God sure loves surprises, doesn't He?
Let's review the past couple of years of my life:
Summer 2014: I think you want to be a missionary.
January 2015: You're going to be a missionary!
June 2015: You're moving to Minnesota!
Summer 2016: You like Minnesota?
January 2017: You're going to serve a third year!
Spring 2017: You're going to move to Florida!
When I signed on for a third year of service with SPO back in January, I never could have imagined that things would pan out the way that they did. I won't go into the specifics of a crazy semester of discernment, but trust me when I say that the Lord has been about a wild work in my heart this year. When I look at my life over the past couple of years next to the lives of the average twenty-something, wild is the only word that really comes to mind: living in three different states over the past three years; seemingly putting my life 'on hold' to bring college students closer to Jesus; living off of the generosity of mission partners for two, going on three, years; et cetera, et cetera. It's a hard life, but it's a blessed life. It is a life that is wild, and so full of joy. The fact that He has not called me out of this life just yet is a gift to be grateful for on its own!
Lately, God has made it very clear in my prayer that He's leading me into the wild this next year. I have been reading an incredible book called Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. The book's tagline is "A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough." Ugh, if a tagline of a book has ever tugged right at my heartstrings, it is this one. Reading this book has forced me to wrestle with some bigger questions: What would my life look like if I was actually living 'wild'? What does that even mean? Am I ready to accept the freedom that the Lord has for me? Do I even actually want to be free, or am I letting the comfort of living in fear rule me?
Heavy questions, I know, but God has been gently leading me to the answers. He has given me boldness to say "yes" to serving at a new campus, in a new state, with a new team. He has given me the courage to leave the comfort of a city and people that I have grown to love dearly. It was not easy for me to make any of these decisions; but the Lord has consoled me with the lasting and steady peace that comes from doing His will.
So here we are, after a third round of Mission Leader Training, back in Texas for the next few weeks and preparing to move, yet again, across the country. I am so thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure at Florida State University. Pictured below is my team for the year, a joyful, hilarious, faithful group of men and women whom the Lord has blessed abundantly already. (Ask any of us about our adventures in Gold Medal Park!) Here's to being back in the South, to college football, and to sunshine, all the time. Praise God for new beginnings!
To the students at the University of Minnesota, and all of those in the Twin Cities who welcomed me and loved me over the past two years: I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for sharing your lives with me, for letting me walk with you, for walking with me as I struggled and triumphed and everything in-between. The past two years have been filled with more joy and love than I thought were possible for a Texan living in the Midwest, and it is largely due to the people and the friendships that the Lord blessed me with. I am grateful for my time serving in Minnesota and would not trade it for anything at all. You are in my prayers and my heart.
And so the adventure continues, and continues, and continues!
To Jesus Through Mary,
It's a pretty cool thing to be able to say I was one of the 500(ish) people at the last national School of the New Evangelization; especially considering I would have never planned to have been there while I was in college.
I remember the first time I went to SNE in 2012. I was going into my junior year at Texas State, I was going into my first year of living in Household as a student (and it would turn out to be my only), and I had just finished my third summer as a camp counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp. I was really tan (those were the days), really happy to be back with all of my college friends on a crazy road trip from Texas to Minnesota, but really really wiped out.
Long story short: I came, I saw, anddddddd I didn't really have the best time. In fact, I have distinct memories of coming back from SNE that year and telling people, "Yeah, it was really cool and I learned a lot, but I just don't think that I'm called to be a missionary."
God has a sense of humor and I was lying to myself.
Looking back, I think that week is when the Lord first invited me to a life on mission with Him. But I wasn't open, or ready, or confident; I was terrified. I didn't believe in a good and merciful Father back then; I believed in an angry and disappointed Father whose love was conditional and merit-based - and that I'd never be able to 'earn' it. So the thought of following a Father like that, what I falsely thought He was, was terrifying. Therefore I shut the thought out and away and tried not to think about it, and I think that had an effect on how the rest of SNE went for me. I could have had a better time, I think, had I been more open to the Lord and to what He wanted for me.
But the Lord is good and He redeems all. Here I am, four years later, still going to SNE's, living a life that is way more exciting, joyful, and richer than I ever could have planned out for myself. As a missionary - the very thing I said I never wanted to be! Because He isn't limited by my weaknesses and He isn't satisfied by the mediocre plans I have for my own life. THANK GOODNESS.
