The Dark and Silent Night

Have you ever had the urge to get in your car and drive out to the middle of nowhere to see a giant statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe?

No?

Just me?

Well, not too long ago, I had this feeling, like a calling, to go to pay a visit to this Shrine that I had literally just heard about a few days prior from a couple friends at church.

The night I decided to make this 40 minute trip to the middle of nowhere (Middle of Nowhere being Windsor Ohio) was November 8th.

The reason? I wanted to be anywhere except in front of a TV to watch the election coverage. I just wanted to get away. And I really did feel like this was the place to be.

maryfall

On a farm in Ashtabula County, Ohio, stands the worlds largest and most magnificent statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe ever created. It towers 50’ above the landscape and is adorned with over 450,000 hand placed mosaic tiles.

The website said the grounds were open until 10pm. I got in my car, already 7:15 at night and getting close to pitch black because of the time change, and thought, “This is by far the craziest thing I’ve ever done.” Especially since I didn’t tell anyone I was going and had no idea where the city of Windsor Ohio was. I just knew it was 40 minutes from my church.

I wish I would have video of just how dark it was driving out there. It was the kind of dark that even when you have your brights on, it doesn’t matter. It’s still dark. Literally this is the middle of nowhere. Where you pass a farmhouse every quarter of a mile. Where you pass a car only every few minutes or so. Or sometimes not at all and it freaks you out and you think, “Am I still in Ohio?!”

After 40 minutes, I arrive and pulled into a gravel lot, almost missing the small sign that indicated it was just to my left.

I got out of the car and locked it, which is laughable because there was literally not a soul around. I couldn’t see much at first because the shrine itself was blocked by the gift shop. I thought initially that I had the wrong place.

But when I walked a few yards towards what seemed like the right way to go, I turned and saw this sight:

15042000_10154043966077544_785485455238980838_oI actually don’t have photos of my initial location which was about 2 football fields away. But even from that far off I could see she was radiant. The other thing I couldn’t get over was the quiet. Total silence. Not a car. Not a cricket. Not an owl. Not a deer. Nothing. I think the only noise was the sound of all the electricity from the light bulbs that lit her up.

Silence.

Darkness.

The only light was coming from this huge statue and the bulbs that make up the Rosary that surrounds her.

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It really felt like this was my way of turning off the world. Just me and this 50′ tall statue.

In the middle of nowhere.

And it was exactly what I needed at that moment.

I don’t have video of it and I know the pictures may not do it justice. So I would encourage everyone to experience something like this for yourself. It doesn’t have to be in Windsor Ohio. It can be your own backyard. It can be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It can be reading a book. It can be in your room, just praying and meditating.

But I really do think we could all use some silence in this chaotic world. We all need to just take the time to realize what is really important. What’s important is NOT who is President. What’s important is NOT how your best friend votes or how your cousin votes or anyone else.

What’s important is how we can all do our part to develop relationships with one another, to make a real difference in this world, to realize our potential and to learn from each other. We can only do that if we silence ourselves and listen.

I didn’t really do a lot of listening in my young adult years. Or if I did listen to anyone, it was the culture. And friends. Which is probably what led me to vote for our current President. Twice. And I can’t really tell you why exactly. I like to blame the fact that I lived in Chicago for 8 years (and lived there during his first term) and so it was basically you voted for him, or else. Plus, I bought into the Hope and Change slogans. I really thought a President would change my world.

I had put my faith in man to save me and this country.

And I slowly, gradually, realized I was foolish to do so.

So as I sat there praying and looking up at Mama Mary, all these years later, all alone, I was comforted because I knew the sun was going to rise on November 9th, no matter who was elected.

I left there somewhat elated, actually. I was reassured that this world is just a temporary stop on the way to our final home.

So it shouldn’t cause me to melt or to become angry or end relationships and friendships over something like an election.

Because, honestly, my guy already won.

 

 

What God Wants From Us

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

To be joyful always, to pray constantly, to be thankful throughout our lives – This almost sounds like an impossible task.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy, a reason to stop praying and a reason to be ungrateful. We can find many reasons to think, “Prayer doesn’t work,” or “What’s there to be happy about? I can barely pay my bills!” or “Who should I thank for hitting my car and not even bothering to leave a note?!”

It’s difficult to turn those unfortunate circumstances around and think, what’s so good about this situation I’m in?

This passage from St. Paul reminds us, no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for. We kind of have to search for it sometimes. It’s not always so obvious.

For instance, to be joyful always, even when it’s not exactly a joyous occasion can be really challenging. It’s not in our nature. But let’s some circumstances and try and reverse them:


 

Loss of a loved one after a long battle with a debilitating disease. How can we find joy in such a sad circumstance as this?

The joy can be found in the friends and people who come to support you during the wake or viewing. The joy can be found in the stories and memories that are always with you and never leave. The joy can be found in the photographs when your loved one was healthy and vibrant. The joy is found in the life that person lived while they were here. And there’s joy knowing your loved one is no longer sick. The pain and suffering is now over.

