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!

Faith, Family, Flowers

Merry Christmas from the Ocello’s + Some BIG News!

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart.” 1 Samuel 1:27

We are so excited to share our big news with you, baby Ocello is on the way! We are about 13 weeks along and due June 17, 2019. We feel truly blessed this Christmas season. We are so grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness and for the plans He has for our growing family. 

 

We took these photos a few weeks ago for our Christmas cards, and it is incredible to see how much our baby has grown in just the few weeks since then! We’ve had a few doctor visits and everything seems to be going well, praise God! I’ve been feeling pretty fatigued and nauseous most days but I seem to be feeling better as time goes on. We would really appreciate it if you would pray for a safe + healthy pregnancy for the baby and I.

 

We’d also like to acknowledge anyone who may be in a time of suffering or loss this Christmas season. We pray that you are able to experience the peace and joy of Christ, our newborn Savior, in a special way this year. 

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We wish you all a peaceful + fruitful Advent season and a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones from the Ocello Family! 

Faith, Family

Making Room: Advent 2018

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Hi there, friends! I’m sorry things have been a little quiet over here on the blog. Life has been really full which is wonderful—but it also means we’ve been a little busier than I like to be! In the spirit of intentionally slowing down to take in all the goodness this season has to offer and to prepare for Christ’s birth, I’d love to share with you all what we are up to this Advent. Just like the inn keeper in the Nativity story, we can be quite full of extraneous things during this time of year. We’ve chosen to do a few things to prepare our hearts for the coming of our savior and to bring peace and joy into our home. We want to make sure that there is always room in our inn for our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In honor of the first Sunday of Advent we got our Christmas tree yesterday after mass! I love to put up decorations early because they just bring so much joy to our home, but we intentionally waited for Advent to begin decorating because this is the true season of preparing for Christmas. We have a tradition of going and cutting down our tree at a local Christmas tree farm which we love doing! One of my dreams is to have a Christmas tree farm on our property, but we’re also loving the animals so we’ll have to wait and see how that all pans out. Anyway, back to Advent! We brought our tree home and we had a little decorating party with snacks and Christmas music to make the day really fun and festive. This is a tradition Dom’s family began years ago to motivate the kids to help decorate and we want to continue it with our family! We ended the day with some cookies and a Christmas movie.

While I love Christmas movies and decorations as much (or more) than the next person, since Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for Christ’s birth we also have more reflective and prayerful traditions that we practice daily.

Every night before dinner we light our Advent candles and say an Advent prayer before we bless our food and begin eating. It is a simple prayer that we found online and it changes each week as we get closer to Christmas.

After dinner, we choose a bible verse to read together from our Advent calendar. I found this Advent calendar at Michael’s a couple of years ago on clearance and I absolutely love it! I think you’re supposed to put little treats or candies in it for each day but I think bible verses work just as nicely. I hand picked a bunch of Christmas related verses to put in so that we have yet another way to focus our minds on the true meaning of Christmas as we prepare for it. We take turns reading the verse and then we reflect on it and discuss it together.

Finally, we say a rosary together every night before bed. We always pray together before we go to sleep, but we’ve found that praying the rosary brings us together in an special way and instills immense peace and joy in our hearts. During Lent we prayed the sorrowful mysteries together every night to reflect on Christ’s passion, so we decided for Advent we are going to pray the joyful mysteries each night in order to focus on Mary’s journey and the birth of Jesus Christ. We try our best to meditate on each mystery as we pray, and I’m hoping that doing so will continue to remind us what (and who!) this season is all about.

While I’m certain that some days it will be harder than others to practice these traditions, I have hope that Christ will honor our imperfect attempt at preparing our hearts receive Him at Christmas and grant us peace and joy in this season. We certainly aren’t perfect, but the Lord knows our intentions and He sees our efforts. I’m hoping that as years go by we can continue these traditions and have fruitful seasons of Advent. I’d love to know if your family has any Advent traditions that you do together to prepare for Christmas!

