I’m loving you

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Jeff Glor, Don Nelson and me at the Vatican covering Saint John Paul IIs death and funeral in 2005

I NEVER WANT TO FORGET WHERE I STOOD ON APRIL 2, 2005

I still don’t know how I ever made it. Grace is like that.

It was the end of March 2005 and I was on a two week vacation in Palm Beach with my family praying, “Pope, please live. Please, live a few more days.”

I desperately needed a few more days off and a mental and physical break from the frenetic pace of my 24/7 newsroom life where, for the most part, the days bled into each other. I had a ton of comp days from working through Boston breaking news events of the year and was cooling it around the pool enjoying the sunshiny monotony before it was too late to cash in the time.

For the few months previous, the Associated Press was regularly breaking news on Pope John Paul II’s failing health, something I knew was imminent as a newswoman but as a Catholic daughter of his Pontificate that spanned my entire life, I didn’t ever want to consider Catholicism without him. Every time the AP alerts chimed we started to go through our Pope death plans and a subsequent fire drill that had me reorganizing a designated suitcase with just enough toothpaste, suits, and pajamas that ultimately would never be worn as we would never sleep except for a 10 minutes here or there on the floor of the NBC workspace. The AP breaking updates would ping, we’d make some calls to sources and check flights and he would rally. Rinse and repeat.

Everyone has that squad at work that keeps you informed even on vacation. In a newsroom environment, put that loyalty on speed dial and it’s a daily read in with the 411. While I was around the pool, I was getting calls from those colleagues about how this time it was “different” and “maybe you should fly back.” The word at the Vatican was that the pope was really serious. Then the news director called and told me that he wanted me to get on the next flight back because our designated Papal crew was getting booked on the next flight to Rome.

I remember I had one night left to scramble and get everything together that I would need for international breaking news travel. I’d been there multiple times before for work and personal trips, but the suddenness and geographic maze was a complete fire drill. I was not ready. I was not home. I did not have my passport. I only had flip flops and casual clothes and needed to get to the mall to scoop up a few serious outfits and sturdy shoes that would handle what could be weeks on standing feet covering his death, funeral and Pope John Paul II’s successor.

My mom drove me to the airport and somehow I missed the first flight out. That never happens. I started to pray and said, “God if I’m going, you have to make a way. This other plane barely will land on time for me to make the connection. I can’t worry about this. Either you are sending me or not. I’m surrendering this.” My mother hung with me until I made a run for the next flight and we prayed together.

No one had a key to my house except the landlord who was out of town and my passport was in a purse hanging on my bedroom door in the zipped interior pocket. The ninja assignment desk arranged for the news director’s assistant to cab to my house and as she reluctantly rode to my seaside Winthrop cottage, I was giving  instructions for a breaking and entering through the kitchen window. It was this crazy and more, “Tell her to get one of the outdoor pieces of furniture, climb up, cut the screen window with keys, climb in – she will fit – and when she is in there, there is a park bench piece of furniture to catch her. Then go to my bedroom and the passport is in my purse hanging on the door.” It was like Holly Hunter from Broadcast News meets Holly Hunter from The Firm. It got done.

My dad wasn’t with us in Florida and he met me when I landed in Boston. He went to the station to grab the passport, my Pope folder of sources and contacts, and the travel cash that we would need for the trip to hand off to me as if we were in some sort of Spartan race. I just remember running and running and running until I made it through international security. On the other side, I met with our team and we were all hugs and smiles that we were ready to be wheels up.

With all the logistical hurdles, we were already in breaking news mode. I didn’t expect that we would actually get to the Vatican and he would still be alive. It was truly God’s grace to make it in time to be one of the first in St. Peter’s Square while he was still with us.  We connected with NBC where the network had their space right on the ground level until we would later be positioned on a nearby roof for the duration of the coverage. We hooked up with the network bureau, Rome correspondents, Ambassador Ray Flynn and other thought leaders like George Weigel who were all piling in.

It was April and freezing cold in Rome. A coat was left off the mall scramble list of must-haves. We shook it off as we stood in the square and observed the people coming in one by one and later in streams. The Holy Father was drifting, but still with us. We were there. We were praying for him. Observing. Talking to people, hearing their stories and what compelled them to urgently come to St. Peter’s and stand in vigil. A compulsion we shared in our own professional pilgrimage to be positioned beneath the Papal apartments with them. Before his death on April 1st Pope John Paul II said, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.” This was the essence of the return of the love he poured out on the entire world, God’s love. God’s passion. God’s pursuit. God’s constant presence. The swell of people who came to make a return to the one who called them, spoke of God’s love to them, cajoled them, was epic. The Church was alive and not dead. Love was responding to love.

We’d work. Quietly reflect. Observe. Point out observations to each other. It was the calm before the absolute crush of humanity that descended upon the square as far as the eye could see which culminated on the day of his funeral.

I’ve never felt emotion like what I felt when the announcement of his passing was made. It was 9:37 p.m. The bells began to toll. To be standing there so close to his window where we stood below many times before in the same square experiencing his many Wednesday audiences, the canonization of St. Edith Stein and the Jubilee 2000.  I first experienced his Papacy up close as a teenager at World Youth Day in Denver. I covered his United States Papal visits as a journalist and now this-  this momentous full circle moment in time seemed to stand still.

As he passed, I believe so much grace was imparted. I know I received it. My life changed forever after this experience. It was as though the old was passing and the new was coming. He showed the world how to live and how to die. He brought the Gospel to the ends of the earth as the Vicar of Christ on earth. And he also showed us how to embrace every ski slope, every stage, every man or woman of good will, every baby, the sick, the forgotten, the young from all over the world, the sinner, the poor, the wealthy, athletes, the aged, the unborn, other saints, the Eucharist and the blessed Mother. He taught about family, friendship, and authentic love. He lived his life to the full, proclaiming forever the name of Jesus, up until he could not breathe one more breath.

A year after his passing, I was in Rome again. I was working for the Diocese of Palm Beach and traveling on vacation with Fr. Benedict Groeschel on a little pilgrimage through Italy. I went a few days early to enjoy private time in Rome and heard that there was a huge Polish celebration of Pope John Paul II’s life and that Fr. Stan Fortuna from Fr. Benedict’s order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, would be performing as part of this gala event. I contacted Fr. Stan and to our amazement, he got us primo front row seats to this blessed occasion. It’s was a huge Polish scene that was broadcast live on Polush television. JP2s peeps and a few American priests (episcopal secretaries to Bishops) and us. (Thank you Fr. Stan!)

