Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God."

Today I am really grateful for the women in my college. We are starting to develop closer friendships and I have really needed their sisterhood.

On Tuesday we had dinner together and laughed a lot about frogs and how they're creeps. Sarah does a great impression of the way frogs would say "hello."

That night we went to Cocomero, Champaign's local froyo shop, to talk about emotional chastity and the dating fast. When we commit to our two years in FOCUS, we are in a really unique postion where we commit to fast from dating for an entire year.

 The fast looks a little different for everyone, especially if someone begins their work in FOCUS already in a relationship, but for me it means a 100% fast from romantic relationships and to discourage romantic feelings. I know this sounds crazy to a lot of people, but this fast is actually a great gift. This is a way for me to truly allow Christ to be my most intimate friend and for me to allow Him to be my first love. It will drive me to be a woman of deep prayer, it will allow me to heal from broken relationships in the past and the world's view of relationship, and it will allow me to grow in emotional maturity. Most importantly, this fast will allow me first view men as my brothers in Christ.

I know that this fast can sound like a lot of rules being put on to us by FOCUS. But really, this fast is completely about freedom. It is an opportunity to grow closer to Christ and to commit myself 100% to my mission. Yes it will be hard, but I think we grow the most when times are hard. 

Today we started to learn about salvation history (we are completing a 24 hour long session class in 9 hours) and then had team time. Since the whole UNL gang won't be here until Friday, my team got the afternoon off. It was nice to be able to catch up on some rest and catch up on work.

This evening we had women's recreation. It was a two hour scavenger hunt running across campus. It was hard. I am not athletically gifted at all and I can't even run for five minutes without feeling like I'm going to pass out, throw up, or just die. It was really hard for me knowing I was the one slowing our group down and keeping us from being quicker. I really struggle with allowing other people to see and know my weaknesses so that made this even harder.

This scavenger hunt allowed me to begin to open up and share this minor weakness with others. I had to accept their offers to slow down and walk with me. It was definitely a pride check and I was not very excited about it for the most part. Despite being constantly winded and feeling really embarrassed, I loved walking with these women and tackling the challenges at each station with them. I am so grateful that they were willing to love and respect me in my weakness and lift me up in it.

Tomorrow, the rest of team UNL comes into town. I'm really excited to meet them and to start our work together.

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Letting Go

Camp Tecumseh Staff Training started today. And I'm really struggling with it.

When I was on my JVC discernment weekend we spent a lot of time talking about our attachments. They defined them as people or things or events that would keep us from serving with JVC. God really showed me how attached I was to Camp. To be honest, it was a big factor in my decision making process and organizations that would not allow me to be at camp this summer had a huge strike against them.

I was really looking forward to working in the formation of the Lake Village staff this summer. I was excited to teach them how to pray, be third, how to be the best counselor possible, and how to "love those kids." I was pumped to partner with Tom, Mike, and the LV coords to improve the day to day functioning of Lake Village so we could take strides to make CT2K12 the best summer yet. But God had other plans. 

I am so happy to be here with FOCUS shaping college students full time. My job will be to "love those students" and to bring them Jesus. Yes, I will miss the silliness of camp and working alongside some of my absolute best friends and people who have shaped who I am today. But through those struggles, Jesus is starting to show me that every moment, camper, and friend at Tecumseh was never mine to begin with. They are all His and He loved me enough to give them to me to love for Him for a few years. But now He needs them back so He can do big things in their lives at camp and big things in my life with FOCUS. As one priest put it today, "don't ever give up on what God has given you to do." God has given me this part in the Great Commission and I cannot give up on it.

College of St. Therese dominating at Volleyball

Yes, it was hard to know camp was so much fun today without me, but that's okay. I know this is my time to give Camp back to God. Every person I met and every moment I had at camp will stay with me forever. I will still continue to love those people and those kids. So now I turn the page and anxiously await the countless number of missionaries and students I am being called to love these next two years. Nebraska, you better watch out. God has big things in store for us.

3/4 of Team UNL!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in love, and you will not leave Him." - St. Josemaria Esciva

Today we had our first day of all staff formation. We started with an overview of why we do formation and mentorship, and then dove right in to leadership and the virtues of humility and magnanimity.  After our overview, Fr. Kevin Dyer, a Jesuit from Denver, jumped right in to talk to us about leadership.

He spoke to us about images of leadership in the new testament. I loved these two things Fr. said in regards to our formation:

"A Christian leader is someone who leads people to a certain life not by pointing the way but by showing the way and setting the pace. The followers are attracted to your way of life."

"We will make the commitment these five weeks to look at ourselves and say, 'I hate my sin and I hate anything that will keep me from leading others to Christ and that will keep me from being transformed.'"

