am triumphant because I have just made my life easier with this stamp...the story goes downhill from here...

I get home feed, burp and change Gabriella (yes, the same exact process over and over), put her in her little baby Einstein play mat, and I sit down with my mountain of Christmas cards ready to make the magic happen...only to find out that when I press down on the stamp only half of it works.  Do the people at Staples not realize the process of going out?  I have to feed, burp and change the little nugget, strap her in and drive all the way to the store...all for the stamp to not work...really?  Yes!  Really. 

So end of the story...I printed off labels at work...sent them out and am very angry at Staples...but I got a great picture of Gabriella on that little play mat...she's too darn cute!  So ready or not...let's get excited to greet our King...no return address stamp needed!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Official Welcome...10 weeks late...


Welcome Gabriella Sophia Mariae Link
 to our world...you came in and on the same day became a new creation in Christ and we are so filled with joy by your life!

And it's Advent...



Well, I sheepishly come crawling back to my blog after an insanely long hiatus and acknowledge that I am human and have failed at multitasking in many ways...this being one of them.  So, update...I'm a mama now...how crazy that the last time I blogged I was waiting for little Link to make her appearance and now here she is...we went from here
to here in a matter of days...and now she's almost three months old and celebrating Advent like she's rockstar.  I will be posting more pictures soon... but for now, accept my humble offering of coming back to life in the world-wide-web...
talk to you soon...

Friday, September 7, 2012

timeline

So, facebook has yet another new, annoying layout called "timeline," it's been forced onto most people at this point, most of you know what I'm talking about...

I still have to post wedding pictures and this will screw up my timeline since we're having a baby in less than a month, wait, did I just say in less than a month???  Yep, time flies...it feels like just yesterday I was standing in our little apartment after the March for Life in DC holding that white stick telling Marty that we were having a baby.  That was way back in January and I remember somewhere in the middle of the pregnancy maybe like month 6 I looked at myself and said, "I probably won't get much bigger than this." haha, oh poor disillusioned me! 

But going back to this timeline, it has made me look back on my "timeline" or better to say, God's "timeline" for me.  Marty and I talk about this a lot when we talk about our baby girl...isn't it a miracle the steps that were taken in both of our lives in order to get to this point in our lives?  And isn't it a miracle the steps we had to take towards God and sometimes away from God in order to be having this specific little girl?  What a journey!  A little more than 3 years ago I packed up my car, single and a little broken, and drove to Baltimore to live with one of my best friends and start a new job...God had His timeline and little did I know I was driving right into it!  How can you post that on facebook? 

Now, my more recent timeline is getting ready for this little life and at the same time moving...so many things do, so little time because time goes so quickly.  We are packing boxes and yet at the same time making sure things are ready if we're surprised with an early arrival; but it IS just like yesterday when we started planning the move and the baby's arrival...I sat down with my sister-in-law and she shared her news of having a little one too, and now that little one is here...time moves faster than we can blink...my point to all this timeline talk?  Sit back with your best friend, your husband or your kiddos and enjoy what God is doing in your timeline...sooner than soon you will be looking back on it saying "man it seems just like yesterday..."

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

So today I pulled into the parking lot at work and low and behold the lot was full of cars parked and double-parked and I realized that it could only mean one thing:  the kids were back.  The first day of school for most of my life didn't really happen, I was always in school because I was homeschooled, but starting high school the first day of school was exciting because I had never encountered it before.  That lasted the first two years of high school and then I wasn't so excited.  But one thing I always looked forward to was the fresh start of a new year...no matter what had happened the year before (good grades, bad grades, making varsity or not) was behind you...it all began again. 
Now the first day of school reminds me that my year will begin to increase in responsibility and youth group will be kicking off and hopefully kids will start trickling back in the door of the youth room.  Well, not too soon...I am looking forward to a relaxing (haha) time with my little girl come the end of September...I am looking forward to settling into our new house and making it a home, but most of all I am looking forward to starting something new...our family.  I cannot express how very excited I am for this chapter in my life... God is prompting Marty and I to start something new and unknown and it reminds me that God's plans are always so much bigger and better than ours...
So, looking back on that first day of school...I can relate to the uncertainty of a new year, but I can also relate to something new on the horizon...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

