Guest Post: Mountain Men

My fiancé Ben is also a missionary for Saint Paul’s Outreach. A few weeks ago he took a group of men on a hiking trip to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. He wrote a blog post for the SPO website about his trip, so I asked him if I could share it here. Enjoy!

Throughout Holy Scripture, mountains have been used as a physical location where man comes into contact with God.  In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to take his only son Isaac upon one of the mountains and offer him as a sacrifice. In Exodus Moses came to the mountain of God at Horeb where God revealed Himself through the burning bush. In the New Testament, Peter, James, and John follow Jesus up to a mountaintop where Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah, and where the voice of God reveals Jesus to be His beloved son. It is at the intersection of God and man on the mountain that we see transformation happen. Abraham’s faith is put to the test, and after proving his faithfulness to God, he enters into a new covenant with God. Moses encounters God’s heart for his children, and is given the command to set the Israelites free from slavery. Peter, James and John are convicted to stay and pray on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. In all of these stories, man is transformed by encountering God in the heights.

Therefore, due to their significance in Scripture, mountains make a great place to plan a camping trip with students. And that is just what we did here at Seton Hall. On the weekend of April 2nd, we took a group of 6 students to New Hampshire to attempt a summit of Mount Washington. Now if you aren’t familiar with Mount Washington, it is important to know that it is considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the United States. It isn’t the tallest mountain in the states, but it currently has the world record (yes, that’s right, I said world) of the highest recorded winds on the surface of the earth. On April 12, 1934 (about 82 years and ten days before our trip) wind speeds at the Mount Washington Observatory were recorded at 231 miles per hour! On March 30th, just 2 days before our climb, there was a gust of wind recorded at 135 miles per hour, about the same as a category 3 hurricane. Aside from the wind, Mount Washington is covered in snow and ice from September to June and temperatures can drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite knowing all of these dangers, we checked our gear, packed up our van, and drove 6 hours overnight to arrive at the base of Mount Washington at 6:30 AM. We were ready to make the ascent.

Well, I guess we weren’t completely ready…although we had packed our warmest and most waterproof hiking gear, we were missing the most important piece of equipment – crampons, or ice climbing shoes. Mount Washington was completely covered in ice and snow, and we were missing the one piece of equipment that would allow us to overcome the ice and reach to top of the mountain. But we attempted anyways, not knowing when or how the ice and weather would turn us back. Sadly, on our first attempt we were about a mile in when a large sheet of ice flowing into an icy river in a ravine proved to be too dangerous to cross. But hope remained as we made our way to a different trail.

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The second trail we attempted, called Jewel Trail, proved to be the better of the two. For the first hour of the ascent we encountered almost no ice, and our hope was that this would continue to be the case the higher we went. We weren’t lucky enough, and encountered a half mile of the trail covered with a sheet of ice. There was no river, no ravine this time, just trees on both sides of the trail. Since the only apparent danger was slipping and falling on the ice, we continued slowly up the trail bouncing from rock to rock like a frog on a pond and using the trees to support ourselves. Finally after about 2 hours we made it to our first major checkpoint – treeline. From treeline we could see the summit of the mountain off in the near distance, and a successful summit attempt seemed more real than ever and we were confident we could get there in an hour and summit before 11 AM. If you have had any experience climbing mountains, you know that the summit always looks much closer than it really is from treeline. Turns out we were actually about 2 hours from the summit. As we got closer to the summit the wind blew harder and the ice on the trail got thicker. A few days earlier when I was talking about the trip with a  few friends, one of them said, “When Mother Nature antes up, it’s time to fold”. And unfortunately Mother Nature anteed up, forcing us to fold. By this time, it was below freezing, the wind was blowing pretty hard, the ice was too thick for us to safely go any further, and fog limited our visibility to less than 200 yards. With less than a quarter mile to the summit, we posed for a group photo and turned back.

Despite the blow to our pride, failing to summit the mountain did not break the trip. We overcame some very difficult conditions with less than ideal gear to even get with a quarter mile of the summit. What we learned is that we could overcome the challenge of summiting the mountain with the right conditions and equipment. We also left Mt. Washington with a greater sense of brotherhood because we fought together to climb the mountain. Each of us left that mountain being transformed in some way through the experience, whether is was an encounter with God, with brothers, or with self-realization.

