Alleluia, Alleluia

A very joyful Easter to you all! He is risen, and all is well with my soul.

This past Lent, like so many of my recent Lents, was not exactly a “successful” one (whatever that means). My personal circumstances have changed a lot in the past couple of months, and consequently, I wasn’t exactly doing as much as I had originally hoped. But as I find year after year, my heart flooded with joy at the Easter Vigil. Singing Alleluia brought tears to my eyes (as did most of the Mass). I was, and am, so grateful for this great celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Whatever I may have thought of the previous forty days, I know that God was still tilling the soil in His own way. He was building up the hunger for the Easter season. As JPII so famously said, “we are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.” That doesn’t mean that we forget the cross; quite the contrary, we live with our eyes on the cross, but with the confidence and hope in Jesus’ resurrection.

Amidst my joy for this wonderful part of the liturgical year was (and is) also a deep sorrow. As we were so unbelievably fortunate to celebrate the beautiful Paschal Triduum at our wonderful parish (that we have felt so much at home with for the past several months), there are countless Christians around the world who must worship in secret and in fear. I’m not usually great at empathizing with others that seem so distant from my present state, but God has really placed this intention on my heart. I’m horribly ashamed of all the unnecessary interventions our US government has taken upon itself in the past couple of decades (and century, really). While we are fed constant propaganda meant to garner support for terrible wars, there are so many people suffering the consequences. I am convinced that the situation would be better in the middle east were we simply not involved. I’m not saying it would be perfect by any means – there are clearly deep-seated problems. But our government’s imperialistic plans have not made life for Christians any better.

My political ramblings aside, the situation in the middle east is a frightful one. And this Easter season, I truly pray that no matter the circumstances, all Christians may be able to experience the great joy Christ calls us to. And that God would particularly bless and console those who suffer greatly for love of Him.

P.S. The beautiful lettering above is from my good friend, Ashlie. Check out her new Etsy shop!

 

Brick by Brick

The following post – an exercise in creative writing – is a little way for me to honor my husband, whom I love so much! While architecture walks are an institution for our family no matter our location, this piece particularly hearkens us back to our days in Massachusetts, when we were surrounded by stunning homes, worn with age. Happy valentine’s day, my love!


Straight ahead of me is the red brick I see so often in my dreams. It’s not perfectly new and unworn, but tested by time, and therefore timeless. I’m reminded of my hometown in Pennsylvania – a small but wonderful place outside of our nation’s first capital – idyllic streets lined with colonial styles that make me yearn for a simple life. Tall windows, proper proportions, white lining, and green shudders. All this I take in with just one breath, one deep breath that brings comfort and joy.

“What do you like about it?”

I smile because I knew the question was coming. This is how the games goes. I smile at my husband and look back upon the charming home. He awaits my answer, even though he knows, perhaps better than I can articulate, what arouses my spirit in this moment.

The architecture game is what we call it. While we wait for the time that house hunting is a reality for us, we dream. Leaving the dinner table just in time to catch the golden light that pours a unique shade of beauty onto the earth no matter the season, we stroll.

Him and I walk hand in hand, fingers intertwined as I am lead gently along a new street. Perhaps it was our time of learning to swing dance early on when we had just begin dating, or maybe it is simply a privilege of married life, but I intuitively know where he will lead and every part of me instinctively follows.

We pass by small cottages and large mansions, industrial buildings, and historic institutions. Though sometimes it proves difficult – we have a very distinct aesthetic – we encourage one another to find at least one good feature in all that we pass. Each structure has an element of beauty simply by virtue of being created by man, who is created by beauty himself.

Every now and again, though, we come to a house like this one. This humble brick home. The large bay windows help us to envision the family Christmas tree that will shed a glittering light onto the snow during those short days after the winter solstice. A sweet oval balcony that seems to be made for sipping coffee and reading the paper on an early summer morning. We acknowledge the proper placement of the chimney in the middle of the roof, which allows for a more equitable distribution of heat throughout the structure during the inevitable bitter months. And I see the front door and realize that it will remain incomplete until I place upon it a simple boxwood wreath.