the honey-"dew" list

Our little girl is a honeydew this week...maybe not quite as round but certainly as heavy if not heavier.  She's so close to being here I can barely wait...and then I look around the house and I realize we still have a long way to go before we could say we're ready...but who's really ever ready for their first baby?  Most people are probably more ready than we are but at the same time we're packing up and moving before or after she arrives...who knows her schedule?  So I like to think that that's the reason we're not as ready as we wanted to be.  But I feel like our list is getting longer and longer of the things we have to get done, and I also feel counter-productive when I am packing boxes of house things but unpacking boxes of baby things...it's all a bit overwhelming. 
But I had a nice little break from reality this past weekend and went to my baby shower, and it was the perfect day!  I don't think that the party could have been more perfect.  It was so fun just relaxing with friends and family, eating fantastic food and of course opening presents...this little girl is going to have some fun clothes and blankets when she decides to come out and play!  I think what was most fun for me was going home with everything and showing it to Marty...it was like opening all the presents twice.  Marty, being the guy that he is, was the practical one pointing out what she would and wouldn't really "need" but let's be honest, who doesn't go a little crazy when it comes to baby stuff? 
After the weekend it was back to the daily grind and work...but Marty and I had an opportunity to go to Mass yesterday for the feast of Mary our Queen that was offered in honor of St. 'Padre' Pio who is our Saint and it was a bit of a reflection on the past year (11 months) and how far we've come in being married, and welcoming this little life into our lives...it's hard to believe that in a month we'll celebrate our one year anniversary and also the birth of our baby...who knows...maybe on the same day!  But we were able to really think about the grace of our marriage and the holiness of the Sacrament that we're living and how everything else fades...the packing, the stress of moving, the uncertainty of bringing new life into the world...in comparison to what God has given us in each other.  Yesterday's gospel reminded us of the very fitting message to focus on when the Archangel Gabriel's said to our Blessed Mother..."nothing will be impossible for God." 

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's almost time...

for football season that is!  I know, I know, I could be talking about the fact that in 7 weeks we'll be meeting our little girl for the first time, but let's talk about all the other joys Fall brings for a minute.  As everyone knows, Fall is my ultimate favorite time of year...the apple cider, the warm soups, the fun holidays, my birthday...that's why it makes sense that my little girl would come in the Fall, she's sure to fall into the "favorites" category.  So back to football...obviously there is some strain in our home around this time of year...Marty and his Ravens (boo) and me and my Steelers...we've talked about what this will look like when little Link enters the picture, it could get ugly.  As much as we have agreed that we'll be fair with her, I know that I am at a disadvantage because of me working on Sundays...little baby will be home with her daddy (daddy/daughter football day) and she's going to hear him rooting for that "purple team" and she'll associate her loyalty with his.  I know I will be fighting a losing battle.  But all that being said, we've been pretty tame about the start of the season...we love football...especially when fall is in the air. 
I suppose I can't start planning for Fall too soon though...we still have a little ways to go and a little one to prepare for.  I was reading today how big she is and she's roughly the weight of a pineapple (who doesn't love those) I just hope she's not as prickly; and she could be up to 19 inches long already.  I can completely see her being this long considering that I feel kicks in my ribs and in my bladder at all times...she is also staying awake for longer periods of time and she can keep her eyes open during those times.  I can only dream about what she looks like but soon enough those dreams will be realities and I'll be looking at her cheering with daddy at football games!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Button Belly

I had a priest at my parish when I was growing up who was from Vietnam, by far one of my favorite priests ever!  When he first arrived at our parish his English was, to say the least, not great.  He often mixed up common phrases and stumbled over his words during his homilies; one of my favorite things he messed up was switching the words in "belly button" to "button belly."  I used to think, in my primitive 5 year old mind, that babies were born into the world from their mother's belly buttons (it makes sense since my mother always told me that my belly button was what attached me to her in her belly).  How wrong I was!  I thought that when the time came, the weird little indent in my belly would just open up and the baby would come right out and the belly button would close back up on it's little wrinkled self...wouldn't that be easier?  I see now, that being 30 weeks pregnant and losing that little indent more every day the belly button doesn't just "open up," nor would my theory be logical that it would be painless...there are many times I am pointing out my belly button to Marty and he goes to touch it and I slap his hand away because my little button is tender now that it's not safely tucked away where it's supposed to be.
As nervous and scared as I am about this little one coming I am so excited to meet her.  I think everyday as I get bigger that she's outgrowing her little home and will soon be joining ours...what an amazing thing to think about while reflecting on our belly buttons...seriously, that little indent kept us alive in our mother's womb and is a constant reminder that we are sustained by something greater than ourselves.  It's our mother before we're born but it reminds us that God is the greatest life sustainer of all when it comes to being a lifeline that continues to nurture us throughout our lives.  Maybe the next time you look at your belly button you'll be reminded that we come from nothing and are brought to life by Christ.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

