Friday, February 28, 2014

I (still) love my job.

Being a FOCUS missionary is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Plain and simple. This past week marks the third anniversary of my accepting a call to be a missionary from Steve Pries. I remember exactly where I was when I listened to the voicemail he left me (crossing Regent Street on my way towards campus), and where I was when I called him back (at the bus stop in front of the Chazen Museum of Art). I remember him telling me they would like to "extend an offer for me to join FOCUS" and I said "Yes! Absolutely! I'm in." He asked if I had questions and I recall having none (except, probably, when will I be able to start breathing again??).

What a joy.

Last year I remember spending some time trying to think of how many people wouldn't be in my life had I turned that offer down. It's tough to think about! I've been blessed to meet countless incredible students at the Newman Center alone. Then there are the people that I've met through them (friends, roommates, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc). Then there are the friends I've been blessed with outside of NDSU. And their friends and families. Oh, and the families of the students that I've met (you Breens in particular). There are the Fargo Diocese priests we've been blessed to meet. Bishops, deacons, religious sisters, and other laypeople around Fargo. And that's just in Fargo alone! I didn't even start listing all of the amazing missionaries that have come in and out of my life! Wow, those are some holy men and women right there. Starting with the missionaries at the UW campus while I was in school, to the missionaries at my interview weekend in Indy (yes you, Jonathan), the women in my college my first summer at NST, as well as all the other "firsties" with me. Then there were the missionaries that I met the second year... and the third year... So. Many. Holy. People.

I am blessed.

When you hear people say that this is "the best job ever." We really aren't kidding. FOCUS Missionaries are some of the happiest people I've ever met and it will be a sad day when I have to say goodbye to so many of them.

That brings me to my next point:  I declare this semester, Spring 2014, to be my last semester as a FOCUS missionary (cue Kelsey's uncontrollable sobs). I have grown so much over these past three years that it's difficult to imagine leaving. Not to mention watching young lives transform right in front of you on a day-to-day basis is pretty darn rewarding. However, I'm excited to announce that I will be moving to a new place and semi-starting over--that's right, I'm moving to the great state of Iowa!

Yep, that's right. I'm going to become an Iowegian. (That one's for you, Jenne.) Those are words that any true Sconnie thinks he or she will never utter. Luckily, Iowa is still a largely midwestern state and the people there are delightful. I wouldn't believe it if I wouldn't have actually gone and visited. Most of my pre-conceived notions of Iowans were wrong--hard to believe, right? From what I've noticed John Deere, corn fields and young engineers make up a large part of the state, but I'm excited to see what else is in store.

A few things I am particularly excited about with this move:

1) I will be less than half the distance to my family that I am now. Hopefully that will mean more time to see mom, pops and Kevin, as well as my adorable goddaughter and her big sister. FaceTime certainly can be fun, but for a person who prefers quality time above all else, it loses its excitement when you haven't physically been near the person in months.

2) I will be living much closer to Lee, in fact, and God-willing, in the same city! I can't even imagine how nice that will be. The long-distance relationship can afford many opportunities for growth, but let's be real, you can't do that forever. Plus, I really miss him.

3) Everything will be new. A new apartment, a new job, a new city. New, new, new. I slightly remember what it was like when I moved to Fargo and experienced the same newness, and I have a feeling this will be pretty similar. Who doesn't love a good adventure?

There is much to be done, however, before any of this takes place. Please keep me in your prayers as I make these transitions--right now it seems all hunky-dory, but as soon as I need to seriously buckle down and figure out logistics, I might go a little nuts.

For now all I can see is what's right in front of me:  today. Our team has a glorious and much-needed day of recollection. That means we are taking the day to ourselves for prayer, spiritual direction, and anything that will fill us that we don't normally have time to do. If you call or email me and I don't answer today, I'll get back to you as soon as I can! Until then I'll be reading, praying, letter-writing and being spiritually directed.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Morning Mind

Now that seems like a pretty good book title if I've ever thought of one (which, coincidentally, I have). I have a tendency to do that often--think of titles of books I'd like to write, or that someone else should write. Maybe someday I'll actually do it. There have been a few ideas that have really stuck with me over the past few years and I just can't seem to shake 'em. Maybe that's a sign? Or maybe I just need to get over myself. Regardless, I'd need to take a grammar lesson or two and learn how to actually plan out a long-term project, make my own deadlines and stick to them. If I didn't do that for a book-writing project, shoot! I'd get nothing done.

