Believe in YOU, Be YOU!

It’s close to Thanksgiving (already?!?!?!) but I will not bore you with yet another post about my new family and how thankful I am that they all have entered my life—-you’ve heard that enough times.  No, this Thanksgiving I’m going to do a bit of a different post—-more inspiring and motivational than thankful.

These past few years I’ve learned a lot about myself.  I honestly think being unleashed from the toxic chains of my mother, and being away from the toxic family members on her side of the family allowed me to break through….allowed me to truly dig deep and find out who I am and what I want…..without so called aunts and uncles hounding me to find a man and get married, to have children, or to insult me because I do not have a five figure salary dream like other cousins in my family did and achieved.  They never accepted me for who I was, nor took the time to find out who I was, truly.  And because of that—I felt I couldn’t be who I was.  I had to live up to their dreams, because I obviously didn’t even know how to dream correctly in their eyes.  For the longest time I tried to fit into their box.  But now—-I fit into my own box.  I follow MY heart, I follow MY calling.  They are no longer in my life to stop me.

But even if they were, I’d like to think I would still have taken this journey, which I am very thankful for.  This journey that has taught me so much about myself—that I’ve lived up to what I believed was the truth about me, when actually it was a lie.  I am taking my life back—-mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Things will change—-and why am I writing about this?   Because I want to take YOU with me.  What have you been dying inside to do?  Lose 50 pounds?  Break free from a bad relationship?  Take a step on the wild side and find a new career?  No matter what it is—–the only thing stopping you…..is……YOU.  No matter what that deep desire is……you can achieve it.

Losing weight (Im in that category too!)—-not an easy task, but doable if you put your mind to it and go slowly.  Start off by just portioning meals, or adding 10 minutes of walking to your daily routine.  Sign up for run/walks—no pressure to walk fast, but you still get 3.1 miles in, and it usually goes to a good cause (Like the Manchester Fire Department 5k run/walk on May 30th…..just a little PSA!)

Dig deep inside.  What are you going to work on as we approach a new Advent, and a new year 2019?  Will you take the year long challenge to work on that one area of your life?  Perhaps you’ve struggled with weight loss and can’t seem to keep it off—–could it be because you truly don’t believe you can do it?  Perhaps you’ve been wrapped in emotional chains for many years, as I was, and could never get them off—-the opinions of others, and of family held you back from being who you are.  So you locked yourself inside.  Make this the year you let YOU come out!  Perhaps you feel empty inside despite having everything in the world—-perhaps your spiritual life is calling you.  And you don’t know how to take that step towards a relationship with whatever you believe is out there.  Take the same approach—-start slow, and find something that works for you.

Each one of us has a dream that is hidden deep inside—-we are not doing ourselves an injustice by keeping it locked up—–but the world is at a great injustice.  For they are lacking your strength and your sparkle.  This year, as we approach advent, Christmas, and a brand new year—-will you keep yourself locked up another year?  Or are you going to take the challenge and BELIEVE IN AND BE……..YOU?

 

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Starting Over Again…

Yes, this is a song by Dolly Parton. And while the song speaks about a couple starting over after a divorce—-I (as usual) have a different concept of the song. It describes my life going forward.

