Friday, January 31, 2014

7QT on Frozen, visiting friends, and the Broncos [14]

The impromptu retreat I went on last weekend was really good, and really healing. I was able to reflect on my time in Denver so far and really acknowledge where I am at in my life. I am excited to work through this a little more, and add some goals about where I want to keep going.

EMILY IS HERE! Schmem was my randomly assigned orientation roommate and we've been best friends ever since. She is 100% opposite of me, and I love how she balances me out.

Em and me our freshman year of college
I miss living with her everyday (we lived together 3 years in college), but I am excited for the change to be real life friends this weekend!

Guys, I still haven't caught up on sleep since SLS. I can't seem to figure out how to get back on track in my sleep schedule. It's the worst. I'm hoping that after this weekend I can finally get back to normal.

Last week I got creative and risky with my kindergarten religious education class. We learned about Moses and instead of our normal game, story, craft routine, we did interactive stations. It was really, really fun - one of the kids even yelled out in the middle of class, "this is so fun!" I think I'm really starting to get the hang of this teaching 5 year olds thing.

I finally saw Frozen! It was just as good as all the hype made it out to be. SO many great things - Idina Menzel, the music, a hilarious talking snowman, and the beauty of sacrificial love. Disney really nailed it.

Speaking of Frozen, Christina has been sending our team Frozen video clips, memes, and songs all week. I can finally look at them and listen to the videos. Here's my favorite image that she sent:

She's got mad facebook stalking and meme making skills.

Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday! People are getting pretty excited around here for the Broncos and my man Petyon! My friend Brit posted an "Denverapolis Broncolts" shirt on Instagram and I want it so bad.
Image via.
I always get super intense anxiety when the Bronco's play the Colt's...being from Indianapolis, I love Petyon and the Colts, but now that I live in Denver, I still love Petyon and have quickly been converted to a Bronco's fan. I think this shirt would solve all my problems.

Let's go Broncos!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Be Free

What I love so much about the saints and the apostles was their ability to respond to our Lord when He called. When I picture these saint's lives, I see them sitting patiently in prayer, receiving Jesus as He chose to come to them each day. No anxiety, no waiting for perfection, but a complete surrender and trust in His Divine Goodness and Will. When He called, they didn't wait around and mull it over. Rather, they were disposed to do His will freely and immediately. Oh Jesus, how I long to be this way. 

Except that sitting around opening my heart to Jesus is really, really hard. I get in the way 99.9% of the time by talking to much, slacking off, or just not paying attention. 

The good news is, it is easier than we think. Here are 5 ways to free us so we are ready to respond to The Lord:

1. Commitment to daily prayer

2. Frequent (if not daily) Mass

3. Good Counsel. Every notice that saints come in clusters? The apostles, Benedict & Scholastica, Ignatius & Francis Xavier & Loyola? Surrounding yourself with people who are striving for sainthood will help you get there too.

5. Action. This may seem counterintuitive, like if we choose and take action we will get in God's way. But we won't! In order to be free to respond to the graves God wants to give us, we must already be in the habit of action.

Through our surrender, God will make His will known. These 5 simple habits will help us get ours hearts in a state where we can freely respond to God when He calls. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

stop waiting to be perfect

I have this ideal version of myself that I can see in the distance.  The Michelle who eats right, prays with fervor and consistency, and loves well each day. The one who rocks her MPD, who never gossips or responds in anger or falls into old sin. 

But then I do fall into old habits of sin or I gossip or I get passive in my faith and I stop praying. 

I went to confession two weeks ago really frustrated with myself. I've been struggling with prayer. In between my struggle I'll get these bursts of energy and zeal where I'll want to run back to Jesus. And so I'll run to confession and be really on my game for a few days. And then it's back to mediocrity in my life and in my relationship with Jesus. I was so frustrated, so my prayer began with me yelling at Jesus about how much I suck:

Me: Jesus, what the heck. I feel like all my relationship with you is me messing up and then reconciling. Why can I not do anything right!?
Jesus: ...
M: I sin, I reconcile, I'm excited for a day, then I mess up and can't talk to you again until I go to confession. I'm sick of this cycle!
J: Will you let me delight in you, "my chosen one in whom I am well pleased?" (Isaiah )
M: ...