God at Work

Just this past Thursday I became an auntie!  My little nephew, Isaac, came into the world, a true miracle.  For five years we have prayed for this little boy and finally he arrived...in his own time.  This shows me that God is truly at work in our lives...sometimes He likes to take His time to make sure that everything is perfect!  I am so excited for my brother and sister-in-law, they are so in love with this little guy!  When I got the message that she was in labor I was sitting in the hallway of an elementary school while 100 little kids participated in Vacation Bible School (I was at the nurse desk with bandaids); I was so excited that I wanted to leave and jump in the car and drive to Connecticut to see them...probably not the wisest of decisions so I stayed at my desk...but the whole time I just couldn't wait to see a picture of my nephew!  Finally I got a text message from my brother saying Isaac had arrived...and the second text message I got was that he also had Emil's little jacked up toes (a couple of which happen to cross under each other).  That's when I cried a little...Isaac is a little mini Emil/Hannah...that's when it hit me that he's not just this little guy who had been growing in Hannah for 9 months...he was in fact, a little version of the two of them...God's proof of love embodied in a person! 
Thinking of that, I am even more excited to meet our little girl...to see what she looks like...maybe have my crazy hair or something...but most importantly I can't wait to see her as an embodiment of God at work in our lives!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Coffee, coffee, coffee...

Anyone who knows me, knows that coffee has sustained me through many days of life...I was thinking about this the other day when I was preparing for a summer youth conference that I'd be taking my kids (as in my youth group kids) to in just a couple of weeks.  The weekends used to be (when I was in high school) such an invigorating weekend.  Now, as an adult they can be very draining...hence coffee became very important in my life.  I took a look back on the 7 years of ministry that I've clocked and remembered that at the first parish I was a youth minister, fresh out of college and striving to be the holiest person possible, I decided that coffee had an unnatural hold on my life and therefore I should give it up...well, only for Lent.  This lasted about a week before my pastor came into my office and shut the door...he proceeded to tell me that if my "sacrifice" made others suffer it ceased being a sacrifice.  He handed me a cup of coffee and walked out.  It was then that I knew I was hooked. 
Throughout the years my youth group kids would gift me with Starbucks gift cards, coffee mugs of all shapes and sizes and often come into my office bearing coffee drinks of all flavors and temperatures.  I never considered this a problem seeing as it has some good health perks (right?) and it was a great tool for ministry ("let's meet at a coffee shop and talk about that"). 
The day I realized it was a problem was the day I found out that the little human inside of me wasn't compatible with the copious amounts of caffeine I drank every morning...noon and night....and I had to take teens on a weekend retreat, where we slept on the floor with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of other teenage girls who didn't need the same kind of sleep a pregnant woman needs.  Early on I saw the struggle.  Now, with another retreat looming in my very near future I found myself dreading the late nights, early mornings and lack of coffee with energetic teens.  I had to redirect my thoughts before they took me to that dark place...I have my lack of coffee as a constant reminder that I am being given a huge gift, well a tiny gift who doesn't like coffee, but a huge gift who will be appreciative (maybe not now) of the sacrifice that I am making for her.  It's a small part in learning how to be Christ like...but I still look forward to the day I get to order my regular coffee...only three more months to go!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Parents for Life

How in the world could I love this little face so much already?  I swear she already has a personality!  We were watching her last week at our ultrasound and she was turning flips and playing peek-a-boo and showing off her little hiney, I think we could have watched her forever!  At just under six months I am starting to feel the pressure when it comes to being ready to parent a child.  And as I get everything ready, including myself I am reminded of the program that I used to help with at my last job, it was called Parents for Life and was a small offshoot of during Life Teen for our parents to come together and talk about the joys and struggles of being a parent.  I guess those joys, struggles and fears will never go away.  I can only imagine how much more I will realize that once our little girl is born! Marty and I talk about being a parent and how it will change our lives but also hopefully make us better and more selfless people...but also the responsibility of not only getting each other to heaven but now this little person as well...it really makes me marvel at the glory of God in parenthood.  The very root of the word Matrimony means motherhood, so God's intensive purpose for this Sacrament is for two to become one and make three...and He gives us the gift of His trust in bringing up that little image of Him to know and love Him!  I can't help but think in knowing that, of course fear will play a factor in the emotions that are filling me all the time.  In just a few short months our lives will never be the same, and knowing that God doesn't give us what we can't handle I am looking forward to being a parent for life!  But I'm still needing all the prayers I can get! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Things I've Lost...