However, this morning I have had the pleasure of experiencing more morning than usual due to the fact that I woke up (just barely) and scooted down to St. Mary's Cathedral for the 7 am Mass. Regardless of how late I stayed up, I do enjoy getting up and going to Mass in the morning, and the times that I actually do this are far and few between--usually I have the privilege of going to the Newman Center with all the students. However, a few things crossed my mind this morning and this post seems like a good outlet to share them.

Msgr. G snapped this: "For the Newsletter, gypsy!"
1. Msgr. G celebrated Mass this morning, one of my favorites. I try not to pick favorite priests because my list would be long. However, during my first year as a missionary I went on a Spring Break pilgrimage to Rome and Msgr. navigated us safely, and rapidly, through the Roman streets. It was pretty impressive that he didn't get too (visibly) sick of us because I think sometimes we got a little bit annoying. I can particularly relate to trying to lead a group of young people in a foreign country, and will have more experience soon! Anyway, in the homily he talked about  today's gospel and to think about two simple elements: water and salt. To keep ourselves in a constant conversation with the Lord throughout the day is one way to keep ourselves "salty." I particularly like the idea of salt because who doesn't like to think a relationship with God will keep them salty? I know I do.

2. I stopped at one of my favorite local establishments and got a cup of coffee after Mass to continue celebrating the pre-8 am hour. I'm not downtown very often, especially that early in the morning, so I figured why not? While there I ran into my first team director's now wife, Maria. We were equally surprised to see one another, and the first thing she asked me was, "Oh, did you have a bible study this morning or something?" I love that that's the first thing someone thinks when they see a missionary before 9 am. "It must be something getting her out of bed this early...." Ha! Nope. Just getting a good ol' cup o' Joe after spending some time with Jesus. But that's cute. And I'm honored.

The Actual Lee
3. On my way back home I saw a young man crossing the street, about 5'11, strong, blond and wearing the exact same green Columbia jacket that Lee has. My heart stopped and I got butterflies wondering what the heck he was doing in Fargo! Then I realized. That man isn't Lee, that's not Lee at all. He's an impostor! I'm not sure he was trying to deceive anyone with his appearance, however. I was just simply fooled. Lee and I have had more opportunities to Skype and talk on the phone this semester, and it's been really nice. The distance can be really difficult, but we've both grown a lot through this relationship, and I'd definitely like to share those graces with all of you. However, I think I'll write about that in a different post, heck, what else am I going to write about for the next four days?

Tonight I'm joining a group of adults at Sts. Anne and Joachim in South Fargo for a Jeff Cavins bible study called "Walking towards Eternity." I'm pretty excited to see what it's all about, and to be around other adults while not actually doing the leading. Wow, it's difficult to even wrap my mind around it. I will say that I do love leading/facilitating my Wednesday night bible study and we have grown so much closer this semester alone. Someone planted an idea in my mind (I apologize that I cannot seem to remember who, but you know who you are!) that they were going to start praying over a different person each week for the rest of the semester. I love it! What a stellar idea. Last night I decided to implement it and we all prayed over Sam for the last 15 minutes of bible study. Watching these young women unfold into the women God has created them to be is so beautiful. I can't wait to see what else is in store.

"If you are who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire." 
- St. Catherine of Siena 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A theme in my life: answered prayers.

As some of you may know, and some may not, I have the privilege of directing a FOCUS Mission to Mexico City this July. No, that's not the spring break trip to Ecuador, I'm just helping on that trip as a regular ol' missionary. I've been realizing lately how much FOCUS has allowed me to travel. I certainly did not think I'd get so many opportunities when I signed up for this exactly three years ago, but wow has it been fun.

I want to tell you quickly about my Mexico City trip, and something really cool that's happened with it. Each week since the beginning of the semester, our team of four missionaries plus one student intern have been holding a weekly phone conference. Sometimes they look like this one, but usually they're pretty short and to the point with little to no messing around. 

For the first month of the semester our check-ins have consisted mainly in an attempt to put the word out about our trip and recruit a few more men to join us. We certainly don't coerce, force or bribe students to come on our trips, but basically we just keep putting the word out there so more people can come, and we particularly were in need of a few more men.

When the January 15th application deadline passed, there were only two men signed up for our trip, and 12 girls. Yikes! The trip limit is 16 students, and ideally we really would've liked to have somewhere in the 50/50 range, men and women. We continued to spread the word about our trip, answer questions, and encourage young men to apply as soon as they could. If we didn't get more men to apply soon the trip would have to be cancelled, and that frightened me.

