Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thank You!

Dearest family, friends, readers, supporters, and Saints:

Thank you SO much for your wildly gracious support and kind words to me since my "blog reveal" of our little miracle.

The "Unexpected Miracle" post has had over 1000 views and has added over 2000 hits to this site. Praise God for the media!
God really knows how to get His word out there and to the people that need it the most. I have been so humbled and blessed to receive comments, texts, emails, and phone calls from family, friends, and even random people about how Jesus spoke to them through this Miracle Story. It is so encouraging for me and my family to see and hear your glory stories!

I wanted to share with you just a few of these "glory stories" or quotes from people who have read the blog and who were impacted by the Lords movements.
(Just to be clear, this is not about me, this is about the glory of the resurrected Jesus who has graciously blessed me to see how His glory is being manifested in those who have read my testimony of His new life.)
"I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses."
  - 2 Corinthians 12:5

"After reading your blog you've given me kind of peace of mind, I guess you could say, about being Catholic and what it means. Since high school I've pretty much stopped going to church. At first I would go and skip occasionally now I only go for special occasions. But within the past few weeks I've been considering going back.....So really what I wanted to say was thank you for sharing! You've given me the push I needed to get back where I need to be!" 

"your post helped renew in me a determination to trust in Our Lord's Will in my own life"

"I saw jesus as I was reading his name in your blog. Now you know I am catholic, go to church on sundays, volunteer at any functions at church but I am not "religious". I dont know my faith as I should.  But I tell you I saw it as you were describing and felt it."

"Thank you for reminding me that though I may choose to fall...Christ has given us the power to choose to rise again. Thank you for being SO brave by being so little."

"I'm so humbled by your message.  I don't even know what to do with myself.  Thank you.  You have consoled my heart in ways you don't even know."

"...And I know as a strong pro life catholic you probably knew exactly what to do but as someone whose mother was told by my father and every close family member and friend she had that death was an option and laid down her reputation and financial burden and the foot of the cross and chose me against all odds, thank you for choosing life. Thank you thank you thank you!! That yes means the world to the world!!"

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

With the blog sites radical increase of visitors and some awkward news that Google could take what I write and claim it as their own, I have decided to change my site to WordPress.
This site will not be deleted since I am still learning the wild world of WordPress (and as tech-savvy people would say, it is "under construction"!
The new link will be:

So thank you again for the 8000 views from all over the globe since I have began blogging in 2013 and salamat kaayo satanaan (thank y'all very much) for your prayers and gracious kindness and support!!

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
  - Mother Teresa

Breana and baby

Monday, October 27, 2014

Walk Upon the Water: Round 2

In August of 2013 I wrote a blog post about St. Peter (Walk Upon The Water) related to the song that I had recently heard: Oceans by Hillsong. This song was one of my signs from God to make the bold move to become a full-time Catholic Missionary. I completely trusted in God to go wherever He would call me and to have the faith that He would provide everything I needed. Each lyric was truly inviting me deeper into the anointed call of missions.
Now, a good year later, the song has a completely different meaning in my life.

Before and after returning home from missions, I received many beautiful emails from missionaries around the world and family and friends says they were praying for me and they love me despite the situation. Well, I received this email from an FMC missionary living state-side just a few days after finding out officially that the Lord had blessed me with life, and this is what it said:

Hello Breana,

Peace in JESUS!

I just wanted to write you a quick note to say that I love you. I know that you probably feel all over the place right now, trying to make hard decisions and do hard things - but I want you to know that we are covering you in prayer and love right now. 

Yesterday morning we were singing at morning prayer and we sang Oceans by Hillsong and it always makes me think of you when I hear it because you were the first person to introduce me to it! I felt a strong anointing of the Holy Spirit - I think you should re-read the lyrics and allow them to penetrate your heart!

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

The part that really made me think of you and your situation is - "your grace abounds in deepest water" - I know all of this was not part of your plan but I know and firmly believe that God can make so much beauty from everything - even our mistakes - and He really is present in a deep and intimate way in our greatest trials. Please be assured of our love and affection for you. I am praying for you and here for you if you need anything at all - please don't hesitate to ask. 