Faith, Fashion

Time & Prayer

 

 

Happy Monday, friends! I want to tell you a little bit about prayer, something that has been on my heart recently and something I’m really trying to work on in my life. Dom snapped these photos of me on a couple slow Saturday and Sunday mornings when I had the chance to enjoy a cup of tea, pray, and lounge in my favorite pair of women’s boxers, made by My Liliana’s. Before I go any further, I have to tell you about this awesome company. A friend of mine started this company with the pursuit of creating ethically made, environmentally friendly cotton boxers (with pockets!) for women that are both comfortable and stylish. They’re perfect for watching movies at home on Friday night, personal prayer time on Saturday morning, or really any other time you want to be comfortable!  I was super excited to hear that they’re ethically made with environmentally friendly organic cotton. I’ve been trying to switch to ethically made items, and these came at the perfect time.  There’s a bunch of beautiful patterns to choose from! I’m really loving my blue and white polka dot pair. I tend to wear a lot of blue and the polka dots were too cute to pass up. They arrived wrapped in the nicest yellow bow with a note from my friend who owns & runs My Liliana’s. I think you should check them out on Instagram & Facebook because I think you’ll love them too!

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Back to prayer, this is something that’s been on my heart to share for a while now because it’s something I’ve been working on in my own life. Our prayer lives are a part of our faith that will always be evolving, often determined by what our lives look like in the present moment. We’ve had a crazy year navigating life as newlyweds, starting new jobs, buying a house + farm, and now renovating it. Initially, my prayer life was suffering because I was struggling to find time for personal prayer. I didn’t feel myself growing closer to God, and this weighed heavily on my heart. When we finally moved into our new home, I decided to make a commitment to daily prayer time, despite how busy my days felt. It’s amazing how peaceful my days have become since instilling changes to enhance my prayer life.

In our new home, I’m actually working on creating a prayer corner. This idea was given to me by one of my friends in a small group I attend. I had confessed that my prayer life had suffered since college. During my college years at Seton Hall I made time everyday to stop inside the beautiful chapel on campus in between classes for truly fruitful prayer time. That chapel became a special place for me, and it really inspired me to embrace my faith, grow closer to the Lord, and pray fervently. Once I graduated and no longer had access to the chapel every day, my prayer life suffered. I struggled to find the right time, and the right place to pray. My friend mentioned that I create a space in my own home to inspire me, the way the chapel did.

I’m in the midst of creating this special space for prayer, and I was going to wait until I finished it to share a little bit about my prayer life on the blog. I decided against that because I felt it is equally important that I make time to pray now, instead of waiting for the perfect time and place to pray. We can’t wait for the perfect timing or the perfect location. We can’t wait for the moment when God will fit perfectly into our lives. We need to make the time to pray now. We need to put God first in our lives, despite how hectic our days are. It’s amazing how when we do this, God honors our faithfulness and brings peace to our days.

So, how exactly do we find time for God when we’re in a busy season of life? The answer is simple, but not easy. We don’t find time; we make time for the Lord. I currently have a long bus ride to work. It’s not fun or glamorous. It’s long, and it can be really dreadful. I like to pray in the morning, so the first thing I do every day on the bus is pray the rosary. I like to listen to a recording of it on my phone so that I can meditate on the mysteries without worrying about what bead I’m on. After I pray the rosary, I do some spiritual reading. Yes, this is prayer too! I alternate between a few books. I really love my Blessed Is She journaling bible, The Diary of St. Maria Faustina, and Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Phillipe. Once I get off the bus, I attend daily mass at a church near work. Either before or after mass I’ll pray for specific intentions and have a few minutes of contemplative prayer time to let the Lord speak to me. I’ve learned it’s really important to listen to the Lord, rather than doing all of the talking ourselves. When I get to work I usually read the Blessed Is She daily devotional, because they’re tied into the readings from mass that day. The devotionals are written by other women and their reflections usually speak right into my heart. After work, I’m back on the bus. I’ll usually pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet, listen to a spiritual podcast or some praise & worship music. Podcasts I love include anything recorded by Father Mike Schmitz, The Catholic Feminist, Fountains of Carrots, and Thriving in the Trenches. For praise and worship music, I really love the album Heaven’s Light by Saint Paul’s Outreach, go find them on iTunes! Before we go to bed, Dom and I like to pray together. We try to say the rosary together every night, and we really love this little tradition.

