Our Lady of Lourdes

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Last weekend I was meant to be in Seville competing in my first Olympic triathlon. Although I hadn’t been very well on and off for a while I was determined to try and train through it all and complete it! It was clear that someone had a different plan for me. After a couple of good training sessions two and a half weeks before the event I fell ill again and spent another 4 days in hospital. This time I felt that the training had something to do it with it. So naturally, I pulled out. For a while now my friend had been joking that she was going to take me to Lourdes and get my dunked into some holy water to heal me! In the lead up to all of this my friend and I had been receiving little messages from Our Amigo. Everything was pointing at us to go to Lourdes. The day before I was admitted to hospital I bumped into her parents who happened to have a planned pilgrimage trip with a group from Gibraltar the same weekend of the event, they told me that we should join them. After then being release from hospital the week later, it was clear that we needed to go to Lourdes. So just like that we signed up!

I arrived in Lourdes with an open heart ready to experience everything. I really didn’t expect to get so much out of it. The day usually started with a private mass in one of the little chapels. Although sometimes a little early, this was my favourite way to start the day.

When we arrived, what really caught my attention was the other pilgrims. Massive crowds surrounded the Grotto and just seeing so many people gathering at this sacred site, the hundreds of people queuing up at the baths, the thousands of people doing the processions, all the different spoken languages, it all made my heart pound stronger! I am amazed at the ways the Lord works to draw us, the children of God together. Lourdes allows one to truly see Jesus in the faces of all the people around them.

Our plan was to go to the baths three times. It turned out I only needed to go twice. The first time we went in we were really lucky not to get too much queue. We waited on the benches provided and we were into the changing rooms fairly quickly. At first I felt very nervous. I had no idea what to expect and it all felt a little intimidating. There were three women there to help me so I followed their instructions and said my petition to Our Lady. I then made the sign of the cross, they walked me down the bath, sat me down quickly and stood me back up again. The water was very cold and it absolutely took my breath away but I loved it. Before I knew it I was dry and popping my clothes on again and thinking about the next day to do it all again.

The next day we planned to go after lunch and when we arrived there was already a massive queue. We waited it out and even queuing up was a beautiful experience. There were different priests doing talks and prayers. There was music and singing. But the best part of the wait was watching people going in and out. Their faces were glowing when they came out, there were tears of sadness and happiness. All I could feel was an overwhelming feeling of faith and peace.

We were called in separately this time so I didn’t have the comfort of having my friend with me. I started feeling nervous again but was praying the rosary to try and calm down a bit – it worked. It was my turn to go in and I followed the instructions as before. This time though, after I had sat down in the bath I asked them if I could have some water poured on my head. The women poured some out of a jug into my hands so I could put directly onto my head. Then they asked me if I was sick. I’ve never been asked this question in this way before and I really struggled to say yes. I was admitting to complete strangers that I was sick. Something I would almost always lie about. It was hard. Once they knew that I wasn’t well it all changed in there. They bent me forward and started pouring the water all over my head whilst praying. They then stood me up and placed my hands on the statue of Mary at the end of the bath and carried on praying with me whilst embracing me. They gently turned me around and walked me back up the steps of the bath. That’s when one of the women put the cloak back on me, placed both her hands on my face kissed my forehead and made the sign of the cross. She kept her hands on my face, looked into my eyes and said in broken English “You’ll be OK”. It was a very emotional and powerful experience. Once we left the baths I knew that I didn’t need to go back the next day. Something happened in there that was so special I will never be able to describe it properly and I will never forget that moment. It will forever be an experience that will stay in my heart.

The rest of the day was a build up of emotions that were just waiting to burst out! I knew the second I had some quiet time it was all going to come out. That evening we went to the Grotto and prayed the rosary. This is where the tears started to flow… Every time I looked at Mary I would re-live the bath experience and see the women holding my face telling me I’ll be OK. Every time I would close my eyes I’d see the women again embracing me. Even now when I close my eyes I see her. I know this was a direct message from Our Lady, I can feel it in my heart.

On our last night, before the procession we headed down to the Grotto. I was still full of emotion from the day before but I felt a sense of peace that I had never felt before. I closed my eyes and felt my heart go to heaven. I handed it straight over to Jesus and Mary. My whole heart, body and soul is in their hands now. It is the most incredible feeling ever.