This song made perfect sense in describing my first year in missions, but now the words are about the beauty and immense suffering of a single mother who is struggling daily to give all of herself to the Lord.
Just as Peter denied Jesus over and over and over again, after the Resurrection Jesus asks Peter 3 times, "Peter, do you love me?"
I really believe the times I betray Jesus and fall into sin, He lovingly asks me, "Breana, do you love me?" and I respond, "yes Lord, I love you."
Jesus replies: "Then feed My sheep."

My missionary call is not invalid because of my sin, it is redeemed and made perfect and made beautiful in the eyes of God. He is calling me to understand that in the deepest of waters-in the deepest of sins, His grace abounds EVEN more. His grace is guiding me through this awkward unexpected turn of events from single missionary to single mother.

Peter, an avid follower of Jesus, denied Jesus and repented and Jesus still called him to "feed My sheep"...and Peter became the first Pope.
I do know and firmly believe that God can make so much beauty from our mistakes and trials. We can see that from the witnesses of the people in the Bible and even in my own witness.
I KNOW that God can create beauty out of mess.
I KNOW that I am still being asked daily be Jesus, "feed My sheep."
So I will fulfill the new mission the Lord has called me to in this present moment of my life.

Visit this super cool link to see each lyric related to scripture and to hear the song!
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail): Song and Scripture

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Unexpected Miracle

Happy World Missions Sunday!

I'm not sure if you heard the news through the great grape vine that is South Louisiana, but I have returned home from the mission in the Philippines a few months ago.

Missions was INCREDIBLE and the Lord just rocked my face off to an extent I never thought possible and now I have a totally new face. It's great.

This story begins with "Desert Day" at the end of May. Each week my team and I would pray for 2 hours alone out in nature and during my prayer time I was reading "Come Be My Light" by Mother Teresa.
Everything was going so great so far in missions and nothing "hard" had happened yet... so in all my great wisdom I decided to ask the Lord for a test (mistake #1, NEVER ask the Lord for a test).
Well, it was like the sky got dark and I immediately felt the spirit of joy leave me. I opened the Bible and it said something along the lines of, "and the Lord gives her a test of self-control and will not be with her for some time."
I knew I would be experiencing a time of desolation and I stayed committed in prayer and persevered through the difficult time in the desert.
Temptations were REAL and I did fall into sin with a friend on the Island and I immediately knew in my heart that I was pregnant.

I went to the Sacrament of Confession and then I went back to my little hut to have a feisty conversation with Jesus.
I actually told Jesus to tell me if I was pregnant... well I opened the Bible and it said, "Go home and prepare a place." HA!
I slammed it shut and said no.
What I really meant to say is tell me that I am not pregnant, Jesus. I opened the Bible again and it said, "...and John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth's womb as Mary greeted her." WOAH
(If you don't think the Lord speaks to us through scriptures, think again my friends!)

I knew in my heart that I was pregnant, but I didn't tell anyone because I felt like dirt and trash. I mean, I was a Catholic missionary for crying out loud.
I felt completely alone and abandoned by the Lord. I didn't have any spiritual direction or a consistent confessor to give me guidance and Jesus wasn't speaking to me...I was afraid.
(Desolation is real, but the best thing to do is to stay committed to prayer and persevere!)

A month went by and I still had not taken a pregnancy test, but I knew that I was pregnant. At the end of June all of the missionaries in Asia went on retreat together in the Philippines. There was a missionary family in the U.S. that came lead the retreat for all of us and it was such an incredible retreat! Each session really convicted me and one of the talks was about some people that betrayed Jesus. I immediately flashed back to my prayer time on the beach when I asked Jesus for a test and I realized that Jesus never left me - I left Jesus. In my pride I was cocky, it was almost if I freely choose to enter into desolation. I betrayed Jesus.
While the missionary was giving this talk, I felt like I should share my whole story with her because what if I really was pregnant. So I went to pray and I asked Jesus to make it very clear if I should share my whole month of desolation with her. During my prayer time I opened the Bible and the reading was 'The Samaritan Woman at the Well' (if you know scripture, feel free to laugh) and my first reaction to the title was lip quivering weeping.
I already knew what Jesus was going to say.
He said, "Breana, you keep going to all this water and nothing satisfies...because I AM the ONLY ONE that satisfies." Then He hit me with the doozie, "and you DO NOT have a husband."
(yeah...He's a good and convicting Father.) I was trying to satiate my thirst for God with people of this world, when really only the pure and good and unconditional love of God can satisfy that thirst. It is agape love that I desire, but it was eros love that the devil tricked me with.