Something else that we did, which not only united us from ND->MN->VT->VA was a team fast (penance, not the quicker connotation) in hopes of getting more men to apply. This year it has been pretty clear that the Lord is asking us to fast more, and when groups of us have done this for a particular cause, I'm amazed at the results: the Lord really does answer these prayers! 

We decided to choose something small, but that we could be faithful to. So we chose to not use the snooze button. After a week I was excited for the Thursday afternoon conference call to see what resulted: nada. No dice, still no men interested. We fasted on. The next week, a couple of guys' interest was piqued, but still nothing substantial. The fast continued.

Suddenly one young man comes out of the woodwork and apparently is a friend to a few of the girls who applied for the trip. He fills out an application and is accepted. Then another (from NDSU even!) decides he really does want to go. Okay, I think to myself, I think we might actually have a pretty even ratio of men to women! 

With four men total, I finally decide to quit accepting students and just bite the bullet that we will have only four men and nine women. Suddenly, I get emails from three separate people: all in the same day! They do not simply show marginal interest, but actually really want to come to Mexico City--and the best part: nobody even asked two of them! These two emailed third party missionaries (not involved with our trip) seeking a mission trip this summer, and were genuinely interested in coming to Mexico City. I was astonished. This was very certainly the work of prayer and fasting, and definitely renewed my faith in the power of these two things combined.

Our trip's final roster includes 9 women plus 2 missionaries, and 7 men, plus 2 missionaries! Praise God! With that being said, I do want to issue a small disclaimer: we do not view the men on our trip as simply "just a number" or filling a space. These few men, called by God to come on this trip, are an answer to our prayers! As the director of the trip, I for one can sleep a little easier knowing that our trip will not be canceled due to lack of interest, and that the Lord has something amazing in store for each man and woman on our trip. It is clear that each of us were called to come, and that was affirmed again yesterday.

Do you remember that in the beginning I said that 12 women had originally applied for our trip? It was actually more than that, but a couple of them dropped due to lack of interest. With the accepting of the 3 last men for our trip, it meant that 3 young ladies would not get the opportunity to go. I have been so nervous, anxious about calling them and saying, "Sorry! I know you filled out an application months ago, but I simply cannot accept any more women on our trip." Well, I finally quit playing phone tag with two of them yesterday and each one was not only okay with not being able to go, they were relieved. One of them was thankful to not have to make the decision between a mission trip and summer internship while the other wasn't even sure that she wanted to go anymore. Wow, thank you God! I can't believe I was so nervous... for that! 

God is definitely doing something to prepare the hearts and minds of these young men and women, as well as us missionaries, and I simply cannot wait to find out what it is! Please pray for us as we continue to prepare for our trip to México!

"Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself in that moment, you'll have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish!" 
- St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way #192

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Challenge accepted.

Dear readers,

In union with my friend Elle, my favorite blogger, I decided to accept the challenge of Jennifer Fulwiler:  writing seven posts in seven days. She makes an excellent point about cutting out perfectionism, which pervades bloggers of all varieties, particularly this one. Not only do I spend way more time than I should editing, proofing and making insignificant changes to each post I write, but after each blog post I always feel a sense of accomplishment and relaxation. If you asked me what my current hobbies are I'd say they include (but are not limited to): reading, watching Psych, spending time with friends, baking, blogging and dabbling in crafts here and there. I also enjoy going for a nice run, listening to what I classify as, "good music" and Skyping with Lee, obviously.

By making a solid attempt at writing seven posts in seven days, I also have the opportunity to write about topics that normally wouldn't make the cut due to lack of diligence in writing a post in a timely manner.

I want to tell you how much more effective of a missionary I've been in only two days thanks to what some call a "life-saver," others claim that, "they simply couldn't live without it," and what I call...a planner. For the past few months I've decided to just put every meeting, appointment, etc in the calendar on my phone. Now don't get me wrong, that is extremely helpful as well, especially because you can set handy dandy little reminders that pop up either 1 hour, 30 minutes or even 5 minutes before your meeting reminding you, "Conference Call 1 pm" or "Discipleship Katie 7:30 pm." Gosh I love that feature.

However, FOCUS wants to make sure that we not only survive as missionaries, but thrive. With that, during the summer they make sure each of us takes home a nifty FOCUS planner, equipped with an outline of the 50-point week, the Main Thing printed at the top of each page, as well as  each day of the workweek split up into 1-hour time slots, all the way from 6 am-9 pm. Super helpful!  You know what, I'll just upload a picture so you can see what it is I'm up to all week, and what a missionary planner looks like, or well, at least what mine looks like.