The past 30 years of my life have been filled with difficult moments—-losing my father young, battling low self-esteem and growing up in an unloving family…on both sides (and that’s putting it nicely). Never believing I was good enough for anything. I gave up on my dreams to fit into someone else’s box. I fell in love with a man simply because my family wanted me to—-because, “there’s someone for everyone” and they didn’t believe that the answer was God. The gift I got from that relationship, is my precious baby girl Delanie, who sadly grew her wings too early. Before I said hello, I had to say goodbye. My mother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer….and although I told the family she would only pass when God said so, they thought otherwise, and in turn deleted me from their lives. No calls or texts from the aunts I felt closest to. No invitations to Christmas, or out to dinner with my mother. While I wasn’t surprised by these actions….they still hurt. It was a finality. But my angel of a grandmother, Bea, came to my rescue and introduced me to a family I NEVER expected to know—-the Gonthier’s. I first met Cathy, whom I’ve written about before. Then, slowly….. new cousins were found. Lisa. Sue. Denise. Aline. Nancy. Bernadette. Cherie. Each one special in their own way, but all part of my journey. We can laugh, but we can also be emotional and serious with each other. I am now part of a family that loves me and accepts me—regardless of if I choose to become a religious sister, or if I choose to marry Christ in my own heart. They don’t care if I’m not a nurse, or any other career with a fancy title and the included salary tag. They only care what makes my heart happy. And they SUPPORT what ever that is. I thought it would take a while to get used to—-but it hasn’t. I am the happiest I’ve been in a very long time. Cathy has added me to the family instantly, supporting me and guiding me just by being there. Through her, I’ve also added her sister Lynn, her niece Amy, and great-niece Olivia to my family. I laugh with Lisa and Sue, we joke that Sue will run me over whenever she sees me. Nancy and I share a deep bond, and Aline is also a very supportive cousin, despite living down in Florida. This is my family now—–I’ve hyphenated my name on facebook to include the Gonthier name. I’m looking into what it entails to do this legally, and intend to do so at some point. I have gotten rid of my step-grandmother’s photo, and no long associate myself as a Pepin. I will always leave the option for reconciliation, I would not be the niece of a La Salette priest if I didn’t. But THEY must be the ones to initiate. I have tried. I have texted, written E-mails, written letters….to no avail. Now, the ball lands with them.

I’m starting over—–I’m living MY life. Not the life of a nurse, or a funeral director (although compassion for the dying and those left behind is a gift I intend to use in my new journey) with a big mansion of a house and a jaguar…..but the life that God has intended for me to live. I start classes in January towards my BA in Theology at CDU (Catholic Distance University), in which I also plan to flex into their Master’s program. I plan to get a job as a chaplain, either locally or abroad. My ultimate dream is to buy an old convent or monastery and turn it into a retreat center for anyone who needs to come away and rest with Jesus.

I plan to get out more, and enjoy life, enjoy time with these precious cousins, and also the friends I’ve held near and dear to my heart through all of my pain. They know who they are.

It’s a new start for me….and I’m more than ready to start over.

Thank you for staying by me, and I look forward to the future with all of you in it.

—Amanda Huot-Gonthier

God Bless the Broken Road…

When we hear of this song title, our minds are automatically taken to a romantic wedding where the bride and groom are happily in love and dancing—-believing that their old breakups, and mishaps have led them to each other. It paints a perfect image, doesn’t it? But this song can mean other things as well. In my case, it’s the story of my life.

I’ve walked a very broken road—-been dealt a lot of “cards” that were not fun—-my dad passed when i was 16, I was part of a family that didn’t show love easily, in fact, they loved to knock me down—–hard. Both my dad and mom’s side were rude, disrespectful and verbally abusive. To the point of telling me I was a mistake that should’ve been taken care of (aborted). Telling me I was too ugly, or fat to ever find someone to love. And the most hurtful of all was that they never supported what I knew my heart was meant to do—Marry Christ. I’ve suffered the loss of a child, which most of them either did not believe I went through at all, or thought I needed to simply move on, because it wasn’t a fully developed, living, breathing, child——it didn’t deserve to be grieved and mourned. My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and once that happened—-shit really hit the fan. My sister, the greedy one that she is, thought that taking mother into her house would mean she’d inherit the remaining money. But when she realized I was not going to be a door mat, and I’d challenge some of her antics, she took matters into her own hands. By the grace of God, my mother is still alive and doing pretty well—-much to my sister’s disappointment (she thought she was going to die rather quickly).

