Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Lenten Resolutions for the Body and Soul

 #1 Obviously, number one should be to increase in PRAYER....

 MORE TIME SPENT WITH GOD. That should be the whole umbrella over all the other resolutions (if you plan to do more than one). Without prayer, you are only setting yourself up for failure. If you show the Lord that You can take an extra 5 minutes, or an extra half hour, whatever spiritual level you are at and whatever your life circumstances allow, He will make your lenten journey fruitful...both to your own soul but also to those around you (praying more usually gives you the right attitude and mindset to get through the day and allows you to bless people more, instead of ignoring them or complaining/gossiping about them).

Some possible ideas:
  • Take an extra 5 minutes in the AM and extra 5 minutes in the PM
  • Show God that He's not just in the "margins" of your life (early morning and late evening), but incorporate prayer throughout the day. Try to pray unceasingly, meaning, everything you are doing at that particular time, offer up to God. Live in the present moment and Thank God for those beautiful moments he blesses you with. 
  • Also, don't leave God for last. Do not save your evening prayers until midnight, when you're so exhausted you just want to pass out...when you're so tired that your brain is dozing off and it is hard to concentrate on your prayers.
  • Turn the radio off in your car on your commute to and/or from work and use that time to talk to God, to offer up your thanksgivings, and to reflect on your spiritual or even family life.
  • Go to Stations of the Cross every Friday
  • Commit to go to daily mass (1 day per week, or every day)
  • Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm on Fridays. It only takes 10 minutes (way shorter than Rosary) and Jesus promised great graces to the souls that pray this chaplet and reflect upon this Passion at the Hour of Mercy (3pm).

#2 Do some spiritual reading

Reading good Catholic books that shape my spiritual life, expand my knowledge, and push me to new challenges is easy for me. Because I am a big book nerd. There is nothing better for me than to sit comfortably at home and read a book (especially one written by a wise Catholic scholar, or doctor of the church, or pope, or some amazingly smart and devout Catholic layman/woman). So I will not be doing this because it is no challenge for me at all.

But I suggest it for those of you who may not do spiritual readings on a regular basis.

Here are two lists from Catholic blogs on recommended readings for Lent. One is from our very own host of the 7QT, Jen Fulwiler.
Also, just a heads up...if you download the Amazon Kindle app (you don't need to have the Kindle, you can download this app for free to your smartphone or computer), you can find NUMEROUS (and I mean it) FREE Catholic CLASSICS such as Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Terese de Lisieux and many, many others. Go download the e-books now, they're completely free!

#3 Do some scriptural reading

 Here is a good resource that lists all the lenten scripture readings, one for EVERY.SINGLE.DAY - for all 40 days. Also, FREE!

If that's too much or if you need something 'on the run,' go to your appstore on your phone and install the bible app, if you haven't already. Guess what, it's also FREE.
I'm sure you can take an extra 1 or 2 minutes (but more like 1) every day to click on the app and read a short passage. What's cool about it is they give you these super short bible passages (yet, they always seem to speak to me the right words at the right time, just when I need them), one every day, and it is on the front literally one click away. Now you should have no excuses.  One click! On that same app, you can even subscribe to a reading plan (based on your topic of interest or topic of NEED) and they will send you passages pertaining to that particular topic every day... Your phone will give you a notification at the same time every day - you pick the time!

#4 Give up social media. 

Whatever you are using (possibly obsessed with, addicted to, or it's just wasting too much of your time and you can't refrain from checking it and being nosy and seeing what other people are up to), whether it's twitter or facebook or instagram or whatever it is...GIVE IT UP. Too hard? Offer it up! Don't be soft. Don't be nosy for lent. And don't be wasting time. I know I waste way too much time on facebook, and I have successfully given it up for 2 years in a row now. It's weird, but I really felt refreshed and cleansed after both lents. And when I came back from lent, I wasn't even interested anymore about what people are up to on facebook. But then I let myself slip throughout the year, and  now I check facebook what seems like every 5 minutes when I'm on the computer. And now that I have a smartphone, oh my. It is way too distracting when I'm studying and when I'm (supposed to be) praying. So this year, I am re-commiting to this sacrifice and on Ash Wednesday, I shall once again change my profile picture to this (feel free to steal):


#5 Drink only water. 

