Thursday, April 30, 2015

Walking with Mary through my fears… right to the CWBN Conference!

I’ve been looking at this list of women all weekend long. I am giddy at the thought of having actually met these wonderful ladies in person, while simultaneously in disbelief: how is my name on this list as an attendee of the Catholic Women's Blogging Network California Conference?  How was I able to attend? I don't even remember how I heard about this conference in the first place (although not remembering could very well be due to my sleep deprived “mom brain”). At one point I thought it was a fluke that I heard about and signed up for this lovely weekend but now I know with certainty that it was God.


Before I talk about the conference, let me tell you a little back story (because I enjoy talking too much and am incapable of telling the short version of any story).

I’ve been on a quite a journey of spiritual growth this past year (at least I hope I’m growing!). It all started when a dear friend and mentor invited me to read Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration. I loved the book and eagerly Consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary on March 25, 2014 on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  


[If you would like to learn more about what Marian Consecration is, please visit here.]

Since consecration my world has been turned upside down in a good/painfully necessary way. I like to think of this “pain” as the kind one would feel during a good massage. It often times really hurts when the massage therapist works on your knots. Sometimes you want to yell, “Stop! That hurts!” However, if the massage therapist stops massaging and working out your knots then most likely you’ll remain in pain, have limited mobility and you won't be able to fully function. One has to choose to say, “Ouch! That REALLY hurts but don't stop working.” 

It has been a long year of walking beside Mary and asking her to work on my “knots”… my sins. She has taken a loving, gentle and yet firm approach to pointing out all of the areas in my life which need to be addressed. One of my biggest “knots” has always been fear. Since I was a small child, my mother recognized that I was a kid who was ridden with fear in all things big and small. From trying new things, being called on in class (especially math class!!!), to singing… or as an adult fearing having to drive in unfamiliar places, to public speaking, and being put on the spot in social settings, something happening to my husband or kids, or having major writer’s block and not being able to write on my blog for the better part of a year because I felt so inadequate. Who am I to even be writing? I don't have a fancy degree? Why would my voice matter? The list is ENDLESS! So many things have caused me anxiety over the years. I have waisted time and not shared many of the gifts God has given me because I fear the unknown. Will I fail? Will I succeed? Will I be rejected for doing one or the other? As ridiculous as it sounds, I think I fear success just as much as I do failure, because, if I succeed what will God continue to ask of me? What if the path He leads me down is too difficult of a journey? 

[insert pause for all of you to pick your jaws up off the floor while you think to yourselves, “This chick is off her rocker! Completely ridiculous, no one person can have THAT much fear.” Not to worry, I have this exact same thought about myself all. the. time.]

I know how silly this all sounds but it is the truth. But up until my initial consecration, I never was  brave enough to admit how much fear I was living in. Mary came to my assistance in a huge way and lovingly pointed out that I had a BIG problem. Fast forward to the beginning of this past Lent. I had done two more re-consecrations since last year and some serious spiritual work. I felt emotionally exhausted but in a much different place than I was used to be. At least that was until one day when I was listening to a CD from Dr. Brant Pitre titled Spiritual Theology: Christian Prayer and the Three Stages of the Spiritual Life (BTW, the CD set is ah-maaazing! Everyone should listen to it!). On the CD he mentioned The Litany of Humility. I had never heard of that prayer and so I looked it up. After quickly skimming though that I darn near slammed my laptop shut, for fear the words might jump out at me through my screen! I did not want to have any part of that prayer! Everyone knows that you don’t pray for humility (or patience) unless you are completely crazy!

