Kim Padan: Pro-Life Speaker

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arrivederci Assisi! Buon giorno, Firenze!

Buono Sera!

I have so many posts to catch up on! But I guess I can start with a travel day, because it should not take too long to write.

This morning, we had our last breakfast in Bastia. Then we gathered all of our stuff, including a box of souvenirs which we considered mailing back home. However, we found out how extremely expensive it is to mail packages from Italy to the States. In fact, we found out how expensive it is to mail a postcard.  2 euros for one postcard stamp! Crazy! So we will just have to carry everything home. The one bag that we brought for extra things is not big enough. We might need to buy another bag!

Having an extra box of stuff was going to make boarding the train that much more difficult. The problem was going to be loading very quickly. The pickup spot was in Assisi, and the train only stops for one minute. But today, the train was running late. It did not stop very long at all. Bruce was loading our duffel bag when the warning sound for the doors to close began to beep. I told him to grab the bag. I said I would much rather get a later train then to lose our stuff. Fortunately, his efforts to grab the bag delayed the door from closing long enough that it caught the conductor's eye. He asked where we were going, and we told him Florence. He pulled out his key, unlocked the door that had just closed and he, along with 2 other people help is on the train. We were so blessed to have these folks help us out. We just grabbed the closest seats to the door and we were just happy to be on our way!

About two hours later, we arrived in Florence.   We quickly grabbed a taxi, which got us to the hotel in less than 10 minutes!  Great location!  As we entered, it was obvious that this is a fancier hotel!  I found it online, as one of the few places with a wheelchair accessible room.  I knew the room was nice, but even the lobby is plush! Should be a comfy stay.  Here are some fun pics from our window.

After we rested a bit, we decided to walk around the neighborhood.   A Catholic Church is next door, perfect for All Saints Day mass in the morning.   Just a 15 minute walk brought us to the center of the city, where the famous Duomo is.  This cathedral has a dome that symbolizes the start of the Renaissance,  and the influence of Florence during that period.   We walked down a busy street, seeing part of the baptistry to our right.   But when we got to the end of the street,  the cathedral was right there.   WOW!  It is so massive, so detailed,  so grand.   Words, even pictures cannot do it justice.   We took a few first-impression pics, knowing we will go inside on a later day.

We ended up eating at a small pizza place,  almost like a fast food restaurant.  Not bad, very quick and inexpensive.   Across the street was a tourism office where we got great info on sites and wheelchair accessibility.   Very helpful!  We then headed back to the hotel for cappuccinos and cookies. Already, I wish we had more time in this beautiful city!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Arrivederci, Roma! On to Bastia/Assisi

Buono Sera!

Today was a travel day.  We left the comfort of the beautiful Santa Maria hotel, but knew we would have continued blessings on our next leg.  We began the day with a big breakfast.   After Bruce turned in the key, the hotel manager came out to give us a lovely book of Rome.  I don't know if they do it for everyone or just people who stay a long time.   Either way, this book, our unexpected blessing of the day,  has pictures of sights we saw, and some we missed.   It will be fun to compare it with our own pictures. 

We then caught a taxi to the train station.   The driver was hysterical!  It was tricky to understand his Italian, but Bruce caught some.  He offered to drive us to Assisi, but when Bruce joked that he could for the price of the train tickets,  the driver said Bruce was cheap!  Then, as as we passed stores, and Bruce said no shopping,  the driver said he was molto cheap!  Ha!  I guess the driver has no idea what we have spent to get here!  :-)

The train ride was pretty uneventful.   We did meet 2 couples from California.   We had fun comparing vacation notes.  But we all agreed that the personal hug from Pope Francis takes the cake!
We arrived in Bastia, a small town outside Assisi.   No taxis!  And we had issues with the cell phone (long story, since resolved. )  Silver lining of the day:  2 kind older gentlemen helped us reach the cab company that services the small towns, getting people to Assisi.   Thank goodness!  The roads here are narrow with no sidewalks.  Different than Rome, since cars are not watching for pedestrians.   The taxi got us to our hotel in no time.  Here are the kind strangers who stuck around until the taxi came.  Molto gentile!

