Friday, June 13, 2014

First week: Am I answering any calls right now?

That's funny, because I am at the public library (where it is not kosher to answer your cell phone) and I just missed a call from someone (likely regarding a job). It's the fifth call I've missed since yesterday evening. Oops.

But the reason I write that title is because even though I am thoroughly enjoying having my days to myself (and many of my evenings as well), having no job, not many connections in the area and no schedule means I can virtually do what I want, when I want. The fact that I've missed those five phone calls is just quite hilarious because had they called almost at any other time I would literally be chomping at the bit to answer. However, all five people picked times when I've been busy (which is rare these days). Luckily I have plenty of time to call them all back. (Hint hint, if you've been wanting to get in touch with me this next month would be a really great time to do that!)

One goal I had: Get a haircut after newsletters
are done. Look what I've been up to! 
I figure since the reason I'm moving to Iowa is to continue discerning through this dating relationship, it's not a bad idea to start working on a schedule when Lee and I can spend time together, without seeing each other every waking moment that he's not at work. (We both know that wouldn't be good for either of us.) Therefore, I've started getting out of bed at what seems like the crack of dawn and going to Mass with Lee before he goes to work in the morning. At first when he told me he goes to 7:30 am Mass twice a week and 7 am the other days, I thought, "Oh, that's nice. Good thing there's a 12:05 Mass across town." However, I think it's beneficial to make that small sacrifice and go to Mass with him in the morning, especially since I don't have a schedule, I can get up and get my day started. Plus, my days have been so much more productive starting them with Jesus (and a cup of coffee). As Fulton Sheen once said, "Prayer + coffee = conscious conversations with your creator." 

It has especially been nice to simply enjoy so much of the mornings (and afternoons...and evenings). In fact, I don't think I've ever just "enjoyed the day" so much as I have in the past week. The freedom has left me with much time to simply think and ponder the comings and goings of my life in its current state. I've been thinking much about how I'm "answering the call" by being exactly where I am, doing exactly what God asks me to do.

This is how I see it:  I have complete peace that this is where I'm supposed to be right now. Although I don't have a post-FOCUS job yet (I still have until August 4th), I think it will be rare that I ever have the freedom to have holy leisure for almost a month straight...ever again. With that being said, I've been answering the call by trusting that I am exactly where God would have me, reading spiritual books I've wanted to read for some time, and basking in the silence that He is granting me right now. The fact that Lee and I are making sure that Mass, praying the Rosary together and praying a Holy Hour together two nights a week (outside of date night, an occasional bike ride and other fun activities) not only holds me accountable to prayer, but also affirms me so much that we are doing everything we can to keep Jesus at the center of our relationship, while not getting too caught up in being "overspiritualized (a common downfall of good Christian relationships...I have my own thoughts on this phenomenon)." We are getting to know one another on a natural human level, while also learning the inner workings of the other. I think this is a very good thing.

My first "home cooked" meal: Mac 'n Cheese.
I've also been enjoying more order in my life by going on bike rides, having three healthy meals a day and taking the evenings "off" by either spending them with Lee (Mondays I watch him play soccer and Tuesdays are date nights), watching a movie on TV (because I have cable!) or reading a good book while eating dinner. Taking the time to enjoy these things is helping me see what my life severely lacked as a missionary: order. I rarely took time (and felt okay about it) to do at least one of these things each day, and I suffered for it. Now that I'm learning what I like to do in my spare time, I don't want to make the same mistake in the future!

While at the Commissioning Weekend at Ave Maria a couple weeks ago, I was talking with one of the execs who mentioned that he once had a summer off and was so mad that he didn't have anything to do and was bored the whole time. Looking back, five children later, he's seeing how precious that summer was when he couldn't see it then. I have a feeling that this "season" of my life is a very special and unique one, and I hope to answer God's call by living each moment to the fullest, not waiting for life to happen to me, nor complaining of boredom. What a beautiful time of transition as I move to a new city and learn the ropes in a strange land! (I do hope to not get lost on too many more bike rides poor legs can't handle it!)

Monday, June 9, 2014

I can cross "Live in Iowa" off my bucket list.

That's right, friends and family. Although I have yet to get the Iowegian driver's license, I am all moved into my new apartment in this corn-fed midwestern land. As I have yet no job in town, you could say that being "strapped for time" is not how my life could be described right now. For example, I was able to go to Mass when and where I wanted on Sunday morning, come home, read a book and take a nap before spending the afternoon and evening with a wonderful young man who is the main motivator for me moving here in the first place.

The move went fairly simple. Mom, dad and brother came down on Saturday with all my belongings in a U-Haul trailer, we had it unloaded within the matter of an hour, spent some time unpacking boxes before going to lunch and they hit the road again before 2 pm. Now that's what I call efficient. I guess it's all that German heritage coursing through our veins that makes us such hard workers and heaven knows we don't like to waste time sitting on our behinds. By Saturday afternoon at 5 pm the entire place was already put together save a few minor details like pictures being hung up. The finishing touches were in place by Sunday morning so I guess everything is ready to go! I even had a small get together on Saturday night and one of Lee's friends who's lived in the area for a while came in and said, "Wow, this place is already more decorated than mine." Nice.

Here are some pictures:
Thanks for the love seat, Jama! It's perfect.
Kelsey's corner. Papasan covered in Alpaca blanket.
My very own balcony! And I already met a neighbor while using it.
This kitchen and fridge are enormous compared to the last ones!  
Scored this shower curtain at a garage sale. Nice.