Except I am kind of crazy (just re-read the section above on all the things I fear and/or ask my husband). I felt a big push to read The Litany of Humility. So one morning (against my better judgement, or I guess in this case it was good judgement) I read the prayer while sitting next to my husband during our morning prayer and scripture reading. I said a prayer before reading it so it really should not have surprised me (though it did my husband) that when I read it I full on ugly cried through the. entire. thing. Certain lines were popping out at me as I prayed them and they were almost painful to say. I knew I was meant to commit to saying this prayer every day and that is exactly what I did and still continue to do. I tell you about this prayer not to say, "Hey look at me! I'm so humble cuz I'm prayin'!" QUITE the opposite!!! I struggle immensely. But what I am reminded of is God's desire for us to share our struggles and help each other carry our crosses. I tell you about this prayer because The Litany of Humility is life-changing. It has changed my life, is changing my life and I pray that it continues to change my life. The more I have said this prayer the more I noticed how it directly correlates to all of the things (i.e. situations/people/relationships) that I struggle with the most. *Disclaimer: please know that the more one says this prayer the more, ahem, opportunities arise to grow in humility. Some days haven't been pretty. Yeah... Back to that painful but necessary stuff. 

One day during a reflection I realized that Mary had themes that she had been weaving throughout each of my consecrations:

The first Consecration she helped me identify fear- I was so ridden with it that I was stagnant. I had to learn to just breath and do my best to trust. 

The second Consecration she gave me the tools necessary to deal with my fear. 

The third Consecration she reminded me that He is calling me to action. I can say I love and trust God all day long but now I have to live it, just as Mary has always done. It was time to give my “yes” and mean it.

So I wholeheartedly asked for help to give my "yes" and I continue to ask for the grace to do so everyday. And just when I thought I had reached my peak of crazy, I took it one step further. One day before saying The Litany of Humility, asked Mary, “Help me to say these words, to mean theses words, and to live these words, just like you do.” Little by little she is helping me to do so and never misses an opportunity to point me back to her Son. Trust me, God is presenting me with plenty of situations to practice overcoming my fears and keeping it in perspective. One of those ways was taking me completely OUT of my comfort zone and placing me with a bunch of people who I didn't know.

Somewhere in the middle of all the things going on in my life I heard about the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network California Conference, which was being put on by some of my favorite Catholic bloggers: Kendra Tierney of Catholic All Year, Micaela Darr of California to Korea, Jenna Guizar founder of Blessed Is She, Kristin Sanders of This Inspired Life, and Andrea Boring of Modern Catholic Mom. I can’t recall how I heard about it and I don’t really remember jumping on board and signing up. It sort of just happened and I was both excited and really shocked. The me last year would have NEVER agreed to go to this conference! Why? 

The following excuses would have been my reasons for not attending:

1. I don’t really blog. I’m not even sure why I started a blog. I’m wannabe blogger but I'm not exactly sure that I could even describe what blogging is if someone were to ask me.

(okay, that was more like three things instead of just one but whatevs)

2. I don't belong. I will feel like a fraud next to such talented, amazing, successful women! I just know I’m going to walk through the door and they’re all going to yell, “IMPOSTER!”


3. You’re TERRIBLE at setting goals for yourself. You’re going to get there, and even if you enjoy yourself and learn something new, what will it all be for? You’ll probably never put that experience to good use because you never follow through. So just save everyone the effort and just. stay. home.


4. What are you going to blog about? Who are YOU to be writing anything? Can you even talk in complete sentences anymore since talking to toddlers all day? Your voice doesn't matter.

Those are the words that I would have told myself last year which would have left me defeated and remaining in one place, for fear of doing anything. Fear is crippling.

Guess what? I still wrestled with every one these thoughts before leaving for the conference. However, I called on many prayer warriors as I prepared for my trip and I am beyond grateful for all their prayers. By the grace of God, this time His voice rang truer and louder in my ears than ever before... so off to the conference I went! Leaving behind every expectation: for the weekend, the people I met and even the expectations of myself. Sometimes we have to choose to abandon our expectations because what we build up in our minds can prevent us from enjoying our real-life experiences. It was the prayers of so many that kept me from feeling a single drop of anxiety, self consciousness, or any other negative emotion. In fact, I felt the more like me than I have felt in a long time. I don't always remember to nurture myself in the midst of the busyness of life- I imagine that most of us mamas are guilty of that. I think nurturing was the whole point of the conference. Yes, it was a blogging conference and we learned a great deal, but in every sense it was a nurturing conference. Beautiful women from all walks and stages of life came together to nurture each other's hearts and build each other up in Christ. I'm also SUPER thrilled to report that not one person shouted "IMPOSTER" at me as I walked through the door! ;)  What a gift it was to be with such generous women all weekend who are changing the world little by little with their fierce love for Jesus and and desire to share their time, talents and treasure with all those around them. I felt so welcomed and had such a deep feeling of peace- I was right where God called me to be. I had no idea how much I needed this weekend. These ladies are truly beautiful community of women and I am so honored to call them my new friends. 

