Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 8 Moments of 2013

8. SEEK 2013

I was thrilled to an inappropriate amount to be helping the events team at SEEK. I got to be a Special Events Subcommittee head, which meant I got to pop into all the non-main program meetings and make sure the room was set up correctly, the catering was all there, and the AV was good to go. I was basically a gopher, but I loved every second of it. 

At conference. I had a conversation with my friend Meg about how I really wanted to be an event planner, but I didn't feel like God wanted me to leave the mission of FOCUS just yet. We had some great conversations about the value of all work and the importance of being a light in every field, but neither of us made the connection that the events team could be an actual possibility for me. But being at SEEK confirmed my desire for event planning and laid the foundation for my move to the DSC. 

7. Spiritual Impact Bootcamp

I really struggled seeing my worth as a missionary at UNL. I did a lot of building and sending, where at Drake I was used to winning and building. I felt lost in a sea of 12 missionaries, and I was blind to my own worth.

Enter FOCUS' Spiritual Impact Bootcamp. A 3-day retreat focused on healing and encountering the Holy Spirit. This retreat blew the lid off of my struggles and allowed me to just lay everything out there. While the retreat itself was great, the aftermath was even more incredible.

My favorite experience was after admitting my struggles my entire crazy huge team prayed over me. It was humbling, beautiful, and I felt Jesus' love through all of them. The year ended and I chose to move to Denver. But fast forward to New Staff Training. I was telling a friend about my first year on staff, and as I was describing my struggles, I realized I was describing them from a healed perspective. I realized that since that moment of being prayed over, I had not questioned my success as a missionary. It was cool to see the power of Jesus' healing through the prayer of others.

6. Joining the events team

It's cool to look back and see how Jesus laid those desires upon my heart at SEEK and fulfilled them. It was such a cool discernment process. I was able to tell Jesus what I wanted and He let it unfold very slowly. I love this job so much and I feel so blessed to be able to work for FOCUS in this capacity.

5. Moving to Colorado

Moves are scary, and I honestly didn't want to pick up and start all over again. But I'm glad I did. The people, the mountains, the city...really everything, has been so great. I am glad I am here and hope to be here for awhile.

4. Subbing at Camp Tecumseh

I subbed at Tecumseh again for a week this summer, and this time it was less hard. I love that place and those people. It's crazy to think about what my life might have been like without camp.

I stepped into the staff meeting this summer really only knowing full time staff (I was now that old counselor in a sea of 19 year olds). The weirdest part was my old campers were now day camp staff. It was fun to see them around camp that week, and I spread the word that I wanted to take a picture with them at closing campfire. I don't think I've ever been more overwhelmed with love and gratitude in my entire life. I went to the back of campfire, expecting a quick picture. Instead I had nine Cayuga, Ojibwa, and Teton girls running at me and tackling me. I was quickly picked up. Millions of pictures later, my heart was so full and I thought I would just burst.

In that moment, I realized that as great as my pathfinder staff (they were top notch), my fellow counselors (who will be friends for life), and my bosses (people I look up to and respect the most) were, they were not why I love Camp Tecumseh. It was those kids and the hundreds more who had crossed my path all those summers before. Memories of ridiculous shenanigans, devotions filled with real tears, and the joy of watching kids become serious about connecting to Jesus raced through my head. I am so grateful for these girls and all the others who I was blessed to live alongside for 3 summers. 

3. Joining a parish

My tendency to get over-involved may or may not have kicked in when I first joined St. Jude's...you mean it's not normal to do High School Youth Group, teach Kindergarten RE, conduct the youth choir, and cantor at Mass? Whoops. Regardless of my supposed overcommitment, it has been cool to set into the "real world" of the Church. The goal of FOCUS is lifelong Catholic Mission, and I was just pumped to try it out. 

The more I step into the heart of the parish, the more my love for the new evangelization grows. I am loving my kiddos and the desire that everyone at St. Jude's has for discipleship. I am praying that my zeal for souls continues to increase and that I will be open to the ways Jesus wants to use me next year.

2. NST 2013

Ah, training. The most wonderful or most terrible time of the year. Insert 400 outgoing people who are stressed about where they could possibly be placed, trying to fundraise their salaries, and making new friends into the middle-of-nowhere Florida. Jam pack their days with graduate school level theology classes, community building, and retreat intense prayer, and you have New Staff Training. 

Though I kid about the craziness, NST is intense. It is spiritually, emotionally, and physically (I've never sweated so much) draining. But as challenging as it is, it is beautiful to be striving for Jesus alongside these 400 other crazy people.

I learned so much about who I am and who Jesus desires me to be this summer. I learned to sit with struggle and just let Jesus touch it. It was a great experience, and I'm looking forward to helping run it next year.

1. Pope Francis' election

Everyone loves Papa F, don't they? There's just something about him ...joy ...acceptance ...hope ...love ...Jesus...

