Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Only You.

"My heart is heavy, God. My heart is heavy!"

That has been my prayer today and yesterday, and I am now convinced that when we remain faithful the Lord takes great delight in that--especially when we least want to. Here's one missionary's story of how she tried to do that.

I don't honestly know what came over me this morning, but I was, and admittedly might still a tad bit be in a bad mood. (Insert shocked face here.) To be honest, I'm not that often in a straight up angry and plain bad mood, but this morning after our team meeting something was just not right inside of me. Earlier this morning in prayer I read through the day's gospel, and then saw a text from a friend reflecting on it. The gospel for today is Luke 11:37-41 and verse 41 just kept jumping out every time I read it.
"But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you."
A friend of mine sends out daily reflection texts and sent me one this morning that I just can't quite get out of my head, and he was reflecting upon this gospel passage. It said: "'As to what is within, give alms, and behold everything will be clean for you.' When we give freely and generously to those in need we express love, compassion, kindness and mercy. And if the heart is full of love and compassion, then there is no room for envy, greed, bitterness, and the like. Do you allow God's love to transform your heart, mind, and actions toward your neighbor?" 

The prayer of my heart after reading this was instantly, "Lord, may there be no more room left for envy, greed, bitterness, malice and anger left in my heart! May there only be room for love!" and the reason I tell you this is because I really meant that! Today of all days, I felt angry towards my brother (not my actual brother, but brother in a larger sense) and my first internal reaction when I was in conversation was not one of joy and excitement, but of self-pity and feelings of anger and annoyance. The place from which it stems was of virtually no import to me, but it wasn't until 2:00 that the rubber really hit the road and I had to "buck up," go to discipleship and share Christ with his disciple.

Now, being in a cranky and oddly energetic mood, going to discipleship was really the last thing I wanted to do, which is strange because I tend to look more forward to that part of the apostolate than anything else. Regardless, the two of us met up and walked over to the union together and I was literally straining myself to keep from flying off the handle bars and going on a pointless, tangential rant about absolutely nothing. When we got there we found a spot on some couches, sat down and I asked her if she'd be willing to open in prayer, I really had nothing to give at this point. I hadn't planned on praying with the day's gospel reading, but my mind was literally empty of what to do with her. So we read through the gospel a couple of times, letting the words sink in, and listening to what the Lord was telling us through them.

What a grace. Man, scripture is definitely living and effective, and today it cut through my heart like a double-edged sword. Praise God!

Verse 41, as quoted earlier, jumped out of the page again, so I knew that Jesus was trying to say something to me that I didn't quite understand earlier. I reflected, 'Ok Kelsey, what exactly is within you right now? And how can you give alms from that?' Well, inside of me was a very unrighteous anger, a sense of self-pity, and a desire to do nothing but storm off and pout for a few hours--there was not one feeling of charity nor joy (which yes, doesn't necessarily mean they aren't there, for love is more than feelings--it's an act of the will!) nor a desire to be in discipleship at that very moment. I was feeling far too selfish for that. But in order to be clean on the inside, I had to give spiritual alms, not necessarily waiting until Sunday and putting a check in the collection basket--I had to work with the present moment. At that moment, giving alms for me was to sit with my disciple and have a Christ-centered, rather than Kelsey-centered discipleship. Talk about spiritual poverty! Out of my nothingness I gave Jesus everything that I could give, and He rewarded me ten-fold.

As an example: this particular disciple is applying to be a FOCUS missionary, and the interview is this weekend. I so badly wanted to take her evangelizing, "barehanding" as we call it. I still haven't done it, and our discipleship was running really short on time (technically it was supposed to have ended, but another disciple was showing up in a few minutes anyway). We were talking about the interview and it struck me:  how awesome is it that this girl wants to devote two years of her life to serve the Lord in his vineyard as a missionary?! That is just so incredible.

I saw my next disciple coming towards us and casually I turned to the girl next to me and exclaimed, "Hey, my friend wants to give up two years of her life and be a missionary, isn't that so awesome?!" And the rest of the conversation flowed from there. We came to find out that Jenna (that's her name, so feel free to pray for her!) was raised in a Christian home but had never heard the Gospel message. Insert totally casual gospel presentation here. We then proceeded to pray with her and in sum, I'd chalk it up to a success--only because I responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to talk to the person next to me. We didn't finish there, but after praying with her got to talk to her about mission trips and even exchanged phone numbers. It's kind of hard not to ooze joy, zeal and love after something like that happens. Needless to say, my bad mood had essentially dissipated and I'm convinced it's because I was fortunate enough to give alms out of my poverty.

And to be honest, I haven't felt this "clean" in a long time. Love truly does cover a multitude of sins!

"But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

From the Streets of Fargo

You might be wondering what the heck has taken me so long to update you; my apologies if you've been on the edge of your seat. Like I mentioned in my last post, it's legitimately hard to think of things to write with sweet Kelly no longer able to read and enjoy my posts; I pray for her each day and still miss her dearly.

However, although I haven't been posting certainly does not mean I haven't been experiencing a lot of life since September 2nd, the date of the last update. Since then bible studies have gotten off the ground, our all-female book study is well under way, the students are growing more and more each day, we've had a few monthly mountains (one was even student-led) and I've been meeting more people than I know what to do with (as per usual).

If you're wondering how I personally am doing, let me just say very well. I feel very free to be more spontaneous, and to evangelize in every opportunity. I'm convinced that this grace is a fruit of the Camino. In the past, I've seen activities at the Newman Center as more of a burden than a joy (I know, shocker, right?). A new tide of graces came flooding in with the start of this school year and rather than seeing these activities as "required" I'm now seeing every one as an opportunity to meet new people, share the love of Christ, and welcome more students into this family that is the Newman Center. I think part of this might come from the fact that this year I'm leading only one bible study (as opposed to multiple) and most of my current disciples are seniors, so we basically just live the dream and strategize as to how we're going to convert NDSU's campus. It's pretty bomb.