Too hard? Then give up your favorite beverage. You know that one beverage that you can't get through the day without (hint: coffee)? Whether it's coffee, tea, soda...whatever, live without that habitual little daily luxury of yours. It will sure exercise your will.

 #6 Make some physical sacrifice and offer it up to God

 Something where you can offer up your blood, sweat, and tears to God. Okay, maybe not the blood, or even the tears...but definitely the SWEAT! That is: commit to daily exercise. Not just for the health benefits. We all know lent is NOT about losing weight. Do it for the tremendous values of self-discipline and self-sacrifice that you gain from it. 

If you are already self-disciplined enough and care enough about your health to exercise on a regular basis, do something extra. Run that extra mile. Push yourself for an extra 10 minutes and offer that final push completely to GOD. Tell Him: "Lord, every step, every breath, every effort, every drop of sweat...I offer to You. I am doing this FOR YOU."

Exercise also clears your mind and may actually help you focus more on God, that is, if you don't just blast music during your workouts. So here is an extra challenge for those of you who are already pros at exercise and those of you who are just planning to incorporate it into your daily routine: do not listen to music while you're at it! As I said, it clears your mind and you never know, you might just have an epiphany or strike up a cool conversation with God. I swear, when I used to run at the school gym, I would have the best conversations with God while on that treadmill or on that stairclimber, pushing my body to its limits...constantly talking to God for support. It was pretty awesome, actually. So I am signing my name under this challenge for this year's lent.

 #7 Finally...Don't be like this guy:

Don't give up! It's only 40 days. Think about Jesus and His Forty difficult days of prayer and fasting in the middle of a hot desert.

 If you're not big on committing yourself and you think you will just slip and fall like you usually do, it's better to take up just ONE, SMALL resolution...and only worry about making that one, small sacrifice each day, and I assure You that God will be pleased...perhaps more pleased than you taking on 5-10 things (which is what I've tried in the past...and F.A.I.L.E.D.) and failing all or most of them because you tried to do too much. Our minds and bodies are good at adapting to change, but too much change too quickly (form one day to the next) can overwhelm us and confuse our bodies. And our minds/bodies may try to rebel. Life can usually only be changed one step at a time. Unless you want to go extreme and just go live in the desert for 40 days, like our Lord did ;)

And to start off your weekend well, read my recent posts from this week's 7 posts in 7 days challenge:

What We Stumbled upon in Colorado and John Paul II's Presence in my Life

What We're Reading Wednesday: Spiritual Readings and John Paul II Book Collection

More Colorado Pictures and the Beauty of God's Creation

God Bless, Agnes

Thursday, February 27, 2014

More Colorado Pictures and the Beauty of God's Creation

Day 4 of 7 of "the challenge"

I think I'll continue my (almost) wordless tradition from yesterday and just give you some nice pictures to look at today. Why?! .. you ask. Because I have another killer final exam tomorrow. Guess what class? The awful dreaded Chemical Principles of Drug Action class, commonly called by us pharmacy students "Medicinal Chemistry" or "Med Chem." And this quarter it's all about cancer chemotherapy. Why is it awful and dreaded? There are multiple new drugs coming out for many different types of cancer every year, nowadays, since it's such an active area of research. So there is a lot of material to cover and the material doesn't "stick" together or "flow" very nicely either, it's just a bunch of random drug targets, receptors, mutations. Oh, and they just about all have a million different, random, and nasty side effects..and I gotta know 'em all. You pretty much have to cram and memorize every word in those med chem lecture notes. And then you pretty much forget everything you learned the next day...because who cares about med chem? It's not even a part of the NAPLEX - the [also awful, dreaded] board exams we have to take after we graduate, in order to get licensed.

But wow, this post already has too many words for being "wordless." And I'm already procrastinating way too much from studying. I really have to quit being lazy, shut off the internet (is that possible?), and study, study, study...I really don't feel like staying up yet another night. here...go ahead and enjoy some of our pictures from our roadtrip to Colorado (2 days ago, I posted a story about what we stumbled upon / discovered while there. It's a pretty precious least to me). But here is the rest of the pictures. (which I've been meaning to post right after we came back from this trip...over a year ago. So good thing this 7 in 7 challenge is making me finally clean up my drafts folder!)