Pope Francis challenges me. And it's awesome. And I hate it. No longer can I sit idle and feel a desire to love the poor. I must go. I love that he radiates joy and is drawing others to Jesus just by being who he is. He inspires me to be a better disciple of Christ.

What were some of your favorite 2013 moments??

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Most" Posts of 2013

I blog-met Sarah through Jen (who I blog-met through my REAL LIFE FRIEND, Carol). Sarah is hosting a "Most" Posts of 2013 link up, so I thought I'd join in. :) Enjoy!

I'm not surprised that the most clicks was Carol & my response to an organization that says you shouldn't send your daughters to college. This was super fun to write, and I'm glad it circulated the most!

Everyone has intense opinions about Christmas music. I'm glad I started in October because I didn't spend a lot of December preparing for Christmas...

This one. Because I made it. And I was super proud of myself and my graphic designing skills.

It was weird to actually admit to myself, yet alone other people, that I don't really like St. Therese. Because everyone loves her and clearly there must be something wrong with me if I don't. But it was the hardest because in the midst of writing it, I realized that I struggle with St. Therese because she challenges me. Dang it. Death to my own pride and selfishness is the actual worst.

I almost put this as hardest to write, because it was really hard. But I really, really like it. It had a lot of emotional significance (haha) at the time, and I really felt the need to share what God was teaching me about my feelings. If you count facebook & twitter comments, this one probably got the most comments too...

Monday, December 23, 2013


Happy 3rd Birthday, My Life (In Lists!)

This idea launched right before my second summer at CT, but didn't hatch until Christmas 2010. 

It's been a great ride, with some struggles and breaks, but I am glad to be back.

Image via.

This blog has grown into more than I ever thought it would be. Thank you, readers for listening to my ranting, for allowing me to process my thoughts and feelings in a public forum, for allowing me to engage in this small form of the new evangelization. 

I'm glad to be here on the internet with you, and I'm glad to keep going!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes on SLS [10]

My brain can't think of anything besides SLS right now. The other day Carol, Christina, & I all dreamt of the Summit. I've worked a good 40 hours this week and it's not even Friday yet. So if you're not interested in hearing about the Summit, this isn't the 7QT post for you.

This week I discovered I love play-by-plays. Well, I already knew I loved play-by-plays, but I learned they had a name and they're AWESOME. Basically a play-by-play is the minute to minute schedule of what is happening at every moment at an event and all details needed in that moment. I've been making these for my daily life since I became Director of Special Events for DG my sophomore year of college. I finished the Special Events PBP this week and the Liturgy one should be done tomorrow. They are some of the most beautiful excel spreadsheets I've ever seen.

Today is my last day in the office before the Summit. All I can say to that is AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I can't believe we're only 2 weeks away. Maybe when it's all over I'll have other things to talk about.

Have I mentioned that I love my team? Because I do. We had a informal team Christmas party yesterday after work and it is just so fun to hang out with them and chat about events and our lives. I'm looking forward to our New Years Eve celebration (aka work) when we are in Dallas.

Speaking of play by plays, I may or may not have made one for my time at home next week. Some might call that OCD, but I call it good time management. Seriously though, if I don't stick to this work/family time schedule, I will work 100% of my time at home. And that would be lame.

At work yesterday we had a long team email chain that turned into hilarious pictures of T-Rex. Why? Because Carol told us that she used to have reoccurring dreams of T-Rex's and Velociraptors trying to break into her house. This was my favorite picture:

Image via.

HEY ALL YOU NEBRASKA STUDENTS, DRAKE STUDENTS, & MISSIONARY FRIENDS OF MINE THAT WILL BE AT SLS. If I don't see you while we're in Dallas and you're there, I'll probably cry. So pleaseeeeeeeeee try to find me? And be okay with seeing me at weird hours? Or just waving and saying hi and knowing that I really do love you and I'm not ignoring you? Okay, great. Can't wait to see you.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I just love this. It's so simple, yet when I stumbled across this little quote, it challenged me. Do I truly trust that Jesus has my best in mind? That in the midst of struggle and suffering, He is actually working for my good and ultimate happiness?

This quote is a little reminder for me to let go of my tendencies to control. Man, I like to grab onto everything. I tend not to trust, I tend to take the reigns, and I tend to forget all the good He has given me before.

So this week, I'm asking Jesus to come into my life and be the source of my happiness. I'm working on trust and surrender, and I'm asking my new friend St. Paul Miki to intercede. 

Come Lord Jesus. Help me be joyful and happy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes on Family, Nuns on the Internet, and How St. Lucy is a DG [9]

I am heading to Aspen this weekend to help celebrate a friend's birthday. A bunch of FOCUS friends have rented out a giant house and we are just going to relax, eat, hang out, hike, and be together. It is just what I need in the middle of this SLS craziness.

Lindsay is headed home tomorrow to prepare for her wedding next Saturday, which means she is moving out. :( This semester has flown by. In just a month my good friend Jess will be joining Melissa and me in our apartment. I'm so excited to actually live with a Tecumseh friend. It's going to be nonstop CTlove and I just can't wait!

