Monday the midst of my bad day.

The past month has been a difficult one for me. Even blogging took backseat in my life as I had to deal with unexpected hardships and heartaches. I've always thought of myself as a strong person, someone who can get through anything by herself. I still believe that, but I've learned a few things along the way.

To put it simply, things just weren't going right. I changed my college major during my last year of school - I just wasn't sure what I wanted to do anymore (which was hard considering the constant nagging of certain parents). My job was getting more and more busy, leaving little time to spend with anyone. I learned that I didn't know how to manage my money very well. And then, last but not least, a relationship I was very happy in suddenly ended.

It was just not my time. In my sadness, I started to shut people out - the people who loved me enough to care to ask. I thought I could deal with it on my own. But in the end I realized that it's not that I couldn't but that I shouldn't.

My friends listened endlessly, and my family showed their support any way they could (even just by constantly calling even when I wouldn't pick up).

Their love reminded me of the love that God has for us. Even when I haven't talked to Him in forever, or when I pushed Him away - He's always there. Just waiting to listen, waiting to help, waiting to love.

Just when I thought I couldn't handle my struggles on my own, I realized that I didn't have to. Because God is always with me.

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in ParishWorld, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


... as I gave my 13-year-old daughter a tight birthday hug

Today is my daughter's birthday. She turns 13. She's a teenager! My baby is a teenager!

She and I have a party planned for this Saturday. She has invited all her friends. And this party will be complete with a giant inflatable bouncer, all her favorite food, cakes, drinks and all the trimmings.

But that's two days away. Today is the day when thirteen years ago - at the hospital's delivery room - I held her for the first time in my hands and told her how much I loved her.

As soon as I woke up this morning, I crept downstairs and secretly tucked the birthday card I had so carefully chosen yesterday for her. I had also written on the card my own personal message to her. I told her in my note that Daddy will always be around to help her with any challenges she may experience in life now that she has entered her teen years. I also told her that I will always love her.

I think she saw me place the card in her backpack. And she probably pretended not to see me, so as not to spoil the fun.

Then I hugged her and greeted her a very happy birthday.

She smiled and hugged me back. A very tight hug. A very loving hug.

No words were spoken. But I could feel the love.

God was with us at that very moment.

Happy Birthday, baby. I love you.

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in ParishWorld, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


... in the young hands working at the soup kitchen in Aberdeen, WA

Becoming the Eyes, Hands, Feet, Heart and Voice of Jesus
A Young Adolescent Adventure in Christian Service
By Jocelyn Arida

The goal of the one week retreat seemed nice - to become the eyes, hands, feet, heart and voice of Jesus. We were all up to the challenge - and it seemed fun. But we never imagined it would became a life changing experience.

The Junior High youth from the Holy Family Parish in Auburn, WA - and the parish staff and the adult volounteers who accompanied them - all felt as if they were touched by God during this one week journey to the the town of Aberdeen, WA from July 30 to August 4, 2006.

Our mission was to help the poor people of Aberdeen, WA. Our group was to run the local soup kitchen for the entire week. We were to interact closely with the poor of the city - complete strangers who lived in a city that was very foreign to us.

Our faith journey started with a send off from our parish - led by our parish priest - right after Sunday Mass. Eight additional youths from two other parishes joined us in this one-week program of the Office of Youth and Young Adults Ministry of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

As we entered the city that we were about to explore, we were greeted by a city sign that read “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are.” No pretensions and yet quite welcoming.

Aberdeen, WA is not an affluent city. Many downtown buildings housed businesses that have shut down. Most of the residential houses were run down, many needed major makeovers. There was a sprinkling of adorable homes around, but it wasn't unusual to find a house in total
disrepair next to a nice one. This was clearly a low-income community where many underprivileged people lived.


During this one-week mission program, we were challenged to look at these poor people and "see" them with God’s Eyes. We did. And everything began to appear to us in a different
light. We began to see everything with love and compassion for the poor and their plight. Slowly, we learned to look beyond the stench and their dirty appearances. These were God's people.

We sat down and shared meals with them, the very same meals we had prepared. We got to know their individual personal life stories. It started to dawn on us that our acts of kindness were restoring some of the dignity these people had lost a long time ago. All it took in most
cases was a simple hello and warm smiles on our faces.

As soon as we started working, we noticed a change in the look on the faces of the people we were helping. The more profound change, however, was happening in the hearts of our youth. They readily stepped out of their comfort zones to lend a helping hand. They made friends with total strangers, people so destitute they wouldn't otherwise even merit a glance if they ran across each other in their home town.


We were told to walk in God’s Feet too. Every morning, we hiked for about 15 to 20 minutes just to get to the soup kitchen site where we were to cook and serve food. In the beginning, it seemed like a long trek. But when you do it with a desire to work for God’s people, one forgets the distance and time goes by fast while walking.

It is tiring to walk to work and stand on your feet the whole day, cooking and preparing food. After serving meals, we would socialize with people and then clean the kitchen afterwards - all on our feet. By the afternoon, our legs and feet would be so sore. And then we had to make the trek back to the church that was housing us.

Amazingly, as tired as we were, we walked back every day with smiles on our faces and a tremendous feeling of happiness in our hearts. God’s Feet definitely took us to where we were
much needed. And God's Heart was filling up with the love our young people have been giving out.


At the soup kitchen, God’s Hands were at work. He was working through these young people, many of who had never even prepared a single meal in their own homes. These are young
people who rarely washed dishes, nor mopped floors. But they ran that soup kitchen effectively for one week. They kept their young hands busy doing all the chores needed to accomplish our task.

We were told that our group was the first youth volunteers that had come over to run this soup kitchen. And our youth ran it well. Through our young people, Christ’s Hands happily prepared the food for the hungry and lovingly served it to them. We saw His hands through a handshake stretched out to a man who was a throat cancer survivor. We felt His Hands through a warm pat on someone’s back.


These less fortunate people we met are all special in the eyes of God. And they need love and caring from all of us.

As were about to leave, we were all reminded that we could be Christ’s Voice that spreads the word to the world about the great work that needs to be done to help the poor. We were to be a voice for the voiceless. We were to be a voice of hope and encouragement - even to those people who are drastically different from us.

God’s Heart is big enough for all of us to share to share with everyone - specially the needy.

It was truly wonderful to see how one week can make a difference in our lives. Our parish youth were fortunate to be a part of this wonderful experience. And it is the change we all felt stirring in our own hearts that is the best reward. God's Heart was more full when we left the soup kitchen for the last time.

Lord, send me out today to leave heartprints. And if someone should say "I felt your touch and care," May that person sense Your gracious love touching them through Me.
~ Author Unknown

(Jocelyn Arida works at the Youth Office of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Auburn, WA.)

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )

... in the fullness of the moon last night

We were just sitting out last night with my girlf friends on one of the nicest Southern California summer nights ever. And the moon was high in the evening sky, round and full and bright. Only God can make such a wonderful sight. Thank you, Lord for everything you have made that we take for granted.
-- Anna from Indio, CA

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )

... when my parent talked about reconciling

My parents who have been talking divorce told us this morning they are going to try to make things work for them and for me and my younger brother. I am so happy I cried tears of joy when I heard this. I pray that God will keep them together forever. God's hand surely had something to do with this because I know they've been reading this book by Bo Sanchez that was lent to them by one of their friends.
-- a 15 year old in Glendale, CA

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in ParishWorld, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


... when my son and I bonded

God was with me today. My 18-year-old son spent the whole day with me. We haven't been really close and our moments together have been far and in between and always awkward. But today, he and I had a great time together. We connected. What a wonderful feeling for a father to finally feel that the wide gap with his teen son was finally getting bridged. Thank you God for making the connection I have so longed for happen today.
-- Ben from Boulder, CO