A few things have helped me stay on top of life this week: one of them includes sitting down on Sunday night and actually writing this week's schedule out. Not only is it rewarding to fill in the hours with different things (Holy Hour, Mass, conference calls, discipleships.. etc), but it also helps me see the big picture of what needs to get done this week. As I've been simply inputting the events on my phone for the past couple of months, I only see the day before what I have to do the next day (and sometimes it's even the morning of before I look at it!). This has helped me so much in terms of making a to-do list, which is featured at the top of the page--you might not understand it, but don't worry, I know what every word means, and who doesn't love checking stuff off a to-do list in a planner they are constantly looking at? I know I do. In fact, I love it so much that the tasks I've been meaning to do (ahem, a few phone calls I've needed to make but have been avoiding...) got done in no time thanks to this simple planner. Yesterday I saw the time I'd have free to get administrative tasks done this week, and knew that if X, Y and Z would happen, they needed to get done within a certain time frame, because I could see all my availability for the week in front of me! It's almost the next best thing since sliced bread.

The other thing that has helped me stay on top of life is one simple thing:  making my bed. I'm a big advocate of the daily bed-make, and although I fail on occasion, my days are always much more ordered if I begin with something small to gain order in my life. I'm always surprised when people are over and see my bed, notice that it's made and comment on it. I kind of forget that not everybody does this. However, coming home to my room and seeing an unmade bed just makes me feel disorganized and unhappy. When I walk in and see Bucky Badger laid out neatly, no wrinkles, I am happy (but it might just be the UW pride.. who knows).

Lovely ladies from the bisonCatholic formal. 
Last year a friend had me over and gave me the grand tour of her apartment. She showed me her room, which I'd argue is a really nice bedroom, with a big unmade bed right in the middle of it. I asked her if she made her bed and told her I try to everyday, because I like to start my day with just a little bit of order. She was intrigued and decided to start trying it. She texted me not long after and told me how much having a made bed was helping her start the day off right. Of course I felt satisfied in hearing this, and willingly challenge any of you non-bed-makers out there to give it a try for two weeks straight. Make your bed every day for 14 days and check your results. It can be a simple thing, but in today's crazy world where people, places and things come flying at us, seeking a spot in our datebook, it's nice to have at least one small task to keep us grounded.

That's all for today. Let's see what other random facts I decide to blog about the next six days! I'm excited, woot woot!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

That awesome moment when...

you run into a couple of self-proclaimed atheists that you met briefly a month ago and call them by their names!

Yep, that's the story. Yesterday Kimberly and I were at a craft fair downtown and ran into Chris* and Kay, a couple of students that I met after one of the bisonCatholic week events. We actually talked for a few minutes after the Vicki Thorn event and had what I'd deem a pretty decent conversation. It's pretty common for me to forget the names of people that I meet only one time (unless it's something like Charlise or Shaniqua), so why didn't I forget the names of these two people?

Well, the answer is quite simple really:  prayer.

I don't mean to toot my own horn or make you think I'm some holy, pray all day every day without ceasing type...even though that is what St. Paul asks of us. It has actually been quite simple. I have a post-it on my dresser with the first names of a few people that I've met around campus and when I'm getting ready in the morning I throw out some prayers for them, as well as potentially a few other random times throughout the day.

A month ago, I met four individuals in particular at one of the events, each of them proclaiming themselves as "freethinking atheists." A couple of them were fallen-away Catholics, the others I'm not sure, but regardless of what their past they are likely wounded in some way, and really just need someone to show them that they care.

I had a pretty civil conversation with Kay (which I'd love to tell you about sometime if you ask), and she told me how interested she'd be in going to a Latin Mass sometime. I was honestly shocked--even a lot of Catholics have no interest in doing that! Regardless, our conversation continued and I left with one simple thing: her name.

Yesterday, almost a month after our first (and only meeting) we walked past one another at the art fair and without even thinking to myself, "Oh crap, what's her name?? I know I met her.. it's um..." I just blurted out, "Oh, hey Kay!" and saw who she was with, "Oh, and it's Chris right? Hey guys! Have a great time at the art fair."

Kay mentioned how crazy it was that I remembered their names, but I knew all along it wasn't crazy. She felt bad for not remembering mine, but I wasn't offended. I have also been praying that I run into her in particular again, and it was cool to see a prayer answered. Now I will pray that I run into her for long enough to exchange digits and ask for coffee sometime!

If there's anyone in your life who you think is "too far gone" and will never show interest in church, God or religion in general again, keep sowing those seeds of prayer! God is faithful!