I shared this whole story, while hysterically crying out of shame and fear of being hated and abandoned, with the missionary and in all her Marian mercy she said to me, "Breana, I love you and I forgive you and the Lord has forgiven you. You are not dirt. You are not trash. We share flesh with the prostitutes and the greatest sinners...and I share flesh with you. Do you think that I'm dirt? Do you think that I'm trash?" I was like, HECK NOOO. you are so holy! But what a scandal I have caused! Then she says, "Breana, the Cross was a scandal! This sin does not define you. Sin does not define us! We are all human and we all make mistakes! You can be Saint TODAY. If you are pregnant, your baby can be a Saint!" (this is a small summary of what she said, I feel like we talked for hours)
She stood by me through this entire journey and was Christ to me.

Then she came with me to buy a pregnancy test...

We prayed and then I took the test and then we prayed and looked at it... and it was positive. We prayed again and I began weeping because it was not fair! It is not fair that there are so many women throughout the world who are in beautiful marriages that cannot get pregnant. It is not fair the women in China are forced to have abortions because their government tells them that they can only have one child. It is not fair. I wanted to get married and have a big beautiful super Catholic missionary family. It's not fair that one mistake could change everything! This was not my plan! Then to top it all of, this beautiful woman who was with me and the only one who knew what was happening when it was happening has been struggling to get pregnant for years. It is absolutely unfair that this holy woman of God can't get pregnant and now this single sinner is.
(fast forward to a few weeks ago, this missionary woman is now miraculously pregnant! PRAISE THE LORD! Please pray for her and for her health and the health of the baby!)

She then tells me, "Breana, this baby is innocent life and you can no longer have any shame or fear or regret because none of that is from God. You have to love this baby. Use this suffering you feel to pray for women who cannot get pregnant, pray for women who are forced to have abortions!"
After I calmed down and realized that I really knew I had been pregnant since the moment I fell into sin, I walked to the Chapel. As I was walking to the tabernacle I felt all of these waves of emotion flash by me... my family will be disappointed in me, where will I be welcomed in church, my Catholic community will disown me, my friends and family will abandon me, everyone will gossip and judge me, what a great suffering I have caused my family and this baby.
Then I knelt down and looked at Jesus and I had this immense feeling of peace. I felt the Lord say to me, "I am enough. I am enough for you, Breana. You have to love Me more than you love your family, you have to love Me more than you love your baby, you have to love Me more than you love your future spouse. I have to be enough for you if people gossip or hate you or persecute you. I have to be enough."

Later in prayer I received three readings about obedience, truth, and trust. To be obedient to God, to the mission, and to my parents; to believe the truth that I am not dirt and I am not trash - I am redeemed; and to trust that God still has a place prepared for me in Heaven. I applied and believed these three things and everything has gone so smoothly! I know I am riding on supernatural grace from God!
After taking the test and spending some time in prayer, I had to tell all of the missionaries and my family and friends this whole story. Praise God that everyone received this well and they all still love me and most importantly, they love this baby and they pray daily for me and the baby!
Of course the missionaries responded with such merciful forgiving love because they are Christians - little Christ's. Even though I am not a full time missionary with Family Missions Company, they are still my family. I love each of them dearly and I'm still in contact with all of the missionaries in the field and the missionaries in training! (I can't wait to see them when they return to the States to visit!)

God has shown me His GREAT and UNFATHOMABLE mercy in all of this.
Everything has been so BEAUTIFUL. God is so so so so so good. Being able to humble myself in sharing my sin and share this story of mercy with anyone and everyone has been so healing and such a beating on the devil! The devil can't steal my joy!
I know that I am human and everyone is human and we will all make mistakes.
What was done in the darkness, I'm bringing to the light.
So darkness cannot take this story of God's Glory!

Can you believe God has known this baby since the beginning of time?!?
If I wouldn't have made this mistake, I wouldn't have this specific baby that God has destined for me to have since the beginning of time!
Through the sacrament of confession God gives us new life and He did that very literally for me. I know He would not have made His mercy so obvious if He didn't want me to share it.
I am not ashamed, I am not afraid, I am not guilty and neither are my family and friends!
God has saved me from my sin and BLESSED me with new life!!
As Fr. Andre said so well, people will gossip, but it's their sin - not mine. We all sin and especially as a woman in South Louisiana, I know that we can all fall prey to gossip. This life changing experience has completely eradicated the desire to gossip from my life, praise God.
You really have no idea what people are going through or their whole story, so just say no to gossip!