I love how true they ring. As a missionary, it will not be my job to sit around and tell people what to do. Rather, my job will be to deeply and intimately invest in the lives of college students. My job will be to love them, and my job will be to take them by the hand as I show them how to follow Jesus. We spend these intense five weeks to form ourselves because we cannot give away what we have yet to receive. Christ called us here not just so we can change lives on the campus, He also wants to make big changes in us.

When I started to get overwhelmed by the great task that is this job, Fr. Kevin said, "we learn our character by imitating. Just look at the wonderful people that surround you!" He encouraged us to imitate each other as we are all striving to imitate Christ.

"God provides if we're willing to say 'yes.' If you are, get rid of your fears and Christ will form you." 

The rest of today was followed by more classes and a lot of intentional time with our colleges. Today my college ate dinner together and had two hours to hear each other's testimonies and unpack what we learned in class today.

Yesterday, Biking for Babies made a stop in Champaign. They rode all around the country to share the pro-life message and to raise support for pregnancy centers this past week. I admire how these individuals took an active stand to support something they believe in.

I am looking forward to meeting the men in our BroCo (brother college) on Thursday, beginning classes on the spiritual life, and to continue to make new friends.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"It all starts here - at the foot of the cross."

Those were Curtis Martin's, the founder of FOCUS, words to us last night as we gathered for our first event as the 2012-2013 staff. We gathered in the chapel, in the presence of the Eucharist, because we cannot do this mission without centering ourselves on Christ.

These first two days were about resting before we hit the ground running on Monday.

They were about recommitting ourselves to Christ so that we may bring Him to others.

They were about making new friends and taking small steps to build intentional community.

 They were about calming our fears and eliminating our anxieties before we begin.

We are separated into thirty-nine small groups, called colleges, of men, women, and married couples. The eight other women in my College of Saint Therese of Lisieux are here to be my small community in the midst of 300+ missionaries. They will be the women I eat with, pray with, and play with. They will challenge me to grow in holiness and shape me as I prepare to set out on this mission. I am excited to run alongside them as we recommit ourselves to Christ each day.

These past two days reminded me of why I said 'yes' to FOCUS and they helped me become energized. I am so pumped for our first classes tomorrow and to hear more the heart of this mission.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's Run.

I spent the entire month of March discerning what God was calling me to do after graduation. It was actually a pretty great month full of discernment weekends, interviews, and retreats. The hypothetical, "if I get an offer" was easy to entertain in my head, but once the offers and acceptances came in, I became extremely anxious about the whole thing. Questions were constantly racing through my mind: what if I made the wrong choice? What if I thought God was calling me to this ministry, but He actually was calling me to this other one? What if He asks me to do something and I tell Him no? What if I can't do it?

Pretty overwhelming.

I had made a decision and a promise to God after my FOCUS interview weekend. But then doubts crept in and I came up with countless excuses as to why I was not called to that ministry. Conversations with people who did not support that decision did not help either. Though I was pretty confident God was calling me in that direction, I was terrified of disappointing my family, being looked down upon by the world, and failing at fundraising my salary. I talked myself out of it and convinced myself that God was calling me elsewhere. So I told FOCUS "no," and chose something else.

And then everything came crashing down around me. I began to fall, very quickly. I made some huge mistakes. I stopped praying, and essentially had to drag myself to mass on Sunday. Those last two weeks of lent were a mess as I began to forget my identity in Christ.

The day after my last post, Megan and I had lunch with a Marian Sister. Sister Abigail Marie was a second year novice and she reminded me so much of myself. Megan left our lunch to go to our holy hour, leaving me and Sr. Abigail Marie alone. I began to spill my worries, anxieties, and fears to her. I told her about my promise to God, my inability to pray, and everything that was going on. She very wisely sympathized with me, and encouraged me to really examine with God what was going on. Afterwards I had a great prayer time in adoration and started to slowly allow myself to reconcile with Christ.

Sr. Abigail Marie (source)

But then I let fear creep in again. At lunch I had told Sr. Abigail Marie that I wanted to attend the Marian Sister's Holy Week Retreat (Holy Thursday - Holy Saturday), but I could not bring myself to register. By Wednesday I had convinced myself I was not going, but when I opened my email in the morning, I saw an email from Sister asking if they should plan on my attendance or not. I thought to myself, "Fine. I will go." I had a test on Thursday morning, and I had to put my pencil down, put my hands on my head, and take deep breaths to make myself stop worrying about the retreat.

So I drove to Lincoln, Nebraska to go on my very first silent retreat. Before the silence started, I met a FOCUS Missionary from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and reconnected with two other girls that were on my interview weekend who had accepted their offers to be missionaries. I sighed to myself as I began to deeply realize that this calling was not going to go away.

