Helllloooooo! Oh my gosh! Wow! What an incredible 10 days that I have had. I have so much to chat about and reflect on, so bear with be as I take the next little while to talk about all the going-ons in my life at this time. :) :)

From #Steubie14 to Aruba to #NASavannah. I mean. I can't even describe to you how blessed I am. God has given me such an incredible life, and I am so happy to share it with so many amazing people. And then talk allll about it with even MORE people. haha. I love blogging.

I will have a bigger, more personal, reflection from the Steubenville conference soon, but for now I thought I'd share my experience with you.  It was my first time attending and I was really looking forward to it! If you ever have the chance to go to one.. GO! As a chaperone with the youth or to any one of their other adult based ones. The music, talks, atmosphere... all of it is just amazing.

I had a few firsts that weekend... first time to the conference, first time as a chaperone for teens, first time being denied confession (another story for another time).  It was a bit overwhelming and slightly stressful at the beginning, because as a chaperone, what exactly was my role? Was I to follow the kids all over the place? How would I know where they are? Who exactly is my responsibility? When/how do I engage them about their experience/feelings/thoughts during the talks/reflections/adoration?

It was a lot. But, I really took Martha's advice to just be immersed in the weekend. Be involved, sing loud, ask questions. What do the teens need from me? For me to be who I am. Do I love praise and worship? Yes! Then I needed to allow myself to let the Holy Spirit do His thing. Did I think a talk was awesome or something was funny? Yes! Then say so and laugh! I had to be fully engaged in all that was happening, so that I could be exactly where the teens were at.

And for the most part, I think that strategy worked. I know the conference was for the teens, but God worked on my heart... a lot. And it was a joy to share that with my small group. It was a joy to see the teens have some intense emotional and spiritual experiences. It was fun to watch them sing LOUD and run up to the stage for each and every mini concert. To laugh at the silly jokes from the presenters. Then be hit in the face (and heart) by something profound from one of the talks.

Beginning of a morning session... the teens just flock to the stage
for the great music!!
The theme this year is "God is..." And, I believe that each and every one of the teens that came with us will complete that sentence differently. For me... God is AMAZING. He blows my mind with his endless love for each and every single person in the world. It is amazing that He knows us so intimately, and only asks for that love in return. He never demands it. But, he waits patiently... for us to love him and each other.

A few moments that stand out from the weekend:

  • Um, 2,000+ teens all in one room singing LOUD and praising the Lord. As I tweeted, "For all the people that think Catholics are boring should really hang out with Chris Stefanik and Jon Niven... &2k teens!" Because.. really, you should. 
  • My small group. What an amazing group of young women. 
  • The same 2,000+ teens quiet. Absolutely quiet when Jesus in the Eucharist first came into the room. I mean... you could hear a pin drop. 
  • When I was in line for confession at 6:35AM, and there was ALREADY a group of teens waiting. Beeeeautiful. The grace is real, people, and the teens know it.

We all got that Catholic Swag. ;)
Oscar Rivera is a talented rapper/speaker. I think he really connected
with so many of the teens.
I hope this gives you a little insight into all things #Steubie14. It was an awesome experience. One that I look forward to again and again!  It blew my mind that on the weekend of Steubenville Florida, there were FOUR other Steubie conferences happening at the same time. I mean... if 2,000 teens were at each of those... um, that could be 10,000 teens all praising/worshipping/learning/loving at one time. How can you not think that is impressive?! You can't!  :)

God is good. So. Good.

Up next will be a little recap of all things Aruba! :) Stay tuned!!

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Busy Busy and prayers, please!

This next week is busybusybusy... and I am SO EXCITED! As you are reading this, I am driving to the Steubenville Conference with the youth group.

The theme this year.

I am so excited for this conference. I have never been and neither have many of the teens that are going from my parish. Please pray for them. Pray that they are open to the Holy Spirit to work wonders in their hearts, minds and souls.

Annnnnnd THEN! I am taking a little vacay in Aruba. Yes. You read that correctly. I am going to Aruba. What is this life I live?! I am so blessed. I... I mean... that's all I can say about that. Blessed. Please pray for safe travels there and back. Thank you!

Annnnnnd THEN!


Ahhhhh!!! The time is so so so very close. I mean, how long have we been waiting?! Just a few more prayers... would you mind?! Please, please pray for the ladies that are traveling to Savannah for the weekend. Pray that we are led by the Holy Spirit to love, support, encourage and HAVE FUN together! And of course, pray for all of those that wanted to come, but couldn't. And continued prayers for all of you ladies that participate and read any of the NAS posts. Morgan and I couldn't have managed to do any of this without you.

Thanks for all of your prayers, everyone! I will see you soon!