Some of these points we discuss, others are unspoken, but well understood, between me and my husband. And while we look upon the home and see a delightful future for ourselves, it is the house itself that acts almost like a reflection.

Here we are, in the latter part of our twenties, and we are still just beginning. We often work hard for what seems like minimal payoff. It can be so easy to gaze upon a neighbor’s admirable vinyl home and resent the path we’ve chosen. For them, vinyl brings to life their hopes and dreams; our vision requires that we continue with clay, refined by fire. But when we stand here, together, gazing upon this hidden treasure in this somewhat unfamiliar city to us both, we are reminded that our hardships are not for naught.

Made from the earth, brick is a natural material that has proven itself over the centuries. It offers greater protection from harsh elements such as fire, wind, and water. It is far more sustainable and requires less maintenance as time goes on. And yet, brick is not as commonly used today in the building of the standard mcmansion. It requires a heavier investment. It may call for patience and a willingness to delay our gratification. And to have an authentically beautiful result, there must be careful planning and a strong vision.

Just like the process of a good house, we are building a firm foundation. The days that seem to drag on with financial stress, marital burdens, and general life malaise are the ones in which we are placing those bottom bricks. We develop a rhythm, a technique, and we can, at some point, start to see the fruits of our labor. Day in and day out, it is easy to miss the forest through the trees. But when we step back and take it all in, we catch a glimpse of something great that is already under way. It starts to resemble the sketches both in our hearts and on paper.

And so, we walk this evening, we share our vision, and we lay our bricks.

As our apartment building comes into view, and our hands still held, we share a gentle kiss knowing that another brick is in place.

The Lifestyle Catholic: an introduction

The Lifestyle Catholic (TLC) is a pet project of mine that began in my head about a year and a half ago. The ultimate vision was/is to create a website that offers ideas & inspiration on how to integrate the transcendentals of the Catholic faith into the practicals of our daily lives. Topics would vary all the way from health insurance to supporting small Catholic businesses. I had high hopes for it, recorded ALL the ideas, even began a separate blog…and then nothing happened. Or rather, life happened. As I should have expected, my time & effort were directed elsewhere with working full-time, seeking out medical help for infertility, making lifestyle changes as I understood my body & soul to need them, and ya know, being a wife, sister, daughter, and friend.

Then I attempted to hold myself accountable by submitting this as my action plan for the Given Forum, a young women’s Catholic leadership conference in DC. After attending this amazing forum/conference/retreat in June 2016, I felt a great spark propelling me forward in this project. And then more life happened – a new job, new city, more adjustments, more health-related things, etc. Now here we are. This may not align with the grand vision I once had, but I think I owe it to both myself and to the wonderful women behind Given to see this through in whatever manner I am able.

So I invite you into this – to read, to participate, and to offer your own suggestions. May Brother Andre intercede in this small endeavor as we hope to grow and evolve into something greater!

 

Collections // 7

Reading // I’ve recently re-started Orthodoxy by Chesterton. For some reason, I didn’t make it through the whole thing last time (a chronic problem of mine). I partly blame Kevin because the book is SOOOOO destroyed – a sign of his big love for it. But I got past the first two chapters, which felt so foreign and uninteresting to me, and now feel like I can push through the rest. Chapter three was great. Other books I’ve been slowly making my way through (because of my hardcore reading ADD): The Two Towers (re-read), Madame Chic (fun, short, total leisure), and Liberty Defined (it’s broken up into topics, and I’ve mostly ready all the topics I wanted to read but still intend on “finishing” it).