Sharing this miracle is now the mission the Lord has called me to!

Before I returned home from missions, the whole Asia retreat went to mass at the Monastery in the Philippines. After I received the Eucharist, knowing for a fact that I was pregnant, I had a beautiful vision. In the vision I was in a huge crowd watching Jesus walk down a dirt road. I pushed through the crowd while holding my baby and I crawled to the feet of Jesus and kissed his feet. He looked down at me with perfect eyes of pure love. Then the vision immediately changed to an angel holding the baby's hand and taking them to heaven and I was holding the baby's hand. Through this image I discerned that it meant through this child I will gain Salvation. What a more beautiful sacrifice than the vocation of a mother?! I really don't know what that means yet, but I am about to learn!

If you made it to the end of this post, I commend you.
Please pray for the baby and my family and especially for the father of the baby and his family (they live in the Philippines and we have remained friends, praise the Lord.)

This baby is a beautiful precious miracle and I thank God everyday that He has chosen me to tell His story of His great mercy and life!

If you have any questions or comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me! I'd love to talk with you and pray with you.

I still love missions and I am a huge supporter of missions! I wanted all my benefactors to know that all of the money raised will continue to be used to support the mission on Camiguin Island in the Philippines and all of the FMC missionaries throughout the world!! Thank you for your generosity and support and please continue to pray for the mission in Camiguin and for all of the missionaries in Family Missions Company!

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” - John 4

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Who is Fr. Joe?

Oh Father Joe. Or should I say: Padre Jose or Dre or Pods or Derps?
So many names for this very dynamic, fabulous Priest who's only fuel is coffee and a large freezing cold Coke-a-Cola. He loves crosswords and singing and driving and animals and children and his former parishes and Camiguin Island (which is where he grew up). He loves telling stories and he loves to keep busy and divining water.

One glory story of his, he took care of over 60 kids by raising them and putting them through elementary, high school and college and finding them a steady job...and he mystically got donations and always just got by. Everything he does is totally Holy Spirit and everything that seems like it will go tragically wrong always works out because he is Father Joe.

We are so so so so blessed and forever grateful and thankful to have the opportunity to be working with this Priest who actually could have retired a few years ago, but refuses because there is so much that still needs to be done!

He sometimes looks like a Priest.

He even shares his glasses.

He loves nuns....that give him free food and coke.

He sometimes has time to take a picture with some Friars.

He can find water and figure out the depth of the water in the ground.

He can do super large baptisms in record time

He gets really excited about ordinations!

more and more and more baptisms

He loves to sing and to give us 4AM surprises for our birthdays

He loves to play with kids and teach them about life in the Philippines

He will have 3 funerals and 3 weddings and over a dozen baptisms in one day... maybe even in one morning.

and he does everything in style

he only functions on 4 hours of sleep, but typically less
He loves his hard working office staff!
He loves kids and his 7 dogs and 2 monkeys and love birds and rabbits and pigeons and his very large church parish and his high school and all of his old church parishes and all of the livelihood projects he has started throughout the LARGE diocese of CDO.
Some of my teams favorite Pods (our nick name for him) quotes:

"It can be done"
"and somehow.. we made it"
"sometimes we have to suffer comfortably"
"everyone is equal, except the Parish Priest is just a little more equal"
"nothing a cold coke can't fix"
"you know, I just had to tell them, I think I am the boss here"
"my favorite food is 'sea food' any food that I see, I eat"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hi, I'm Breana and I Like Warm Hugs

So I am sure everyone has heard one of the many famous quotes from the movie, Frozen....

I realized a lot of things about myself on a spiritual level from this cute little kids movie. It touched me on a sister level about true sacrificial love since I have a sister. It also touched me on a spiritual level to see all of the good moral teachings in the movie. Disney usually pulls the whole "Eros" love thang where the girl meets the guy in an instant and falls in love and then that it is all "happily ever after." Well, Frozen is different. Way different.

It really showed me how much I was cultured into believing that I am really into the idea of eros love, when really I have a God that romances me into a true self sacrificing agape love.