"I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs." Luke 11:8

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these students...but you can still pray for them and God will know who you're praying for!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The "Great White" gets a tune up.

The Great White, more affectionately known as Lady (ahem, my white Nissan Altima), has been taking such great care of me since our meeting last October, that I decided to treat her to an oil change and bath today. Well, actually, she was over 600 miles due for the oil change, and that many more for a wash, so I decided to kill both birds with one stone.

I received an offer in the mail last week (which I typically disregard) for discounts on oil changes and realized, "Hey, this actually applies!" I'm using it.

So yesterday I call up Gateway Nissan and make an appointment ASAP for Lady to get in and get an oil change. Shortly thereafter I receive a random email offering free car washes with the purchase of any oil change at, you guessed it: Gateway Nissan.

On the edge of my seat, Lady and I head down to the dealer this morning for this fun undertaking. I usually do not look forward to oil changes because of one part: the multi-point inspection. In previous experiences the inspection has come up with needs for things including but not limited to:  new air filters, brake pads, new tires (which was the really pricy one) and other expensive adjustments to the vehicle. And let's be honest, I know you're all thinking it: I'm a girl. Unless dad's there I don't actually know the varying importance of different car parts, so I need to figure this out without getting scammed.

"Come on," I usually think to myself. "Can't I just come in here and get an oil change without getting hassled to spend more money?"

Today, like any other day, I prepare my responses when presented with the multi-point inspection telling me to spend lots of extra money. It sounded like this: "No thanks. Just the oil change today."

After leaving Lady in the service garage I head to the desk of the kind sales associate to make arrangements. She asks if I want my tires rotated. "No thanks," I reply, feeling smug. I show her my coupon for $5 off the oil change, as well as the email about the free car wash, still feeling smug. She tells me they wash every car they service. "Some 'offer'," I think to myself, convinced that all car dealerships just want every dime you've got.

I sign on the dotted line, approving the day's services, then head to the waiting area. While there, I proceed to twiddle my thumbs, whistle, and stare aimlessly into space. Just kidding, I check my email and work on some things from my phone, but it's way funnier to picture the former.

After about 35 minutes the kind sales associate calls me back and we sit at her desk. I see her turn and grab the stapled sheets of paper which I know contain only one thing: the multi-point inspection results.

Remembering my firm "no" she begins to go over everything with me. "Everything looks great," she says. "Brakes, good. Tires, good. Filters, good. Everything's great! Please just sign here for the work done today, and on this sheet for the credit card."

I couldn't believe it, but I heard correctly. No hassling today, "just the oil change."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius!

Three things helped me get through this week (probably not in this order):

  1. Coffee.
  2. Chocolate.
  3. God's grace.

Seriously, I was thinking earlier just how impressed I am at the wonders of coffee, and how no exhaustion has been it's match! There were a couple times I'll admit that I didn't think the bean would have it's effect. But I was wrong--it was just that the first cup wouldn't have nearly the same effect as the second or third. Boy am I glad I figured that one out!

I had the opportunity to serve as an interviewer last weekend in Chicago for the FOCUS Great North Region interview weekend, and while it was great to be around my missionary friends and meet awesome people, those can be some long days. And I'm not entirely sure I've had a chance to recover. In fact, I know I haven't. But that's okay, I've got exciting plans this weekend!

Bryan and I had a nice adventure to accompany the weekend, too:  we rented a car, drove to St. Paul on Thursday night, flew from MSP -> ORD on Friday morning at literally the crack of dawn, and then reversed it to come back into the Hinterland on Sunday night. It was great to have the quality time with driving, but I'll be honest, both Bryan and I (him especially as he started coming down with a cold--fast!) were ready to be home by the time we got just outside the Cities. Many laughs had by all, Culver's custard devoured to celebrate Sunday and Jim Gaffigan's humor to entertain us on the way back. Joy, joy, joy.

Although the weekends always seem to have a flaw or two laced in logistically, they certainly win me over to FOCUS every time I go. This is now my third weekend as an interviewer and fourth or fifth as a missionary "working the weekend." Various talks are given throughout the course of the weekend; "The Need" and "The Call" being two that always seem to inspire me. I really don't think there will ever come a point that I don't need to be reminded of the darkness in our world (I apologize for the double negative), and how blessed I am to have a relationship with Jesus who loves me and wants to be known by others. When all is said and done, I just genuinely want to share him with everyone.