We enjoyed dinner in the hotel restaurant,  featuring local wine and local olive oil on the fresh baked bread.   Yum.  This was my 3rd glass of wine this week, and I had a cappuccino for dessert (4th one ever!)  Italy is corrupting me!  :-)

Looking forward to seeing the beauty of Assisi tomorrow!  I will share more pictures then.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Full Day in Rome

Buono Sera!

I am typing on this tablet, still trying to figure out how some of the details work. I have several partial posts in my drafts. I really need to catch up.  I can't believe this is our last night in Rome.   It has been spectacular!  I have tried to capture some of the beauty,  but there is no way to give it justice.   We still have 10 days left on this vacation, just different cities.   I am sure we will love them too.

Bruce used the real camera again to get good pictures.  When we get home, hopefully I will update this post.

We started the day with Mass.  No wandering around this week!  There was a Mass in English at Chiesa Santo Spiritu (Church of the Holy Spirit) in Sassia, a neighborhood near St. Peter's.   Sister Ann Marie from the Pontifical North American College invited us.  Turns out,  it is a pilgrimage church for the Year of Faith.   It is not wheelchair accessible,  but with help, I got in. Thank goodness!  It was GORGEOUS!  Another beautiful church with paintings and much to see!  On one side, near where we sat, was the tabernacle, set in the Divine Mercy shrine for Rome.  It also contained a relic of St. Faustina, whose visions of Jesus gave us the Divine Mercy chaplet and the beautiful image of Christ that so many of us love.  The opposite side had a shrine of Blessed John Paul II.  He really taught the world about the Divine Mercy devotions,  and established the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.   In fact, in April of 2014, John Paul will be canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday.  Wish we could come back for that!  (There was another mass right after the one we attended, so we did not get pictures.  I am uploading some images I found online.)

Today's unexpected highlight was the fact that I had the opportunity to proclaim the first reading at Mass!  Sister asked Bruce, but he stumbles when reading out loud in front of people.   But he suggested me, and we figured out a way to get me to the pulpit.  It felt very special, and I was grateful to participate in that way.

After Mass, we walked all the way to the part of Rome with the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum.  Much of this area is not accessible to wheelchairs (HUGE cobblestone on the hill to get up Palatine Hill.)  Silver lining of the day:  much of the Forum was visible from public sidewalks, and because only part of the Colosseum was accessible,  there was no cost. Yay!

It was remarkable to see such ancient sites, especially the Colosseum, knowing that many early Christians were martyred there.  I have often said that if the government told us at Women's Care Clinic that we had to refer clients for abortion, that I would rather go to jail.  I truly mean that.   But it is difficult to imagine being faced with a certain and horrible death.  Could I hold on to my convictions?  I pray that I don't ever have to find out,  but if it ever comes to that, may God give me the strength to remain faithful.

We walked all the way back to the hotel, stopping in the piazza to get some gelato.  The miles of cobblestone wore us both out!  I took a nap, and then we sat in the hotel courtyard eating and enjoying the perfect weather and scenery.  A cute young girl was taking candles from several tables so she could see better while coloring.   It was fun to watch her,  and witness such innocent joy.  Kids are precious everywhere!

It will be hard to leave Rome, but there are other things to see!    I will post from Assisi!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nothing tops a Hug from the Pope!

Buono Sera!

October 23rd was a day like no other!!  Frankly, this post sat in my drafts for weeks!  I am just posting it in the right sequence, for those who are just now following our vacation.  I could have started earlier, but was at a loss for words.  Strange, I know.  That is because I wanted to get just the right words to tell the story.  But instead, I will just jump right in.  And for my non-Catholic friends, please read to the end...I have some thoughts just for you.  But here's the short version..

Yes, dear friends:  I got a HUG from Pope Francis!!!  And my beloved husband shook his hands!! 

My Facebook friends have gotten a glimpse of some proof of this incredible event.  We were able to post a link to the Vatican website's page of photos from the General Audience on October 23rd.  We're near the end of over 1700 pics so it takes patience to find us.  The pics are copyrighted of course, and I have tried to order some, but something about the website isn't working.  Shucks.  The good news is that I was able to get digital files from one photo company, and Bruce got some pictures as well.  Not of The Hug, mind you.  Bruce wanted to experience the moment, be my sister advised, "Don't live your vacation through a lens."

