Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I want a Mary Heart.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."  
I love this passage so stinking much. Martha and Mary, what a dynamic duo. Also, Mary Magdalene may or may not be my confirmation saint so I have a special connection with all of her appearances in the scriptures. I'm reading a book right now called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life, and am learning so much about what it means to be a woman in today's world and to be radically in love with the Lord, all at the same time (yes, the two can co-exist!). This passage may be familiar to some of us, but every time I read it something new sticks out to me, or it calls me out to a higher standard, one I'm often afraid to strive for.

 "...one thing is needful."

Yesterday I had a really interesting conversation about prayer and parenting. I was asked how I plan on spending time silently praying someday when I've got my own children and my own household to run. I have thought about this a great deal actually, and it is very important that I recognize how blessed I am to have this opportunity with FOCUS to have a Holy Hour built right into my daily life--what a treat! I've heard stories about some moms who wake up from 2-3 am and pray a holy hour when the ones they love are fast asleep. I'm not sure this is something sustainable for me, or something that I'll be called to do, but I'm praying that if that is the only time I'll have in silence with the Lord, that I will not be too selfish to take it.

Let's think about it this way, would God ever tell you to not talk to him today to go take care of your family? Probably not. He desires you first and foremost: before your husband or wife does, before your children do, before anybody else could even consider desiring your heart. He created that heart, and the timeless words of St. Augustine ring so true:
"You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." 
Yes, we have a responsibility to our family and absolutely must take care of them, but we first must recognize where that family came from, and that God has entrusted us with a spouse and children.

This may be something that as a wife and mother is hard to think about, but I deal with the same thing with the women I disciple. This is one of the reasons that I struggle so much with taking alone time: I feel that if I, Kelsey Kaufman, do not help them, then nobody will, and it will be all my fault that I was a bad missionary, a bad friend, a bad daughter (of the big G). There's also a temptation to do that as a mother or father. "If I don't take care of their every need, then nobody will and it'll be all my fault and I'll be a bad wife, a bad mother and a bad daughter (of the big G)"... and on and on it goes. But the reality that we so often forget, is that having faith is so radically important. Faith that the needs of the ones we love will be met if we abandon ourselves to the Father. He WILL take care of the ones we love: his love for us simply keeps us alive each day! So when I ask myself, how can I make time for prayer when I have a household to run and mouths to feed, what I should really be asking is, how can I not make time for prayer when I have a household to run and mouths to feed? God has entrusted me with this household, with these souls dependent upon a mother (or father), and in order to best take care of them, I need to make sure I'm stepping aside and allowing Jesus to play his part, too. Sure, I might be the one to clean up after them when they spill ice cream all over the floor, and I'll be the one to change their disgusting diapers 15 times a day, but if as parents we (the royal "we," I recognize I'm not quite here yet) do not bring our children to knowledge of the very personal love Jesus has for each one of them, then we aren't fully doing our job. And if I am not doing that, it's probably because I personally have not been shown that nor know of the deep and intimate love Jesus Christ has for me.

This brings the conversation full circle, back to point A: in order to give of myself, I need to first give myself wholly and entirely to the Lord, get to know Him and actively seek His Holy Will for my life, in the same way that Mary did as she sat at the feet of Jesus. She completely abandoned herself to him in that moment, and yes, while there were still things that needed to get done (so many that in fact Martha had the audacity to command Jesus to have Mary help her! That's bold.) Mary recognized the greater need. As Jesus said, "one thing is needful." The need to spend time simply in his presence, soak him in and begin to understand that fostering that relationship trumps any duty in the kitchen. First knowing and communing with the Lord will bring balance to our lives and if we fail to spend time doing this, then the rest of our lives can quickly become disordered and we end up only giving ourselves and what we can do to and for others, when what they really need is Jesus Christ. I pray to have the courage to spend time at the feet of Jesus in the same way that Mary did in this passage, and that we can all make it more of a priority in our lives. Just imagine the way our families, neighborhoods, cities and the whole of society would change if we took more time to do this!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.
Exodus 14:14

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jesus is LORD!

How about that awkward moment when you get done speaking at the 4:30 Saturday night mass and you're perspiring more than you did when you went for a run only an hour and a half before? It certainly didn't help that the Church was hotter than blazes. I really wouldn't have minded the perspiration so much until a few concerned parishioners approached me and pointed out how much I was sweating and that they felt bad for me. I just had to explain that I get nervous and sometimes I sweat. Like, a lot. The worst part of it really was that I couldn't wipe it off because then I would've felt really guilty shaking people's hands. Luckily, I remembered another missionary's post on a FOCUS humor page we missionaries have on 'ze Faceb√ľk which went like this:

"Heat index of 104 degrees and the power is out in the adoration chapel...Jesus is Lord!"

When giving a parish talk, I am always the most nervous when Fr. Jared tells the faithfuls to "have a seat for a moment." At that moment a million things run through my mind all at once: Everyone is upset they have to stay longer. They are really hot and annoyed. They don't want to hear someone else ask them for money. They don't think what I'm doing is important. They won't even listen to me. I'm going to trip on the way up there, and if not, on the way back down for sure. And on and on the lies continue. Luckily as soon as I get up there and look out at the faces there are always at least a few smiling back at me, and that makes me feel good, a little important even. I can't imagine how Fr. feels going up there day after day, week after week.

But anyway, my point is that I become easily distracted by the smallest of details, and start buying into lies quicker than I can blink twice. The phrase "Jesus is Lord!" really comes in in the clutch. Just as the congregation sits down before each Mass I remind myself, Jesus is Lord...Jesus is Lord...Jesus is LORD! When remembering that simple fact, my own nerves and fears suddenly don't weigh as much as they did the moment before. I am speaking at church not to glorify myself or my own work, but to glorify what the Lord has done, and continues doing and that I just get to have a simple share in that.

Oh, how I hope that came across well. For those of you who were there, thank you for the kind ears and your prayers and support! They mean so much to me.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Cabin.

The view from our dining room. Ivan Lake.
My life is completely and entirely blessed. As I'm just sitting down to write about the past few days, and shoot, looking further back at the past month and the month to come, I am overcome with joy and love for what the good Lord is doing in my life.

On Sunday I packed up and the ol' Taurus and drove nearly eight hours up to Park Rapids, MN to stay at a cabin that some friends from Fargo rent each year. I really only knew three others when I got there but the hospitality and generosity offered my way by the entire group completely knocked my socks off. The group dynamic was pretty fabulous, also. Present were three married couples, four single adults (myself included, and the youngest) and four children--one three year old, one sixteen-month-old and two three-month-olds. So definitely my kind of group, in case there was any question.

Aside from an amazing group of people, the setting was perfect: a cabin out on Island Air Drive (sounds magical, does it not?) in the middle-of-nowhere, Minnesota which certainly delights me. There was plenty of food and drink, a pontoon and a small fishing boat, plenty of space to sleep and a lake entirely at our disposal. Between the trees in the picture you can see the dock that kept our boats, and of course made for a great place to read and simply gaze at the lake. Mmmmm. I always forget how much I enjoy being on and/or near the water until I am actually put in its vicinity and then I just eat it UP (not literally, gross). My true inner child holds nothing back and totally comes out when I jump into any body of water, especially a lake; and having the freedom to do that for three days was a much-needed break.

I must admit that the idea of a vacation really does make me laugh because I cannot help but think of one of Fr. Michael Keating's insightful classes at NST this year. He was talking about the Church's position in the post-modern world and he ventured onto the topic of vacations. "Our lives have become so unlivable that we need to take a break from them," he stated with a smug grin. We all responded with a chuckle but it was more of an, Oh my gosh you're right, I already have one or even two vacations planned with my family when I get home! And it's true! We work so hard and give 100% of ourselves constantly so that it becomes essential to our well-being to take a break from our lives and go on vacations. Vacations would have seemed pretty silly to people from the 1500's, or even dare I say, from only 100 years ago. And it even sounds a little silly just writing about it now. Boy have things changed.

A few highlights of my vacation at "the cabin" included:
  • Playing Ticket to Ride-European style for what seemed like forever. I might like that game even more than Settlers of Catan, although I should probably give these games more than one play before making big life decisions.
  • Going to St. Mary's Catholic Church out in Two Inlets for Mass on Tuesday morning. Such a cute little country church, and I think without us and one other young girl the average age was 65, to err on the younger side.
  • Seeing for the first time in my life an entire refrigerator full of different kinds of beer (no Bud Light, Miller or Beast, either!) and drinking a total of three of them. 
  • Making dinner with Marissa and watching everyone devour it. I could do that for a living! I just love watching people enjoy something I make for them. What a treat.
  • Being around non-FOCUS missionaries for a solid three days. I love 'em dearly, but sometimes ya just need a break, you know?
  • Going out on the Pontoon and diving with Marissa and Jeff.
  • Reading The Hobbit.
  • Babies.
  • Going for a jog down Happy Hollow Road and seeing a fox 100 feet in front of me stare at me hungrily and return to his business.
  • Giving my Northern friends an authentic taste of Wisconsin, not only with my mere presence, but by sharing Carr Valley Cheese and select Wollersheim wines with them as well.
  • Spending time with Marissa and playing Nertz with her, Mallory and Kayla. Wonderful women, they are.
  • Having plenty of time to make much-needed phone calls both on the way to and from the cabin! 
Here's to hoping I get invited back in the future! Great weekend and now it's back to MPD in Sauk Prairie. If I haven't called you and you support me, shame on me. If you want to help me out and do me a huge favor, shoot me an email or give me a call and hopefully we can meet up while I'm in town! Any prayers are appreciated, it's a busy week!


SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who attend Mass at St. Aloysius expect a FOCUS missionary guest speaker at this weekend's masses. But keep it on the DL, I love surprising people.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Highway 188

Well, I'm officially back in wonderful SP and as settled in as I can be. My clothes have all been clean since the day I got home, I've gotten used to seeing the usual crowd at morning Mass, visited my mom at work and heckled with Rick at least once, gone to the Blue Spoon multiple times, enjoyed baked chicken Thursday at the Eagle Inn with grandma and my room is definitely not as tidy as I would like it to be. Welcome home.

One thing I really enjoy about being home is my running route and its variations. I really started running after my freshman year of college and it's been an uphill battle ever since. On again, off again, on again, off again. But one thing I always cling to, no matter which city I'm in, is forming a route that I know well...with at least one or two bathroom stops along the way (these are vital and the only real reason I need routes). I consistently run the same pace so I know that if I run x amount of minutes I've covered distance y. My absolute favorite route in Sauk City/Prairie du Sac goes out onto Highway 188 across one bridge and back into town across the other. You can smell the farms and simply enjoy being outside of the city while still not being too far away. The last time I successfully completed this route was two years ago (I think it's about 7-8 miles) and my goal is to run it at least once before I pack up the Taurus and head back up north to Fargo. You think it'd be easy seeing as I just ran that half marathon in May. Well, think again. As you know my training for that run was shoddy at best, and now I'm making up for lost time, I suppose. After running off and on at NST and my silent retreat, I've ran pretty faithfully the first week of being home, averaging about 3 miles/day, and it's actually been difficult. Imagine that.

A small confession: ever since I started running all over dodge, I've had a hard time reconciling going any less than 3.5-4 miles or more. This is often the biggest obstacle that keeps me from running, and unfortunately convinces me more often than it should. But on days when it's 90+ degrees outside and I wait until 5 pm to run and can only go 2.5 miles, I shouldn't be surprised that my legs hurt, my throat is as dry as the Sahara and I kind of wouldn't mind walking after I hit 15 minutes.

It's so easy to beat yourself up over not being as good at something as you once were. Take myself and running, for example. I like one of my friend's responses when he found out that Josie and I crossed the half marathon finish line in 1.59:30: "Wow Kels! That's actually really good! I never would've guessed you could do that and were such a runner. I mean, that's a really great time!" I was flattered yet quick to beat myself up thinking, "you should've seen what I was able to do a few years ago," but tried to put that out of my mind as quickly as it came in. I'm not the same young woman that I was four years ago. I've changed, grown a lot, and my skill sets and interests have waxed and waned.

Right now my goal is to get to a point where I can really enjoy and look forward to a run each day simply to keep my sanity. Hopefully sometime before August 4th I can tackle the heat and go see an old friend on foot, Highway 188.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Life-changer.

As you may (or may not) know over the past week 20 other FOCUS mish's and myself were blessed to experience an eight-day retreat, and entirely silent. One of the first questions a couple of people ask me is, "So do you have to be silent like, the whole time? or can you talk a little?" Well, for any musing minds out there, each of us spoke with a spiritual director once a day for about 30-45 minutes, of course we were able to participate in the Mass with all of its responses and prayers and we could tell the cafeteria people what we wanted on our sandwich--"Herb flatbread, two slices of muenster cheese and chicken salad. Throw a few slices of tomato on and call it good. Thanks." Although the amount of people at the St. John's Newman Center significantly decreased (seeing as about 250 people left after being there for five weeks), our presence was not as strongly felt, but our silence was. This might be the story that takes the cake for me: one of the Newman Center worker's daughters sat across from one of the missionaries during dinner (some might know him as "the guy who punched a bear in the face"), stared him in the eyes and said in strong and confident tone, "Why ain't you talkin? Is it for school or somethin'?" He just nodded and continued eating, as anyone would do, right?

One evening after hearing the person behind me sneeze during dinner and not be able to respond I took the liberty upon myself to make up a list of,

"That awkward moment when you're on a silent retreat and..."

  • You forget your key card in your room and have to stalk the other people in the chapel to see who you can follow back up to your floor. Then actually follow them all the way back up. Embarrassed, and in silence.
  • The person behind you sneezes.
  • The dumpster catches on fire and you aren't sure if you're breaking the silence by doing something about it...(this didn't happen to us, fortunately, but it did on a previous silent retreat with a group of seminarians). As an FYI, that would not have been a wrong move to say something, in case you're wondering.
  • You aren't quite sure if talking to yourself is breaking the silence.
  • Someone holds the door for you and you can't thank them.
  • You're not sure if you should actually say, "Peace be with you" during Mass to another retreatant.
  • The same janitor audibly greets you every morning and you just feel rude not at least smiling in return.
  • The lunch ladies that usually tell us, "Have a great day!" don't say a word to us while swiping our cards at mealtimes.
  • You pass someone on the stairs and don't look at them.
  • You see Carrie Wagner and want to yell joyful things at and with her.
  • A student waves to you and you hear instant reprimanding from another FOCUS missionary ("Did you just wave at her?! You can't do that she's on a silent retreat!").
  • The fire alarm is going off in your room on the first night (Molly).
  • You begin to memorize people's eating patterns (Chris).
  • You know who wears the squeaky shoes in the chapel.
  • The silence ends and people go nuts.
But the retreat was certainly much more than awkward encounters, in fact, I actually personally encountered very few. It was filled with time for prayer and really spending time encountering the Lord in a new way. We used meditations written by St. Ignatius Loyola himself, the founder of the Jesuits, way back from the 16th century (they were really straightforward and allowed for a lot of creativity) and had four or five 1-hour "prayer periods" each day, where we would spend an hour contemplating a certain theme, aspect of Christ's life, and all personalizing the crap out of 'em. For example, when Jesus blessed and broke the bread at the last supper, spending time really setting the scene, seeing the people, hearing the conversations, watching their actions, and then imagining yourself sitting on the other side of the table, staring right into Jesus' loving and merciful eyes and hearing him say those very words, to you, with your name stitched in, "Take this, (your name here), it is my body given for you." So yeah, a lot of that.

I want to tell you everything that I experienced with Christ! ...but it's not exactly the kind of thing I can just spit out in a concise blog post and then after reading it you could say, "Oh how nice." I think the other retreat participants can relate to that because when you're spending over four hours a day devoted solely to Christ and getting to know Him better in silence, you'll probably be flooded with innumerable graces that are just really hard to describe. Praise God if that is the case, too! I think that I'll be unpacking these graces throughout the rest of the coming months and year and I do hope I can learn how to articulate them to share them with others! (In the words of Dr. Brian McAdam, "That one grace may be shared by many.") It was as if God in all his infinite wisdom, goodness and mercy has been following me around, patiently waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and trap me in a corner where I could not keep escaping him and avoiding his intense gaze. Moments popped up during the retreat where I thought, "Oh, this doesn't matter, I don't need to do this meditation, I just want to leave," but my pride would not allow it--which shows that God can even use our weaknesses for good! And so with the helpful words from my spiritual director and submitting my whole self to Christ, I experienced an immense deepening of that relationship and what it really means when Jesus says to me, Kelsey, I love you and I desire to be with you

On the ride back today as I was listening to Mumford and Sons (obviously), one of the lines in their song, White Blank Page took on a completely new meaning. I just can't get enough of the Mum and if I ever take a road trip longer than an hour, it is without question that I'll listen to their entire CD at least one or three times. They're. just. so. gooood. But anyway, as this line sank in I realized it completely reflects what God spoke to me this week, and continues speaking to me each day:

You desired my attention but denied my affections, my affections. 

Over the past several years my greatest desire has been deep intimacy with the Lord, and I continually do things to try to draw nearer, but in the times when He's tried to completely shower me in His love, I've often turned the other cheek. I bought into lies. I convinced myself that God desired to punish me for my sins, or that there was just no way GOD would ever really want to invest in measly little ME. And the list goes on. Turns out He really, and I mean really does want to spend time with me, just because He wants to. He began to shatter many of those lies with the truth of what he desires me to know about Him and about myself and I am so excited for the new chapter in the story of our relationship! The Lord really is kind and merciful, and He meets us on our own terms. Shoot, just check out the story of Jesus appearing to Thomas after the resurrection. Talk about meeting someone where they're at!

I wish I could go on and on and tell you everything, but alas, the clean sheets on my bed, at home in my little room in Prairie du Sac, have been calling my name for the last six weeks, and have never looked so good. So happy to be home. Mom and dad's little "girlie" is back.