I actually may not have fully grieved his death until a year later because I worked right through it. This Polish remembrance crystalized everything about  Saint John Paul II and gave us all time to process the loss, the legacy and how we were being called forward. It was deeply moving and we wept pretty much from top to bottom. There is a wrap song that Fr. Stan wrote and performed about JP2 that you may have heard. It’s called “I’m loving you” and when performed live I basically wanted to jump on stage and rock out to this. He nails it. Imagine this swank Polish event and then introducing “the American priest, Fr. Stan Fortuna” who in his Franciscsn garb and dreads wrapped this ode to our hero in full street Jazz – all soul.  You can listen to it here. Here’s one verse I want to leave you with as we remember twelve years ago today, the passing of Saint John Paul II, the Great.

In the first days that you was gone

There was a void in my heart, dark like the 

dawn

There you was helping me not to be 

withdrawn

Pushing me to move on with energy, 

purpose and determination, like you been

With the courage and the heroes of the Polish nation

With no hesitation, you went deep into the greatness of your vocation

I’m loving you

Another thing that this Pope did and did well was connect his kids. My dear friend Paul George and I were both in Denver for World Youth Day 1993. We both had profound experiences. If you are part of the JP2 generation and are feeling nostalgic, take a listen to my appearance on The Paul George show here. We talk about JP2, Denver and where we are now.

John Paul II, we love you! Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ

Mary’s Touch

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CRASHING INTO GRACE AND THE AIRWAVES THROUGH BROKENNESS

A few years back, I was working at a faith-agency that abruptly shut down. Like a crash landing. When this agency closed it left many of us unemployed for a significant time waiting and praying for the next right move. It was worse for the men who had families, but let’s face it: one day out of work is a long time. Yet, I’ve learned over time to never question and have seen over time that God always has my back and comes through bigger and better than if I planned anything for myself. If one door closes, another is opening and had the one door not closed, I wouldn’t have the need or desire to go where His prompting leads. If a job is uncomfortable or challenging, sometimes it’s a cue to plan your exit. Sometimes God wants to strip us of attachment and give us a greater sense of Divine Providence, lest we ever think it all depends upon us. It doesn’t. And sometimes it’s simply because better things are ahead and that next step leads us closer or deeper into His Divine Will and the destiny He’s called us to.

The whole crashed agency thing is, in a roundabout way, what moved me to Los Angeles – had not “the crash” occurred, I would not have had my feet re-positioned across the country. God used that short but action packed and foundational crashed agency to bring several key people into my life who would 100 percent be part of my future. Around this time I re-consecrated myself to Our Lady (a 33 day time of prayer which concludes with an Act of Consecration to Mary). Why would anyone do such a thing? Why wouldn’t you is the question. Getting under the mission of Christ is to get under everything he held dear including choosing to make his entrance on earth as the Son of God through Mary of Nazareth. If she’s good enough for Him, she’s more than good enough for me. I can entrust everything I am to her and know that she will lead me to Her Son and His plan for my life, to know Him, love Him and serve Him. He passed through Mary, so in a similar manner, by this consecration I would let my life pass through her Immaculate Heart.

Enter Mary’s Touch. Mary’s Touch is an award-winning thirty-minute Catholic radio program dedicated to the Blessed Mother broadcast weekly on stations around the U.S. and around the world. I never imagined when I met and represented Cheri Lomonte, founder and show host that I would someday be asked to carry the torch and take the helm upon her retirement. Never, ever did I see this coming – not in a million years…. So thank God for the crashed agency because it was a divine set up to meet some of my future collaborators including Cheri. Cheri founded the Frontline Faith Project, a national apostolate to serve men and women in the military, which formed as a result of Mary’s Touch, and I directed the PR for this incredible apostolate to bring faith to our military serving on the frontlines on bases and in war zones.

When we crash, we sometimes want to curse, you know? “Blast that. How could that happen? I can’t believe I left this for that,” and so on. But God in His infinite wisdom is moving our feet under a path set only for us, and each twist and curvy, sometimes seemingly dangerous, turn, leads us to that destiny. The world will never understand this frenetic messy dynamic, but will always wonder who your “agent” is when the scattered pieces all start to fall in place.

So when I was asked to consider taking over as show host for this radio program that reaches thousands around the globe, at first I was not sure how it would fit in with my Hollywood day job that turns into a 24/7 around-the-clock job. I would have to travel from LA to Austin every few weeks and be present in a new territory for this evangelization.

God’s will is sort of a no brainer: It’s the start of a Marian Year dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima’s 100th anniversary of her apparitions (look that word up) in Fatima, Portugal, a rather significant time in the Church. You can read more about Fatima here. I remember a time in my youth and young adulthood when I began to explore and learn about these apparitions (and others) that are approved by the Church. My family had a tremendous devotion to the Miraculous Medal and we had numerous Marian Shrines including one dedicated to Fatima near our home in the suburbs of Boston. I don’t remember any religious education teacher telling me about Mary in a deep way, but we did have a family devotion to Mary and her presence in the northeast is really quite unparalleled. If there were trials and hardships, we would pray a Hail Mary together. When my sister and I witnessed our beloved neighbor drop dead next door, my sister led us in praying the Hail Mary. This was an impressionable moment. Later, my family, best friend and I were part of a weekly Marian cenacle where we met in a family home in Malden, MA each Sunday to pray all decades of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet ending in consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This shaped my 20-something years and was a firm foundation for a lifetime of Marian devotion.

Today, I still plant myself at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Mission Church in Roxbury pretty much every time I land in and depart from Boston. I think I left my entire heart there and a few outstanding intentions. I sometimes wonder, had I missed out on this truth of our faith, where exactly would I be? I can’t imagine my life without Mary’s guidance and Divine Motherhood in every area of my life. I guess it’s with that urgency for today’s culture that I feel it an imperative to advance the teaching and practice of Marian devotion for a new generation and so I responded with my little “yes” to host Mary’s Touch.

This past week we pre-taped our farewell show with beautiful Cheri Lomonte and her co-host Fr. Jim Evans. Cheri built an incredible legacy of storytelling about Mary, the Mother of God, and the ways and places Our Lady has left her touch on humanity through the ages. We also began our new shows featuring some of the great Marian apostles of our day who are working to make God’s love present in today’s world.

I’m truly overwhelmed by God’s love and grace and how He uses brokenness to lead us to new places of assignment for His glory. My prayer is that I will honor Cheri’s legacy and decade-long labor of love to honor Mary with the same reverence and purity of heart as we begin this new decade of programming.