That night, we were able to "keep watch and pray" with Christ. I forced myself to immediately go to confession. Nervously, I opened the door to the confessional, shut it, and walked forward.
"In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit."
Tears began pouring out of my eyes as I said, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last confession. I'm pretty sure God is asking me to be a FOCUS Missionary and I told Him no." What? Where did that come from? But I couldn't deny it. My soul had been longing for union with Christ, and by telling Him 'no,' I had put up a barrier between myself and Him.
I finished my confession, and began to listen to the counsel of the priest.
"Well, before I say anything else, about this FOCUS thing - there is always next year."
Oh boy. What I didn't tell him was when I had told FOCUS 'no' over spring break, they told me to consider my offer on the table until the end of April.

When Christ absolved my sins, I went back into adoration. I fell to my knees, still crying, and begged Jesus to confirm this call, to give me clarity beyond doubt that He was asking me to be a missionary.

As we were in our last prayer session on Saturday morning, I was pretty sure I was going to accept my offer, even without clear confirmation from Christ. I had received a pretty big grace and peace about becoming a missionary over interview weekend, so I told the Lord that would be enough for me.

I turned the page in my prayer journal and sat back in the pew to clear my head and just focus on Christ. I put my pen to my page and began to write. This is what came out:

I love the phrase "run after" when speaking about pursuing someone. It love the imagery it creates. It suggests that we're not simply investing in them. Rather, we are full forced, all in, after that person. For some, running comes easy. For me, it is hard. So running after someone is not a light or easy task. It takes every ounce of my strength and all of my attention. It is something that will completely exhaust me. But unlike reaching a finish line in a marathon where you receive a medal and some water, running after a person yields a much higher reward. It yields companionship. It yields peace. It yields friendship and love. Best of all, it yields Christ's favor knowing you willingly said "yes" to His urgings to pursue that person. Better still, running after Christ yields the highest reward - heaven.

So bring on the shortness of breath, the cramps in my side, and the sore muscles. Bring on the dehydration, the seemingly endless miles, and the mental and physical exhaustion. I am ready and willing to spend the rest of my days not just pursuing, but running this marathon to get to Christ.

Dana and I had used that term a few days prior when talking about the girls in my Bible Study, so I guess it was fresh in my mind. I really do love the imagery of it, but wasn't really sure where those words came from.

After the final talk of the weekend, the sisters gave us each a crucifix, a bottle of holy water, and a quote card. They told us they hoped it would give us encouragement in what we had heard from God or would sum up the retreat for us in some way. Here is mine: about confirmation. Tears immediately came and I knew, with clarity beyond doubt, that Christ was asking me to be a FOCUS Missionary and to run after college students for the next two years.

So in 7 hours, I will embark on this journey. I ask your prayers for the mission and for all of the students I will encounter. I know this will not be an easy two years and that I will face many challenges. But as I look to the future, I see joy in knowing I am following His plan for my life. I am ready to run.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

3rd Annual Greek Gala

Studying defense mechanisms such as denial seems to be quite the appropriate time to update my blog. I have had quite the busy week - I've been working hard to work ahead so next week isn't too crazy with all of my exams.

On Thursday, I attended the 3rd Annual Greek Gala. In 2010 Ryan, Leigh, and I planned the first gala in quite a long time.  Though it was weird not being in charge of the event in some capacity, it was fun to see how the event had evolved. I loved seeing a few members of my old council, friends I don't get to see much of any more.

The slide show showcased pictures of each chapter and their success throughout 2011. We mingled among leaders from each chapter as we ate from the chocolate fountain and celebrated how much we have grown in inter-fraternalism in three short years.

I got emotional as I was walking across campus towards Levitt Hall. Panhellenic has played a huge role in my college career and I have grown so much because of the people who I have met because of it.

This was the first realization that I am graduating in forty-three days. I do not have adequate words to express my gratitude for the opportunities these people have provided me with.

As DG's Greek Programming Representative, I learned that I have a knack for planning events and am passionate about positive programming.The support and encouragement from Peter and Tisleen gave me the courage I needed to run. This position launched every single thing I was able to do on campus and set up an incredible foundation for personal growth.

In 2010 I learned how to balance a ridiculous schedule, how to incorporate DG's values into my everyday life, how to lead with integrity, and how to pull off (seemingly) flawless events. I gained incredible best friends who I learned how to lead from and looked up to more than I could imagine. They were there for me when times got harder than I could have imagined and encouraged me in my pursuit of bettering the community. That year was filled with incredible hardships, and without the women on that council, my programming partner, and advisor, I'm not sure how I would have made it through.

As president I learned how to be a servant leader and how to support the tasks and goals of the women on my council. 

These women turned into wonderful, close friends who I learned so much about being fair and working for a common good from.