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He Sends Us Out

Last time I wrote about my reflection as I read the story of Christ meeting Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on their way from the tomb. Christ had come to meet them as they left the tomb—he didn’t send them on a hunt to find him and he didn’t first appear to a large group of people. He came personally and immediately to these faithful women.

The story continues on, though. He did not stay with them, celebrating. He sent them on. And, after seeing the empty tomb, and even more after seeing Jesus face-to-face, they were able to shout, “He is risen! We have seen Him!” They had the important job of telling those who knew Him where they could see Him. They all hurried to the mountain to see and hear their Messiah.

And there, on that mountain, He meets His disciples:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28: 16-20)

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What is amazing to me in this verse is that He didn’t wait until they trusted Him again, and He didn’t wait until they all believed (for some still doubted), but He told them right there and then to go out and make disciples. I hear him saying, “Even in your doubt, fear, or imperfections, go, make disciples, bring people close to me, and live in the way I have shown you” (my paraphrase.)

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Jesus doesn’t want me to wait until I have it all together to tell others about him. He wants me to go now, even with all the things that could hold me back, and tell people about Him. So, even on the days where I don’t feel qualified or prepared or trained to do mission work I am still called to go out, get coffee with one of the college women that I work with and share the ways Christ has worked in my life. And this call isn’t just limited to full-time missionaries like me. We are all called to step out of our comfort zone, take a deep breath, amidst the doubt or fear and make disciples—this could mean inviting a coworker to your church, buying a meal for a sick friend and showing them Christ’s love, or explaining to a family member why you are still celebrating Easter weeks after Easter Sunday.

And even in this challenge, this send-off, He gives us everything we could ever need: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

In this short verse, I hear him saying to me, “I am your protector and comforter, I will always be there guiding you, protecting you, and loving you. Do not fear, do not worry, and do not be anxious, for I am there at all times. Pray always and you will know that I am near“(my paraphrase.)

Easter Monday

I woke up on Easter Monday. It was a special gift to sleep in and have the day off on a Monday. Having worked in and gone to public schools my whole life, I had never had the Monday after Easter off before. But now, working at a Catholic school, I am blessed with a day to celebrate, rest, and rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection.

I got out of bed, put a kettle of water on the stove and prepared a cup of tea. Warming my hands around a mug of black tea, I opened my bible to the Gospel for the day and read, “So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee and there they will see me.’” Matthew 8-10

As I sat there, curled in my chair, reading this familiar verse, I thought about what it would have been like to be there that day. If I were one of them, I would have approached the tomb that morning with apprehension, expectation, and questioning. Could He really do what He said He would? Is He going to come back on the third day like he told us?

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But there these two women were: they had come to the tomb, found it empty and now were leaving the tomb with both fear and great joy. They knew he had come back and they had to share the news. They were leaving to tell the other disciples and were excited to bring the good news.

They didn’t expect to see Him so soon, but He couldn’t wait. And He didn’t make them wait to see Him again. He didn’t come back, hide Himself, and then send His disciples on a hunt to find Him. He could not wait to meet them. He met them on the road as they left the tomb. They did not have to look for Him—He came seeking them. And He met them, individually and personally on the road. He didn’t make his first appearance to a big crowd saying, “I told you so.” He came in a small way, a personal way, a quiet way, a powerful way. He came to these two women to confirm their hope and quiet their fears. He came to them saying, “Do not be afraid.”

He came on the road, on their way from the tomb to these women to show them who He is and at the same time he saw deeply who they were.

Sometimes (ok, more than just sometimes) I think that I have to search for Christ, to run around hunting Him down, thinking that he has hidden himself and it is up to me to find him. But, he is here, looking for me. He is ready to meet me as I walk away from the tomb—unsure, fearful, but full of joy. He comes to meet me in a personal powerful way. I don’t have to search; I don’t have to wait; He comes to me.

Easter is a Season

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Lent has ended, we have observed the Triduum and woken up to the glory of Easter morning. Jesus has risen and Easter has begun. You’ll notice that I didn’t say that Easter has “happened” (in the past tense), but that Easter has begun. That is because Easter is a season, not just a single day. Easter is a 50-day season that lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. It is a season to be filled with rejoicing, reflecting on the resurrection, and following the journey of Christ and his disciples from the resurrection to the Ascension to Pentecost.

