I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Stop. Look. See. Love.

"You looked at me. You stopped to talk to me. Nobody hardly ever does that."

These words stopped us in our tracks.

Having come together with other young adults in the Archdiocese of Chicago to deliver food and water to people on the streets of Chicago and to engage in conversation with them, it was a cold night to be walking the downtown streets. We had just stopped for a few moments to talk to a woman named Sharon, a Chicago native as it turns out, and had made our way a bit further up Michigan Avenue when we met Lucy. The leader of our group, a senior at Loyola Chicago and a member of their Labre service group, seemed to recognize her from before (as he often served on the same route), but the rest of us had never met her. She was a bit standoffish at first, but then she really just wanted to talk.

And that's when she said it to us: "You looked at me. You stopped to talk to me. Nobody hardly ever does that."

At that moment, I looked around at the many people walking up and down the street, coming back from dinner or shopping in some of the high end retail stores. Others seemed to just be on their way home. I saw myself among them (minus the high end retail store shopping) - how many times do I pass by people on the street because I am in a hurry or because talking to them might be uncomfortable or for any other silly reason? It was disheartening and enlightening at the same time. We take human interaction for granted, but some of these people I met on Monday night hadn't had any real interaction all day.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a name. Why is it so hard for us to recognize that?

So, when you're reading this, please take a moment to pray for Sharon, and Lucy, and Anthony, and Tyler, and Rich... And if you ever see them on Michigan Avenue, please make sure you take a moment to stop and say hello.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Grad School Spring Break + Bday + St. Patrick's Day = AMAZING!

What happens when grad school spring break, your birthday, and St. Patrick's Day coincide in the same week?

All good things.

Such as...

  • Dinner out on a weeknight (gasp!)

  • Ice cream post-volleyball practice (and staying up way past the normal bedtime)

  • Irish cultural celebrating with friends

There were some other highlights too, including cute birthday cards/gifts from students and a couple of marathon training runs:

That's Jesus...I think...

Yes, that's me with a cape on top of the world...

Everyone wants a card with a giant picture of themselves on the front, right? :P

Oh hey, pretty sunrise at the northernmost part of the path...

20 miles = great excuse to try a new treat from TJ's

This week is going to be rough - it's the last full week before Easter break (which starts on Good Friday for us), and grad school has kicked up again (with multiple big assignments due this week). BUT, there are plenty of good things planned, including a service project, Lenten prayer group, a talk by Fr. James Martin(!), and a friend's birthday party.

And...have you been outside today in the Midwest? It's BEAUTIFUL!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Orchids, and Cacti, and Ice Cream...Oh My!

My sister's fiance belongs to the botanic gardens, and they've been promising to take me for a long time. Well, it finally worked out this weekend...and there was a visiting orchids exhibit, which was a plus (and the main reason for the visit to the gardens)!

I'll let the photos speak for themselves; though, as with most natural beauty, photos just don't do it justice.

Another wonderful part of the trip was a visit to Graeter's ice cream - we had only ever had it once before after the Cincinnati Marathon (about 3 years ago), but we loved it then. Today was just as delicious. And hey, we felt like we earned a scoop of ice cream after running 18 miles earlier in the day...

Mmm...ice cream...

Happy twins...

Spring break for grad school officially starts tomorrow, and I am very much ready for that! While I love grad school and the people I've met, I am looking forward to getting some time back next year and to not have to write so many papers...

Have a beautiful Sunday! Happy 4th week of Lent!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Always Bringing A Smile

My students...oh dear, what funny things they do sometimes, especially my 7th graders...

Exhibit A: A piece of foil with my name (and picture - the spitting image!) on it. It is now hanging on my bulletin board behind my desk - my students made sure I put it there.

Exhibit B: A literal take on a Stations of the Cross title - I actually had a good laugh at this one because he did give some thought to the rest of the activity and packet, so I could let this one slide. (Does he know my irrational fear of bears, though?...Hmm...)

And sometimes, the students just get it. Take this answer by one of my 7th graders about how love can and should be everyone's vocation:

These students of mine really do bring me so much joy. I love them all so much, even when they get a little crazy or have a hard time getting started on their work or unintentionally let a joke slip out in class that causes just about everyone to erupt into laughter. :)

I did also want to note before I close that I had two ice cream incidents this past week too - one where I actually had ice cream (first photo) with my sister because it got a little warmer outside, and one (second photo below) where my PLC reminisced about the time Phil almost made us late to our deep practice during our first summer of grad school because he had stopped to get ice cream before meeting us in the car. Good times...