But—-My road has come to the end of it’s break. This road has led to so many amazing doors—-I have found cousins I never knew I had, on my GRANDMOTHER’S side. Although we’re distant in generations——we are cousins still the same. how many times we’re removed, or whatever the proper genealogical terminology is, does not matter to them at all. Sue, Lisa, Denise, Aline, Cherie, Nancy—– finding you has truly been the blessing in my broken road. There’s also Cathy, the first Gonthier cousin I connected with. The start of the broken road being pieced back together again. And from my dad’s side, I found “A”. (She doesn’t want her name mentioned). She, too, has been instrumental to healing my broken road. My friendships have grown stronger, I have found a new family at work……and a new “real” family. All of these people support and encourage my vocation. They may not totally understand it, but they still tell me—-listen to your heart, you can now. Nobody will stop you this time. They’ve also encouraged me in other areas of my life— to believe in myself in other areas—-like my singing. Like reaching my dream degree in Theology. And the doors to all of these are OPENING.

I do not yet know which route of marriage I’m taking to marry Christ—–I’m discerning all options—-visiting convents, interacting with different religious orders. Also considering the lay route—-3rd orders, Secular institutes, and even simply saying “I am Christ’s.” Living in this world singly, and wholly for him. Devotedly to him.

My time is now. God has blessed my broken road abundantly……all of my heartaches, all of my pain, all of my tears over the broken family I was born into, the family that hated me, that never took the time to get to know the real me…..have led me to this. To NOW. To a large group of cousins that truly listen and respect me. That are there to laugh with, but also there to curl up and cry with when the dark hits. Every long lost dream, led me to here. And now these dreams are mine to capture.

I am thankful that all of you will be here to celebrate the new Amanda. That all of you will be able to see what comes next in my life—-because you believed in me. The future is just as much a part of you, as it is a part of me.

—Amanda

Seeds of Grace: A Reflection

Recently I fell upon a book with an interesting title “Seeds of Grace”.  It was written by a sister, who for the sake of the book and this blog, we will call Sister Molly.  Sister Molly is not only a religious sister—-she’s a religious sister who is also a friend of Bill’s.  Many of you will know this is the “lingo” for a member of A.A.  A recovering alcoholic.  And her book focuses on the 12 steps of A.A.  and not only how these steps helped her achieve sobriety, but also how she could find other ways to implement them in her life, outside of her disease.  Reading her book truly opened my eyes to how universal the 12 steps can be, and how they can not only help people in recovery from a variety of diseases, but also other, less thought of things we may be “addicted” to.

I will not list all 12 of the steps, they are easy to find online.  But I will highlight a few, using examples.  We all know the first one: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.  Take a look at your own life—-what word could you replace alcohol with?  What has power over your life right now?  Maybe it is something “common” like alcohol, heroin, gambling.  But what about something else…..maybe you’re am impulse buyer that always finds their way to Amazon?  Or maybe it’s something personal, like a wound that has swallowed you whole—-such as a rape, an abortion, or depression.  These less common but still powerful things can definitely grab hold of you, and possess you just as a substance would.  The first step to defeating any of this, is admitting you are powerless over it.

Let’s look at another step that gets everyone worried—–steps 8/9—in which the person makes a list of people who they need to make amends to, and then make amends to that person (unless doing so would harm themselves or others).  Again, using the more common problems of substance abuse and gambling—we know there can be a long list of people our actions have hurt.  But how can the power of a rape hurt someone else, you may ask?  What about the male friends and relatives you avoid because of your memory of your rape?  Or what about the tight budget your family lives on to sustain your secret amazon addiction???  Every problem you can think of no doubt has a list, regardless of how short, of people this problem has injured.  And making amends to those people can sometimes take courage.

Why don’t you try it with a problem in your own life—-look up the 12 steps, and try to work through them with this problem/addiction/wound in mind.  Even if you can’t bring yourself to do all 12 (they’re not always easy)—work with each one.   Turn it into a 12 week study.  Feel free to let me know how it’s working out for you!

