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.

 

Faith, Freedom

Blessed are the Persecuted

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:10-12 

So, here’s the thing. I don’t want to write this post. It’s not fun for me, and it’s not really pleasant for anyone. I like for this space to be a place where I can share the beauty in my life + in this world that comes from God. I like to share about my family, our farm renovations, and fun things like fashion + food. I still plan on sharing about all of those wonderful and light hearted things, but the reason I started this blog was to share how my unique Catholic faith informs every single aspect of my life. My Catholic faith enables me to have a sense of joy that transcends temporary happiness, and it also allows me to witness God’s beauty all around me. I feel it’s my privilege to share that with you! However, in understanding my faith, Christ’s teachings, and the Catholic Church, it also allows me to see the brokenness of this world and it increases my awareness of true evil that exists among us. I feel it’s my obligation to share this with you as well, even though it is much more difficult. 

Frankly, in the past week I’ve seen several injustices on a national scale that I just can’t look away from and I can’t let go of. The first injustice includes a group of Catholic prolife high school students being wrongfully accused of harassing a man (when in fact they were the ones being harassed) and then attacked by what felt like the entire country. New York’s “Catholic” governor Andrew Cuomo signed a truly repulsive law expanding abortion in New York. This law permits abortion through the ninth month, rescinds a previous New York public health law that protects children born alive after an abortion, allows non-physicians to commit non-surgical abortions, and moves the abortion law from the state’s penal code to its health code—which essentially removes the ability to prosecute abortionists. New York celebrated this sick law by lighting up the World Trade Center pink for a night, despite the World Trade Center Memorial including the 11 unborn children who were killed on September 11th, 2001. Lastly, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife found themselves in the middle of a national scandal when it was announced Karen Pence would be teaching art at a private Christian school that upholds the biblical and traditional definition of marriage. So, in America this week we’re shaming young boys in Trump hats for smiling, criticizing a Christian woman for living her faith and exercising her right to religious freedom, all while cheering for the murder of our own children.

As I said before, my faith informs every aspect of my life. This includes treating all people with equal dignity and respect, which I try my very best to do. The thing with respect is, it needs to go both ways. As a nation, we tout “tolerance” and “acceptance” toward all. However, some of us seem to feel that this only applies to those who share in our views. The second someone is different—maybe because they’re wearing a Trump hat, maybe because they believe in upholding the sanctity of traditional marriage, or maybe because they’re not yet born, suddenly their value is discounted. They don’t matter. We can slander them, ruin them, murder them, it doesn’t matter because they don’t fit into the narrative that is currently trending. 

Well frankly I’m disgusted by it and I’m also tired of it. The boys of Covington Catholic High School did not, in fact, harass an elderly, innocent, Native American man with veteran status. No, in reality they were called anti-homosexual and racist slurs repeatedly by several members of the “Black Hebrew Israelites” and then approached by a Native American activist banging a drum in their face who wrongfully accused them of harassing him on national television. What did these boys actually do? They drowned out the hatred that was being spewed at them with innocent high school chants. Oh, and they smiled, all while exercising what I imagine is an admirable amount of self control for a group of seventeen year old boys. Yet, they somehow became the face of racism in America and were bullied on a national scale from liberals and conservatives, seculars and Catholics, alike. Similarly, I have yet to witness Vice President Pence and his wife treat any individual with anything but incredible respect, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. Yes, they uphold natural, traditional marriage. You know where they get it from? The Bible. If you have an issue with that, your problem is with the word of God, and not with Karen Pence or the Christian school that employs her. 

Last I checked, this is the United States of America. This is the place where men, women, liberals, conservatives, Native American activists, Trump fans, pro-life marchers, Black Hebrew Israelites, Christians, heterosexuals, and homosexuals are allowed to express themselves and coexist despite their differences. But no, evidently that’s not what America is anymore. 