Ha! That reminds me of a story. Yesterday on campus Jane and I were "barehanding" aka walking around and talking to random students about matters of Faith, God, Religion, etc. Some missionaries really dread this (including me) because let's be honest, it's not the most comfortable topic to approach with a random stranger. And if you're wondering to yourself:  what's the point of that?! To that I reply: I'm a missionary! If I really believe what I believe is really real (tongue twister) then it is my duty and obligation to share the Truth with as many as I can. "The road is narrow that leads to life and those that find it are few." (Matthew 7) It also just helps us stay focused on the mission and not get too comfortable because let's be real: we were not made for comfort, we were made for greatness. (Classic FOCUS line, and quote by JPII.)

Back to my story: Jane and I are randomly walking around the basement of the student union where all the people gather to feed. It's lunchtime and we have no luck finding an available young person (preferably female) to engage in a friendly dialogue. As we're on the verge of exiting the premises, I spot a young man out of the corner of my eye, eating a sandwich at a nearby table--alone and not wearing headphones. Victory!
KK: "Jane! Him! Let's do it."
JV: "K."
(KK and JV make a B line to the student)
The following conversation takes place (RS = Random Student):
KK: "Hi I'm Kelsey."
RS: "I'm Jordan."
(Kelsey and Jane surprised at his friendly and welcoming reaction.)
JV: "I'm Jane."
KK: "We're Catholic missionaries and are walking around talking to people. There's a statistic out that 80% of college students come to college and walk away from their faith (this is true, by the way!). Why do you think that is?"
RS: "You wanna know the really funny thing?"
(KK and JV unsure, caught off guard, and open to hearing what he has to say)
KK: "Yeah, I do!"
RS: "I haven't been to church since my grandpa's funeral sophomore year of high school. But you wanna know the really funny thing? I went last night for the first time in 4 years with a friend that invited me."

(KK and JV experience the "jaw drop" coupled with "extreme disbelief," and seriously can't believe what he just said.)

Jordan proceeds to tell us how the sermon was exactly what he needed to hear and that he's even Catholic (bonus!). We extend an invitation to Mass followed by a chocolate fondue (which turns out to be a huge success! How could it not?) and he seems genuinely interested--now that's not something we run into every day!

For example, on Wednesday Jane and I find ourselves between meetings with students (again at the union) and have a few moments to spare. I take a seat on the couch next to her and we begin chatting. While talking I overhear in a not-six-inch-voice, "You just need to find a good Catholic girl!" Of course I stop mid-sentence and ask Jane if she heard what I just heard. She didn't, so I inform. She pointed to the railing that looks down at the same lunch room we visited yesterday, so you can see the people sitting at the tables. We run to the railing, peek our heads over, and four pairs of guy's eyes glare up at us. Awkward.

We back away slowly, put on our coats, and obviously laugh so hard they can probably now hear us from upstairs when we just heard them from downstairs. "Jane, we're gonna go talk to them right?" I ask her. "Well duh," she responds. Without batting an eye we walk downstairs, right to their table and ask them if they were just talking about needing a "good Catholic girl." They all deny, but we know it was them because of two things: 1) their tones of voice and 2) there is literally nobody else around in their close proximity. Finally one, Colton, speaks up and tells us that it was him, and I'm pretty sure if all the shades of red could be represented in rainbow-like fashion, that would be the color I'd use to describe his face.

Jane and I inform them of our "Catholic mish status" and that we know tons of cute, single, "good Catholic girls." Colton doesn't seem so interested in our offer, and the other guys have the looks on their faces of a younger sibling that just got the older one in trouble. I know this look because I've practiced it so many times.

How funny life is. I've noticed how while I used to be so nervous to talk to random strangers, I really just don't get too bothered by it anymore. All I want to do is share Christ with these people and as the age-old adage goes, "eternity is worth the awkwardness." Plus, let's be real: we meet someone. He/she doesn't like us. We walk away, and probably never see him/her again. Not so scary! But I probably needed to be reminded of that more than all of you.

With that being said, I'm packing up the Great White and taking a road trip down south to the great, corny state of Iowa to visit Lee. Please pray for safe travels!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Graces from Guadalupe.

Hello dear readers, so good to be back with you! I've taken a bit of an extended absence from the blogosphere, mostly because life continues happening at such a rapid rate that it's hard to keep up! But boy, if I could tell you everything that's been going on in my life I could literally write for hours.

My birthday dinner! Jane got me a tiara. #princessforaday
I will begin by saying that this is now Saturday of week three of semester two of the 2013-14 school year. WHOA. That happened fast. Semester two.. my sixth semester as a missionary... third year...  or however you wish to phrase it. There have been so many life lessons learned in the last five semesters (or two and a half years) and if I took the time I could probably tell you a specific, impacting lesson from each! However, that's for a different blog post on a different day.