Cooking // With the new year, I’m back into making a few staples like bone broth, water kefir, and coconut milk yogurt. Gotta take care of that gut health! I also recently bought my first bag of Cassava flour (all the rage in the paleo world right now), which is basically ground yucca root. It works much more like regular flour, as opposed to nut & seed flowers that require a totally different way of cooking. I made waffles last night, and we were both very impressed. Two thumbs up!

Baking // Besides those dang good waffles, not much else. But I intend on experimenting with Cassava flour in other types of recipes! (Obviously, only those which are grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, refined sugar-free…such fun.)

Watching // We discovered that Pirates of the Caribbean, which I have not seen in YEARS, was on Netflix, so naturally we watched it. We then felt compelled to watch the next two, which we located at a local record store for dirt cheap. They get progressively worse in story (we recently read that the script was being written as they were filming with no real planning involved – makes sense if you watch the movies), but do not disappoint in the entertaining action. From there, we watched some behind-the-scenes footage, which, especially for large productions like this, always fascinate me. That lead me to dabble back into the making of Lord of the Rings on the extended edition DVD’s – be still, my heart (the singular piece of work that made me want to abandon everything and move to New Zealand to work on a film – obviously).

Listening // Lord of the Rings Pandora station – Howard Shore’s score is, in my opinion, THE greatest movie score of all time. I talk Kevin’s ear off often about this so I don’t even know what to write about it…it just moves me in a way that nothing else does. I was regretting (for a hot second) changing our wedding song from Into the West (final song in Lord of the Rings) to Coldplay at the last minute, but then again…Coldplay. 🙂

Wanting // to find a good beginners yoga class in the area to use this winter! I think I’ve found a groupon that will allow me to try out different types of classes (so if the yoga ends up being a bit spiritual or whatever, I can move over to barre).

Making // I have a few shirts that need some serious TLC (one from a bleach stain, the other got small tears in the wash). So I’ve been on a journey to really learn how to take care of my clothes (not a natural skill of mine – Kevin is always torn when I offer to do laundry). I recently bought Molly’s Suds Oxygen Whitener and have since soaked some of my lights in it that had some pretty noticeable stains (coffee, concealer makeup, random stains that I was totally baffled by) and ALL of it was cleaned! The items look beautiful! Except for one poor striped shirt that we tried to fix months ago but ended up bleaching the dark stripe at the collar – so a future project I have is to try and alter the collar to a boatneck to just get rid of the stain. The other somewhat success I’ve had is fixing two small holes in a relatively new sweater after it went through the wash – with a combo of fusible bonding web & fusible interfacing (thank you, Joann’s fabric), it is minimized and should not tear further. And I shall hand wash that item, along with the rest of my sweaters, from now on. So many lessons being learned.

Traveling // Nowhere! Thank goodness! My body, while in its gut healing phase, just does not do well when I am out of routine. Reactions galore! So for the next couple of months, local exploring it is.

Finding Jesus in the Temple

I hate to admit it, but often times when praying the rosary I’ll be mindful of the appropriate mysteries on the first & last Hail Mary. The rest of the time? Distraction. It’s a real tragedy and one I am trying to work on. During Advent & Christmas, I typically pray the joyful mysteries straight through. This gives me ample time to really work my way through the infancy narratives (while simultaneously never being enough).

Recently, I was struck by something that I haven’t encountered before. I was on the fifth joyful mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple – it’s a story with much significance in Jesus’ hidden life, but one which I so often gloss over. To try and stay focused, I’ll usually keep in mind one verse while praying: “did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” I’m not even sure what that translation is, but it’s always stuck with me from a homily way back when.

So I was repeating that phrase, imagining Mary & Joseph searching for Jesus, finding him, asking why he would do this to them while they look for him anxiously. And his response, on the surface, can sometimes seem a bit rude. Like, Jesus – have a bit more respect for thy parents. But no. It is not rude at all. Jesus was not where Mary & Joseph expected or wanted Him to be. He was where his Father needed Him to be. 