I was disappointed at the reaction of many prominent Catholics, Christians, and conservatives over the past week. The thing is, I know why the liberal media is attacking boys who are pro-life, Catholic, and support Trump. What I don’t understand is why other Catholics were so quick to jump on the bandwagon, or remain silent on the matter? I know why secular feminists are cheering for an expansion of the law that allows them to kill their own children. What I don’t understand is why others aren’t loudly condemning this law and calling for the ex-communication from the Catholic Church of Governor Andrew Cuomo? I know why liberals are shaming the Pences for being Christian. Why aren’t other Christians in America vehemently defending them and their right to religious freedom? I saw many Catholics loudly condemning those who are freely exercising their rights in a respectful way, while remaining eerily silent as our nation’s leaders continue to allow for and encourage the mass murder of children in their own mothers’ wombs. 

Why is that? Is it because the people I mentioned here don’t align with the popular opinion today? Probably so. Frankly, I love finding myself outside of the popular opinion. It usually affirms my own opinion that much more. After all, 2,000+ years ago the popular opinion was, “Crucify him!” toward our very own God and savior—Jesus Christ. 

I’m writing this because one day I will have to face judgement by God at the gates of Heaven. I know that I’m going to need to answer for unkind acts, harsh words, selfish tendencies, and many sins I’m sure to struggle with throughout my life. I’ll also have to answer for how I treated the least of His people, and frankly—I think the least of His people expands much farther than those who are considered marginalized by the mainstream media in America today. Lastly, when God asks me if I boldly witnessed to the truth, I want to be able to say yes. 

Faith, Freedom

Make America Pro-Life Again

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“Perhaps we are out of line with the rest of society, to which I say – Good. So were the abolitionists, so were the civil rights marchers, so were the martyrs in Rome, and the Jews in Egypt. Righteousness doesn’t have to be popular, it just has to be righteous.” -Ben Shapiro’s words from the 2019 March for Life

Hi friends! I’d like to share a little bit about my experience at this year’s March for Life with you, as well as some important topics that I feel need to be discussed in relation to this critical issue.

We attended this year’s March for Life with our church from New Jersey. We started our day with mass and a beautiful homily by our parish priest. He encouraged us to fight for a change in the law on the books, but to more importantly pray for a change of hearts.  After mass we began our trip to DC! Despite one of our buses breaking down on the way, we were able to make it to DC just in time for the march to begin! We joined in with over 650,000 others to march for the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. It’s amazing what a truly joyful march it is. When you’re fighting for what is beautiful and true, there really isn’t a need for nasty remarks or hateful behavior.

Granted, 61 million children murdered in their own mother’s wombs under the laws of the United States is certainly something to be angry about. As a nation, the blood of these children is on our hands, and any anger harbored over this matter is certainly righteous. However, we don’t allow ourselves to be defined by our frustration with the intrinsically evil, secular law that governs our land and destroys women and children every single day. Instead, we choose to define ourselves by our hope for the future, our faith in God’s power and goodness, and our love for every precious human life.

We had a beautiful day marching for the abolition of abortion and we will continue to fight for the rights of the unborn – who are truly the most vulnerable, marginalized, and abused group in history. Today, we often hear about groups that are mistreated by our government and whose lives are perceived to be devalued. Frankly, some of these concerns are valid, but others simply fit the mainstream media’s narrative and are used to push a certain agenda that ultimately doesn’t value them. No matter what group pulls at your heart strings, there is no group more widely massacred and devalued than the unborn. The March for Life serves to fight for an end to abortion, and this is the original definition of what being pro-life means. While there are other pressing issues that you may feel passionately about, abortion + euthanasia are the sole issue that as Catholics we must agree on. This is informed by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. According to church doctrine, there is room for discussion and even disagreement on matters of economics, border security, immigration, healthcare, and waging war. There is no room for discussion, disagreement, or compromise on abortion + euthanasia.

This is why there is indeed a correct way to vote as Catholics, and there are causes we are obligated to support. While we don’t need to enthusiastically attach ourselves to a specific world leader or political party, we do need to value a candidate’s stance on this issue before and above all others. If you have been instructed otherwise, you have been misled. I encourage you to dig deeper into the Catechism and doctrine of the Catholic Church and search for the highest truth and prayerfully discern who to vote for and what causes to lend your support to. While we certainly treat all human beings with respect and uphold the dignity of all lives, we are called to value the most vulnerable and fight for those who are truly the only ones with no voice at all.