Here's a bit of background, in case you are curious.  We spent 18 months dreaming, planning, saving for this anniversary trip...and put a General Audience with the Pope on the must-do list.  Early on, I thought that perhaps I should write Bishop Jenky (Peoria Diocese!) to see if he could get us tickets.  Frankly, I thought it was a long shot...I had NO idea that tens of thousands of people attend.  I never did contact our Bishop, but I did have our local pastor, Father Greg Nelson, write a letter to the Pontifical North American College mentioning our anniversary and active parish life.  Found out those details were not needed, but hey, they didn't hurt!  I sent his letter with an email...and had a response within 48 hours!  SO EASY!  I think every Catholic who travels to Rome should do this!!

What was different for us is that I am in a wheelchair.  Sometimes, that is a real drag.  Unlike many of the great Saints, I do not always accept my physical struggles so graciously because, well, there are days when I am in pain or when I just want to move better on my own (I can walk with a cane for very short distances.)  I do accept that this is how God created me, and I know I am made in His likeness and image.  That doesn't mean God has arthritis or means I have dignity by the simple fact that He chose to create me.  Simple as that.

But having a wheelchair at the Vatican proved to be a blessing.  I would have been knocked down by the crowd...or simply would have fallen trying to walk to a seat.  St Peter's Square is quite big!  The set up allowed for wheelchairs to be lined up in front and in aisles where the "Pope-mobile" travels.  Oh.My.Gosh! Please forgive me as I sound like a teenager, but we had AMAZING seats!  We were in the center aisle!  He went passed us TWICE.

Of course, we didn't know if we would have another chance, so the first time he went by, Bruce handed a Walk for Life t-shirt to one of the security guys!  Yep!  I joked about bringing one to the Pope.  So we packed one in the suitcase (plus Bruce wore his) and as we were waiting for things to start that morning, I actually wrote a note to the Pope.  Nothing to lose, right?  I told him that Women's Care Clinic just got a bigger building...that we want to reach more families and save more babies.  I asked for his prayers.  I have no idea if he saw it personally, or if someone on his staff did.  But there is a Women's Care Clinic Walk for Life t-shirt somewhere in the Vatican!  As if that was not enough, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the crowd was joyful and friendly...and we could see the Pope give his message.  That was remarkable...he has such a gentle spirit about him.  I can't wait to see what God will do through this man!

Bruce looked at news briefs after our busy day, and there were estimates ranging from 80,000 to 100,000 people in attendance!  Wowza!  One thing I found remarkable was that everyone was so well behaved...seriously.  Not shoving or screaming (well, there was a bit of chaos as we tried to enter St. Peter's Square.)  Even as the Pope spoke, everyone was quiet and respectful.  I truly believe people wanted to hear what he had to say.  There was a group of firefighters from Florence, and an Italian army troop that was getting ready to be deployed to Beirut...all seeking the Pope's blessings.  We also saw many tour groups from all over the world.  Truly a Catholic (i.e. universal) experience!  Amazing!

Just before his message, a passage from the Gospel according to Luke was read...the story of the Visitation!  Pope Francis used this as the inspiration for his message.   I was so moved, literally to tears.  The story of the Visitation is one of my favorite pro-life passages: 2 pregnant women with two unborn babies!  The remarkable faith and love that Mary expressed through her willingness to say YES to God's plan, which included a BABY!  How perfect is that?  It just seemed remarkable that we were there that day.

After  the audience, we decided to wait around, in case the Pope-mobile came out again.  But what we saw instead was that he was greeting everyone sitting in a wheelchair up front!  We knew we needed to get up there!  The front of the center aisle was blocked by lots of photographers, but eventually a space opened up.  As we started moving forward, a man told us No.  I could not take No for an answer!  We were only about 15 feet away from the end of the wheelchair line... "Permesso, per favore!"  I pointed to the wheelchairs...I pointed to my wheelchair.  Another man heard the commotion, and took pity.  So, we got in place, and I was suddenly struck with awe.  The Vicar of Christ was just a few feet away...and coming towards us! (Bruce took this picture.)  This man, whom I believe was chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Catholic Church for such a time as this, was taking time to greet us.  I was tearful before he even got next to me.  He didn't say a word, but his eyes were so gentle, and it was clear to me that he was praying and offering a blessing.  I can't really describe it.  Bruce shook his hands, and barely uttered the words, "My wife of 20 years."  Neither of us will ever forget that moment!