If you experience a crash like I did, know that the crash is not the final say in your life. Know that Romans 8:28 is operative and that ALL things, not some things, work together for good for those called according to His purpose. Even if you feel like you are going through a crucible, you will be led to places you cannot imagine to do things you may feel unworthy of and even unsure of once you get there. A few years ago if anyone ever told me I would be moving entirely across the country to work in Hollywood and host a national radio show called Mary’s Touch, I may have laughed. I’m learning now that God wants us to laugh the entire way of our life’s journey. Laugh in trial. Laugh in the waiting. Laugh in the pruning. Laugh at the impossible. Laugh at the opposition. Laugh because He has it all under control and all is well in the Holy Spirit. He is the beginning and the end. And He’s yours and mine. Be joyful even in adversity as your joy and trust in His plan will accelerate its arrival.

When you entrust your life to Mary, she will truly touch you in ways you never thought possible and leave an indelible mark on your life.

Please pray for me as I embark on this new evangelization and please visit www.marystouch.org for more information about how to tune in!

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ

Why I don’t hang out

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DODGING CONFUSION IN A DATELESS CULTURE

It’s happened to you. A creep or a stud has asked you, “Do you wanna hang out?” and as much as your Friday night has a vacancy sign hanging all over it, you know that you know that you know that the blurred lines of a hang out just aren’t for you. Ain’t nobody got time for that, Hangman.

It’s become so frustrating I actually wanted to quip back to some of these hang-er outers, “Hang out and DO what?” I feel for the guys in today’s society who have lost their ability to risk it with the masculine art of approach and chivalry that seem to be from a bygone era. Yes, the Cinderella lives in every woman: we love our doors held open for us, surprise flower bouquets, and most of all, we love a well-planned date. I know you princes are out there. This may very well be as much for you as all my Cinderella sisters out there.

I grew up listening to my dad talk about his courtship with my mother from the first blind date meeting to the second date and the rapid succession of dates to follow, all thoughtfully planned, meals and elegant date-spots remembered, conversations shared, pivotal moments of knowing, recounting the carefully plotted outfits selected to impress, hilarious flubs while trying to woo, the involvement of family quietly cheering from the sidelines, the thoughtful and beautiful expressions of love and romance, the danger and toil as the love of two souls began to merge into one and a lifetime of marital dating and romancing to follow.

Sorry if I just can’t hang out.

I can’t quite pinpoint the exact time and space that the hang out (and hook up) culture emerged bringing courtship and plain old dating to near extinction. Hanging out seems noncommittal and an easy way out if you suddenly change your mind, don’t click but don’t want to be humbled in saying so, or just want to keep things strung along for a back up plan. These hangers want to hang out with you, check you out, give you the once over, have their friends vet you, litmus test you in a riskless format and never suffer the vulnerability of an authentic chase. It’s like a dang-out. Date that’s a hang-out, but no one knows “is this really a date? Does he like me? Did he just ask me out?” I’m confused. We are all confused.

My sweet sisters, if any guy is asking you to hang, I dare say hang on and wait for the authentic pursuit of your time and your heart from an intentional man with a plan. Don’t waste your precious time conforming to the cultural confusion because by enabling it you feed the beast of the serial hangers who want to get away with dating murder!

Here are my top encouragements to protect your heart and time as you wait for the worthy one to pursue you:

1. Stay strong! Don’t be seduced by a man’s desire to hang out – the intentions are either not pure or he’s not risking it – you were made for more! Wait for it sweet one.
2. You’re worth it! Sister, know your worth…Even if it seems like an impossible feat to be pursued by a loving intentional man in today’s culture, know that you are worthy of that pursuit and by staying firm in your conviction, you will attract the man worthy of your heart.
3. Be approachable. Let your light and fun factor shine, because joy and happiness begets the same. As you live a life second to none, you will attract those who want to be in your life and will not be afraid to let you know it, plan for it and pursue you.
4. Have FUN while waiting and develop a strong posse of bold, loving, sisters who will uplift and encourage you never to cave, but to live your best life now as you prepare to be the woman you are called to be now as you ready to merge lives with God’s best.
5. Define your time! Know what a hang out is… it’s for friends, family and Google, but not for the one who is pursuing you!

Gals, the guy who risks it is out there and not far off, especially when you step out of the dreadful rhythm-less groove of hanging. He’s thinking of you, planning his approach and the way to your heart right now. Don’t be hanging when he comes for you.

I’m in your corner sweet ones! Hang tough+

Praying for you!
Lexi

JMJ

Prayer Fight

 

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ALTERNATE ROUTES TOWARD YOUR BLESSING

This spring brought the culmination of a year’s worth of work opening a new film and the excitement, exhaustion and all that goes with a movie campaign’s gargantuan team effort. All the toil, never ending days of work and travel encircled my whole being this past weekend upon opening weekend. And then the crash. . . body burn out, adrenaline rush to a screeching halt and not knowing if you should head first to the bed, the refrigerator or the gym became almost like a major life decision resulting in ignoring them all. So when my sister friend spontaneously called me and said “we need to get out of here and go somewhere holy to pray,” at first I was like YES and then all the excuses morphed like it would be better to have an entire day of sleep and a day of maid service, aka my own Cinderella style spin around my cottage that currently looked like it had been ransacked.

Yet amid fatigue, a mini pilgrimage up the 101 to the Old Santa Barbara Mission was exactly how God wanted me to press in and get my mojo back. Because this is the lesson of life. This is the lesson of the spiritual realm. A week prior, another friend and I were pleading God for a miracle for an unborn baby expected to die upon birth unless God intervened. We were appealing to Fulton Sheen, our hero who is rife for another miracle right about now, and why not for this mama and baby? I had an exchange with a nun in the Midwest with about this urgent prayer need who concluded our conversation with, “Alexis, thanks for your prayer fight.” PRAYER FIGHT. Exactly. Her words really moved my heart.

We need to fight. You see the enemy wants us tired. The enemy wants us discouraged. The enemy wants to use the negative reports and the natural to depress the spiritual within us and convince us that what God has promised or that thing we are praying for isn’t possible and maybe even ludicrous or even to make us think He’s not with us. It’s at this very time of fatigue, questioning and at the final push, we need to FIGHT.

God recently gave me the word “at hand” about some of the prayers I’m praying and really that to me means – NOW – at the door – not tomorrow, next month or next year, but IMMINENT – this instant, any minute. In the natural realm, nothing is really feeling “at hand” and such is my quick-witted personality to quip back to our Lord about his snail’s pace, “Are you coming again before this goes down?” God also showed me that it’s better to wait for His Will than to, as Frank Sinatra sang, do it my way. He’s doing things behind the scenes that we can’t necessarily see. As a Broadway show opens, there are a lot of things that happen that the audience cannot see such as the writing of the script, the casting, the rehearsals, set design and costuming. All that has to happen before the curtain goes up. Everything has to be prepared, perfected and in order otherwise the show bombs.