Moving forward, I continue to urge you to always stand up for what is right, and always fight for life. Support the women who are faced with unplanned pregnancies or find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. Be bold in sharing the truth of what abortion is and how harmful it is to women, children, and our nation as a whole. Do your research and remain informed on matters of abortion + euthanasia. Vote for candidates who are pro-life and vehemently anti-abortion. Most importantly, pray for those who are victims of abortion, and also pray for a change of hearts in those who support abortion.

I’d like to end this post with some photos we took while in DC at the march! We spent the day with family, bumped into some friends along the way, and left with such joy and hope from being among this beautiful, huge crowd of people who feel passionately about the right to life!

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Thankful for all of those who spent their time, talent, and treasure organizing The March for Life and for those who are in the trenches every day fighting for and praying for an end to abortion. God bless you & God bless America!

Faith

Saint Stories: Elizabeth Ann Seton

I’ve heard the expression that sometimes people come into our lives for a reason. I feel the same way about Saints. Sometimes, we feel drawn to certain Saints based on our circumstances or a connection we share. More often than not, I think Saints choose us. I think sometimes they feel a connection with us and want to pray for us on our path to holiness. There have been several Saints who I have developed a relationship with during my life. They’ve  pointed me towards Christ and helped me to grow in my faith through their example and intercession. I consider these Saints my friends. This blog series is going to focus on particular Saints that have impacted my life. I hope it encourages you to look for inspiration + intercession from the Saints on your own path to holiness! 

I’d like to begin this series with the person who really brought Saints to life for me and showed me the power of their example + intercession. I’d like introduce you to my very first Saintly friend, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. 

It all started back when I was in seventh grade and getting ready for my confirmation. We were instructed to choose a saint for our confirmation name, to be our patron. I began researching Saints—paying more attention to the names I thought were pretty than their lives and experiences. I had heard of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton before, I liked her name, and I read she was a patron saint of homemakers (#goals), so I chose her. I liked that she was married and had a big family, I always felt that would be my vocation. Basically, I thought she was a cool enough lady to take on her name for my confirmation.

There was a brief period where I thought of switching to St. Cecilia because I also loved her name and I really liked that she was the patron saint of music + singing. Looking back, this is hilarious to me because at the time (ripe old age of 12), I thought I was musical. It turns out I’m not musical at all. At the very last minute I settled on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as my confirmation Saint for really no particular reason at all. 

Fast forward to my junior year of high school. My parents and I had gone on several college tours in a very short amount of time, and I was exhausted. Seton Hall University was the very last college we were scheduled to tour. I told my parents I knew I wasn’t going to go there anyway, so maybe we should skip this one. They said that was fine, we didn’t need to go to Seton Hall. It was clear to me they were just as tired as I was of meandering through campuses with musty dorm rooms and classrooms that were empty for the summer. Oddly enough, at the last minute I told them I felt like we should go to see Seton Hall after all. I had a strong feeling that I should give it a fair shot. We toured the campus and everything seemed fine to me. We walked past similar musty dorm rooms, decently sized classrooms, an occupational therapy program I was interested in, and a nice library. The very last stop on our tour was the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the church on campus. Our tour guide asked if we’d like to go inside for a minute and we said yes. I walked through the large wooden door and into the chapel, which has been beautifully restored to depict the Book of Revelation. We knelt to pray, and as I did I felt an overwhelming sense that I needed to attend Seton Hall University. Something was telling me, this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s a little crazy to choose a college based solely on a feeling you had while in the school’s chapel, but that’s what I did. Luckily, God is in the details and Seton Hall also happened to be one of the only schools I applied to that had the degree in Occupational Therapy I would end up wanting to pursue.

It wasn’t until another two years later when I began my freshmen year at Seton Hall, that I finally made the connection that Seton Hall University is named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I know! How could I miss that? Frankly, I don’t know how I never made the connection before, and I don’t know how I missed the statue of her in the chapel, but I was blissfully ignorant that I was attending the college inspired by my patron Saint that I had chosen all those years before. 