I leave you with two favorite prayers from AA—-the 3rd and 7th step prayers, which I say together every morning.

3rd step prayer- God I offer myself to you, to build with me and do with me as you will.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will.  Take away my difficulties,  that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of your power, your love, and your way of life.  May I do your will Always!

7th step prayer– My creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad.  I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.  Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.  Amen.

 

God, Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference (please!).  Amen.

The Greatest Gram I never Knew

Today is a special day. My grandmother Beatrice’s 89th birthday. Unfortunately, she is not here to celebrate. In fact, I’ve never had the chance to celebrate any of her birthdays, or mine with her. For she died way too young. Just 23, my grandma Bea was gone. Her death so tragic, that family covered it by saying she had leukemia, so they wouldn’t have to talk about it over and over. In fact, she was having routine surgery when the knife slipped from the doctor’s hand, hitting her liver. She bled to death for 3 days, despite lines out of Notre Dame Hospital (now known as Catholic Medical Center) to donate blood to keep her alive.

Although I never knew her, I always sensed a connection between her and I. In fact, I stopped calling my step-grandmother “memere” (or how ever you spell it in French), and instead simply called her Regina. She, truthfully wasn’t my grandmother….this amazing young woman, Bea was. Nobody spoke of her, and when I dared to mention her name around family, they scolded me, saying that Regina was my grandmother. It was as if she was a horrible person hidden from sight. Even merely mentioning her name appeared to be a sin. When I found out when her birthday was, I always celebrated it. My sister would say “it’s not her birthday, she doesn’t count, it’s MY birthday.” Now, I can celebrate her without any conflict.

I thank you, my beautiful grandmother, for building a relationship within my heart between you and I. I’ll never know what the bonding link is, until my turn to meet you comes. BUT, in the meantime, you have given me a gift greater than I could ever imagine. I may not have known you, but now because of connecting me with my cousin, your niece, Cathy, I have a connection to a family I never knew. The Gonthier’s. A family made of love, who would have love and accepted me, regardless of my vocation. I even found a priest in the family, perhaps someone who has been a guiding force as I grew closer in my faith, and my own vocation. I look forward to the day I spend with my cousin, walking the grounds of the Shrine he served so faithfully until his death. I wish I had known him, too, but now I can learn about him through family photos. Words cannot express what a beautiful gift you have given me, in finding and connecting with Cathy. At a time when I so much desired a family, a family who loves me. Who accepts me. Something I never fully had—–is now mine. And how fitting that it happens for my 30th birthday. You may not have met me, but you still gave me a gift for my special birthday—-a gift I plan to keep in my life, and enjoy for as long as the Good Lord allows.

I miss you more than ever, and wish I had known who you were. What you were like growing up, to your young age of 23. What you looked like, what you enjoyed. People say I look like you, but other than your wedding photo, I’ll never truly know. I see similar facial features.

You are my grandmother, and always will be. I love you dearly. I always will. Until God unites us, for a reunion like no other. Please continue to guide me, and allow the relationship between me and Cathy grow.