How often do I turn to Jesus with my naive question: where were you? where are you? why are you not with me? why are you not doing what I think, in all my mediocre human wisdom, you should be doing right now? But now I see His response: “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” I am just now starting to understand how He gave is the most loving, merciful, and just response of all.

There are [many] times we are seeking Jesus, seeking help and answers that only God can give, and we do not find that for which we are looking. At least for me, my mind will so often resort to, “obviously you just want me to suffer and remain where I am.” Well, maybe He does…in that moment. But I need to remember that He is always working, healing, and redeeming. It may not be in the way that I am expecting or wanting, but it is always in accordance with the Father’s will for my life.

“All things work for good for those who love God.” [Romans 8:28] Kevin used to say this all the time when we were dating. It was basically his catch phrase. Still, we usually will say it to one another when things are not going our way. Because while we are so overcome by the small details and moments of our lives, God is reigning over all of mankind. He is profoundly aware of our small details, but has the gift of seeing them in light of, quite literally, everything. 

I’m pretty sure that I’d rather our omniscient & omnipresent God do His thing than have me mess it up. So thank you, Lord, for giving us the fifth joyful mystery. Thank you for letting us know that when we feel like we can’t find you, you are assuredly about your Father’s business – which is always good.

 

Start building, start small

My love for Saint Andre Bessette runs deep. I don’t pray to him nearly as often as I should, but every time I think of him my heart melts with love. Constantly turned away and looked down upon for his physical & mental limitations – of which there were many – he eventually made a home with the Holy Cross Brothers (despite their reluctance). His placement was Notre Dame College in Montreal where he was asked to do the minimum – answer the door, welcome guests, and deliver mail. Talk about humble work!

At some point, he requested permission from the Archbishop to build a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph on the nearby hill. The Archbishop refused to go into debt and tasked Andre with raising the money himself. He collected donations over the years (“donations for St. Joseph”), building piece by piece as he went. At first, it was a little wooden shelter. This little structure grew & grew, people began coming for Mass, and great healings occured. Brother Andre did not live to see his work finished (which he insisted was impossible, because there will always be new ways to express this devotion), but what stands there today is a grand & majestic basilica honoring St. Joseph. The Oratory draws in a great deal of pilgrims every year, and for good reason. It has played a profound part in me & Kevin’s relationship since our first of three (we intend for many more!) visits in January 2013.

What strikes me so is that even with financial obstacles & little support, Brother Andre persisted his entire life with this one cause. While he never saw his work as complete, he also completely trusted with each small step. I know, in my own life, I’m quite hesitant to start something unless I have it all figured out. Unless the plan is laid, the details ironed out, and I see, quite practically, how things will fall into place. But not Brother Andre. He started so small that many probably thought his venture was completely ridiculous. Go take a look at the Oratory now – it brings magnificent glory to God and honors, in such a beautiful manner, the protector of our Church.

So I ask for Saint Andre Bessette’s intercession today & all days. For the work of our family – that we might not be intimidated or overwhelmed at what God is calling us to, that we might be at peace with each small step we are taking. And how appropriate is this quote by him: “It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the best paintings.”

Let’s make 2017 a beautiful year for the small things – may they become great one day! In what ways will you start building, friends?

Praising God in Weakness

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

This passage was taped to my wall for a while when I was single. It spoke to me in a really big way. It particularly stayed with me during Lent of 2012. God was working something in my heart, and I was feeling it physically. During this time, I was struck with powerful imagery of the humanity of Christ. The poor analogy I made was the scene of the cartoon film Hercules when he gave up his godly powers, but continued fighting. He experienced what it was to be human, and how that manifested itself primarily was profound physical weakness. While Jesus is far superior to the fictional Hercules, I imagine He experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and physical limitations. Carrying His cross to Calvary was not a light, midday stroll. It was painful, difficult, and a burden He needed Simon the Cyrene to carry with Him. It was precisely through these moments of weakness & suffering, though, that Christ conquered. He reigned.