On this balmy, 3 degree day, I kind of want to type and see where it goes. I've been thinking about that recently, as I've been reading far more blogs than actually writing in my own, just how interesting the whole "blogosphere" actually is. Anyone and everyone can type up a stream of consciousness and put it in the public domain for all to see, within minutes! And isn't it interesting to wonder why? Why are some of us so outspoken (or narcissistic, you decide) that we need our very own personal website to discuss whatever pertinent topics we desire? Is it because each of us has our own opinions and just wants to believe that somebody, somewhere knows what they are--and God-willing, agrees? Or is it simply more effective than posting all of our thoughts into a Facebook status? Regardless of the "why" behind this extremely random, and almost entirely irrelevant question, it appears that there are so many people that simply want to be heard, regardless of by whom.

I've been experiencing this a lot this week in talking with people of many different backgrounds coming from passionate, emotionally-driven viewpoints about some of today's hot button issues including contraception, same sex attraction, and atheism vs. religion (in my case, Christianity), and simply being confronted about why I believe what I believe. Don't get me wrong, I love having these conversations! In fact, it's safe to say that I live for them (the whole "I'm a Catholic missionary" charade). But each time people question me wondering, "how I could actually believe that" (regarding the Eucharist, marriage and that God loves everyone, etc), I often find that they don't want my answer at all. They simply want to talk to me, and be heard. Speaking briefly with both Vicki and Trent this week have confirmed this: when being questioned for who you are and what you believe, rather than always answering their questions, continue to ask them questions. "Why do you believe that?" "How did you come to that conclusion?" "Why.." etc.

My bible study with Vicki Thorn
I did have the privilege of sitting down with a young woman last week who doesn't prescribe to any of the beliefs I hold, but I'd say our conversation was quite civil. At the end she even asked if she could join my bible study. I'm not sure that she'll ever actually come, but that wasn't why I met up with her in the first place. I'm still not sure why we did meet up, other than that the Holy Spirit is an expert at leading me to where I need to be. At one point in our conversation she looked at me and asked, "Kelsey, do you believe that even if a person goes their whole life not believing in God, that He still loves them and has a plan for their life?" My heart sank and sang all at the same time. "Of course I believe that," I responded, sad at the tragedy that she so badly wants to believe in God, but something continues to get in the way. After sharing Christ and the Gospel message with her in as tangible way as I could, I left that conversation invigorated and feeling more hopeful than I have in a long time. What a divine grace! If you'd like to keep this young woman in your prayers, her name is Rhianna.

Currently we are wrapping up the fourth annual bisonCatholic week, after hearing from speakers like Vicki Thorn (founder of Project Rachel) and the medical ethics panel on Wednesday night, followed by Trent Horn Thursday night. I'll be honest, I'm thankful for a break today (solid five hours worth), but I am also thankful for the graces I have received over the past two months. In sum, the entire Advent season was a beautiful time of drawing near to the Lord in prayer (despite the failures and struggles to remain faithful), the Christmas break sent me flying from here to there to there to there to here, but through all the traveling the Lord worked on my heart in many ways.

One way in particular is how He continues to call me to serve in different ways, both within and outside of my mission on campus. I've felt the tug towards corporal woks of mercy for a while now and each time it comes up, I promptly ignore it. "I'm a missionary, saving souls (not actually, but trying to lead them to Christ), I don't have time to do other types of mission work."


So I'm in Mexico City over winter break (I know, right? Oh FOCUS...) for a Mission Director Summit (basically, for any missionaries who are directing mission trips). While there, we have an incredible opportunity to work with a group called Operation Blessing to assemble and distribute wheelchairs to people who are in desperate need. Some of these people have not left their homes in months, others are at the constant service of family members or reliant upon friends for help with basic, everyday tasks. Our plan for the day is this: meet outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) at 10 am, assemble wheelchairs until 11/11:30, Mass in the old basilica at noon, and distribute the chairs afterwards. To begin, assembling the chairs is so fun! Teresa, a missionary at UND and I partner up to follow the IKEA-like instructions and successfully (with the help of John Zimmer and the crew) construct two chairs. We're laughing, joking and having a great time actually doing something for someone else. The two of us finish up by about 11:40 (some of the last ones, but no surprise there: we're girls) and start heading in for Mass. In nice Latin American fashion, as well as in God's providence, over an hour passes before Mass begins, giving us over an hour to sit in the church and pray, admire the paintings and simply process what's going on.