These friendships taught me what it means to be a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi, Alpha Delta Pi, and Kappa Alpha Theta. I know I more fully appreciate the diversity of the Panhellenic organizations because of these women.

While walking over to the Gala on Thursday, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for these relationships. I was excited to see the friends who would be there, but I wished Leigh, Amelia, Kari, and Ryan could have been there as well.

I was so proud of my sisters who won individual awards that evening, and was proud and emotional when receiving mine. I went through a lot of hard months striving to make our campus a better place, and it was so great to be recognized for those achievements alongside the other incredible leaders in our community.

Congratulations to all who won an award this past Thursday and to those who were nominated. I cannot thank those I have worked with these past three years enough for allowing me to grow alongside you. Thank you for putting up with my rantings, mistakes, inspirations, and long meetings (anyone up for thirty minute highs and lows?). Thank you for encouraging me to keep trying even when it seemed like no one else would ever understand the importance of our values. Thank you for letting me cry with you and thank you for letting me laugh with you.

Most importantly, thank you all for being my friend. I am so proud to be a member of the Drake Greek Community and will value these years and friendships for all my years to come.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Road Trip.

Personal life goal: be more spontaneous.

That is being achieved today. I am about to hop in my car to head to the great state of Indiana. Two days ago while talking to some friends we entertained the idea of me dropping by for a short while before their spring break starts. I had no spring break plans, so I thought why not!? I'll only be there for three short days, but it's totally worth it.

Today, I am praying for safe travels and blessed intentional time spent with friends.

Today, I am excited to listen to the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast in my car, to jam out to some new music that I got, and to see my DePauw CT friends.

Today, I am grateful to be able to just hop in the car and go on an adventure like this.

See ya in 8 hours, Indy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Be Sealed With the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

"Your first vocation is to love Jesus Christ and to share His hope and love with others where ever you go." These were the words Archbishop Naumann ended his homily with at today's confirmation mass. Not only were his words perfect for those 189 eighth graders about to become full fledged Catholics, but they were perfect for me too.

In this time of transition I am fixated on figuring out exactly what God wants me to do. I get so overwhelmed thinking about making the wrong choice that I paralyze myself with all of my options. They are all good, but what if I pick the wrong one? Today's homily and calling down of the Holy Spirit reminded me that yes, what I do is important. But as long as I genuinely seek Christ with my whole heart and bring His love to everyone I meet, I am fulfilling my vocation as a Catholic woman. That is comforting.

I am so incredibly proud of my littlest brother, Joey. After two long years of study, he was confirmed in the Church. I pray he recognizes the significance of this event and takes his commitment to Christ seriously. He chose St. Sebastian to be his patron, as he is the patron of athletes. Joe led his eighth grade basketball team in an undefeated season, so I think it was a good choice.

I pray St. Sebastian's commitment to the Lord inspires Joey. When Joey was telling me about St. Sebastian, it really stuck out to me that though he would eventually be a martyr himself, St. Sebastian comforted those Catholics in prison who were being persecuted for their faith. I pray that like St. Sebastian, Joey can put the needs of others before his own and lead with integrity and humility.

Proud of you little brother! Congratulations.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sacrifice What Defines You.

Last week's challenge was to sacrifice what defines you. Initially my mind jumped to my positions on Panhellenic, but since I am no longer involved on campus I couldn't really sacrifice something I am not actively involved in. So I began to examen my daily life and tried to see what was constant each day that influenced the definition of who I am. Suddenly I knew what I had to give up. The mirror.

I thought this would be pretty easy as this is not something I typically struggle with. But it was incredibly challenging. I found myself extremely tempted to simply throw my hair into a pony tail and throw on my typical summer outfit (t-shirt & Nike shorts), but even that led me to being a tad self-conscious. Over the course of the week I slowly realized that though I don't consciously process it, I put a lot of stock into how I look. As a senior searching for a job, I generally have a way that I look and present myself on campus. I will never leave my apartment without looking in the mirror and it was a habit that was surprisingly hard to break. Though I realize my worth is not held in my looks and that I am still the same capable and intelligent woman whether I am dressed up and looking "cute" or not, I noticed how easy it is for me to relate how good my day will be with how I look. Why is it that when I am dressed up and "looking cute" I automatically feel better and think my day will be better? It is an interesting relationship between the two and I think it rings true for a lot of young women. 

What this past week reminded me of is this: no matter what I am wearing, no matter how I look, Christ is what defines me. I am a daughter of God and I am loved enough to die for.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"The Invitation"

by: Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I wrote about this poem yesterday but I just love it so much that I need to share it with the world. Here is the link to the author's website, and since I am a psychology student, my APA style citation is at the bottom.

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story
you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the sliver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me
To know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
From the inside
When all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Dreamer, O. M. (1999). The Invitation. San Francisco: Harper.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Written on the Bus Ride Home.

