Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Truth of Spiritual Attack

Hi ladies! 

I apologize about how quiet we've gone. We both are waist deep in our senior year of college and are striving to simultaneously seek the Lord wholly, pass our classes, apply for post-graduation programs, get jobs, invest in friendships, and still get sufficient sleep. :)

Last week I was hit with an idea that I wanted to reflect upon in a blog post. I was inspired by a conversation with one of my sisters and I was feeling really good about the post I wanted to write. This is not that post.

Because then on Thursday last week, I started the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary (again). I've started this a couple of times, but the two other times I got about a week in and felt that my heart wasn't in the right place to do the consecration well or that my intentions behind it were not holy intentions (wanting to fit in, doing it because it was the "thing to do," etc). The Lord has done a lot of work in my heart and in my life in the last twelve to eighteen months and I feel that my heart is in a good place to complete the consecration. And I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that, because Thursday night, Satan waged an incredibly intense attack on my heart that more or less debilitated me for the entire weekend. 

It wasn't until Sunday morning that I made the connection. I was reading in my consecration book about Satan's special hatred for women, but particularly for Mary. In Genesis, the Lord says to the serpent (Satan):
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)


He hates Mary because she easily overpowered him. Devotion to Mary brings about great holiness, swiftly and deeply, and makes saints of all people. Satan, rightly, hates this! His mission is to pull us away from God no matter what it takes, so someone who is so good at making people holy would drive him absolutely crazy. 

Starting the consecration was like putting a big huge target on my heart. Satan came in and brought back to my heart every lie about my worth and beauty and dignity. He brought up every struggle with jealousy and comparison and temptation. He told me I was never going to be desired or pursued, that I was unworthy of love, that the man that I am attracted to would never like me. He brought into my heart all of my fears of the future and change and heartache. And as much as I tried to fight him, he's really good at finding our wounds and ripping them open again, so my weekend was really hard. 

But the most beautiful thing is the way my sisters rallied around me. I asked for prayers from my closest prayer warriors. I confided more intimately with a couple sisters about what was being torn through my heart and they prayed for me. They shared encouraging words from their own experiences to comfort me. They prayed against the attacks and helped fight off the evil one. They spoke powerful Truth against the lies I was being fed. They shared with me words that God had given them in prayer about the war going on in my heart.

Sisters, there is a real battle waging for souls. Satan is real. Spiritual attack is real. The need to intercede for one another is real. This is where the value of sisterhood comes in. As women we bear life, and as women of strong faith we bear strong faith in the relationships we have. Women of strong faith coming together creates a powerful force. 

I encourage you to pray for one another. Come together with a small group of women and pray with one another. Pray to Mary, ask her intercession. Pray the Most Holy Rosary. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Pray against spiritual attack on the hearts of women (and men) everywhere. Because we are a community of believers, and we need one another.

In Christ,
Courtney

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

European Excursions

Now that I've been back from Europe for almost two weeks, it seems appropriate that I finally wrap up my posts about my adventures there this summer. Copenhagen is a great launching point for traveling to other countries and I definitely took advantage of this during my time there.

Norway

Oslo was the first stop on my week-long class study tour and was quite possibly my favorite Scandinavian city that I visited. There was something really cool and authentic about the city and it wasn't super crowded or touristy. As a Norwegian, I felt as if I came home for a few days to a nation that truly understands me. Oslo has everything I luv from cute neighborhoods and impressive parks to water views and green scenery. I also had the privilege to go out to dinner with distant relatives and meet them for the first time. The city felt like a place where people actually live and not some artificial fairytale hodge-podge of tourist attractions, which made me feel comfortable as I walked its many streets. In addition to our time in Oslo, we took a half day out of the city and got to experience a small taste of the Norwegian fjords, which are among the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Needless to say, I was so sad to leave this incredible nation behind, but it is the one place out of every country I visited during this trip that I have promised myself I will return to someday.

The view of the city from the castle.
Aaaand the castle itself.
The gardens behind the castle.
The streets of Oslo.
The right view from the top of the Opera House.
The left view from the top of the Opera House.
The back view from the top of the Opera House.
The Norwegian fjords: absolutely amazing.
<3 my country
Island views in the fjords.
Back to Oslo: Frogner's Park.
 
Meeting Vigdis and Sven, my Norwegian relatives,
was an incredibly special finale to an
amazing trip of self-discovery as I learned
about myself and my heritage.