We experienced beautiful processions, private masses, international mass, confession, the baths, the stations of the cross, tours and many other things. But what I experienced the most was realising the love I have for Mary. The love and intimacy that I have now for our Blessed Mother is brand new.

I was also incredibly lucky to be able to share such an incredible experience with my best friend. Without her the trip wouldn’t have been the same. I am forever grateful for the day that the Lord decided it was time for us to cross paths and go on this journey together…Stuck at the hip!

I was sad to be leaving this beautiful place, but I know that the lessons I learnt in Lourdes will always be a part of me no matter where I am. People go to Lourdes for spiritual or physical healing. I was going for the experience and hopefully to feel a little better after it. I can certainly say that I have come back a different person and still feel like I’m floating on cloud 9!

I look forward to my future visit as I have no doubt that I will return one day. In the mean time, I can close my eyes and be back at the Grotto with Mary.

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My Jesus Today

Today I finally realised that it was time to write about being sick and trusting in God. It’s been on my mind for a while but hadn’t found the right moment to put it into words. Until this morning, after being admitted into hospital yesterday and spending a very long painful night alone. Well obviously I wasn’t alone alone as our Amigo was certainly watching over me but you know what I mean.

I’ve been a bit poorly on and off since October 2017. I’ve had periods of being fine, awful, okish and more recently I’ve been a lot better. In between that time I was also knocked off my moped by a car (luckily the bike and I were fine!).

During these testing times I could go in two directions:

1. Why God? Why me? Why now?
2. Thank you God so much for helping me!

I’ve found myself going in both directions. At first I found it really difficult and it was a lot easier to be angry with God than to praise and thank him. I was in pain, unhappy and felt very alone. And I really did ask him.. Why me? Why now? Please give me a break! I really struggled to believe that he had my back.

Then I started to take a different approach (this was around the time I was knocked off my bike). I could have easily been run over by a car in that accident. It was on a road that always has oncoming traffic and I was thrown off my bike and landed head first on the other side of that road. I came out with lots of bruises and a sore body for a couple of days. This was a miracle, my guardian angel must have caught me. I instantly felt closer to God since this accident and thanked him a lot for it.

Moving onto yesterday, I was admitted into hospital in the morning. I have a suspected gallbladder infection. It is the most pain I have ever felt in my life, to the point that I’d rather give birth again! So last night whilst I was trying to get comfy on these horrid hospital beds I started thinking about how much I had experienced Jesus during the course of the day. Here’s the run down:

He was there at 7:30am in the form of my parents coming to look after my children whilst my husband and I headed to the hospital.

He was there all day in the form of my loving, caring husband who was constantly fussing over me all day to make sure I was OK.

He was there in the form of my best friend who came to visit me the day before with a Mocha and a cuddle, again the next morning to see how I was and again in the afternoon to bring me soup.

He was there in the form of the caring nurses who were constantly keeping an eye on me and trying to make me feel better.

He was there in the form of the lovely Surgeon who came and sat next to me on the bed, held my hand and said don’t worry we’ll make you feel better.

He was there in the form of my mother-in-law who came to visit and brushed my hair for me.

He was there in the form of all the friends and family who have called or sent me messages over the last couple of days.

He was there. He is always there. We just need to open the eyes of our heart and see him. He is everywhere and one of my favourite things at the moment is experiencing those special moments, smiling and thinking – that’s him all over!

Some of my friends have recently asked me how I’m so laid back about everything whilst going through this rough health patch. And although I have had a few bad days where I most definitely have not been positive, as a general I’ve been OK about it all and that’s because I stand strong in my faith. I know that my God has got my back! We aren’t promised a life without struggles, we are promised a life with God… and this is definitely what I have and what I will never let go of.

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This was the view from my bed this morning. It might just look like three chairs. To me it looked like three chairs that The Father, Son and Holy Spirit sat in last night to watch over me.

My First Cursillo

Just over three years ago for the first time I heard the word “Cursillo”. I had no idea what it meant or what it was. I was at work and I asked my colleague what her plans were for the weekend. (Back then, she was just my colleague, now she is my sister!) She said she was going on a Cursillo – a retreat weekend. I asked her what it was. And she explained that it was a few days that she was going to spend together with her Gran Amigo, to disconnect from the world and to recharge her batteries! I was satisfied with her answer and I thought … what a joy that this woman has so much faith and love for God. It was lovely to hear it and to see it in her.

