Saturday, January 28, 2006

Intrigued!


This afternoon, Mom and Nora came and whisked me away for a lovely afternoon. We hiked up to Dickey Ridge and sat on the launch site watching paragliders and hanggliders circle in the balmy "cycles" of wind above us. We saw several land and one guy take off. Since my family loves to learn about everything possible, we talked to one guy (toting his 40 lb. pack up the mountain) about the sport. Personally, I'm hooked--it would be so incredibly awesome! Mom darts a suspicious and scared look in my direction as I start, "When you were my age you jumped out of a plane didn't you Mom?" I'll work on that one . . .

Other things that have intrigued me this week include a couple movies:

That Thing You Do--I was in a bum mood and couldn't concentrate on work, so naturally I walked into my freshman dorm hallway and called loudly, "Hey ladies, I'm in a bum mood, anyone have any good movies or something?" My girls never fail me. Ali runs out with the DVD and Donna and I promptly plopped down to enjoy a clean but amusing flick about the Wonders and their rise to fame (written & directed by Tom Hanks; he's in it too.) The girls were right--you just can't watch that movie and stay in a bum mood. :)

I Am David--This is an awesome movie! The cinematography is beautiful, the plot and character development is profound and moving, and the acting is, well, poignant. I think it will be making its way up to my favorite movie list. It's the story of a young boy who escapes a work camp to find freedom, his identity, and goodness.

One last thing that intrigued me--a new artist that Smitha introduced me to named Russell Watson. He is from a small factory town in the UK, and with almost no formal training, quickly rose to the top of the UK charts with a Josh Groban style mission to bring opera and classical vocal music to the masses. With a repertoire from Ave Maria to That's Amore to the Bohemian Rhapsody to Torna a Surriento, his versatile voice and beautiful tones have been wafting from my dorm windows a lot in the last week. :)

Final intriguing thing from the past week--Benedict XVI's new encyclical on love. I'm not quite done reading it yet, but it's beautiful thus far. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

FOCUSed on God

click on the link above for more information

I have had 101 people asking how my weekend at the FOCUS Conference went, so here's the brief scoop with a couple common questions answered:

What is FOCUS?
Focus is a group of about 130 missionaries who commit for at least two years to join teams in various universities (mostly big secular ones) throughout America. They cooperate with the campus ministry programs (if there are any) to provide fellowship, worship, and teaching to the Catholic students on campus. They also lead Bible studies and similar groups. The missionaries immerse themselves in the college life by joining sports teams, hanging out at meals, etc. to get to know students and begin to draw (both Catholic and non-Catholic) students towards a Catholic community on campus. They especially emphasize chastity, sobriety, and excellence. They also develop mentoring friendships one on one with student leaders. The missionaries themselves include prayer and spiritual reading as part of their daily routine to make sure that they will be personally strong in order to better serve others.

How was the Conference?
Amazing! I attended lots of inspiring talks on Christian life, chastity and marriage in the modern world, the interior life, friendship, generosity etc. [I hope to borrow tapes on the DaVinci Code, Theology of the Body, how to run a Bible study and other great talks I couldn't fit in.] We had praise & worship one night, beautiful hour of silent adoration and confession the next night, a perpetual adoration chapel for any free time you wanted to spend there, and daily Mass. I loved meeting and speaking to the other students that attended. Some were strong, enthusiastic student leaders in the ministry programs on their campus and others were struggling Catholics who were trying to find out more about the higher standard that they had seen the missionaries on their campus joyfully living out. I also enjoyed speaking to the missionaries themselves about the joys and struggles of their jobs. I love that FOCUS forms them to be responsible adults spiritually, intellectually, financially, and habitually before they thrust them on a campus environment. The FOCUS staff was incredibly enthusiastic and welcoming. I was constantly impressed by their joyful confidence and self-less humility. The conference as a whole gave me an intense desire to live out every day of my life with joyful service for the Lord and the furthering of His Kingdom. There is so much even here on campus that I can do and improve to better live out my Catholic faith and to reach out to the many wonderful people on campus.

Am I considering joining FOCUS?
Initially I considered FOCUS a year ago because a couple people mentioned that they thought that my talents were really suited to that ministry. Since then, my close friends and people who know FOCUS well have only reaffirmed that strain of encouragement. As I've considered my talents and the things I really love doing, I'm beginning to agree with them. I love people. I love God. I love finding creative ways to do things. And I always feel most fulfilled when I'm giving of myself until it hurts, when I'm serving others with every bit of strength I have and then some (namely God's strength). At this point, I'm at least going to apply and leave the door open for the workings of the Holy Spirit. Pray that God will guide me and show me the way I can best use the talents He's given me to serve Him after college (and now for that matter).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Random Things That Amuse Me

Today, I had some problem and couldn't stop sneezing at work. Adam, being the gentleman he is, kept saying, "Bless you," every two seconds. Eventually, he stuck a sticky note on my monitor that said, "Bless you!" He said he'd give me a new one tomorrow. I think the note is kinda like a door-stopper; it's a really clever way to be a gentleman without having to do any work. Kudos.

