Faith

Such A Time As This

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You and I were made for such a time as this. Everything that this year has brought us, we were created for it. It’s easy to become discouraged, when you look at the state of our world and see statues of Saints being torn down, Church’s empty — or worse, locked. When you see our faith under attack. When you see nothing but death, destruction, hate, anger, violence, and division all around.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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But, I’m reminded, that you and I were made for such a time as this. When you don’t know what to do, or you’re feeling helpless, look to the Saints. They never turned their back on The Church, and they didn’t stay silent either. They weren’t hateful, but they didn’t pretend things were OK when they weren’t, either. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Remember, they were regular people just like us. They too may have lived seemingly small, ordinary lives at the time, but it was their great faith that led them to do incredible things for God and His Church. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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So, what do we do, in such a time as this? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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We use our voice, like Catherine of Siena did.
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We pray unceasingly, like Monica did.
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We love our families, like Louis and Zelie did.
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We sacrifice for others, like Maximilian Kolbe did.
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We defend the marginalized, like Junipero Serra did.
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We fast, like Padre Pio did. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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We rebuild a Church in need of repair, like Francis did.

We learn and defend Truth, like Aquinas and Augustine did.
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We forgive, like Josephine Bakhita did.
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We serve, like Teresa did.
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We give our lives to Christ, like Peter and Paul did. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

And we fight, like Joan did.
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How they responded to the challenges and hardships they faced in their time was their path to Sainthood. Maybe this is ours. You and I were made for such a time as this. We are called to respond. We are called to honor The Church, defend Truth, and give glory to God. How we answer this call may be exactly what makes us into great Saints.

Flowers

Liturgical Living, Simplified: January

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Happy January! Below are the feast days we’re celebrating this month, with some simple ideas you can do with your families.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: January 1st

What to do: Go to mass! Its a holy day of obligation, so that’s a must on this day. We also like to pray a family rosary to honor Our Lady and to ask for her intercession in this next calendar year.

What to eat: I’ll be honest, this one’s a bit of a stretch. We like to have a nice breakfast together as a family filled with all our favorites including pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Since its a Marian feast, we suggest making breakfast foods with blueberries, since blue is Mary’s color. Things like blueberry pancakes or blueberry muffins would work wonderfully!

Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: January 4th

What to do: This one is really special for us, as Elizabeth Ann Seton is my confirmation Saint and a patron of mine, plus I went to Seton Hall University, which was founded by her nephew and named for her! On her feast day, we go to mass at Seton Hall University, and we pray for her intercession. Also, I like to deck out my family in Seton Hall gear, but that’s just me!

What to eat: We have pizza at our favorite restaurant near Seton Hall, Reservoir. Since she lived in New York City for many years, and South Orange is just outside the city, we feel treating ourselves to some New York style pizza is a fun and unique way to celebrate her. If you’re looking for an easy way to celebrate at home, make homemade pizzas!

Solemnity of the Epiphany: January 6th

What to do: First things first, bless your house! The Epiphany blessing over the front door of your home with blessed chalk is a beautiful tradition to do at home with your family to commemorate this feast day. You can read more about it here!

What to eat: Since the Epiphany kicks off Mardi Gras season, we like to have some New Orleans style food like jumbalaya or gumbo. Then, we have a king cake for dessert! Which, since we’re all about practicality around here, is really just  bunch of cinnamon buns in a cake pan topped with purple, green, and gold frosting and sprinkles to give it a festive touch. We follow this super easy recipe from Kendra at Catholic All Year.

National Sanctity of Human Life Day: January 22nd

What to do: So this day isn’t a liturgical feast day according to the Catholic Church, but this blog is about my love for Jesus and America, so I’ve got to give President Trump a shout out here for making the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a day to recognize the sanctity of human life. So, on this day, we will pray “The Rachel Rosary” which is a rosary specifically offered up for post-abortive women who are suffering and prays for a specific intention on each prayer of the rosary. You can find it here. We also will watch “Unplanned” which is the pro-life story of Abby Johnson!

What to eat: We’ve decided that on this day, in honor of the millions of lives who have suffered and died through the evil of abortion, we will abstain from meat as a small personal sacrifice. So we will be making one of our favorite, easy, meatless recipes, like spanish rice and beans or homemade pizza.

Conversion of St. Paul: January 25th

What to do: Watch this movie about St. Paul, called Paul The Apostle. It tells the story of St. Paul’s powerful conversion and his mission, and also how St. Luke, who was his companion, came to write his Gospel.