I was able to enter into my “prayer fight” on the first Sunday of Lent and just sit before His throne and remind God that I’m still in it. Our Sunday escape landed us at the Old Santa Barbara Mission. Weak, tired, but in it, I stayed there in the silence of a couple of hours to show Him that He’s forever the first portion, that I’m reminding him by sitting before Him of His promise to me, that as I sit, He can fill me and ready me, costume me, put me center stage and put the new song and script on my heart. There was an extra shot of grace because at the Old Mission of Santa Barbara, faith built this spiritual haven – the saints trod there. Grace was flowing. The presence of God and the mystical body of Christ – profound – a manifest feeling of a convergence of collaborative grace. As I looked at St. Clare and St. Francis, God reminded me that when they joined together in prayer, Holy Spirit FIRE! I also like that Saint Barbara is a patron of fireworks because, come on, Lord, through the intercession of St. Barbara, light some pyrotechnics under some of these long awaited promises. Are you feeling me?

The evening culminated with Mass at a nearby parish, where as visitors from LA, we were zealously greeted by the leadership with special devotional books to St. Raphael. On the one hand I just wanted to sink into the anonymity of prayer in a town with no added pressures or pressing in from humanity, yet at the same time I felt like a little schoolgirl getting singled out and receiving a gift at church. After Mass I wanted to retreat more into the word and devotion blossoming from this day and not just toss the gift in the abyss of my giant purse to be lost into time and girlie space. When I opened it and refreshed my memory with the awesomeness of Saint Raphael and the miracles recounted in the Book of Tobit, it’s scripture that we know and have read again and again, but pushing into the prayer fight and little pilgrimage up the 101, God confirmed what He’s doing with these words from St. Raphael:

“Joy be to thee always…Be of good courage, thy cure from God is at hand.”

– St. Raphael (Tobias 9:10-11)

AT HAND.

I could have stayed home to do laundry, that Cinderella spin around a dusty cottage, hit the movies, my dance class, tune out, zone out, get my nails done, whatever. But sometimes we have to get up, move, and go somewhere else to see and hear what God is doing for us behind the scenes. Don’t give up because your miracle, too, is at hand.

Fight on my sweet friends.

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ+

Give Up and Let Him Love You

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LENT, A TIME TO LET LOVE IN

That it’s suddenly Lent this week is almost as shocking to me as my recent move to California that sometimes causes me to wake up and do a double take of my west coast surroundings wondering, “How did I actually get here?” Time is fleeting and we are again automatically plunged into the wilderness of wildernesses that is Lent in t-minus two days.

While some are frantically trying to figure out what to give up, plotting a Fat Tuesday binge-fest or calculating how they will squeeze Ashes into their weekday routine, some have no clue that we are approaching the holiest season of the Christian calendar year. Lent won’t lead newscasts or be an A1 headline in the morning paper, so unless you are following the silly #AshTag feed on social media, how could anyone on the outskirts have any idea Lent is an invitation coming for them? In case you tripped on this blog, here’s my invite to you.

Even within the Church Lent can become somewhat trivialized with self-denial competitions on who tops whose promise to give up coffee, chocolate, social media, dating and a sharing of a barrage of meatless Friday meals that seem to pit neighbor against neighbor in a competition of M&M sacrificing Lenten perfection and dolled up practices in the season of radical transforming grace. Don’t fall victim to that.

Ash Wednesday (this coming Wednesday) marks the beginning of Lent leading to Easter and, though not a Holy Day of Obligation, thousands will begin their Lenten journey receiving Ashes as sign of penance and mortality before God and the world. This is a day of fasting and penance and self-reflection recognizing our littleness before the God who created us and the greatness a self-giving God who sent His only Son to die for us on a Cross setting us free from sin and slavery and into fellowship with Him forever.

The pillars of Lent include a disposition toward prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All of these are part of our 365 Christian walk, but become intensified during the liturgical season of Lent with a specific call to eradicate sin, commit to a renewed intentionality to walk with Jesus daily – not just a whimsy, compartmentalized Sunday expression of faith. We strive to get to a higher spiritual level than the last Lent. The radical force of Love that is found in Lent is calling us to a radical return – turning back – toward our Divine Lover, the healer of our souls.

Lent could actually seem like “inside ball” exclusively for the pious on the perpetual journey with Christ, but I pray that anyone who has been away from God and His Church for whatever reason – anyone who may have stumbled here, will know that Lent is for us all.

You may have slip-slided away after skipping Mass a few times and it became a habit or maybe you deliberately left because you don’t believe in “those rules” and yet you are still unhappy and aren’t sure why. Maybe you were hurt by someone in the Church or by a family member who may have been poor ambassador of the faith or rejected you and you said, “Bag THAT.” (or something stronger). You feel abandoned by God, and you want to abandon Him right back. Your spouse doesn’t believe, so it’s hard for you to keep your commitment and you don’t want the fight. You get nothing out of it and feel nothing, so you drifted away. Maybe you are afraid to come back because it might change your life or you are afraid of what people will think, you don’t know anyone else in the mix. You stopped coming because you are afraid He will ask too much of you. You have the weight of sin and you feel unworthy to receive this Love and think God could never forgive you. Or you feel called back, but just don’t know how to come back.

Lent is your calling card, your VIP invitation back to the Arms of Love. Lent is a fresh start. Lent is the water that washes away your past. Lent is the silence where you will hear Him. Lent is where you can lay your pain, your hurt, and your losses down. Lent is your point of re-entry to the Sacramental Life of the Church – the power source for your immortal soul. Lent is, the body of Christ, cheering you on and rejoicing when you return. Lent is forty days to reacquaint yourself with the Divine Lover of your soul. Lent is miraculous. Lent is beautiful. Lent is joyful. Lent is you, gold, going the fire to a new you at Easter. Lent is a new beginning. Lent is a free gift of grace. Lent wants you to let Love in. Lent is waiting for you.

“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”

Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” And Pope Benedict XVI said, “Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life…”

This Ash Wednesday, give up, give in and come as you are and make an exchange. He is waiting with His arms wide open to dispense Grace unimaginable if you would meet Him in the Sacraments of Confession, and the Eucharist. Step into Love. Step into Lent.  This Lent let Love in. As you let Love in, you will have a freedom you’ve never known, freedom to live your destiny powered by Him and with a mission.