Erin--she amuses me highly, all the time. That's pretty much it. I just wanted to recognize her as pretty much the funniest person I know. Example: I'm happily listening to my music and she says, "What is this?!? I know I'm just a bystander and all but I have ears too." Ok, so not everyone has as wide or eclectic or just plain strange music tastes as I do . . .

Another thing that amuses me is my office's new found obsession with Yahoo's free Launchcast. It is a free online radio service where you create your own station--only a few commercials, customizable general play ratings, and suggestions of new music you might like.

My punctuation amuses me. After years of Turabian, I feel a moral obligation to put the proper spacing in ellipses. I've also (in casual writing) adopted my nametwin's compulsive hyphenating. I'll only mention one other thing before I stop boring non-English majors; I love semi-colons. Ok, I'm a dork. I'll stop now. (Do you like my strategic use of sentence length variation to help make this blurb more interesting?)

Other people that look as dumb as I do in the gym. They amuse me--only because I understand so well.

My made-up pronunciations of words.

I switch my turn signal on to turn into my driveway when NO ONE is around (except for a random chicken, runaway horse, or squirrel or something) and sometimes I accidentally turn it on when going around sharp curves (Bridget loves that one). I organize my closet by shirt material and sleeve length. I organize my books by genre. I'm meticulous about the fit and color of my clothes when I shop. However, I can also manage to spread evidence of my presence all over the house within five minutes of entering my house over break and I can stand a pied pile of clothing to decorate my desk chair. My craft stuff can easily cover a whole room (Erin says two rooms+ as she reads over my shoulder) and I can form a good argument for how I actually need all of it to be out at that moment. Then again, it sooner or later goes back into nicely labeled and organized craft bins (there are like 9 big containers of it). How can I simultaneously be ridiculously picky and type-A about some things and completely haphazard about others? Yay being almost equally German and Irish.

My "sherbert phase" amuses my family, even though I find it quite sane and normal. I've been well informed by my family that I'm emerging (fashion wise) from my "funeral stage" (all grays, blacks, and darker shades of winter colors) to my "sherbert phase" (lighter colors all combined together like those swirled sherberts). My recent partiality for colored pants has something to do with it I think. Dad coined the "sherbert" label the other day when I wore a mint green shirt with a lavender scarf, purple pants, a khaki jacket, and purple/green/copper bracelets. When I tried to object to the descriptive noun, Daddy asked if calling it "sorbet" made it better. Naturally it did. God knew what he was doing when he made my Daddy the father of all girls.

Alright, crawling back out from under the basket now before I scare you too badly. I think my reader count is going to plummet if I keep these type of posts up. I'll try and say something intelligent one of these days. Unfortunately, by the time I get around to blogging I'm all thought out for the day. Sorry.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Musings

Prepare for a post that is positively disconnected but wanted to be written anyhow . . .

I've realized that perhaps I could do office work and simultaneously keep my sanity. I wondered if this was possible last summer. I'm working the same internship, but increasing daily Mass attendance (really, I love waking up early *cough*), exercising for an hour+ about five days a week, and the exchange of a horrible monitor with a big beautiful new one (aka-I'm not loosing my vision this time) all combine for a much more positive experience. I've also been teaching myself to make jpg images/clip art that I can use for web-design and working a lot more on the navigational structure and layout of our web-page. Nothing huge, but I really like playing with the graphics stuff. Another career door to leave open I suppose.

Switching gears completely, Beth came to visit last weekend. It was lovely to catch up with her and to spend time goofing around with her and Nora. We played games, sang, had tickle fights, and attempted to make gingerbread men. We followed the recipe perfectly, but somehow ended up with really sticky dough. We shoved it back in the fridge and Nora and I will try to amend it later. Meanwhile, our hands became full of the stuff--the swamp monster skin tasted delicious!

Last night, my family went to dinner and a Christmas lights display with my Pop-Pop and Grandma to celebrate my dad's birthday (a little belatedly). It was wonderful to see my grandparents again. Please pray for my Pop-Pop. He has to decide rather soon whether he's going to get a hip operation (fairly high-risk at his age) or not. I think the thought of possibly leaving everyone (we're a BIG close-knit family) scares him. Pray that Jesus will help him to make the right decision.