^^^ Why didn't I take my hand out of my pocket for this picture? I still ask myself. I think I might have been slightly mad at Greg at that particular time...haha yeah, I remember. I guess it was a good idea to take a picture of us facing the other day, so you don't have to see the face of grumpy Agnes ;)

^^ The water was freeeezing in this little mountain creek!!!! Yet I walked all across to the rock in the middle to take a picture. It was freezing but oh so refreshing.

^^^ Totally photobombing the picture...even though I'm not technically behind him.

I call this one: THE ROAD TO HEAVEN

Mountain goats. They wouldn't let us pass haha

Labeling this one: 
"The World is Mine" 
"Standing on top of the world"

With a good friend, whose wedding I am standing up to in June.

With my brother's family and our friends.

Standing at the edge, looking down at God's magnificent creation was amazing. Every single day, every single beautiful mountain and sight we saw, reminded me of GOD. It was so beautiful. And true beauty always reminds me of God. Even breathing in the fresh mountain air and catching the rays of the sun on top of those mountains made me feel so close to He was right there, blessing me with THAT particular MOMENT. It was an indescribable peaceful and beautiful feeling.

^^^ I am so proud of this picture. Doesn't it look professional? I took it all by myself and I did it while we were driving, pretty fast. You can kind of see the impact of motion on the bottom of the picture.

One of my friends pointed out that in this picture, I look as if I wanted to push him down. I really wasn't...I was just trying to hug him ;)

 At this, apparently famous, brewery in Dillon, Colorado. We brought some good beer back too!

The End

Hope you enjoyed it


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday: Spiritual Readings and John Paul II Book Collection

It's my first time participating in the WWRW link up. I discovered this and thought his would be a perfect idea for today, since we're still in the middle of the 7 posts in 7 days challenge with Jennifer Fulwiler, and since I wrote a rather long story yesterday, which took forever to write, and which made me get 2 hours of sleep...since today was probably my worst final exam ever: Pharmacy Law. Ew, who likes law? So boring. So detailed. So agonizing to study. Suffice it to say, since I only slept from ~ 2am to 3:50am last night (studying almost all night and all morning), I decided to do an easy post today with mostly pictures. This is because tomorrow I have a Pharm Biotechnology exam, and it also covers a crap load (excuse the language) of material. So a What We're Reading Wednesday Post is perfect for today. Also, it's Wordless Wednesday ;-)





Which I promised I'd share with you

Of which I have, so far, read the following: 
(and have yet to read the rest) 

And since it's final exams week, recently, all I've been reading is these:

That law exam this morning, for which I almost stayed up all night for, was terrible. But it's Wordless Wednesday - which prevents me from complaining! 

Love, Aggie

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What We Stumbled upon in Colorado and John Paul II's Presence in my Life

 This post is part of Jen's 7 posts in 7 days challenge:

As you may or may not know, I wholeheartedly love and admire John Paul II and he is my personal hero for many, many reasons. I can't wait until his canonization in April because then I will be able to officially call him my PATRON SAINT! I swear, JPII follows me wherever I go in my life! And that is why he is such an important part of my faith and my life. It all started when I first spotted him, just passing by in his pope mobile, during his pilgrimage to Poland in 1995. I was just 5 years old and I didn't understand much of our faith at the time, obviously, but I knew this man had a tremendous importance and holiness to him. It was only a passing glance, but I remember it so vividly.

 Then, especially in my teenage year, Pope John Paul II had been such great inspiration for me - mostly through reading his classic works, namely Love and Responsibility and teachings based on his Theology of the Body. I have a whole collection of JPII books, but more on that later. Reading John Paul II was revolutionary to me. It completely changed my perspective on sexuality. I do not think I would be here, writing this blog about marriage, chastity (pre and post marital), NFP, and openness to life if I had not encountered this teaching.

 Last year too, while we were on vacation in Colorado, we just randomly and unexpectedly stumbled upon John Paul II! (Not physically of course....I did not witness a miracle, as much as I would like to think that..hehe). More proof that he follows me everywhere. Maybe I don't admire him in vain, perhaps he also likes me and watches over me.