Just past the half-way mark on this pregnancy I have reflected lately on the things that I've lost...let me explain.  The other day I left the house to go to work, drove all the way to Annapolis and realized I had left my computer at home...it seems to me that in a lot of ways I have lost my mind...where did the "cool as a cucumber" attitude, the "super organized" attributes I used to so pridefully display seem to go?  In their place I have become a slightly crazed hot mess...Marty will attest to this.  I am not as on top of cleaning as I used to be, I don't remember things like I normally do, nor do I seem to get many places on time...a huge pet peeve of mine...
Another thing that I have "lost" is my waistline...slowly, slowly I watch it disappear as this little monster inside of me decides to stretch out so she's more comfy.  Now, I'm not blaming her...if I were in her shoes I would be screaming in outrage because of the small, dark space we've confined her to for the next few months, but still, she's a little out of control...
There are so many things that have changed, and I joke about losing things, which seem to be many but at the same time I look at the little gift growing inside of me and I realize that the things I am "losing" are small in comparison to this little girl.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I hope my organized, cool self comes back at some point and I really, really hope my waistline reappears as well...but I truly feel as though what I've gained and will gain when baby girl Link comes into our lives will outweigh everything else...oh and it's finally time to hit up the maternity section...I'm sure I'll have some stories about that!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How much can 7lbs cost??

Well, let's be honest our baby is more than likely going to weigh in more at the 10lb marker but a girl can dream!  Marty and I have started talking about a baby registry...I guess we'd better get on it.  But as I do my research, and I do a lot of research, I have realized that the little girl growing inside of me is going to start costing us!  Now, I was not disillusioned to how much a baby would cost but as we look into products and reviews I keep reading, 'you get what you pay for.'  So I had better start really hunting down the deals.  But this is what I think is the craziest...there are SO MANY THINGS you can get for your baby...down to little baby hangers, because goodness knows you can't hang baby clothes on big girl hangers...this is probably true...but what an industry!  Of course Marty says that I am drawn to the expensive end of things, but who can help it?  Little tutus are much more exciting than practical onesies.  It will be quite an adventure to be sure finding all of the necessities for our little girl.  Marty asked me to make sure that when I make the registry that I add Home Depot giftcards to the list...he is planning on building things for the baby's room...as long as it's not the crib, I think we'll be okay...otherwise I will have my soda can ready to try and shove between the slats of wood for it! :)  In all honesty it's hard to hold back because we're so excited for this new life.  I can understand that it would be easy to want everything and anything I can get my hands on for a newborn...that's why maybe I should start a business so I can take advantage of first time mamas just like me!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Love, love, love!

This week...in all of the readings we heard that we are called to love.  I am learning all about love in many new ways this year.  Getting married has taught me so much more about selfless love than I ever though possible.  There are so many days I get up and I don't want to take the dog out, or clean the dishes that may or may not still be there from the night before; or some days I just simply don't feel like being nice.  Well, to say the least, God is teaching me about selfless love...
I am learning about love like this I think for many reasons but probably mainly for a BIG reason that will be joining our family in just four months.  We just had our sonogram to find out what we're having and to our unspeakable joy God is blessing us with a little baby girl!  We both sat in awe this past Friday and watched on the screen and our little miracle waved her little arms and opened and closed her mouth...she looks perfect!  Marty and I left the hospital just completely astounded that we could love someone so much who we haven't even met yet!  God teaches us a lot about love in the beauty of life!  So it makes me think about that selfless love we're called to...when that little baby is kicking me and pushing on my stomach, when I feel so sick the thought of food makes me want to never eat again, or when I just really don't want to take my vitamins because they taste SO bad...I remember that God calls us to love just like He does...we might fail but He gives us so many wonderful reasons to continue trying!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is it cannibalism??