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ+

Hey Galentines, this one’s for you

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“It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God.” – Ven. Fulton J. Sheen

A LOVE LETTER TO YOU SWEET SINGLE HEARTS

As St. Valentine’s Day approaches, many of my single gal pals cringe with an eye roll or a wave of consternation about the once annual calendared celebration of love and a world of twos. Because my Valentine parents celebrate their wedding anniversary each year on February 14th, it’s always been a joyous celebration of love, family and the two who have been an exemplary witness of love and marriage. I actually really like Valentine’s Day, even though I’m waiting for my promised. I see it as a day of anticipation for future things and in current days to honor love, family and friendship.

Younger sister friends ask me more frequently than ever, “how can you be so single?”  or “does it drive you crazy being alone?” and “how can you wait this long?” I know. I know. It sometimes seems like Jesus might come again first, and I assure you I’m not numb, but God in His economy has made promises to me that I know He will fulfill and thankfully the Body of Christ in all its blessed giftedness has graced me in ways that have fortified me for the epic wait for this Sacrament. I’ve always known that marriage would come later – that my path was different, set apart (Tobit 6:18) and that God wanted to use me for specific service to Him in the realm of work and evangelization, that had I been a younger mother and wife, those assignments would not have the attention, dedication and talent that God wanted applied with a singular focus. I also know God is preparing me for a specific type of man and my waiting now will apply to waiting or sacrifices later in the marriage.

A holy priest in my life told me a long time ago, “Alexis, you will be a mature bride…” For some that could feel like a sledgehammer coming across the head, but these words and others over the years became freedom for me because I knew (and know) that God has it all under control: the timing, the equally yoked mature and established man, the children and the shared mission that we will have together in partnership. There are no half open doors to push open and there is no wasting time with counterfeits. He’s coming for me.

The adventurer in me also considers it kind of electrifying in the days in which we live when marriage is sort of a bygone and distorted thing in our culture, knowing that the witness will be so much greater now. The longer you wait, the sweeter it is and the more of a story there will be. I asked God a long time ago to make my marriage a testimony. Big prayers require a little more baking and a lot of grace. I’m grateful every day that He’s provided for me in this way.

As we approach Saint Valentine’s Day, I want to pour a little grace into your waiting Valentine hearts, my sweet Galentines. Because if you don’t have the benefit of a praying community, if you have given up and maybe need to recalibrate under the mission of God’s plan for your life in this manner or just have a renewed hope while dodging the fiery darts of the secular peanut gallery, here’s some affirmative action you can take starting this V-Day as you prepare the way:

  1. BE HIS. Marriage is a sacrifice of love in imitation of God’s love for us, but your husband is not your savior or your all in all. If you are waiting for a guy to come rescue you, shift your focus. God is the savior. Use this time to waste all your love on Him. You will need to put Him even higher than the one God is sending you, so begin now by giving him every aspect of your life, your heart, your flaws, your wins, your highs, your lows, your work. Let Him love you and fill you so you can give what He’s given you to that man He is sending.
  2. WAIT WELL. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in His image and likeness. The man God is sending you will rejoice that you “waited well” for him… that you didn’t spend your emotions, time or body on another. (And for those of you who failed in this area, please know you can begin again). There is no greater gift to a spouse than knowing you preserved all for that person. Popular culture lies to women about this. Trust me, there is power in the sacrifice so wait well, my dear sisters and let this too be your offering for your future spouse and the family you will have. (Galatians 5:13-14)
  3. LIVE YOUR LIFE. It’s a deception to think that you can’t be joyful, have a bold impactful life as you wait for marriage and true love or that being single somehow equals being broken. It doesn’t. Live your life passionately to the full for the glory of God and see all of it as a one big adventure to soak up. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to places you may never traverse if you were already in a committed relationship. Serve others and spread love to those who don’t know the love of God. Sometimes God wants to unstick our feet to move us toward what He has for us. (#California)
  4. CUT SOUL TIES. If you have been in past relationships no matter how short lived, you need to do some spiritual work to cut those ties, whatever they may be so you can be free to enter into a permanent relationship in spiritual heath so you are not stuck. You may also have unhealthy friendships or family relationships that need to be re-assessed and right ordered to make room for a spouse. Know Who merits your time.
  5. FORGIVE EVERYONE. The person who hurt you the most. The kid in kindergarten who tripped you at recess causing you shame and embarrassment. The girl who dropped you on Facebook. Any family members who have hurt you. The jealous friends who lied or interfered in something good happening in your life. Whatever it is…Forgiveness turns the key and makes way for the Holy Spirit to move on your behalf. Take an inventory and think about who you need to forgive and who may need your forgiveness. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  6. SPEAK LIFE AND CANCEL NEGATIVE WORDS. We’ve all had it… comments like “You are never getting married, you are too independent.” Or “Are you still single?” or “Any men?” and “Don’t get married, it sucks!” or “Trust me, stay single. This language is not of God and if you have friends and family who speak in this way around you, cancel those words out by the power of the Name of Jesus. If you have spoken negative words over yourself, repent for your lack of trust and choose now to speak life over your situation. “Thank you Jesus that you are bringing me my husband (or wife)” … “Thank you Jesus for the man you are preparing for me” …. “Thank you Jesus that He who finds a wife, finds a good thing and favor from the Lord” and “Thank you Lord for the blessing of marriage and I repent of any negative views, fear of marriage, hatred of single life or my impatience.” In the Bible it says Life and Death is in the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21) We can bring life or death by the words we speak. Be very careful with your words.
  7. DO NOT BE DESPERATE. If a guy is interested in you, you will know it and he will pursue you (Proverbs 18:22). It’s dangerous to settle for anything but God’s promise because it won’t serve Him. You are single, not dying. Be confident in who you are and the plans that God has for your life and wait for him to establish your future. To that end, you don’t need “experience” or to be a serial dater, that’s a lie from the culture.
  8. BE JOYFUL. Joy begets joy. Deep joy comes from communion with God and there is NO other time like single life where you will have this much time to store up grace for the next chapter in your life. Steal away to adoration, pray the extra Rosary, get your single you-know-what to daily Mass and be transformed into the best spiritual version of yourself, a Proverbs 31 woman, to attract what you seek in a man. (Romans 15:13)
  9. LAUGH AT THE DAYS TO COME. Proverbs 31 says, “She laughed at the days to come.” I liken that to radical TRUST. Trust He’s going to do it. And laugh. It will be better than you expect. Let Him be your matchmaker.
  10. PROTECT YOUR BLESSING. When God starts to pour His vision into your heart and move on your behalf, keep it close to the vest and only with those who align and agree in Jesus name for you. In case you haven’t noticed the devil hates marriage, and wants to delay, trap you, hinder you – so shut up and look up for your counsel.
  11. TAKE PROPHETIC ACTION. This is different for everyone. But a little prophetic action is like a trust walk with God. Show him you are preparing for that which you seek and not sitting back idle lest you be caught by surprise when the dominoes start to fall in your favor. Get ready!

