Back in 2014, I wrote about some sacred art I found while wandering the chancery of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I was working in the Development Office at the time, and had no idea that just a few years later, I'd get the chance to work with the well-loved and incredibly gifted artist who'd painted those pieces: Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS.
Fast forward to 2018. I was now working for the Diocese of Camden as their Events Coordinator. My colleague, Rod, had volunteered our diocese as the host of a national (that grew to be international) conference aimed at professionally developing Church personnel to identify, respond to, and account for the protection of the children and at-risk people in its care. It was a massive undertaking and one of the first orders of business was to come up with branding to promote the annual conference.
Rod, being the brilliant man that he is, tapped local artist Brother Mickey who lived in-residence less than 50 feet from our office building.
Since Rod and I were running point on the conference, we met with Brother Mickey to discuss the conference, its intention, our hopes for a Marian logo, and possible design concepts. It was all I could do not to completely fan girl out, guys. It became a running joke between Rod and I anytime we'd have to schedule a meeting with Brother Mickey. Ha ha.
Anyway, Brother Mickey took everything in, digested it, and used it to create the collaboration I'm most proud of in my time with the diocese... this gorgeous image of Our Lady:
Just take a moment to breathe this in. I swear... each time I look at it, I walk away with something else to love.
The theme of our conference was "Full of Grace." Mary is holding the Christ Child who, in turn, is blessing the young boy/girl to either side. The Holy Spirit is present, but you'd blink and miss Him if you weren't looking. The little boy holds a candle of wisdom and truth while the little girl holds a flower denoting innocence and purity. The rays behind Our Lady are so full of color and vibrance! Everything is so symmetrical and flows together brilliantly. I just... I love this so much. As such, I plastered it onto everything from letterhead and notebooks to travel mugs and reusable bags. I've still got stickers leftover that I use to adorn my personal books and diaries.
*Swoon* It's beautiful, isn't it?
Rod, because he's amazing, had Brother Mickey sign the original which he then mounted and framed for me. I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of my most treasured possessions. And the fact that Brother Mickey actually knows my name and waves "Hi" at me when we cross paths... it blows my mind. It felt like such a gift getting to work with someone so talented.
God is good. In all things, God is so, so good.
Several years ago, I posted a bit about how my faith in God as Father banishes fear. I've never worried about the future or how the dust would settle because I knew He was directing things and would point me in the right direction.
He put up a giant, neon sign in July of 2017.
For those of you who hadn't been following along, a quick synopsis.
For the rest of you, the story continues with a 10-day vacation over Fourth of July weekend. It was my first holiday without the boys and I knew I needed to pack my "vacation" with as many things as possible to keep my mind off that fact. I decided to travel and see some old friends.
I had friends in upstate New York that I hadn't seen in a while. I also had a friend from high school who had recently moved to Kansas with her family. Interestingly, if I was able to swing Kansas, there was a third friend who had ALSO just moved to Kansas, but on the other side of the state. Being the ridiculously efficient person I am, I tried to knock out all of them during the same 10 day period.
I carpooled to NY with the first set of friends and spent several days enjoying games, hiking, and food, then came back home. Early the following morning, I hopped on a plane to Catherine's house (my friend from high school). Finally, after being spoiled rotten by her incredible family, I took a 4-hour bus ride across the state to see Chris, a recent transplant from North Carolina (and before that, New Jersey).
While I missed my boys those 10 days, I filled my heart with so much love and laughter that I couldn't help but be grateful. In all things, God is good.
This entire time, the Tribunal was still waving at me from the shadows. I wasn't worried about it, but I wasn't thrilled about not having a decision, either. Limbo isn't a fun place to be.
Anyway, to the good stuff:
Chris and I have known each other for about 15 years. He was in my wedding party, I had visited him a couple times in Carolina, I was (and am) still friendly with one of his ex-girlfriends, and I always viewed his little brother as my own little brother. There had never been an inkling of romance between the two of us and this trip was no different. We hung out as we normally would, visited some fun places, caught up on each other's lives and had some great conversations.
The night before I was to leave, I anxiously tried to prepare myself for the airport. At the time, I was still very scared of flying and never slept the night before boarding. Knowing this, he put on The Count of Monte Cristo and we settled onto his couch for the next few hours. By the end of the movie, it was after 3AM. I was WIRED, excited to talk about a movie I'd never seen before; he was exhausted.
I turned to look at him as the credits rolled and I was shocked at how bloodshot his eyes were. Utterly sapped, he pushed himself to stay awake and watch a movie so I wasn't anxious and alone the night before my flight. He had to work the next day, too!!! In that moment, I was overcome with gratitude that God had blessed me with such an amazing friend.
It was as if someone flipped a switch that opened a dam directly to my soul. I was flooded so quickly with love, affection and appreciation that I almost reached out to touch his face. I then experienced emotional whiplash as I realized this flood of emotion was directed at Chris.
CHRIS? My insanely intelligent, witty, musically gifted and goofy friend Chris? THAT CHRIS? No. Clearly someone got their wires mixed.
So I blurted out "I'm gonna go brush my teeth!" and ran to the bathroom. I had to take a minute to sort myself out. My brain was yelling:
WHAT WAS THAT?! Did I just experience feelings for CHRIS?
NO! That's not possible. I mean... right?
No. Absolutely not.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
I'm sleep deprived. I can't possibly be attracted to Chris. It's not possible.
But he stayed up with you because he knows you're scared of flying and you didn't even have to ask. He didn't want you to be alone! *SWOON*
NO! YOU STOP THAT. Now go back out before he starts to wonder why you're taking forever.
I went back out to the couch where he was still half asleep, trying to soldier on. I was fighting myself internally and couldn't focus on anything other than stifling the "KISS HIM, KISS HIM NOW" scream ringing in my brain.
I sent him to bed. He protested, because he didn't want to leave me on my own, but I was genuinely amped and he was ready to pass out. I laid on the couch, and I heard him collapse into bed. I could hear him rolling around, seemingly discontent, himself. Finally, he settled and a few hours later, we got up to head to the airport. I flew home, and fitfully slept that night as I mulled over what all these psychotic feelings were about.
The next morning was July 6th. I went into work and groaned when I saw the pile of mail waiting for me at my desk. However, a large envelope caught my eye; it was from the Tribunal. I anxiously opened the packet and quickly scanned the letter; a decision had been reached. The Tribunal ruled that I was free - FREE!!!
I then caught the date the letter was addressed to me: July 5th.
During the Hour of Mercy on July 5th, a switch got flipped and my heart directed itself almost instantaneously towards Chris. Just as I had said to the countless people who told me to "move on" or "date around," I knew it wasn't right and promised God I'd let Him sort out the details of when and who.
And sure enough, He set up a giant neon sign for me. That's not to say I immediately bounded down the path towards Chris.
In fact, I actively fought against it for a few months as I argued with myself over the insanity of seeing Chris as anything but a good friend. If I'm being honest, it still feels a bit crazy to me, but when have God's plans ever made sense to us?
So that's how Chris and I (started) our journey. On the very day the Tribunal sent its ruling to me, God pulled the veil from my eyes and I saw my friend of 15 years in a new and unimaginable light. It'd be a few months until we were ready to actually DO something with that, but the barrier had been removed and we were open to seeing where the road would take us.
Trust in God, folks. He's always got a plan and I assure you... you will never be smart enough to figure it out. Had you given me a million years and a library of the wildest possibilities, I couldn't have come up with this one.
So sit back and enjoy the ride, because in the end, God's got you.
I married John in 2007. At our 1 year anniversary, he said he didn't think he wanted children for several years. I flipped out, because I had been very clear about wanting children. I compromised and agreed to wait a year after marriage and got upset that he was changing the agreement.
He apologized and we got pregnant 6 months later. I gave birth in 2009. John decided, against my wishes, that he didn't want more children. I accepted a forced sterility and our marriage tanked. Throughout 2014, he was unfaithful, repented, and as an apology, rescinded his "no more kids" clause. We got pregnant late 2014.
Halfway through my pregnancy, he told me he didn't actually want another baby and instead wanted a divorce. He openly wished for me to miscarry, put me into preterm labor at 30 weeks, ignored that I was to be on bed rest, and generally neglected our special needs son, myself, and the unborn child I was carrying. I kicked him out of the house, lawyered up, and told him to do the same. I then gave birth to my youngest son in 2015. The day our divorce was finalized, I walked my annulment paperwork directly into the diocesan Tribunal and awaited its decision.