What to eat: Since St. Paul ended up in Italy, we’ve decided to make homemade pasta in honor of him! This is super fun to do, but also a lot of work, so it isn’t something we do often. We’ll be making sauce & meatballs to go with our homemade pasta. I have a pasta maker that attaches to my KitchenAid, so we usually just google an easy homemade past recipe like this one and get started!

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas: January 28th

What to do: Aquinas is one of the greatest minds of The Church, a beautiful way to honor him would be to spend some time reading some of his work! You can find it here. If you’re looking for a kid friendly version, check out this video about his life. You could also watch this video together about the Theology of the Mass according to St. Thomas Aquinas. Lastly, since St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican friar, you can always pray a rosary together as a family on his feast day.

What to eat: We decided to take a page from Haley Stewart’s blog, Carrots for Michaelmas, and make Lazio style pork chops, since that is the region of Italy St. Thomas Aquinas is from! You can find this easy recipe here.

Thanks for reading! Let us know if you tried any of these ideas, or if you have any additional feast days or ways of celebrating in the month of January. After all, we’re new to this and would love to hear your suggestions!

Feast of St. John Bosco: January 31st

What to do: There’s a Don Bosco Youth Center in NJ, so we think that would be a fun way to honor this priest. If you have a center near you, see if there is a way you can help. If they need volunteers or supplies, today could be a great day to be involved! Also, we like to read a little bit from St. John Bosco’s writing. There is so much goodness he shares!

What to eat: Since St. John Bosco was known for always “passing out bread” to children, we decided to make homemade bread on his feast day. This is a fun activity to get kids involved, and you really can’t bead homemade bread. Let me know if you have a favorite bread recipe, I haven’t settled on one just yet!

Faith, Family

Liturgical Living, Simplified: An Introduction

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Hi, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve been on here because life is very full and I can barely keep up most days, but I’ve been meaning to post about our new years resolution this year! In the past couple years we’ve fallen in love with our unique Catholic faith, and we’ve wanted to make an effort to incorporate the rich traditions of our faith into our daily lives, especially in ways that kids will love.

Dom and I love family traditions, and there are things that each of us grew up doing that we remember so fondly. Even though we were both raised Catholic, we didn’t really have any traditions tied to the liturgical calendar. This is something that we’d like to do with our kids, and we hope by starting now with Gianna as a baby we can establish traditions that our children will enjoy doing, and will also invite them into a deeper understanding of the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith.

So, why am I writing about it here? Hasn’t this been done before? Yes. Certainly! Many times over. I’ve actually stalked quite a few blogs and read books on the matter of liturgical living and what that looks like within family life,  which has been very helpful in coming up with ideas of how to celebrate feast days and honor our Catholic faith in this way. However, I will admit that we’ve also been overwhelmed by the celebrations of other families, and we want to try to keep things simple and practical so that we actually follow through and do the things we set out to do!

So, here I will be documenting our simple and liturgical traditions for my own future reference, and also for anyone else who is looking for new ways to celebrate their favorite feast days with their own family!

Now, to get started. Dom and I sat down and wrote out different feast days that we’d like to celebrate and recognize throughout the year. We began with bigger feasts like Solemnities and Holy Days of Obligation, and then moved into feasts of our favorite Saints and days that are a little more personal to us.

A I said earlier, we think that if a celebration is practical and fairly easy to execute, we’ll be more likely to do it and make a tradition out of it, so we want to keep it simple. The most important way to honor a feast would be to go to Mass, so that is first on the list. We will make an effort to attend daily mass on each feast day we’d like to celebrate, so our children know that ultimately our goal is to bring glory to God and grow closer to Him. Another thing we plan to do with each feast day is to have a special meal or dessert that draws attention to the specific feast we are celebrating. We have to eat anyway, so we are simply bringing each feast day into our daily routine by making a special food that reminds us of what we are celebrating. Sometimes this may look like a meal from a certain culture, or a dessert of a favorite Saint. Besides mass and a special food, we want to do one thing on each feast day that would honor the person or devotion we celebrate that day. It could be as simple as praying for the intercession of that particular Saint, or as elaborate as visiting a shrine devoted to them.

If you’re like us, and you’re trying to live liturgically but simply don’t have the time and energy to do every feast in the biggest and most elaborate way possible, I hope you’ll follow along! Each month we’ll be sharing what feast days we are celebrating as a family, along with what we’re cooking & what we’re doing on those days. By keeping it simple we hope to carry out these traditions and instill them in our children, so they will have fond memories of celebrating these special days as a family, and also so that we can begin laying a foundation for a deeper understanding of our Catholic faith as they grow .