Here's the story:

It was a nice, sunny, August day in Colorado. This was right in the middle of our planned family & friends roadtrip. Our roadtrip consisted of driving across all of Colorado (all the way to Grand Junction, which is on the border of Utah). So we were able to hit the most beautiful mountains, waterfalls, and lakes in Colorado as well as some famous canyons on the border of Colorado/Utah. In fact, here is the link to my original google map of our roadtrip that I created then, in case you are interested in such a roadtrip (I think I'm a pretty good roadtrip planner.. Always find the best sights to see and best deals on good hotels!)

We were on our way to a hiking-and-adventure-filled day at Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Here we are, driving to Estes Park, where one of the entrances of RMNP is located, and enjoying the beautiful weather as well as the sights of hills, rocks, and mountains. Then, all of a sudden, we see a beautiful little church, made of beautiful stones, on top of a magnificent hill, or rather, a rock. Then we see a huge, white statue of Jesus. Without thinking, at the last minute, my husband (then-fiance) took a sharp left turn and we found ourselves at the foot of this huge rock, on top of which stood Jesus, glancing down at us. Quickly I looked to see whether I can identify what this place is (Is it even Catholic?) and took a mental sigh of relief when I read the sign:  St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church (aka Chapel on the Rock). Right as I began walking around and admiring this beautiful place and as I stared in awe at the face of Jesus, way up high on the rock, I knew that God had brought us there for a reason. 

 The church looked pretty old but it was soooo beautiful. Of course we took a lot of pictures because you do not encounter a church like that on a daily basis. I had no idea such beautiful little historic Catholic churches existed in the US, since US is a baby compared to Europe, for instance, where you can find plenty of historic chapels and magnificent cathedrals that are centuries old.

 And then we went inside.
It was a simple, small, but oh so beautiful little church. It had that old smell that historic places often have (if you have ever experienced that) and the wood in the pews/kneelers creaked as soon as you sat/kneeled. It all brought back memories of being a little kid back in Poland and going on pilgrimages or just weekend trips with my parents to visit old, historic, antique, or famous churches that were super duper old and had that same "antique" smell and creaky wood everywhere...and the smell of incense of course!

A little bit more exploring and here comes the real surprise!!!


Right as we were exiting, we noticed some pictures on the wall. And I couldn't believe my eyes!

John Paul II, my favorite man!!!
A picture of a picture on the St Catherine of Siena church wall

Turns out John Paul II stopped by this church during his pilgrimage to the United States in 1993. I have such a tremendous connection with John Paul II and this just confirmed that God brought ME here because He knew that my heart would just leap for joy!!! And oh the joy and gratitude I felt for being there, for stumbling upon this place, for standing on the same terrace of the same church that John Paul II stood on, 19 years earlier.
 I knew that even though the discovery of this neat little Catholic place was unplanned, totally unexpected, and fully spontaneous for us, it was not so for God. Both my husband and I, when talking about this many times later (and we still sometimes do), agreed that it was not an accident that made us stumble upon this was Him.

Picture of a quote by John Paul II in commemoration of his visit to Saint Catherine of Siena Church in 1993

To make our experience even more pleasant and unique (I WAS IN HEAVEN WITH ONE FOOT ALREADY), we stumbled upon the church keeper (or whatever you call them...Sacristan?). He was an older guy and said that he has been living there and taking care of this church for like 30 years. He said there is no permanent priest there, but one from Denver comes to do weddings etc. Apparently they do a lot of weddings, since it is such a picturesque place. I don't know how we started talking about John Paul II, I probably brought it up after he asked us where we are from... I informed him that we live in the suburbs of Chicago but we are from Poland and that I see that John Paul II was here, and he is also from Poland. And the guy proceeded to tell us how great of a pope and person John Paul II was (again, I was in heaven...having a one-on-one conversation, probably for the first time ever, with someone who truly cared about our Church and truly loved the pope...Seriously: except you bloggers, I don't have very many REAL, tangible people in my life who would be interested in having deep and insightful conversations about God or the faith). 