Now several years later, this is still one of my favorite passages of Paul’s. But it has take on different meaning. Since 2014 (maybe a bit earlier, but wasn’t paying too much attention), I’ve been struggling with a random assortment of health issues. Back in the day when I was so much more ignorant than I am now, I did not put them all together. Symptoms began popping up sporadically on top of things I had dealt with for years (but of course, was “professionally” told that all this was normal). So I really took my health into my own hands and began researching and experimenting.

2016 was the year of progress. I met with a surgeon who took my symptoms very seriously, and within three weeks I was recovering from a laparascopy during which they removed endometriosis. Then I began seeing a naturopathic doctor to continue my health journey – as I expected, we began to uncover much more. You see, for some reason, I was struggling with things like acne, daily painful bloating, stomach issues, back pain, random nausea, and continued severe menstrual pain even post-surgery. Much of this was all relatively new to me (who starts getting acne at age 25?!). Why now? And how come?

I’ve worked arduously to improve my condition, to eradicate these frustrating symptoms, and to reach a state of healing. While I had always been a healthy person by normal standards, I’ve done Whole 30’s, gone strictly paleo, and in the past six months been practically AIP (which basically means you never want to invite me over for dinner because it’s a burden on both you and me). I’ve swapped out pretty much any product in our home for a purely natural & organic substitute. I’ve strained the budget more than you can imagine trying to eat high quality food, while also eating substantial portions (it’s an effort to NOT lose weight). We’ve sacrificed a great deal in our life so that I can do acupuncture, take [the most expensive] supplements, do doctor-advised detoxes, and try out other occasional, but seemingly necessary, ventures.

And yet here I am. I am doing as much as I think I can do. And for the past month, an unwelcome friend came back to visit me. One that I have not had to really deal with since October 2014 when I gave up cow milk. It’s a golf-ball sized lump underneath the skin on my chin. The kicker is that unless the swelling really goes wild (which isn’t that often), nobody notices except me. But the discomfort, the pain, the inability to smile, the exhaustion of a long conversation, the difficulty with brushing my teeth or washing my face – it’s as frustrating as a mild health issue can be. I’ve experienced terrible illnesses & conditions in my life (besides the chronic pain with endometriosis, esophagitis takes the cake for the worst), but this one just seems to come with no explanation, interfering with my life in all the right ways. Why has it come back? After I finally felt like I was making some substantial progress all around? I have no idea. But maybe, just maybe, it’s something God allows me to experience, as Paul so beautifully states in 2 Corinthians, to keep me from being too elated. To rely on Him more than my own efforts. To recognize that I can do everything & anything, but He is healer, savior, & redeemer.

While I’ve learned so much over the past two years, I have come to accept that I may never know the source of all of these ailments. I can work towards healing, but even when I attain the type of health I am seeking, we still may not be given a child (which is what so much of this has been for). Some days, I wake up and want to cry because I can feel the lump or the pelvic pain. But I don’t tend towards tears, or even mentioning it to Kevin every five seconds (which used to be the case). I don’t love these scenarios either, but at some point I need to accept that God’s grace is sufficient. Even when my face is in pain, or my period comes like a freight train, or when we have to buy baby shower gifts for another couple who accidentally got pregnant. These thorns in my side at least serve to help me turn towards my Creator and to appeal to Him as Paul did. Because, let’s be real, if all of this were to go away instantly, I think there’s a big part of me that would credit myself for all of my hard work. I’d thank God, but maybe only in that formal way that I know I’m supposed to.

So while I wait (and work for) my thorns to be removed, I pray that God fortifies me in Him. That the power of Christ may dwell more in me & my weakness. That He would use my small suffering in a fruitful way. For all of this, I truly praise Him!