Faith

Enthroning Our Home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Hi there friends, and happy new year! We kicked off the first Friday of 2020 by enthroning our home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a devotion I had never heard of, but it is amazing! We hope that in this new year and decade, our family can grow in our faith and love for the Lord. We feel that by enthroning our home to His most sacred heart, Jesus will be at the center of everything we do in our home and as a family. We also hope that God will grant us the promises of the Sacred Heart, so that we can live holy lives as a family as we strive toward Heaven. And let me tell you, these graces are no joke. I’ll list them below!

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life.
2. I will establish peace in their families.
3. I will comfort them in their trials.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and, above all, in death.
5. I will shed abundant blessings on all their undertakings
6. Sinners will find in My Heart an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Lukewarm souls will become fervent.
8. Fervent souls will rapidly grow in holiness and perfection.
9. I will bless every place where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. The names of those who promote this devotion will be written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

Sounds good, right?

Don’t get me wrong — these promises don’t just spontaneously happen (although, they could, because God is all powerful!) but by fostering a devotion to to sacred heart and praying specific prayers to the sacred heart of Jesus, along with placing our focus on Christ in this way, we are inviting God into our home and we are striving to please Him in all we do.

So, how do you do it?

Well, there’s a few things you need to do in order to enthrone your home to the Sacred Heart. It includes finding an image of the sacred heart to display in your home, reciting specific prayers with a priest, and if possible — having a mass said that day. We used this as our reference and it was super helpful in outlining everything we need to do, and then also in providing the prayers for us to recite with the priest during the enthronement.

In addition to the criteria mentioned above, we’ve begun reading Father Michael Gaitley’s  book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus at the recommendation of a friend in order to foster a devotion to the sacred heart. We also are attending mass for 9 consecutive first Fridays this year as part of the devotion to the sacred heart. Lastly, we also prayed a novena to the sacred heart as a family, which I recommend you do either leading up to the enthronement or beginning on the day of the enthronement!

I encourage you to do this too! It’s an old devotion that is not done often today, and it takes a little bit of effort, but it is so powerful for our hearts, homes, and families. Imagine how we can change the world if we raise our families with Jesus and His most sacred heart at the center of everything we do?

 

 

 

Faith, Flowers

Living for Christ Giveaway

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Hey there! It occurred to me recently that my blog celebrated its one year anniversary! I wanted to thank you for reading this past year and for being a part of my life (digitally, at least). Maybe it’s because I recently had a baby, or maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for a year now, but I wanted to reflect on why I started this whole thing in the first place.

You see, I’ve always had a heart for evangelization, but I’ve struggled with how that looks in my own life for a few years. My life hasn’t brought me to be a missionary of travel the world, and that’s OK! In fact, that’s not what I’ve ever felt called to. I felt called to complete my schooling, work as an occupational therapist, marry Dom, and have children. While I’ve seen God work in my daily life and I try to being Christ to all I encounter, I sometimes felt like there was something more I could be doing. At the time, I found social media leaving me very materialistic and empty. I decided to make a switch and follow some accounts that were centered on faith. Suddenly I wasn’t left feeling empty, but rather, inspired.

I was so inspired by these other women — wives, mothers, workers, students, sisters, daughters, friends, living their lives for the Lord in such a way that it wasn’t weird or strange, but authentic and beautiful. I then had the idea to create this blog and hopefully, allow Christ to work through me and lead others to Him. Through sharing about my prayer life, politics, marriage & family, our struggles and joys, how we incorporate faith in our home style, I could be a witness to God’s love and faithfulness, and hopefully inspire others to see God working in their own lives.

One year later I’ve had moments where I’ve wrestled with the thought of what I’m doing here and if it is something that should continue. Am I doing this for God? Or for me? Am I humbling myself to glorify God? Or has it become about me, and about whoever I’m following at the moment?

After much prayer and reflection, I’ve realized that like with anything else, if we put God at the center, we will find fulfillment. After all, it is God who has led me to these Christ-centered friendships I’ve fostered online, the community I’ve received, and He continues to use this digital world as a way to draw me closer to Him. While I’m not sure I’ll ever find a perfect balance in it all, in giving the glory to God and in placing Him at the center, I’m able to find peace.

Also, I have a hard time believing that the Saints wouldn’t have used whatever technology was at their fingertips to share the Gospel and witness to the Lord. Living in 2019, I think it may just be exactly what we are called to do.