All of this to say that I am so grateful that the School of the New Evangelization is still in my life, and that I now get to watch lives change from the other side of things, as a staff member. I remember telling my best friend four years ago that after college I'd hoped to be a photographer, and maybe a missionary, too. This year at SNE, the Lord let me do both at once! What a gift. Photographing an entire week-long conference by yourself (minus all of the men's sessions #thankgoodness) is no easy task; but I really enjoyed taking on this challenge that was unlike any photography job I'd ever had before. I was pushed creatively (and physically, let's be real, I was on my feet a lot and I am not a very strong gal) each day, figuring out new ways to capture old moments over and over again. I'm pretty proud of the final products. With the start of two SNE's a year happening next summer (you can read more about that here), it was truly an honor to get to capture all of the moments of this final SNE of its kind. All of the photos I took can be found on SPO's Flickr page, but in the gallery below you can find some of my favorite shots.
Another year of mission kicks into high gear this week, with Newman Center Leadership Day tomorrow and our Household move-in/retreat starting on Wednesday and extending into the weekend. Please pray for all of us, as the adventure of this year begins!
To Jesus Through Mary,
...and just like that, another year of mission has begun! Woohoo!
Mission Leader Training (MLT) ended a few days ago. Since then I have been fighting a cold and exhaustion while at the same time getting myself back into gear for another season of mission partner development (MPD, formerly known as PSR) before Mission Team Training (MTT), the School of the New Evangelization (SNE), and all of the other Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) that come with being a missionary for Saint Paul's Outreach (SPO).
Before we get any further, here is our new team for the year! Please keep us in your prayers!
Training was pretty surreal for me this time around. It was hard for me to really enter into the first few days; I think my mind was still processing how fast the year really ended. It's hard to believe that I've been serving with SPO for just over a year now. Crazy! I thought I would feel older and wiser by now, but I don't think that's entirely true. Sure, I'm more comfortable with my surroundings, I have a better grasp on what I'm doing and what my unique role is, and I have a strong foundation of relationships built up here in Minnesota. Praise God, for I am so grateful for all of those things. However, I have found a lot of humility in the fact that, as far as what the Lord is going to do this year, I am just as clueless as I was when MLT ended last year. The Lord has never fully clued me in on what He was trying to accomplish in my life at the time; and, truthfully, I have grown to appreciate this fact. I have found a lot of freedom in taking a step back, throwing up my hands in surrender, and knowing confidently that the Lord would do His thing as long as I do mine. In the summer, that thing is to pray and to work, or as St. Benedict puts it, "Ora et Labora."
To those readers who may be unfamiliar with what serving with SPO entails, my primary duty during the summer months while students are not on campus is to build up and cultivate my team of mission partners. This team is made up of those whom I have had the great opportunity to meet with and share stories about the incredible year I've had on mission, and who believe in this mission of SPO so much that they want to make sure that I am able to go on campus to build up the Kingdom of God as best as I can. Their generosity has blessed me immensely and I am so grateful. The Lord has given me a lot of grace in this area of mission.
At MLT this year, the female missionaries had our own separate talk on fundraising by two incredible women who work in development for Chesterton Academy (chestertonacademy.org). Going into the summer this year, I was not exactly optimistic. However, this talk ignited a fire in me and changed my perspective once again! The women who spoke with us reminded me about the basics of why I serve: because the work is important, generosity has the power to change people's lives, and because "The world is a hot mess. We're changing it."
God has placed a beautiful call on my life, one that honors, humbles, and challenges me daily. I am so excited to see what this next year of mission will hold. Until then, I'm doing my best to pray, to work, and to share about this great mission with boldness and certainty. And so the wonderful adventure continues, into year 2!
To Jesus through Mary,
WE MADE IT THROUGH FEBRUARY! WE DID IT, Y'ALL!
Whew. What a whirlwind of a month. February is to the spring semester as September is to the fall semester: lots of events, lots of things to prepare for, lots of feeling like I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off (this is only a mild exaggeration).
It's almost laughable how much I need to be reminded of the Lord's grace. He wills this work to happen. He provides the grace to make it so. He hasn't failed me yet. And yet my human faith is so fragile sometimes!
February was basically four weeks of this exchange between the Lord and I:
Me: Father, there's no way this is going to work out.
The Lord: Oh, really? You don't think so?