Praying at all times in our lives can also be challenging. People may think that prayer couldn’t possibly work because they don’t see the results instantaneously. But the way prayer works is not always instant, it works on God’s time. Also, there’s always something  and someone to pray for. You can pray for the blessings in your life, you can pray for someone else who needs help, you can pray to God for the ability to find the JOY in all circumstances.

Being grateful is also a challenge when times are tough. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going right for us. But to be grateful when things seem like they’re going downhill can be especially difficult. Perhaps you have lost your job or having a hard time getting over a breakup or divorce. What’s there to be grateful for in these situations?

One saying I like to share is: “No matter what is going on with you, there’s always someone somewhere who has it much worse.”

So although you might not have a job, be grateful for your former boss who wrote that letter of reference for you so you can find a better job. Or be grateful for your previous job that gave you experience that you can put on a resume. If your relationship has just ended, you may feel lost or incomplete.

What’s there to be grateful for here? You can be thankful for a new beginning. You can be grateful that you are now in a position to be solitary and spend time alone, but not lonely! You can be grateful that someone you may have thought was the person for you, is not and that means perhaps the one you ARE meant to be with can now find you.

Fit In You Faith Today: What do you struggle with currently – Lack of joy? Showing ungratefulness? Never praying? Focus on one of these actions this week to grow in your relationship with Christ. As St. Paul has said, “This is what God want’s from you.”

 

 

Food Is Love…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

eating-disorder

Food makes everything better.

Food makes me feel worse.

Eating is my favorite pastime.

Eating is my least favorite part of the day.

Being skinny means being the cheerful one. The pretty one.

Being fat means being the funny one. The life of the party.

The thought of cooking makes me sick.

The thought of cooking makes me nervous.

Planning my food out makes me feel in control.

Planning my food out makes me feel obsessive.

I wish food was my enemy, then I wouldn’t eat so much of it.

I wish food was my best friend, then I would eat more of it.

My reflection in the mirror makes me cringe.

My reflection in the mirror makes me laugh.

My doctor said I’m going to die if I don’t lose some weight.

My doctor said I’m going to die if I don’t put on some weight.

I’m starving already…this diet sucks.

I binged again…this diet sucks.

Fast food is better than no food, right?

No food is better than fast food, right?

I have to take a picture of my food, gotta make sure people think I’m sticking to my diet.

I can’t look at pictures of food. It makes me feel guilty for not sticking to my diet.

I’m starving first thing in the morning so I eat a huge meal. I heard that’s the best way to kickstart your metabolism.

I’m starving first thing in the morning. Then I wait 12 hours to eat because I heard intermittent fasting is the best way to diet.

I have 6 small meals because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

I have 3 big meals because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

I can’t eat like you do, I’m in awe of your discipline.

I can’t eat like you do, I’m grossed out by your food.

I’d give anything to have your body.

I’d do anything to have my old body back.

I know I’m so thin, everyone looks huge to me.

I know I’m so big, everyone looks tiny to me.

I forgot what it’s like to not be on a diet.

I forgot what it’s like to be active.

I forgot what healthy is supposed to look like.

When I get to my goal weight, then I’ll be happy.

When I eat this ice cream, I’ll feel better.

When I throw up this ice cream, I’ll feel better.

After I eat that cheesecake, I’ll go to the gym before the calories really settle in.

After I eat that cheesecake, I’ll go to bed before the shame sets in.

Looking in my refrigerator gives me a panic attack because it’s always full of stuff I shouldn’t eat.

Looking in my refrigerator makes me depressed because it’s always full of stuff I won’t eat.

If I had a personal chef, then I’d lose weight.

If I had a personal trainer, then I’d lose weight.

If I had my spouse’s support, then I’d lose weight.

I wake up thinking about food.

I go to bed dreaming about food.

 

I wish I could break-up with food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming the Best Version of Yourself

 Did I really try my hardest today?

Maybe it’s the cold weather causing me to hibernate more than I’d like.  Maybe it’s seeing too many people on social media doing more than myself, who knows.  But I thought, in order to hold myself accountable, why not finish the day with a question?  I try to start my day with a statement such as,  I WILL do __________.  I AM going to ____________.  I CAN ____________.   It seems appropriate to end the day with a question – almost like a Review of Your Day.

Sidenote:  Although I’m speaking from a fitness perspective, this can still be applied to career or relationship or pretty much any goal you have.  Especially those New Year Resolutions.

Looking back at the past week, asking myself this questions, I was ON point with my meal plan from my coach.  I didn’t miss any workouts either.  So how can I repeat this?  How can anyone keep this train moving in the right direction?  I suppose it’s a combination of motivation and willpower and accountability from others.  But above all, it started with a plan.

I hear from many of my clients that although they have every intention of doing A, B and C in a given day, there are diversions and things that just get in the way and before you know it, they didn’t accomplish A B or C.  They haven’t even gotten the train out of the station and it’s already derailed.  And now they feel like crap and feel guilty and feel like giving up.