Maybe we can do theme dinners?
My family got a groupme group. Tommy is the only one without an iPhone, so we naturally named the group "If Tommy had an iPhone we wouldn't need this group." Joey immediately changed his name to "Favorite Child." Five texts in and someone already started being sassy. Typical. It's kind of fun though.

This week has been a bit of a struggle bus. I think my brain has stopped working properly because of all of the SLS prep. But I really, really like it. Carol, Christine, and I spent 5 hours this week working finalizing all the little details happening in every room at every moment to send to the hotel today. I was event planning nerding out a little bit.

I can't stop googling pictures of nuns. Whenever I need a quick break from work instead of hoping over to facebook/twitter/pinterest or getting up from my desk to stop staring at the screen, I pull up google and type, "Sisters of Life," or "Nashville Dominicans," or "Servidoras." I can't help it - they're just so beautiful!

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I think there's something wrong with me.

--- 6 ---
Today is St. Lucy's feast day! St. Lucy is my girl.

Why yes, those are her eyeballs
on a platter.
Image via.
I'm convinced she's a DG - I mean she's the patroness against blindness and for blind people! She would have loved Service for Sight. Aside from Steph's Kirsten American Girl Doll, I first encountered St. Lucy in a homily Father Joel gave on her my senior year of college. I could not tell you what he talked about, but I was struck by her commitment to Jesus. She promised Him that she would be true and devoted to Him, and she stuck it out, despite all the persecution and torture that came after. I met St. Lucy during a time when I was wavering in my commitment to Jesus and her intercession has helped me stay strong in my faith as I've continued growing.

--- 7 ---
With all this SLS prep and extra time spent at work, there's been a lot of team bonding, and I love it. Tuesday night, Christine, Carol, John Paul, & I stayed until about 6:15 just talking and laughing. Curtis even stopped by and told us how fun we are!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thoughts on Receptivity

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between being passive and being receptive lately. 

I'm all about feminism - True feminism, that is. None of this "let's turn women into men" stuff. But I love JPII and theology of the body and religious sisters and women like Helen Alvare who all inspire me to fully embrace my feminine genius.

One of the more basic teachings of femininity, from a TOB standpoint, is that the man is giver and the woman is receiver. It's expressed in our sexuality, it is expressed in Adam's call to shamar, and woman's desire to be pursued. 

Yet the bold, assertive part of me shutters a little bit at this teaching. I don't want to be receptive...the connotation I hear equates receptivity with being passive. I get this image of a helpless woman sitting around for a man to come find her and rescue her on his perfect white horse. And oh gosh, that just makes me want to gag a little bit. I think this shutter and gag reflex is a reflection that this idea of passivity is not what it means to be receptive. 

I looked up the definition of passive because, well it can be confusing when we throw around abstract concepts. So, according to my friend dictionary.com, here we go:

Passive:  [pas-iv] adjective
1. Not participating readily or actively; 
2. Influenced, acted upon, or affected by some external force, cause, or agency

The definition of being passive hits my thoughts right on the head - this implies that we simply sit and do not respond or react to God or others acting upon us in this life. And God does not want this for us at all! He wants us to actively participate in our lives. That is why he gave us free will. If we sit and react (or worse, don't react), we are not growing or becoming who God wants us to be. 

Receptivity, on the other hand, is so opposite of this. There are similarities between the two, sure. But the difference is that receptivity is all about action. Sometimes this action is more subtle and interior, other times this action is big and bold. 

When I think of subtle and interior receptivity, I think of Mary pondering things in her heart. She did not passively allow things to happen to her. She received each moment and thing that her son said to her with grace, and she spent time thinking about it from there. 

About two months ago I went on a retreat with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. One of the mornings, we ate breakfast with some of the elderly sisters. One of the old nuns sitting by me kept asking me the same questions and telling me the same story over and over again. The receptive response to this sister was to stay engaged with her, actively listen to what she was saying, and to respond with equal enthusiasm. This type of receptivity shows a deep love for the other, as we put ourselves second and respond graciously to their needs and desire to be known. 

When I think of being actively receptive, I think of the Sisters of Life in New York City, receiving pregnant women into their homes and providing for their needs. I think of my teammate from UNL, Martha, and how she cares for and loves on people with her popcorn and good questions about their lives. 

St. Therese of Lisieux received a call from The Lord to be a religious sister at a very young age. She was deeply convicted of this and knew she wanted to give her whole life to Jesus. Yet, she was too young to enter the convent. So instead of sitting around and waiting (which would have been acceptable in this situation), she took what she had received from God and asked her bishop to make an exception so she could enter Carmel in her young age. Mother Teresa of Calcutta did the same when starting the Missionaries of Charity. She had to push and actively work to get permission to get her new religious order started. Without this perseverance and active response to God, these two holy women might not have had the effect on the spirituality of so many people.