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I attended a parade on Easter Sunday where we sang praise songs and then released balloons to celebrate that Jesus is risen.

It is easy to celebrate Easter Sunday and then go back by Monday to regular life with all its distractions, stresses, and busyness. It’s hard to focus on the celebration of the season when so many other things are getting in the way. Amidst this challenge, a quote from Saint John Paul II keeps coming to mind, “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song.” We are defined by Christ’s victory over death, not by his crucifixion. We are meant to live in praise and rejoicing that Christ has risen. But, what does it mean to live life, and especially this season, as an Easter people? How do I live out a season about rejoicing and resurrection during the challenges and busyness of day-to-day life?

We are and Easter People and Alleluia is our song.

-Saint John Paul II

One of the things I am doing this season to remind myself of an ongoing Easter is praying using a devotional written especially for this time. It is called On the Way and it was published by one of my favorite blogs: Blessed is She. It is a devotional that reflects specifically on the journey from the resurrection (where Christ rises to save us all) to Pentecost (where the disciples are sent out to share the Gospel). So far, this devotional (and other things that I have been reading and listening to) has helped me see the Easter season in a whole new light. Throughout the journey of the season, I plan on sharing some of my thoughts and reflections with you all, so watch for upcoming posts.

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I am also working on remembering the glory and beauty of Christ’s resurrection throughout my day, especially when I get stressed, tired, or discouraged. What Christ has done is so much bigger than any of the things that I do or encounter on any given day. His dying and rising to give me eternal life is bigger than my work, my tiredness, my wedding planning, or anything else that may discourage me. His resurrection gives such a greater joy than any of the passing happiness or frustration of this day. His resurrection gives me eternal life and what more could I want than that? What more can I ask for than spending eternity with my creator and the God of the universe? Nothing. So what should get in the way of my joy over that fact? Nothing!

So, I invite you to join me. Live this Easter as a season, not just as a day. And if you haven’t been doing that already, it’s not too late to start. Journey with me from His Resurrection to Pentecost. Embrace the joy of the season, allow yourself to celebrate, and live in the joy of being an Easter people. Alleluia!

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P.S. It’s been pretty quiet around this blog lately. I had a rough March because I was ill with Mono and spent 3 days in the hospital with tonsillitis. I’m feeling much much better, but my body is still fighting the virus and recovering. Thank you for your prayers for my continued recovery.

Five Fun Things To Do In New Jersey and New York

I was tempted to title this blog post, “The Top Five Things To Do in New Jersey and New York,” because I thought it would be a little catchier, but it’s a pretty big claim to say that something is one of the top things to do. So, I settled for a little less flashy, but more truthful title.

Last week we had spring break (a little early to quite deserve the title “spring,” in my opinion). My parents came to visit for the break to take a little vacation to the East Coast and to see where I live. Here are five of the things we did while they were here:

  1. Walk along the Jersey Shore

It’s definitely the off-season at the shore, but that worked out really well for us because we had almost the whole beach to ourselves. It wasn’t warm enough to sit on the beach or swim in the ocean, but we had a good time walking along the beach, picking up shells and enjoying the sunny day. It was quiet and peaceful in a place where it is normally busy, noisy, and expensive. We ate dinner at a little seafood market and restaurant that I would highly recommend: Shore Fresh Seafood. It’s a tiny little place that is mainly a fish market (we got to watch them filleting salmon and putting out scallops while we wait), so the seafood was so fresh and delicious!

And a bonus: you don’t have to pay for a beach pass in February!

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  1. See a Broadway Play

We saw the play “American in Paris” and I would highly recommend seeing it (or another Broadway show) if you visit New York City. There are really no words that can do justice to a theatrical performance, so I’m just going to post the video trailer so you can get a little glimpse. All I can say is that it was true work of art that included amazing dancing, innovative projected scenery, incredible music, and a charming story. And if you can’t get to New York City anytime soon, check out the movie that the play is based on. I haven’t seen it, but if it’s anything like the play, it’s definitely worth watching.

