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a rare Sunday morning

July 2, 2017

It’s a beautiful morning when I get to sleep in past 6 a.m. & even more rare when I am not working on a Sunday. Days like this are a blessing. I get to catch up on home tasks and put a little order into my life.

I’d been living up in Julian for almost eight wonderful days serving at two different camps alongside my friend, Z. It was worth the time away from home to bond with mini-EB and family, as well as accompany some amazing young people as they grew deeper in their relationship with Jesus and each other. Camp Emmaus never ceases to amaze me through the fellowship of other youth ministers and the connection between parishes in our diocese. One of the wonderful moments I got to experience was being a part of a Vocations panel representing the Lay Consecrated Life. Sharing this gift brings a sense of joy I did not expect, especially when I got to receive words of affirmation from our young women who didn’t know this is a viable option and appreciated the truth of the struggle of choosing such a life.

This moment helped me to reflect on how far I’ve come and how ready I am to make this my permanent state of life. Nothing else will satisfy my heart than to be completely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully Jesus’ Little Bride. Just like every Vocation, there will be ups and downs, but the ups are more frequent than the downs. I’ve been experiencing this beautiful time of restoration: friendships, relationships, ministry and mission. It’s amazing to see that just because I’m out of my young adult years, it doesn’t mean I am done growing. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’m sprinting forward. I’m feeling the grace that comes with age and am fondly reminded of my mom’s observation that her forties was the best decade. I was a high school student when that happened and some of the toughest moments came at that time, but for her, she was just beginning to embrace her strength and living on grace raising two teenage daughters. There’s something to be said about the challenges that come into our lives and how they shape us. She could have totally resented that era of time, but she saw it for the gift it was and shares with me it was her best.

I think my thirties were the most challenging mainly because it was a time of major healing that I did not see coming. I don’t resent those years in any way because if I didn’t experience that decade, I would never be ready for the gift I’m living today. Survival is a gift in of itself and I’m so grateful for those who have accompanied me so far. We may not be best friends, we may even be enemies, but I have learned a lot as a result of being connected.

So, as we enter into the height of summer time, I’m embracing the goodness that comes with growing in relationship with others. In youth ministry, summertime is NOT break time…it’s the time to build up the Core Team and work together to serve the greater community. For my interior life, it’s me growing deeper in love with my DL and He’s definitely drawing me closer to His Most Sacred Heart through the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Saints who constantly intercede for us as well as the prayer life of the Church and the Sacraments. I’m feeling so blessed and am so grateful. Happy Summer!

AMDG!

 

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humility, flashbacks & being courageous enough to be honest

April 20, 2017

Good grief! It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything and so much has happened since my last couple of drafts in February and May of last year. There have been some significant plot twists in 2016, but looking back, apparently I was not alone in that manner.

Last year at this time, I was so crazy busy I had disconnected from Him with such a vehemence that I’m sure He made arrangements to make the madness stop. I acknowledged Him, but I wouldn’t let Him love me. I kept working so hard and tried to keep afloat without Him. So, everything came to a screeching halt. My time at OLPH was cut short unexpectedly due to some unavoidable circumstances. I bawled for while and mourned the loss of an entire community. It was a difficult time of not knowing where the next paycheck would come or if I could afford to pay for rent, but I found out quickly that the Lord had other plans for me.

Miracles happened.

I finally could stop and breathe. I realized the error of my ways and sought my Divine Lover. I found I still had a love for Youth Ministry and the gift still existed. I could be there for my family: for my goddaughter as her sponsor when she got Confirmed, a sub to relieve my brother-in-law while his mom was in the hospital, a tour guide to my cousin and her beau. These gifts and miracles reminded me what was important: my Divine Lover, my family and my own health…AND…the bills got paid.

The fact I could recognize God’s grace in the midst of unemployment is quite a miracle in itself. It’s not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a necessary season of pruning, which helped me to reconnect to Him. Being in the first year of my betrothment to Him, I realized that I didn’t put Him first and it was a difficult lesson to learn. I did struggle a lot with the gravity of my decision to step into this beautiful Vocation of Consecrated Life and unfortunately, some well-intentioned brothers and sisters tried to get me to entertain the idea that perhaps this is not for me. What they don’t know is that it really cut into my heart and it hurt more than it helped. I was bewildered by their suggestions and I realized I would never suggest to any of these amazing BICs or SICs that they leave their fianceés/fiancés/spouses because they aren’t perfectly happy with the state of their Vocation. I know they didn’t mean to hurt me, but that’s when I knew I am definitely called to this life and that it’s worth fighting for.