I've always struggled with success and perfectionism. I have this need to be seen an put together and perfect. And it's pretty self destructive, because I don't let Jesus love me unless I think I'm good enough. 

But Jesus loves me as I am. He wants to love me right where I'm at. I don't need to wait until I have formally gone to confession, I can reconcile myself immediately to Him and start new right away. Then when I receive the grace of absolution I can skyrocket forward even further. 

St. Jane is my fave. I love this quote of hers because it reminds me that at every moment, I have the capability to be reconciled to Jesus. I need to stop waiting to be perfect, because I will never get there without The Lord.

So this week, I'm working on that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

7QT on Friends, Retreats, & Vision [13]

My team has a post-event offsite today. It's the first one we're having since I joined the team. I'm pretty excited - we're going to take some time to sit with the successes of SLS and spend some time with the vision of our upcoming events. It will be pretty great, since most of our day to day is spent in the details. I'm looking forward to hanging out with them and reminding myself why we do each of these events.

Speaking of reminding myself why I'm doing this, I had some pretty cool prayer about that last week (follow up post, woooo). I would share it here, but I need to spend some more intentional time with the reason I am passionate about each event and what the Lord is asking.

I joined bloglovin' this past week and it is super great. I am actually reading more blogs and discovering new ones there. It's pretty great. Check out my snazzy bloglovin' button to the left underneath my picture!

I was cleaning out my inbox and I found an old email inviting us to a retreat with the Little Sisters of the Poor. I have probably said I want to go to this a good seven times, but done nothing about it. Yesterday, Carol looked at me and said, "why don't you just go?" I realized I could, so I signed up super impulsively.

We stayed with the Little Sisters on the nun run I led last year and it was a blessed and joyful three days. I have no idea why I want to go on this retreat or why I signed up, but I did, and I'm excited for some down time to just be with Jesus.
I think I am still sleep deprived from SLS. I got up when my alarm went off the first time once this week. Tuesday and Wednesday I didn't even wake up when my alarm went off. I haven't done that since senior year of college. I should probably start going to bed earlier.

This week was really all about community. My good friend Katie stayed with me for two days after the Greek Getaway ended, and it was just so much fun. Katie is hilarious and God put her in my life at the exact moment I needed a friend like her. She loves Jesus and people fiercely and inspires me to love better. Katie was a student at UNL and is now the FOCUS Team Director at Drake. I was a student at Drake and a missionary at UNL, so we like to say we swapped places.

Yesterday, I got to see my friend Jess for the first time in 1.5 years, and it was so great. We realized that once May hits, we will have been friends for 4 years - crazy! I met Jess walking from the pool to the lake during staff training my first summer at Camp Tecumseh and she has been one of my closest friends ever since. We talked about how we love the friends where you can pick up right where you left off, and how camp people are a lot like that. She is living in Colorado for the next three months for a rotation, and we are going to be about a 7 minute drive from each other. I can't wait to live up these next three months being real life friends.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

there's a little bit of good in everyone

Working at summer camp is like living in the midst of a glorified middle school. Everyone knows everyone else, their business, and it is clique-city. I am super guilty of this.

Granted, it's not that anyone is intentionally ignoring or excluding others, but I think that there are two reasons why we don't branch out. 

1. We get caught in our own groups and comfort. 

My friends are fun, creative, and hilarious. I have the time of my life when I'm with them. And everyone else feels the same way about their own group.

I remember sitting around my second summer having an awesome conversation with some other veteran staff members I'd never spoken to before. We lived in the same village for 10 weeks and worked in the same unit of 10 counselors my first summer, and I'd never had a non-work related conversation with either of them. Honestly, that's unacceptable.

After my time on summer staff ended, I started coming back as a sub. Then I only knew a few other veteran counselors, and most of them I didn't know that well. As I began to spend time with them those weeks, I couldn't help but be a little bummed I didn't take more time to get to know them while we were on staff together.

2. The second reason people can get "cliquey" is because we don't have the capacity to be that close and connected with every person that crosses our path.

There is no way I could have been best friends with every counselor at camp each summer. Or best friends with every DG or FOCUS missionary. But I could have made a better effort to get to know them and had a base relationship with them.

I've always envied people who have a gift of being very present to others. You know the kind of person that when they talk to you, you really feel like they are really interested and that you are the only person they care about in that moment. I love that these people are receptive and intentional in their every day life.

My shining moment of living this out was my second summer at Camp. I was a swing cabin (meaning I switched which age group I had throughout the summer), so I had more of a chance to plan activities with every cabin, leading to a chance to get to know each counselor.

Sure, I still spent most of my time with my close friends, but I really felt like I knew every female Lake Village counselor pretty well. I had such a joyful summer, and felt I could pretty much walk up to any other counselor and have a conversation with them.

The best part of that summer was that each counselor taught me something different. Each person had a story, each person had a unique beauty, and each person had a different passion for camp. 

image via.

So as I'm thinking a lot about community this week, I'm trying to remember to step outside of myself and my comfort zone to remember that there's a little bit of good in everyone.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

More Jesus, Less Stuff: Community

The month before SLS I was struggling with my relationship with Jesus. Like, really struggling. So I sat down to look at my life when I got back from SLS. What is different from last year? Where have I elbowed Jesus out? 

The first thing that struck me: I am not having intentional relationships and conversations that focus on Jesus. Stuff gets in the way and I am struggling to focus on the Lord's presence in my everyday living and friendships. 

Step 1 is awareness. Done. Step 2 is action. 

It's not that I have a lack of a Catholic community, it's that I have allowed myself to become lukewarm. When I hang out with friends, we talk about whatever or fill the space with media. If Jesus comes up, I've turned Him into an abstract idea, not a real person who is there with us. I noticed this at SLS when I was talking to a friend and I became uncomfortable talking about Jesus. Hmmm, that's a problem.

I was hanging out with Elizabeth when I got back from SLS and suddenly felt the strong need to gather some women around food to talk about Jesus. I almost didn't bring it up, but praise God for making me receptive to His nudge.
Me: "So, this is going to sound weird, but that quiche in the display case really made me want to get people together for brunch like once a month to talk about Jesus and have community."
Elizabeth: "Ah! I'm so glad you said that! I was just talking about that with Mary the other day about how that's something we really need in our lives!"

Bam. Responding to the promptings of The Spirit and being intentional.

We planned a brunch two days later and 4 other women showed up. Pretty good for last minute. We ate, we laughed, we got to know each other, and then we whipped out Flannery. 

Later, I was talking to Megan and she told me she was so grateful for the brunch. It is cool to see how it's already bearing fruit in our lives and how simply responding to a weird urge to bake quiche for my friends grew into a way to bring us all closer to Jesus. Intentional living. It's happening, man.

So to continue this theme of community, I'm writing some letters this week and taking a few days off to be with visiting friends. I'm looking for some other ways to be intentional about my friendships. What are some ways that you are intentional?! I'd love to hear in the comments!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

7 Quick Takes on Looking Like a Child, Planners, and Worship

During youth group on Sunday, one of my discipleship girls said to me, " you look so grown up today!" I laughed and asked what that meant. She responded by saying, "well, normally you look like a teenager..."

This is my life.
A lot of people have said to me, "so now that SLS is over, you must have nothing to do at work!" Which, is the opposite of true. These first few weeks are all about taking notes and wrapping up so we can improve our future conferences. And then it's on to SEEK2015 and FOCUS NST! We'll get some down time in February, but there is always lots of events stuff to do. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

I am headed into the mountains this weekend to help execute the FOCUS Greek Getaway. I'm pretty excited to get the experience running a conference. It is a small, low key event that will introduce students to Jesus and His Church. Please pray for the students attending that they will open their hearts to Jesus this weekend!

I'm moving next month! Moving is the worst. I really hate it. However, I am grateful that I found a new place to live so quickly after deciding not to renew my lease and I am really excited about the community I will be joining. On the plus side, I'm hoping this move will motivate me to downsize and help me live more simply. You know, less stuff.

Carol and I have been geeking out about planners and paper products. We both just got this planner and I am already in love with it.

Also, have you ever been to! If not, stop what you're doing immediately and go 'ooooooo and aaaaaaaah' over their beautiful, beautiful products. I am all out of "Thank You" cards and stationary, so I am going to invest for my fundraising! Also, I'm totally buying change of address cards to send out because they are ADORABLE. And, because I'm moving.

Because of said planner, Carol and I have scheduled a coffee date for next weekend for goal setting, writing, reading, and just all day coffee shop bumming. But, mainly so we can use the "coffee date" sticker. I am excited because now that I've decided to stay on with FOCUS, I need to take some time away for goal setting and planning. I can't wait.

I am on a Matt Maher kick right now (thanks to SLS), and I can't get enough of his new, grammy nominated album. In particular, this song:

It's really speaking to my heart about my relationship with Jesus and my dependance upon him. What are some of your favorite worship songs?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

More Jesus, Less Stuff: Intentional Living

Now that life has calmed down a bit, I have had the chance to start looking at this mantra and what it should be about. The more I think about it, the more I realize it's all about being intentional. Jesus isn't going to force his way into my heart and he's not going to push out the other stuff I have in there. No, He will wait patiently for me to make room. So I must be intentional in seeking Him. 

Phase one is about realizing this is all about intentional living, recognizing the parts of my life that Jesus is absent from, and making room for him in those places. Intentional living that stems from self-knowledge.

In Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila outlines one path to holiness and union with God. In this path she tells us that the first step to knowing God is self-knowledge. It is one of the foundations for holiness. If we do not know ourselves, we cannot know God.

So this week I'm trying to take a step back to look at my life and see where I can create more space for Jesus. I think I've started to identify a few areas. Where in your life can you create more space for Jesus? I'd love to hear in the comments!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Favorite Moments from SLS14

Gosh, what a whirlwind. From Tuesday, December 31 to Wednesday, January 8 I was living the dream as an event planner. SLS14 was incredible and I can hardly believe it's over. Since arriving home on Wednesday I have rested up and I think I finally know what day it is. 

So many incredible things happened at SLS. It's hard to pick just 10. But here's a quick list of moments I wrote down on the plane.

My 10 Favorite SLS Moments

1. The crux of SLS was what we called "Power Sessions." Students were randomly sorted into small groups and were supposed to teach each other the basic tools for evanglization that they learned earlier that day. It could have fallen a part so easily. So watching the Power Session begin to  actually work on Friday night was awesome. Everyone filed in, got into their groups, and figured out who was going to do what for the rest of the week.

2. Okay, great. They got into their groups...but would they actually teach each other? After all of my things were settled Saturday afternoon, I headed down to Marsalis Hall to see how the Power Sessions were going. I was not prepared for what I was about to walk in on. There in that exhibit hall were 1500 students teaching each other how to share and teach the gospel message with others. I was so overwhelmed. I could feel the grace pumping through the room. I teared up and thanked Jesus for these students who were open to learning how to share His love with others.

Image via John Paul Rudolph.

3. Did you know that Pat Lencioni and Matt Maher are good friends? Well, now you do. During the closing session, Pat was talking about Matt, and Curtis interrupted by saying, "Pope Benedict told me never to name drop." Quite the hilarious moment.

Image via EideCom.

4. Christine, Carol, and I went to see the beginning of Dr. Sri's keynote on Saturday. I was unable to sit in on the opening keynote on Friday night, so this was my first time in the main ballroom with all of our attendees. Steve Pries, our emcee, introduced Dr. Sri and the crowd went crazy! The students were standing and cheering - before he gave his talk! It was cool to be in there for that moment knowing I had helped make that happen in my own small way. Carol, who does our speakers and entertainers, loved that moment a lot.

Image via John Paul Rudolph.

5. John Paul let me listen in on the production com and watch production on Monday night during the keynote. It was crazy and fun to hear them count down the keynote and call different camera shots. 

6. While on com, I got to help our emcee, Steve Pries, and Matt Maher sneak into the audience to do an in-house interview before the keynote. It was so fun and the crowd went crazy. 

7. After Curtis keynote Monday night (a lot of these top moments happened Monday...), we launched SEEK 2015. The student's reactions were so great - one jumped up and yelled, "I'M REGISTERING RIGHT NOW!" Christina verified it over the walkie.

8. We ended SLS with series of short talks on what it means to be a Catholic Leader in the world. Pat Lencioni talked about what it actually means to be successful. He told the room full of students that if he had the choice, he would rather his kids grow up to be FOCUS leaders than anything else. It was pretty powerful.

Image via EideCom.

9. The high of SLS: Adoration/Confession night. I loved adoring Jesus from the balcony Sunday night and realizing just what was happening all around us. The incense, the spot lights, the worship band, the procession - it was all beautiful. I was overwhelmed each time the spots would hit Jesus and I would see students weeping. Walking through the ballrooms there were students being prayed over, a packed confession line was overwhelming. In this moment I felt so grateful to be called to this mission with FOCUS. I am so humbled that Jesus has asked me to bring others to Him through these events.

Image via John Paul Rudolph.  
Image via John Paul Rudolph.

10. As SLS drew to a close, all FOCUS leadership starting say that this event is a game changer for FOCUS. My favorite quote came from Jim, my team director from last year. Jim said,

"We will be talking about what FOCUS was like pre-SLS14 and post-SLS14. FOCUS will never be the same after this weekend."

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event possible!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

7 Quick Takes on Anything Other than SLS14 [11]


Okay, I know, I know, this post promised no SLS quick takes. That's because there will be some pretty sweet SLS posts next week. But I think one QT on SLS is fine, right!?

 I got home from Dallas Wednesday evening and took yesterday off. It's back to work today to start wrapping up. SLS went so incredibly well. I loved every second of it and I had SO MUCH FUN. Check back next week for some highlights and posts on SLS. I can't believe it's over! But I do not miss having a walkie talkie stuck in my ear.

My life these next two months is seriously CRAZY. I think I have one open weekend...I'm going to have to be intentional about seeing Colorado people and doing things here. But I am so excited to see missionaries at the Greek Getaway's, Emily when she comes to visit, KC friends at home, Nebraskans, and maybe even Jess if I get to go to Cali. Hopefully when March hits I can start to get back into a normal daily life routine.

The coolest thing ever happened to me Monday night, someone recognized me from this blog! My first thought was, "people actually read this!?" It was fun to chat. So shout out to Katie from Northwestern and thanks for reading! And thanks for saying hi!

I can't think of anything else that doesn't have to do with enjoy this picture of the Blessed Mother.

Image via.

I am obsessed with Salvation History. So much that I am doing the Bible Timeline with my freshman girls AND basing my cirrocumuli for my kindergartners on it. Maybe I'm over ambitious with the 5 year olds...but they do a pretty good job of remembering it. So I've decided to educate myself as well and actually read Curtis Martin and Dr. Sri's The Real Story. 

Image via.

I think it will be a good start to my 2014 mantra: More Jesus, Less Stuff. Starting with the "more Jesus" part seems like a good choice to me.

Speaking of my freshmen girls, on Dec. 30 we volunteered at a homeless shelter together. I was so impressed with them and how they stepped up to help out without being asked. The best part was they had so much fun and they want to do it again every month. I hope we can do that and I hope I can find as much joy in serving as these girls do.

I bought Flannery O'Conner's prayer journal yesterday and I am so excited to read it! My friend Elizabeth and I decided to host a brunch for time with friends and to read the journal aloud together. I can't wait.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, January 3, 2014


This is it. The big day. The big moment. What my team has been prepping for the past year. What you have all been waiting for...


