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

1 comment:

  1. You HAVE and will continue to do wonderful things in your life. With all my