I wouldn’t have been able to stop and process this if I was still up to my eyeballs in ministry at breakneck speed without Jesus. I also realized this is part of discerning. Challenges happen and pain happens, too. It WILL hurt. I’ve heard stories of other amazing people who have experienced similar challenges and I’m glad to know I’m not alone in that. I just need to be able to be honest the next time someone decides to unwittingly suggest something that is contrary to the path I am on AND to not take it personally when it happens.

Where I am now is right where I need to be: unfortunately stuck at home with my leg propped because of achilles tendonitis. I can hardly walk this morning. After a motivational conversation with my mom (she got stern on me), I’m set to see my doctor this morning (another miracle: same day appointment. Thanks, Lord). I’m learning that this part of life is ridiculously necessary, especially if I want to be able to continue serving others well. I haven’t learned how to stop properly yet (obviously), so this would most likely be the reason for the pain. It’s also, unfortunately, the reason why I haven’t got myself back out there swing dancing. It’s actually something I REALLY miss and something I need to do for my own mental health! GAH!

I am happy to report that the Lord has kindly opened up the doors to return to Mission San Diego as the Youth Minister. It was quite a surprise and a blessing that is continually unfolding before me. This story is still continuing and there’s so many more awesome moments to share about that in another blog. The Holy Spirit’s a movin’ and thankfully I’m able to follow His lead a little better these days…except when it comes to slowing down and taking care of myself. That’s a constant work in progress. 😉

Many blessings to each of you & Happy Easter! He is RISEN!

a little slice of humble pie with patience on the side

February 2, 2016

Fair warning, it’s been almost a year since I’ve blogged and there is a long story ahead. Get comfortable and enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage. 🙂

2015 was a seriously challenging year. Looking back, I jumped the gun in announcing my entrance into Consecrated Life. Before the trials came, it seemed as if I already made the decision, interiorly speaking. What I didn’t realize is that I was into the Discernment period, which started September 2014. In February 2015, it was made public to City of the Lord and to many of my dear family and friends that I was discerning. This period of discernment was certainly a challenging time.

I began experiencing incredible headaches late October 2014. They were pretty steady throughout the winter months until I went to Urgent Care on February 3 for a particularly bad one. I saw my regular doctor two days later and confirmed that I needed a CT Scan to see what’s going on. Through this test, they found a cyst in my pituitary gland called a “Rathke’s Cleft Cyst,” a benign little growth about 7.5 mm in size close to my left optic nerve. It got confirmed with an MRI in March. I’d seen a neurologist, an endocrinologist, a neuro-opthamologist, a neurosurgeon and my regular doctor at various times throughout 2015. I won’t even get into the drama of dealing with my insurance over covering the CT Scan. It was not pretty.

Throughout that entire ordeal, each specialist came to the conclusion that the cyst wasn’t the cause for my ridiculous headaches.

No wonder I didn’t post a single thing since February 17, 2015! It was tough dealing with headaches that would floor me without warning, compounded by the running around to different specialists to figure out what was causing them and fighting with my insurance, which ended with me paying a whopping sum of money to cover part of the CT Scan. Was I confused beyond my mental capacity? Absolutely.

In the middle of all of this, I had encountered a soul similar in passion and talent and we tried to work together to make some music. It was definitely a time of incredible creativity for me. In spite of the unpredictable headaches, I managed to write some lyrics and music in a manner that I had not tried before: melodies would come first instead of lyrics, recording bits and pieces on my phone, deconstructing the recordings to get sketches written out on paper. One of my proudest moments came as a song inspired by one of my roommates, A., and my goddaughter, K.