Happy and blessed St. Valentine’s Day! Remember that He has loved you with an everlasting love. YOU ARE LOVED NOW. Saint Valentine, pray for us that we might come to a deeper knowledge and experience of God’s love.

Praying for you,

Lexi

JMJ+

Novena of Love

54 DAY NOVENA TO OUR LADY QUEEN OF THE MOST HOLY ROSARY

Whoever desires to obtain favors from Me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary, and three novenas in thanksgiving.”
— Promise of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

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I’m on the fly but here are 7 quick takes about this efficacious novena to Our Lady that my soul sister and I are going to pray starting Tues. Jan.  24 – March 19th, feast of St. Joseph.

The first time I prayed this novena I was in Palm Beach and my “spiritual mamas” directed me to take my Rosary devotion to a higher level. I didn’t quite understand what that meant since I was already a devotee of Mary and the Rosary, but I took this seriously and I prayed the big “54” in the fall of 2010. On day 55 my life changed forever. God responded in a mighty way and the domino that fell that day was a movement of grace that ultimately pushed me all the way to Los Angeles. LA came later but “day 55” was the tipping move that catapulted me to what connected me to my now so to speak.  As I reflect on that season and consider the “now” of my life, I clearly see Our Lady’s maternal hand in moving the ribbon of my life forward in ways that I could not have imagined or achieved on my own.

Two weeks ago my little sister in Christ (Hi Kelly!)  texted me and asked if I wanted to pray a 54-day Rosary novena with her to begin on January 24, feast of Francis De Sales and concluding on St. Joseph’s feast on March 19. At first I felt a little intimidated by the numbers game, considering the length of an entirely long streak of prayer (eye roll) and already being the novena queen, how about someone else wear the tiara! But then like a rush, I heard God say that He really wants me to be under Mary’s mantle in this new Year and that He wants to show me how He’s bringing everything together. He wants me to know that the results will be from My Father in Heaven and through my Mother. That He’s shaping this year, the people I will walk alongside, the places where I will enjoy new territory and the surprises He has for me. How can I say no?

I believe this is as true for you as it is for me. If you want to join us here’s a little bit about the novena and you can Google more:

  1. In 1884 little girl in Pompeii, Italy was extraordinarily sick (dying) – the family had been praying for several months and the child cried out invoking the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady Queen of the Holy Rosary.
  2. When Our Lady appeared to the child the Blessed Virgin said “Child, thou hast always obtained favors from me. Now since thou hast called me by the title so pleasing to me, ‘Queen of the Holy Rosary’ I can no longer refuse the favor thou dost petition; for this name is most precious and dear to me. Make three novenas, and thou shall obtain all.”
  3. The novena consists of five decades of the Rosary each day for twenty-seven in petition and twenty-seven in thanksgiving, whether or not the request has been granted.
  4. The Blessed Mother appeared in a vision on a high throne with St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena.
  5. When you pray the 27 days in thanksgiving, pray CONFIDENTLY trusting that God will hear you and answer you. Don’t have a pity party about what you don’t see. God is working for you. BELIEVE.
  6. This novena has been called a laborious novena, but a novena of love!
  7. Each Hail Mary is a rose you lay at Mary’s feet.

Finally, and not to scare you, the devil HATES this novena. Why? Because the results are certain and generally miraculous. You are turning your will and life over to Heaven to be in total alignment and under the mission of Christ. You may be sluggish, nearly forget and to avoid all that I highly recommend praying this first thing when you rise or setting special time aside. If you wait until night. You will snooze and as my peeps would say “STAND UP” .. sometimes I literally had to stand up and pray the novena to just take authority and make sure it was prayed and prayed well.

Press in for the blessing of 2017. God is on your side! With all the talk about what it means to be a woman in today’s society, let’s seek Heaven for those answers and lean into the Woman who received God’s highest favor. Let this be an unprecedented season of grace as we let our intentions pass through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  (shoot me a message if you need more information)… And fasten your seat belt!

Praying for you! JMJ+

Lexi

Little Miss Christmas

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JOURNEYING TOWARD JESUS

This year my birthday falls on the Feast of the Epiphany, which I will admit the timing of this has me calling myself “Little Miss Christmas” at this point! Who doesn’t want to be a Christmas baby? Birthday-connected in this manner to Little Christmas makes me personally feel deeply and intimately linked to Christmas and the most ultimate core of who we are as Christians in His coming and in the aha revelation of what the wise men experienced.

The Epiphany of the Lord, or as many cultures associate it as, “Little Christmas” has always been one of my most favorite times during the Christmas season. It’s like a Christmas sneak-attack extended celebration of grace and sometimes prompts just one more family gathering, special dinner, and one or two additional gifts. I love a party and I love presents!

Little Christmas has always been a lure for me because there are these three somewhat mysterious figures that are the central characters with Jesus in the Gospel and subsequent celebration of the Epiphany or “revelation” of Christ. The wise men are enlightened, directed, obedient, (yet somewhat sly )and followed the star to the manager to, according to St. Matthew, bring three gifts to Jesus, each having prophetic meaning: gold, the gift for a king; frankincense, the gift for a priest; and myrrh – a burial ointment, a gift for one who would die.

The Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord on January 8th reads like this:

 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,

in the days of King Herod,

behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

We saw his star at its rising

and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this,

he was greatly troubled,

and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,

He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,

for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

since from you shall come a ruler,

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly

and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

“Go and search diligently for the child.

When you have found him, bring me word,

that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out.

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 2:1-12

There is a lot in this scripture, but let’s start here: I feel like the wise men are men who can teach us what it means to be in tune with the revelation of heaven (“we saw his star at its rising”) AND what it means to be in fellowship with Jesus (“we have come to do him homage’) not just on Epiphany, but every day of our lives.

Second and profound: Do you know what prostrated means? The dictionary definition of prostrate is “stretched out on the ground in adoration; or in submission; lying flat.”