BUT WAIT... this story gets better. 

The church keeper told us that John Paul II  liked to hike right in the back of the church. He pointed out a trail with his finger and asked us if we see it. We nodded and said that we do. He said that trail is named after JPII because he would walk it and pray there every morning when he was there. And then he pointed to some buildings, probably about 1/3 mile behind the church, almost at the foot of the mountains. He said that was a convent / retreat center (St. Malo Retreat Center), but it largely burnt down. There was a fire there just 2 years ago. He had told us that the building where JPII stayed during his visit was completely engulfed by flames. The whole building had fire damage and water damage: EXCEPT the room where John Paul II stayed. It was a real miracle, he said. Not even a spot of damage on any wall of the room where Pope John Paul II slept. Do you hear me? Not a spot!

I was standing there in awe and amazement and disbelief at what I was hearing...and so was my husband! We were all amazed.  I didn't even mean to come to this place and now I am finding out these great unique facts about my hero and patron JPII and even hearing about a miracle that happened right there, a short distance from where I was standing! Turns out I meant to go on a hiking trip that day, but really, God sent me on a pilgrimage!

That was cool, God. More adventures like this please. 

And dear Blessed John Paul II: keep showing your presence in my life, you know I get a kick out of you showing up at random times and at random places in my life. You're amazing. So happy about you being canonized soon!

Hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know what you think!

God Bless, Agnes

P.S. I wonder if that miracle was reported towards his cause for Sainthood. Either way, he performed enough miracles to be canonized so soon after his death.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reflections from my Journal: Faith in His Goodness

Since I agreed to participate in Jen's challenge - despite the fact that in my current life situation it probably was not the smartest idea - I guess I have to write a post before midnight tonight! I am in the midst of final exams  (just survived one today, and have 4 more to go in the next four days) and have a tremendous amount of material to get through and a tremendous amount of stress over the exams that are still left. This quarter is a bit hard. It's an infamous quarter among pharmacy students. We are learning pharmacy law & ethics, as well as medicinal chemistry of cancer chemotherapy drugs, and pharmacotherapeutics of infectious diseases (the big ones) i.e. HIV, STD's, Hepatitis, Organ Transplant associated infections, opportunistic infections and many, many, many, many, many others.
So since I already wasted enough time trying to find a good post in my draft folder to finish up, and since it's already close to 9pm, and since I have a clinical skills exam at 9:30am tomorrow, and since I have not yet started studying for it, I am just going to post another one of my series of "Reflections from my Journal," which were inspired by the diary of St. Faustina.

This one is from 10/17/2009. I guess you can call it 'A reflection from my last year of being a teenager.' It's relatively short but it shows a little bit of my spiritual struggles / development.

Faith in His Goodness

"I have not been having the greatest of days so far. I am lacking something. Peace. Hope. And I don't even know why exactly. There is no specific reason.  Maybe it's just everything all at once. I guess once in a while I have a day when only the negative things come to mind and then my mood becomes negative and my hope very subtle. Thank the Lord that He's given me enough wisdom through the holy spirit to finally be able to detect and distinguish Satan's voice in my head and my own "feelings" from the truth...from reality. I just have to keep telling myself that the devil is a liar and he attacks with his lies when you least expect it. He lies to me about my future, about Greg, about family, even about God. He wants me to have no hope - he wants me to lose control over my mind and spirit, he wants my bodily instincts, human feelings and tendencies to control my being, he wants me to be angry and self-centered and to have a bad attitude so I can not only offend God but so that I can go spread it and infect other people with it.

God - I figured out what is missing from my life lately. YOU. I excluded you from my daily routine the last couple of days and forgot that you are the only truth, hope love, mercy, and peace. There is no life without you living for physical and emotional pleasure and satisfaction isn't even called life. It's simply existing, being, having no purpose...It's being born only to die. Pleasures are temporary. Once you're bored with them, you have nothing. So Lord, I just wanted to apologize sincerely for my forgetfullness. There are times when I forget your promises, Your Goodness, Your Mercy...times when my vision gets so clouded by things of this world and lies of the evil one that I cannot see the TRUTH, the SUN, the Light that is behind those clouds. When one forgets these crucial things, there is no room for hope and room only for doubt. I don't mean doubt in your existence, but rather in Your Goodness. I will have to work on that.

