Advent has come and gone, and now the Christmas season is here! As another semester on mission has come to a close, I've been reflecting on what the Lord has been speaking to me over the past few months. Two words continually stick out to me: freedom and rest. These have manifested themselves in a lot of different ways in the second half of this past semester!
"God rested on the seventh day not because He was tired, but because rest tells us something about who God is and, therefore, who we are: the one who rests is the one who is free. Slaves do not rest. They do not have the option. And if we do not rest, we have enslaved ourselves to something."
This quote from a blog post by FOCUS has shaped the rest of my semester, and my perspecitve on the work that I do, in so many ways. It's really easy for me (and probably most missionaries) to get caught up in the work that I do and forget to take care of myself. Our Mission Directors recognized the need for us to get away, and they cleared a week of our schedule to drive four hours up north to a cabin in Cook, Minnesota. With my phone on airplane mode the entire time, I was able to really be present with my coworkers and take some time to rest with the Lord. Some of my favorite memories from this semester came from this week, and I'm grateful to be working for an organization that cares for its employees so well!
We had a house photoshoot in the middle of November and it was so much fun! Often our life in Household gets really busy and we can get caught up in just going through the motions of meals together, prayer, and all the other Newman center events that we go to. It was nice to spend some time together outside of that and have fun frolicking around campus. We even sent out house Christmas cards using one of these pictures!
All semester during our Women's Nights we've been talking about claiming our identities as God's beloved daughters, and learning how to live that out. We have had really great content, but I think the most impactful night for me was our last night of the semester. There was no talk, no discussions, no content, just a hot chocolate bar, karaoke, and some minute-to-win-it games. For me, this night was such a consolation that the Lord is working: karaoke, of all things, was the proof.
Something I've noticed in myself and in my time as a missionary is that women will not thrive where they feel uncomfortable. You'll never really get to know a woman if there isn't trust built there, if she doesn't feel comfortable around you. We're all searching for authenticity, for a place and people we can be ourselves around. Once we've found it, we thrive.
Let me tell you, nothing says "freedom in the Lord" quite like a bunch of women with their arms around each other singing along to Bing Crosby's rendition of "White Christmas." The women all felt free to sign up and perform melodramatic duets, from Celine Dion to High School Musical. The joy in our living room was tangible, and the laughter was contagious. Our Women's Night planning team (a group of about six students) has done an amazing job all semester, and their hard work paid off in big ways during this night.
A big theme in my spiritual life, along with freedom and rest, has been slowing down. The Lord has shown me, especially in the past month, that I tend to rush through life: I multitask whenever I can and I try to get things done as fast as possible without stopping to process or really think about what's happening. However, I've realized that this does not serve me, or the people around me, very well at all. As I rush through life, my actions are saying that whatever is in front of me doesn't matter nearly as much as whatever I have coming next.
I've been learning a lot from the example of our Blessed Mother, as she "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) I'm halfway through my second year of missionary life, and as of late, I haven't been very good at taking things in. I don't want to look back on this season of my life and not be able to remember anything. I definitely don't want to look back on this season of my life and know that I could have given way more than I actually did.
As a second-year Mission Leader, there are many more "what's next"s on the horizon for me than there were last year. It's all too easy for me to get hung up on the black hole of possibilities, on trying to shift the lens of my life to focus on the blurriness in the distance, instead of the sharp foreground of my current life. It's a balance that I'm learning how to strike each day. Even though the liturgical season of Advent is over, there is an advent in my heart that is continuing on. And just as there is joy to be found in the waiting for the Christmas season to once again come, there is a joy to be found in this period of waiting in my life, as well. God is ever renewing my trust in Him, and I am learning how to receive the gift of faith on a daily basis.
I've had a restful (and warm) Christmas break back in Texas with my family, but I am ready to take on another semester of loving the Lord and making Him known. What a great, great gift.
To close, here's a picture of Dallas, because I love this city, and also because the Dallas Cowboys won against the Detriot Lions last night. Bring on the playoffs!
And so the adventure continues. May God bless you and your families in this Christmas season!
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!