The more I ponder the idea of being receptive, the more I realize that that is the kind of woman I want to be. I want to be present to the lives of others. I want to actively listen and show that I care. I want to sit with Jesus each day and take in what He wants me to know. I want to make my decisions and movements based on what he reveals to my heart. I want to humble myself to allow space for others to grow. 

Being receptive means acting and making decisions to follow God. So let's be bold. Let's listen to the Lord and ponder what He says to us in our hearts. Let's respond with grace to the people He has put in our lives. Let's love loudly and actively. Let's be receptive to Christ and to the world around us. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

When and How?

Guys, my prayer life sucks. And the worst part is, I don't really care. I mean, I care, but I haven't really prayed in a week and I can't find the motivation to start again. Everything is harddddd. Ugh.

Last night my discipleship group was discussing the story of Noah. Two things really struck me:
  1. Noah is all about action
  2. Noah's faith was pretty insane
God told Noah to do something and he did it. Even though it was out-of-control crazy. Like build-a-1.5-football-field-long-boat-in-the-middle-of-the-desert kind of crazy. What faith! Mark Hart asks the video-kids if they would do something like this if God asked them to. When they say yes, he challenges them, "would you really do it? Isn't God talking to you now?" My girls started talking about this and all I could wonder was what God is asking me to do that I'm just not taking action on.

We kept talking about this and after getting really distracted by this strange children's church song, we talked about how none of us are where we want to be in our relationship with God right now because we are being lazy. Regina then hit us with this smack-in-the-face challenge from her uncle about prayer:

"The question you need to ask yourself is, 'when and how can I pray' instead of listing the excuses for why you can't pray."

Yep. I have a half hour of prayer built into my schedule every day at work. Why am I not praying? The holy sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated (almost) every day at the office. Why am I not going to Mass?

To continue my laundry list of excuses, I'm getting sucked into the busyness of Conference season. I think, "well, God called me to the Events Team, which means He called me to a busy state of life right now...I have to answer these 27 emails. I can't go to Mass/pray!" I'm lacking accountability. Nothing happens if I don't go to Mass or prayer (except me continuing to separate myself from Jesus). 

My girls are lacking accountability as well. So we made a goal and we're texting each other each day to remind each other to pray. Some of them are making gratitude lists, some are praying the rosary, some are praying for 5 extra minutes in the morning. I'm going to go to my scheduled Mass and prayer time and just to sit, for ten minutes, with Jesus. That my when and how. No more excuses. It's time to put Jesus back at the center of my life.

Thanks, Dana, for your inspiration.

Friday, December 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes on the Apocalypse Week [8]

I worked until midnight on Tuesday. And it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Sure, I was glued to my computer literally all day and my phone did not stop ringing from 9-5, but hey, we got people registered! That was pretty great. To the missionaries I worked with, thank you, thank you, thank you for your patience and encouragement! Your hard work recruiting students on the ground level will allow all of these students to be trained by the best in evangelization and will have an eternal impact.

I've already failed at my December goals. My computer, my work phone, and our registration site are vortexes that suck me in for hours. Suddenly I'll look at the clock and we're way past prayer time and mass. I completely forgot to eat lunch on Tuesday (whoops). Starting today, I am setting an extra notification/alarm on my phone for prayer. We can always restart our goals, right?

To all the haters who hated on Carrie Underwood last night, a few quick things: No one tried to remake the movie. They were intentionally doing a stage production of the Broadway Version. That means the movie was the one to change things because the Broadway version came first. I understand that experiencing things that are different from what you're used to is hard. But if you didn't watch the broadcast with an open mind, you had no chance of liking it. Julie Andrews gave Carrie her blessing, and Laura & Audra (Elsa & Mother Superior - two incredible Broadway stars) have been behind Carrie 100%. So before you start complaining about how NBC changed the Sound of Music, please understand what they were actually trying to do. End rant.

As I was aggressively typing that last quick take, my cat fell off of my bed and hit her head on my night stand and wall as she was going down. I cannot stop laughing. Poor kitty.

My cat falling off my bed reminded me of my senior year in high school when I got a concussion. We were having dance evaluations during Thoroughly Modern Millie rehearsal. In the opening number there was a move where we would step and kick forward and then step and touch our foot to the ground back. My friend Lisa was giving her audition 100% and kicked back. Straight into my forehead. I don't really remember what happened, but apparently I finished the dance and then fell over. The show must go on, right?
I can't believe a week ago I was in Kansas and I will be back there in two short weeks. It was great to spend time with my family for Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward for a full week at Christmas!

That's all I've got for today. It's time to sign off and go attack SLS planning for the day. Until next time...

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Read the Gospels or Catechism in a Year

Last year, the good people at Lighthouse Catholic Media, Ignatius Press, and Flocknote put together a project to help Catholics learn more about their faith during the year of faith. This project broke up the Catechism (a book that explains the Catholic Church's teachings) into daily readings and sent them straight to your email inbox each day throughout the year. It was wildly successful.

They're doing it again this year, and adding a study of the gospels. You can join 100k+ people this year in learning about their faith. The new cycle of readings start Sunday, December 8. Sign up, learn more about the faith, and grow in your relationship with Jesus this year.