What I am learning to appreciate about Ignation Spirituality is when you boil it down, it is all about being in touch with your real self, in touch with your emotions, and in touch with the core of who you are. This weekend we pushed past some limits and recognized things that we are attached to and why they are there. The discernment weekend brought up a lot of questions and a lot of things that I never even realized are in the way of my decision making process, and thus in the way of my relationship with God. The weekend really brought to light some things I need to truly sit and wrestle with. Coming away from this weekend I have discovered an intense ambiguity surrounding my future. And I'm actually okay with it. Maybe I will be in Belize, Tanzina, or Micronesia next year. Maybe I will be in Denver, or on a college campus. Maybe I will be traveling around in a van meeting thousands of high school students. Or maybe I won't be doing any of those things. I am working towards that place of active indifference so I can freely give my "yes" to Christ.

On Saturday we read a poem to open our prayer. It is beautiful and there are so many different parts that I love, but I think what I love the most (at least right now) are the stanzas that say:

 "I want to know if you have touched 
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain. 

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it." 

-"The Invitation," by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

When I experience somthing negative I jump to address it and fix it, or shove it underneath the rug. It is how I dealt with negative relationships, how I dealt with my Dad's cancer, and how I deal with a lot of the wrong I have done. But what Ignation Spirituality is teaching me is that we have reasons for these desolations and rather than ignore them, it is so important to name them, sit with them, and accept the fact that they could be a sign from God. I am learning how to "sit with pain" and I am learning how to understand what it means.

It is extremely overwhelming knowing that I have to make some major life decisions within the upcoming month. I am reading Discerning the Will of God: An Ignation Guide to Christian Decision Making by Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher and stumbled across this question: "What growth did God offer this person through the process of discernment?" (p. 131). It is a great question to pose as I am attending these interview weekends and handing my future over to Christ. I think God is trying to teach me something important in each weekend I attend. At the FOCUS interview weekend it was trust. This past weekend was about a real, intense way of living, and being in touch with Christ within me. I want to incorporate all of what I am learning in this process into who I am. This process is long and confusing, but I know at the end of it I will not only know what I am doing next year, but I will also have a deeper understanding of who I am and who Christ is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Loyola University Chicago

I had a bit of free time between my interview and the retreat so I got to wander around Loyola's campus for a bit. The beautiful weather complimented the beauty of the campus.

This is where I got to pray on Saturday. Incredible.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sacrifice What Feeds You.

This past week's challenge was to sacrifice what feeds you.

I might have taken the easy way out, but this week I chose to abstain from meat. It wasn't very hard at first, but by Thursday I was sick of pasta and just wanted some chicken. What it made me realize, in the simplest way, was how incredibly blessed and fortunate I am - especially in regards to my access to food. I was choosing to only eat a certain type of food (pasta, rice, etc) while there are millions of people in the world who have no say in what they eat or whether or not they even can eat. My very, very small sacrifice brought me a small taste of solidarity with the hungry and allowed me to recognize my privilege even further. It is a privilege that I can even take on these forms of sacrifice, that I can even consider living simply or chose to abstain from a certain type of food.

I think it is important that I continue to recognize this privilege and what exactly that means. A lot of what I learned this past week was echoed over the weekend. I need to delve deeper into those things as they come up, so hopefully I can be a bit more insightful tomorrow. 

However, I think that I am realizing more and more how much my background and the privilege my family provided me with is ingrained into every single thing that I do. I'm not sure if I would have realized this as profoundly as it is hitting me now if I had not created space in my life by giving up social media. What I love about doing these Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice challenges is how they beautifully compliment my desire to live simply and my desire to give up social media. I pray that when lent is over I can continue to incorporate what I am learning into my daily life. But before I can do that, it means sitting with what I am discovering, really getting into the hard stuff, and understanding how each of these things play into my every day life.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I'm blogging from a bus.

This is for real. I'm currently on a MegaBus heading to Chicago for an interview weekend. Prayers that I may remain open to God's will & for clarity from the Holy Spirit would be very much appreciated.

This week has been filled with ups and downs, but mainly filled with a lot of anxiety about what is in store for the future. I found a lot of peace in Christ last weekend in Kansas City, but the devil is trying to attack that peace in so many different ways. I know I need to find and cling to peace, but it is getting harder and harder as I am unsure what God's plan is for me. There are so many different great options out there, but I want to pick what is truly going to be the best thing I can do for God. Last weekend one of the missionaries read a quote from Pope Benedict 16 that encouraged us to enthusiastically accept our missionary responsibility Christ has called us to and to accept it as the highest form of service we can do for Christ and His Church. I so greatly desire to accept my call from God without hesitation. It can just be hard to hear Him through the noise of this world. I'm very grateful in this moment that I don't have the ability to text or get on facebook so I can't be distracted by my peers plans for the future and what other people think I should do. There are still distractions and attempts to pull me away from Christ even without social media, so I'm trying hard to "pray without ceasing" and constantly return to that place where I truly desired nothing but Christ's will.