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Oh! And don't forget that next Tuesday, July 15 we are talking about our summer reading lists! So, please join Morgan and the gang to see what everyone is reading!

What taking off my bracelet means to me

I mean... it's just a bracelet, right? A pretty cheap one at that.

I mean after 2.5 years, it broke. Cheap, I tell you. ;)
The thing is. I have been wearing this bracelet every day since December 2011. That's a long time! I bought it as a gift for myself when I got to Copan Ruinas, Honduras. I got it as a reminder of this journey that I was starting. The adventures that lie ahead. Oh, and it totally has. I would often look down and be reminded of some good food, the silly conversations I had when learning Spanish, friends I made, the cute kids I worked with. Some amazing things, really.

But, at the same time. It was a constant reminder of something more: lost expectations and failing. Failing on my commitment to stay. It's something that I have been wrestling with for a long time. Something that I didn't think I could let go of.

Now. Now is the time to let go. With some outside help (ie my therapist. *gasp* I know! Surprise! Or maybe not) and lots of prayer, now is the time to let.it.go. (let it gooooooo, let it goooo!).

I was stuck, well, I'm becoming more unstuck, in this place of guilt and letting people down. Letting myself down. Why? Because I have been so wrapped up with doing the wrong thing. It's a moot point now, whether leaving Honduras early was the actual right thing for me to do or not, but I have realized (with help) that it's a very tangible example for an overall theme in my life.

The fear of failure holds me back (or prevents me from trying!).

The fear of letting people (me) down. The fear of doing something wrong. The fear of not living up to expectations. The worry that I have already done something wrong.

I know. Some of you are probably shaking your head and being like, really? Hello? Isn't that so obvious. This is not a healthy way to live life.  Of course, I know.  But, see... when you have lived your whole life this way, you don't realize that it's not normal, ya know? That is, until you talk to someone objectively and then take a step back and you're like... well, crap. I need to work on a few things, or a billion.

And that's what I am doing. It's hard. Frustrating. Messy. Makes me cry. But, it gives me hope! I have been learning so much about myself. About who I am, and who I am supposed to be. Not about what I think others think I should be.

So. Now is the time take my bracelet off and let go of the fear. Of what my past has told me is true (even if it was only in my head).  To realize that even though my experience in Honduras was not what I was expecting and didn't affect me in the ways that I thought it would... it has catapulted me to take an inward examination to help me live my life more fully and completely.

My sins/mistakes do not make me unloveable or unworthy.

These words keep coming back to me over and over again in prayer these last few days. It's such an obvious statement, right? But it's something that I have only just begun to see as Truth for myself. As I work to peel back the years/layers of fear and self doubt, these are the words that keep coming back. This is what God is trying to get across to me. He is ever so patient, that Lord of ours.

Please pray for me. Please pray that as I move forward, meet new people, and live my life that I can be reminded of the words above.

God is so good.

Know of my prayers for you. :)

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A Week in Pics

Weeelll... I should probably be sleeping. But, my sleeping habits are all out of whack. No work = no definite schedule. Blah. Oh well! It's SUMMER! Plus... I have been obsessed with Sherlock. I watched the first 2 seasons in less than 2 days... I have a problem. Ok, yes, there are only 3 episodes in each season, but still. You guys... it's so good. Have you seen it??

Moving on.

Oh, this is me and my second cup of coffee for the day...
on one of the longest travel days ever. Blah.
I was so close to being home, yet so far.

But THEN! I got to see this chick!

We even went paddleboarding!!
It was SO FUN!

This girl loves Nemo.
And that Nemo used to be mine.

Beautiful cotton candy sunset one evening.

See? She loves him.

It's amazing how quickly your church becomes your home.

A beach morning. Nothing better.

Cousins!! Guh! Are they not just THEE cutest?!
Zuzu and Nala

Zuz and I spent the afternoon together! And it was fab.
Even though she was not into the splash pad... she loved
the park and looking for birds!

May the 4th be with you! ;)

Pretty flowers, good food and cute babies.
What could make a better fourth?!

Fireworks!! It was so fun!! :)

Annnnnd... Morgan and I are cooking up something fun for
Savannah!! Ahhhh!! It's so close!!!
Have such a wonderful and blessed week, errrbody! :)

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My Oil Cleansing Method Experience + the Clarisonic Mia 2

I have wanted to talk about my Oil Method Cleansing (OCM) experience for a while, and after talking about my pill (and a bit about my acne) experience, I finally decided to get to it. As you could guess, this isn't THE THING that worked, but I thought I would give another perspective of this method. Also, any links to products are affiliates, so if you buy anything through there, I would get a wee bit in return. Thanks if you do!!

Ok. So. Some background.

My Acne Type
I have cystic, painful blemishes mostly on my lower cheeks/jawline/upper neck and on my back (thee worst). They also leave some terrible scars. My skin is oily.