I love this project because it is a simple, hassle free tool that can help you achieve a goal and grow spiritually in the process. I want to read the Catechism because, well it's a requirement for FOCUS, but mainly because I want to continue learning about my Catholic faith. If this book, along with the Bible, outlines the basis for everything, why wouldn't I want to read!? If you've ever wanted to know why the Church believes what she does, sign up for the catechism reading. If you want to spend the year learning about Jesus' life, sign up for the gospels. I'm doing the catechism one. Join me in reading?

Monday, December 2, 2013

3 Goals for December

Oh my goodness, it is December!

SLS registration closes tomorrow, the summit is in one month, and we are at the very beginning of a new liturgical year. As I look forward to this month, I see a lot of busyness and anticipation. Which is fitting, because advent is all about anticipating the coming of Christ. 

Advent is a time to renew ourselves and our friendship with Jesus. This advent, I want to focus on renewing my daily commitment to prayer and ways to overcome excess and selfishness. I want to focus on moderation and look for ways to serve those less fortunate than you.

Here's how I plan to accomplish all of that!

1. Weekly Planning

I am pretty good at time management...when I put an effort into it. With this being the last month before the summit, I know life is going to get a bit hectic. Example: it is Sunday morning and I am responding to emails sent to the summit address. I know I will be giving extra time and energy to work this month, and that's okay! I'm actually excited about it (I wouldn't be in this type of job if I didn't love it)! 

However, I tend to go all in and I can see myself becoming 100% consumed with work. So I want to be intentional about planning my weeks and sticking to that plan. With this comes making time for prayer (it is so easy not to go to mass or prayer while I'm at the office because there's just so much to do)! As I prepare for the coming of Christmas, I want to be free to say "yes" to God, just as Mary did. I know that God has called me to a very busy state of life right now, and in this month, freedom will flow out of structure. I am hoping that this yes to an extra structured month will come the time to live a full advent season. 

I'm really excited to get started on this because I've been trying to successfully implement method for a very long while now, but I've never buckled down and done it. My team has been reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and in that book, Stephen Covey talks about the different roles we have in our lives. Once these roles have been defined, our tasks become clear. I am excited to clarify my roles and plan productive weeks that allow me to achieve my work and personal life goals.

2. Moderation

The Holiday's can turn into a time of excess with all the food we eat and all the stuff we buy. This month, I want to focus on doing things in moderation. Whether that's eating, buying presents, or even watching TV or being on the internet. I am hoping this will naturally flow out of of my weekly planning and role clarification. 

3. Service to Others

I love that Pope Francis is so vocal about service to the poor. It is so easy for me to become consumed with myself, my life, and my needs. Yet there are so many others who have so little. I want to push myself out of my selfishness this advent and focus on finding Jesus in others. I want these acts of service to be of all sizes. My roommate was telling me that she is going to try to do a different corporal work of mercy each week - I think that's pretty cool. Maybe I will tag along for a few. 

Thanks for reading! What are your goals for December?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pope Francis' First Apostolic Exhortation

It's crunch time here at the FOCUS Events Office. SLS registration ends ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! So things are getting crazy up here in the mountains.

In the meantime, pop on over to the FOCUS Blog & check out Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation! I will be reading this on my plane ride to KC tomorrow. Look for some of my reflections later in the week!

Pray for our team over the holiday as we wrap of SLS registration!

Image via.

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes on Being Sick, Missionary Reunions, and Twitter Encounters [7]

On Monday, I didn't feel so great. So I told Carol & Christina to give me a minute and not to judge me. I then proceeded to get on the floor under my desk and lay down. My plan was that five minutes would be enough to catapult me through the rest of the day. Then they peer pressured me to go home. Which ended up being a good choice, because it turns out I had a fever.

Then on Tuesday, I was on fever quarantine, so I worked from home. Which was great for the first half of the day, but then I really started to need interaction with other people. Luckily, my fever broke that morning and I was able to go back in to the office on Wednesday.

Even though being sick was the worst, I learned that the space under my desk makes for great naps and/or hiding from stress. I feel like this will come in handy in the next month...

Last Friday, I walked out of the chapel to head to my next meeting when I suddenly was stopped in my tracks. Four of my FOCUS teammates from UNL last year were just hanging out in the lobby, talking to other FOCUS Missionaries. I think I screamed. I ran to Weeder, Martha, Jim, & Jess and gave them each a huge hug. Jim laughed at me as I yelled, "I'm overwhelmed with so many feelings right now!!" But oh my gosh, it was such an incredible surprise. Unfortunately, I had to run off to a meeting, which became very hard to concentrate in. It was such a beautiful moment where my heart was full of love. Those people walked along side me during my time as a missionary, and I am so grateful to have them in my lives. Jess and Martha ate lunch at my desk as I worked on answering emails. Surprises and people are the best.

Later that night, I went to the hotel where Interview Weekend was being held and I was able to spend time with my awesome disciple, Laura, more old teammates, and fellow missionaries. It was such a great night and I left with a very full heart.