I didn’t live on campus during college, so I didn’t make friends as quickly as everyone else freshmen year. Instead, I was saving money and living with my grandparents and great uncle who coincidentally lived down the street from Seton Hall. I loved living with them, but it didn’t exactly give me the “college experience” I saw everyone around me chasing. I figured I would use my time to study and to delve deeper into my faith, until I made friends outside of the classroom. In those first few weeks of college St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was my closest friend. I went to the chapel each morning to pray and I would ask St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to intercede for me. I asked her to intercede for my relationship with a boy from high school that I thought could really be something, but that I was nervous about making work while at separate universities. I asked her to intercede for my education and future career, that I would be on the path God had planned for me. I asked her to intercede that I make friends, real ones, soon. I asked her to intercede for me to grow in my faith, trust in the Lord, and to show my why she brought me to this school. 

It didn’t take long before I felt more confident in my relationship, I was doing well in my classes, and I had joined Saint Paul’s Outreach on campus. Through this community based organization in campus ministry I made more Christ-centered friendships than I thought possible, and developed a significantly closer relationship with the Lord. All this time, I had continued to ask St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to intercede for me. During the next few months and years of college, I learned of more connections between me and my patron saint that I had half heartedly chose. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was married, though her husband died of tuberculosis. She was a mother of 5, worked in education, and was the first American born saint. If you know me, you know that last one really thrilled me most of all! As I learned more about her, I realized just how many connections we shared. I felt that she was my friend, my sister in Christ, who was rooting for me from Heaven and interceding for me all along. 

Years later, I was praying in the chapel at Seton Hall University for the last time as a student, this time a graduate student in my final year of occupational therapy school. I wholeheartedly thanked St. Elizabeth for bringing me here. I thought of all that had happened since that first time I prayed here, and I began to cry tears of joy. I thought of the beautiful Christ centered friendships that I developed here that I knew would be life long. I thought of Saint Paul’s Outreach, which really did bring my faith to life during my college years—and showed me how to live in communion with the Lord and with others. I thought of the unique experience I had of living with my elderly grandparents and uncle who lived nearby, that I knew I would be eternally grateful for. I thought about how close I was to earning my degree and beginning my career as an occupational therapist. Lastly, I thought about that same high school boyfriend I prayed about years ago. He had proposed to me in that very chapel just days before, and was now my fiancé. Tears streamed down my face as I thanked the Lord for every single one of these blessings and for answering all of my prayers. 

In that moment, I thanked St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for choosing me—for being so much more than a confirmation name, and for showing me exactly why she brought me here. 

Faith, Fashion

A New Year + An Ethical Fashion Resolution

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Happy New Year, friends! The start of a new year is so exciting—I love all of the possibilities that come with a fresh beginning. For many years I came up with lists of way too many resolutions that I would have loved to keep, but most of them never stuck. Last year I only made one resolution, which was to find a new hobby + grow in my faith, which has manifested in this blog! It’s not lost on me that the beginning of the New Year is also the Solemnity of Mary, so I want to be intentional with any resolutions I have and strive for holiness in a new way at the beginning of each year.

This year there is something a little different has been on my heart for quite some time. In addition to it being a resolution, it’s also a bit of a lifestyle change. My 2019 resolution is to make a shift toward shopping intentionally + ethically. Thanks to the influence of some lovely friends online, I’ve become interested in seeking out shops and businesses that share my values and uphold the dignity of all human beings, especially those who make our clothing. 

While I’ve never been someone who chases every new trend on the fashion scene, I’ve definitely contributed to the world of fast fashion in more ways than I’d like to admit. As I’ve learned more about the fashion industry, I’ve been heartbroken by stories regarding how the people who make our clothes are treated. This is certainly not something I’d like to participate in. Additionally, I’ve developed an interest over the past several years in shopping for classic, versatile pieces that remain timeless. Developing a capsule wardrobe is something I’ve been indirectly trying to do, and I hope that this year I can really bring this idea to life.

In this next year (and for years after!) I hope to find shops that share my values and embrace the ethical fashion movement. I also hope to detach from materialism and consumerism in a big way by buying less overall. In doing this, I hope that I can grow closer to the Lord by detaching from worldly things and witness to my faith by upholding the dignity of human life with each purchase I make. Lastly, I hope to build a capsule closet of clothing that is sensible and classic, with quality items that I am proud to wear. I think it will be an especially fun + challenging time to begin this pursuit due to how my body is sure to change in this upcoming year with a baby coming in June! 