Have you ever been prostrate before the Lord? Maybe in Eucharistic adoration? Maybe not. This is a form of total and complete surrender, total worship, total recognition of One higher than you. These wise men KNEW who was in their midst, who they journeyed to despite the danger of Herod’s counter plan. The physical body goes down, symbolic of where our personal will needs to be – in submission to God (under the mission of God).

I want to be a child of the Epiphany, for real. When your birthday lands on this day it’s like JACKPOT. It feels like I’m born of Epiphany and I like to claim that all year long because it’s like a secret of Christmas that keeps on delivering a manifold level of grace – while Herod and his gang look elsewhere to find the Divine Child, this trio is with the infant Christ.

Because one of the most famous pilgrimages in scripture made it into Holy Scripture, clearly God wants us to have a take-away here! We should imitate the wise men is what I’m thinking. God came and He came for us but the wise men embody faith in action – they are men who encounter, men who respond and men who when they see, recognize and bow down. I want to be like the three who laid their bodies and wills down so His presence and Divine plan could rise above.

You don’t need to have your birthday fall on Epiphany to be a child of Epiphany. While the rest of the world dims their Christmas lights and most homes clear out the last ornament and are packing up or trashing their tree, it’s important for us to remain in Christmas. Leaving the season now would be like leaving the ballpark before the game is over. Why to avoid the rush, get the train early and miss the final score and a possible underdog game-changing grand slam?

Here’s the now Christmas posture. Epiphany teaches me (us) that our faith is not one-sided. Jesus didn’t come to just to lie in that manger with Mary and Joseph. Jesus came and He invites US to fellowship with him, He invites US to journey toward Him for a life-changing encounter and He invites US to worship. We have to do our part and move our feet toward Him. Consider where Jesus can be found. He can be found in a Eucharistic Holy Hour, He can be found at Mass, He can be found in the Word, He can be found in the Sacramental life of the Church.

Follow the star. Maybe this blog is your current star situation prompting you to remain in Christmas. Epiphany is this Sunday. Let’s prepare. Let’s consider how we will move toward him, no matter what type of distraction, danger, inconvenience or cost. Let’s bring our precious gifts and fall prostate before Him, giving God our total selves. Our journey toward him may be fraught with challenges (Hello HEROD!) but God will always enlighten us when we come to Him and show us the way to go even if we have to depart by another route.

Christmas. Is. Not. Over. Let Christmastide wash over you. Praying for a mighty revelation for you and for me.

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ+

Wait For It

 

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LIVING IN COUNTERCULTURAL EXPECTATION

Boomerang and suddenly it’s December again. For some people, the end of a year can evoke melancholia over dreams and plans not realized and missed opportunities, not to mention the stark reality of the rapid passing of time. For Christians the Advent season that we enter into in the weeks before Christmas is in fact supposed to be preparation for Jesus’ “coming” at Christmas and it’s the start of a liturgical NEW year. New, not old or ending, but, in fact, we are beginning.

The Thanksgiving turkey carcass is barely soup and the twinkle lights have to go up, red and green everything has debuted, the carols are on a continual loop, a mad rush to get homes and apartments decorated, and finally bedeck ourselves in extra glittery get ups. It seems everything we do now in the world is cloaked in the instantaneous because of the rapid growth of technology and our ability to know, relate and consume more and more faster, sooner, always. Insta-everything is not always #Instagood. Plus social media is like a zoom lens into seemingly how much grander everyone else is living which sometimes perpetuates unhealthy coveting and competition.

Growing up my mom told us about how they wouldn’t really see evidence of Christmas until Christmas Eve when the tree would be decorated and their home would radiate at last the delights of the season. A generation older, my grandmother would never see evidence of “Christmas” until Christmas morning when their family would awake to a dazzling display of a fully lit and decorated tree, smells of cooking and shiny gifts. Significant of the glory of God’s coming. Significant of His timing and also a memory of a time gone by when we as a people waited better.

If you are already waiting for God’s long awaited promises for your life, more waiting and a season called Advent can stretch your spiritual stamina at just the thought of more waiting with even more preparation that is proposed when the world seems to have it all now. Didn’t we just have Lent? Commercials, magazines and Pinterest lure us to get this party started! And I’m a sucker for the lights and sounds as much as the neighbor next door, but there’s more.

Advent leads us to Christmas and Christmas is the promise of God for the whole world, our salvation and shared destiny for a heavenly home and a plan to live within the family of God here and especially in the next life. Living new in Christ leads us to the universal call to holiness that suggests that each one of us is called to be holy in the manner in which God calls us to live out our individual vocation, be it priest, religious, or laity (married) as our pathway to this destiny – and that by our Baptism we are missionary (sent).

Why I love Mary, the blessed Mother, so much is that she truly is the most patient of all and lived in radical waiting for God’s destiny and fulfillment in her life, all for us. With out her “yes” to God, we would not be having Christmas. It’s her Advent we should examine.

In those moments when waiting can seem like an impossible feat, I look to Our Lady who was such a vessel of grace and purity that she received God’s favor and illumination of things to come. Yes, Mary, set apart, waiting on the Lord, surrendered to His will brought about a heavenly response by grace. In the Gospel of Luke we hear about the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary to announce ahead of time God’s plan for her life. (So, while we can ask “Mary did you know?” Rest assured, she KNEW). The good news here is that WE can know too. If we follow Our Lady’s example of prayer, sacrifice, and expectancy, God will visit us and illumine our path as well.

Mary lived in the prophetic. She was an open vessel with a disposition toward the Divine and was in relationship via prayer. Relationship necessitates communication and communion. Here’s what the Word of God says about this act in the life of Mary:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God

to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,

of the house of David,

and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And coming to her, he said,

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

But she was greatly troubled at what was said

and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Then the angel said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary,

for you have found favor with God.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,

and you shall name him Jesus.

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,

and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,

and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,

and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel,

“How can this be,

since I have no relations with a man?”

And the angel said to her in reply,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Therefore the child to be born

will be called holy, the Son of God.

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,

has also conceived a son in her old age,

and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;

for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

May it be done to me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

This Advent, if you are waiting for the fulfillment of prayers that have not yet been answered, if the world seems to have turned on you and the thing or person destined to or for you appears to be nowhere in sight, or you suffer with an insurmountable struggle, you need only to wait for your breakthrough. You might be in the moment where the angel has departed. You may have a glimmer of what’s on the horizon, but the details have not been put together just yet.

In these waiting days, the best activities of the season are daily acts where we marry our self-will to the Divine Will of God and with that we communicate trust to our Creator no matter what our situation looks like. Mary’s situation to the outside world was a scandal. The world wasn’t privy to what she knew. Trust becomes a key to unlock the promise. Mary initially said, “How can this be? I do not know man?” And the angel instructed, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” That was enough for her. And her response was “May it be done unto me according to your word.” No further instructions, no further questions.