Last night at mass Father Joel gave a homily on what he calls "the scariest gospel." It is the story of the rich man who went to hell for his sins of omission. I know when judgement day comes along I will have to account for all of my sins, but what I am fearing most in this moment is having to explain to God why I didn't do things, why I didn't speak up when I should have, and why I failed to accept my missionary call. I pray that God grants me to courage to accept what He has in store for me so that from this moment on my life can be nothing but an ongoing "yes" to whatever it is that God wants. Even if that means an uncertain summer, lack of support and understanding from people I care about, and a change to my personal plans.

It's hard to admit these fears to myself, and even harder to post them for the world to see. But as Dana told me last weekend, simply naming the fears weakens their hold over. I refuse to let my fears be the reason for a decision about next year. So I am praying hard for God to give me courage to say yes to him, strength to stand by my decisions, and peace when making those decisions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Parable of the Sower

In prayer on Sunday, I read the Parable of the Sower in Matthew. If you are unfamiliar with the parable, here it is:
"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering his seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. The other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown." Matthew 13:3-8
I've read this parable countless times, I've taught it in Sunday School, taught it in devotions, and in chapels. Yet reading it on Sunday was different. What I love about the Word is how you can revisit the same verse or teaching again and again and God can reveal a different part to you with each visit to His life. On Sunday, Jesus and I walked through the times when I have been sown in the different types of soil. We looked at high school where I had no root, early years of college where I was among thorns, and earlier in my life where the seed had fallen along the path.

In Bible Study last night, we read and talked about this passage as well. It was neat to hear what soils people think they are in and where they want to go. We talked about how we want our study to be good soil for one another, how we want it to be a place where we can grow and flourish together as sisters in Christ.

I like to think that I really am in good soil now. But what I think I realized on Sunday was that I am very much at a point where it is possible for me to allow the thorns in my life to "choke out" my plant. I am in the midst of figuring out where I am going to be next year and how exactly I can serve Jesus and His Church. There are some scary things about each option. But what I am realizing is that whatever God wants me to do, I need to do. Not out of fear of what will happen if I don't, but truly out of joy in knowing it is what He is calling me to. The path he has chosen for me is my "good soil." Just because that option will be my good soil and will be the best way for me to grow close to Him does not mean there won't be thorns along the way. These thorns might threaten my ability to choose, but if I truly love Him I will not allow the thorns to "choke" me.

I am so grateful that FOCUS came to St. Kate's my sophomore year. Those first four missionaries laid a lot of ground work and worked so incredibly hard to spread seed in good soil. Two years later our community of student leaders is flourishing and so is our impact. It is incredible to see what the Holy Spirit and Jesus are doing through our willingness to say "yes" to Bible Studies, friendships, and discipleship. None of the original four are at Drake, but their hard work truly is allowing a crop to be produced - a hudred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. I pray that no matter what happens in the years to come I am able to continue my walk with Christ and sow seeds in good soil.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Highlights of my weekend:

  1. Experiencing Christ's peace
  2. Starting to plan AKPsi formal
  3. Meeting a bunch of other students from around the Great Plains Region who are hoping to share Christ's love in whatever way He is calling them
  4. Mass at Our Lady of Good Council - seriously the best homily I've ever heard
  5. Sharing and hearing testimonies
  7. Seeing my family for lunch today
  8. Country line dancing
  9. 60 degree weather in KC today
  10. This quote from an art museum: "what I am trying to do and has to do with exuberance and hope and joy" - Jose Alvarez
  11. This picture:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sacrifice What Surrounds You.

This week, Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice challenged us to sacrifice whats surrounds you. They challenged us to recreate the walls of our daily life, and to surround ourselves with things that inspire us to act on what we are passionate about.

I decided that this meant more than the walls of my room, so I changed my desktop background. The image on the screen of my computer is the one I see the most each day. Mary gave everything for God when she said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to Your Word." Mary inspires me to follow Christ and to have courage to follow His plan for my life.

What else surrounds me each day? The answer was obvious: what I wear. I ended up going through my closet and pulling out a lot of my clothes to donate to charity. I still have more than enough outfits to wear, but what purpose does a perfectly good shirt have if I am never going to wear it? These clothes can be loved by someone else, by someone who truly needs them.

Finally, I redecorated my room to sacrifice the walls of my every day life. I rearranged my furniture for a fresh start, I took down some of the cluttering posters and pictures, and added things that inspire me.