I know this is a "duhhh" moment for everyone, but I recently just discovered that my main love language is physical touch (Bazinga!). When reflecting back on my life, I can see that I was different from most kids. I would always run when I would see my mom and dad and give them a big hug and a kiss when I was in elementary school. Even in high school, I would hug and kiss my mom when I would get out of the car. That is just the way I grew up, in a loving and affectionate family. 
Now that I am older, I realize that I never really have had boundaries with the whole physical touch thing. But being in the Philippines, I can see that physical touch is a very large part of the culture. You can see little children, teens, old people... really every age.. just holding onto each other while just casually walking down the street. It is just really interesting to see this because it is not common in America at all, unless it is a couple who are really into PDA, but still, not just friends. But hugging is different in this culture. You only hug if you are really good friends or if you are very committed to the person (marriage).
I am a hugger, I am affectionate, and I am learning how to make my love language into something that is holy and tangible. Pope Benedict XVI said to "see with the eyes of Christ" and to "give others the look of love which they crave." I am so thankful that the Lord is merciful and patient with teaching me and giving me teaching and learning opportunities on how to love. I am learning that I need to love people the way that Christ loves people. To take each person I encounter and love them through their very own love language. I am learning that boundaries doesn't mean that I have to restrict the way that Jesus has taught me to love, but in having boundaries I have the freedom to love more because it is the pure way that Jesus wants me to love. He has given me an individual and unique gift of loving others and the freedom to love through his eyes.

So this is oooookay that I am Breana and I like warm hugs!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Finding Pasture: The Delopere family needs your help!


Finding Pasture: The Delopere family needs your help!: Meet the Delopere family! Elma is a first-grade public school teacher, and Renati is a stay-at-home father. They have three children -...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

For a sister, by a sister

I never really thought about how much of a role music has played in my life. Probably because it has always just been there, sort of like a movie's soundtrack. It's only been within the past few months that I am starting to realize the impact that music has had on me. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me too much since music is such a big part of my sister's life, and since she's a big part of my life, why wouldn't music be a big part of my life too?  Now, before I confuse anyone who may be reading this, I should probably tell you that what you are reading is for a sister (Breana), by a sister (Sara). 

I received an email from Breana on Mother's Day asking me if I would want to write a post for her blog. I told her I would have to think about it. To be completely honest, I was reluctant to write since (1) it is her blog and (2) I am not one to put myself out there ... I mean, there's a reason I don't have Facebook or any other social media! But I thought about it (because I told her I would) and, well, here I am!

The day after I received that email, I saw that Breana had a new blog post. In the split-second after reading that blog title ("It's not always rainbows and butterflies"), the jukebox in my mind began to play Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" at the exact point of that day's post's title:
"It's not always rainbows and butterflies
It's compromise that moves us along
My heart is full and my door's always open
You can come anytime you want."

As I read the rest of that post (with the rest of the song playing in my mind), I had to wonder if Breana realized that God had planned out the day she described in that May 11 post so that her "heart was full" and "her door was open" in order to serve those who needed her most.

It was then that knew exactly what I would be writing about: music and how it connects us to each other, whether we realize it or not. By "us" I don't necessarily mean a me-and-Breana "us," although that will likely be a good portion of what I will write. 

Wait!! Hold up ... timeout for a sec!! You've got to be kidding me!?! 

OK, I've always known that Breana and I share an incredibly strong bond. Well, apparently I had NO idea the strength of that connection because, as I sit here about ready to share the "top 5" songs that have strong connections for me, what happens? PING! Breana's blog from May 28 comes into my email inbox, and its titled "Camiguin Playlist!" Seriously?! And she has a "top 5" too! What?! Wow! I mean, just, WOW!!

<sigh> Amazing! So (wow) here's my "top 5":

1. "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong United - Breana introduced me to this song, and the lyrics speak so strongly of her call to mission to the Philippines. The first verse of the song tells of the trust and faith that she has in God's plan and purpose for her life:
"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand."

It was incredibly emotional to hear her sing this song at the last Mass she attended at St. Thomas before leaving for the Philippines. I don't know many people who would have the courage to step outside of their comfort zones, follow where the Spirit leads, go an ocean away to be taken "deeper than my feet could ever wander" so that "my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior." 

Then again, for some of us an ocean may not be something as literal as the Pacific. Our "oceans" may be family problems, health issues or work-related difficulties. And sometimes these figurative oceans can be just as deep, with waves equally as daunting. This song serves a great reminder of God's presence with whatever we're going through and that
"Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed, and you won't start now."