In Christ,

Katie

2017: what lies ahead

I have a lot of goals for this year (many of which are not written here), and I’m okay with that. I love entering into this reflection period and looking ahead to all that God might work in us during this next stage of life. 2016 was another great foundation building year for our family, but still with many changes. I commented to Kevin the other day that it still feels like we are in the pre-planning phase of our life (which probably sounded quite negative to him), but it’s true. We’ve done so much, and yet some days feel like we still have this massive mountain ahead of us to climb. Of course, that is life. But there are specific ways we want to live our life while climbing that mountain (careers, children, a house, etc.) and we are just not quite there. And that’s okay! This is how God is forming us. And I really believe that He is preparing us for something wonderful. Our road is not common, and people often don’t understand while we are still pursuing these lofty dreams. But we know why.

So for 2017, I’m really hoping to develop better routines for the life stage we are in right now! And if God calls us to something else, we adjust. That’s how life goes.

Actively work towards our professional goals

  • Learn how to use our new used mirrorless camera
  • Put more energy into the blog (aka write more substantially)
  • Open up Etsy shop with Kevin’s art (step one of many other steps!)
  • Develop Kevin’s website further

Nurture my health (physically & emotionally)

  • Take a fitness class this winter to get out of the house
  • Limit coffee to 3x/week (unless I find I need to eliminate it entirely…been down that road before)
  • Read at least 2 books per month (get a good variety of spiritual, educational, & leisure)
  • Continue to purge & cleanse our life (been working on this for a while, and it’s going well!)

Go deeper in the spiritual life

  • Intermediate social media fasts (weekly)
  • Daily, non-negotiable prayer routine
  • Find a spiritual director! (They have been so elusive.)
Cultivate new & old relationships
  • Step outside my comfort zone in this new city and try to make quality connections with others
  • Send birthday/special occasion cards ON TIME
  • Call family members more frequently
  • Accept limitations and do not feel guilty when I’m truly not able to do something for someone else

Invest completely in our marriage

  • Create a formalized routine for breakfast/dinner together
  • Take a class together (maybe some sort of dance, like we did when we were dating)
  • Take walks together in winter (it’s the only season we struggle with)
  • Find new ways to pray together daily
  • Take a trip together (with any luck – to Quebec! again!)

I’m quite excited for 2017. And I am so grateful for this time of year. While in some ways it’s really just starting a new calendar, there’s a deeper level to is as well. And to begin the year in the octave of Christmas! That is not coincidental. May God bless us all in this new year!

P.S. – my Saint of the year (using this online Saint generator) is St. Catherine of Genoa!

 

2016: a year in review

I’m going to tire of saying it, because I’m sure most people’s lives seem to be filled with more & more as the years go by, but 2016 was a full year. And a good year! We loved our time in Duluth with a fantastic community of people (my favorite Diocese!), we got to take trips to see friends & family for special occasions, and we made the move to St. Paul just like we had hoped for. Praise God! #gearns2016

I’ve started making a binder of our years in review (beginning with 2012, the year we met) and I was struggling for how to go about doing it. Do I go the Project Life route? I pondered it and said I’d only do like 2-3 pages per year, but then that became unrealistic because really how do you choose?! I thought of many ways to document our lives (I even made multiple trips to Michael’s – browsing, buying, returning), and in the end settled on what I had initially envisioned. I know people send out years in review for their Christmas cards – and I really like that idea – so I decided to begin our family binder of our years together. It may evolve and grow, but for now it consists of a one page summary (style and content varies each year) and a page of prominent photos (basically my instagram pics…because they’re already square). And we love it! Below is our 2016 (some content may seem a bit odd & personal as I wasn’t making it strictly for other people).

May you be blessed in 2017!