Now, why is this so special to us, being greeted by Pope Francis?  Well, just in a human sense, it's pretty cool.  I mean, there were over 80,000 people there, and he is the leader of the world's largest Church.  Statistically, it's amazing.  But there is so much more than the mere odds involved.  As Catholics, we do NOT worship the Pope.  He is not God, he is not equal to Jesus Christ.  But we do see him as the Vicar of Christ here on earth.  He is our head pastor.  That is a very big deal.  We can trace the papacy all the way back to St. Peter himself.  I had planned on trying to articulate this, but others far more knowledgeable than I have already done so.   If you are curious, I encourage you to read a bit by clicking here...good stuff!  

This experience was one that made this vacation become a pilgrimage.  Some things cannot be fully explained or expressed...they must be experienced first hand.  If you are Catholic, I pray you can make a trip to the Vatican and sit in on a General Audience.  If not, maybe you can go anyway...but look out!  You might be inspired to join the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church!!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So Many Surprises

Buono Sera!

It's Tuesday! Well, not really. I am just catching up on blog posts, and I am dating them as if they were done in order. Otherwise, I will get confused!

The sights we began with today were planned by Bruce. He really enjoyed looking things up online and in the Rick Steves books my mom gave us for Christmas. We knew we needed to be in a certain area of the city, because we needed to pick up tickets for the General Audience with Pope Francis to be held tomorrow. So we started the day with breakfast. I actually went down the few steps to the dining room of the hotel. I really needed the exercise, and it was nice to see the cozy space Bruce had been telling me about. I don't think I have mentioned the yummy food yet; a nice breakfast buffet each morning to get us going, prepared by very friendly staff.  We then took a taxi to the famous Trevi Fountain. Now I must admit, I had no idea how big this fountain is! Rome has lots of fountains. I had seen one picture of 3 women tossing coins over their shoulders into this particular fountain (a big tradition, apparently). But the picture was a close up at the main level; and so there was no perspective for me. This thing is HUGE!

The crowds were also huge, so we had to wait to get close. This fountain is made of incredibly detailed sculptures, combining ancient Roman culture with Catholic symbols. I guess it is a way to respect the history of the region, and acknowledge the significance of art through the ages.

After the Trevi Fountain, we went looking for the Spanish Steps. But on the way, we came across a piazza with a tremendous sculpture. The sides of the base had scripture verses about our Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. It was a bit of catechesis in 3-D!

I think it is wonderful that Rome keeps these beautiful pieces of art throughout the city. It displays history and faith. With so many people in the USA trying to have all vestiges of Faith removed from the public square, these sights are inspiring and refreshing.

So, we finally made it to the Spanish Steps. Lots of steps! People were eating lunch, reading books, talking on cell phones...and even to each other! LOL  At first, I figured Bruce would walk up the steps, but he didn't want to leave me.  Then we looked in the Rick Steves book, where he mentioned an elevator in the nearby metro station.   I was so excited to be able to get up to the top!

Around this time we were getting hungry, so we went searching for a place to eat.  Of course, there were many!  We went down a busy street with lots of boutiques.   The expensive kind!  Like Prada, Gucci...good grief the prices were insane!  It was fun to peek in the windows and see what people consider to be high fashion or unique, but no purse is worth the money these designers ask for!  Bruce was definitely glad that I am not a shopper!

While still searching for just the right place to eat, we came across another beautiful church; this one with signs advertising an exhibit about Saint Padre Pio!  Initially, my brain told me that this was his parish (no idea why) but researching later told me no.  It was just the church (San Lorenzo) blessed to host the exhibit.   I cannot explain the impact this had on me!  There were pictures, letters from a doctor who examined Padre Pio, and relics.  The exhibit featured a glove he wore.  For those who don't know,  Padre Pio was a priest known for incredible piety and spiritual gifts.   Among other things, he received the stigmata,  or wounds of Christ.  Doctors examined him, and could not find any reason for his perpetual wounds.  Very miraculous!  Gazing upon the glove, I was overwhelmed.  Padre Pio had such a deep relationship with Christ, and faithful Catholics believe he is even closer now...being in heaven eternally.