This painting really spoke to me during the Mass.
It's during this time period that God reveals a secret about myself to me: I am afraid poverty. Not necessarily of poor people, but of coming face-to-face with poverty, processing it emotionally, and realizing at the end of the day that there really isn't anything I can do for a person to remove them from their current state--except love. Being someone who likes to love others in a very active way and see quick results, working with the homeless, the crippled or any type of incurable malady seems difficult--nay, impossible. While sitting there, I start to get nervous about the distribution of the wheelchairs: who will need one? Will there be children? Elderly? Mentally ill? How will it feel to know that giving this wheelchair is the only thing I can do for them, and leave the rest in God's hands? "Love is a choice, not a feeling," I remind myself. I must choose to do what God is asking of me, regardless of fear.

Mass begins after 1 pm (Latin American fashion, remember) and the gospel of the day is conveniently (or in God's good providence) the story of the leper who fell before Jesus saying, "Lord, if you will you can make me clean." Jesus stretches out his hand to touch him and replies, "I will, be made clean." In that moment, I get a response as clear as day: "Kelsey, you too must reach out and touch the leper so that you may be healed." Wow. That's it. This irrational fear of poverty can be healed and Christ has the perfect remedy--for me to reach out and actually touch it.

Patiently (and nervously) waiting.
As the Mass finishes Jeff (director of FOCUS Missions) calls for 10 missionaries to come up front to prepare for the distribution of the wheelchairs. Since there are far more missionaries than chairs I figured I'll just let one of the other missionaries who's dying to serve get up there. So I wait. And wait, for what seems like a minute, but is really only a few seconds, and only a few people make their way to the front. In my heart I know that I just need to face this fear and go up there, so I do. The first recipient of one of these chairs is a young boy, probably in the 10-13 range, who's severely handicapped both physically and mentally. Curtis (yes Martin) rushes over to help his family get him into the chair, the audience applauds and the family take pictures while his mother sheds tears of joy. It's nearly impossible to not be moved by such an event, and I instantly begin thinking about my hands nervously gripping the medium-sized wheelchair in front of me. Jeff calls the next name and a petite elderly woman with a large oxygen tank steps forward and shakily raises her hand. The chair in front of me clearly belongs to this woman, and now I need to take action. I hastily and clumsily make my way towards her, help her into her chair, and feel my heart beating a hundred miles a minute.

The fear turns into love. In an instant I love this woman, who so reminds me of someone very near and dear to me in my own life, and I know this is exactly where God intends me to be. What a beautiful grace. The rest of the distribution takes longer than expected, but during that time teams of missionaries walk around and pray with those who received the wheelchairs. This was another incredible grace of love and joy.

That is how Jesus wanted to heal me of this fear, and being the Divine Physician he did exactly what he promised. Now that I'm back in Fargo I've already looked into different ways to serve in that capacity. I'm excited to begin serving at the Dorothy Day shelter in Moorhead (a shelter for 12 homeless men at a time) by serving a meal, hopefully with a student, at least once a month. My first meal is coming up this week and I recently found a recipe for an incredible chicken wild rice soup that I can't wait to make for these men.

I'll stop with this update for now, but hopefully I can get you another one soon from the rest of my break! What an incredible, grace-filled time it was--between spending time with my family and friends, spending time with Lee and his family in St. Cloud, going to the Student Leadership Summit in Dallas, and the Mission Director Summit in Mexico City, let's just say that it's good to be back on campus for another semester and I'm chompin' at the bit to continue the Lord's work at NDSU.

Here are some pictures from our trip to Mexico City with all of this year's Mission Directors:

Reading the instructions...
Assembling the first chair with Teresa.
So close...
Probably should get some quality control.... Thanks Ray.
Our Group in the old Basilica of OLG.
Msgr. addressing the group; yours truly made the pic.
Curtis helping the young boy into his chair.
The joy from a mother for her son. 
Praying with Rosa, the woman who received her chair from me.

Speaking briefly with Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, and caught on film!
On our way to Xochimilco for a fun boating outing our last day.
On the boat. Tanya, Gomez, Jeff, KMK, Teresa.
A view of the boats; hard to describe but incredible! 
There were even Mariachi boats that you could pay to play music next to yours.

And this woman was busy cooking what would be our supper that evening. (Unfortunately most people got sick...coincidence? I don't know..)
Our group on the boat, sitting down to eat. 
Lee and I X-Country skiing in Fargo.