7QT: Christmas Celebrations

The Christmas season is still going strong, and while we could have been more intentional this Advent, we are grateful for the blessings we’ve received. Some of our highlights have been:

1 // Lessons & Carols at St. Paul Seminary –  since our first Advent together in 2012 (woah!), we have attended a Lessons & Carols Concert during Advent. In Boston, we went to St. John’s Seminary – typically the second Sunday (or Saturday night) in Advent – and it was always done sooooo well. It has always been the way we really mark the Advent season. Last year we attended the concert at our parish in Duluth – a bit underwhelming compared to the Schola at the sem, but still a treat nonetheless! This year we ventured out to SPS (in terribly cold & snowy weather) and it was, as always, a joy for the Gearns family. The one difficult part was not really knowing anybody. We said hello to a couple of seminarians that we’re acquainted with, but it’s such a different experience when I lack the connections to the Catholic community that I have in other places. I’m sure it will come, it’s just a void that is very noticeable.

2 // I’ve briefly mentioned how much I love our apartment, and it really shined this Advent. It’s not that it’s super large or fancy, but it’s got a cozy feeling to it (so much more so than our previous residences). We’ve really come into our own with decor and such – so just adding minor touches of a Boxwood wreath with a purple piece of fabric, an Advent wreath on a cake stand with beeswax candles, the a small nativity setup on our prayer shelf, and finally our purple cloth over our tv (a Gearns tradition) – it really lifted our spirits.

3 // We traveled to PA to spend Christmas with my family for the long weekend, and it was a good time. Different, since the older siblings/spouses/nieces were absent, but still a really great time with the rest of them. Sometimes it’s nice being home without every nook & cranny of the house crowded with people. I love it when we all get to be together, for sure, but the slower pace is also welcome. And like most holidays, my family hosts all the extended family the day of. So we still got to share the day with most of the cousins/aunts/uncles and had a delightful time!

4 // We saw the Nutcracker in Philly Friday night, which we looooved. Kevin and I saw it in Boston together when we were dating and have been longing to see it again. I also just love getting dressed up and going downtown for an occasion like that. So yay!

5 // I got some good quality time walking around my favorite spots back home. Kevin and I went for neighborhood walks – admiring all the beautiful colonial architecture (something that is sorely lacking out here in the Midwest, but I get it). Then I got to meet up with my best friends from high school at our favorite breakfast spot. The four of us have not all been together in a very long time – partly because one of them lives in Abu Dhabi now (world traveler, she is). So we had an absolutely lovely time and probably overstayed our welcome at the small restaurant.

6 // Christmas morning, Kevin and I went over to the perpetual adoration chapel at my family’s parish (it’s such a gem) and prayed for a bit. I absolutely love being able to do things like this – it really helps us to shift our focus as we ought for this wonderful celebration. After leaving the chapel, we prayed morning prayer on a bench outside and an elderly woman came up to us go give us a special prayer card for the precious blood of Jesus. She said it looked like we were praying for a special intention (which we were, and have been for quite some time) and that this prayer is incredibly powerful. So she gave it to us and then let us be. It was so beautiful!

7 // Now I know Christmas is not all about gifts (obviously), but I do want to mention a couple of things that I was SO SO SO excited to receive. My fabulous husband, who knows me so well, bought me this amazing lunchbox. Given that I eat practically an AIP diet (autoimmune paleo), my lunches are typically one container with spinach/kale, some protein, and then a variety of vegetables. And I’m not complaining about that because we eat well and I usually enjoy it very much. But sometimes it’s nice to have a little variety and separate the foods for a different experience. This lunchbox, eco-friendly, safe from all toxins, & cute! has multiple spots for all your fixin’s – vegetables, nuts, fruit, meat, two sealed containers (one for a dressing of sorts and the other for more liquid type foods). I am newly rejuvenated to eat lunch in 2017. So thank you, Kevin. You have won this round of gift giving. Other honorable mentions – this dress, these boots, and the annual matching sportswear that my dad gets everyone in the family (I’m being serious, he really knows how to pick this stuff). As always, I’m too spoiled, and my family is overly generous. But I’m super grateful as most of the gifts are quality investments that really help us out. So praise God for all that we have been provided for – we really do live super well.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!