Having these items on display is not about worship.  Saints are not gods.  But they are models of tremendous faith.   By looking at these things,  even venerating, we are seeking the help of Saints.  After all, they are not dead.  They are alive in Christ and with him forever!  That is why we ask saints to pray for us, just as I ask my Christian brothers and sisters on earth to pray for me.

Well, we finally ate, though we didn't take pictures.  We split a salad and huge plate of spaghetti carbonara.  I had heard of it, but never tried it before.   YUM!  The pasta is mixed with bacon, eggs (tiny bits) and black pepper.   We will be making this at home!

We knew that the Pantheon was nearby...and it was closer than we realized.  After lunch we walked down one road, and there it was!  This was built as a pagan temples, honoring all of their gods.  In the 7th century, the emperor gave it to the Roman Catholic Church, and it was dedicated to Mary and the Martyrs.  It has been used ever since then for Catholic Mass.  In Christ, all things are made new!  The dome is HUGE, and inside the sculptures and paintings are breathtaking.  It is hard to believe the size of these structures, built long before any of our modern builder conveniences (using lots of slave labor.)

Our last task of the day was picking up the tickets for the General Audience with Pope Francis for tomorrow.   We got them at the Pontifical North American College.   Very friendly staff, featuring Sister Ann Marie. She told us what to expect, and gave us great advice which turned out to be more valuable than we could have imagined!   More on that in Wednesday's post.

What an amazing day!  Filled with so many highlights,  it was hard to pick just a couple. That is why I kept going!  Hope you are enjoying this journal...and I hope you get a chance to make your own pilgrimage some day!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Climb every mountain

Buono Sera!

Today was quite an adventure! We went, by train to Castel Gandalfo, a small southern Italian city where Pope Emeritus Benedict now lives. For many years, this has been the vacation or retreat spot for popes. A few months before our vacation, I told Bruce about a dream I had. We were coming up to a hill, and I said, "Let's go up and see what's there." In my dream, we actually saw Benedict! Well, that part of the dream didn't come true...but the hill part did! I had no idea how what a climb it would be from the train station to the main piazza in town. Even Bruce said, "It didn't look this steep on Google Earth!" I nearly forgot to mention that on the way to Castel Gandalfo, our train broke down! We had purchased food for a picnic lunch. Instead, we ate while temporarily stranded in a different station. Not exactly the romantic stop Bruce had planned! Silver lining of the day: we were stranded for an hour, but we were still in ITALY!

Okay, back to Castel Gandalfo. When we arrived, we saw lots of stairs just to get up to street level. Fortunately, several kind people helped carry me in my chair. Then Bruce got a workout! Steep hill; narrow sidewalks; cars zooming on the long and winding road. A few scary moments, but at least the scenery was spectacular.

Once we arrived at the top, we saw so much...again! This definitely qualified as an unexpected blessing! The village was so quaint and charming, and there were many people visiting. (Perhaps other people wanted to get a glimpse of Benedict as well!) I could never get tired of the beauty here! There was a small church for the locals, several cute shops, and the residence for Benedict. We did not see him, but I waved up toward the window!

 After visiting for a while, we headed back down the hill, praying for safety the whole way! We nearly had a major incident on the stairs at the station, but once again, a kind stranger assisted us. I don't know how many miles Bruce has already walked during this trip, but it has been a lot! It has also been so worth the churches and scenery have been breathtaking. I am immensely blessed to be here with him! Already, I want to come back. Any takers?


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Unexpected Sights

Buono Sera!

Today was such a great day, with very few things actually planned.   We intended to get up at 8 so we could go to mass at 10.  Well, the alarm was not set properly and we were exhausted from our first day.  We did not get up until nearly 9:30.  So we figured we would go to a late morning morning mass, but we had the wrong time noted.  We are in Rome, surely we can find a church with a later mass time.  Well, we ended up attending one in the evening.   More on that later...