Now, I have only a few days before the big FOCUS retreat and starting back to school. I have a million and one things to do before then! Though I've had a very relaxing and rewarding break, it will be wonderful to see everyone again and to face the challenges of a new semester, a new schedule, new girls on my favorite dorm floor, and applying all the things I've learned over break to my busy school schedule. I also plan to stay sane this semester, so as long as I am actually accomplishing thesis stuff and other work at some point, my friends have full permission to kidnap me and make me take time-out from my "I want to know, learn, do, & be involved in everything obsession."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Praised Be the Lord!

Jesus is so good to me. I asked him to provide the money needed if He wanted me to join the Dominican Republic mission trip this year. I only could think of 7 people to send letters to and one of them had an unlisted address. Thus, I sent out my 6 letters, each accompanied by lots of fervent prayers. Wednesday, I was starting to get worried and prayed really hard in holy hour that God would please please please encourage people to be generous if He wanted me to go (please!) Well, yesterday, I received three checks adding up to $1,450, plenty for me to go and to contribute toward the mission trip program as a whole. I love receiving postcards from God saying "do this;" I think that counts. Epiphany arrives and I've already met my own personal three kings bearing gifts. Thank you Jesus!

When I went two years ago, the mission work/retreat helped me to understand so much more about true poverty, myself, and the Dominicans. That sounds shallow and cliche, but there's no eloquent way to express how the trip helped to change my world view. I worked harder than I ever had before. I remember one day in particular where there were only a couple of guys at the work site, so I ended up mixing concrete with gravel using rough, splintering tools while the sun and rain alternately bore into our backs. I came back to my host family's house that day exhausted, covered in drying concrete, half-sunburned & half-drowned, and watching the skin on my hands peel and blister from the constant abrasion. It felt wonderful--wonderful to be to tired to move because I was helping to build a chapel where a handful of natives could gather to encounter Our Lord. Talking to the Dominicans (esp. in the poorer villages) also impressed me with an understanding of their gratitude. The truly poor people have none of the reserve, offended pride, or greedy expectation of some of the American or Italian poor that I have come across. In one town in Haiti, one man spoke a little broken English. We only came to that small village (the poorest we had seen yet) to visit and show them that we cared enough to try and make contact with them (they view Americans like royalty that would never be interested in truly respecting the dignity of people like them). We gave them nothing but love and a smile. However, as we drove away, piled in the back of a truck, this one man came running after us. He shouted, "Thank you! We ask God give many blessings to you! Come again! My name is Wallo (sp?); remember my name!" I haven't forgotten his face, his joy, his voice. I want to go back. I want to again pray and work until I'm too tired to move and then wake up and do it all again. I want to try my hardest to be Christ to one of His children. Thank you Jesus for giving me that chance!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

To Be Like a Child

My little sister Nora has a beautifully generous heart. She never thinks twice about sharing her possessions, money, time, or talents when she sees a need. The other day, she was counting up her Christmas money and looked up to ask me, "Kel, for your mission trip, do people have to give big amounts of money or just anything?" My head buried in the closet, I replied, "Hun, every little bit counts. Anything people are willing to give to the poor is a good gift, even if it's small." She then said, "Can I tithe from my Christmas money for your trip then, since you're going to help the poor people? It's only a few dollars though." I smiled and hugged her and exclaimed, "Of course!" If only all the Catholics of America remembered to tithe out of the blessings God has bestowed on them, charities would have no problems financially in their quest to do good in our world.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

FYI: For Local Music Lovers

For anyone who will be around the area on Good Friday and would like to attend an inspiring concert to complete your Holy Week meditations . . .

Mozart's "Requiem"
Performed by the Choral Arts Society of Washington
as well as MacMillan's "Seven Last Words from the Cross"
April 14th, 8:00pm
Music Center at Strathmore ~ Bethesda, MD
1-888-338-SING
Balcony tickets are as cheap as $17.00.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Batter My Heart

Over break, I've been picking up some of my old poetry books and paging through them again. Poetry is such a powerful medium of communication. The fragmentary or condensed imagery clings to the corners of my mind and always brings back fond memories when favorite or forgotten poems are revisited. Musical lyrics hold the same attachment for me; often, I like vocal music as much for its poesy as for its melody. Many of you have probably read the following poem before; if you're a lit. major, you probably have half of it memorized. I rediscovered it again yesterday, and it very much sums up my prayer over this break. I love the imagery and the resolution of the tone. Anyhow, I copied it here as another scrap pulled out into the light from under the basket . . .

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

by John Donne