Do not fear: I am with you… Isaiah 41:10

“Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.”    – Pope Benedict XVI

Here we are in 2013, at the dawn of the new year. The semester hasn’t yet started at West Virginia University, so I’d like to take a moment before the bustle of the students return to share with you a bit of my time from over the break… but I realize that I haven’t told you anything from November! I apologize! Let’s get to that first!

November was actually really glorious. Looking back at my calendar, I honestly don’t think we could have squeezed anything else in. Among all the continuing bible studies, women’s nights, household dinners, and meetings, our focus was now turning  to the students we were going to approach about living in SPO Households the following academic year. This process is usually somewhat lengthy with applications, interviews, acceptances, commitments being established, and leases being signed. In Ohio, this whole process doesn’t begin until December, and then continues through till March. Well, we didn’t really have that luxury of time because in Morgantown, almost all landlords are leasing their properties for the following year already. If we waited any longer, we wouldn’t have a house to have households in! Jillian and I held an interest meeting and extended the invitations & applications to several girls, making the application deadline on Nov. 16. Although it was a hasty deadline, we hoped this would allow us enough time to review the applications over the Thanksgiving break, begin the interviews afterwards, accept household members, have them respond and commit as well, find a house, and sign a lease…. all before Jillian, Matt, and I left on December 11!

The break over Thanksgiving was a welcome time to re-energize. I traveled to the very eastern part of West Virginia and stayed with one of the students and her family. It was really lovely; I ate way too much delicious food, practiced my knitting (I’m hoping to finish a scarf soon!), played some board games, read, and slept a lot! Plus, I got to go on an adventure on top of it – on Friday, we got up early, packed some lunch and headed to Washington D.C.! There was so much to see that of course we couldn’t fit it all into one day, but I got to visit quite a few marvelous sights!

First – The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Yes, it is quite a mouthful of a title. I got tongue-tied several times when people asked me where I went. Here are some of the photos I was able to capture:

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

St. Cecilia – the patron saint of Music!

St. Cecilia

One thing that amazed me so much was that the murals were entirely made of mosaics… thousands and thousands of tiny little  pieces all ordered just so – and creating such beautiful depictions!

Mother Teresa

mother Teresa

Then we headed to downtown D.C. and parked near the Arlington National Cemetery. To stand there amidst of the multitude of names and gravestones was very striking and humbling.

Arlington National Cemetery

arlington cemetery

Behind me you can see the Lincoln Memorial and  the Washington Memorial (sticking out from my head). I got to visit both.

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So, we came sweeping back into Morgantown with interviews to conduct and house hunting to commence! Then November was done in a blink, and the end of the semester was right around the corner. AHH! We found several wonderful properties, but were unable to sign leases on any because we didn’t know who would be living in Households yet. This was the most stressful part, I think. With finals week creeping up on the students, we knew they didn’t need any more pressure either. It was a very fine line between asking for their commitment with a calm composure and feeling the weight of all our deadlines. Whew. I’m so glad the Lord has everything in control and that I can trust Him to accomplish the work he has asked of us. We now have both a men’s household and a women’s household (with houses!) for Fall 2013! PRAISE GOD!

After that…my goodness I was ready for a break, but didn’t get one quite yet. We still had some end of the semester/Christmas events to put on before heading out. They were really quite jolly – we had a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange at our house. Let me tell you, there were some really creative gifts! Then, I headed up to spend a week in Columbus, OH to have several wrap-up and evaluation meetings.

Finally, my break began and I flew to California on Jan. 17 to spend a week with my wonderful Mom and younger brother. It is so good to spend time with family!

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“To love another person is to see the face of God” – Les Misérables

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My mom and I went to see the Nutcracker, performed by the Sacramento Ballet. It was such a treat because several of my mom’s ballet students were in the performance!

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Of course, my time in California flew by way too quickly, and I was off to Texas on Christmas eve. I landed in Austin sometime after 11pm due to a flight delay and made it down to San Marcos just in time for Midnight Mass. I love all the places I get to go, but there is truly no feeling like arriving in a place that’s “home.” Naturally, I stayed up way too late catching up with my dear friends the whole week. Here’s a taste of the adventures that ensued:

There was a trip to Whataburger with a few household brothers and sisters…

whataburger

some great Mexican food, packing and sending off Jaclyn to Arizona, catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in a long time, a trip to Wimberley with all of it’s quaint small town charm…

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and finally, a true Texas new year with great company, lots of music, and a cannon-blast to bring in 2013! What a beautiful and restorative way to spend the week.

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But the fun didn’t end there! I got up at 4am on Jan. 1 to head once again to the airport to catch my flight back to Columbus and drive up to Lansing, MI for our SPO staff retreat/conference. After quite a long day flying, waiting, (4 hr layover + 2 hr delay) and driving (another 4 hrs.), I was so relieved to be finished traveling for a bit. The time in Michigan was also exactly what I needed. I’m so glad the way the Lord knows me and places people around me that bring so much joy to my life. It was a wonderful time to share with other the SPO mission leaders about the semester and enjoy each-others company. Please keep us all in your prayers as we disperse to our campuses to continue spreading the Gospel!

So, as this year takes off and many tasks loom on the horizon – while much can cause us stress or overwhelm us – where there is doubt or fear that holds us back  – I would rather cling to these words of the Lord and be encouraged! God be with you!
Do not fear: I am with you;
do not be anxious: I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
– Isaiah 41:10
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