As if just hanging out with all the ladies wasn't inspiring enough... I was deeply moved by each of the talks from our speakers. Micaela talked about her struggles with pride as a blogger and how she overcame it. She gave us beautiful copy of... The Litany of Humility! For reals. Talk about a HUGE full circle moment for me! I was sitting in my chair chuckling/tearing up and saying to myself, "Okay, God! I hear ya and I will stay the course!" ;)



And because I wear my heart on my sleeve and was already crying, why not cry some more! I kept tearing up through Andrea's talk and she told her powerful story of returning to the Catholic Church after many years. She told us that we need to ask ourselves "What is our 'why' for blogging?" And then she said, "We’re all called to be disciples. Our voice is important. It is up to us to use it for the glory of God.” I nearly lost it. I have believe the lie, for far too long, that my voice doesn't matter. I also realized that I had never asked myself the question of "why?" because I was afraid of what the answer might be and having to live it. What will God ask of me? What if He asks too much? Or a more honest question is, what if He asks more of me than I am willing to give? God doesn't call us to walk an easy road, He calls us to walk in truth and truth is far from easy. Truth forces us to wrestle with our holiness every day. Thank you Jesus that He "wrestles with the sinner's heart" because He loves us far too much to let us stay the way we are. 

I went home from this conference feeling refreshed, ridiculously inspired and thankful for this group of holy women that I can now call friends. Our parish pastor, Fr. Pat, said it best this morning:  "Trust that God gave us each unique gifts that He meant for us to develop and then share with others. The sharing of our God-given gifts will help nurture and bring out the gifts in others." 

Heart is full and happy. <3



Here are a few more pictures from our awesome weekend:



The beautiful outdoor seating.





The adorable place card cookies that Kendra made! I'm still in awe and wanting to know where she gets her energy from! 






Here is Kendra, the hostess with the mostess (and sweet baby bump)! She is even sweeter in person! It was so kind and generous of her to open her home to all of us strangers (though I guess we aren't strangers anymore!). Every detail of the weekend was done with such care, thoughtfulness and love.






New friends, Karianna (photo credit) and Bobbi! Though I felt like I have known them for years already! I had to remind myself several times that this was the first time meeting everyone and I did not in fact "know" them other than online. It's easy to forget that when reading people's blogs. Because bloggers let you into their lives you think that you just saw them for coffee on Friday night. Which makes it difficult to resist inviting yourself over to their house. Kind of like when I just invited myself to be Bobbi's driving buddy for the weekend. After the third time of me inviting myself to tag along in her car, it dawned on me that I should probably ask her if she would like me invading her space! Thankfully, she said "yes!" Because she is totally awesome! 






Willow and me #twinning on the first day of the conference. Except she looks way cooler because she has a pretty scarf!





Willow, Ronni, Me and Andrea.




All the lovely ladies taking a picture for Kendra's What I Wore Sunday segment on her blog. Photo credit: Kendra (and her daughter Betty for snapping the picture).



Our amazing coordinator, Micaela Darr! Words cannot describe how thankful I am to her and the rest of the team for putting together such a wonderful event for all of us.
Read her re-cap of the weekend here.



The entire gang! Photo credit: The incredibly talented, Jiza Zito of Olive and Cypress. Jiza so generously photographed the weekend for us. What a gift!!!