To celebrate living authentic lives for Christ and the one year anniversary of Loves Jesus & America too, I’ve teamed up with some friends on Instagram for a fun giveaway! These women have been some of the ones who’ve inspired me and brought me closer to Christ through their witnesses, and I think they’ll do the same for you. Claire of Finding Philothea was one of the first Catholic accounts I followed, and she shares how God is working in her life and family everyday in such a beautiful, yet relatable, way. Priscilla of The Little Catholic makes incredible jewelry that points people to Christ. I think wearing her stunning jewelry is one small way you can be a witness to others! Natalie of Colors by Natalie uses her creativity and artistic abilities by painting incredible religious art. Head over to Instagram to check out our giveaway!

Lastly, thank you for reading! I’m so humbled that you’re here, and it’s been such a blessing for me to share my life with you this past year. Let’s continue to give God the glory, connect with others, and bring them to Christ. Most importantly, let’s live for Heaven.

Flowers

Let’s Talk NFP

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So, it’s NFP Awareness Week, and I’m about to get all Catholic and dorky on you because NFP is something I believe in + get really excited about. The thing is, you don’t HAVE to be Catholic and dorky to love NFP. It is quite literally for EVERYONE.

We live in a society that pushes “natural” options almost (key word: almost) everywhere. When it comes to what we use to clean our homes, the food we eat, the products we put on our skin, it seems we as a society understand that a natural option is safer and healthier than an artificial one. That is, unless we’re talking about women’s bodies + reproductive health. You see, that same society that gasps at the idea of eating meat pumped up with hormones, does absolutely everything to ensure us women are pumping ourselves with artificial birth control. Do we not deserve better than cattle? Is this as hypocritical as it sounds? In a word, yes.

I’ll acknowledge that birth control, and other forms of contraceptive, can be effective, sure. My public school education made sure I understood that much. But they aren’t 100% effective. Nothing is, besides complete and total abstinence. Now is the part where you laugh because no one in 2019 has that kind of self control and now I’m back in high school being written off as the crazy church girl who’s going to be the last virgin standing at graduation. Anyways, let’s get back on track. So yes, birth control, when used correctly, can be effective. But, it comes at the cost of pumping your body full of hormones and essentially tricking your body so that it will not get pregnant. This can leave lasting effects on your body for years to come! By the way, I’m NOT shaming ANYONE for using birth control. Obviously, I know a ton of people are on it. Maybe most people reading this are on it. But I want you to know that you deserve better, and that there are natural, healthy options that are equally (or more) effective when used correctly.

Enter NFP. Natural Family Planning encompasses several different scientific methods that allow a women to understand their bodies and cycles, and can therefore be used to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Through learning several signs that exist in our body such as temperature changes and characteristics of cervical mucus, you can understand which days in a cycle you are fertile and which days you aren’t. You can also discover signs of hormonal imbalances or conditions that may make it difficult to become pregnant, and seek help for these things. You simply observe the signs that you’ve been taught to look for, record them in your chart, and then act accordingly. I’m not going to lie to you, this is when it does get a little tricky. It can be hard. If you don’t want to achieve pregnancy, and your body is telling you that you’re fertile, you need to abstain, and that’s not fun.

Even though it can be difficult, aren’t most worthwhile things in life challenging at times? The thing is, YOU are given complete power over your body. Do you remember cheesy posters in your school that said KNOWLEDGE is POWER? It’s true! By educating yourself, you actually have more control and more power over your body than if you’re a slave to a pill. NFP is a proven, effective, scientific method (it is NOT the rhythm method), and it’s out there for EVERYONE to use and to be empowered by understanding their unique body, cycle, and fertility. Yes, I use it because it aligns with Catholic Church teaching and I can go in depth on how it upholds the dignity of women, remains open to life, and strengthens communication in a marriage, but I’ll spare you those details for now. What I will tell you is, I’ve had unmarried friends who have simply used it for its scientific purposes in order to better understand their cycle or to pinpoint a hormonal imbalance or other abnormality—and you know what? They love it too. They love it for the knowledge it has given them about their cycle and how their body isn’t being altered in any way by practicing this.

If you’re interested in learning more about NFP, please reach out to me and I will connect you with resources to help you get started. Maybe you’re tired of subjecting your body to birth control and looking for a healthier, more natural option. Maybe your periods are irregular and your looking for answers. Maybe you want a ton of babies. Maybe you have discerned that now is not the time for a baby. Maybe you’ve recently got engaged, or married, or joined the Church. If you’re any of these things, NFP can educate you, empower you, and give you the answers your looking for.

Faith, Family

Story of a Name: Gianna Rose

Let me begin by saying I’m fascinated by baby names and I love hearing why people give their children particular names. Since I’m such a big fan of the story behind baby names, I’d like to share with you the story behind the name of our sweet Gianna Rose.