--- 3 ---

Speaking of people - my dear friend Rachel is coming to visit me this weekend! Rach-face was a Delta Gamma, Alpha Kappa Psi, and FOCUS Student Missionary alongside me at Drake. She was the very first FOCUS Missionary to be hired from Drake, and I was the second. She is now the Team Director at the University of Tulsa and doing big things on that campus. I am so excited to spend this weekend with her catching up on life and just being friends.

Um...thanksgiving is next week. I'm going home to my parents house on Wednesday! How did that even happen? Also this means conference is almost a month away. AHHHHHHH. 

My team is really great at celebrating. It snowed quite a bit yesterday, so to celebrate, we made crock pot apple cider. Yummmm.

I met up with two of my freshman discipleship girls on Sunday night for some coffee and hanging out. I am constantly blown away by the real depth of their struggles and their desire to put Jesus more at the center of their hearts. Their commitment to Jesus pushes me to be more committed to Him. I was humbled when one of them started giving the other advice on how to only worry what Jesus thinks of their lives and not others. That was a huge theme I struggled with in college (and still do). Hearing the girls encourage each other in this area allowed me to peer into parts of my heart where I still struggle with this, and it propelled me to take steps to put Jesus back into the center of my heart.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting on my couch, enjoying my coffee, when I noticed that my upstairs neighbors were vacuuming. It was 7 AM. The following twitter exchange occurred...

I think I offended the good people at Dirt Devil. However, I will stand by my statement that it is inappropriate to vacuum at 7 am.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes on Hipsters, Simplicity, and How I'm Kind of a Jerk [6]

Nick & Allison threw a hipster soiree (because parties are too mainstream). Everyone donned their plaid scarves, ironic sweaters, and thick rimmed glasses.

It really was the perfect night to dress up like hipsters...I was super impressed with everyone's outfits. The best part of the night was the "hipster videos" playing in the background and the photo booth. The Falls threw a great party, and it was a great night with FOCUS friends and new friends.

Hipster photos via Nick Falls.

FOCUS is hosting two interview weekends (one in Philadelphia & one in Denver) over the next three days. Lindsay, my roommate, is one of FOCUS' Digital Campus Missionaries. One of her students flew in a night early and has been staying with us. It has been cool to watch them meet in person and to hear Danielle's story. A huge part of her conversion happened when she was in Honduras her senior year of high school. Danielle's story got me reflecting on my time in El Salvador and the beauty of the simplicity of life without excess.

Recently I've been thinking about how I haven't been the greatest at living simply and I think I want to change that...

My favorite thing to do is set goals and not actually do anything about it. Whoops. But I don't want to feel this desire for simple living and just brush it off. I think it is offering a deeper step into my relationship with Jesus. Also, this is something I feel all the time - I remember wanting to get rid of everything that I owned my senior year of college. I constantly want to downsize and focus more on people rather than technology and things. I'm currently brainstorming ways to incorporate this into my every day. I'm open to suggestions.

My boss gets married tomorrow! She's having food trucks. It's going to be so great. I can't wait to celebrate with everyone!

I think I've been kind of a jerk this week. My work load seems to quadruple each night, my heart is a little broken, my prayer life is dry, and I haven't been getting enough sleep. So I've been easily irritated. None of these reasons are an excuse for me to be rude or short tempered with anyone. Yet...I have been. A few weeks ago Fr. Dyer gave a homily about moving past things that stress us out and irritate us. It's so much easier said than done. So I'm working on letting my pride die by apologizing when I was wrong, and taking deep breaths when I feel myself getting irritated. I'm asking for the gift of self-awareness so I don't just react, but I take time to process, receive, and then respond. Which is another reason I want to cut anything out of my life that doesn't bring me to Jesus. I am hoping that part of an antidote to this pride and short temper is simplicity.

However, I am grateful for gift that the examen prayer has been this week. If I wasn't reflecting on my day with Jesus each night, I don't think I would have realized that I've been letting my pride win more frequently these last few days. Though it's painful to take a step back and be humble, I'm glad Jesus has challenged me to do this. So if I'm a jerk to you, please call me out on it.

I had a photo shoot with my discipleship group on Sunday after we talked about the fall. These girls are so fun and I am loving that I get to step into their lives and learn about Jesus with them.

This week I've been blessed to catch up with a few different friends. It was so great to hear from Maddie, Morph, Jess, & Adrea. I am excited for this to continue this weekend at interview weekend. Please pray for all the students applying and all of the interviewers! I am just excited to see everyone and to catch up.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Pray Like Pope Francis: The examen prayer

When you enter a religious community, you commit to saying certain prayers every day. For the Jesuits, one of those prayers is the Examen Prayer. They pray it twice a day - once at noon and once at the end of the day. And sine Papa F is an every day Jesuit, we know that he prays the examen each day!

