Texas, here we come!

Good afternoon!

I’ll give you a little background before I get to explaining the title of the post. I have been serving as a campus missionary for the last year at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Saint Paul’s Outreach has chapters in seven states across the country. Each year, missionaries are sent out to work at these different chapters. Some missionaries return to the campuses where they went to school. Most missionaries embark on an adventure to a school that they have never been to before. It’s an exciting, but often scary, proposition: will you move across the country to serve at a school you’ve never been to and with students you’ve never met?

This past week all of the SPO missionaries have been gathered together for our first training of the year. We are learning how to raise funds for our mission work and how to explain what SPO does to those who will be partnering with us (both financially and spiritually) in the coming year. And, for new mission leaders, training is the time where they find out where they will be serving the next year. Individual mission leaders find out where they are going personally throughout the week, but we do not learn who we are serving with until the team announcements on Tuesday. It’s a time of great excitement and hope as everyone learns who they will be serving with for the next year!

And now for the big announcement…drum roll please…

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Ben (my Fiancé) and I will be serving at Texas State University this coming year!

We are sad to be leaving Seton Hall, but excited to serve with our new team and meet all the students in Texas!

Here’s the story of how this came to be: We had a great year this past year and I met a ton of amazing people. In January, Ben and I prayed about whether God was calling us to continue working in college ministry with Saint Paul’s Outreach. We got a resounding yes from Him and planned to continue for another year at Seton Hall. But, God sometimes has different plans for us than what we expect.

Around Easter, our supervisor came to us with a proposition. They needed a Mission Director and an administrator at Texas State University this coming year. Ben had served at Texas State the previous year, and it would be beneficial for them to have someone who had been there before lead the team. So, they asked us if we were willing to move.

Through a lot of prayer and conversations, Ben and I decided that if the Lord was asking us to step outside of our comfort zone and move to a new campus, we wanted to say YES! to his call. It was a difficult decision to make because we have so many friends at Seton Hall, but we know that the Lord has great things in store for those who follow where he leads. We will definitely miss Seton Hall and our team from last year, but we know that the upcoming year will bring great blessings and abundant grace.

This post is the beginning of another great adventure. We will spend the summer raising financial and spiritual support for our mission work, getting married, finding a new apartment in Texas, preparing for the year ahead, and moving. It will be a busy time, so please pray for all the transitions coming up. I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us!

Catching Up

Hello!

I had no idea it had been a month since my last post until I logged on to write this one and saw that it had been that long. I apologize for the silence. So much has happened in the past month! Here’s a recap:

The SPO NJ Benefit banquet went splendidly! The event ran smoothly, the speaker was phenomenal, and we reached our fundraising budget. There’s a ton more I want to tell you about this event, so I will be dedicating another post to that soon.

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Dr. Robert George speaking at the SPO New Jersey Benefit Banquet.

Ben and I went on a Marriage in the Holy Spirit weekend to prepare for our wedding this summer. It was a beautiful weekend filled with wisdom, wonderful examples of marriages, and time for conversation. It was definitely a blessing to our preparations!

The end of the school year was filled with goodbye and end-of-the-year parties. There was a pool party, a good-bye-to-the-missionaries party, a Campus Ministry year-end lunch, and many other smaller get-togethers to say goodbye. It was sad to have to say goodbye to so many people we have gotten to know over the past year. Leaving sure is hard.

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End of the year pool party for the students involved in our Formation Program.

Our staff evaluated and celebrated the past year at our spring staff days. We left campus to stay at a gorgeous lake house and evaluate our successes, growth, and areas for improvement. We also had the opportunity to honor one another and share how the other people on our team are awesome people!

Ben and I took one last trip (for now) into New York City and finally saw Les Mis. It was an incredible show and I would highly recommend it to anyone that wants to see a musical. We also traveled into Brooklyn and visited a marked called Artists and Fleas that I’ve wanted to see all year. We finished off our trip with a dinner of delicious fish tacos. Despite all of it’s craziness, it has been fun to have the opportunity to visit New York City many times this year and we will miss being so close to it.

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Last meal in New York City!

After all the year-end fun, it was time to pack all our belongings back into my Prius. Let’s just say that it was exercise in efficiency, patience, and teamwork. We got most of our things packed up and only had to send a few things back to Minnesota with a few of our teammates. We used every square inch (including the glove-compartment, under the seats, and in the cup holders) to pack our things.

Then, it was time to embark on the adventure of driving half-way across the country back to Minnesota. We stopped in Columbus, Ohio and stayed at two of the households there. I had never been to Columbus, but it was a cool city to visit. Then we drove to Appleton, Wisconsin, where I dropped Ben off at his parents’ house. We unpacked Ben’s stuff and then I made the last leg of the journey back to Minnesota on my own. It was a long time of driving, but I made it back just in time for…

My sister’s graduation! Laura graduated from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) and I made it just in time to see her walk across the stage. I am so proud of her and all she has done. Her next step: applying to graduate school to be a Physicians Assistant.

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Laura’s Graduation in Northrop Auditorium

The next weekend my sister and one of my bridesmaids hosted a camping-themed bridal shower for me. It was so much fun and I loved getting to see my Minnesota friends again. It was a blessing to get to pray with friends and share this special time with them!

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Great friends at an awesome bridal shower.

They day after the bridal shower, my parents and I headed to central Wisconsin to meet Ben’s parents. We’ve been trying to plan a time for our parents to meet each other, but it hadn’t worked out before this. We grilled and had a picnic and are happy to report that everyone got along splendidly.

I have hit full-blown wedding planning mode. I’ve been making pocket squares, planting centerpieces, scouring thrift stores for vases, practicing making bouquets, designing the programs, sewing alterations to my dress, shopping for bridesmaid gifts, and the list goes on and on. There’s a lot to do in the next few weeks, but thank goodness for Asana, my to-do list app, so I know exactly what needs to get done each day.

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Going to the farmer’s market (one of my favorite places) to buy cut flowers to practice bouquet making.

And now, I’m off to pick Ben up from the bus station because he’s back in town for the first of two SPO staff trainings this summer. Training doesn’t start until Friday, but we have a little bit of wedding planning to do tomorrow.  It’s been a busy month, and today, June 1st, starts another crazy one. But, I’m excited to kick off another year of mission work at training and meet all the new Mission Leaders. Stay tuned for more of my adventures from training!

 

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?