As Catholics, we see immense value in honoring Saints through our children’s names for several reasons. First, we believe that the prayers of that particular saint are invoked when the same is said. Secondly, we feel this gives our children a patron, or role model, who they can look to when striving to life a holy life. Lastly, we feel it’s a beautiful way to honor the holy men and women who have gone before us and who intercede for us in a special way.

Dom and I prayed about our daughters name often, and we felt that God would reveal to us in His time what her name should be.

Gianna is a name that I’ve always loved, and St. Gianna Beretta Molla is a Saint I’ve always looked up to. I first learned of her in eighth grade when faced with choosing a confirmation Saint. I did consider her, but ended up choosing Elizabeth Ann Seton. Little did I know God would place St. Gianna on my heart once again, many years later, not for me — but for my first born daughter.

St. Gianna is a fairly modern Saint. She was born in the 1920’s, died in the 1960’s, and was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2004. She was an Italian wife and mother who worked as a doctor while raising her children. Growing up, I always felt like all Saints were nuns so I thought it was neat that she was a working mom! She’s known for being faced with a medical condition during her fourth pregnancy, and despite being pressured to have an abortion, she said no and ended up sacrificing  her own life to save the life of her unborn child.

She’s the patron saint of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

At our 20 week ultrasound we learned that our unborn baby had a foot deformity known as clubbed feet. While it appeared merely to be an easily treated, physical deformity, the ultrasound technician and doctors initial panic and discussion of “options” if it were more than this jarred us. We knew that no matter what, this baby was a gift given to us by God and that we would only love her, regardless of what her feet looked like, or any other abnormality she would have. Because of this experience, we began praying to St. Gianna for our baby’s health, and for peace and courage for us to face whatever lied ahead for us. I asked for God to give me the grace and strength that St. Gianna Beretta Molla had, and for her to intercede for my baby and for me in my vocation of marriage and motherhood. We also feel deeply that in today’s political climate, with vulnerable lives—specifically the unborn, under attack, St. Gianna is a timely witness to the prolife mission. We hope our Gianna will be a beautiful witness to the value of every human life, just as St. Gianna was.

Her middle name is Rose for several reasons. The first reason is to honor St. Thérèse, which we knew we wanted to do since the very beginning of this pregnancy. You see, after traveling to France last summer, St. Thérèse was popping up everywhere for me! I never felt much of a connection to her before, but I knew she was a powerful intercessor for many and that she sends roses to those who pray for her intercession. We sort of randomly decided to pray a novena to St. Thérèse to conceive a child in the days leading up to her feast day. On the last day of our novena, several small rose bushes bloomed in our yard. I knew right then that she had interceded for us and I had a feeling we were pregnant. A few days later, on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I learned I was pregnant! The rosary is a prayer that’s been incredibly special to us, and we have a deep devotion to Mary. We love that the name Rose honors several of our favorite Marian apparitions as well, including Our Lady of Lourdes (where we went on pilgrimage last summer) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (who our diocese is consecrating itself to this year)! A few days before Gianna was born, Dom and I went to the Blue Army Shrine, which is a Marian shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. While we were there, I noticed for the first time a large statue of St. Thérèse. There was one pink rose in bloom next to the Statue, and I took this as our last little reminder from St. Thérèse that she was praying for our girl.

We love our little Gianna Rose, and we love that her sweet name embodies strong and beautiful examples of holy women. We are comforted in knowing that these Heavenly friends will intercede for her during her lifetime, and we look forward to sharing these women and their stories with her as she grows up.

Faith, Family

A Birth Story: Gianna Rose Ocello

Our Gianna Rose Ocello was born at 2:35 PM on Saturday, June 15th (my grandmother’s birthday!) weighing 8.7 lbs and measuring 21 inches. We are so grateful to God for the most precious gift we’ve ever received. I’d like to tell you a little bit more about how she came into this world. Gianna was born in a natural, unmedicated childbirth, and though it was difficult and even scary in some moments, it was also the most incredible and beautiful experience I’ve ever had.

Leading up to her birth date I had been feeling slightly more uncomfortable than usual, and I found out I was slightly dilated at my doctor’s appointment, but I had yet to feel any real contractions or experience any real progression. I had stopped working a couple of weeks prior and I was starting to get a little antsy waiting for this baby to arrive. On June 14th, Dom and I went to his parents house for dinner and flag cake to celebrate Flag Day (it’s also President Trump’s birthday — I actually was really hoping she’d be born this day for a patriotic birthday). We went home and went to sleep, and I woke up a little after midnight to my water breaking. After questioning if I had peed myself for a few minutes, we figured my water broke, and called the doctor. They said since I hadn’t felt any intense contractions yet I could stay home for a few hours and try to sleep. Well, soon after this conversation I wasn’t able to sleep through the contractions anymore as they were picking up severity and coming closer together. I wanted to let Dom sleep a bit longer, so I ended up on a birthing ball watching the episode of The Office where Pam gives birth. Dom woke up shortly after and we began timing my contractions. We prayed, I took a shower, had a snack, and we got all our things together and left for the hospital around 5:00 AM. 

