Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cake is Good, Wedding Cake is Better

The Cutting of The Cake.  
Cake is also fun!
My brother-in-law got the whole thing (and the first dance!) on film:

MANY thanks to my sister Katie for orchestrating the filming!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why I Don't Despair

From Magnificat:

Yes, there is much evil, much meanness in the world, and the great error of socialists and other reformers is to imagine that through violence, through the theories they develop, humanity will discover how to regenerate itself and enter into an era of endless happiness. These fine illusions last a long time; then comes the time of disillusionment and of discouragement when one becomes pessimistic and gives up. This is all because the point of departure is false. Besides, since others as well as you have said, even the sincere exploit the situation. Even among the sincere there is often such arrogance, such a desire to play a role, to be the leader, a subtle form of pride among the refined. 
My dear friend, I am starting from a different point of view. I am persuaded that evil and suffering will never completely desert our poor earth, but I am also convinced that it is everyone's task to work to reduce evil and suffering as much as possible, in our own sphere, humbly, simply, without concern for our precious personality, through dedication, love, the gift of ourselves to that which is our duty. I believe that to accomplish this mission, the first thing to do is to try to become our best selves, even perhaps without knowing it. And God will do the rest. Our effort, our sacrifices, our actions, even the most hidden, will not be lost. This is my absolute conviction; everything has a long-lasting and profound repercussion. This thought leaves little room for discouragement, but it does not permit laziness. We are poor day-laborers of life; we sow and God gives the harvest. You understand ... I am unable to despair of humanity.

- Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur, from her collected Letters

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's All About The Human Person

Jen Fulwiler writes:
I’ve come to see the radically freeing truth that our plans only matter to the extent that they’re ordered toward deeper intimacy with individual people. What makes this truth so freeing about it is that, if your ultimate goal is to make the world a little brighter of a place by touching one person at a time, you can do that under any circumstances. You can live a life ordered toward human intimacy as a jet-setting movie star or as an invalid confined to a hospital bed; whether you find yourself surrounded by Hollywood directors or the nurses on night shift, you will always find yourself surrounded by people in need of love.
Read the whole post here: "A few thoughts on my birthday" (She turned 36 on Saturday!)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Forgiveness Means Forever

My latest post at Ignitum Today on forgiving people who you don't even like, and why mercy is the answer to a lack of feeling (and prayers!!).

We all have our crosses to carry; how do you bear yours? (St. John Vianney Catholic Church; Sedona, AZ )

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pro-Life Conference in Nigeria Needs Help

If you interested in helping, please contact Leila at Little Catholic Bubble:

Dearest Sisters and friends,

I have been asked by one of our Nigerian Archbishops, (Archbishop AJV Obinna of the Archdiocese of Owerri) to organize a Culture of Life Conference for the people of his Diocese -Owerri Archdiocese, which is in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. Many in this part of the country are really unaware of the struggle all over the world to defend life from conception to natural death. The African Catholic Bishops know and understand that the battle has already been brought to their door steps because there have been recent attempts to legalize abortion , flood our health facilities with contraceptives and bring in the so called ‘comprehensive’ sex-education which does not take into account Christian or even African moral values and sexual ethics.

So he (Archbishop Obinna) told me that he was thinking of dedicating some days (possibly up to 1 week) to a Pro-Life/ Culture of Life Conference for the Archdiocese of Owerri around June 2013 (specific date not yet decided). However he has asked me to ‘draw-up’ a plan or even a detailed proposal for this Conference in terms of substance and content. But I have never been involved in organizing this type of program. However, I promised him that I will beg and appeal to the vibrant pro-life community in America for people and organizations who can help us with their knowledge and expertise in this area . I am aware that because this is a busy time of the year when many people are busy planning for the year ahead, and so you are probably heavily laden with work and various engagements but I am praying and hoping that because the most successful and effective pro-life & pro-family conferences and lectures are organised in America, that you would consider getting involved with this African project.

We will be very grateful for any level of involvement that you could afford to give us based on your wealth of experience (all ranging from ideas of possible contents, subject matters, talks, areas of concern for the African societies , global cultural change etc.). In terms of the African audience, there will be people from a broad spectrum of our typical African society – from the well-educated civil servants to the uneducated farmers and traders, from the clueless youth to the concerned elders – it is an Archdiocese that caters for so many people of different walks of life and as such there is such a great need to sensitize and educate them in these issues that are becoming more and more important in the on-going global discussion (on abortion, contraception, sexual ‘health’ , maternal health , gender equality, feminism etc.).

Please let me know if you are interested in this and if you are able to participate in any way at all (even if you are only able to have a few email conversations with me in order to direct me to some good ideas ). And if you know anyone who may also like to join the conversation and planning of this sort of event for an African Diocese , please kindly refer me to them so that I could make the same appeal to them . Thank you so very much Pro-life Americans for your witness which reverberates in far and distant lands.

United in thoughts and prayers,
Obianuju Ekeocha (Uju)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Do You Follow the Star?

I've been thinking more about New Year resolutions, and I wonder how successful they would be if we treated them less as things we can do to help or better ourselves, and more as something we can offer up to God.

