’tis the season… for new and wonderful things!

Hello dear friends, I pray you are well! A couple weeks ago we had the first real snow of the season! I woke up, looked out my window and saw a beautiful sight:

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What a great way to begin my day!

Well, I am excited to share with you the wonderful things the Lord has been doing over the past several weeks. A couple days after my last blog post, we had Women’s night to talk about community and share the vision of SPO Households. At least, that’s what Courtni and I had planned. We did begin with our prepared intro – loosening up the atmosphere by playing a game we call  ‘fishbowl’… it’s a ton of fun! Then we dove into the content of the night, presenting the reality that the people you are surrounded by significantly influence the direction you are traveling in. We had a bit of time to share about our experiences of this – who our ‘groups of friends’ were in high school or college, and how we adapted to these different groups based on the ‘flavor’ each had. Courtni put forth a couple questions to the women:

– What kind of woman do I want to be?

– Who is the woman that God wants me to be?

– Are those around me either helping me or keeping me from becoming the woman I was created to be?

These questions sprung forth a discussion of character qualities, virtues, struggles, challenges, and a variety of stories and experiences. We divided the women into 4 smaller groups to facilitate talking about it further and ended up spending the rest of the evening deep in discussion! So, our intention of promoting Households didn’t exactly make it into the evening, but it seems the Lord had other plans. The women I was in a group with were very interested in meeting on a weekly basis to continue the conversation! Thus, my first small group here has begun! It has been such a blessing to me, let me tell you! The girls are interested in talking about the situations they face as college students and how to respond. They want to learn more about their faith and how to live it out. They are seeking others to hold them accountable to the areas they want to grow in. It’s great! We have begun meeting every Tuesday, and after grabbing coffee and talking for an hour or so, we head back to the Newman center to work our way through Fr. Robert Barron’s 10-part ‘Catholicism’ video series… it’s so wonderful!

A ‘Theology on Tap’ series, geared towards the ‘over 21’ crowd has finally started! One Friday night out of the month, we head to a local restaurant, order a round of beers and some nachos and discuss some pretty awesome aspects of our faith. This past one, the topic was Angels & Demons, and we had a monk from the nearby Benedictine Monastery come to lead the night. The spiritual realities of our world that we sometimes forget about don’t just go away when we don’t think about them – and it’s shocking to have that ‘reality check’ every so often to be reminded of the things we can’t always visibly perceive. Whew! It was cool. I’m not sure of the next topic, but I’m looking forward to our next Theology on Tap night!

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The chapel on Fridays; a beautiful place to pray! 

On a personal note, the Lord has also been giving me so much grace through my times of prayer. I’ve found that there is such a chasm between intellectual knowledge and experienced understanding when it comes to prayer – let me elaborate a little. This will probably be a rabbit-hole tangent, but bear with me! A while back, I was struggling with the wide variety of structure in my day-to-day schedule because I am a person who very much thrives in routine. I took my frustration to the Lord, asking what to do about it, how to know which things to focus on each day to propel me through the different areas of responsibility I have as a missionary: leading Household, investing in the individual women I meet with, inviting students to take on leadership and building them up to do so, planning events, writing talks, staff meetings, professional development, personal growth in holiness, relating well with and serving the parish by leading music at mass, lectoring, being a Eucharistic Minister, etc… Well, God  allowed me to see things from quite a new perspective: the actions and events of my day hold a certain level of priority, and rightly so, because this is my full-time job. But far above and beyond the things that are color-coded and typed into my Google calendar is the priority of the time I get to spend with Jesus in prayer. I have been well aware of the necessity of daily prayer for years, but my awareness fluctuated mainly around the understanding of ‘personal prayer is essential and important to have in my life as a Christian.’ Don’t get me wrong, I valued and desired daily prayer very much with this understanding, and it has been crucial to my spiritual growth so far! However, this new perspective that the Lord gave me completely opened my eyes to see my priorities in a whole different way. I’ve known, intellectually, that it is absolutely key to have prayer be the center and driving force behind everything I do – to ask the Lord’s blessing upon the staff meetings we have so they will be effective, to ask the Lord for insight before meeting with a student so that the conversation will be directed by Him and not by me, to bring to Jesus the needs of those who have asked for me to pray for them, and on and on. The new aspect that I did not expect was discovering that my personal prayer time; whether it’s early in the morning, or the afternoon hour that I slip into the silent chapel, or late at night when my back-to-back day is over – that time I get to spend with God is the most precious and glorious part of my day. It’s no longer simply a block of time set aside in my schedule, because I know that it is important… now, my daily personal prayer time is what I look forward to most of all. I have difficulty articulating it accurately because it isn’t just knowledge that prayer is right and good, it’s getting to have moments in the presence of God Almighty, who created the universe, and loves us with a love we can barely begin to understand, and provides for us everything we could possibly need, and patiently listens to us wheedle and complain and pour out our frustrations and hopes and dreams! God, who is our firm foundation, solid and unchanging! WHEW! That is what propels everything else in my day, and provides the platform to do the work God has asked me to do! Yes, that was certainly a long tangent… I hope I didn’t lose you along the way!

Back to more tangible happenings; we collaborated with the Newman Center on their fall retreat, which took place Nov. 1-3. There were about 30 students from WVU who attended and we had a fabulous time. We were joined by many incredible guest speakers – Leah Darrow, Fr. Joe Freedy, the TOR sisters, Chris Bray, Fr. Boniface, and an organization called Generation Life. Two weeks ago, the Bishop visited us for our “Mountaineer Catholic” night, and we had Vespers (evening prayer), dinner, and a time for Q&A with him. Starting this week, a student-led bible study has sprung up on Monday evening, as well as an apologetics group that meets Tuesday at 8am to discuss how to explain various parts of Catholicism that students have been asked about. It has been quite an exciting few weeks, but I think we’re all ready for the upcoming Thanksgiving break – it will be nice for life to slow down a little and have the chance to relax and recuperate!

Also, I realize I hardly have any photos this time around… I apologize! Sometimes I get caught up and forget to take snapshots!

Have a wonderful week and a relaxing Thanksgiving! God bless, y’all!

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