2. "Where You Lead, I Will Follow" by Carole King & Louise Goffin (better known to Breana and I as the "Gilmore Girls" theme song) - Breana was 7 when "Gilmore Girls" first aired on TV, and we did not miss a single episode in all of its 7 seasons. We LOVED (and still love) this show about teenager Rory and her mom, Lorelei, who were 16 years apart in age: ironically the same age difference as Breana and I. Even though we're not mother & daughter, I am Breana's Godmother, so there's a mother/daughter aspect of our relationship that I am sure contributed to us liking the show even more.

During the time that I still lived at home with my parents, Breana and I would lay on the floor in front of the TV in my room before the show would start, talk about her day (or mine, or really about anything at all) and then sing along as the show began:
"If you're out on the road
Feelin' lonely and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I'll be there
On the next train"

Gilmore girls Lorelei and Rory would do practically anything for and everything with each other. If one was in a crisis or was excited about something going on in her life, she would immediately tell the other who would share in her pain or joy because, in addition to their mother-daughter roles, they were best of friends. 

Since the day Breana was born, I hoped that I could be a good role model for her. (The Lorelei to her Rory, if you will.) I wanted to teach her things. I wanted to be a good sister and a good Godmother. Since I had never been either before, I didn't know how. All I knew then and still know now is that Breana is the most special person in my life, and I would do practically anything for her (even write a blog).

I thought my role as an older sister would involve being a leader with the little sister following around my every footstep. And while in the early years of Breana's life that was very true, God in his infinite wisdom knew that I needed some leading too. I'm not sure when the Godchild became the teacher to the Godmother, but I am grateful for it because I am a better person for having Breana in my life.

The rest of the "Gilmore Girls" theme song is, I think, a great summary of our relationship, and as I prepare to type it out I never realized how the lyrics could be interpreted spiritually. (God and his infinite wisdom indeed!)
"Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, if you need me to be with you
I will follow
Where you lead"

3. "Dare You to Move" by Switchfoot - the two memories attached to this song are kind of bittersweet for me. At the time of the first memory attached to this song, I was living and working in Houma, which is about a 30 minute drive from Thibodaux. In a drive like that, you could hear about 10 songs on the radio. On this particular day in 2004, "Dare You to Move" is the only one that I remember hearing as I drove to the hospital in Thibodaux where my maternal grandpa was dying from cancer and nearing the end of his life here on earth.

My mom's side of the family is quite large: she is one of seven siblings, and Breana and I are two of 19 first cousins. Add those cousins' children in the mix and you get a rowdy crew most of the time. However on that Veterans' Day 2004, with the majority of the family there at the hospital keeping vigil over PaPa, the song that had brought me to tears on my drive there was still playing in my mind:
"Everybody's watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next?
What happens next?"

With the condition that PaPa was in by that stage, that was all we could do: watch and wait. PaPa died peacefully the next morning with his wife, his 7 children, and a number of his grandchildren at his bedside.

Fast-forward about 2 years later when the family has gathered together again. Sitting at my uncle's house in Thibodaux, one of my cousins from Texas says he has a video that he made that he wants to show us. It was of his son, Mason's first year of life. He popped the DVD into the player, and everybody was again watching and waiting. Upon hearing the first 5-10 notes of the song that accompanied the video, I had to hold back tears: it was "Dare You to Move." The first image: Mason right after birth. Immediately following that image, the first verse of the song:
"Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everyone's here
Everyone's here"

The rest of the video was of Mason growing: sleeping, eating, crawling and all of those things that babies do in their first year. As the song and video came to an end, these words appeared on the screen "and now a word from Mason." For the last minute or so of the video, we all heard what I consider to be one of the sweetest sounds on the planet: a child's laughter. There is something so pure in the melody of a baby's or toddler's laugh.

We all laugh, we all live, and we all lose loved ones. But, do we really lose them?
Hearing "Dare You to Move" before PaPa's death and upon seeing a video of Mason right after his birth convinced me that we're all connected those who have gone before us, whether it's by the things they taught us or the loved they showed us. Even though Mason never met his great-grandpa, the love that he receives from his own dad and grandpa is a love that has been passed down through the generations of our family, connecting us all. Love is that connection that "dares you to move, dares you to lift yourself up off the floor." 