I was struck by a question I encountered yesterday. In a woman's group I belong to, one of the members asked, "Does anyone ever feel like God hates you?"

This is a common question. Many people see bad and wonder how God can even exist. People feel as if they are always being good, but nothing ever comes of it. Today's readings (especially the Gospel), however, shows us how important free will is and the overwhelming power of good:
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. (Matthew 2:9-12)
The Magi seek the star, which leads them to the Christ child. As believers in signs, they trust a dream, which tells them not to return to Herod. They chose to leave by another route and not risk the child's life. What faith they had!

God never gives you anything you cannot handle. We go through sufferings in life just as Christ suffered for us, on the cross and through human temptations and lamentations. These sufferings, if we so choose, can be signs which lead us closer to Christ. The priest said in the homily today - think of what Mary, who carries so many things in her heart, must have felt when she received the gifts from the Magi: gold, given only to Kings; frankincense, given in homage to the Savior; and myrrh, used in burials, given as a reminder of the baby's humanity and eventual death.

When we consider that God sent his only Son to suffer death on a cross for the redemption of our sins, and when we ponder the very essence of love and how we are on this earth because we were created of Love and for love, we cannot believe or even think God hates anyone. Only the Devil plants seeds of hate. When you feel weak and wonder why God is not intervening, ask yourself: "Have I offered this up to God? Have I asked God for help? Do I want a specific outcome or am I open to God's plans for me?"

Or are you thinking like Herod, and would like to try to fix the end game out of fear? And what of grace?

The Magi followed a star. We follow a much less elusive guide, and still, at times, we can feel lost. And while we are not guaranteed a happy life, we can have a joyful one. On this Solemnity of the feast of the Epiphany, allow the words of the second reading seep into your heart:
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6)
Have a blessed day! May you find the Christ child and be able to offer to him your most precious gift: that of self, and a devotion of your life in worthy adoration to our Lord.

"The Wise Men" by G.K. Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,
 To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
 That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
 On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
 We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
 And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
 And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
 Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
 He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly ... it has hailed and snowed...
 With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
 That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
 And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
 For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
 (... We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone...)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
 The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
 And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
 And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
 That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
 To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
 For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
 Through the snow and rain.

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/ We Three Kings" sung by The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (one of my favorite versions and Christmas songs)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year, New Name

Happy 2013, readers! I spent most of December 31, 2012 in four airports/ on a plane/ watching Muppet Treasure Island and The Hunger Games (God bless laptops and airports/planes with outlets!)/ writing/ trying not to annoy B. with my inability to decide what I wanted to eat. We got home super late, and I collapsed until quite late into January 1. It is certainly delightful to begin 2013 well-rested!

I am pleased as punch to finally let you know what my significant other's "B" stands for: Baldwin!

Our marriage ceremony
I'll still be referring to my dear husband as B. because he's the best! I'll also be publishing as J.R. Baldwin from here on (except on the blog- still Julie to y'all!). My twitter handle remains the same; updating Pintrest (how fancy!).

I am not sure how I feel about new years resolutions. On one hand, they are a great time to be introspective about things I'd like to change or do. I've never been exceptionally keen on having new years resolutions (I completed half of these), but after reading Hannah's list (who published my I Am Thankful For post!) and Leah's link-up, I decided to indulge.

I resolve to read the daily Mass readings and say a prayer of Spiritual Communion each day, especially if I am unable to attend daily Mass. Life is too short, and too busy- but I can never be too busy for God. I read my Magnificat, and still I need to trouble myself to be more diligent to God's word. This world is so beautiful, and yet my soul has yet to be properly prepared for the splendors of Heaven!

Bonus point: Daily mass! Morning prayer too!

Us on top of a mountain we climbed!
I resolve to have a happy heart and willing spirit to exercise. My husband is very excited about exercising together, and I should be open to the company! I've tried spinning, pilates and now yoga and I can report that it is more pride than lack of athleticism holding me back. Nike's right: I need to JUST DO IT!!

Bonus point: Make a schedule and stick to it! Drink more water and sleep at least 7-8 hours too.

I resolve to pray for vocations. So many of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ are single or searching for what the Lord has in store for them; let me assist and remember what it feels like to wander!

Bonus point: Write more posts on vocations as relationships editor of Ignitum Today.

I resolve to publish more. Severe time constraints (and pride) in 2012 kept me from updating this blog and meeting proper deadlines, and I am absolutely resolved in 2013 to hop back on the properly publishing train! I've written a lot, but published 20-30% of it (maybe). It's time to release more Julie Thoughts and Prose.

Bonus point: Blog more. It makes me happy, it makes dear readers happy: win-win!

I resolve to organize, purge, and be prudent. I have a lot of papers. I have a lot of memories. I have a huge to-scrapbook-and-create-adorableness box, and, at some point, I will have to face it. Especially since B. and I may move (again) in 6 months for his work. I also need to organize personal papers and finances to accommodate for my change in marital status.

Bonus Point: Get pictures into photo-books!

And, finally:

I resolve to seek beauty, love, hope and truth first. As Victor Hugo saith, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

I love him!

Any resolutions for 2013, dear readers?