I'm a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage; that hasn't changed. However, I came to a very clear realization while I was laying in a hospital bed, hooked to a million angrily beeping machines as doctors tried to stop my labor from progressing at 30 weeks: my (now ex) husband is not actually capable of consenting to marriage because he is not capable of truly loving another person. He's able to appreciate what they can do for him... how they make him feel... but simply love them for who they are and put his needs aside to raise them up? Not so much. The entire time I was in the hospital, he was texting me, demanding to know when I'd be home so he could leave for a trip to NY, knowing full well he'd be leaving me (who was supposed to be on strict bed rest) with a highly-active, sensory-seeking 5 year old.
This, mind you, is the tiniest sampling of the litany of thoughtless, self-absorbed and intentionally neglectful things I'd put up with over the years.
So, armed with that realization, I started my annulment paperwork that weekend - MONTHS ahead of him finally (at my persistent request) getting his lawyer to do the divorce paperwork that mine had already completed.
In the months and years after the divorce, I had many people suggest I start dating again. I never liked that advice, especially because I didn't have an annulment ruling. If I started a romance with someone and received an unfavorable ruling from the Tribunal, what then? It'd be a huge disservice not only to me, but to the guy I was with.
So I steered clear of romance and relationships until late 2016/early 2017. I started accepting date proposals from a few men I thought were worthwhile. Even then, I wasn't looking for romance so much as a shift in paradigm, and I was honest with each man regarding my goal in "dating" them. I wasn't looking for love; I was looking for balance and insight. I needed to adjust my worldview, and I trusted their integrity enough to help me do so.
One man skirted romance with me briefly, but I ended that soon after it started because, again, with no ruling on the divorce, it was unfair to both of us to walk that path. So off I went on my own. I trusted that God knew what He was doing and once the annulment ruling was finalized, I'd see the path more clearly.
I got the giant neon sign I was waiting for in July 2017.
I can't believe how long it's been since I've blogged! I've done a few guest spots and ghost written a few others, but MBF has been calling me home.
So here I am. Home.
What have I been doing these last few years? Adjusting to life as a single mother, moving along in my professional career, pruning my past so I can devote proper energy to my future and continuing along the path that (hopefully) leads me and my boys towards Christ.
I've got so much to catch you all up on! But first, let's kick this party off with some giveaways!
Scroll over each photo for information. Click images to enlarge!
How to Win
I will be selecting winners from Twitter, Facebook and the comments. Obviously the more you share/tweet/comment, the more chances you have to win.
I'll be selecting the winners and posting the results at the official launch to the new blog on Sunday, January 18th! That gives you a whole week to run amok via social media.
Prizes will be given as follows:
1- Tracey Christianson 5x7 images of Our Lady and the Christ Child
2- Icon of the Vine and Branches by Athos Icons
3- OLO Sorrows by Tahnja Wolter
4- Mary Kept These Things in her Heart... by Lonni Clarke
5- Resin Christ Child statuette
6- 2 Books (The Blessed Mother and Exclamation of Thanks)
2 Decks of Cards (Catholic Doctrine and Catholic Discussions)
7- 5 Books (Abortion & Healing, Anima Christi, Spirituality of
Fundraising, Beautiful Mercy, Spiritual Advice from JPII)
8- 2 Books (Catholic Prayer for Catholic Families, Poetry of JPII)
9- 2 Books (Struck by Lightning, Joshua in the Holy Land)
10- OLO, Queen of the Angels by Sandra Lubreto Dettori
Each of these items comes from my personal collection. I've recently downsized and want to share them with all of you! Many are new, some are well loved, but all are in fantastic condition. I will ship
them to the winners at no charge.
So let's have some fun, everyone! Good luck!
I am REALLY excited about my new logo. I sent out an SOS to several graphic artists (some personal friends, some through Fiverr) detailing what I was looking for. Once the drafts started rolling in, one Fiverr artist stood head and shoulders above the rest. He really seemed to understand what I was looking for and implemented my feedback while offering suggestions that got me to where I was going.
I LOVE collaborating with talented, savvy individuals. If you're interested in working with him, you can find his page here!
Anywho, we went back and forth more than a dozen times on everything from design to color to font. In the end, we have an open book from which faith, hope and love pour fourth, all centered on Christ. We've got our blue/gold Marian colors while keeping the deeper red from the old MBF page.
I'm genuinely pleased with how it turned out!
I've kept the old blog entries in what is now dubbed "The Archives." However, if you've got feedback on the new template, please share it via the Contact form! I'd love to hear from ya!