Here are some examples:

A meeting at work that went long, there goes your workout for the day!

Your car needs to be fixed so there goes your money that you wanted to spend on the new gym membership!

You oversleep so now you have to stop by the drive-thru or the cafeteria at work, there goes having a good home cooked meal!

Noticing a common theme in the above examples?  They all could have been prevented with a PLAN.  If you have a plan, you’re so much more likely to succeed.

Here’s some ideas on how to implement one:

  • How do we solve the meeting problem? How can we know when our boss wants us to stay late and work? We don’t.  So we have a plan to workout at a time when your boss has no control of your schedule – usually first thing in the morning.  Or a weekend.  There’s got to be some ME time in your life.  Several of my clients insert “Meeting with Jim” into their work calendar so they don’t miss a workout.  (Jim, like gym…get it?)  Even if you have to work late 5 days a week, if you have a plan to workout at a different time, it’s already done and you won’t feel rushed to squeeze it in.  Even if you only workout one day in a week, that’s something.  That’s an accomplishment.
  • How can you prevent a car that breaks down?  Or your child falls down and gets injured? (Think BIG expenses). Usually not preventable.  But your plan for this is your budget.   I’m a firm believer everyone/family needs a health budget.  This would be different or in addition to a savings account.  Coming from someone who knows what it’s like to scrape by, I know this is easier said than done.  The number one declaration I hear from ALL of my clients is “I wish I would have started this sooner.”  It starts with a health budget.  Save those dollars!  Saving up for a treadmill or a trainer or a good pair of running shoes or gym membership is a good first step.
  • What’s the plan for accidentally oversleeping?  This is probably the easiest one to do but also the one I hear the MOST excuses for:  Prep your food.  Prep your food.  Prep your food.  Prep your DAMN FOOD!!!!

🙂

Can you tell I’m slightly irritated passionate about this one?  It’s seriously the easiest thing to do EVER.  What’s the most common objection to it?

I know what to eat, I just don’t have time to make it.

Nope, not good enough.  You do have the time, you just don’t make it a priority in your life.  Goes back to the health budget.  If it’s a priority, you make the effort to get it done.

Stick “Food prep” in your calendar.  Literally write it down for a block of time for about 2 hours.

Go to bed earlier so you can wake up earlier and get it done in that time frame if you want.

Get off Facebook.  Take a social media BREAK.  Like a legit day or two break.

Make it a family affair and have the kids help out in the kitchen.  They’re going to eat the food anyways, right? Might as well start them young and get them learning some basic cooking skills like just chopping up veggies. If they are too young for that, how about mixing or just throwing stuff in a crock pot?  Or if you have OCD kids that love to be organized, how about getting them to weigh and measure out the food into zip lock baggies?  Seems like a mundane task but most kids I know are entertained by the smallest things.  Turn it into a lesson.  Teach them math or something, I don’t know.   Tell them:  “I need 6 ounces of chicken, in each of these bags.  If I need 6 ounces for everyday this week, how many ounces is that?”

Okay so I’m clearly not a parent nor a teacher but, I think you get my point.

If you have family that doesn’t eat the same foods you then yes, this will require some extra effort.   In my opinion, the easier option is just making stuff that everyone can enjoy, just decreasing/increasing the portions for them.

Picky eaters?  Try the “just try a bite” method.  Worked for me for about 15 some years since I was the pickiest child ever.  PB and J was the only thing I really ate but I would always have “at least a bite” of greens and meats that Mom made for me.  I got wise around age 25 by cooking food, the same time that I invested in a Personal Trainer I might add.

One of my clients recommended a couple books for those picky eaters so I’m passing on the information to my Mommy readers:  Bringing up Bebe:  One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

I just love this review of the book: “Bringing Up Bébé is a must-read for parents who would like their children to eat more than white pasta and chicken fingers.”

Another one is called: Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five

Check them out and let me know what you think – and if you’ve read them let us know so my readers/followers can hear what you think too!

Speaking of babies, this all comes back to baby steps – small steps to accomplish a large goal.  One day at a time was made for goals such as these.  They can seem overwhelming, they can seem like you’re starting at square one but with just some effort, you can get there.  It might even take months or even years before your PLAN is in full effect.

But before you know it, you’ll get into that rhythm.  You’ll be THAT person that’s always prepared.  THAT person that always seems to have his/her stuff together.  THAT person that you look at or read about and think “Oh I’m sure that would never work for ME.”  Guess what?  It can.

You will be that person that ends your day with “Did I try my hardest today?  HELL YES!” 

And it will show!  You’ll be happier because you’ll be closer to your goals; you’ll be calmer because your stress will be lowered due to all the workouts you’re doing and all the good food you’ve been eating;  you’ll be happier because you’ve been spending your money from your health budget; you’ll be more confident because you put your health first.

As always, if you have any other ideas or suggestions for my readers who struggle with this same problem, feel free to comment and share this post with others who could use the boost!