When we got to the hospital we had to go through the ER because the main entrance was not open yet. Luckily our birthing class had told us this so we knew exactly where to go! They wheeled me upstairs and we checked in to the labor & delivery unit. The doctor on call told me I was 3 cm dilated and Dom and I braced ourselves for a long road ahead. They admitted me, and we went to a delivery room. By this point, my contractions were intense, consistent, and close together. The nurse asked if I’d be getting an epidural, to which I said “I don’t think so!” The thing is, I don’t have a particularly strong feeling for or against epidurals, although they do scare me. I also knew that I wanted to offer up my suffering for a special intention, so I intended to fully experience all the pain I could bear. I really didn’t have a birth plan, I tend to be a planner — but since I really didn’t know what to expect I tried my best not to plan. I didn’t want to be stuck in a certain mindset, so I simply offered it up in prayer and asked that God’s will, not mine, be done. 

As the morning went on and the sun came up, I continued to breathe through my contractions and savor the slightly more peaceful moments in between. I was leaning over a birthing ball, rocking back and forth because that was the most comfortable position I could find.  I had put on my scapular and we had a crucifix and rosary laid out on the small table next to the bed to bring comfort, and to be a reminder that there is beauty in suffering and a resurrection moment of meeting our child awaiting us at the end of all this. At this point I was actually confused because I was experiencing more pain in my back than anywhere else. This is an important piece of information and it makes sense later! Anyways, Dom was coaching me through the breaths and he was being a rockstar of a husband as usual. He was encouraging, calm, and not too chatty. He was estimating where we were in the labor process based on how I was feeling and the timeline we had learned in our birthing class. Dom’s conservative estimates made me feel like we still had a very long way to go, but when the doctor came in and checked me again at 9:00 AM I was 8 cm dilated and progressing nicely. She even said we may be close to pushing soon!

I’d also like to say that the doctor who came in to check me this time was my favorite of all the doctors in my practice! I had actually prayed she’d be on call the day we gave birth, and it was so comforting to know she’d be the one delivering our baby. I also loved our nurse, she was an angel and was encouraging to us throughout the entire process. Our nurse had told me earlier that I could use the tub during labor, and I asked her if it would be OK to use it now. She told us sure, but if I felt the urge to push that we needed to call her immediately to get out and return to our room. At this point Dom and I thought things were moving super quickly, so I was a little anxious about being in the tub. I will say though, it was so much better laboring in the tub. When I started to feel like things might be moving along we got out and returned to our room, only to find out I was still only 8 cm and hadn’t really progressed at all.

So, feeling slightly discouraged we tried a few different positions to help move things along and to feel more comfortable. As I said before, I was offering up my labor for one special intention in particular, and so I continued to think about this intention through the immense pain I felt with every contraction. I had been praying Hail Marys throughout my labor and asking God for strength, but at this point the only words I could utter were, “Jesus, I trust in You.” At this time the nurse told me I could go back in the tub if I wanted, and I immediately said yes because it had helped manage the pain earlier. So, I got back in the tub and Dom and I prayed a rosary together. To be honest, Dom mostly prayed the rosary out loud and I did my best to follow along in my head, as my contractions felt much more intense now and were coming nearly back to back every minute.

Shortly after we finished our rosary I got out of the tub and returned back to the room to be checked. At this point we learned that I was slightly more dilated at 9 cm but my cervical lip would not retract. This is what hThe doctor was able to lift it over the baby so that we could begin pushing. At this point I was thinking it would all be over soon, and I was so excited to meet our baby. Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and I ended up pushing for over an hour and a half. I kept thanking Dom for giving me ice chips, and I kept apologizing to our nurse for every push that didn’t result in a baby. She would laugh and remind me that I didn’t need to apologize or even talk to her at all!

It wasn’t until the very end that they had realized our baby was sunny side up, and that is why she was having such a difficult time coming out. It’s also why I was experiencing such intense back labor pains! At one point, we got very close, but suddenly our baby was under distress. The next few moments were a blur, the doctor told me she’d have to perform an episiotomy, and once she did, Gianna entered the world! I honestly didn’t feel the pain of the episiotomy or the stitches after all of this, I was just so happy our baby was born. Since she had a bowel movement during birth, they had to make sure she hadn’t inhaled any meconium. They quickly cleaned her up and put her back on my chest, and suddenly the past several hours faded away as Dom and I looked at our baby girl.