14 comments:

  1. Love, love, love this! I'm so glad you found the courage to speak from your heart and share your story. I could relate to a lot of it. Interestingly our church has been doing sessions of 33 Days to Morning Glory... sounds like I need to sign up soon. You are a lovely writer... keep it up!

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    1. Thank you so much! You should most definitely check out 33 Days! It is a life-changer! My good friend (the one who invited me to read the book) has lead several groups through the consecration. We have discuss and ask him questions via email. It has been awesome. It is a great book to read as a group!

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  2. You told me this story briefly in person but I still got choked up reading it. God is so good and patient with us, isn't He? I'm really glad you made it to the conference, Amber. Maybe I'll hit you up next time I visit my parents. :) God bless you!

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    1. I would LOVE to get together the next time you are in town, Micaela! You just say the word and we can have a big ole' playdate with the kiddos! Or the husbands could watch the kids and we can go out for coffee... or wine! ;) Take care

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  3. I love this so much! It's funny that I was going though may of the same struggles. Thank you for being so open. It touched me. I am so glad we were able to meet and spend some time together. Truly. I hope we can do it again one day!

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    1. I'm glad it touched you. It was time for me to get real. You know what I mean? And girl... I AM going to see you again for sure! You're practically living in my back yard. Okay, fine, not really. However, my mom recently reminded me that we have passes to the aquarium so I am thinking summer road trip "for the kids"... aka, mommy and Bobbi need some girl time! lol. I'm not going to lie, our "girl date" will most likely be walking around the aquarium with a bunch o' kids. But one can dream, right? Big hugs :)

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  4. This is so inspiring Amber! I have the same and maybe more of the fears you are talking. Coming here in the US had been such a life changing and fearful decision i had to make, i mean i really didn't really have much of a choice, i fell inlove..:) It's hard and i'm still dealing with insecurities and feeling like i don't measure up to anything here. I have been writing a lot of drafts for our blog but i never have the courage to actually publish it fearing that people might think i'm just a "wannabe". I hope and i will pray that i get to the point where i have the courage and take a leap and do things as bravely as you did.
    P.S. Love the collection of little saints!!! Now i wanna make all of them too..hehehe..

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    1. My dearest Liz, You went through some MAJOR MAJOR life changes! You have been brave in more ways than I can wrap my head around! You ARE one courageous, beautiful mama! Don't ever doubt that for a second. Be kind and patient with yourself... God is! He only sees His masterpiece in the making when He looks at you. Hugs.

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  5. Twinner!!!! You are such a gem and God is so good - when you come down this way again you need to let me know so we can hang out! *hugs*

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    1. Absolutely! I would LOVE to hang out! We will be down again for sure since my sister will be back for a few wedding dress fittings. We will have to meet up! Hugs, right back at ya! :)

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  6. Amber! I'm sorry I still didn't have your name down on Sunday morning, but I DO now!! Your post is awesome. I'm reconsecrating (33 Days!) currently so your whole post made me smile. Love it all!!!!

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    1. Girl, don't even worry about it! I didn't have your name, along with every one else's name down either! How exciting that you are reconsecrating yourself! Consecration has been a life changing journey for my husband and me. I will be keeping you in my prayers.

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  7. Amber! This post! Are you me in disguise????
    Seriously, though, I didn't know anyone else had such a crazy fear list...and I actually called one of my good friends to ask her if she thought I was being a total fraud for signing up to go the conference for reasons #1-4 you listed above! Thankfully, she talked me down from my paranoid ledge, and I'm glad I was there. Anyway, super awesome sharing in this post and thank you for your honesty! Glad I got to meet you...and do remember, your life and words matter! You just never know who is reading and being inspired! :)

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    1. Thank you, Jenny! I am so glad to know that I am not alone in my crazy! lol. Yes, I have a ridiculous fear list. Thank God for the good friends who are supportive, willing to listen to our crazy and talk us down from our (sometimes totally irrational) fears! :)

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