  1. Hike at the Delaware Water Gap

This was my favorite part of our trip last week. I have been hearing about the Delaware Water Gap since I first moved to New Jersey and have wanted to go hiking there for a long time. It was really nice to get outside and be away from the city for a day. It was a challenging hike with a great view at the top. Pictures say more than words, though, so here are a few:

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  1. Ride a Ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

I wend to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty when I came to the East Coast for a school trip in High School. It’s something that I would highly recommend, though, especially if you have family that immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. There are a lot good exhibits about immigration before, during, and after the time of Ellis Island. It was amazing to see how people traveled here with very little to create a new life for themselves. It made me a lot more grateful for the family members who made the sacrifice to leave their homes and come to this country.

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  1. Visit Thomas Edison’s Laboratories

On the last day of my parents’ visit, we went to the little-known gem of West Orange, NJ. Thomas Edison had a laboratory in West Orange where he developed and manufactured many inventions that led to many things that we know today. One of his biggest inventions was the phonograph, which was the first device to record sound and play it back. It sounds simple, but think about how much of our world today is based on the ability to record sound. In his laboratories you can see the library, storeroom, machine shops, recording studio, moving picture film studio, photography studio, and many other rooms and building that made his inventions and the manufacturing of those inventions possible. If you’re in the area, I definitely suggest checking the museum out!

 

 

New Year, New Goals

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Things got pretty hectic in December with the end of semester and Christmas break, and it’s nice to get back into a consistent routine. I’m not one to set new year’s resolutions, but there is something about a new year that is a fresh start and I’m making a few goals for myself. To help myself get back into a routine and maintain balance in my life, I’ve set three goals for the new semester. I’m hoping these will help me stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually balanced and heathy this year.

 

1. 10,000 steps

I’ve never been good at consistently working out or exercising. I like active things, but I’m not one to love going to the gym or going for a run. I get discouraged when I set unattainable goals that aren’t realistic to me. This year, I decided to try a new approach to exercising. My dad had a fit bit that he wasn’t using because he can now track his steps on his iPhone. He is letting me use it and it has already made me more active.

I love having a goal for my steps instead of a goal for exercising because it means that everything I do to move counts. Walking to work at a coffee shop counts. Doing jumping jacks in my apartment counts. Going to a spin class at the gym counts. The other great thing is that every day is a new day and I don’t have to worry about if I worked out yesterday or if I am planning to work out tomorrow. Each day is a new day with a fresh goal.

I’ve had the fitbit for 5 days so far and I’ve made it to 10,000 steps each day, so I’m on track so far!

2. Ideal Week

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 3.05.35 PM Earlier this year I listened to a Michael Hyatt podcast with a few of my coworkers about creating an Ideal Week to manage your time (if you want to listen to it, click here). I’ve never had a job before that required me to manage my own time as much as I do now. When I was a teacher, most of my day was spent teaching classes that started and ended at predetermined time. I didn’t have long stretches of time that I had to plan myself and use to get a large quantity of tasks done. In this job, there is a lot of freedom with my schedule, but that is challenging for me because I have to make my own schedule.

I am much more affective with a structure, so creating an ideal week is super helpful in keeping me on track each day. It helps me be proactive rather than reactive. I made an ideal week plan at the beginning of last semester, but I hadn’t really been here long enough to know what works. Now, I’m making adjustments based on how much time I need for things and what didn’t work last semester. It’s my goal to find an ideal week that works for me and follow that as much as possible to use my time well.

If you’d like to learn more about creating an ideal week, check out these two posts from Michael Hyatt:

How to Create More Margin in Your Life

How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week

And this one from Nancy Ray:

Organization in Time by Nancy Ray

3. Prayer

Breaks are always a tough time for prayer for me because I struggle to take time each day to myself when I could be hanging out with my family. As I begin the new year I want to make sure that I take time for intentional, quiet prayer each day. I’ve been using Blessed is She to read the daily readings and a reflection the last couple days. I’m also getting back into journaling, too. My ideal week is helping me make sure I take time for prayer everyday because I have a set-aside time for prayer everyday.

Now that I’ve shared my goals with you, I’d love to hear from you! What are your goals for this upcoming month, semester, or year? What habits or areas would you like to maintain or grow in this year?