I love you,

your granddaughter Amanda

To Have, To Hold: A Love Story

By now everybody, Catholic or not, has heard the terrible news hitting our church out of Pennsylvania.  It is a messy battle ground.  Priests, men of God who take vows to remain married to their church, their vocation—have done the unthinkable.  Abused innocent children.  It is sad, and devastating.  Many people are considering leaving the church because of this.  Or perhaps, they stay loyal to attending mass, but interiorly, they doubt the authority of the church these days.  And this is where my personal opinion becomes less popular…..YES, I agree wholeheartedly, this is a very, very sad thing.  It should not happen.  But in reality…..these men ARE HUMAN.  Yes, they take vows of celibacy.  They “should” be close to God in prayer, and not easily shaken by temptation.  But, it happens.  We all fail.  Perhaps, what bothers me most of all about this entire ordeal, is the fact that the GOOD, HOLY priests, and seminarians are being ridiculed and mocked, grouped into the same category as the priests who committed these horrible acts.  There are good, holy priests who truly live and thrive off their vocations.  I can name a bunch just around where I live.  But here’s a different way to look at it:  If you choose to leave the church over this…then perhaps you’re not even attending church for the right reasons.  I’m not being wise, or sarcastic….I’m being truthful.  As Catholics, we believe that the priest is Jesus in the flesh, a way to bring the sacraments alive for us—–BUT—-above them, is Jesus Christ, who we TRULY attend mass for. Jesus in the Eucharist is why we attend mass, not Father Tom, or Father BillyBob.  The church is sick.  This is a bad time in our faith….and it’s why it is the perfect time to announce my Engagement.  Yes, you read that right.  I am engaged.  To whom ? The king of kings, the captivator of my heart from a very early age…Jesus Christ.

I felt a call very early in my youth.  In fact, I begged my mom to give me a piece of her communion every Sunday well before the age of 7 (First Communion), because I wanted so dearly to receive.  My “perfect plan” in High School was to graduate, go to college for Theology, become a teacher, and then join a teaching order.  But, I had no support.  My father’s family was not existent in my life at this time, and my one support, my father, had already passed. And my mom’s family believed anyone sensing a “religious vocation” was covering up something—-if I was thinking of becoming a nun, I must be gay, infertile, or some other issue that would make me undesirable for marriage, by the way, the only vocation they accepted.  They also laughed at my goal of graduating with a Theology degree, saying it was pointless and would never get me stable employment.  I thought they knew me better than myself, so I let it go.  I blocked Jesus, I denied his proposal.  I not only blocked him, I rebelled, in a way.  Not consciously, but more so to fit in and please my family.  I dated, I found nothing but losers, and still felt that tug….but I kept pushing him away.  I found a man I “thought” I loved—-we fell from grace, which produced my daughter Delanie, whom I sadly lost to miscarriage.

Now, 3 years after this devastating loss, as I’ve grown closer in my faith than ever before—I look back, and truly feel this miscarriage had to happen.  For through this, I learned the feeling of God’s true love.  I also learned total surrender.   I had to let go, and fully trust in God’s grace to get me through the tears, the sorrow, the pain.  I started attending adoration more—and when I was there, in his Eucharistic presence, I began to hear “Will you love me, now?”  It became easier to say yes, but I still fought him.  “But God, what about being a mother—-you saw how losing Delanie hurt me.  How much I wanted to be a mother.  If I’m yours, I can’t be a mother.”  I took this very issue to prayer many times, until I finally heard him say, “You can mother my children.  You can mother the broken souls, souls who have gone through similar wounds, souls who are lost and broken beyond repair.  These can be your children.”

Now, more than ever, with what is going on in our faith today—-I have agreed whole heartedly to say YES.  I will be his bride.  Regardless of form—-convent life, Third Order Lay vows, or a Secular Institute—-my heart and soul belong to him, and him alone.  I have accepted his offer, I have let go of all the questions preventing me from saying yes long before now.  He is mine, and I am his, and his I shall be forever.

If you are on the fence about leaving your faith, or questioning rather or not you trust your faith anymore because of these sinful acts….remember the wedding vows: “in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad.”
Jesus has a question for you, deep within your heart…..he is asking:  Will you be a Simon, and help me carry this cross?  Or will you be a Judas and deny you knew me?  Will you wipe my tears, sweat and blood as Veronica did, or will you doubt my love for you as Thomas did?  In the world, there will be trouble, but be not afraid, for I have overcome the world—the victory has already been won.

Who are YOU? Thomas? Veronica? Simon?  Judas?

Restore to Factory Settings: Release the prince/ss Within

This is the 21st century—we all own some form of technology—a desktop, a laptop, most definitely an iPhone or android.  Some of us even have smart TV’s.  Occasionally, these needed yet sometimes difficult items catch a virus.  Sometimes they just get too slow and need to be reset—restored to the factory settings.  Perhaps you’ve even upgraded your device to the newest model, and decided to sell your old one.  You still needed to reset that device before giving it to someone new.