I do have to say I have a few other pieces of exciting news in my life.

1) Meghan Gangestad (was Hamson) got married last weekend. Her wedding, simple yet beautiful, impacted me in so many ways. I learned a lot about self sacrifice, and what it means to really love someone. It's funny, because this wasn't the first Catholic wedding I've been to. In fact, I've been blessed to attend many. However, this was the first time that someone I've walked with on the path of Christian discipleship got married, and she is just the first of many (Mary, Alea, Britni..). There was definitely a sense of proud older sister and I had to blink 'em back a few times. (Not as many times as the bridesmaids in front of me though! They even turned around and asked me for tissues.) It was just such a joy to celebrate with Meghan, as well as spend time with her FOCUS team (she's a missionary at IUPUI) and her wonderful family.
Justin and Meghan's wedding, all the FOCUS Missionaries in the house!
2) I've hesitated to write about this for a while, and I'll be honest, it is probably one of the reasons I haven't been so diligent in writing. I pride myself on being open, vulnerable and honest with my friends, family and all of you, but sometimes, you just don't know how to bring something up. Recently I read an article titled, Stop Guarding Your Heart and Start Paying Attention to Realtiy, and so this is me, "paying attention to reality." I'm in a relationship, and privileged to be dating a really incredible guy named Lee. I guess you could say this is the first "adult relationship" I've been in, so I'm a little skittish as how to go about everything. The reality of the situation is that we just started dating about a month ago, we're both pursuing lives of holiness fed by prayer and the sacraments, and that one way or another we are on the same page with trying to prepare the other for their Vocation. As for details I'll tell you this: he lives in Iowa, I live in North Dakota. We talk twice a week, and are trying to visit each other once a month. Prayer is important to us, and I am so thankful his leadership in the relationship.
Lee and I at Meghan's wedding

You might be wondering, wait a second, if he lives in Iowa and she lives in North Dakota... how on earth did they meet? Well, to answer that question, Lee was a grad student my first year at NDSU and we bonded over a filial love of the movies Hot Rod and Pink Panther. We actually had a lot of opportunities to get to know each other, and I actually tried to set up a FOCUS Mission that was NDSU-specific (the trips are typically inclusive of students from any campus) and Lee, who had been on a mission trip before, offered to be a co-leader for the trip. In God's good providence, only a couple of students showed nominal interest in the trip and therefore we canceled it. Lee was also one of the most dedicated FOCUS student missionaries and very hard-working. To not bore you with all the little details, I will say that in April I received a really nice letter from Lee, we started talking every couple of weeks throughout this summer, peppered by a couple of visits from each of us, and well, after a visit to his family St. Cloud about a month ago we decided to officially start discerning through a dating relationship. If I learn any wisdom about dating through this experience perhaps I'll share it with all of you via this blogging medium. It is my own personal soapbox, I suppose. Perhaps that's why I like it so much. Hmmm...

Lastly, regarding my relationship with Lee, I've been learning a lot about myself, and especially the virtues of patience and selflessness. I've always kind of known I'm selfish, but it wasn't until this summer when Lee and I were talking about a possible visit in the time frame between the Camino and returning to Fargo that I realized in what ways I am selfish. I tried to convince him to come visit me in WI (again, as he visited in late May before NST), and he patiently just said, "Kelsey, I'd like it if you came to Iowa." I knew in that moment that sometimes I need to give, and he can't be the only one to sacrifice for our relationship. So that's just one example of how I'm already growing in this relationship.

On a funnier note, the other week we had a Skype date planned for 5:30 pm and I made sure to dress up extra nice that day. I had a few opportunities throughout the day to go for a run or do some form of exercise, but I used the Skype date as an excuse not to work out (you can't mess up the hair, you know!), even though I should've. At 5:20 I logged into Skype, knowing that it usually takes a couple of minutes to get warmed up, and at 5:30 on the dot, I got a phone call from Lee. I, trying to play it totally cool, said, "Oh, did you want to Skype today?" (secretly yet not so secretly hoping he'd want to) when, after a brief pause he just said, "No, I think we can talk on the phone today" (facepalm). "Vanity of vanities... all is vanity." Thanks for helping me grow in holiness, Lee.

Ready for the fiesta!
3) I'm leading two mission trips this school year--one during spring break and one over the summer! I'll be going to Ecuador over spring break and Mexico City in July. I couldn't be more excited to have such incredible opportunities to serve the Lord in this facet. I love my job. If you're a college student and want to come on either trip with me, www.focusmissions.org is the website. Fill out an application and join me for an awesome adventure. The desire to become more involved with FOCUS Missions really started to fan into flame after returning from the Camino. I think the Lord has a lot in store for college students through these missions, and I feel the Lord tugging on my heart to serve in this capacity.

Tonight we had a "missions fiesta" for the buckluck Sunday night student dinner. We brought in some music, lights, crepe paper and had a helping of nachos and I'd chalk it up to a success! It was a blessing to share something that I'm passionate about with students, and hopefully inspire them to go on their own mission this year. Another grace for me was to share the graces from the Camino with them through a personal testimony and be reminded myself of all that the Lord did for me on that incredible trip. Sure wouldn't mind going back sometime in the near future!
Busy serving all the kiddos at buckluck.
That's about all there is to report for now, at least now that I've pointed out the "elephant in the room." Perhaps I'll be more likely to share more often with all of you stories from the hinterland. Please pray for me, for our campus, for many applicants (especially males!) for FOCUS, our student missionaries, the trips to Ecuador and Mexico City and please pray for Lee and I as we continue on this path of discernment.