I hope that this post is able to inspire you in your own prayer life. I certainly don’t want my routine to overwhelm or confuse you, but help you and encourage you in your own prayer life and routines. This prayer routine has developed after I had a year of very little prayer. I felt so empty by this, which cause me to make some radical changes. I decided to take advantage of my time consuming commute, and make the best of it. It’s also not seamless and perfect every single day. Sometimes, I really hate waking up early to take the bus. Sometimes, I’m tired and fall asleep on the bus instead of praying. Sometimes, my bus is running late and I miss daily mass. Sometimes, I listen to a podcast about the Bachelor instead of one about Jesus. What I’m really trying to do here is show you how you can take any moment of your imperfect, hectic life, and make time for God. He wants to meet you where you are, in whatever season of life you’re in, no matter how busy or tired you are. Let Him.

Faith

A Time Such As This

As you probably know, my husband Dom and I just returned from a beautiful pilgrimage in Europe. Shortly before we left for our trip the news of Cardinal McCarrick’s heinous actions and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s report detailing even more horrifying acts committed by the clergy hit the airwaves, and once again it felt as if the Catholic faithful were in the midst of a devastating assault. For Dom and me, it seemed that while we were making the rounds of some of the holiest places in Europe, our Church back home was falling apart. By day, we attended mass at the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, bathed in the waters of Lourdes, visited the shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, and saw firsthand where St. Peter established the Catholic Church. By night, I scrolled through social media and within moments saw the heartbreak, disgust, and embarrassment that many of my Catholic brothers and sisters were experiencing in America.

It was with heavy hearts that Dom and I visited the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. While we soaked in the beauty of the intricate architecture evoking Heaven on Earth, my thoughts were conflicted. As we continued our tour, I had difficulty seeing the beauty and light of my Church through the darkness that now clouded my view. I thought of the many priests who had sickened me with their behavior, and of the bishops who had shocked me with their lack of action. I thought of our pope, whose response to a question on this matter disappointed and repulsed me. I thought of the victims, of innocent children and young adults whose lives would never be the same. I thought of a friend of mine, who a few years ago had come to me in tears with her own experience of both verbal and physical sexual abuse that she suffered under a member of the clergy.  Her suffering came rushing back into the forefront of my mind amidst all of these other allegations.

As my unpleasant thoughts persisted, we were presented with the opportunity to attend mass at the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I received the Eucharist during mass, I looked up at the large stained glass window above me. The sun shone brightly through the gold and white colors of the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove. Suddenly, my thoughts began to shift. I considered St. Peter, who here in this very city fought to establish Christ’s Church, and who was martyred for it. I recalled the other saints we had encountered on our pilgrimage, each embracing their Catholic faith in their own way and living true, holy lives for the Lord despite the difficulties, temptations, and devastations that many of them faced throughout their lives. I thought of a friend of mine who is a seminarian at the Vatican, who assured me with vivid hope and conviction that he believes the future of our Church is bright. In that moment I prayed for my friend and I prayed that our Church would be led by good, virtuous men like him. I thought of other friends who have used their voices on social media to speak out against these horrible acts, and to encourage others to pray and fast for the reparation of these sins that have plagued our Church. Lastly, I thought of the little white host that I had just placed into my mouth, the body of the one true Christ.

The Eucharist encompasses my Catholic faith in its entirety. Receiving the Blessed Sacrament was a reminder that I don’t attend mass for the priests, bishops, or the pope. I attend in order to gain the nourishment that my soul requires for this earthly journey. I take instruction and encouragement from the Scripture readings. I join my community in offering prayers of intercession, and in reciting the prayer that Jesus himself taught us, and I lift up my voice in songs of praise. Most importantly, I attend mass to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. While I believe in the infallibility of the papacy, and I respect and admire the noble men of God who are living out their vocation with honor, I do not place my faith in fallible human beings.  My faith is in God alone.

As I walk this journey discouraged by the actions of certain men but encouraged by the love and fidelity of God, I urge you to continue to embrace your unique and beautiful Catholic faith. You and I cannot allow our faith to be tainted by the horrendous acts of these priests and bishops. Changes to safeguard the lives of the innocent need to be made, and as Catholics we have the obligation to fight for that. Sometimes, we need to fight with loud voices that convey righteous anger. At other times, we need to wage this war with prayer. Either way, we cannot allow ourselves to become hardened and discouraged in the process. We are each called to be a witness in our own lives, and this means living out our joy and our suffering for Christ. The saints that Dom and I encountered on this trip lived in different times throughout history, under difficult circumstances, each with their own unique path to holiness. Scripture reminds us that you and I are called to such a time as this for a reason (Esther 4:14). We must keep our faith, embrace our cross, live our vocation, strive for sainthood, and serve our God.