*everything works out*
Me: ....right. Sorry. Please help me to trust in You more.
Thankfully, because we have a merciful God, He used nearly everything that happened this month to teach me something different about His provision in my life.
Minnesota Banquet - Celebrating 30 Years
Saint Paul's Outreach has been reaching out to college students for 30 years. THIRTY. YEARS. SPO started seven years before I was born. It is mind-blowing and incredible. Since Texas does not have a benefit banquet as of now, the Minnesota Banquet was my first experience at this kind of event; and it definitely did not disappoint! There were over 630 people in attendance - some had never heard of SPO, and some have been supporting this mission since the very beginning. In my own life, the Lord used this night to remind me of how much I love working for Saint Paul's Outreach, and how blessed I am to be apart of this incredible ministry. The Lord reminded me of His tangible provision, as I was able to meet so many of the benefactors and donors who are so generous with their money each month to make sure that I get to be on campus, showing the love of Christ to students. One of the women in my formation small group, Jazlyn, wrote a blog post for the SPO National website about her experience at the banquet. I encourage all of you to check it out, as well as this video shown at the banquet that literally gives me all of the feelings:
We have an awesome team of students planning each of our Women's Nights this semester. Earlier in February, we had an 80's Zumba night. Zumba is my favorite kind of exercise - the kind that doesn't really feel like exercise at all - and everyone had a blast! One of our SPO alumni gave a talk on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle in college with Christ at the center, and the women really enjoyed it. God has been using these nights to provide a space for women to be themselves and to experience His love through the sisterhood we share with each other. We have another Women's Night coming up on Friday and we're talking about everyone's favorite subject...RELATIONSHIPS! Please pray for us!
Fan Into Flame
When your boss tells your team over and over again that all of the work we have done this year has been leading up to this one weekend, you can start to feel a lot of pressure. Thankfully, we were also constantly reminded that it's really not up to us at all - it's the Lord's work, we are just His instruments. Our Fan Into Flame retreat two weeks ago was a great reminder of that. From the early stages of our planning, we had a sense that the Lord had more in store for this weekend than we could ever plan or even imagine. Of course, He was right. For many of the students on Fan Into Flame, this retreat served as a way to recharge their faith, to help them go just a step or two deeper into the Father's heart. For others, though, this was their first retreat, their first time proclaiming Jesus as Lord of their lives, or simply just their first time experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. No matter where students were at, the Lord blessed them, and I was once again reminded of God's powerful provision. If we take but the smallest step, the Lord will still provide the grace.
In just 11 short days, our Alaska Mission Trip begins!!! I can hardly believe it! In the next few days, I have much to do for this trip: talks to write, worship songs to practice, hiking pants to buy (where even do I start with that?). I am so grateful to all of my supporters that donated to make sure I was fully funded for this trip. The students coming on this trip were also able to experience the Lord's provision in this tangible way, as He provided donors and funds for each of us. We are all so grateful! Please pray for us as the trip draws nearer and nearer!
To all that regularly read my updates and support me in every way, I am so grateful for you. Another newsletter is on the way!
To Jesus through Mary,
The alternate name for this post could be, "I Cannot for the Life of Me Put Together a Decent, Coherent, Blog Post and So Now I Have Resorted to a Quick List of Paragraphs as Opposed to a Perfectly Strung Together and Articulate Post That I Guess Just Wasn't Meant to Be, Volume 1."
Words are hard, y'all. I have way too many of them floating around in my head at a time, and I can barely make sense out of them once a month for the sake of keeping those that are interested updated during my first year of missionary life.
The struggle is real.
Anyways, I have made it back to Minneapolis and am ready to get another semester of mission started! In the past month I was fortunate to be able to spend about 3 weeks back in Texas with my family for Christmas break. It was so good to be home, and I may or may not have eaten tamales for lunch for a week straight (I did.) Without further ado, for the sake of trying to condense my writing, here is a quick list of 7 things that happened/are happening in my life in the past month.
1. Winter. Winter happened.
I won't dwell too much on this one because I am working on another blog post about my arctic tundra experiences. I will just say this: I now understand why Minnesotans get excited when it's in the 30's as opposed to the negatives. That being said, the high on Sunday is -8 and the low is -17. Feel free to start a prayer chain in your home parish for me.
