Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.

Saint Francis de Sales

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Explore Texas: Pedernales Falls

I’m trying out some different topics for posts, so please let me know what you like to read about. I’d like to highlight some of the places we visit in Texas because we are making an effort to explore the state while we are here. I am hoping to mix posts about mission work with posts about my home, explorations, hobbies, and more. I’d love feedback about which topics are the most interesting to my readers!

After a month of weekends spent cleaning, unpacking, organizing, and furniture shopping, Ben and I decided that this weekend we would take a break and do some exploring. One of the great benefits of living in Texas is that the season for doing things outdoors is just beginning as it should be starting to cool down to a more reasonable 70-80 degrees over the next month. So, we decided to buy a Texas State Park annual pass so that we could get outside and explore the natural side of the state. In Minnesota, the outdoor activities (besides skating and skiing) would be wrapping up soon, but here, the time for hiking, camping, and swimming is just beginning.

We started off this weekend by exploring a park called Pedernales Falls. Do not be deceived by the spelling of the name, it is pronounced pur-də-nal-iss not pəd-ər-nal-iss. This confused me all day as I tried to say the name right when reading the name. On Saturday morning, we packed up our backpacks with lunch and lots of water and drove about an hour to the park.

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When we got there, we started by hiking near the falls area. It was absolutely beautiful to see the reflections in the blue-green water next to the solid yellow-white rock. We climbed around on the rocks and after several weeks of spending our time inside and in an urban area, it felt so good to climb, jump, and hike in a completely natural landscape. We got a little over an hour of hiking in on the rocks before it got so hot that we had to take refuge in the shade. We drove to another part of the park and found a nice shady spot on the side of the river where we could swim and eat lunch. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

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If you visit central Texas, I would recommend taking a trip here. The park was not very busy for a Saturday, so it was a nice place to get away from crowds. There are a lot of hiking trails that we didn’t get to explore on this trip so we are planning on going back to try them out. It does get very hot on the rocky falls, so I would avoid them between noon and 3pm. It was hot but bearable until noon, but after that it got noticeably hotter and very uncomfortable. I am a northern-born, Scandinavian-blooded girl that is not used to the intense sun and high heat. You are not allowed to swim or wade in the water near the falls because of the flash flood risk, so at noon we headed down stream to the area of the river that you can swim to cool off. It was a perfect place to relax, so my recommendation would be to explore the falls during the cooler part of the day and then sit in the shade and/or water for the hot, sunny mid-afternoon.

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All photos on this post were taken by Ben Huntley.

 

The Trip

Now that I’m blogging more regularly, I want to share a few stories from the last month. A lot has been going on, so there is plenty to share. I’ll start with The Trip. It earns capital letters because it was quite the journey to move from Minnesota to Texas. Last year, the journey from Minnesota to New Jersey was an adventure, but it was in a different category than this trip. Moving from Minnesota to New Jersey was more like going on a road trip with a very full car. We fit everything into the normal car that we drive, so Ben and I were able to drive together and switch off driving.

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The route!

Moving to Texas was a different beast all together. We started by packing up a 16-foot moving truck. Then we each drove a vehicle 1200 miles over 3 days. But, the story starts a little bit before that. A group of students from Texas were in Minnesota for SPO’s annual student conference and they had brought a trailer with them to hold their luggage. Earlier in the summer, we decided we would get our own trailer (we were starting to realize how much stuff we had). However, due to some last minute changes, the students didn’t have a second trailer hitch (and we can’t haul a trailer with our car), so that plan was out. Our next plan was to use that trailer to transport our big furniture and then fit the rest in cars (ours and 2 of our coworkers).

Three days before we were going to leave, we tried to fit as much furniture as we could in the trailer. It was tight, but we thought it would work. (Or maybe we were just determined to make the impossible possible.) Over the next 24-hours we thought about it more and more and realized that there was no way that the giant pile of boxes in my parents’ basement would fit in 3 cars. So, we totally changed the plan. We originally didn’t want to rent a moving truck because of the expense and the hassle of driving two vehicles all the way to Texas. But, we decided it was the only way to get our things moved. Thirty-six hours before we were set to leave, we went online and reserved a truck.When we picked up the truck, the company didn’t have any 12-foot trucks left, so we ended up with a 16-foot truck.

So, after that long version of the story, we are back to packing up a 16-foot truck. With a ton of help from my mom, dad, sister, grandma, and students from both New Jersey and Texas, we got everything packed and ready to go. The moving truck was a blessing in disguise because we were able to bring a few extra pieces of furniture that have been very useful now that we’re here. After we packed up all the main furniture and boxes, my parents and sister took the truck over to my Grandma’s house to get the extra furniture that we didn’t think we’d be able to bring while Ben and I went to the closing banquet of the student conference.

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The truck before my parents and sister added the last of the furniture. We had a lot more stuff than we thought!

When we arrived back at my parents’ house the next day everything was packed up and ready to go. We had a delicious and relaxing brunch with them because we didn’t have a huge amount of driving to do that day. Our first day’s driving was from St. Paul to Kansas City, which is only about six hours of driving time. It was a very uneventful drive (in a good way). I drove our car and Ben drove the truck, so this was the longest I had every drove continuously. With a few podcasts queued up, it wasn’t too bad to drive for that long. It was an easy drive because we followed Interstate 35 from the whole way from St. Paul to Kansas City.

Day two was our longest day of driving. I got to get breakfast with one of my best friends (who now lives in Kansas City), which got the day off to a great start. We headed out after Mass to drive through Kansas, Oklahoma, and into Texas. We were headed to Ben’s aunt and uncle’s house in Dallas to stay the night. I listened to a lot of podcasts that day. Podcasts are much better than music for me while I’m driving because they give me something to think about, which helps pass the time. A new-to-me podcast called Limetown (http://www.limetownstories.com) kept me on the edge of my seat for many hours of the drive. Oklahoma was beautiful to drive through, so although this day was long, it wasn’t that painful. And, as a bonus, we stopped at a roadside stand and got fresh peaches as a snack (which was way better than stopping at another Arby’s).

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From morning sun to evening sun: photos of the road on day two. I took these photos with one click while my phone was sitting in the phone holder on my dash. So, no dangerous driving was done for the making of this photo.

We arrived at Ben’s aunt and uncles in Dallas in the evening and ate dinner with them before crashing for the night. In the morning, we left early because we only had a short leg left from Dallas to San Marcos (about 3.5 hours of driving time). This last day, with the shortest drive, was the most painful because there was rain, traffic, and construction the whole way. Up until this point, it had been pretty easy for Ben and I to stay together on the road. He would follow me and we were able to stay that way easily on the other roads. On this day with more traffic and more lane-changing (due to construction), we had a much more challenging time staying together.

When we arrived in San Marcos, we drove directly to our apartment complex to sign the lease. We got everything situated with the leasing office and got our keys! After hopping around every couple of days since our wedding, it was such a relief to have keys to a place that we were going to stay in for a long time. Before we unpacked we went and got lunch (we’ve learned not to do anything challenging on empty stomachs.) Then, during a small break in the rain, we moved everything from the truck to the living room.  It looked like a disaster at that point, but at least everything was inside!

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This is what our apartment looked like at the end of day three. At least everything is in the right state! Now for the work of making order out of the chaos.

That was the end of our trip across the country. It was actually pretty uneventful for a journey of that length, which we were really grateful for. I know you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to see what the mess turned into ;). Wait for next week to hear more about moving in, getting settled, and starting the year at Texas State. Talk to you soon!

What’s been going on?

I haven’t written anything for this blog since June, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been going on! It’s been a crazy summer full of so many wonderful things. Here’s a little run down of everything that has been happening.

  1. Mission Leader Training

    In June (at the time I wrote my last post) SPO Missionaries came to Minnesota for a time of training to prepare for the summer and following year. We learned (or were reminded about) the mission of SPO so that were prepared to talk to mission partners throughout the summer. We also met our team for the coming year!
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  2. Ben’s sister’s wedding

    In June, Ben’s sister got married! It was really fun to meet his extended family (especially before I got to see them again at our wedding) and celebrate his sister and brother-in-law’s marriage.
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  3. Wedding planning

    One of the big themes of the summer was wedding planning! We did as much as we could in New Jersey, but there was a lot that couldn’t get done until we were back in Minnesota. The best parts were wine tasting, ice cream tasting, taco tasting, salsa tasting, and beer tasting–basically all the tasting! I also really liked practicing bouquet-making and figuring out all the decorations.

  4. Apartment hunting in Texas

    At the end of June we took a trip down to Texas to look for an apartment. It felt like we were on an episode of House Hunters. We worked with a real estate agent and apartment broker to look at several condos, houses, and apartments. We saw 9 places in 2 days! The hardest part was choosing a place after we had seen them all. It came down to a cute little house with a 25-minute commute or a basic 2-floor apartment with a 10-minute commute. We ended up choosing the apartment and were able to apply to live there before we left. It was a huge relief to have a place ready to move in to when we got here in August.

  5. Mission Partner Development

    Throughout the summer both Ben and I worked on inviting more people to be mission partners as we continue to work with SPO. It was a blessing to get to meet with people we don’t get to see very often and share our missionary work with them.

  6. Bridal Shower

    My aunt, cousin, sister, and mom threw a me a bridal shower a few weeks before the wedding. I loved having so many friends and family from different parts of my life in one place at one time!

  7. Wedding

    Of course the highlight of my summer was getting married! There is way too much to say about the wedding than I can fit in one little caption, so I’ll write a separate post about it (complete with photos when we get them back from our photographer). I will say, though, that it was a beautiful day and I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful wedding day!
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  8. Honeymoon

    Ben and I traveled to North Carolina for our honeymoon. We kayaked, ate amazing food, sat on the beach, toured a historic house and battleship, walked around boardwalks and a cute town, and visited antique shops. It was a very relaxing time in the midst of a crazy summer. We highly recommend visiting the North Carolina coast if you’ve never been there.
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  9. Packing

    When we got back from our honeymoon Ben and I worked on getting all of our things packed into boxes for the move to Texas. After our honeymoon we weren’t living at my parent’s house anymore, so we were able to pack everything except our suitcases. When we were done we had one giant pile of boxes in my parent’s family room that were ready to load up for the move.
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  10. Mission Team Training

    At the beginning of August, the SPO missionaries gather again in Minnesota for another time of training and preparation for the year ahead. This training was focused on preparing for the school year so we got to work with our Texas team a lot and plan for the coming school year.
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  11. SNE

    After MTT, SPO students from around the country join the staff in Minnesota for a week-long conference called the School of the New Evangelization. The goal of this time is to train and equip students to share their faith on their campuses. The theme verse of this year’s SNE was John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
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  12. Traveling to Texas

    After SNE we packed up a moving van with all our boxes and jumped on highway 35 to head down to Texas. I drove our car and Ben drove the moving van, so we each had to drive the whole way. I’m pretty proud of the trip because I had never driven that far by myself before. We stopped in Kansas City and Dallas on the way to break up the trip and see family and friends. P.S. Don’t worry about the photos below. I used Siri to take them from my phone mount on my phone so my eyes were on the road the whole time.
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  13. Unpacking

    When we got to Texas the work of moving wasn’t done yet. It was a weirdly rainy week when we arrived, but we got the boxes out of the truck and into our apartment between showers. We’re still working on unpacking the last of the boxes, so it’s been quite the process, but it’s been awesome to finally set up a home that we’ll be in for a while.
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  14. Household Retreat

    Last week we had retreats for the Men’s and Women’s households at Texas State. We spent a few days talking about the vision and practicals of living in household and getting to know each other. It was great to meet all the women and men and kick off the year with them.

  15. Setting up a new apartment

    As we’ve been settling in, Ben and I have enjoyed setting up and decorating our space. We bought a mattress online (which felt a little crazy, but worked really well), made a big trip to IKEA, shopped flea markets, and have assembled a ton of furniture. We’re not done yet, but we’re getting closer!

  16. Starting work at Texas State

    Last week I got to meet the other staff that work at Our Lady of Wisdom (Texas State’s University Parish) and settle in at my new desk. It’s good to finally have a place to to work (it’s so expensive to work at coffee shops all the time) and to meet the people that I’ll be working with. We’ve already had a few opening week events for new freshman.

  17. Welcome Week!

    This is the first week of school so we have a bunch of events coming up. I’ll post more about them as they happen (and as I have pictures), so you’ll have to wait and see next week. 🙂

Thanks for sticking with me for this really long post. I promise, now that the school year has started, that the next post will come much sooner than this one did (and be much shorter). Coming up, I hope to share about SPO events, what it’s like to move to a new state (again), pictures of our new apartment, and much more about missionary life in Texas. Talk to you again soon!

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!

 

Prayers for the Banquet

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Last year’s banquet

Saint Paul’s Outreach New Jersey’s Annual Benefit Banquet is coming up this week. I am finishing up many last minute details for the event, so this week’s blog post will be short because there’s a lot to do before we greet guests at the banquet hall. This week is full of printing, organizing, picking up last-minute supplies, and coordinating with all the vendors. Your prayers are greatly appreciated as we approach the big event!

We can use prayers for

  • the guests to understand and have passion for the mission of SPO,
  • all the details of the event to go smoothly, and
  • the generosity of the guests of the banquet.

I am coming up on the end of the school year at Seton Hall, so next week I will share more about the end of the year and all the events we have for students as we approach the summer. It’s been a full but blessed time as things wrap up.

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Last year’s banquet