When she returned from her Cursillo … I certainly saw the difference, she did not lie to me when she said she was going to recharge her batteries … you could see it in her face; the joy; the peace and the love. This is something that stayed with me.

My world was turned the right way around almost two years ago when one night I started to pray. I opened up my heart and have never let go of Our Amigo since that moment. I knew that at some point I would love to do a Cursillo. Unfortunately, due to circumstances I missed two. Then, this one came up. Not only was I available to do it and my husband have the time off to watch the kids, but it came at the most perfect time for me. I needed to recharge my batteries.

As I well know, perfect timing is hit and miss at the moment and the run up to the weekend came with a few obstacles! Firstly, my husband hurt his knee playing rugby and was on crutches for a few weeks. Luckily, by the time the weekend came about he was a lot better. Then, my much-awaited appointment for a lumbar puncture came through – two days before! Thank God I have so many wonderful people around me that I was able to lie down for a solid 48 hours to avoid any headache or other side effect of the procedure and I was feeling more or less ok on the day of the Cursillo!

I had no idea what to expect from the weekend. I didn’t really know what was going to happen or who was going. And to top it off I wasn’t feeling a 100%. So I wasn’t only really excited but also pretty nervous! One thing I did know was that I had my heart wide-open ready to experience everything and I couldn’t wait.

The weekend was jam packed and very intense with early mornings and late nights. During the day, we had several talks given to us by the leaders and priests. We had group discussions and moments of reflection. Meditation, Mass, Adoration and lots more. I don’t want to go into too much detail because if someone reading this is thinking about doing a Cursillo weekend I really wouldn’t want to ruin all the beautiful moments that one encounters. Plus, my experience would be completely different to another person’s. It is unique to each individual.

Although we were essentially busy the entire time we were there, there was something about just being away from the real world, no work, no home, no stress and just stopping. Having space. Space to be with God, space to process, to think, to reflect. Space for the thoughts that had been at the back of my mind to come, perhaps unwelcomed, to the fore.

One of these thoughts that kept coming to me turned out to be my break through moment. It came after I had been to confession. It had only been a couple of months since my last confession but I knew that I really needed to go and get something off my chest. At the time, I was really struggling with feeling constantly unwell and I was trying not to head down the “Why God?” route. I was holding back and not giving him my everything because I was in pain, confused and upset. Turns out this is a very unhealthy route to take and ultimately I wasn’t getting anywhere. Once I opened up at confession about all those feelings I was harbouring up I felt warm inside again. I know that no matter what I am never alone and Jesus is with me every single step of the way. I may not know why things are playing out the way they are but I don’t need to. As long as I’m walking this journey hand in hand with our greatest treasure I will be ok. It is all a learning curve and I am learning to trust fully in Jesus at all times.

God showed me that he will always provide for my needs when I turn to him. He used all of the lovely leaders, priests, the women that took part and all of the people behind the scenes that helped to make the Cursillo possible as his instruments to show me how much he cares.

One of my favourite parts for me was seeing the leaders together before talks, the love that these women have for each other and God and how they wanted us so badly to feel the same was truly beautiful. I met a wonderful group of women whom I’m now proud to call my friends, my sisters. With their support and the guidance of our beautiful leaders, I know that I will be able to live this life with God as my centre.

I learned a lot about myself on the Cursillo weekend. My life is more peaceful, Jesus is more real. Scripture with Jesus is more alive. All I can do is hope and pray that my life, words and actions in some way reflect the love I know I have received.

If I had to sum up my Cursillo experience, I would say that without doubt The Cursillo has helped me to fall more deeply in love with God and with life. It was an experience that will forever stay in my heart and I am truely blessed and grateful that I was able to live it.

Psalm 63
O God you are my God.
Earnestly I seek you.
My soul thirsts for you…
My body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me.

My Hope

Father,

When I’m lost in the darkness you’re my Light.

When I’m tired and in pain you’re my Strength.

When the days and nights feel lonely you’re my Friend.

When I need a cuddle you send one of your Angels.

When I need guidance you’re my Abba.

When I start losing hope you give me Faith.

You’re my Savior, My Love, My Hope.

Walking With Jesus

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Yesterday I went for a walk with Jesus. It was a magical moment that filled my heart with Love and Joy.

I am lucky enough to live in southern Spain where I get to enjoy the beauty of both Spain and Gibraltar. For those of you that have never heard of Gibraltar it is located at the southern end of the Iberian peninsular. From the top of Rock, you can enjoy some spectacular views. Around the back of the Rock there is a challenging trail called the Mediterranean Steps.

Usually about once a week I try and tackle the “Med Steps” with my best friend. It’s hard work, but I love a challenge and since I’ve been feeling a lot better (since my bad patch and being knocked off my moped last week) I wanted to make the most of being alive and breath some serious fresh air in ! Plus, it’s a a beautiful way to spend some special time with both my bestie and Our Amigo.

As we got started my arm starting throbbing. It had been sore for a few days now but this pain was more intense. Initially, I tried to ignore it. Obviously that didn’t work. So I then started praying to our Amigo. I was at the back taking in the breathtaking sites and trying not to trip on the rocks when I realised that I was no longer praying to him but talking with him. That he was literally walking by my side and helping me cope with the pain.

I went through a few different emotions at the time. Firstly, was this really him? Could I actually feel Jesus walking by my side? Or was I just imagining it? Was I merely just comforting myself at the thought that through the pain I wasn’t alone? The more I doubted, the stronger the feeling was.

It’s difficult to put into words what I felt yesterday. I can’t put it into a sentance so here are the words that come to mind:

Love

Light

Joy

As if this moment was enough I was also blessed with an incredible dream last night. I started to write this post yesterday but was really struggling on how to get it all down. Afterall, I am in no way a writer! So, I went to bed and asked our Amigo for a little help and guidance.

I didn’t actually think that he was going to answer my prayer straight away! I woke up and initially didn’t remember the dream. Then I was on the way to Mass and it came to me. I was sitting at my dining room table on my laptop working on this post. But I wasn’t alone. Our Father was with me. Literally sat next to me with his arm around me and encouraging me to write it all down. Not to miss out any details and to share it all. He was a loving Father helping his child with her homework. I was overcome with emotion when I remembered it all. I still get teary when I remember the feeling of leaning on him. That pure feeling of perfect Love. When I get a chance, I will try and sketch it!

Lord I want to walk with you, talk to you, listen to you and feel you in my heart every moment of every day. I want to be your friend your confident. Teach me Father, just like you did in my dream.

Another Angel

Yesterday our beloved Tita Victoria passed away. She had been poorly for a long time now and had been suffering but at the same time she still had a lot of life left in her.

Today at her funeral, you could see how much love everyone had for her. The youngest sibling out of 9, needless to say there was a lot of family there. The mass was really emotional but at the same time beautiful. At the end, the priest asked us all to pray for her to make her way into the Kingdom of Heaven to be with our Father and live forever in peace.

So I knew that today at adoration this was one of the things I was going to talk to you about.

A wonderful and very clear image came to me of you embracing her and then my abuela holding her younger sister so tightly. Everyone was so happy. No-one was sick or sad. The image was so clear I’d say it was like a vivid dream.

Thank you for sharing that little glimpse of heaven to me.

On the drive home I had this song stuck in my head….

There will be another angel
Around the throne tonight
Your love lives on inside of me,
And I will hold on tight
It’s not my place to question,
Only God knows why
I’m just jealous of the angels
Around the throne tonight
Singin’ hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
I’m just jealous of the angels
Around the throne tonight

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Our Hearts Beating as One

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I’ve had a great few days feeling not only happy but also healthy. It’s made a lovely change since the bad run! I know I have you to be thankful for this. Yesterday was a pretty standard day at work, following by a few nice hours at home, a trip to the cinema with my sister and then something wonderful happened.

After the film I was eager to read your word at bedtime. I lay down peacefully and got stuck into the book of John. As I was replying to a message I rested my bible on my chest and placed my hand on top of it. I felt my heart racing im my chest and much to my amazement I could feel my heart beating through the actual bible! The feeling was so amazing I struggle to describe it. It was if our hearts were beating as one.

I knew it was you, there was no doubt about it. I moved it off my chest and place my hand on my heart and I couldn’t feel the same pounding as before. I placed the bible back and there you were again. I welled up knowing you were there in my heart with me.

Whenever we read the Bible, something miraculous happens. You are directly speaking to us. Well last night not only did you just speak to me but I physically felt you. It was magical, emotional and the most wonderful feeling I have ever felt.

The reading that stood out on that page…

John 4:13

Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

Light vs Dark

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I was debating whether to write this down or not as it was both a beautiful dream and at the same time one of the worst nightmares I have ever had. I’ve decided that the beautiful part outweighs the dark part so here goes…

Saturday night, my bedtime routine was the same as always. I read the nighttime prayers followed by a nice read of the bible. I was very relaxed and sleepy and subsequently I fell asleep talking to you. (This is definitely my favourite way to go to sleep!)

It felt like I went straight into the dream and the conversation I was having with you just kind of merged into one. The setting was a beautifully lit room, it felt really warm. My best friend was there too and we were praying together. I remember seeing our bibles laid out. We were here for quite a while, in this special place which was very peaceful. I looked over to the right of me and could see a shining light, it was radiating upwards. It was mesmerising and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was an angel watching over us. As it drew closer to us something terrifying appeared. From underneath a dark shadow appeared and headed towards me at speed. The room went pitch black and I was all alone. It went straight into my mouth and that was when I woke up gasping for air.

I’m not sure what this dream means exactly, but it certainly makes me want to get closer to you each day. To be in conversation with you as much as possible and to fully open up my heart to you.

The Day I Realised You Were Truly There

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Today has been a day of realisation. What started off as a good day, which are few and far beyond at the moment, quickly turned into a bad day – you know the type, the dark ones.

I’ve realised that as much as I don’t want it to be real, my body is changing. A few good days made me think that maybe it had all gone away, that maybe it was just a ‘bad patch’, a bad dream and I was hoping and praying to you that this was true. The fact is, it isn’t true. Those good days have made me remember what it was like to not feel pain, to not feel fear and the horrid uncertainty that lies around all of this.

It certainly came down hard on me and it made me feel so angry. Angry with my body – for not doing as it should do. Angry with you – for making me go through this. I feel like I’m mourning my old self and at the same time need to learn how to be this new person. I don’t like this new person, she’s weak and vulnerable. I need to be stronger, to be able to look after my family without fear that something will happen to me.
All these feelings had been building up throughout the day and I knew the second I sat down at the chapel I was going to lay it all on you. And that’s exactly what I did. I couldn’t hold back the tears, the blame, the guilt, the sadness and desperation.

And what did you do? The moment I thought that I couldn’t do this anymore. That it wasn’t helping me sitting there crying to you and that I should just head home; You literally came to me and held me. I felt paralysed in your presence. I couldn’t move, all I could think of was that you were there with me and that I couldn’t leave just yet, we had unfinished business. I still had anger in my heart which I had to let go. Feeling you there with me I knew straight away that I wasn’t alone on this journey, that you are suffering with me, that you are carrying me when I feel like I can’t go on and that you will give me all the strength I need to get through this.

Today I realised that you were truly there. Thank you for giving me the extra help I needed to see the light when I was lost in the darkness.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

8/3/2018

Where my Journey Began

I was born in London to an English father and Spanish mother. Raised in the UK and have now been living in Spain for 10 years. I was Baptised, did my Holy Communion and my Confirmation. I attended Catholic schools and have always considered myself a Christian. But what did that really mean to me? Did I believe in God? Of course I did! Did I ever pray? No not really. Did I ever go to Church? Only for Christenings, Weddings and Funerals.

Then everything changed for me one day last year. I’ve been happily married for 5 years and lucky enough to be Mummy of two beautiful children. After a long exhausting day at work followed by the chaos at home I was putting my little boy to bed. Laying next to him with my hand on his heart, he was already fast asleep. Out of nowhere I started to pray. I thanked God for giving us such a wonderful blessing and asked him to always watch over him and keep him safe. Suddenly he woke up and said ‘Mummy, you’re the best Mummy in the world and I love you so much!’ and then passed out again. I felt something in my heart that I had never felt before – like it was about to explode. It was such an intense feeling I was completely overcome with emotion. This was the moment I opened the door and let God into my heart. From that moment on it all escalated very quickly. The more I prayed, the more I felt that amazing feeling of love and peace. I was hooked! For the last year, I’ve been trying to take everything in. I go to mass every Sunday and read a lot to keep learning.

I recently felt a tug at my heart to start writing about all the wonderful experiences I was having. At first it was just for me, so that I would never forget the special moments (I have a terrible memory). But then I realised that he wants me to share my faith and stories. So I’m going to go completely out of my comfort zone and go for it.

If by sharing my stories and experiences I can inspire or help just one person then I am happy with that. So if you come across this blog and are feeling lost, lonely or just need someone to talk to then please drop me an email.

Much Love

Stephanie X