To do: organize closet.
Spare bedroom = bookshelf (for now) and other random storage.
So that's what's new in the life of Kelsey. Due to the high price of internet I decided to forego that option for now, even though my apartment comes with cable. This will be the first time in seven years (minus a brief month with Jenne) that I've had cable. And there are a solid 73 channels! I already found EWTN and USA. I'll probably just wait to see when reruns of Psych are on and watch those, or maybe continue with Saved by the Bell as I did while eating breakfast this morning... not too shabby. But as for the internet, I'll be mooching from the public library, which has a spot with a great view of the parking lot so I can make sure nobody's messing with Lady.

That's all for now. I guess I'll go to the store and pick up a few essentials (milk and cheese...gosh I'm such a Sconnie).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My life in boxes.

If there is one thing I've learned over the past three years it is exactly this:  saying goodbye really is a hard thing to do for many people, including this teary-eyed missionary. It seems to be especially difficult to say goodbye to the people I've met over the years because with many of them there is a deep spiritual and even in some cases an emotional bond. And in college ministry these goodbyes happen all. the. time! Semester breaks, mission trips, summer breaks, NST. Saying goodbye has become commonplace, so much so that you have no other choice if you want to be a FOCUS missionary.

Lee, the Master! (of Science)
Missionary. Recently, Lee and I cooked supper for the men at the Dorothy Day House in Moorhead, and Luke, the staff member there, asked me what I "do during the daytime hours." I honestly almost choked up because technically, my time on campus is over. Even though I'm still with FOCUS until the end of my mission trip in July, my "daytime job" is over, and the next thing hasn't quite stepped up to the plate yet (a.k.a. I'm still on the job hunt). This has happened each year for the past three years now--all of a sudden everyone just quietly disappears. Some stop by to say goodbye, some ask to get coffee or pray together one last time, but for the past two years there was a different element to all of this:  it wasn't permanent. Each time there was a degree of certainty that I would in fact be back again come August. This time the moving on is real, and the goodbyes have a different, more emotional, element to them.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending FOCUS' Commissioning Weekend for those who are moving on from FOCUS after this year. Sure, it was totally out of the way (in Ave Maria, FL) and a really inconvenient time of year for most of us, especially as we begin new jobs, move, get married, etc--but truthfully, I am so glad I went.

For a while now one of the reasons I have been so sad to leave FOCUS was because of the very intimate and familial aspect of it all. Even though we only spend five weeks each summer with the majority of these people, or maybe we go on a mission trip together--sometimes these weeks are the toughest and most emotionally pressing of our lives. We begin fundraising our salaries, following a very rigorous schedule, being constantly surrounded by people, being ripped from our comfort zones and forced to get outside of ourselves... the list goes on. Through these hardships are also the many joys--getting our first Mission Partner, hearing about a student you've invested in for months finally start to come around, winning the scavenger hunt at NST, making new friends, etc. It's amazing how you can walk up to any other missionary and get into a deep conversation within the matter of 30 seconds. Example:

Person 1: "Hey, so what'd you think of that class on prayer today?"
Person 2: "Wow, totally hit home for me. My prayer has been struggling lately and yadda yadda yadda.."


Person 1: "Where'd you go to school?"
Person 2: "Nebraska."
Person 1: "Oh, do you know so and so?"
Person 2: "Yeah, she helped me so much with X, Y and Z this year, I don't know where I'd be without her!"

BAM! Instantly great friends. I honestly can't count the number of times this happened over the course of the last three years, but I was reminded that it was many when I was at Ave Maria this weekend.

Another reason I'm glad that I went to the Commissioning Weekend because we heard real-life stories of evangelization and got tips for how to do it in our own parishes. In case you haven't yet picked up on this, FOCUS is about much more than helping "Catholic kids stay Catholic." FOCUS is in it for the long haul: lifelong Catholic mission, aka being an evangelistic disciple for the rest of our lives, not just in college. We heard encouraging talks over the course of the weekend, even from Curtis Martin himself, applauding us for our time spent in FOCUS and even more for going out into lifelong mission. How exciting!

I would love to write a sappy post about "the wonderful lessons I've learned in FOCUS," but honestly that would require a book. I will say that I am a drastically different woman than I was three years ago, and I'd wager for the better. I've learned the importance of self--saying no to others, taking time for myself, etc--and that I am a "self" worth taking care of. I've learned how to pray and have a personal relationship with Jesus. Those two things alone have been game changers. And that doesn't even include the fact that I learned practical things like how to shop around for car insurance, how to fundraise my salary, making sure different bills are paid on time, etc. In a nutshell, I've gained invaluable life experiences that have shaped me into the woman I am today. And I couldn't be more grateful.

I spent this week packing and repacking boxes and boxes and boxes and even a couple of dressers
My life in boxes.
with all of my belongings. My room at home is completely empty and Lady is all packed up and ready to hit the road with me tomorrow. I'll be honest, it was strange to clean out and throw away so many things I've held onto for many years--notes, pictures, gifts--all things that carried such special meaning to me at one point in my life. Now may they rest in peace...or at goodwill. (Disclaimer: If you've given me a gift or wrote me a special letter, don't worry I didn't throw yours away.)

I guess I'll need to start thinking of what to write about now that the on-campus mission has ended. Luckily for all of us the shenanigans and noteworthy moments never seem to come to a close and they tend to find me with frequency.

Please keep me in your prayers, and if you're still waiting for my final newsletter, don't worry, it's coming, and if you would like one shoot me an email at

"How can you know what you're capable of if you don't embrace the unknown?"
Esmeralda Santiago