When was the last time you reset YOU?  Your soul is very similar to any electronic of your choice—we “download” viruses too—how?  the media, for one, shows us trash on TV, tragedy in the news.  Life in general can attack us like a virus…family life is messy, finances get us down.  These things are all stored not only in our minds, but in our souls as well.  Eventually they get bogged down, and lag, just like a computer who is running low on memory.  We could call this depression, anxiety, and a variety of other terms.

But deep down, we all run off the same modem—–Jesus.  We may find him in different churches, or even outside of a church.  We may call him different names….Alah, God, Jehovah, Jesus, Father…..no matter what we name our hotspot, it is the same modem that it dials from.  We are all sons and daughters of royalty.  We are given a ticket to the divine hotspot, a super password that connects us to him 24/7….yet we tend to forget that. We download our daily schedules, even most of our prayers are done online through apps (nothing wrong with that, I have some myself, but if it totally controls your life, you need to do something about that!)  We put ourselves on autopilot, but forget to do our maintenance.  We try to compete with others, who has the better model, who has the better life—and all that does is knock us down.

YOU are a princess, or a prince.  A child of God.  No matter what you did in life, or even didn’t do…..he still loves you.  He’s still waiting for you to sign on and chat with him.  If you’ve fallen off the faithful wagon, and kind of put your prayer life on the back burner—-sign in again.  The password is the same.

HOW you ask?  When life demands so much of you?  Work, family, more work—-and you still want to find time for prayer?  Remember this: F.I.T.

F===fasting.  Don’t only take this word as fasting from foods, as we do so often during Lent. Fast from electronics.  Instead of watching Dancing with the stars, pray the rosary together.  Instead of watching all the news hours your local station has, turn it off after the first half hour of news and weather, and go do something productive—-either for your physical body, or your emotional/spiritual modem.  Also fast from events, activities or even PEOPLE that you feel drag you down.  Perhaps watching a specific show, or always going to play video games, or there’s that one friend where you just feel utterly exhausted whenever you leave them.  These are all signs that you need to pay attention to.  Try a fast from them, and see how you feel.

I===Intercession.  When you find the time to plug into your spiritual modem, find someone to pray for.  Maybe a friend who pops into your mind, or perhaps an enemy.  Better yet, find a friend to intercede WITH…..go for  a rosary walk, do an adoration hour together, meet for mass once  a week.  After all, Jesus did say “where two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them.”

T===Timing.  Remember that the timing will always be perfect.  It might not seem it for you.  You may have prayed for a child only to lose pregnancy after pregnancy—-but years down the line you find someone who needs a spiritual mother.  The timing and method may not always be according to your own plan or vision….but it’s ALWAYS perfect according to God’s timing.  Remember also, G.P.A.  no, not Grade Point Average—God is not a mean teacher.  G.P.A.= God Provides Always.

I am currently working on restoring myself.   I let a lot of viruses into my modem.  But now I’m working on resetting my modem, back to it’s original settings—-believing and CLAIMING my title as a Daughter of the King.  Will you claim yours???

I will close with a beautiful segment from the Diary of St. Faustina, a saint I am growing really close to in this stage of my reset.

When I look into the future, I am frightened.  But why plunge into the future?  Only the present moment is precious to me, as the future may never enter my soul at all.

I tis no longer in my power, to CHANGE, CORRECT  or ADD to the past; for neither sages, nor prophets could do that.  And so, what the past has embraced, I must entrust to God.

O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.  I desire to use you as best I can.  And although I am weak and small, you grant me the grace of your omnipotence.

And so, trusting in YOUR mercy, I walk through life like a little child, Offering you each day this heart, burning with love for your greater glory.

JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU.