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Counseling for the Soul; The Adoration Chapel

Over the past 18 months I have seen Cardiologists, Neurologists, Rheumatologists, Urologists and the list goes on. They still haven’t figured out what is going on inside this body of mine. They agree that something is definitely going on, but at this moment in time it hasn’t been pin pointed. It’s frustrating to say the least and I’m getting to a point now that it’s affecting my mental health. I’m absolutely rubbish at opening up and talking about my feelings. Even to those who are close to me, I shut down and close myself off. People ask me how I am and my answer is usually “yeah I’m ok” or “yeah I’m feeling better thanks” – I’m nearly always lying. I know it’s not healthy and it’s definitely something I need to work on. Starting from now!

Today I went to see my favourite doctor. The doctor of my soul – Jesus himself. Every Thursday from 4-5pm I go to the Adoration Chapel and spend a beautiful hour with him. I went in today after having a slight breakdown yesterday, I didn’t know how the hour was going to go as to be quite honest I was an emotional mess. I knelt before him and asked him what I always do when I first arrive. “Jesus, please let me feel your love”. It was like an instant hit… he plugged his heart straight into mine. For that hour he took all my pain away. I usually wouldn’t be able to kneel down for longer than 5 minutes as it hurts my hips, knees and back but today I couldn’t not kneel. It felt like he was hugging me from behind and holding me close. I was wrapped up in his love.

He is the one who told me to write this post and even gave me the title. I guess writing my feelings down gets it off my chest and ultimately makes me feel better. Another thing which soothes my soul is drawing. It helps me completely disconnect from the world and forget everything. Unfortunately, sometimes I physically can’t draw because of the pain in my hands or the tremors I get some days. That’s why when I can and I’m feeling inspired, I draw. Here’s a drawing I wanted to share that I did a few weeks ago. It’s still a working progress but it’s an image that kept coming to me when I was at the Adoration Chapel. He’s currently stuck up on my dining room wall. I think that’s where I’m going to keep him because when things get a bit too much for me I go over to him touch his face, place my hand on his heart, say a little prayer and carry on with my day.

Jesus understands the human soul better than anyone – He is Our Wonderful Counselor and I know that he is going to help me get through this.

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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.

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.

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.

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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.