Monday, December 31, 2012

Did I get hit by a bus? Or will I be boarding one?

Today is the long-awaited day: the day we bisonCatholics hop on a bus and ride it for 40 hours. I don't think it has actually hit me yet because as of yesterday morning I woke up with a bruiser of a cold. I was sick before Christmas but that pales in comparison to how I feel today with the sniffles, sneezing, phlegm-filled coughing...yuck. I feel for all the people who will be on the bus with me and I will definitely do everything in my power to keep my germs to myself. I packed every type of cold medicine I could find lying around, Vicks VapoRub and plenty of cough drops--luckily mom stocked me up years past and I still have the supplies. In consideration of my comrades on the bus, I also toted along a big thing of hand sanitizer and a bag to put my tissues in after I blow my nose over and over and over again... Poor Josie..she's so excited to be my bus buddy. Little does she know that I packed plenty of Tylenol PM, NyQuil and other cold medicines that I hope knock me right out.

2011. Badgers vs. TCU at Pasadena.
I mean, I understand that I'm bound to get sick every now and then, but honestly--I have been completely fine all last semester, and that includes my crazy busy schedule, my hectic running to-and-fro and my lack of sleep. Never once was I struck with a cold then, but rather, now when I should be in good health and excitement for our Seek 2013 conference! Perhaps this is news to some of you:  January 2-6 is FOCUS' national conference in Orlando, FL and it only happens once every three years. There will be more than 6,000 college students along with the 300+ missionaries present and the whole goal is to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and hopefully encourage first-timers to get a fire lit under them to share Him with others.

Something that I've learned about myself recently is that large crowds and groups of people can really overwhelm me, and I tend to feel paralyzed as if I don't know what to do or with whom I should talk. However, this will definitely be a reunion for us missionaries! Many of us have not seen our focus friends since June and we are looking forward to seeing our pals once again! The conference is only a few days long and we will all have jobs and students to take care of, but I know it will be good to see the friends that I have missed for the last six months.

Badger fans outnumbered TCU's fans.
For any of you Badger fans out there, yes I will be missing the Rose Bowl; but I hope to follow along on Twitter for the updates. I'm very excited to see what Coach Alvarez will do with our Badgers in Pasadena tomorrow! I can't believe just a few years ago I was there watching them face TCU with my dear friend, Irma.

Other than that, I have not a whole lot to report, at least not for now. The end of my break at home was wonderful, and on the last day mom, dad and Kevin all trekked out to go see the Hobbit (basically to appease me) to celebrate Kevin and I's birthdays a little early. If any of you are wondering, The Hobbit was totally wicked and I loved it. Even JR said that it didn't feel like a three hour movie. Time flies as you're flying along with Bilbo Baggins and the rest of the dwarfs on their adventure! Please pray for our safe travels to Seek--we leave tonight at 7:30 pm and plan on arriving on Wednesday at 11:30 am. I couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year than spending it on a bus (sarcasm...sorry)--but seriously, this will be a rock solid conference and I'm excited for what I personally will experience there! And now I should be off, maybe take another nap before meeting up with the team. Bryan was nice and gave me the morning off to try my hand at recovering--so far no luck, but who knows what will come!

Also, as a final thought: I would like to point out that currently the temperature in Fargo is -4. Meanwhile in Orlando, it is 73 and will only get warmer by Wednesday. I think a little sunshine will cure this cold in no time.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Merry Christmas everyone! So far this Christmas has consisted of much merriment and joy in the Kaufman house, although sadly that is not the case in other parts of our nation and world. On Christmas Eve I could not help but spend a few hours mourning for the families of those who have lost friends and loved ones this Christmas season. And the prayers for those affected by these tragedies will not stop there. During the time I've been home I have watched more NBC 15 news than probably ever before. Between the Sandy Hook tragedy, the blizzard that whited out Wisconsin for a few days, and my parents' nightly viewing of the five and ten o'clock news, let's just say I have been inundated with news, most of which, unfortunately has been extremely sad or tragic. It's so hard to imagine having spent this Christmas day without just one of our beloved family members there, or to have our house catch fire and burn to the ground in the midst of our celebrations. Now I apologize if this hits close to home or you're wondering why I took a dose of "depressing" this morning, but I just can't help but process the sadness just the state of Wisconsin, and the rest of the nation alone, have experienced this Christmas and holiday season. I will hold the recent tragedies in our nation very close to my heart in prayer through the rest of the Christmas season and beyond, and I ask you to join me in the same.

Through the Advent season I decided to read a book titled, Love Does Such Things. A book that has completely flown under the radar, and recommended to me by Jenne, my old teammate and dear friend, completely rocked my world this Christmas. I often see signs and posters with, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," or "Keep Christ in Christmas," but to be honest, I've never really understood exactly how to do that or what that looks like. Say "Merry Christmas" instead of "happy holidays"? Go to Mass on Christmas Eve? Read the beautiful accounts of our Lord's birth in scripture? That doesn't quite seem like enough. Christmas is much more than the celebration of our Savior's birth in a manger with Joseph and Mary. Oh boy, there's a lot more than that. Our Lord greets us with "Merry Christmas" daily, not just on December 25th. Recently I read two quotes that are constantly adding to the "renewal of my mind" about what Christmas really means. One, by CS Lewis states,
"Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world."
And another by St. Augustine which states,
"He wished to become one of our Children to make us His children."
 (If you're wondering where I found them... I'll admit:  Twitter...Yes, I'm a little embarrassed.)

Mom's cute idea for Christmas this year: matching shirts..kind of.
However, these two quotes are a wonderfully accurate portrayal of the meaning of Christmas: God loves us so much. And when someone is head-over-heels in love with someone, they might do something crazy. For example, God becoming human in the form of a baby! And not only that, but born to a poor peasant girl into utter poverty. In today's world, that is completely nuts! Why would our God do that? And only to have His life end in a horrific, tragic death on the Cross on Good Friday? Well, for no other reason than this:  Love does such things. Love does things completely senseless to our human nature in order to prove itself; and when that Love is perfect, unending and from GOD himself, could we really expect anything less?

So anyway, I've experienced a deep renewal of my mind this Christmas in what it means to open up room in my heart for the Savior to be born anew, and I pray for the grace to be able to remember this in my daily life!

Pretty hard to not fall in love with this little guy...
Speaking of my daily life, that's something I could probably tell you a little bit about. Over the break I was greatly looking forward to calling all of my mission partners and wishing them (ahem, YOU!) all a Merry Christmas! and meeting with some, and I of course had the intentions to bake them cookies and deliver them right to their doorsteps. Unfortunately a nice white-out blizzard this past week topped with a cold that took every gust of wind out of my sails used up every last resource I had to even make a simple phone call. The past week I've spent resting, sleeping, and not doing much of anything. My body finally realized that I had some time off so decided to play catch up and give me a cold while I have time to rest and not be around people 24/7 like I am in NoDak. Certainly not the worst thing in the world, but man, when dad or I get sick, we get sick and our bodies make sure we can't do anything. It did provide lots of quality time to spend with mom and dad--we played Scrabble, watched Christmas movies and ate soup--but it was a bummer to not be able to do all the other things I had planned over this break.

Cuteness central. Case and point.
I did start feeling better yesterday when mom's whole family came over for our annual tradition of spending Christmas day at the Kaufman house. Having a baby in our family (finally!) is pretty exciting and the holidays have really changed in terms of our activities. We did play our annual game of Catchphrase, which always gets us for a good laugh, but we spent most of the day watching and interacting with the two newest members of our family: baby Audrey and Rusty (our family's new puppy). Watching the two of them interact was pretty precious and by the end of the day Audrey was showing that little pup who's boss. Pretty. Stinkin'. Cute.

Today is my last full day here and tomorrow I'm already heading out to go back up to the hinterland! SO (shout out) to Tim Olson and Maria Sauvageau who are getting married on Friday! I'll be there in time for the wedding and will be getting ready to pack up and get on a bus for 36 hours down to Orlando for the Seek conference that starts on January 2nd. In case you're wondering, yes I will miss the Rose Bowl game, but now that I have twitter I guess I'll just be stalking the tweets with hopeful updates of a play-by-play while I'm on the bus.

Gosh Kev just loves taking pictures with me.
I'm looking forward to another semester of missionary life at NDSU and am so thankful for such a great placement for me! I've loved being there the past year and a half and it's crazy to think that year two of missionary life is halfway over! I still have no idea what I'm doing after this year, but promise to keep you updated as I discover more.

Also, in case any of you are wondering (more like haven't noticed yet), I did deactivate my Facebook account for now. To spare the long-winded explanation of the thought process and yes, even prayer that I put into making this decision, let's just say I'm going to try to do a little prioritizing of my time and spend more time doing the things that I actually love (reading, spending time with people, scrapbooking, etc) than spending so much time on such an addicting social network. For now I will keep twitter, if you'd like to follow me there: kelseymarie1989, this blog (which may see more frequent posts seeing as I'll have more time...) and of course my email and phone, if ever you'd like to get in touch with me.

Feeling the love. Thanks, brother.
Today mom, dad, Kevin and I are celebrating Kevin and I's birthdays (January 23 and 20, respectively) by finally going to see The Hobbit! I'M SO EXCITED I CAN HARDLY CONTAIN MYSELF! I'll admit, I'm a little confused as to how they made such a short book into three long, feature films, but I guess we'll see!

Please pray for my safe travels tomorrow (Thursday) and may there rest of the Christmas season be very joy-filled for each of you.

God bless!
Kelsey Marie

Monday, December 10, 2012

A semi-belated update!

Hello, avid blog reader, or perhaps first-time visitor. Oh, how I have missed thee in the past few weeks. Certainly I did not forget about thee, but rather have taken somewhat of a mini "hiatus" from the blogosphere. There really isn't any particular reason for the absence, except that there are indeed many reasons, the main two being time and topics. Time, because Thanksgiving through end of the semester have been totally nuts with finishing up registrations for Seek Conference deadlines, bisonCatholic Week meetings, bible studies, discipleships, and other end-of-the-semester doings. Topics, because there have simply been far too many about which I could further develop in the sight of all of you! To put it simply, the Lord has been doing some major work on my heart these past few weeks, and in the time between all of the activities listed above, I've spent wondering what exactly is going on! Good things, I assure you. Many good things.

To cue you in on where I'm currently at in this moment of my short, 23-year life, it involves sitting in my parents' kitchen in lovely small-town Wisconsin, gazing out into our backyard where snow perfectly frosts the grass, trees, and bare bushes. Mom took a half-day at work today due to a tummy ache and dad is downstairs taking his afternoon nap. It's 1:34 pm and I'm still in my pajamas, rocking my favorite Sauk Prairie Eagles basketball sweatshirt (the black one with my name stitched on the sleeve, for those of you who may remember all of the ever-changing SP apparel). You might be wondering to yourself, "Wait Kelsey, you're already done with the semester?!" I would like to assure you, yes, yes I am. The students at NDSU, however, still have finals to take, papers to finish and projects to consume their time (along with ample facebooking to accomplish, phone calls to make, and any other form of procrastination that might creep into their finals week...going through old photos and suddenly having "so much more time to pray" were my personal faves). I already settled into mom and dad's house for the next three weeks because of a wedding this past Saturday. A couple of friends from Madison were married on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which, so as not to be confused, is the holy, immaculate conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus--not Jesus Himself) and although I tried to come back on Friday night so I could make it in time for the wedding, a snow storm along I-94 blocked my path and I turned around at Fergus Falls. This led to me coming back for the night and spending more time with my lovely roommate, Cari, and then heading out again early the next morning.

I didn't make it in time for the Mass (which majorly bummed me out), but I was fortunate enough to get home in time to have a hot beef sandwich with mom and dad, get ready, and boogie down to Madison for the reception which took place at The Madison Club (flossy, flossy). Bryna, the bride, looked stunning and Nico, the groom, happy as ever. Josie and I have been discussing weddings and engagements, and being both single women we've grown so much in what it means to love someone, without actually having the opportunity to practice with our own "special someone!" We have each individually matured so much in terms of our own vocations and being able to celebrate others' joy at getting engaged or married without letting the, "(sigh) I wish that were me" creep in. Needless to say, the reception on Saturday night was a blast and I'll be honest, I felt a little bit like a celeb. Okay, that's enough self-ego-boosting; I just had the opportunity to catch up with a lot of friends that I haven't seen in a long time and who I've missed dearly.

It was funny how the same conversation happened over and over, and over, and over, with person after person. It wasn't tiresome, just funny how it seemed like every single person I talked to wanted to know two things: 1) How the heck have you been in ND?! and 2) What's next??

To answer the first question: I've been doing really well. I am in love with each of the women I have the privilege of working with and could not see myself anywhere else right now. Then insert personal tailoring of the conversation to the person with whom I'm chatting (ie with the girls, I'd spill my heart; with the guys, I'd give basic facts and tell a few jokes). As for the second question, I feel like it's senior year of college all over again! Everybody always asking, "Kelsey, what next what next!?" To which I'd often graciously respond (wink), "no clue, ask me in a month." It's funny how many times I wanted to pull that answer out, but I'm just too darn nice to do so. Instead it went more like this, "Well, I really kinda sorta definitely want to do FOCUS again...maybe apply to be a team director...but if I do that then I'm proclaiming singlehood for at least another year...I don't know...no burning call to the religious life has gripped me yet...I considered packing all my bags and moving to Fargo...I don't think I'll be a missionary there next year...maybe Texas?" So as you can see, the first prayer request on my list at left is still the one that I most need! I have absolutely no clue (with one exception!) as to what will come after May, but I am desperately trying to listen and hear where Jesus is trying to lead me. He's really wooing me this Advent Season, so I have no clue what's up, but I'm excited to find out.

As to the "one exception" I just mentioned, way back in October I applied to co-lead a FOCUS mission this summer and ended up getting one of my top two choices! (Insert girly geek-out here.) During the better part of the month of July I'll be boarding a plane and flying to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrimage with a group of students! This is seriously a dream come true, and I can't believe the Lord is giving me such a perfect opportunity to do so. If you'd like a little back-story, let me entreat you with a little tale of my history with the Camino...

Back in the winter of 2010/2011  an amazing opportunity presented itself to me:  complete this hike with some of my favorite people from Madison (that includes you, padre, Gina and Madeline...) and then end at World Youth Day in Madrid; another dream of mine! I was in a class titled 'Europe' and had just learned about the Camino, along with preparing for the premiere screening of the movie, The Way at the 2011 'Answering the Call' FOCUS conference (which is all about a dad hiking the Camino to honor his son). So needless to say, I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to go do the same with a group of people that I loved, and have the sacraments available on the way! Literally, a dream come true for this girl. *Un*fortunately, for those of you who read/know my testimony of becoming a missionary, you know that I had no idea what was in store for me at the conference that year. Long story short: I ended up hearing a call to be a missionary with FOCUS and the Lord stirred in my heart and actually gave me the desire to carry out the work--where as before, I had absolutely no desire to do this. I applied, interviewed, got accepted and was so excited! This was the Lord's will for me and I couldn't have wanted anything more than doing exactly that. In my excitement I ended up praying this prayer: Lord, if there is anything in the way of me doing your will, please just take it away and remove it from my life, no matter what. The next week He ever so graciously responded (as any good gentleman would) and removed a few things from my life, one of them being the opportunity to go on the Camino (for which I had already paid my $300 non-refundable deposit...) because it overlapped with the dates of my expected arrival to campus in August. To put it nicely, I was disappointed. However, I did remember my own prayer and decided that I should be thankful rather than resentful because God does answer our prayers! As I witnessed His faithfulness I decided to take it one step further and ask Him to give me another opportunity to go with two conditions: 1) that it be with a group and 2) that there be a priest on the trip. As it currently stands there will be a group of non-determined students and Fr. Jim Chern, the priest at Montclair State, coming along on this trip! Look at the Lord's faithfulness...I am completely blown away.

So now I sit at home, working on MPD, my relationship with mom and dad and spending some time with the new puppy that they got over Thanksgiving. 

Not a bad deal!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fill(ed) THIS Heart.

Last weekend I had an amazing opportunity to go to St. Paul for a Fill These Hearts event. It's already been a week since the show/concert/speaking event/whatever-the-heck-it-was and I am still blown away at what we witnessed and experienced. God's beauty and the way He loves us and desires us so intimately lies at the heart of the very Gospel itself, and for the first time I actually heard someone explain this to me in a way that I can begin to understand. 

For those of you who don't already know, I have somewhat of a fetish (not in the creepy, weird, stalkerish way) for a music group, Mike Mangione and the Union, and have had a "musician crush" on them for nearly five years now, ever since they came to Madison way back during my early college days. I remember when Theresa, my roommate and dear friend, told me how this guy who's friends with her brother is an awesome musician and they are coming so we absolutely had to go see them! I obliged, thinking it would be just another Christian singer/songwriter and I'd leave St. Paul's at the end of the evening no different than when I arrived.

Boy was I wrong.

One can argue that all experiences change a person, whether for the better or for the worse, and I know that this music definitely touched a spot somewhere in my soul, and affected my life for the better. When the group came to Madison they had recently released the album, Tenebrae, and before each song Mike would explain the history behind each of the songs and the stories that went along with it. Sitting in the concrete, carpet-covered pews in St. Paul's I remember the feeling as though time actually stopped and the thought, "My life is different now, there is something really special about this music."

Ever since that night I've sought out opportunities to see them perform, often in coffee shops in downtown Madison every now and then. I do remember one summer when I took Molly all the way to Milwaukee so she could finally experience this music I was raving and ranting about. We got all dolled up, hopped in the Taur and boogied down to Milwaukee where we were so excited to see them. Sadly I was quite naive and didn't even think to look at the venue at which they were playing. We got there and I remember seeing Mike himself and the rest of the band starting with the sound check and before we could get more than five steps in the door we were carded (for quite possibly my first time ever) and the bouncer informed us that this was a 21 and up venue (a.k.a. a bar). Dannng! I felt defeated, but Molly's a good sport so we just got some hot dogs and then drove the two hours back home. And I learned my lesson: Always check the venue before driving two hours to see your favorite band play, especially if that venue is an alcohol-serving establishment. Luckily, that remains a non-issue for me...but if there are under-agers in our group I must remember courtesy...

Anyway, this is beginning to be a much longer story than I anticipated, but let's just say I've been following Mike Mangione and the Union on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and ever since coming here I have been perusing their tour dates, praying that they would come somewhere within a 300-mile radius of Fargo.  I finally saw on their Facebook page an event titled, "Fill These Hearts," and it was a combination music/speaker/artist event completely revolving around Blessed JPII's Theology of the Body. I've desired to learn more about this for a long time now, in fact, way back in high school Sara and I each bought ourselves a copy of JPII's actual work, thinking we'd read it over a summer. I remember opening it, reading a sentence and closing the book for the next eight years. Let's just say that Blessed John Paul II's writings are not for the fainthearted, or the high schooler with a high schooler's reading level, which, at this time, was me.

Anyway, back to the present. I saw that this tour was coming through St. Paul and decided to organize a group of students, whoever wanted to come, to go see it with me. This is the description I posted on the bisonCatholic Facebook page, taken directly from the website:
With music, light, video and other art forms, Fill These Hearts presents the message of Theology of the Body in an artistic event, couching Christopher West’s presentation in a redeemed atmosphere of art, culture and beauty, making contemplatively present in color, shape, and sound, the themes from JP II’s profound and timely work on the meaning of human sexuality. 
Cari and I will be making a trip to St. Paul for this event! Is anybody interested in coming? The details are on the website, and the tickets are only $15/person if there is a group of 10 or more. Plus, Mike Mangione & the Union makes hearts swoon. 
Apparently this intrigued a few people and over 15 students ended up wanting to join us for this--which means one thing: we scored the discounted tickets. BOOM. And there were more people making a Saturday-long trip to St. Paul for an event that they basically knew nothing about, nor did I, or anybody going. It had the potential to be pretty lame, I'll admit, one simply never knows until checking it out! I ended up getting invited to a Meet 'n Greet before the event with Christopher West and Mike Mangione themselves and got to actually meet Christopher along with some of the big donors that helped sponsor the event! Although it was only 30 minutes before showtime I was still trying to figure out what exactly we were about to see, and now after attending, I can see why Jen Messing (the woman who helped coordinate the event and invited me to the meet 'n greet) just smiled and said to me, "It's just one of those things you have to see and experience to understand."

Our group at Fill These Hearts
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. But I'll still try to at least give you a little tip of the iceberg to what we experienced that night. Notice how she didn't say "see," or "hear" but rather experience. Not one part of the event could have been taken by itself because between the music, Christopher West's talking, the sand-art, lights and the dancing, it was all just so holistic in its approach to the true, good and beautiful! I left that night feeling very spiritually full, and excited for what I was beginning to learn about something so important.

The main takeaway of the event for me was that God stamped into our bodies His love for us, and He gives us our desires as just a little taste of the desire we have ultimately for the eternal banquet of the Lamb in Heaven. Naturally, we desire the infinite but we attempt to satisfy that desire with finite things. Due to the fact that our desires do not always result in actions that benefit us, we have created this idea that our desires are bad, but they are not! God gives us all of our desires, but also calls each of us to chastity and self-discipline. The definition Christopher gave us for chastity, "disciplined wildness" makes so much sense! Especially when speaking in terms of our sexuality: when we view sex the way God intends for it to look, that is what He desires for every person--chastity. True freedom, Christopher defined as "disciplined wildness that releases us from the temptation to indulge." That makes so much sense, doesn't it?! I'll just let you chew on that one. Drink it in, people. Drink. It. In.

And the last thing that I scribbled down on my notes: "Do not reject the pleasures of this world, but rejoice in them rightly." That's what God so greatly desires for us! To rejoice in the pleasures of this world rightly.

West's book that I've been devouring this week.
So basically the TOB (Theology of the Body) message has begun to slowly eat away at me and the more I'm learning the more I desire to learn about it. Cari and I have both seen a desire within our existing bible studies to form up another study, but this one being on West's book, Theology of the Body for Beginners, which is an extremely abridged version of JPII's original work. I would be really excited to be involved with this, and truly, the more people that hear this message the better! If more people, young and old alike, heard this message of how intimately God loves them and how he gave us all intimate longings that should ultimately point us to Him, man, crazy conversions could definitely take place.

If you're interested in hearing about the past week of my life, well, that's less important. I will say I had one of the busiest weeks yet and it only lasted four days! We had a much-needed day of recollection on Friday (aka sleep in, go to Mass and pray when you want...but make NO plans whatsoever) and I actually decided to turn this weekend into a "weekend of recollection" making only two plans for the entire thing: last night I prayed at the abortion clinic from 8-9 and today I will be going to Mass at 5. Now that is a good weekend right there. People actually asked me to do things too! And I responded with, a simple, "No thanks, I'm making plans to make no plans this weekend."

So I'm writing to you after a weekend of daylight savings time, rest, prayer and ample Kelsey time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Because That's All That Really Matters

One of the incredible student missionaries at NDSU submitted a blog post to FOCUS for a chance to win a scholarship and free Seek 2013 conference in Orlando, FL this January. Her post ended up making it into the top eight entries! I think I can speak for the entire team when I say that we are very proud of her. Danielle is a senior majoring in Psychology and is originally from Mandan, ND. She leads women in one-on-one discipleships and a bible study of her own, while still enjoying time for country swing dancing, attending Spanish club meetings and serving the Lord in a variety of other ways at NDSU. I personally am inspired by the post she entered and thought I would share it with all of you to show you first-hand what our students experience as they turn toward the Lord and let him in. 
Danielle serving children in Chimbote, Peru this summer.

Also, I urge you to please take just 20 seconds of your time to vote for her entry so that she has a chance to win the $1250 scholarship and FREE conference registration! Just click here. She is entry #5 with the post titled, "Because That's All That Really Matters."

When I began college at North Dakota State University in the fall of 2009, my faith was lukewarm at best. But God used that grace of His and soon I was at Newman Center events in a desperate attempt to not be the lonely freshman sitting in her dorm room. I found myself playing shaving cream wiffle ball and taping toilet paper to my arms for angel wings in skits. Surrounded by a community of great Catholics, my faith grew gradually. I thought I had the faith thing figured out, but I was far from it (and still am).

I decided to do mission work the summer after my sophomore year. I thought I was doing it because I wanted to do something “radical” for God, but to be honest, my main motivation was to avoid a boring summer and the same old part-time job. I applied to do the Catholic Urban Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan, primarily because a friend I knew was doing it. That way at least I would have her. It was the safe thing to do.

It wasn’t what I expected, missionary life. It was challenging in ways I hadn’t even considered. It all seemed great when I saw the pictures of missionaries handing out food to the homeless or working with the poor children in the streets.  People don’t talk about the hard parts: the days when you knock on doors for hours and they all stay closed. Or how some missionaries just hate doing their own dishes. In reality, the work, the community, and the faith were more challenging than I ever imagined. And, although I would never have admitted it at the time, I wasn’t enjoying my summer.

Then God stepped in.

The parish priest and founder of the Catholic Urban Project made what I thought was “radical” look as ordinary as a PB&J. One conversation with him and my whole outlook on the summer changed. My whole outlook on life changed.

“Don’t live for the American dream. It means nothing.”

Wow. That seemed harsh. Although I’m sure I had heard similar advice before, it had never hit home. Not like this. Because even if I didn’t realize it at the time, that American dream had become my main goal in life. Nothing over the top. Just the typical plan. Graduate college. Have the perfect family. Kids and a dog in the backyard. White picket fence. The good Catholic family. God was a part of the plan. But He wasn’t the plan.   

“I wish I would have done what you have the chance to do now when I was 20. Serve. Because you’ll find that’s all that really matters.” 

That’s all that really matters. I reflected a lot on this conversation over the next few days. I discovered that although raising a family and serving God in that way can be absolutely beautiful and maybe one day God would bless me with that great gift, it wasn’t what He was calling me to at that time. I was 20 and halfway through my college career. The American dream--that life I had idealized in my head--could wait. But right then I had this amazing opportunity to serve Him and love Him in a different way. I wasn’t about to waste it.

My summer changed from then on. I went about the work in a different way. I prayed in a different, deeper way as I searched for God’s will and peace. He had placed a desire in my heart to serve those in poverty and I wanted to fulfill it the best I possibly could, but that didn’t mean it became easy. People still didn’t answer doors. The dirty cereal bowl was still sitting on the counter every morning. But I knew it was where God wanted me and He was calling me specifically to be there. He had given me unique gifts to fulfill His mission and although I didn’t even fully grasp what those gifts were, I knew I needed to give them back. I knew I needed to dedicate my life to loving and serving God. Because that’s all that really mattered.

I returned from Michigan on fire for God. I wanted to serve Him and His people. I knew I wanted to give my next summer to God. He clearly placed that desire in my heart and this time I wasn’t doing it simply for an experience away from the usual. This past summer I spent two months serving at a mission in Chimbote, Peru. During my time working with the people of this extremely impoverished community, God only increased my desire to serve Him even more. I’m now in the process of applying to do long term mission work after I graduate in May. I struggled a lot with the decision of whether I should do mission work or continue on to graduate school. Then I would be ready to get a good job. But I hear it again: “Don’t live for the American dream…serve.” I realize that God is calling me to serve Him as a missionary right now.
I know God has placed me at this university at this time for a reason. I am more involved in service on campus and in the community. The Bible study I lead now volunteers at least once a month. My faith and how I live it out has become more real.

Maybe one day I will be blessed enough to have the kids and dog in the white picket fence. But right now I am called give myself freely to Him where I’m at. Not just next summer as a missionary, but every day. I still struggle continuously to make God the plan instead of just a part of it. Because He is calling me to love Him with my entire heart, soul, and mind.

And that’s all that really matters.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Glory be to the Father...

and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!

Wow, how blessed am I to be sitting comfortably in my cozy apartment, catching up on my friends' blogs, watching emotional YouTube videos and just simply relaxing with my feet up and allowing the sweet sounds of Mike Mangione to soothe my soul. How much the Lord loves and takes care of me, it catches me off-guard sometimes. Well, truthfully, it catches me off-guard most times.

My race bib, with a personal touch.
Not only have I been relaxing today, but this morning I had an amazing opportunity to run a half-marathon with a couple of amazing young women, Kristen and Kelly. I'll be honest, it's not the first one that I've run, but I'll put some money down on the fact that this one sure takes the cake for being the best one yet. Sure, our time was pretty good (1:57.03!), but just the entire experience of running with two others, pushing one another all the way to the finish is indescribable. Even more beautiful was the fact that the three of us had never all run together and it ended up going so well! The periods of extreme suffering and slight physical consolations waxed and waned, but the three of us began the race out in the best of ways: with a prayer. I couldn't have been more delighted when, after talking with Mary and Zoe, the runners were all about to head outside, Kelly stopped and posed the question, "Should we say a prayer?"

Me, looking like dad post-race with Kristen and Kelly.
Yes, yes we should, were unanimous answers by both Kristen and myself, and Kelly didn't hesitate to open in prayer. Each of us chimed in our part, thanking God for the day, for our health, for the time of fellowship, seeking protection from injury and for a safe finish. Kristen mentioned something that has really stuck with me: "Lord, thank you for letting us have the opportunity to do this for leisure." After we started running and already knocked off Mile 1 (in 8:30, too!) we were talking about how wonderful it is that we have this opportunity and Kristen restated the thought begun by her prayer; just how fortunate we are to run 13.1 miles simply for a self-achievement and for leisure, not because there is somewhere we have to go. Meanwhile, in other less-fortunate parts of the world, some people have to run farther than that to simply get to a hospital or receive some other basic aid, especially in war-torn countries and the like. Needless to say, running a half marathon with two incredibly impressive young women on a perfect fall day in Fargo, North Dakota is a blessing and a privilege, and something that others would look at and think, "Really?! Running 13.1 miles simply for kicks? Preposterous! (def: completely contrary to nature, reason, or common sense; absurd; senseless; utterly foolish)." [I'm sure some of you are probably thinking that anyway, can I get an Amen?]
These girls are hardcore.

We finished 'er up in under two hours, which was our main goal, explored the Scheels Arena searching for free post-race food and got lucky with some Cliff Bars, trail mix and chicken noodle soup (random). I'm so thankful for this day and all the Glory be to God for giving us the healthy bodies and opportunities to do this! Now I'm off to go to Smashburger with Kristen to have burgers that I'd say we rightfully earned! Yum.

Oh, and this was waiting for me when I got back from the run today from my amazing roommate/teammate, Cari. Isn't she the cutest?


and here's my favorite of the three of us doing the Katniss Everdeen (Kelly), Usain Bolt (Me), and Tim Tebow (Kristen).


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Defragging.

Today in discipleship I learned the valuable meaning of a new word: defragging.

Josephine and I have just finished doing a myriad of tasks she needs to get done before this weekend, one of them being editing her resume and submitting her application for FOCUS, another being a stop at the bank to get some quarters for laundry, another a simple stop to drop a wedding RSVP in the mail. Since the moment we locked eyes on each other outside the adoration chapel in the union at 3:05 we both knew we were really happy to see the other. To be fair, we haven't seen each other since Sunday for a brief stint, and we're used to going for a run every single morning. Let's just say that we were both in impeccably good moods which had side effects of excess giggling and lots of cheeky smiles. I couldn't think of a better mood in which to fill out and submit an application for a future job position (for Josie, not me). The best part about helping her edit it to make it more "her" (which basically just includes more jokes and snarky comments) was that she used me as a reference so I got an email with a form that I had to fill out. Luckily I knew all the silly little things she put in there; for example, with my reference in the "Relation to this person" section she wrote, BEST friend. So when I was asked how I knew her... Best friend. Plain and simple. We had a lot of fun and I'm really excited for her to go to the interview weekend!

After we spent a lot of time just being goofy and "word vomiting" all over one another there was a period of silence and I could tell we were both finally coming off of our excitement high. It doesn't usually take two hours for that to happen, but it was clear to both of us and suddenly Josie bursts out, "I'm defragging right now. I'm totally defragging." Excuse me?! was really all I could think. She continued to explain that her brother Jim used to come home after a day where he had a lot going on, such as tests and quizzes, and he'd say, "Don't talk to me right now, I'm defragging." In the process Josie learned valuable lessons and improved her vocabulary a pretty substantial amount! And who would've thought that years later she would be sitting with me on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, explaining to me what defragging is.

But the real reason I'm writing about defragment is because, I, myself am defragging as I type. Let me start by saying that this semester I love Wednesdays. I usually have time for a nap in the a.m., discipleships and holy hour at the union and then Bible study in the evening. Tonight for study we met up a little before eight and drove down to pray in front of the abortion clinic for a little bit. A couple of the girls in my study had never done that before and especially with the 40 days for life going on we figured it would be the perfect time. We all hopped into Lady, drove downtown and upon arrival saw Alea, Michael and Tom (a few other NDSU students) and prayed a Rosary with them. Ideally I would've liked to stay for the entire hour, but a few of the girls couldn't make that part so we decided to just go pray for a little while, then come back and have bible study after. And boy was bible study great. We had an amazing conversation about attachments, both physical and sentimental, tithing, faith and works, bringing Jesus more and more into our lives and ended with a discussion about confession--completely on their accord, I didn't even bring that one up! Sometimes I forget that people just forget how to go to confession, or they get nervous about telling their sins to a priest. It is, however, extremely encouraging to see one of the girls in particular, Kristen, who I met last year and told me how much she didn't like confession mention how she started going more often and it's "not so scary anymore." Nice.

The best part of the evening, however, was when they got in my car to get a ride home and Kristen mentioned having a cup of hot chocolate when she got home. Instantly I saw an opportunity for quality time with the b-study girls so I had to jump on it. "Did I hear someone say hot chocolate? You guys wanna come over and have some with me?! (while trying not to sound desperate)" Three of the four girls agreed and all trotted right on over and plopped themselves down at the table while I warmed some milk over the stove. Mmm!! I love serving people, and even more when people just let me serve them! So we sat at the table, sipped cocoa and shared stories. Sam, about her husband Andreas who currently lives in Denmark and she misses like the dickens, Kristen and her boyfriend Jake and me and, well, how much I love being a missionary and what exactly it is that I do. You know, I've been getting that a lot lately and I'm not sure why so much more this year than last. But people are curious, and I'm more than willing to share! I love the position I'm in and couldn't ask for anything more. After cocoa and story-time I gave a couple of them rides home (Sam lives conveniently below me) and Kristen and I ended up sitting in my car and chatting for over an hour. Oh how good for both of our souls. I've mentioned her before, but I met her last year on the Itasca biking trip and we used to go rollerblading and drink delicious hot chocolate together before Rae asked her into discipleship and the two of them started meeting up more frequently. I realized tonight that I genuinely have missed her and that I love her friendship and the encouragement she so freely gives. What a bunch of beauts in my life these days, boy am I blessed.

And because I took that extra long nap this morning I'm just now starting to get tired... here's to throwing off my sleep schedule two days before a 13.1 miler!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

'Tis the Season

...for Honeycrisp apples, newsletters and pumpkin-flavored anything!

When people ask me what my favorite season is I often hesitate, respond "Summer, I guess," and then go on to second-guess myself. In the back of my mind I can list all of the reasons why I love summer and why I love fall, but the reality is that every single year, as soon as Fall starts, I remember why fall is actually my favorite season. It just takes a few red and orange leaves beginning to dot the trees, or the crunchy ones scattered all over the sidewalk. Or maybe it takes a delicious half-price white chocolate pumpkin mocha from Caribou Coffee with Josie. Or even perhaps just being able to snuggle in at night under my extra blankets and think, "How blessed am I to be warm and cozy." I love fall. The football debates begin (and I must admit, it's very strange to live in what seems to be Viking territory, don't worry, my allegiances hold strong to GB), scarves, hats and mittens start making their way out of storage and the out-of-towners start getting a little more nervous about what winter will have in store.

I love fall.

I also love fall, particularly October, because it's the first month of the school-year that we missionaries send out our quarterly newsletters! Yesterday I set up shop in the student union to see what kind of work I could get done, and the Lord certainly multiplied my time! By the end of just a couple hours I had nearly all of my envelopes addressed, stamped, return-addressed and the newsletters themselves tri-folded (with a little help from some wonderful students). Cari also found a great new place in Fargo that prints color copies for nearly a third of where we're used to going... I will miss seeing LeeAnn all the time, but shoot, when you can get the same quality for nearly a third of the price, I'll gladly take it. Thank you ShortPrinter! Strange name, interesting way of doing business, but hey, they have a bowl of free candy (the good stuff too, like funsize Milky Way and Snickers!), quick service and are very friendly. If you're wondering, yes I would recommend them if you have a big printing project and no I'm not getting paid and/or any sort of stipend for mentioning them in public. Although maybe I should see if we could work that out...

Anyway, I just thought I'd take a break from stuffing my newsletters and let you all know how much I love fall!

Oh, I do have a slightly embarrassing story for you: Yesterday our landlord came to town and told me that he was going to be in working on our heat and "bleeding out the furnaces." I had no idea what that meant (clearly), I figured it had something to do with cleaning and/or fixing them, but didn't think much about it. That is, until I got home in the afternoon and noticed our apartment was just a total hot box! Cari and I were sweating just sitting at the kitchen table and the outside temperature was certainly not to blame. We figured the heat would just go down after the furnaces were done "bleeding out," so we didn't think much more about it. Then when I got home from Mass at 10 pm and it was still as hot as an oven I started to wonder, but figured it would cool down overnight. I literally slept in shorts and a tank top with no blankets all night--which I wouldn't even do on the hottest nights of summer--there's always at least a sheet to keep my poorly-circulated toes warm! I woke up this morning feeling like I had five blankets on me (brace yourselves...) sweating an awful lot (gross, I know) and noticing that it certainly didn't get any cooler in our apartment. "Well isn't that the darnedest thing," I thought to myself, followed by, "okay, seriously we need to do something. This is ridiculous." So I sent my landlord a text message, trying to play it cool because it was early and didn't want to wake him, and it went like this:
  "Hey Leo sorry to pester you so early, but just wondering if there's a way to turn the heat down? It's really warm."
  He responded, "Sorry I forgot to turn the thermostat back to 72."
  Thinking the thermostat was hidden somewhere downstairs or somewhere else, I responded, "Where is that?" thinking he'd give me a long list of instructions.
  "On the wall in the living room" was his only response. Immediately I looked next to the TV, and lo and behold, there was the thermostat, set at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. All night long.
  My humiliated response was brief, yet informative, "Got it, thanks."

And that is the story about Kelsey not knowing how to set the thermostat. Just working on fostering that vocation to motherhood....and growing in humility.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kaufman's Unite! ...in Fargo!

Kevin, trying to act like he doesn't care (but I know he does).
What a great weekend this was. Not only was it homecoming for NDSU and the Bison ended up dominating in their game on Saturday after a most entertaining parade, but mom, dad and Kev all came up on Saturday night and we got to spend the night together. What a treat. I've been waiting anxiously for Kevin to come visit me in Fargo sometime but knew it would take mom and dad already making a trip for him to come, rather than just hopping in his Impala and making an 8-hour trip all by himself. Kevin's the only brother I have and until recently let's just say that our relationship didn't have a whole lot of substance to it. After being with him for only a brief night I can tell that both of us are growing up and we're starting to realize that when it comes to siblings, we're all the other's got!

The original reason mom and dad came was so that they could take the Taur home ("my" old car, although always theirs and never really mine), and I think just to be united as a family for a weekend. I don't know what it's like to be at home without little Rosco as the center of attention, but I'm sure it's not any fun, especially for them, whose lives practically revolved around that dog.

They got here around 4:00 on Saturday and before they got here Cari and I were busy baking chocolate muffins and lemon bars (Kevin's favorite) for a tasty 27th Anniversary (which was the day before!) dessert for mom and dad post-dinner. The four of us scooted across the street to the Newman Center for 4:30 pm Mass and right after that enjoyed a delicious dinner and wonderful quality time at Grazie's. Fr. Cheney, Bryan, Cari and lovely Marissa Oster joined us, entreated us by letting mom share stories, mostly about me getting my wisdom teeth pulled, but also about Kevin and I growing up. Her and dad love talking about us so anytime there's an opportunity they both grab onto it, no matter what the audience is (although I'm quite confident Fr. Cheney and Bryan got a good kick out of some of the stories).

Me and my "fathers"! A.k.a. Spiritual father and actual father
I really love quality time and my family, so when the two of them are combined I am one happy camper. And I know I'm not the only Kaufman that feels that way! Shoot, all three of 'em drove eight hours just to see me for a dinner and a breakfast early the next morning and were home again by 4 pm on Sunday. Now that's dedication, and I feel awfully blessed to have such wonderful parents.

Lastly, since I'm trying to keep y'all in the loop of my vocational journey I do have to throw this out there as some "not-really-news" news; I created an account on CatholicMatch.com! Ha, I'm still laughing. I created it not knowing you had to pay so much so I ended up just creating a free thing where people can send me "emotigrams" and messages, but I can't actually read them unless I shell out. Nuh-uh, I don't know if you remember that pretty little white car, but I'd rather pay to keep her out back than to get myself a boyfriend, at least at this point and time. I just thought it'd be fun to see what this whole CatholicMatch thing is all about. So I am trying, kind of. If anything comes of it I'll let ya know! ;)

And I'm off! Mass at 5:15, team dinner at 6 and bible study at 7:30--what a great Monday! Ciao!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Good work, God! A+ on that one!


On Friday night I had the pleasure of being visited by a dear friend from Madison, Marissa Mullins. We met my sophomore year in Spanish 224 with the one and only, Profesora Margarita Zamora. What a lady. She sure didn't put up with anything less than our best and I learned a lot that semester. Marissa was a freshman who snuck her way into a class with all sophomores and juniors and felt a bit out of place, nervous and desired more than anything to make at least one friend. She noticed that every day I brought this cool homemade-looking purse from Ecuador (because it said in nice black letters, "Ecuador"), and finally one day she got up the courage to ask me if I had ever been to Ecuador. I went over winter break the year before with a PhD student who is from Quito and has semi-started up a business in taking people there for Winter and Spring breaks so they can get a safe little taste of the country while traveling around with a native.

Anywho, apparently Marissa had just returned from the same trip that I took, but a year after I went. What are the odds?! They only take 7-12 people each break so just the fact that we both randomly went on this trip obviously must mean we'd be friends, right?

That year for Christmas mom and dad bought me a Crock-Pot so I was so excited to try it out with anyone and everyone. I ended up having Marissa over to try a new recipe in the slow cooker and have "story sharing" about our time in Ecuador, but it turned into so much more than that. We started connecting on the faith level as soon as we both found out we wanted someone to go to Mass with and we began meeting up every Wednesday for coffee, chatting and then praying a Rosary and going to the candlelight Mass together at 9 pm. What a beautiful base from which to build a friendship. Our friendship continued over the next three years, getting stronger as we went, and this weekend she even made the nine hour trip to come see me. What a gal!

While she was here we had the delight of joining Fr. Cheney at a favorite spot: Applebee's. On the way back to the Newman Center after dinner the sun was setting over in the west and it was BIG, pink and round--SO beautiful. Without missing a beat Fr. looked to the right and exclaimed, "Good work, God! A+ on that one." That became our theme for the weekend, especially yesterday when he took us flying over the Smoky Hills in Minnesota near Detroit Lakes and showed us the magnificent fall foliage. I've seen a lot of really beautiful things in my life thus far but man, I don't know that I've ever witnessed something quite like this!
There's a priest--(and a pilot!)--you can trust!
Pilot Cheney and beautiful teammate.
 










THAT'S what I'm talking about!!
Marissa and I in front of beautifully landscaped NDSU campus entrance.
Cari and I in front of the famous Fargo sign downtown.
Needless to say, it was a beautiful weekend here in Fargo and there's already snow in the forecast for this week. Get ready ladies and gents, we're all in for a real treat.

p.s. the Photo cred all goes to Miss Cari Devlin! What an eye!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Hello's and Sad Goodbye's

Looking back at this week my emotions resemble a roller-coaster at Disneyland. On Wednesday I brought home a car! That certainly was a lot of excitement for this girl. It's definitely something I've wanted to do for a while, but never thought I was "grown up" enough to do it, or that I'd be able to find the right one without dad's approval (that's most important, you know). As I mentioned in my last post I'm attempting to play more of the part of a wife, mother and simply a grown-up, so this was definitely a step in that direction. The Taurus has certainly given me a great ride and many wonderful memories but I think she's finally coming to the end of her legacy and it's time to move on. Hunting around for quotes on car insurance was time consuming, but I'm so glad I had the opportunity to learn from it. Also, I certainly did not expect walking off the lot with literally my dream car. I've drooled over the Nissan Altimas ever since the 10th grade when Cory Meyer pulled up in the high school parking lot in a nice, shiny black one. "Man," I thought, "What a car! Maybe someday I'll have a car like that, but probably not." After test driving a few others and doing some research, the Altima was definitely the best investment I could've made and I have no doubt she'll be with me for a long time! I think her name is going to be Lady, but I'm open to other suggestions, if you have any.

The 7 things I love most about having a new car:
  1. Such a smooth ride! You can hardly tell there are train tracks everywhere, bumps, etc. And it's quiet.
  2. No rust....dad.
  3. Leg room!! I'm often concerned about the others in my vehicle when I'm driving, and since I'm toting around adults most of the time I want to make sure they're comfortable. (And it will probably be great for kids too, let's be real.)
  4. No more consulting mom and dad if I can drive their car somewhere. Kelsey Marie Kaufman is the only name on this title and loan, baby.
  5. Aside from school loans, this is my first big investment! I'm slowly but surely entering what some may call "the real world." 
  6. She'll have NORTH DAKOTA license plates! That was one of the first things I noticed when I got here and every chance I get I tell someone how much I love those darn tootin' plates. I guess now I've got a car licensed and titled in ND. 
 On a much sadder note, and in fact, I would've liked to dedicate separate posts to each of these events, my dog, Rosco, was put down yesterday after suffering with a liver problem for quite a while now. Boy he sure was a trooper right up until the end and I wish I could've been there with mom, dad and Kevin.

If you'd entreat me, let me tell you just a little bit about how Rosco became a part of the Kaufman family. I had always been obsessed with dogs, as most young girls are I imagine. My aunt Colleen gave me a beautiful informational book filled with professional pictures of all sorts of dogs when I was in middle school. Before she gave it to me I used to always steal it and just page through it, looking at all the different puppies, especially keeping a close eye on the basset hounds because for some reason I thought they were just the cutest. I begged and whined and hoped to have a puppy someday but mom was adamant about not letting a dog mess up the house and dad didn't like the idea of house dogs because he always had dogs running around on the farm growing up.

One summer day mom goes with a friend, Terri, because Terri wanted a puppy for her family and she saw an ad for the sweetest little Yorkie-poos you could ever imagine. I remember being in the basement with Janae (Terri's daughter and a friend of mine) when I hear the screen door open, mom call for us and before you know it we're upstairs and what do we see--not one but two Yorkie-poos scampering around the garage. My heart sinks as I'm thinking that Janae now has two brand new, fluffy, loveable, adorable new puppies, and we still have none. And I will probably never have one. And I'm sad. And then mom tells me one's for me. And the next 10 years are a blur.

I've loved having a puppy, even though he got older he's always been a puppy to me. "My little baby!" I usually exclaim when he comes around nipping at my fingers, begging for attention. That little stinker sure did have it good living in our household. He got oodles of (unsalted and pre-buttered) popcorn from mom whenever she'd make it on the stove. He'd run to the scene whenever someone rustled a bag of chips, knowing that he'd probably get a couple of crunchy treats out of it. And the personal favorite, he shared ice cream cones with dad. Oh boy, if that wasn't quite the sight. Now if I'm my father's daughter I know dad genuinely enjoys ice cream, but I'm pretty convinced he only ate ice cream cones because he knew he'd have Rosco's undivided attention for at least 20 minutes, and then he could usually smother him and keep him for 5-10 more until Rosco finally wiggled his way out of dad's grasp and trotted back over to mom's chair. What a little stinker.

I must admit, although not the brightest dog on the block, he could hold his own for tricks. He sat, rolled over like a pro, could shake, give me a high-five and a high-ten and of course he had a way to always cheer one of us up when we were sad. Dogs can sense that stuff, man, and Rosco could sense me just right. My favorite is when I'd already have left to go back to school or come back to Fargo and Rosco would wander into my room and wait outside my door in the morning, even though I wasn't there to snuggle with. In case you don't know how adorable this dog is, here are a few pictures that I could find of Rosco and I through the years:
He's the only one who gives me sloppy kisses..

He usually helped with my homework...or just distracted me.
Rosco and Emily in 2008.
Family Christmas 2009. Rosco is famous for always sneaking in the pictures. Every year, and uninvited. What a ham.
Rosco could probably win the title as "most photographed dog" and these are only a few. It will be weird going home next time and not hearing the bark and waiting for "my little baby" to run to the door and greet me. Something he did that always broke my heart, time and time again, was start to get upset when he saw suitcases come out. He always knew that those meant someone is leaving and as soon as Kelsey starts packing up her room, she'll be gone, too. He'd shun me a little bit, act kind of funny, but then the day before I'd leave he was always a big (as in 9 pound...) teddy bear and he wouldn't leave my side. The day before I left for Fargo I got to spend all day, uninterrupted with him, and I am so glad. It was hard knowing I'd never see him again, but that little pup has brought many blessings to our family and certainly taught all of us how to love in a whole different way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What an awesome day.

Nothin' like a study of the CCC at Detroit Lakes.
Today, September 10th 2012, (a.k.a. 9-10), will be remembered as an incredible day for this young lady. It started out with Holy Hour, followed by coffee time with the one, the only, FRC (a.k.a. Fr. James Warren Cheney for those who are not yet acquainted), team development.. yadda yadda...a solid one-on-one with Bryan , mentorship with Kristen Vetter, (a disciple from last year who is now in Duluth as a FOCUS missionary and loving it), mentorship with my actual mentor, cookie baking, tator tot casserole making and serving dinner to the whole team, including padre.

After dinner I high-tail it over to the union only 5 minutes before bible study starts, nervous that I'm the last one to arrive. I walk into the couched area, look around, and see no one. Expecting 12 girls to show up I begin to get a little nervous, but start arranging some chairs to make a circle in my usual area. Within seconds I see Amanda and Nicole walking towards me and breathe in a deep sigh of relief. Soon after Kathryn shows up (and with an incredibly cute new haircut--she just donated 12 inches of long, luscious and thick hair to Locks of Love!), then Kayla, and Josie (who informed me she would be bringing a friend, Erica, and cookies), Sarah and Danie. I start us off with my "Grace of the Day," when Calli shows up, a young woman I met and totally fell in love with (in a very platonic way, of course, don't worry.) at the Delta Tau Delta formal in April.

Things are looking up.

I don't know how much is showing on the outside, but on the inside I am beaming like a fluorescent light bulb and have a cheesy grin smiling from ear to ear. What has just happened is basically every bible study leader's dream come true. Thank you, Jesus.

Melissa, Tatiana, Danielle at D.L I'm thinkin' magazine cover?
What I love most about leading studies is that whenever the conversation flows really well and multiple people respond to questions and Jesus' name is being dropped left and right, the time seriously seems to stand still and the Lord multiplies it for us. After what felt like the entire hour I side-glanced at the clock on the wall to my right and saw it had only been 45 minutes. Fifteen minutes is a lot more time! At this point, I'm super stoked. That's when the conversation gets real good. We start talking about having uncomfortable conversations (ie; confronting people about issues and uncomfortable topics, using Jesus' name in public, as opposed to simply saying "God," fundraising your salary...wink...etc) and what it really means to boldly proclaim Christ's name. Ouch! That's a good conversation right there. It isn't long before I look at my watch and see there are only a few minutes left on the clock and know we still have to take prayer requests, final remarks and say a closing prayer.

After praying us out and sending everybody on their merry way I literally feel like I'm walking on clouds. Yes, literally. I had to look down and see if my two feet were still firmly planted. I know that the Mass is Heaven on earth; this is true and Jesus reveals himself to me in the Eucharist a little bit more each day. [He finds fun ways to flirt with me and tease me, mostly tease. For some reason people have just always teased me, and I guess Jesus is no exception. Luckily I enjoy it.] But after today, the joy building up within me has got to be a little foretaste of what's to come after this life. Because even though I'm exhausted, I don't remember feeling this much joy since my very first bible study at NDSU last fall.

 I know I've blabbed a bit about taking personal time and making it more of a priority this year. Well today was the best Kelsey PRN time ever. Yes ever, and yes the medical abbreviation for "as needed," ask Tim or Jenne. Spending two and a half hours cooking a full meal for the team and for Fr. Cheney has got to become more regular for me. I don't care if the kitchen is smaller than my twin bed, those two hours were so well-spent it's not even funny.

Bryan, Josie, Britni, Zoe, and Sam.
This year what I desire more than just learning how to take personal time or lead bible studies and discipleships and watch college students grow in their faith, is to actually continue to seek personal growth and transformation. At the end of the year last year my spiritual director suggested that I pray for this year to be a "clarifying year" in terms of my vocation in this life. [Uh-oh, caveat: Kelsey's about to get real personal. Watch out, I'm even a little nervous myself.] For the longest time I've desired to just enter a convent somewhere and be married to Jesus for the rest of my life. Sounds like quite the American dream, doesn't it? (Sorry, that's unfunny sarcasm, but blogging this late at night makes all the crazies come out, and it's one of those things that actually is a dream for me...and many other young, devout Catholics that I know.) If you think I'm just saying words, I'm not:  I've visited multiple convents, attended discernment retreats, read books, talked with many sisters from different orders, fasted from dating (although it wasn't as much chosen as it was expected of me as a first year FOCUS missionary) and prayed much about this, and often in hopeful wishing for a call to the religious life.

Now Kelsey, why would anybody want to be called to the religious life?! That's preposterous! All you do is give everything away, wear a funny outfit and pray. What good is that? Well, in my defense I had hardly any experience with what it's like to actually live out the vocation of holy matrimony. Children crying at 2 am, making meals for six rather than one, taking kids to soccer practice, having things come up for your family at inconvenient times for me, but doing them because I love them, running around like crazy...you get the point. And in all reality, the majority of all of y'all reading this are probably moms or wives anyway, so you know exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, you're probably thinking, "Oh that Kelsey, she has absolutely no idea," and you're absolutely right. I don't. But this is my blog, not yours. What I'm trying to say is that I have very little experience in doing normal household, motherly/wife-like tasks, and that in and of itself lends me to fear the vocation of marriage rather than embrace it. But if all I know about a convent is that the nuns wear beautiful habits, live in community and pray often, well shoot, that sounds great to me! I'm trying to detach myself from everything I own anyways, that would certainly be the easiest way to do that! And the best part: no more worrying about the mysterious who I'm going to marry! Sounds great to me, I'll take it!

(And then I get what a friend of mine calls a "Jesus slap.")

After much praying and careful discerning, this year I will be heavily pursuing the vocation of marriage, but not necessarily in a dating fashion (a.k.a. no, I will not ask any guys to go on dates with me). In my own, personal way I will prepare myself for what it is like to be a wife and a mother some day. I deeply desire humility so I can learn how to selflessly love another, seeking nothing in return. It's really hard work! And I'm coming to realize that we all think we are much better at it than we indeed are.  

Serving the Tator Tot Casserole! Fresh outta the oven.
Selfless love isn't the kind of thing you put down on a résumé or brag to your friends about how good you are at it. Selfless love is the kind of thing that as soon as we say, "Oh, yeah, I do this, that and the other thing for my husband every day, I'm definitely a selfless lover," we have to stop ourselves. Why do we actually do all those things? Is it because I am head-over-heels in l-o-v-e and just can't wait to delight in him and show my affection for him? Or is it so I can hold something as collateral later, when he asks me to do something. "Well, honey, I would do that, but I spent all night making you that nice dinner and shining your shoes, remember?"

BAM.The selfless love kicks in right there. 

RIGHT when you're confronted with a task that you don't want to do. That you think you deserve not to do. None of us deserve salvation (Rom. 3:23), but our God is the Father of Mercy and sent his son Jesus to die for each of us so that we might obtain it. In fact, He really hopes we do.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (Jn 3:16-17)
Therefore, we ought to learn from Christ himself what selfless love really looks like. I am certainly no pro. Just take a gander at a crucifix. Making dinner for the team tonight was such a delight and brought so much joy to my heart, and they all thanked me for it and "Oh Kelsey, this is great, thank you so much!" and "Oh, you really shouldn't have!" when I realized, but wait, I did this for my personal time, I wasn't even doing this specifically for you. I feel kind of like a jerk sharing that, but it's true! Sure, to some I was slaving in a tiny roasting-oven-kitchen for over two hours, but to me I was fully enjoying the gifts the Lord has given me and spending that time I needed to love myself so that I can better love others. And to bring it even more full-circle, I'm hoping that all of these little experiences--cooking dinner for the team, making brownies for a wine and cheese night, hosting bible studies--all of these will not only be a gift to those I am serving, but a lesson for me in selfless service as a devoted wife and mother (...some day....way in the future...).

What a long rant for what was supposed to be such a "quick little post." I'll wrap her up there and call it quits. Thanks for listening. Love you all.

Also, here's a picture Cari took on Saturday that might make you giggle (apparently I need to work on the whole "trust" issue):