The ballrooms are set, some Bishop's are here, the host campuses are looking snazzy in their navy and neon green "Follow Me" shirts, and our team is all plugged in and connected via our walkie talkies. At 3pm CST students will begin to arrive via bus, plane, and car. I seriously cannot wait.

A few weeks ago Christine gave me the advice to plan so well that I could spend the whole day at the pool. I feel very prepared, but I am on guard and ready to start running. I trust that my incredible Special Events, Liturgy, and Sponsorship Committees have got this in the bag and I am excited to support them along the way.

I'll be heading back to Denver after the Summit has completed and we've launched these 2,000+ attendees into Mission. So unfortunately, there will be no updates until after January 8. When I get back I can't wait to tell you more about the ways the Lord moved this week!

To all of my mission partners: thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers and support! Now that we are here and about to start in Dallas, I am even more humbled by your generosity. As I am waiting for students to arrive it is clear more than ever that this event would not be happening without you. So thank you, and know that I'll be praying that the Lord blesses you and your families as we run this event.

Goodbye for now, and I'll see you post summit!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

T-Minus 1 Day: SLS14 prayer requests

--Update from the hotel: there are a lot of flight delays and cancelations for tomorrow already. Please add everyone's arrivals to your prayers!!--

Happy January 2, everyone!

Did you know that I've been in Dallas with my team since December 31? We have been setting up for SLS and having a lot of meetings (pre-cons, as they call them in the event management biz). I have loved every crazy second of it. More committee heads are arriving today and we are one day away from 2,000+ Catholics overtaking this hotel to learn how to evangelize and give their all to the Lord.

As we approach this monumental event, I humbly ask for your prayers. Here is a list of my top 5 prayer requests for SLS14.

1. For my team. Christine, John Paul, Christina, Carol, Sean, and myself. Pray that we are able to be calm, that nothing too crazy or out of control happens. And when it does, pray that we are able to handle it with grace. 

2. For all of the students. That they encounter Christ, that they are pulled deeper in their relationship with Him. 

3. Sunday night. Sunday is all about prayer and all about encountering Jesus. As active evangelizers, it is so critical that we are rooted in Jesus. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves; we cannot share a person we do not know. This night (January 5) Sr. Mary Gabriel of the Sisters of Life will be speaking about prayer, followed by a night of adoration and confession. Pray that our attendees will be open to encountering Jesus in a deep way this night.

4. For all our speakers. Pray for their health, for their receptivity to the Holy Spirit. Pray that Jesus uses them to say exactly what He wants them to say to inspire and equip all of our attendees. 

5. The aftermath. What I love about SLS versus SEEK is that we are equipping these students for mission. This SLS will be hands on and so very practical. This event would be a failure if these students left and did not start evangelizing back on campus. So please pray that they will be inspired to spread their joy and love of Christ when they get back to campus!

Thank you! Know you will all be in my prayers throughout this event.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

a toast to the new year

I've always been bad at resolutions. And goals. Which is silly, because I love goals. I've probably talked about this before. I get so idealistic, but I just lack follow through. Lame, I know. But I think it's because I typically lack a vision or a foundation for why I want to do all these things.

When I started brainstorming all the resolutions I could have for 2014, I came up with a million different ideas: read the whole Bible, live simply, work out more, cook and eat healthy, write more, less media, etc. my list went on and on. 

I took all these different ideals to prayer and a theme arose:

More Jesus, less stuff. 

The heart of all of these goals, all the things I desire, all the things I want to do, and the person I want to be is this:

More Jesus, less stuff. 

So that's my mantra for 2014. More Jesus, less stuff. I want to quit neglecting my relationship with Jesus. I want it to be the richest and most important part of each day. I want freedom to respond to the desires he places on my heart by creating space for Him. I want to simply, and fill my soul with Him and His people. 

More Jesus, less stuff. 

I love You, Jesus. Keep me close to you.