In our pursuit for a church to attend,  we came across many beautiful sites.  We have some pics to share,  but mostly I can only say "Rome is amazing! "

We came across a neighborhood church: Santa Maria dell Orto.   We saw many cars parked, and figured it might be time for Mass.   Well, we arrived just in time for the final blessing...oops!  We were moved by the absolute beauty, literally from floor to ceiling!  This was the first "small" church we went into,  so I expected something more plain and simple.   Far from it!  Rome loves her churches!

By this time, we realized that we would not make it to a morning Mass, so we decided to continue wandering around.   Bruce knew he wanted to see the area known as the Jewish Ghetto.   It is just over the Tiber River.   Actually, the area we are staying in was once known as the Jewish Ghetto,  because many of the early Christians were Jewish by heritage.   They converted to Christianity, and remained here until they were pushed to the other side of the river.   Sad, isn't it?  The poor have been shoved aside for millennia, even by people in the Church.   In the area over the river, we walked passed the synagogue.  We were unable to go inside,  but it was a beautiful.  We then continued around the neighborhood,  and saw shops and restaurants.

Then we saw unexpected wonders:

Wow!  What we saw were ruins of pagan temples in an area that became filled with Christians.  And I think it is fascinating to see the layers of building upon building.  I was in awe, being in the midst of such ancient ruins, with a large, modern street just a few feet away.  In the US, we tend to get rid of anything old and crumbling.  Thank goodness for the efforts of historical societies!  Any way, after we walked through the outdoor area, we turned down the other side of the street to see the "modern" area.  

It was there that we saw yet another amazing church!   Known as Sant' Angelo de Pescheria, it took my breath away. De Pescheria refers to the fish market that was held in the area.   One thing I want to point out is the beautiful flowers inside the dome.  Those are almond flowers, and they were used to symbolize the resurrection.   I only know this because our pastor recently had a parishioner add sculpted flowers in our sanctuary.   He told us of the symbolism, but I had no idea how prevalent this flower was used in sacred art!  We have seen them everywhere!  I love that we have a touch of early sacred art in our own parish now.   Way to go,  Father Greg!

There's more to this day, but this post is getting long. I am going to end here, but come back with 2 more church stories, and a bit about getting lost in Rome.  Yep, seriously.   I am still here and Bruce is still alive, so it wasn't too bad!  More later!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fabulous Day 1

When I decided to blog about my experience in Italy, I knew it would be hard to select the best highlights.   That proven true on this beautiful day 1.  Wow!

I could talk about the smooth flight and friendly people who got us here.  I could talk about the extreme fatigue we felt, but also the determination to stay up all day so we get on local time.  Then there was a wonderful walk to St. Peter's Square.  Oh my.  We didn't go in today, but just wanted to see it briefly.  Soooooo beautiful!  The walk/ride back took extra long as we had to avoid one corner(no curb cuts) and we went way out of our way!  I could tell you about the charming courtyard of our hotel where we had a wonderful afternoon snack or the cozy pizzeria where we enjoyed dinner outside.  There were street performers and vendors around Trestavere fountain, outside St. Mary's...and precious children at play.  And St Mary's was beyond description!  Going to Mass there in the morning.

But truly the best highlight was to do this all with my husband!  Bruce got a serious work out today, pushing me over the cobblestone roads for several miles today!  And he did it so lovingly.   God truly knew the kind of man I needed 20 years ago!  And God knows Bruce is still the right man for me!

Can't figure out how to move pics in a blog post on my tablet.  Just keep scrolling down.

It's late in Italy now...good night!


Friday, October 18, 2013

On our way!

Well, after 20 months of planning,  Bruce and I are finally on our way to ITALY!! I can hardly believe it is happening!  I am in an airport restaurant now, waiting for the flight from Charlotte to Rome.  Somebody, pinch me!

Our good friends, Jack and Jody, brought us to the Indy airport early this morning.  The second leg of the trip is starting 45 minutes later than expected,  but that gives me time to stop by here.  (I still need to figure out this tablet, too!)

I hope to share many beautiful experiences while we are traveling.   But I won't be here too much.   After all, I am just going to enjoy this wonderful anniversary trip with the love of my life!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord; "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  

This is a very popular verse in Scripture...and for good reason.  Our daily lives can often seem out of sync with our dreams.  We may ask ourselves "When will I ever get myself in gear?  When will these big dreams come true...if ever?  Are these my dreams or God's dreams for me?"