Lucky for us, the examen is a very simple prayer. It is all about reflecting on our lives and looking back through our day to see where God was. It teaches us to be more present to God in our every day lives, and it helps us grow in self awareness. Since I started praying an (almost) daily examen, I have had an incredible gift of clarity of how God is working in my life.

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, thought the examen was so important that he said if you could only pray one type of prayer in your whole day, this would be it. The examen is a gift of self-awareness, and self-awareness is one of the two basic foundations we need to grow in holiness.

One last great thing about the examen prayer: it only takes about 5 minutes to pray! So go ahead, try it out!

How to Pray the Examen Prayer: Walking Around Your Day

1. Gratitude: I thank God

I tend to make this a litany: Thank You for coffee, the beautiful mountains, my hilarious team, my cat, my roommates, that nice text from my friend, etc.

A litany of thanks works, or you could find a few things and go into greater detail as to why you're thankful for those things. This method of gratitude inclines our hearts towards God and allows us to see why we are grateful for things. This is the one I choose when I'm not being super lazy.

2. Ask For Light: For the grace to see myself as God sees me

Here I simply ask God for the grace to see myself as I truly am; to see myself as His beloved daughter.

3. Look for God in my life: Lord, where have I been for you? What did I do for love? This can be done in feelings or re-experiencing events.

Where did I experience love? When did I choose to love when I could have chosen to be selfish? When did I speak up for Jesus? When was I aware of God during this day?

4. Contrition: Honestly facing what's wrong

Where did I choose selfishness? Where did I ignore God? Where could I have handled a confrontation better? How could I have been more present to The Lord?

5. Resolve: Determine what to do now

After seeing what went well and what didn't go so well, I take a few minutes to talk to Jesus and ask Him what I can do tomorrow to be closer to Him. Sometimes it's as simple as just keep on keepin' on, while other times I make a very concrete resolution on something to do or not to do.

6. Look to the Next Day: Pray through the next 24 hours

I pull out my iPhone, open my calendar app, and pray through all of my meetings and my appointments for that day. I ask God to be with me and ask Him to bless all that is on my plate for the next day.

7. Close: With a Hail Mary or an Our Father

I typically close with Night Prayer, unless it's really late.

So tonight, take five minutes and ask Jesus to walk through your day with you. You'll be joining the ranks of St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, and Pope Francis if you do.

Image via.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Emotions, Schemotions

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a lot of feelings. I remember laying on the couch watching The Santa Clause for the first time last year and experiencing approximately 7 different emotions at the same time. I think I freaked my male teammates out a little bit. My current teammates can tell you multiple stories of tears shed in the office due to different touching/beautiful/sad moments. Yeah, yeah, it's because I'm a woman - whatever. I like to look to my girl Zooey on this one:

I love this quote from Zooey because I think I have been told that my emotions are bad. 

Recently, my friend Matt made a comment that emotions are bullshit. When I went home that night, I realized I was really mad at him for that comment. So I vented to Jesus and I realized it was because I took what he said personally. And then I was annoyed at myself for feeling that.

I think what is hard about emotions is that when we feel something, especially if we feel it intensely, we think we have to act. However, simply following everything that our heart desires is an extreme and will not lead to you making the best choice you could make for yourself. The opposite of this extreme is to view emotions as 100% bad (or BS as Matt would say) and simply live in our heads. We need to understand that our emotions are not bad. Jesus had emotions! He criedHe got angry, and most of all He loved. Yet He did not let these feelings rule His choices. 

I think we each naturally gravitate towards one of these two extremes. We can shut off and completely ignore our feelings and over analyze everything - this is being driven by our intellect. Or we can lean towards being emotion driven. This is what we do when we follow the different ebbs and flows of our heart in each passing moment. 

The trouble with following one extreme over the other is this: if we shut out our emotions we lose the ability to know and understand the deep desires that God has placed on our heart, and if we only follow the emotional highs we can easily chose a lesser good. Our intellect does not have the ability to see what your heart feels, but our heart does not have the ability to order goods, it simply seeks to love and be loved. 

We need to work to find a balance. We need to learn to pay attention to what our hearts are telling us, but we need to learn how to reconcile that with our intellect, what we know to be good and True.

But what does listening to your heart and reconciling that with your intellect and your will look like!? It does not mean justifying what you feel. It means listening to Jesus, taking what you know to be intellectually True and fitting what you're feeling into that. Sometimes this will mean we have to walk away from things that our hearts are still attached to. But other times it means we can follow our hearts. The goal is to make a choice and live in a place where our hearts and intellect are aligned. 

Unfortunately, this is going to look different for everyone. My balance between my heart and my head is going to look different from yours. But the first step to figuring out that balance is silence.

The other beautiful thing about this situation is this: if you truly love God and are in communication with Him, you can do what you want. Seriously. This is a thing!

Last year my disciple Amy told me that "Love God and do whatever you please" was a quote from St. Augustine. I laughed at her and told her that was relativism. She then explained to me that it's not (my students were so much holier than me). Here's the whole quote:

"Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love of God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved."

