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 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!