Oh wait.  That's me.  Ummm...anyone else think like this?

This last week, I have had major affirmation that some of my dreams are not just mine, but indeed plans from God.  I realize as I type that, it can sound rather arrogant...who can truly know the mind of God?  But "for those who see with eyes of faith, the Lord is ever near."  There is an intangible sense, a deep knowing that this is from God.

I have spent more than a quarter of my life in pro-life work.  I didn't plan on it.  I didn't study it in school.  I was going to be a music therapist, and open a creative arts therapy clinic, serving people in need.  Well, I did music therapy for 5 years before having Gabriel.  It was challenging and fulfilling in its own way.  But after losing Gabriel, and after being encouraged by some medical people to abort him, I knew I wanted to do something, anything to stop abortion.  I joined HELP Ministries (now Women's Care Clinic) as a board member, then a Bridges volunteer, then Executive Director.  This ministry has changed so much over the years!  I have seen months where payroll was hard to meet, when pipes burst in the kitchen, when team "chemistry" was far from ideal.  But I have also witnessed women come in with plans to abort...then change their hearts and minds right before my eyes!  I have heard clients say they would not have finished school without our encouragement.  Grandparents come up to me with tears of joy,  grateful that their grandbabies are ALIVE!  Post-abortive women had shared their grief and regret, and  I have witnessed their healing!  I have sat in small prayer groups and big church services with people praying in many ways but all to the same One True God!  This is truly where I need to be and what I need to be doing.  And it is a blessing to know that.

I write this because the ministry of Women's Care Clinic is preparing for a major transition into a much larger building.  We have been praying for 3 years...and tomorrow papers will be signed for a building we acquired through an auction just one week ago!  A process that seemed terribly long and wrought with complications came to a dramatic and quick resolution.  We have a bigger building!  Not that this building is move-in ready.  Not even close!  It needs a lot of love, a lot of work, and frankly, a lot of money.  I asked myself, "Am I up for that?  Can I handle it?"  I want to write more, I want to do more public speaking.  Where do I go?

But as I shared the good news about this building with our supporters through email, and some by phone, I got excited again.  Not just an adrenaline rush, but a "Okay team...let's do this!"  It NEEDS to be done!  What is "it?" Expanding the ministry to reach more women in need...helping women and men choose LIFE for their babies...empowering parents to be the best parents possible...bringing wholeness to post-abortive women and men...and sharing the love of Christ with everyone who walks through our doors!  To Create a Culture of Life!   This must be done!!

I didn't plan on working in the pro-life world...but this is the plan God had for me all along!  I didn't plan on the ministry moving into an old vacant grocery store...but this is the plan God had for Women's Care Clinic all along!  There were reasons for the delays.  And, perhaps, even reasons for my doubts. They caused me to truly seek the will of God in a way I had not done for a while.  Funny thing is, staying right here doesn't mean I cannot write (this is a blog, after all!) and it doesn't mean I won't do more speaking events (like anyone could shut me up!).  These dreams and visions all work well together.  I knew that in my I know it in my heart.  What a blessing to know God was right there the whole time waiting for me to figure things out!  He is SO patient!  Yes...He knew the plans for me and this ministry...and He knows the plans for you!...plans for good, not harm...for a hope and a future.  To Him be all Glory and Honor...forever and ever...AMEN!!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Top 10 List...WooHoo!

Hello Friends!

Just a reminder... I am moving my stamping projects to a new blog.  If you want to check that out, go to the new address for Stamping for LIFE!  I have several posts in my hang in there, if you do not see them right away.

Today has been quite busy... Lots of big announcements for the ministry at Women's Care Clinic!  Each year, we hold our Walk for Life fund raiser in September, and after pledges are entered into the computer, I announce the Top 10 Churches, and walkers (adults and youth).  Even though I am thrilled at how well churches work together to support our life-saving efforts, this is the one time we take jabs at each other and get a bit competitive!  We started this approach in 2005, after some training in fund raising...and after churches saw where they ranked, they got motivated!  Now, years later, we still have fun with it!  Small churches don't expect to be at the top...but they try hard to make the list.  Big churches try to stay at, or near, the top...which brings generous funds in.