This week in my Bible Study, we talked about St. Gianna Molla.

"One cannot love without suffering,
or suffer without loving."
- St. Gianna Molla
Beautified by JPII in 1994, St. Gianna lived until the age of thirty-nine, beautifully balancing her roles as a surgen, mother, and wife. She died in 1962 when she refused to have an abortion and insisted the doctors save her unborn child's life over her own. St. Gianna chose to sacrifice her life for the love of her children. Her image and quote have gone on my wall to remind me that to love is to die to yourself and to sacrifice for those around you.

Mary's quote that changed the world and my consecration prayer are on my wall to remind me to strive to live like her each day.

I love this quote about sacrifice. Blessed Mother Theresa said this. I put it on my door to remind me of her great life of sacrifice.

On Thursday, I wrote about a song that makes me think. Once challenged and come to a realization, I don't want to forget what I have learned about life and myself. God has been showing me the importance and necessity of sacrifice. Having these words and images surround me will hopefully remind me to constantly give thanks to God for all He has given me, and inspire me to act for the good of others.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Life of a Research Assistant

This semester, I have been finishing up my research seminar with Dr. Allen that I started last semester. My fellow research assistants and I have spent the last month recruiting participants, collecting data, inputing data, and basically living in Olin Hall.

Speaking to the PSY001 Labs

We might have taken over the sign up board... 
Our excel spreadsheet goes out to "JO"
I am so excited because we are DONE collecting data and we are almost done entering our data into the computer. We will finish that process early next week and then comes the fun part - statistical analysis. The rest of our semester will be spent working on our article that will hopefully be published.

I'm very grateful that Drake makes it so easy for students to do research with their professors. This is great experience for an undergraduate to have, and it has opened my eyes to the possibility of eventually pursing a Ph.D. It is good to know that I do enjoy research even if I do not decide to go down that path.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts Inspired By a Song

Over winter break, I acquired a bunch of new music from a friend. I will generally listen to most types of music and I really like stuff that actually makes me think, so I was excited to hear the songs. Most of it was different from the type of music I normally listen to, but it was good. 

One song I had forgotten about came back up my shuffle tonight. When I first heard it, I immediately hated it because I didn't listen to it in-depth. Lines such as "love is just a hoax so forget everything that you've heard," and advice simply amounting up to living for what feels good in the moment had me cringing until I got to the end of the song. The line changes to "love's completely real, so forget everything that you've heard." Having misjudged the song, I had to listen to it again. After listening to it over and over, I know there are parts that I slightly agree. I definitely do not support everything that it's saying (especially since it encourages us to only seek what it good in the moment), but I appreciate that it got me thinking. 

Overall, it's a good song and it got me thinking about the types of people we surround ourselves with and the types of things that we do. Please forgive my overgeneralizing in the next paragraph, but this is what the song made me think of.

I think in life we want to be comfortable. We like to be affirmed in who we are and in the choices that we make. So we surround ourselves with people that are similar to us. When we talk about controversial things, like politics and religion, we might disagree on minor details, but we generally walk away from the conversation thinking the exact same way that we did before. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if the reason we do not change our thoughts is because we are not listening, it can become bad. We watch mind numbing movies, TV shows, and read mind numbing magazines and novels. When something real happens to us, we ignore it. We don't challenge ourselves and we don't think. I can name times when I have been completely guilty of this.

So what I think I got out of this song about society and love comes down to is this: I don't want to be the kind of person who never challenges myself in what I believe in. I don't want to exist in what is simply comfortable to me. Yes, there is a time and a place for those things, but I want to live. I want to go outside of myself, get uncomfortable, and serve Christ and His Church. I want to remember who I am, and I want to grow from my experiences and the challenges I have faced. I want to take things that make me think, like this song, and figure out what it means for me. I don't want to be content with a comfortable existence where I am never challenged. I want to keep learning new things, and growing from what I experience.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What does sacrifice mean to you?

Before I gave up facebook, I saw that my camp friend, Ben, was going to be doing "Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice" for Lent. I thought I'd check out the website. I looked around for a bit and it seemed to be echoing my desire to simplify, and so I signed up.

Last week's challenge was to begin preparation for this journey by figuring out what you are willing to sacrifice and to figure out what exactly sacrifice means to you.

What I think sacrifice means is being willing to give things up with the intention of growing closer to Christ. I was able to hear Sr. Mary Alma talk about the vow of poverty and what that means to her and her community of the School Sisters of Christ the King. She told us that though the vow is acted out differently in other communities, the heart of poverty, the heart of sacrifice, is telling Christ, "You are enough for me." It is about freeing your heart from attachments to worldly things so your heart can be free for Christ and His will. ("For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also." - Luke 12:34/Matthew 6:21) If we become attached to things, our heart will be there. And then our treasure will be there as well. I don't want that. I think sacrifice is about dying to myself so I can put the desires of Christ and the needs of others before my own.