If you really love Jesus, that means you're in a real, personal, relationship with Him. To be in a relationship with Jesus means that you are communicating with Him, listening to Him, and learning what He wants. If there is a good desire on your heart that is not evil, and you are talking to Jesus and a good spiritual guide about it, you can (probably) move forward with it. 

A recent example of this is my life was last year when I started feeling a desire to join the FOCUS Events Team. I was so torn up over this decision, I really wanted it, but did God!!?? I had no idea. Back and forth I went, until one day, my super holy spiritual director told me to forget about what God wanted for my life for a minute and asked me to consider what I wanted. I told her that I wanted to join the events team. Her response: "okay, then join the events team."

Here's the thing: God is now blessing that decision. I know I could still be in Nebraska living out life as an on campus missionary and God would be blessing that decision just as abundantly. This isn't to say that God doesn't have a plan for our lives - He does! And it will be an incredible plan beyond our wildest imagination! This just means that we are using the gifts God gave us by properly using faculties and our free will! (Check out my friend Caitlin's sweet post about free will in our dating lives.)

So, in conclusion...

Emotions are not bad. Our hearts are the maps that show us God's will for our lives; our heads are the tools for navigation. 

Don't beat yourself up for having negative emotions (Remember Jesus got angry too). Feeling angry, sad, or whatever is not a sin. How we choose to act on our feelings is how we will be judged. And don't get catch up in the back and forth of trying to figure everything out: take what you feel under advisement and then act. If your choice is wildly out of line with God's plan for your life, we must trust that He will correct it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes on Keeping in Touch, SLS, and Florida [5]

One of my favorite things about camp is doing highs and lows during devotions every night. I think it's a simple way for kids to start reflecting on their lives, about what they love and what makes them uncomfortable. Sometimes it moves to further discussion, sometimes it's just about getting in the practice of self awareness. But what I think I love most about highs and lows is it really gives you a chance to get to know your kids. Especially the quiet ones who don't talk much. Hearing their best and worst moments of the day gives you a picture into what they're going through and it is a springboard for conversation the next day.

This is Maddie.

Aren't we so fun in our camp swim attire!?
Maddie is one of my favorite friends from Camp. We have so much in common and she is just an all around great friend. I haven't actually seen Maddie since Summer 2011. Which is pretty depressing when I think of that. We did a great job of keeping in touch for awhile, but then life got busy and we stopped. Now she's in DC & I'm in Colorado, making it really hard for our schedules to connect. In order to combat that, we recently started sending each other our highs and lows of the day. No explanation, no back story needed, just what's going on in our lives, our hearts, and our relationships with God. It's been so great to get a glimpse into her life into this way and it has really helped us stay in touch this year.

I went to Florida last week. Then I forgot to write about it because I was SO TIRED. Whoops. Enjoy this photo of the beach instead.

The reason Carol & I went to Florida was to attend the Rejuvenate Marketplace Conference.

It was so interesting to see the business side of conference planning. We met with 44 supplies (hotels, conference centers, universities, etc) each to see if what they offer (ie. space) will meet with our needs (SLS, SEEK, New Staff Training, etc.). It was a cool networking experience and I met some really interesting people. It was fun to hear about the sales and hotel side of the event planning process.

The concept was interesting because this event was only for religious meeting planners. Carol and I were two of 850(ish) meeting planners. Which was kind of overwhelming. It was great to represent FOUCS professionally and the Catholic Church as a whole. I had a lot of conversations about Pope Francis, the new evangelization, and just being young and Catholic.

The most awkward moment of the conference was when Carol & I were out to dinner with a lot of sales people and I confused Liam Neeson with Liam Hemsworth.



We were already being teased about being the youngest people at the event. Confusing Aslan/Zesus/Qui-Gon Jinn/Oskar Schindler/Jean Valjean with MILEY CYRUS' ex-fiance did not help my case. Insert face palm here.

Work is getting CRAZY right now. We have hit the two month mark until the event. AH! But I'm actually really, really getting excited. Yes, it is crunch time, but I think this event has the potential to be a game changer for every student that attends and the people in their lives. I'm so excited to keep working and see God work when we're in Dallas.

Please, please, please pray for all the students who will be attending the Summit and for our team as we continue to prepare for the event!

Speaking of SLS...

This is our branding:

This was my view walking out of the office Thursday night:

It was bluer in person.

Look familiar!?

This is my cat.

She's a huge weirdo. Also, her name is Kateri Tekakwitha.

Will the REAL Kateri please stand up!?

She's currently halfsitting on my leg, scratching her face on my computer. So I thought I'd include her in this week's #7QT. You're welcome.

One of the many things I get to do on Sunday's is teach Kindergarten Religious Education. I have 8 rowdy 5-year-olds and oh my gosh they are precious. I am an over ambitious teacher and have been walking through Salvation History with them with the hopes that they will know how the Old Testament is all about Jesus before they become FOCUS Missionaries. This week we learned about Noah's Ark. Check out how adorable these kiddos are:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!