Like Never Before

I am sad to say that this was the only song we got to record and there isn’t a finished version of it, save for a rough orchestration. This person had a lot of things going on in his own journey and for whatever reason or another, we met in this particularly trying place. The fallout was still particularly painful for me and I felt like I was going through a breakup, even though it was never anything more than a mutually creative endeavor. Around this time, I lost a friend in the most bewildering of circumstances. I have never imagined myself being so involved at such a crucial moment as he entered into eternal rest. The 24-48 hours between his passing and the public announcement was one of the most astounding experiences of my life. Between these two, my confidence in relating to men was shaken badly. It made me question myself and my own shortcomings.

All of these trials were INCREDIBLY important. I could not see myself clearly at this time and all I did was enter into a period of Discerning my Vocation as a Consecrated Woman. WOAH. Now I can see the period of discernment is crucial. It’s similar to exclusively dating a single person before making the decision that it’s time to enter a period of engagement, with the intention of getting married. Even though a couple would be in a period of engagement, it does not automatically mean that they are getting married. Sometimes the engagement gets broken off to enable one or both parties to address crucial areas that could seriously hinder his or her ability to enter into marriage freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully. The same goes for the process of entering Religious Life or Lay Consecrated Life. This time of discernment was certainly a period of discovering myself and finally start healing on every level possible.

There were other moments that occurred after that winter of drastic challenges. I changed my appearance several times over, much to the alarm of my family and some folk in the community:

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I was never really one for wearing colors, but here I was coloring my hair in odd shades I would have never done before. Granted, it was definitely eye catching and somehow an expression of the bewildering journey of figuring out what was wrong with my head. Another thing I did not expect was a change in how I view myself. From the moment I had my hair in a blue-purple ombre, I started seeing the beauty in my appearance. It sounds completely mental, but I never saw myself as being physically beautiful. It took this drastic change in appearance to acknowledge a spark of beauty I had never seen before. I also realized that it really didn’t matter what anyone else thought about my funny hair colors. Somehow, I needed to express myself in this way and embrace the ups and downs of my interior world. I often referred to my hair color as #ReflectingTheMadnessWithin. When I switched to a fuschia ombre, I changed the tag to #ReflectingTheFireWithin. It was virtually impossible to be sad when I’d wake up and see this bright color on my pillow in the morning. Somehow, it kept me hopeful.

During the summer, I took up Youth Ministry on top of my regular duties as a Coordinator of Youth Faith Formation for Kindergarten through 8th grade. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Youth Ministry until this opportunity came up. The workload has increased significantly, but I am so happy to be able to tap into my YM skill set. I also touched bases with people I have not seen in a long while: family, friends and colleagues. I cherished every single encounter in my heart and felt the love of the Lord through the Body of Christ.

By the fall, I finally started addressing the need to live a simple life and found inspiration through a dear friend, who had taken up the challenge from a post I put up on my FB page. She picked up the book,”the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo. I highly recommend this as a tool to help simplify your life, only if you’re ready to make such a change. It’s also the same concept as going to therapy. It only works if you are ready to face yourself and your stuff. If you don’t want to work, don’t waste your time or money in this manner.

However, you gotta know that it’s worth doing the work. Seriously.

After I simplified my belongings, I started simplifying my eating habits. I returned to eating as a nutritarian which is a primarily a plant based diet as outlined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live.” I’d done this before, but now I was living in a household where at least one of my roommates wanted to do this, too. The results are ASTOUNDING. I physically started dropping the weight and inches around my body. I was sleeping better and found more energy. I stepped up the food changes by fasting from sugar first, mostly as a sacrifice for the sake of a special intention. It totally helped and prepared me for a successful change in eating habits. I managed to drop weight during the holiday season, which was an incredible feat according to my regular doctor.

I renewed my commitment to discern in September 2015. So many things have changed for me and I could see the difference: financially, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The healing on each of these levels has shown fruit I had not expected, but this time, I was ready to accept these wholeheartedly. These past six months have been a time of refining the changes and I now know I am ready to enter into the first year of commitment of Consecrated Life. I mistakenly stated I was entering Consecrated Life last February, not knowing the exact implications of making such promises; however, I truly believe that my heart desired to make such a commitment, even though the rest of me was not ready yet. My resolve was tested these past 18 months and I find myself grounded and clearly pursuing this beautiful Vocation. I cannot say for sure what I expect in this first year of commitment, but I am ready for whatever may come. I am His Little Bride and His Musician and Jesus is my Divine Lover, Inspiration and my reason to live.