For me, sacrifice and love are becoming inseparable constructs. I think when you truly love someone you want to will their good above you own. That leads you to sacrifice your own desires if they conflict with the good of that person you love. When you love, you desire what that person desires. And sometimes that can lead you to sacrifice as well.

When I started I was willing to sacrifice my security in communication. I am coming to realize that I am willing to sacrifice whatever Christ is calling me to. I am excited to continue these challenges and I pray they will compliment my lenten sacrifice and challenge to simplify to Christ.

Monday, February 27, 2012

This is really hard.

Day six.

This is really hard. And this might sound dumb, but I am actually surprised at how big of a challenge this is. I took a big test Thursday morning and spent all of the last week studying for it. Abstaining from facebook and twitter was a little easier on Wednesday because I knew it was good for me.

I came home after my test and I realized I had nothing to do. I sat in my apartment for a little over an hour and I really just felt like I was wasting time. Which is silly because if I had access to facebook and twitter I would have been on those websites - actually wasting time. The absence of those websites has already shown me how much time I waste. I hope I can take that realization and learn to be comfortable with nothing going on.

After mass on Friday afternoon, Fr. Joel said what he thinks we all need to fast from is noise so we can make room for the silence and peace of the Lord. He is absolutely right. For some reason I've been inclined to keep the TV off (I'm running with it) and there's been a lot of quiet. I think it's good. I want to be able to open my heart to what God has to say to me. The silence has been a little uncomfortable, but I hope I will grow to appreciate it.

Because of this lack of facebook and texting I have now had really great conversations with two friends I normally would just facebook chat with. Tonight I had a particularly great conversation with my friend Ryan about the beauty of discernment and placing where we are at in God's hands. We talked about growth, sacrifice, and accepting God's plan for us. I only called him because of this fast and I'm so grateful for our conversation.

I also got to skype with my sister for two hours over the weekend.

It was great to really talk to her and hear all about Anchor Splash at SLU.

I really love conversation and connection and I am learning to truly put effort into my relationships. When we moved in high school I began to learn the lesson that you will keep in touch with those who matter to you. Here I am learning how to initiate that process in an intentional manner. I pray this season of lent will continue to bring blessings and conversations centered on Christ where I am able to be truly present.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Catholic Awareness Day

Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

As I was walking to class this morning I ran into an AKPsi brother who I had no idea was Catholic. She said to me, "I'm glad to see you went to church this morning." I was glad she went too. I then became distressed that without twitter, I had no where to post the hilarious joke I made about today being Catholic Awareness Day. Thank goodness for blogger. It's only 4:00 and I've already noticed myself thinking in tweets with no where to put them. This is going to be an adventure.

I want to start out by disclaiming that I am not one of those people who thinks social media and other forms of instant communication has ruined everything. That is not why I'm doing this.

Two times in the Bible (Matthew 6:21 & Luke 12:34) Jesus says, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." It is phrased exactly the same in both gospels in the NIV translation. I'm no biblical expert, but I'm pretty sure this indicates the importance of the concept. I think treasure can manifest itself in many different ways. When I think of the things I invest most of my time and energy in, relationships and being connected to others is the winner by a landslide. Though this is not a bad thing, if at the end of my life I am more concerned with my friendships than with my relationship with Jesus, I will loose my life.

So for me, fasting from texting and social media is about four things:

  1. Sacrifice - this is going to be hard. What am I supposed to do in my free time? You mean to tell me I should actually do my work instead of looking through facebook and pinterest? How am I going to stay in touch with my camp friends, with those people I don't have the luxury of seeing very often? I will miss out on communication between these friends and possibly even miss out on events around campus. And that's okay. It wouldn't be called sacrifice if it was easy. That being said, I also want to make it clear that in no way do I think my lenten sacrifice is more difficult or challenging or that it's better than yours. It is just what I think I need these next forty days to grow close to Christ.
  2. Choosing to turn to God first - this sacrifice is about choosing God more frequently and first. When I'm tempted to get on facebook, or text someone I'm going to pray. I'm going to offer it up. 
  3. Increased communication - not just increased traditional communication with my friends, but mainly increased communication with Christ. We know through history and the bible that God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. I'm hoping by eliminating these "loud" forms of social media I will create silence and space in my heart to hear God speak.
  4. Simplifying my life - I wrote earlier today that I feel so very called to simplify my life. I think this is just a first step. I will see where my increased prayer leads me.
I think that overall I want to simplify my life to make room for Christ. Right now, I think that means giving up social media and being connected to the world. So here's to hoping my eyes, ears, and heart will be opened through this process.