Why do we do this?  Is it that important that St. Paul's and Catlin Church of Christ have been flip-flopping the #2 and #3 spots for years?  Not in the big scheme of things...and certainly not in terms of saving babies.  But it does offer a little external motivation for people to be generous.  We're human...we often think about giving, but it is easy to put it off.  After all, there are many worthy causes, and no one can support them all.

When I started my job as Executive Director, I was terrified of asking for money.  I was timid, hesitant.  I felt bad. Now, I confidently tell people that God could provide everything for us out of an ATM...but He allows us to participate in Kingdom building!  Yep.  We won't need money in heaven, but we need it here...and God knows that.  He just wants us to reach out of our own lives and share the gifts He has given us with the people around us, or even across the be good stewards.

So today...if anyone out there is actually reading this new blog...I encourage you to GIVE.  I know times are tough.  Jobs are hard to find...hours are being cut.  But think about one less trip to a drive-up fast food window, and offer your treasure to a cause near to your heart.  Perhaps it is an orphanage in central Africa, or a homeless shelter in your community...just try giving a little bit...and some day, maybe a bit more.  It will help others, and it will help you.  If pro-life work is important to you, as it is to me, send me a message and I will get you connected to a ministry in your area.

Wow... I did not intend on writing this!  Strange, I guess.  But this blog is about my own pursuit of holiness.  I have found over the years that when I give of my time and talent and treasure, I am becoming more of the person God created me to be.  I still have a long way to go.  But it will be worth it in the end!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I will always be Gabriel's Mom

Today, October 15th, is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Tonight, here in Danville, Sunset Funeral Homes hosted a memorial service for families that have lost tiny, precious babies.  I was blessed to share my testimony, as I have done for several years now.

The service was brief, solemn, and bittersweet.  There were parents and grandparents, even young siblings.  Some families have been there before, showing that it takes time to heal from the loss of a child.  My son, Gabriel, would be 19 years old if he was still alive on this earth.  He would be a freshman in college...or perhaps he would have joined the Navy like his dad and grandfather.

Every child conceived is very real, made in the likeness and image of God.  I believe these innocent babies have souls which now reside in heaven, eternally alive!  But while there is great joy in this realization for me, I know that many families are facing their grief with fresh tears.  Even when we say good-bye to adults, even when we trust they are in "a better place," there is a natural feeling of loss.  Whether someone lives for 33 weeks in the womb, like Gabriel, or for 101 years, each life impacts someone!  That is because every person matters!  Every life matters! Oh, that our culture would believe this to be true!!

As I was getting ready to leave, a young dad came up to me, to thank me for sharing my story.  His wife had twins, born prematurely.  One is still surviving, the other one is gone.  I could tell the grief is still very raw, so I hope I offered just the right words...whatever those are.  Yep, 19 years of sharing my story...but everyone's story is different.  The "right words" are hard to find.  But trust me.  The presence of a friend, the hugs from family, the permission to grieve can make a huge difference.

If you have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, or abortion, please know that it is okay to feel sadness and emptiness.  I encourage you to name your child.  Remember your child.  Count your child.  Every child matters.

After all, as I often say... Gabriel is the little boy who made me a mommy."  
And his mommy, I'll always be.


Monday, October 14, 2013

MAJOR Changes coming to my blog!

Hello Stamping friends!

I realize I have not posted much this year, but I still enjoy stamping.  But I also enjoy keynote speaking and writing, and those things will be taking more of my time in the coming months.

Because the url for this blog is my actual name, and because my colleagues recognize it, I am changing this blog to reflections and thoughts on the Culture of Life.  It will definitely be a switch from my current crafty posts!

If you still want to see my cards and other stamping projects, you can check out the new address...

No cards there yet...but stayed tuned!

In the meantime... I will be posting reflections on my upcoming vacation to Italy!!  My hubby and I will be enjoying nearly 3 weeks in that beautiful country, and I want to share some pictures and thoughts with you!

Before I post anything from Italy, I still have a lot to do for work...board meeting tomorrow...Walk for Life announcements... Pastor Appreciation stuff...

But I will be back soon!