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Happy feast of the Presentation of the Lord and World Day of Consecrated Life! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. St. Joseph, pray for us. All the Angels and Saints, pray for us.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam,

Vanida

The Harp of My Spirit

February 17, 2015

Judith had received this gift of the Holy Spirit, rearranging the words of a poem by St. Ephrem called by the same title and set a melody to it. I was able to arrange accompaniment on guitar and ended up singing this as my proclamation of my first year of discernment as a Consecrated on Sunday, February 15, which is also my 11th anniversary as a member of City of the Lord. I am so blessed to receive and carry on this beautiful gift. Please let the music run through your heart as you listen to it. The only way I can describe it: ever ancient, ever new.

Hidden in Plain Sight

February 2, 2015

Today is the Church celebrates the Presentation of the Lord, when the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph presented Jesus in the temple to God. It is also the World Day for Consecrated Life. It has been a long 12 years from my State in Life discernment to this day and I am thirteen days away from making my first year promises of Consecrated Life.

This Vocation is being celebrated by the Catholic Church this year in a special way. Many who wear the habit are celebrating in big ways, sharing a window into their lives in community, their apostolates as well as inviting those who are called to “come and see”. It is an exciting time to answer this particular call. There are also others in the world who answer this call in not so apparent ways, which I like to refer to as “hidden in plain sight”.

My beautiful community, City of the Lord, is a charismatic Catholic covenant community with branches in Tempe, AZ; Monterey Bay, Los Angeles and San Diego, CA. I have been a covenant member for 11 years as of February 15, 2015. We are one of 12 founding Catholic charismatic communities under the Magisterium and have been granted juridical personality in the last few years. It has been a blessing being a part of this beautiful community and they have given me so much by way of formation, support and love ever since I encountered them in 2000. I have learned a lot about myself and have received a ton of healing not only through City of the Lord, but through various Catholic communities here in San Diego, including the Goretti Group, Young Adult ministries throughout the Diocese of San Diego and my close knit of BICs and SICs (Brothers and Sisters in Christ). My family has definitely stepped up in big ways to help me heal and grow into the person I have become these many years, being the foundation of who I am.

My Vocation was revealed last year and I wrote a whole other blog post on it, so I won’t go into massive details in this post. Since that time, I have definitely received a lot of grace to endure the particular hardships that came up, especially from August-December 2014. For those who walked closely with me during those trying weeks, I am incredibly grateful for you and pray for each of you to receive an abundant amount of grace for your kindness to me. I cannot begin to address how thankful I really am.

So, I’m less than two weeks away from making my first year promises which are Simplicity, Chastity and Obedience. Since I have been a part of City of the Lord, I have had a lot of practice in each of these promises, but Simplicity is one that is relatively “new” to me. That takes discernment and discipline to be able to live with “just enough”, but I’m sure I’ll write about that later!

In the meantime, I humbly invite others to join me by heart in praying a Novena via the Blessed Mother as the final days of preparation are upon me. This is the invitation I sent out to my family, friends and community via Facebook, and I would like to extend the invitation to my readers and all who stumble across my blog. A Novena is praying for 9 consecutive days for a single intention (or a group of intentions). Mine is pretty general in regards to which Marian prayer you choose, but the point is to ask our Blessed Mother to pray for not only me, but all those who are called to Consecrated Life. She is an awesome intercessor and has been my constant companion in bringing me closer to Jesus. I cannot imagine making this step without her help, so if you are called to do so, please pray with me. May each of you be blessed many times over for your kindness and generosity of prayer. AMDG!

My dear family, friends and community,

13 days from now I will be making my first year promises of Consecrated Life with City of the Lord in Tempe, AZ. In preparation for this day and the Vocation to live out, I am praying a Novena via the Blessed Mother and would be honored if you could join me in prayer: not only for me but for ALL who are called to this beautiful life hidden in plain sight.

We begin on First Friday, February 6 and end on Saturday, February 14. You may choose any of the following Marian prayers:

one Hail Mary
the Memorare
the Express Novena (the Memorare 9 times in a row)
the Rosary

My small litany of Saints is as follows:

St. Joseph, pray for us.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us.