So the baby is the size of a sweet potato supposedly moving all over the place...I'm still waiting for that first flutter so in the meantime I went out to buy a few sweet potatoes so when I was eating them this week I would think of the baby.  My mom mentioned jokingly that it was a little like cannibalism because I was "eating my baby."  We laughed about it and then moved on to another topic; me using this matter (in my case a sweet potato) is helping me believe in something I cannot yet see.  Not quite cannibalism...that'd just be silly. 
But this process is helping me also reflect on my faith.  It's the month of May and therefore the month of Mary and I can't help but think, as I eat my sweet potatoes that Mary was going through this too...she was pondering what was happening in her body, she was waiting for those first little flutters, she was praying (I'm sure) as hard as she could, etc, etc.  She couldn't quite grasp what was going on...she was basing it all on faith.  I guess that's what we have to do when we're waiting on something that hasn't yet been revealed...we believe.  So I will go on praying for Mary's wisdom during this pregnancy and I will continue buying the fruit or veggie that represents my baby in hopes that I can relate it to something I am anxiously awaiting...next up?  An heirloom tomato!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Some Things Just Pop Out

Well, here we are at 17 weeks and there is no more hiding this little human!  The belly's coming out...it has been for a while but it was pretty easy to hide.  But now after a four month check up hearing that fast heartbeat it's beginning to feel more and more real every day.  When I went in for my check up the little baby had moved up near my belly button...quite the mover!  So here's what's new with this little one: it's skeleton is changing from soft cartilage to bone and it's weighing in at 5 ounces...roughly the size of a turnip.  Our baby's ears are close to their final position and he or she can hear our voices, also little toenails are forming!  How very exciting to think that a tiny little one is being knit together inside of me...I love this little person so much already but I know how much more God loves him or her.  I think about the Psalm (139) where David talks about being made in the secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth.  However this little one doesn't want to stay hidden for long...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Seeing is Believing...or is it?

This week's gospel was about Thomas...or as we call him, Doubting Thomas.  He wasn't around when  Jesus appeared to the Apostles and he said that until he saw Jesus and put his finger in the nail marks that he wouldn't believe that Jesus was truly back.  It wasn't long before he was in front of Jesus saying, 'My Lord and my God!"  A true declaration of faith.  I have kind of felt like Thomas lately...I'm 16 weeks along in my pregnancy and am starting to feel a little more like myself (not completely but close).  It's a weird feeling because for about three and a half months I have felt so sick and tired that I think I started thinking that's what being pregnant felt like...now I have to believe it even though I may not feel it.  It's hard to explain but I am not in the place where I necessarily look pregnant (just a little on the soft side) and the baby, though moving a lot I am told is too small for me to feel it.  So I just have to believe it's there. 
What a true mystery hidden inside of us!  Jesus told Thomas that blessed are the ones who do not see but still believe.  So, this little one inside of me is already helping me to believe without seeing!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Something New...

I started this blog with the intention, as I have said before, of being about the new chapter in my life.  We've been married a little more than 6 months...and expecting our first little one!  It's been exciting and scary all at once but we are so thankful for the opportunity to be parents...what a gift!  There will be pictures and more posts coming up...it's going to be a fun ride.  Here's the little one's first picture!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Welcome to the Family

On Sunday, February 12 1984 I was baptized into the Catholic Church.  YAY!  I remember that day like it was yesterday...okay not really but my parents helped me remember this day every year by throwing a little Happy Baptism Day party.  What a great thing to remember.  I'm all about birthdays but let's be honest, the day you are baptized is the day you are really born.  You are born into something so much greater than this world, you are baptized into eternal life. 
So this year will be the first year that I celebrate this day with my husband and he's been great about reminding me that it's "almost the big day." aka my baptism day...and we're planning a little celebration just the two of us, but it is nice that this day will not go unnoticed just because my family has changed a little.  We are starting our own traditions and this is one that is getting carried over to my Link family. 
But this also calls me to reflect on how awesome it is that we are given the gift of baptism, we are adopted into God's loving arms and called family.  A family that loves, always, without fail even when WE fail.  This gift also calls us to a responsibility to bring others into our family...I think about that now that I am married and getting ready to start a family; the day I baptize my child into a life with Christ my responsibility will grow tremendously but also in a beautiful way because I will have the honor of teaching my little ones about a Love that will walk with them throughout their entire life.  The day you're baptized your life changes forever...you are a new creation in Christ, you have been made new!  And I can sit and reflect on this all because 28 years ago my parents stood up in front of the entire Church and made a promise to do their best and raise me to understand that Love that never fails.  When were you baptized?  It's worth a celebreation!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just Like New...