God bless you, God bless America, and God bless His bride, the Catholic Church.

Faith, Family

The Pilgrimage of a Lifetime

We have some exciting news over here at the Ocello household! Despite being in the craziest season of life ever with moving, working on our house, and beginning another job, Dom and I are going on a trip! Well actually, a pilgrimage. Let me tell you, this is something I never thought I would say! For a while now, we’ve had a list of places we would like to visit together. Italy has always been at the very top of that list!  We’re not huge travel bugs (especially Dom) but since we’re both Italian AND Catholic (although one of us likes to pretend he’s more Italian than the other), it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Italy has always been on our bucket list.

We toyed with the idea of going to Europe on our honeymoon but honestly, we just wanted to be able to rest and enjoy each other and married life so we decided the Bahamas was the best fit for us. We had said that we would save our pennies to go on a big first anniversary trip to Italy! When this idea was really becoming a reality, Dom mentioned that maybe we should go to France as well. We both have a devotion to our Lady of Lourdes, and we also wanted to experience Paris together.

Initially, I had zero intention of this vacation being a religious trip. Obviously, we would see beautiful cathedrals and chapels and enjoy the rich church history that exists in these countries, but truly I just wanted to travel, see some beautiful sights, and eat delicious food. I believe the Lord works in mysterious and sometimes funny ways and this time he definitely worked through my husband to push me to make this trip a little extra meaningful and fruitful for us. We are going on a full-on DIY pilgrimage for two and let me tell you I could not be more excited about it!

We have a personal and spiritual connection with nearly every place we are visiting and I just feel like the Lord has had this trip planned for us all along.  I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us! Our trip includes stops at Paris, Lourdes, Rome, The Vatican, Assisi, The Almafi Coast, and the Padre Pio Shrine at San Giovanni Rotondo.

As we gear up for our trip next week, we would love to know any suggestions you may have regarding sights, restaurants, shops, etc! As we will be spending a lot of our trip at holy sites, attending mass, and engaging in prayer, we would love to know if you have any prayer intentions that you would like for us to offer up for you. If you feel comfortable reaching out to me via email or personal message—please do! We would love to pray for you and bring your intentions with us on our journey. Let us know if you have a special devotion to any of the places we are visiting and we will make sure to pray for your special intention in that place!

Please pray for us and know that we will be praying for you too! God bless you & God bless America, Italy, and France!

Faith, Family, Freedom

The Fourth

For my first post, I figured we should get to know each other a little better before we dive right on into life + faith and all the messy stuff that comes with it.   Since it’s still July I thought I’d keep with the theme of this blog and  share some thoughts + photos from my favorite holiday – America’s Independence Day!

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Ok – so maybe it’s not my number one FAVORITE holiday (Hello, Christmas!) but it’s definitely up there on the list. There’s nothing like sunshine, summer barbecues, country music, and a dip in the pool.

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Last year my husband, Dom, and I were on our honeymoon during July 4th and while we had so much fun celebrating in the Bahamas, I was super excited to be on American soil this year. My parents’ had a barbecue with all the works – including fireworks! It was a great day. I think I mentioned before that I come from a military family, so it shouldn’t surprise you that my family is just as patriotic as me, if not more so! We are really grateful for the blessing of our great nation and the freedom it offers – so we love to celebrate it together whenever we can!

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Dom and I started off our day doing a little bit of work on our farm (which I promise to get to in many future posts!) and then we walked over to my parents’ which is right next door.  We helped prep for the party and then spent the day eating, drinking, and swimming with friends and family. We ended the night with a spectacular firework show in town and ate some leftovers before going to bed.

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I want to be clear that while I’m incredibly proud to be an American, I would like to emphasize that this is not my identity. My identity is in Christ, and in Him alone. America is not perfect.  Nothing in this world is perfect. We are not meant to be of THIS world. We were made for something much greater and everlasting. That being said – America is pretty dang great! I thank the Lord every night for this country and the men and women in uniform who have fought for our freedom. I pray for our president, leaders, and policy makers. I also pray for all of those who continue to serve our country and for the sacrifices they make daily for all of us back home.

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Thanks for reading my very first post and for joining me on this journey! God bless you & God bless America!