Giving birth has been the most meaningful experience of my life. Although it was filled with moments of frustration and terror, there was also a presence of deep peace and joy I felt throughout the entire process. Offering up my pain, uniting it to Christ’s pain for us on the cross, brought so much grace during this time. The nurse and doctor both commented on how they had never seen someone smile so much during birth, and Dom pointed out that I had managed to labor in a joyful manner. This was purely by the grace of God, I’d like to point out. It’s funny because the one scripture I kept reflecting on during my pregnancy was “The joy of the Lord is my strength” Nehemiah 8:10. As I said earlier, I was only able to do any of this purely by the grace of God, and I felt His hand on me through every moment. We found it amazing that the nurses and doctors were able to see and feel a tangible joy, and we’ve been praying that our family can be a witness to Christ’s love and joy to those we encounter.

I’m so grateful for God’s grace, and I pray that He uses my earthly suffering for His greater good. If you were praying for us during this time, thank you so much. I truly felt every prayer give me the strength and grace to continue on in the more difficult moments.

 

Family, Freedom

Festivities for the 4th

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Hi there, happy 4th of July! We love America & any excuse to celebrate her around here so I wanted to share with you what we did over the long weekend to celebrate Independence Day. There were multiple barbecues, plenty of good music, time spent outside, hanging with family, oh — and several patriotic outfits. I’m all about rocking the red, white & blue.

First, my dad got promoted to lieutenant commander in the Navy. He’s been in the Navy Reserves for several years now, and this was an exciting promotion because his friend came to my parent’s home to promote him right here! My grandma came, my siblings were all there, it was a lot of fun. It was a really nice little ceremony and I’m so proud of my dad for serving our country in this way. Gianna dressed as a little sailor girl for the occasion! It was a perfect way to kick off a patriotic week with more festivities to come.

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On the 4th of July we headed over to Dom’s parents’ house who live only a few minutes away. We spent the day with all Gianna’s grandparents and her Uncle Pete. It was a beautiful way to spend Gianna’s first Independence Day! We barbecued, listened to country music, and spent most of the day outside which always makes me a happy camper.

It was extra special bringing Gianna over to Dom’s childhood home because my in laws are currently in the process of selling it. Dom wants Gianna to see where he grew up, and we took a couple pictures in the front yard so that we can show her one day! There’s been so many parties and barbecues that have taken place at this house, it’s kind of bittersweet to think this may have been the last one.

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The next day we went to another barbecue, this time at my parents’ house. They live right next door to us which makes it really easy to walk over there for family parties. Gianna got a chance to meet some of her cousins and had another eventful day celebrating our country and spending time with family. Family is really important to us, so it’s nice to be so close and have so many opportunities to get together and celebrate.

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Over the holiday weekend Gianna also got fitted for her new casts. If you’re just catching up to this, she has a bilateral clubbed foot deformity and needs casts and then foot braces to help her feet grow in the right direction so she’ll be able to crawl, walk, etc. correctly! She’s been such a trooper and the doctor is really pleased with how her ankles and feet look so far. The casts don’t even seem to bother her all that much, which is fantastic. We’re so proud of our happy & strong girl!

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Going to sign off now to spend a little more quality time with family over the long weekend! We had a busy couple of days but they were really laid back and life giving. The 4th is one of my absolute favorite holidays, and I think it’s now one of Gianna’s favorites as well! She’s an American girl through and through. We’re excited for next year when we can do things like go swimming with her, bring her to the little parade in the next town over, and maybe even watch some fireworks.

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Let’s Talk Swimsuits

Hi there, friends! Things have been a little quiet on the blog because I really have no energy for anything these days (#37weekspregnant), but I love writing here so I’m going to try to be a little more active! I’m popping in to talk about a subject that I think is really important with summer just upon us, and that’s swimsuits.

Let’s go back in time for a second to my middle + high school days when I had a trickier relationship with swimsuits. You see, my wonderful parents didn’t let me wear a bikini for years. I know, heartbreaking. I can laugh about this now, but it’s hard when you’re young and you just want to fit in and you can’t wear what everyone else is wearing. I finally wore them down and we compromised on certain types of bikinis that I was permitted to wear. The thing is, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to let this one go. Stop fighting to wear less clothes just because it’s what everyone else is doing. I would tell myself to embrace being a little different, set a new trend, stop trying to fit in, and just cover up + listen to your parents, damnit. I can’t go back and teach my younger self these lessons, but maybe there’s someone reading this who can be helped by it!