I hope I can produce some better quality posts for the rest of the 7 posts in 7 days challenge. One can hope. As Jen suggested, I am trying to clean out the drafts folder, but this is the worst possible week for me to do it. Haha.

Oh, I just hope to God I don't have to pull an allnighter this week. I absolutely hate being awake int he middle of the night while hubby is in bed cuddling with a pillow, instead of with me.


Love, Aggie

Thursday, February 20, 2014

7 Quick Takes #27: Valentines, Marriage, Exercise, Final Exams

#1 Saint Valentines Day and 6 month-a-versary festivities

I was a busy bee on Friday the 14th, baking some cheesecake for hubby and making other delicious desserts pictured below! He got home from his nightshift around 2am and I was still up waiting for my cheesecake to finish its 4 hour cooling process, so I could pour the chocolate ganache over it. By the way, I posted my recipe and pictures of this lovely cheesecake a few days ago:

Agnes' Dark Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake Recipe


Since hubby worked at night on Valentines' Day, we had to wait until I come home from work on Saturday night to go and celebrate. Two of our friends, pretty much Greg's best friend and my best friend, who are getting married in June (and whose wedding we are standing up in, Greg being the best man) joined us and we all went out to dinner that night.


We went to Texas Roadhouse for the first time ever - and we were all pretty impressed. They had really good steak! And can't complain about the margaritas either, haha! We then came back to our house, watched a movie while eating my cheesecake for dessert. 

 And here is the little one showing off her Valentine's day gift... a new soft and cuddly bed!

#2 Look what arrived in the mail!

It looks nothing [in this crappy cell phone picture] like it does in real life! I ordered this professional canvas print from this website: I read a whole bunch of reviews that compared canvas prints made by walmart, costco, walgreens, shutterfly etc....and this internet printing company was found to have the best quality of the canvas, the best colors, for the best price. I paid $100 + shipping/handling for a 30 inch x 30 inch framed canvas portrait. It is huuuge (see cat for scale haha) and beautiful, as I said, this picture does not do it justice. I highly recommend cgproprints. I will definitely be getting more canvas prints, probably some for our bedroom. This one is for our living room. I'll show you how it looks once I get my hubby to put it up!



#3 Exercising

I tried working out on Wednesday on the elliptical I bought before our wedding and only used 3 times since I bought it....and I thought I was going to die! I only did 10 minutes and I was about to pass out! Am I in that bad of a shape or is the air in my basement low in oxygen? I had to run upstairs quickly to get some air because I started seeing black spots and I just overall didn't feel very well. Hmm...what do you all think about working out in the basement: bad idea or no problem? I just hate the air in our basement. I feel like it's cold, but moist, and low in oxygen. Or maybe I'm just in so bad of a shape that I feel like dying after a 10 minute, moderate intensity, aerobic/cardio workout. I can't wait for Chicago to warm up so I could go jogging outside and not have any tissue oxygenation problems.

I guess I need more of this mindset:

#4 I'm accepting Jen Fulwiler's challenge

I've never done this before. So I'm a little nervous. I could barely get myself to post once a week. But this will be good for me! Challenge accepted! (oh, I just remembered: this coincides with final exams week...whoops, now this is a real challenge inside a challenge!)

#5 I gotta brace myself, FINAL EXAMS are coming.

* cheers to having no life for the next week or so  *


Oh yeah, and you all know you gotta brace yourselves cause Lent is coming, too! It'll be here before you know get working on those resolutions and sacrifices. I'm already thinking long and hard about mine! Don't want to set myself up for failure like I did some other times. I am actually looking forward to lent and cannot wait to offer up some sacrifices for God. I've been living with too much freedom and carelessness lately, and I cannot wait to begin some self-discipline in my life! I need it...badly.

#7 Post Marital Bliss Part Two: 6 months later...

Speaking of celebrating 6 months of marriage, check out my Post-Marital Bliss Part 2 Post, which I wrote this week to commemorate our lovely "half anniversary." In this post, I describe both the blessings and the challenges we have faced so far in our very young marriage.