2. Life got simpler.
My parents are moving! Most of y'all probably know that we have lived in the same town and the same house since moving to Texas nearly 14 years ago. Time for a change! Most of my break was spent cleaning out my room, going through embarrassing childhood pictures and various memorabilia (and posting it all on my Snapchat story), and making trip after trip to CCA to donate SO many random things that we don't need anymore. It was a lot of work, and stressful at times, but it felt really good to simplify my life and get rid of so much junk. Currently figuring out how to make this a non-cliche metaphor for my life. Stay tuned. Please pray for my parents, and that our old house will sell quickly!
3. Mission Staff Retreat (MSR)
Every January, Saint Paul's Outreach provides its missionaries and staff with a midyear retreat to restore and refocus for the coming semester. We spent four days at a hotel and conference center in Chaska, Minnesota, where the Caribou Coffee was never in short supply and our beds were made for us every day. Quality time is my main love language, and thankfully there was plenty of it to go around! MSR was an extremely life-giving retreat and helped me reflect on the gift that it is to serve the Lord with my life in this unique way. #loveyourjob, am I right?
4. THE WORST AIRPORT EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.
Before I got to MSR, though, I endured one of the worst days for security lines at Dallas Love Field Airport in recent history (probably). At one point I overheard a TSA agent saying that they had been expecting 7,000 people around the time that they had seen nearly 14,000 people (keep in mind this was at 8 in the morning.) Never have I ever been stuck in a security line for an hour and a half, and never have I ever seen so many people miss their flights because of the line. Shoutout to Southwest Airlines for switching my flights free of charge, and shoutout to Terminal 1 of Dallas Love Field for having a Whataburger and a Dunkin Donuts near my gate. Part of me was secretly relieved that, even though I missed my first flight, I did not miss my last chance at Dunkin iced coffee and a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit until the summer.
5. As if I wasn't cold enough...Alaska.
In this edition of, "The Holy Spirit Prompts Rebecca to Say Yes Without Giving a Lot of Thought to the Matter," I am helping lead a spring break mission trip to Anchorage, Alaska! We are going to be working with Catholic Social Services at different homeless shelters and food pantries, as well as exploring the beauty that God has created up there. I said "yes" to going on this trip on a complete whim and not taking into account that it would still be winter even though it is technically a "spring" break trip, but I could not be more excited - even despite the cold! Please pray for my teammates coming on this trip (Andrew, Brody and myself), as well as the 16 students we are taking with us! If you are interested in learning more about what we will be doing and how you can be a part of it, please contact me.
6. Fan Into Flame
The beginning of the spring semester means that it is Fan Into Flame season for most SPO chapters! Fan Into Flame is a retreat put on by SPO that centers around the Holy Spirit. Students will hear different talks the Holy Spirit's role in our lives as Catholics and have a chance to respond to God's invitation of new life in His Spirit. Fan Into Flame was a life-changing retreat for me when I was in college, and the Lord always shows up in powerful ways. The Minnesota mission staff (our team and the team at St. Thomas) has already begun preparing for this phenomenal weekend, and we need your prayers! SPO Minnesota's Fan Into Flame retreat is February 19-21, 2016. Come, Holy Spirit!
7. Time to Create
In the past couple of years, I have not really given much thought to New Year's Resolutions, but at the prompting of some close friends of mine, I have decided on a few: one of them is to be more creative. During MSR, I was able to spend some really rejuvenating time coloring/writing/making beautiful things for my friends. Along with that, my sister has recently launched her own calligraphy business and she is absolutely killin it. Inspired by her, I received a set of brush pens for Christmas and bought myself a cheap set of watercolors. I've found a lot of simple joy in coloring, practicing my lettering, and figuring out how watercolors work. I've made a few little pieces for friends, from Saint quotes to Bible verses to lines from Parks & Recreation (seen below). My resolution is to make my friends' lives more beautiful through these little pieces of paper. And since it's going to be winter until, like, April, I need a good indoor hobby.
There you have it! And now, time for things to kick into high gear again. Students are slowly making their way back to Minneapolis, and we begin our new semester on Monday with Catholic Students United Leadership Day. Please pray for us and for the Lord's will to be done in our work this spring!
To Jesus Through Mary,
My name is Rebecca. This blog is a documentation of my life as a missionary with Saint Paul's Outreach - in Minnesota, Florida, and everywhere in-between. Thanks for stopping by!