I hope that you’ll join me in this pursuit of shopping ethically + intentionally while building a capsule wardrobe! This isn’t a fashion blog, and I’m no fashion expert, but I have gotten questions about where I shop and what I like to wear, so I think this will be a fun way to incorporate this into the blog! Along the way I’ll be sharing some of my favorite finds, tips + tricks for navigating ethical shopping, and sharing about shops I love to support.  Above all, I hope that this resolution + life style change can help me grow closer to God, strengthen my faith, and be a witness through the choices I make and what I put on my body.

 

Faith, Farm

WWJD?

Happy Gaudete Sunday, my friends! This is a really special day in the liturgical year as we are reminded that the birth of Christ is quickly approaching. While we’ve been renovating our farmhouse and decorating for Christmas, I’ve also been feeling a huge pull to do some deep cleaning in my own heart and soul to prepare myself for Christ’s coming. I shared a couple of weeks ago some traditions that we are embracing this year to make Advent fruitful for us, and I’m happy to say that this has definitely brought us peace and helped us prepare for the season of Christmas. I wanted to share with you all something that clicked for me recently, and how it has helped me to grow in my faith.

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So, we purchased our old farmhouse about six months ago! t’s not just any home, it’s a house AND a real, working farm! While we have so many ideas for how to use our farmland in the future (more cows, chickens, Christmas trees, horses, vegetables, herbs, flower gardens, oh my!) right now we are really trying to make this house a home for us and our growing family. I’m someone who relies very much on aesthetics, and I like for everything to look a certain way. When you’re 25 with a tight budget and you buy a house + farm that is a bit of a fixer upper, not everything is going to be perfect.  The Lord has really been speaking to me through this process and I have felt a strong sense that He is using this situation to help me to learn, to grow, and to trust in Him. Through prayer I’ve really come to be at peace with understanding that it takes time, effort, and patience to make this house into our beautiful home. It’s the same as with our own souls – there is no quick and easy fix. There is beauty in working hard and having patience, and forming something into what we envision it to be. I like to think that this is how God views us + our souls! We are all a work in progress, and it is the process and the journey that makes the end result that much more beautiful.

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While we are fixing up our farmhouse, I’ve been finding myself uttering the term “WWJD” often. Only, it might not be what you think. I’ve been thinking “What Would Joanna Do?” in regards to paint colors, furniture choices, and décor options. By the way, if you don’t know – the Joanna I’m referring to is Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper – just in case you’ve been living under a rock (or without a TV) for the past few years.  It’s funny how this question guided me when making decisions about our home.  Joanna Gaines has the unique ability to update a home into a beautiful and practical space for a family, while capitalizing on it’s historic qualities and highlighting it’s unique beauty. So, she’s kind of a role model for anyone hoping to bring new life into an old farmhouse, like me.

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I found myself thinking – imagine if I chose to ask myself “What Would Jesus Do?” in my everyday life, as often as I was contemplating “What Would Joanna Do?” in regards to my home. I can only imagine that if I reflected on the real meaning of WWJD in my marriage, at work, with my family, and even behind the wheel of my car – that there would be a profound difference in my actions in my daily life.

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The phrase “WWJD?” is so simple. I think I learned I first learned it at Vacation Bible School when I was a kid. I even had a little bracelet with the letters on it for quite some time when I was younger.  It may sound childish, but Jesus did say we need to become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).  Life can be hard, but our faith doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking “What Would Jesus Do?” in our everyday life. When we’re faced with challenges and carrying crosses that can feel unbearable, it can become easy to get wrapped up in ourselves. If we are able to shift our mindset and reflect in each and every situation “What Would Jesus Do?” I think we’d be surprised by how capable we are of choosing holiness and striving for sainthood.

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I pray that wherever you are today, whatever you’re struggling with, you are able to ask yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” and have a clearer idea of how you’re being called to respond to different challenges and situations in your daily life. I think sometimes we can over complicate things, and I hope this will simplify your pursuit of holiness just a little bit. Please know I’ll be praying for you, and I would love it if you would pray for me too!

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While we’re here and talking about houses, I figured I would share some updates of the house! We’re making progress over here slowly but surely, and I’m so excited to share these photos with you! Enjoy!