Let the good times roll...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Finding God

There's something about the crisp air,
the wind dancing across your skin -
making your hair do crazy things...
The way the sun breaks through the clouds,
the shadows cast by the trees,
the sound of the waves,
and the chance to 

I've never felt so close to God
as when I am out in nature,
be it on top of an Arizona mountain
or on a beach back home,
whether it is running on the lakefront path
or reading a book on the back porch in the shade...
one of my personal favorites,
staring up at the countless constellations
after dad has pulled the car off the highway in Michigan
so we can all gaze at the beauty above us,
maybe even catching a glimpse
of a shooting star.

No matter what
it takes your breath away
each time
if you let it.
It's incomparable beauty
given to us
by God.
It's ours to enjoy,
to care for,
to cherish,
and to share.

And so,
we breathe in each new day
with open hearts and hands.
Even if just
for the briefest of moments,
a prayer of gratitude hangs in the air,
as we offer ourselves
up to God
and ask Him
to hear our prayers
and watch over us 
as morning breaks
and we start full speed ahead,
assured that God is always waiting for us
if we know where to look for Him.

Recognizing Gifts

At this time last year, I was lucky if I was able to run 2 or 3 miles - I was in process of getting back into running at an excruciatingly slow pace after discovering that I had plantar fasciitis. I had gone to physical therapy, got a shot of cortisone in my foot (which I will not forget the pain of any time soon), and resigned myself to mostly just using the bike at the gym.

Yet, with perseverance and, yes, a dose of stupidity, I was able to run 20 miles with my sister this past Saturday as part of my training for an upcoming spring marathon. (Surprisingly, I'm not too sore today - woo hoo!) If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is! I am so grateful to friends who have suggested shoes, inserts, and other ideas for mitigating the pain along the way - I wouldn't still be running today if it wasn't for them.

Sometimes, we get knocked on our butts, and it is only then we realize that we often take our abilities for granted. It is only then that we realize we can't rely on our own strength - we need God, and we need others.

For me, it wasn't until I had to learn to deal with the reality of plantar fasciitis that I realized what a gift being able to run (however fast or slow on a given day) truly is. And I pray that I don't need something quite so drastic any time soon to remember that no ability (or person, for that matter) should ever be taken for granted.

On my heart...

As I sat in Mass this morning, I realized that something has been on my heart for awhile, and I am really struggling with it... There is so much our Catholic faith teaches us about love of neighbor and the corporal works of mercy, but I personally fall short of living these out on a regular basis.

It's so easy for me to like or tweet an article/quote about serving others or to pass along different service opportunities (engaging myself in them from time to time, yes), but, when it comes down to it, am I walking the talk? And I don't even necessarily mean doing service projects - how am I helping and interacting with people in my own community, how am I getting my hands dirty in God's work? I've used the excuse of grad school taking up my time for far too long - by no means have those in charge of my leadership program set out to drown us in content so much so that we fail to have time and opportunities to live out what we study, to be Jesus for others.

Why is it so hard to act with consistent efforts? Why has love of neighbor become something we admire others doing or something we reserve for the first Saturday of the month? I, sadly, don't think I'm alone in feeling this. I think it's a reality for others too. We're paralyzed because we don't know what to actually do, we get caught up in the busyness of life so as we pass by on genuine care and need of others, we get caught up in the "drama" of our own lives...

So, what now? What do I (we) need to do so that my (our) actions speak louder than words? I know the first answer should probably be to (continue to) bring this to prayer. But then...? Is it a matter of little actions, making a conscience effort each day to do one more thing than the day before to help me (us) become closer to those around me (us)?

I feel like I am just throwing out ideas, and I apologize if those ideas don't seem to be going anywhere, but I just can't seem to get it off my heart. So, I appreciate you letting me put my thoughts (however jumbled and raw) on paper, and I ask that you pray for me and anyone else who is struggling to understand what it looks like to more authentically live the Gospel in daily life. Thank you.