I want Mary’s Advent to be my Advent. I want her trust to be imparted into the areas of my life that are in waiting for the fulfillment of God’s spoken promises to me. The reality here is that once Mary had this big illumination, the path was not paved with hearts and flowers. She received this promise, it was declared she would be with child (the Savior!)… Joseph had to figure out his role in this Divine plan and also hear from God. He eventually caught up. (Matthew 1:20) She was patient with every aspect of the unfolding of His plan like when God’s collaborators had to be illuminated as well.

This profound knowing that Mary received in the foretelling is the hallmark of the Advent and Christmas season and should be an element of our faith that we keep all year long. Sometimes it may not seem fair that we have to wait. But look at the waiting as a sign of your destiny and a season of great preparation to receive the greater. We should decorate ourselves this Advent in authentic preparation for His coming anew into our lives with a power that is transformative. This Advent we should ask God’s grace to have the confidence to truly know that like Mary, that God has called us, destined us, planned for us, will speak to us, will use us, will instruct us, will make us an example in our trials, will ask great things of us, will send us, and He will do the impossible through us in His time.

If you are slow to get the lights up or whatever, go easy on yourself, Advent on and let His plan for your life unfold in this season of unmatched grace. I will leave you with this from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Blessed Advent!

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ+

Holy Friendship

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ENTERING INTO THE HOSPITALITY AND HEART OF GOD

Friending isn’t always so simple and keeping good company in our superficial virtual world of adding and counting friends can be challenging and deceiving. And what’s in a friend anyway? I’m not talking about famous Friends Rachel, Monica and Phoebe either. You know tons of people, thrive in a busy world and your smartphone lights up with texts, whatsapps, Skype and FB messages but who are the real deals?

If you’ve moved a lot, you’ve experienced starting over and being the new kid in town. I’ve lived in six cities to date and with each new beginning, it feels like a cross between the first day of kindergarten and college all rolled into one. Boston to Washington D.C. to New York to Palm Beach to Atlanta to LA, it gets easier each time. The reason why LA is easier is because I suspect it’s the final stop.

On my first day of kindergarten my mother told me I’d be fine as she let the principal drag my 4 ½ year old limp protesting body down the hall to join the rest of the kids. During college orientation, I whispered to my parents “I’m not staying here – they are all women and I’m just a girl.” I continued to eye the upper class women as my mother told me to spend the night and see how I felt in the morning. In both instances, I was more than fine after a day.

When I arrived in Palm Beach to work for the Church, I was in my early thirties and its youngest employee working with priests, religious sisters, leaders in ministry and of course for the bishop as his spokesperson. Interface with press corps amid scandal and knee deep in confidential material, it became one of the more lonely periods of my life sprinkled with occasional moments in time where I grieved losing the previous camaraderie of a busy television newsroom and a city of familiar faces where I worked for over a decade.

The intensity of work and the lack of consistent female sister friends outside of the job became an ache. Without my family and familiar partners in crime on the daily hunt for news and fun after work became a consideration that maybe I should move home. On one of my calls home, my mother said that we needed to pray for holy women to show up. Eye roll. I was so irritated with that comment “There are NO holy women here.” And what are they going to do anyway?

I was helping a parish with a retreat weekend and was invited to be on the prayer team. Two sisters arrived on the scene for the same purpose and their inner and outer beauty was striking. I was immediately attracted to them and their uniqueness. They were serious about this weekend “assignment” to pray intentionally for everyone serving and attending this retreat. They were armed with their Bibles when they walked in and that caught my attention. Biz-ness. They were fashionable, joyful, and obviously knew and loved God. The next morning, one of the women approached me and said the Lord showed them that He wanted them to pray with me and would that be ok? Bring it on.

They prayed with me for a significant amount of time and when we were done, they said the Lord showed them that I needed a spiritual family for as long as God had assigned me to Palm Beach and invited me to their home each Friday to pray and be a part of their family devotion – that they would back me up, hold me up and pray in agreement with me for the renewal of the Church and for whatever God’s will was for my life. Well, enter the holy women.

I spent five full years in their home on a weekly basis, sometimes more and became immersed in a school of prayer and friendship that took me to another level of faith and devotion. At the center of everything was prayer: praise and worship, the Rosary, Divine Mercy, catechesis and talking until sometimes 4 in the morning. Priests were always on the scene and people flew in from other parts of the world to be here for special Masses and whenever they could get here. The components of these Fridays gave me a home away from home in the manner in which I was used to praying with my family but hadn’t found anywhere outside of Boston.

The hardest job assignment in my life provided me the greatest gift of friendship with a Haitian American family whose three generations made me one of their own in every single way. They lived out the real meaning of the domestic Church and imparted a supernatural hospitality.

Particular phases of life and particular moments in time make us the most vulnerable in the giving and receiving of friendship and prove to have the potential to be the most lonely without the substance of good friends. Holy friends have your back, tell you the truth, stand with you in good times and in hard times, they invite you in, show up, fight in prayer for you, laugh with you and grow with you. Some friends are a bit ahead of you in the journey of life and others are a little bit behind you. Holy friends pray with you and for you, and don’t hold you back or resent you when God moves your feet away from them and to new territories. Above all, holy friends want to help you toward the goal of being the best version of yourself all the way to heaven.

After praying a 54-day Rosary novena for my future, I was abruptly moved on into film work and to a new city. Leaving broke my heart wide open with thanksgiving for how God provides. My heart was breaking to leave my bishop and these women who stood with me in this phase of my life’s work. Just when things were more than comfortable, it was time to move.

Our deepest longings make way for God to fill the vacant spaces with good things sent from His resources. Florida became a time of service and giving to the Church, but at the same time, and in a deeper way, a place of receiving the gift of holy friendship – a friendship that gives without cost and loves sacrificially.

This weekend pit stopping yet again in Palm Beach in between two work trips, I’m eternally grateful for my soul sisters who radically changed my life. This time, I was one of those flying in from another part of the country to spend a marathon day in prayer for all that concerns us and our loved ones. We celebrated life, love and each other until the wee hours of morning. I can’t imagine my life without these strong, savvy, beautiful, faithful women. This friendship has given me a glimpse into the heart and hospitality of God and it’s even sweeter years later and miles apart. If you are lacking in friendship, ask Him to send you true companions for the journey.

To my soul sisters here and everywhere, I love you.

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure his excellence.
A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find him. Sirach 6: 14-16

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ+