Saturday, February 2, 2013

Does "Life as Usual" Still Exist?

I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but while trying to brainstorm a clever title for my long overdue update to all of you, that was the only thing that came to mind. Well actually, I first wanted to title this, "Back to Life as Usual," until I realized that that doesn't really exist for us, or anybody for that matter, regardless of what we tell ourselves. To be frank, I'm not sure I would actually like to have a "usual" life. For those of you who don't know me very well, I greatly enjoy being kept on my toes, bouncing from place to place--so long as I have opportunities to actually rest and drink a delicious cup of Caribou coffee every once in a while (which I just might be doing at this very moment...).

The last few weeks went by so quickly it's hard to believe February already arrived! As soon as we got back from Orlando we literally hit the ground running, the very next day. I remember being together in our office on Tuesday morning, entirely sleep deprived, to map out the next couple of weeks, which have now officially ended. And now that bisonCatholic Week 2013 is over, we've already hit the ground with planning next year's--which I know will make a world of difference for next year's missionaries and event line-ups! We've been doing some serious dreaming and I am praying that we all get sent back here next year to see it through!

Sure wouldn't mind being blessed w/these amazing teammates next year...
I guess that's an update I should probably share with anyone concerned about my future plans:  I have to admit, I'm a little embarrassed to share this with you, seeing as most of you have been hearing me say how "this will definitely be my last year in Fargo." However, after doing some serious soul-searching, or at least some soul-searching, I realized that I actually really don't want to leave this wonderful city I've come to know and love so much over the last 18 months. Yes, you've read me right - I want to stay at NDSU for another year. This came about after some prodding by my spiritual director who insisted I explain to him my dire need to leave Fargo. "Well...." I hummed and hawed, "it's just time that I leave. These girls need someone new to walk with them towards the Lord and my time here has ended." What a bunch of bologna! Helloooo, Romans 12:2! Padre didn't hesitate on calling BS as I sat there dumbfounded, wondering how he always knows the right questions to ask. He asked me how I knew it would be better to go to a different campus and then it hit me--I absolutely love it in Fargo. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways in this city, why do I feel like I need to leave?!

When all is said and done, the most that really comes out of understanding these desires is simply that I have a better self-awareness, it means nothing for my actual future at NDSU. I voiced my concerns to the regional directors, but if not enough missionaries stay on staff next year our team will likely be split up to spread the wealth of "veteran staff" throughout the other campuses. Not to mention that Curtis and the rest of FOCUS National seem to just love what's going on at NDSU. I do legitimately feel honored when they talk of the "amazing things blowing up at NDSU," but being here in the heat of things I don't always see the "fire," so to speak. I see the areas that have yet to be set ablaze with the love of Christ and desire our students to continually seek deeper conversions as I seek my own.
Cari Devlin, what an amazing woman/teammate/friend...etc.

You might be wondering, "Wow, FOCUS really likes NDSU, huh? I had no idea..." That's right! As you may remember--although if you get all of your NDSU happenings from my blog you might not, seeing as I've been a bit out of touch since this all happened--Curtis Martin (president and founder of FOCUS) paid us a visit last week to be our keynote event for bisonCatholic week. Let me set the scene for you:

It's Wednesday of bisonCatholic week. The team usually prays a "power hour" early in the a.m., but due to the long day ahead we moved the power hour back until 8 am. (No complaints here!) Bryan, TJ, Cari and I met and walked over to the Union where we parked outside the Great Plains Ballroom, the same room which would host our event only 12 hours later, with our rosaries and hearts open for the Lord to work. We prayed each Glorious mystery carefully, interceding in between for all of the different aspects of the event that would take place later that night, making sure that the Lord knew all of our desires for the event and would take care of them all, as He promises us over and over, and over again...

We spend the rest of the day getting things ready for that night, hanging out on campus at the Ask a Catholic table, spending time in Eucharistic Adoration at the Memorial union (yes, you've read me right! Every week from 11-4 Jesus comes to campus and students spend time with him in the upstairs of the union!), discipleships, meetings and the like. As the day progresses the team starts sweating a little more, awaiting Curtis' arrival to Fargo, praying that his flight lands and everything goes well. He doesn't arrive in time to celebrate the 5:15 Mass with us so the few of us that don't need to run to Olive Garden to pick up dinner for 80 people go to Mass. Afterwards, we joyfully join the students in eating a delightful dinner of Olive Garden lasagna, salad and breadsticks at the Newman Center and anxiously wait for Martin to show up. Finally, 6:30 rolled around and Curtis Martin strolls into the social hall of the Newman Center. The same social hall that holds hundreds of bikes each April for the annual bike race fundraiser, the same social hall that boasts of its numerous dances, buckluck dinners, talent shows, etc. FOCUS has finally come to us, and the excitement of the student missionaries present is so palpable you can taste it. And it tastes like lasagna.

Student missionaries, social hall, lasagna and Curtis.
Curtis gives a great and succinct talk to the students to get them pumped up about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and to bear much fruit (Jn 15:8). Nearing 7:00 I realize someone needs to head over to the union to set up some sort of table with goodies, etc, welcoming hopeful students to the event taking place at 7:30. I pack up a box of goodies, hop in TJ's car and he graciously totes me to the union only to see handfuls of students standing outside the ballroom waiting for the doors to open! Curtis and the rest of the students come on over and another 200 or so join us as Curtis gives a talk more pertinent for any Christian: Set the World on Fire: Spitting out Lukewarm Christianity. A "Stump the Priest" panel follows and ends up going for 90 minutes! Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians alike all bring their questions about the Faith and after this event running two years strong I am still amazed at the student's desire to learn on their quest for the Truth.

Curtis schmoozing with students in our apt. Cari looks on.
Immediately following this comes the best part of the night (at least for me): a recruitment event for juniors and seniors at Cari and I's apartment! This consists of: cheese and veggie trays, a few varieties of good wines and beers (including Leinie's and Blue Moon--everyone there is over the age of 21, don't be scandalized!), and a bunch of students excited to hang out with Curtis and hammer him with questions for a few hours. Yes, it ends up being a late night but man, it pumped us up! It reminded me how much I love this mission and being right where I'm at.

The next night was Mass with Bishop Hoepner from the Crookston Diocese in the same ballroom, and that also rocked my socks. Having successors of the apostles around to celebrate Mass always makes for a great time for any overly-zealous young Catholic. Big smiley face.

Bryan & FRC welcoming Bishop Hoepner to bisonCatholic.
We finished the week with a few other things--the annual talent show, more priests at the "Ask a Catholic" booth on campus and I treated myself to a much-needed (yet slightly unsatisfactory) haircut on Saturday morning. What a week! That much excitement could only call for one thing:  a team retreat.

Wednesday morning Bryan, TJ, Cari and I packed up Lady and headed south. Not that far south, don't worry all you chilly Midwesterners--we went to Irene, South Dakota to the Broomtree Retreat Center where Bryan rented us a few cabins for a just a couple of days. I'll admit, I hesitated to go at first because things  really started kicking off on campus with the momentum from Seek, bisonCatholic week, our newly formed women's Theology of the Body study, men's nights, etc, and I didn't really want to interrupt any good progress. In hindsight however, I think going on retreat was probably the best thing we could have done for the students. It gave them the opportunity to see our need to rest and that we aren't as "superhuman" as some of them (...and some of us...) might like to think.

The first 24 hours of the retreat were in silence and as you may imagine, a few funny things happened, my favorite being dinner on Wednesday night. To make things easier I prepared a casserole the night before (my favorite in fact, called the "Night Before Casserole") so it could just be stuck in the oven when we arrived. We're all sitting around the table, silently, saying our our meal prayer, silently, and then dig in. In a last ditch effort to clean out some blood oranges in my fridge I bring those to the table, too. TJ finishes a big portion of casserole, grabs an orange and eagerly starts to peel. He gets all the peeling off and there's a look of disappointment on his face: he notices the reddish color to the flesh of the orange, unlike the usual tangerine-orange color. He honestly looks distraught, and without daring to break the silence to simply tell him "TJ, it's a blood orange," I think of an idea: I'll get the bag out of the fridge that says "blood oranges" and has pictures of them on it. Then he'll get it. I go to the fridge, grab the bag and while attempting to stifle a giggle hand him the bag which he takes without any reluctance. A look of relief washes over his face as he completely ignores the pictures on the label and reaches in for another orange, thinking this one will be better. And that's when we all lost it. Bryan and I can hardly contain ourselves, and at this point tears are literally streaming from my eyes as they've been held back long enough now. So that was funny.

Freshman year of college, UW Hockey with my roomie!
The rest of the retreat consisted of sleeping, praying, reading, napping and then playing a massive game of hide and go seek in the pitch black darkness. That was fun, and Cari was by far the best hider of all of us, with TJ as a close second. What a hoot; being able to just let loose and be childish is so good for the soul, and was the perfect way to end our second night in the cabin.

We got back yesterday refreshed and ready to hit it hard on campus the rest of the semester! Tonight Bryan and I are going to Grand Forks with some people to watch a Badger Men's hockey game!! I'm so pumped; I loved going to the hockey games in college so this will be fun, even though I really don't know any of the players. No biggie, that doesn't take away the fun that will (hopefully) be had.

I should be on my way home, as I see snow start to dust the Great White outside. Don't want her to get lost with her great camouflage. Thank you for all of the prayers for a successful bisonCatholic week! Next item on the agenda: get February newsletters to the printer asap.

God bless you; I remember "the readers of my blog and their intentions" in my daily prayers!

Kelsey Marie