What have I Tried?
Um, everything?
The pill. (Yaz, specifically)
Prescription meds (antibiotics, etc. Even the dreaded Accutane. It was HORRIBLE for me)
Creams/ointments (prescription and over the counter)
Plenty of cleanser/toners/etc.
Proactive/Murad/other well known products
Went dairy-free for about 4 months
And other things. I can't think of them all.

What is OCM, exactly, and why did I decide to try it?
Well, I mean... why not?  I first was introduced to it by Stephanie over at Captive the Heart sometime in early 2013, read about it here (and here is another good overview, as well), and then decided to give it a try.
I can't believe I am putting this online. Eep!

Basically you take oil, and wash your face with it. You massage it all over your face and neck (keep your makeup on!), get the water nice and steamy, wet a wash cloth, put it over your face for a few seconds and wipe away. That's it! I do this at night before bed.  It sounds gross... and it is, kind of. It feels very counter intuitive. My first try was to do what was recommended... different combinations of castor oil and almond oil. I did that for a while, and was not impressed. My face never felt clean. I didn't see any improvements. So, I stopped and went back to normal cleansers that made me feel like I was actually clean. I even went dairy-free.

What I do now
Then, Morgan wrote this post in October 2013 where she talked about using coconut oil! I was intrigued... still a bit skeptical, but again, thought "what the heck?!" I wasn't seeing any improvement with the dairy-free thing. So, sure. I'll try it.

It's the same process as above, still at night time, but I also added Thayer Witch Hazel w/ Aloe as a toner right after, and for the mornings. My face is quite oily when I wake up still, so after wiping it with a clean, warm washcloth in the morning, I use the witch hazel again. But! My face actually feels clean afterwards. I never have to scrub the heck out of my face to just feel like I have gotten the oil off. I am happy I started with the coconut oil!

And then! Around March (?), I began using the Clarisonic Mia 2 cleansing brush. I first heard about it here, it piqued my interest enough that I researched it for a while. I found a post (now I can't find it!) that explains their use of OCM + Clarisonic and decided to bite the bullet. (Disclaimer: the Mia 2 is expensive. Plain and simple) Let me tell you... I LOVE THIS THING! My face always feels so refreshed afterwards. I use it mostly at night, after I have wiped off the oil with the wash cloth. I take a very small drop of my body wash (antibacterial) to clean the brush head with warm water and then let the brush do it's thang. It vibrates (think electric toothbrush style) for a whole minute, in 20 sec, 20 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec increments. (Click here for a video on how to do it, and here for a more in depth review) The longer increments are meant for your T-zone (forehead and nose to chin), with the shorter increments for your cheeks. But, because my problem areas are my cheeks, I do the longer increments there. Once the minute is up, I rinse my face, pat dry with a towel. Use the toner. And done.

When I look at these pics... I can actually see the
improvement. Crazy!
Let's see, I have been doing it now for 8 months (4 months-ish with the Clarisonic) and I wish I can say that IT'S AMAZING AND I HAVE NO PROBLEMS. If that were the case, I would actually be shouting off the rooftops and you would have heard about it sooner. But even still, it has been working. It has helped with the redness, and maybe even with some of the scarring. 

As you can see from October to now, my face has definitely improved. Putting these pics together has actually been REALLY good for me to see. You always see your flaws worse when you look at them everyday. So, I am happy I did this because, even though my skin is not "the pill perfect" it is better than I think. :)

I am so happy I decided to invest in the Clarisonic, you guys. I honestly think it's the reason I have seen more improvement in the last few months. I have realized that what I see mostly on my face is scarring, not blemishes. Don't get me wrong, I am constantly getting the incessant, painful blemishes almost daily, but I am pretty sure they are way less in numbers now.

Other Tidbits

  • I take my eye makeup off separately before the coconut oil.
  • I don't use a moisturizer, as some of the coconut oil stays behind and acts as one.
  • I try not to use my washcloths for more than a week.
  • Just like everything else, it takes time to find what combo of oils works for your skin. Coconut oil does horrendous things to some skin, but obviously it's ok for me. Everything you read will tell you to start with castor oil and a carrier oil (almond, grapeseed, jojoba, etc). 
  • I bought my first oils and the witch hazel at Whole Foods, and the coconut oil at Trader Joe's.
  • Right after starting with the Clarisonic, you may see significant breakouts because your skin is adjusting to something new. Don't be alarmed!
  • I have used both the sensitive brush head (comes with kit) and acne-prone brush head. I am not sure I have seen any sort of difference in what my skin does.
  • It actually is pretty important to replace the brush head every 3 months, like they say.
  • I bought my Clarisonic at Ulta.
I think that about covers things. Let me know if you have ever tried any of these things! Any questions?

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