London

The second half of our study tour took us to the land of fish n' chips. Aside from the legit accents and rich history, I have to be honest and say that London didn't woo me, not one bit. Where some see one of the greatest cities of the world, I saw a dirty, crowded, and truly unimpressive place. It was essentially New York without the beauty of its skyscrapers and Central Park. Buckingham Palace was not nearly as striking to me as the Polish and Danish castles and the River Thames was filthy and brown compared to the sparkling Baltic Sea. The one highlight of my trip was seeing the Parent Trap house. My friend Lindsey and I found it and ended up meeting the owner while we were there. He was incredibly nice and even let us in his front gate so that we could take pictures standing on the porch. I also did enjoy the view of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. Although I do hope to go back and take more of a historical tour of the area someday, this is more due to my fascination with British monarchic history than my desire to return to the city. I never would have guessed that London would be my least favorite place that I went to, but I'm sad to say that it is. Despite my general distaste for the city, here are some moments that I found picture-worthy.

On our way to the Queen!
Statue outside of Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace is beautiful and stunning in
size, but lacks the style and design of other
castles I saw on my trip.
Big Ben is pretty exquisite as well.
And...my trip highlight!

Sweden

On the Saturday morning after we returned from London, my friend Thalia and I woke up and impulsively decided to go to Sweden. One hour later, we were on a train crossing over the sea toward Swedish soil. We didn't even need our passports as we were swept into the quaint streets of Malmo. It really is that easy to travel to other countries from Copenhagen and the train ride to Sweden was not even 30 minutes. After wandering into town from the train station, these were our first sights of Sweden.

We meandered up and down idyllic cobblestone streets dotted with cottages and ambled around plazas with fountains and shops. The sleepy town took us back in time and a few hours of wandering passed before we knew it. There was this peaceful quiet in my soul while in Malmo. I was simply content to imagine myself living in Copenhagen and going out on a date just across the Swedish border.

After a few hours in Malmo, Thalia and I caught a train to Lund, the next city over. Lund is a bit larger and more commercial than Malmo, but it also showcases some of the oldest architecture in Sweden, with buildings that have been around since the 11th century. We explored this town for another few hours which included touring the historic cathedral, navigating the botanical garden, and discovering a really old neighborhood with traditional Swedish homes.

The historic Lund Cathedral.
Thalia and I couldn't care less about the rain
once we discovered this cute neighborhood!
 I also got to go to Mass at a small church while were were here, which was nice despite it being in Swedish. While in Europe, I went to Mass in three countries and four different languages, which was a really unique experience. It made me so thankful for how universal our faith is and it gave me an hour of "home" every weekend.

After Lund, Thalia and I returned back to Copenhagen, but this was not the end of my Swedish adventure. I returned to the country one final time at the end of my Europe trip in order to experience its capital. Stockholm was one of my favorite cities I visited. My friend Hannah and I took a train there from Copenhagen the day after our last day of classes. We spent our first evening going out to dinner with her friend Daniel, who lives there. After that, we wandered the city. Summer days in northern Scandinavia can have up to 20 hours of daylight, which is really cool. When I was in Norway, my relatives and I were still sightseeing at midnight because they wanted me to experience the Oslo midnight sun. Stockholm had slightly less sunlight, but Hannah and I still walked until almost 1:00 am. That day also happened to be the Fourth of July and we coincidentally found some U.S. flags on the ground.  We picked them up and decided to carry them around for the rest of the night, which made for some funny comments from strangers and these cute pictures.
Stockholm is known for its
subway art. Each station
has a different theme. This
is where we ended up at
1:00 am. :)
The next morning, Daniel took us to this really cute restaurant by a lake. It was a nice opportunity to see a more rural area of Stockholm and the breathtaking beauty of the greenery and water. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city. Stockholm is essentially a cluster of islands connected by bridges that go over the water. Each island has its own feel, including urban, the old town, and suburban. This leads to beautiful coastal views from almost every place, but there were also plenty of places to explore on the interior of the land as well. Stockholm is a lot bigger than Oslo and there was a lot of great shopping to do in addition to sightseeing. It quickly became one of my favorite places I traveled to and although it didn't capture my heart like Poland and Oslo, I did find myself liking it more than Copenhagen. Hopefully these pictures will show you why. :)


Come Monday, it was time for Hannah to go back to Copenhagen because she was taking another class. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering around the Old Town as the sun set while looking in the souvenir stores. The next day was my last full day in Europe and I decided to just rest in a tranquil spot and spend some time reading, reflecting, and praying. I started by going to the Catholic church in town and praying in their chapel. Then, I moved to a grassy place by the sea, where I just laid out and wrote in my journal. I fondly remembered the last 30 days and all of adventures I had, places I'd seen, and new things I tried. All I could feel in my heart was gratefulness to God for giving me such an amazing trip. It was practically perfect in every way, but I was also so excited to go back home and see my loved ones.
My happy place on my last day.
My travel home was wrought with flight delays and canceled flights, but I finally made it back to Cleveland and then to Tucson the next day. It was so nice to see my parents, Joseph, and my friends again. I've kept my amazing European adventures in my heart and am so thankful for how they have shaped me as a person and given me an enhanced perspective in my quest to live for Heaven.