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


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!