4. "Let It Go" by Idina Menzel - surprise, surprise, my sister and I share a song in our top 5 list, and it's no surprise to me that it is this one! "Frozen" has quickly become one of my favorite Disney films, probably because it's about sisters. This particular song struck a chord with me from the first time that I heard it as I watched the movie in the theatre with Breana. It wasn't until writing this post that I realized why. Sure, it's in a cute movie about the love shared between sisters. Sure, it's a great song with vocals by powerhouse Idina Menzel, who also voices the character of Elsa.  For me though, it's about the freedom that I received from the circumstances in which I was frozen. 

(Being the private person that I am, this is not easy for me to share but the Spirit is prompting me to do so.) 

It all started in late June 2001 when overwhelming fear took over my life like a "swirling storm inside." My heart would race, my fingers would go numb, my legs would shake uncontrollably. I once passed out during Mass at St. Thomas. I felt as if I was dying. I went to doctors to have tests done -- EKG, full blood work -- and of course everything comes out normal. But this was NOT normal! I had no idea what was going on. Even with all of this craziness going on with my body, the worst feeling was knowing that something was wrong but not being able to put a name to that something. At that point the worrying kicks in to extreme overdrive, and the fear of the unknown consumes you. This something caused me to miss out on so many different activities because I was afraid that horrible things would happen, especially if I stepped outside of my comfort zone. After two months of experiencing the previously mentioned symptoms, I was diagnosed with having anxiety and what I was going through were panic attacks. There was a mixture of relief and more panic: relief in that I wasn't having a heart attack at age 24 and more panic because, well, they're panic attacks. The doctor prescribed some medicines to help, and I felt more relief. Maybe this would solve everything and life could go back to normal. 

About two weeks after the diagnosis, my alarm clock went off and the anxiety began to seep into every inch of my being. Laying on my left side with my alarm clock staring me in the face, tears began to well in my eyes and I softly cried out, "God, please. Please help me. I can't take this anymore. Please! Please, help me!" While still laying on my left side, it felt as if someone put their hand on my left shoulder, applied slight pressure and then pulled their hand away. As the pressure lifted, so did the anxiety. The panic attack ended in an instant! While that wasn't the last panic attack I ever had, I firmly believe that it was God's grace that touched me on that early Monday morning. You may be thinking, "Sara, that was more than 10 years ago! How could you possibly remember that happened on a Monday?" It's easy for me to remember because a different kind of attack occurred in New York, Pennsylvania and DC the next day, Tuesday, 9/11

You know, one of the worst mantras that I had during my panic attacks was "mind over matter." That's like Elsa singing "conceal, don't feel." Trying to fight or control what's going on inside of you, especially a panic attack, only makes it worse. I learned that the anxiety I was feeling was not cause for alarm but instead was a time that I could embrace a new mantra: "let go and let God." 

Disney movies usually always have a moral, so my story will have one too: As long as you have God in your life, it's just like Elsa sings, "the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all." 

5. "I Love You Always Forever" by Donna Lewis - this song was released when Breana was still riding in a carseat and whenever it came on, she always sang along. (Well, sang along as best as any 3-year-old could!) When she, Mom and I would be in the car going to the grocery store or wherever and this song would play on the radio, I would turn around from the front passenger seat to face Breana and try to get her to sing the right words. It never worked! She'd inevitably fumble over some of them, but she still kept singing anyway!

Several months ago, Mom and I were talking to Breana about some of the songs that she would sing along to when she was younger. When this song came up, I told her that it was one of the cutest things that she couldn't get the words right. Breana jokingly said, "I still don't think that I know them!"

Well, Breana, here's the chorus for you to learn:
"I love you always forever
Near and far, closer together
Everywhere I will be with you
Everything I will do for you."

Breana, since this post of mine is "for a sister, by a sister," I think it's only right that I share a secret with you. For years now, I have been writing a little message to you when I sign my name on letters, cards, and emails (and now this blog). You've probably thought that message was from a book title, and while that may be partly true it's not the whole truth. It's actually because of this song and my shortened way of saying "I love you always forever."

Well, thanks for sticking through til the end of my incredibly long blog about how music connects all of us regardless of space and time. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a Grammy-award winning a cappella group from South Africa, has a song titled "Music Knows No Boundaries." I thank heaven for that, but even more so, I thank heaven that Love doesn't know boundaries either.

Love you forever, sista my sista
Nanny (Sara)