In my defense, at the time I truly felt like there just weren’t any good options to look cute AND be modest (ugh, that word—sorry). I felt like every bathing suit that was deemed “acceptable” was frumpy or childish. I also was not super interested in the opinions of my parents or the people at Church who were telling me to cover up. No offense to them, but no one that was “cool” in my eyes was covering up, so why would I want to? They had the best intentions, and I can see now that they were right (obviously), but at the time there was no reasoning with me. If I couldn’t wear a bikini, I’d automatically look like the Duggar’s when they go swimming (google their swim-wetsuit-dresses right now people if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

I know this all sounds super dramatic, but I think it’s relevant. I think we need to alter the way we present modesty to young women. While I usually love rules (I’m weird and a big time rule follower), I don’t think this is something that can be forced upon girls or willed for them. We need to explain why its important to dress a certain way, even at the beach. This needs to be done in a real way, not a cheesy “protecting boy’s eyes” way. Yes, that’s true, and that’s part of it. But that’s not all of it. It’s mostly about YOU. It’s so hard to explain this in a way that makes sense and doesn’t make you cringe, but your body is good and beautiful and it was made for so much more than seeking the fleeting and superficial approval of your peers. I also think we need to give girls options that are cute so they’ll actually WANT to wear them, instead of feeling like some combination of Duggar/grandma/nun (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those people)! Girls need examples of relatable, beautiful, women to look to in order to see that you CAN cover up + still look cute. They need to see that yes, you can be modest without sacrificing style. I don’t think I’m necessarily anyone’s standard of cool—but I can point you in the right direction. Check out my friends over on Instagram, the Modish Movement. Cecilia & Megan started this Instagram account to be what they wished they had when they were younger, examples of real women who are attractive and yes, modest, without sacrificing their style and managing to look beautiful everyday.

We all want to feel beautiful in what we’re wearing, which is why this post isn’t just for the girl in middle, high school, or college feeling like the odd one out. Maybe you have the opposite problem, and you want to cover up absolutely everything because of some unresolved feelings you have about your body. Maybe your body has changed recently, maybe you’re in the postpartum phase and don’t recognize yourself anymore. Maybe you’re noticing that as you’re aging things look a little different than they used to, and things fit a little different too. The thing is, your body is also good and beautiful and was made to be valued and uplifted. You can look and feel your best by finding a gorgeous swimsuit that is right for your body. You deserve that!

I’d like to share a few swimsuit companies with beautiful swimwear that leaves you covered AND looking super cute. Most of these companies embrace ethical practices and a wide range of sizes, so that’s a bonus!

Roolee

Roolee is a clothing brand based in Utah that sells everything from the cutest floral dresses to home items, and as of last year they began selling swim! They’re always modest while being trendy + cute.

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The Hermoza

The Hermoza is a newer swim company that’s known for its elegant yet accessible swim wear. They have a lot of classic silhouettes with feminine twists as well as gorgeous colors & patterns.

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Jessica Rey

Jessica Rey swimwear seeks to inspire dignity + confidence in all women through providing feminine and flattering styles for all. These suits are ethically made in LA and I’m personally a huge fan of Jessica Rey. These suits are practical and so pretty, I mean just look at those floral patterns!

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Albion Fit

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen Albion Fit swimsuits on Instagram, and there’s a really good reason for that. They’re made to be practical, comfortable, and also modest (there’s that lovely word again) and also really beautiful + trendy with vintage inspired styles.

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Also, if you’re hesitant to shop for swimsuits online you can totally stop at regular stores like Target & J. Crew and look for suits. The red one piece I got in the photo above is from J. Crew! Luckily, high waisted bottoms, sporty tops, and one pieces are all a bit more in fashion than they were a few years ago. This means you can shop for beautiful & modest pieces without having to look like the Duggars on the beach. By the way, no offense to the Duggars—I’m much more about the Grace Kelly & Audrey Hepburn classic vibes anyway.

One more thing!

If you’re looking for additional inspiration and encouragement for purchasing and wearing modest + ethical swimsuits, I’d like to share two articles with you written by a couple of my friends. The first is for the Blessed Is She Blog, written by Claire from Finding Philothea. You can find it here! Another post I love is all about the “why” behind modest swimwear, and it’s beautifully written by Lizzy from Just a Handmaiden. It’s a uniquely Catholic perspective that I had never considered until I read her post, and I’m so glad I did. You can find her post here!

Happy Summer & happy swim shopping, friends!