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!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Easy Ways to Bring More Silence into Your Life

Yesterday I wrote about why we need to create space for silence in our lives. Which can seem really, really overwhelming at first and almost impossible. But I have good news. You don't have to travel all the way to NYC like I did or do anything really drastic to experience silence in your life.

Here are 5 Easy Ways to Bring More Silence into Your Life:

1. Wait to turn on the music in the morning

Use this time to think about the day ahead, to think about what you want for the day, and to invite Jesus into all that you do that day.

2. Keep the radio off in your car

Last year I gave up music in the car for lent. I kept asking Jesus what I needed to get rid of in my life to be closer to Him. Each time He answered with fasting from music and each time I would respond with, "okay...what else do I need to fast from to be closer to you during lent?" I'm not going to lie, it really sucked at first. But I grew to love it. Adding those 10 extra minutes of silence on my way to campus allowed for me to become more aware of Jesus' presence with me at every moment.

3. Eat your meals without TV or music

You can have dinner with Jesus! Or be present to your roommates! Either way, this short time of silence is a great practice if you are trying to be present. Even if you're just being present to the delicious frozen meal that you're eating.

4. Go on a walk - without your iPod

Especially if you live somewhere awesome, like Colorado. Being outside naturally allows you to clear your head without much effort. It also helps me incorporate more gratitude into my daily life.

5. Set aside intentional time to reflect at the end of each day

Oh gosh, this one is money. This year I've started praying the Exam Prayer (almost) every night and it has made all the different in my life. Basically it is a 5-10 minutes period where I walk through my day with Jesus and prepare for the day to come.


For me, it takes a while to settle down. I've found that focusing on repetitive prayers such as the rosary or simply repeating a scripture verse or the Jesus Prayer (Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner) slows my brain down, focuses my full attention on Jesus, and really helps me to be present to what God is putting in my life.

Don't be overwhelmed! Start small and work your way up. Don't beat yourself up (there are days when I can barely go 3 minutes without having to start over), and just keep trying. I believe that if you start incorporating silence into your daily life, you will come to know God and yourself in a deep, intimate way.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Why We Need Silence

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my cup of coffee and started scrolling through my CNN app so I could be a good, informed citizen. Among headlines on the government shutdown, Syria, and general depressing things, this video caught my attention.

If you don't want to watch the video (it's only 2 minutes), the general gist of it is this: a young chef spent some time in a Buddhist Monastery while he was in college and was struck by the silent breakfast they would eat each day. So he opened a restaurant in NYC where the patrons eat their meals in silence.

I think this is so interesting. Silence is definitely not a norm in our culture.

Last year I went on a retreat with the Sisters of Life in NYC. They spend their waking until lunch in silence, and have a full day of silence once a week. As retreatants, we were able to join in that silence.

Sr. Mary Pieta - a former FOCUS missionary!
After the retreat, I took a cab to my friend Kerry's apartment to spend a day with her before I headed back to Nebraska. I was so struck by the noise. In my cab, there was a TV that I couldn't turn the volume off of, the radio was on, and the cabbie was on his cell phone. The windows were open and all the noises on the streets were coming in. I had him drop me off at a coffee shop while I waited for Kerry to get off of work. The noises of coffee brewing, music blaring, and people talking filled my head and I just could not think.

I think people are coming to this restaurant because they recognize a need for silence in their lives.

I know a lot of people who need noise to fall asleep or say that they can't stand to be in silence. This is a problem. Silence creates space for us to breathe, to calm down and really understand what we are experiencing and feeling. I know when I am going through a rough time, or feeling a lot of anxiety, it is so tempting for me to blast my music or turn on the TV to drown out the negative things I'm feeling. But when I do this, I lose an opportunity to grow and whatever the situation is usually ends up worse in the long run.

I'm in the habit of praying daily, but a lot of times that looks like me word-vomiting everything that is going on in my life onto my journal or into Jesus' ears. Or it looks like me reading scripture and analyzing it and applying it to my life. This is all good and necessary, but we know that God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. These past few years I've been learning that if I don't take time to create space for real, receptive silence, I lose touch with God and the core of who I am.

The more space I create for silence in my life, the more I crave it. Yes, it takes a lot of effort and self control (something I am not very great at), but the pay off is worth it.

Silence in our lives helps connect us to God, to our true selves, and leaves us with an underlying sense of self-awareness and peace. To me, these things are worth the effort.

Check back later this week for 5 easy ways to create space for silence in your life.