I started this blog with the intention of it being about all things new...which has personal and religious significance so I thought that I could span a wide range of topics.  This has proven to be true (though I am sadly lacking on actually blogging) in many ways.  There are many things I could blog about that are new...but sometimes in order to understand the new, we have to go back to the old; so today I thought I would get back into the swing of blogging by telling you a story. 

Back in the Spring of 2005 I was travelling through Europe without a care in the world having the best "last" semester of college ever!  A group of us decided that during Holy Week we would head to Medjugorje and see what it was all about.  Now, for those of you who don't know, Medjugorje is a place in Bosnia-Hercegovina where the Blessed Mother appeared to six young people beginning on June 24, 1981.  The Blessed Mother appeared to, and later told the visionaries, God sent her to our world to help us convert our hearts and lives back to Him. Our Lady's call is one of Peace, Love, Faith, Conversion, Prayer, and Fasting.  Now the Vatican has not yet approved these messages because they are still taking place today and in order for the Church to validate something like this, She has to be certain that the messages stay the same until they end.  But at the same time, the Vatican has also said that it is an okay place to go and pray.
 
So our group (about 5 of us) took the 13 hour bus ride and showed up on Holy Thursday morning with no place to stay and only our backpacks.  But God revealed Himself to us largely that week by giving us a place to stay with two of the most holy people I have ever had the privilege of meeting and experiencing prayer in a way I never had before.  To tell all the tales of that blessed Holy Week it would take pages upon pages so I will just recall one story for this particular blog. 

We were staying with a couple, Nancy and Patrick, who encouraged us to climb Cross Mountain (where there are stations of the cross on the way to the top) and pray...they also encouraged us to climb it barefoot...now it was raining that morning and I waited until my group went and I went a little later by myself.  So I took off (barefoot) with flip flops in hand to use on the way back down the mountain...going up barefoot sounded like a good enough sacrifice.  And so I started...it was slow going, but I was determined...people were passing me like I was standing still...it was HARD because the rain was making puddles so I couldn't see all the sharp rocks hiding beneath the surface.  But I finally made it to the top, it was breath-taking and the HUGE cross at the top was stunning.  I sat and prayed for a bit and then...feeling rather holy, I slipped my flip flops on and started my trip back down.  But I soon realized I would slip and kill myself in the flip flops if I kept them on while trying to navigate down a wet mountain.  So, feeling rather defeated (my "holy" feelings were short lived) I took off my flip flops and continued down the mountain, now not feeling so prayerful.  A man and his son passed me going up, as I was coming down and said he something to his son as he passed me...then again they passed me going down as I was...slowly continuing my climb down.  (Now here is a good place to tell you that climbing up a mountain barefoot is nothing compared to climbing down!  Climbing down puts all of your weight on the ball of your foot and those little rocks will kill those tooties!)  He stopped his son and said something again, then looked at me and asked if I was American.  He then said that he had told his son that I was a very strong woman to be able to go down a mountain barefoot...I don't tell you this because I am tooting my own horn...I tell you this because it was the most humbling thing anyone has ever said to me...I had been walking down this mountain feeling rather sorry for myself but never once stopping to look at the Stations of the Cross around me to reflect on what Christ must have felt...I'm sure He was barefoot also.  God constantly gives us gentle reminders to think of Him.  I was a little more mindful of Christ's walk as I finished my own.

So, finally, I got to the bottom of the mountain and walked back to Nancy and Patrick's house all wet and muddy, my feet were literally caked...and as I walked into the courtyard, Patrick came running, yes, literally running out to greet me with a blanket and a basin of warm water to wash my feet.  This man, practically a stranger, knelt before me and washed my feet and asked me about my hike up the mountain...I told him the only thing I could even think to say, "it humbled me."  Patrick looked into my face and said, "that's all God wants."  It was simple, that was all he said and then patted my feet dry and sent me to the kitchen for tea and we didn't speak about it again, but I have never forgotten that moment or that lesson:  God can always make us just like new...we just have to be humble enough to let Him.

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