St. Gregory the Great, pray for us.

St. John Paul the Great, pray for us.

(add your favorite Saints at your discretion).

If you have any questions on how to pray the Memorare or the Rosary, please let me know. May each of you be blessed for your kindness to me and in celebrating alongside me by heart.

ad maiorem Dei gloriam!

2014 in review

January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Many thanks to WordPress.com for the following stat report. I cannot believe I started this blog four years ago, inspired by a dear Englishman BIC and friend, David. His blog is pretty amazing. If you haven’t checked out Restless Pilgrim, you should.

2014 definitely brought on some major changes in my life and I finally feel like I can surface and catch a breath. I found the Love of my life, I found the man of my dreams, I found a courage I never thought I was capable of and I realize it was all in preparation for what’s in store for 2015.

I have a few major goals for this year along with at least one milestone ahead of me. The main thing is, I am striving to reclaim my whole personhood: body, mind and spirit. Along with that, I am striving to be a better steward of the gifts I have: talents, skills and finances. I am also going to step away from things that do not support these particular goals and I realize half the battle is interior. For years, I have struggled with my self worth and after all this time, I realize my mom was right: no one can stand up for you but you. It feels selfish. I think it is because I had a slightly altered point of view growing up and now that I have accepted it, I am ready to use my altered perception to make the best version of myself. I cannot easily undo the past, nor am I meant to. In my prayer life, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that the Lord chose my specific parents to make up the basic DNA of me: my genetics, cultural background, education and thought patterns. What neither of them could count upon, and what I cannot begin to fathom, is my God-given soul. This contribution makes all the difference in the world.

I have drawn the conclusion that while God did not intend for me to experience pain or suffering, He gave me the grace to get through it. He has taken my brokenness and the inheritance I have received and made me something unique and beautiful. It has taken me years to finally embrace it, but I have.

Here’s to a year full of adventure, grace, peace and joy. May you receive what you need when you need it and just enough to pass on the goodness. You are LOVED!

AMDG & GERONIMO!

Vanida J.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Going Out on Limb

November 13, 2014

The following is a post that I put up on my personal FB page. As I was writing it out, I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to share it on other platforms I have access to. I don’t normally advertise what I do, but I realize that not everyone knows how blessed I am as a musician, so I’m sharing this part of my world with you.

Cheers!

V.J.

Original Post: I’m pretty blessed to be a musician and have opportunities to share this gift with many others. As I continue to write and play more often, I am inspired by fellow artists and hope that I encourage each one to pursue their gifts and talents to bring beauty into this world.

So, that in mind, if you don’t already know, I have a music page. If you support the work I am blessed to do, please pray for me! Prayers are always appreciated. If you want to go a little further, check out my music page here & give it a “like”.

https://www.facebook.com/VJBrionMusic

I post original songs as well as others that touch my heart on this page as well as on my YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCal-ZiyQ5HJ_5vO7nKMSDDw

I also am blessed to work with an amazing band called Emmaus Blvd. You may have seen posts from us on my personal FB page. We’re on our way to San Antonio, TX to share the gift of music with thousands of youth ministers from all over the country. It’s not a paid gig, but it’s an awesome opportunity to share what the Lord has given us. Above all things, we request your prayers for this trip. We wouldn’t be doing this without them!

Please check out our campaign and support us in prayer. If you’re feeling called to do so, any financial support you can give is totally appreciated. No amount is too small and we pray for our patrons every time we rehearse, which is more often these days in preparation for every event!

http://www.gofundme.com/cnv5zs

Many thanks to each person who has ever encouraged me to share this gift of music with others. To those who have challenged me to hone my skills and get better, thank you for pushing me forward, especially when I balked at the chance to grow. For those whom I have been blessed to meet in person as a speaker and musician, our encounters have helped to shape me into the artist I am becoming. Thank you for spending time with me in prayer and song. May each of you be super blessed.

As for the rest who stumble across my blog or Twitter or FB music page, I hope to meet you someday in person and that we get to make a joyful noise together. I’m a big fan of high fives, warm hugs, good company and awesome music. Can’t wait to meet you in person on the road out there.

AMDG,

V.J.