Let’s re-claim the Advent season.

Every year, Advent seems more & more overtaken by secular Christmas. And don’t get me wrong, it can be so pleasant to walk around the city with lights flickering all around, or to get my Christmas cup at Starbucks, or to hear Christmas music as I walk through Target. All of that gives me the warm & fuzzies. But it’s out of place! Because Christmas has not yet come! I’ve found myself pretty frustrated this year as I scroll through facebook and instagram (weeks ago, by the way) and read captions of “Christmas time is here!”…because it’s just untrue. And I try so hard to enter into the silence of Advent (which would be easier if I would simply avoid social media…working on it!).

The first Sunday of Advent we were at Mass back in PA, and the Priest gave a pretty on-point homily about this time of year. Remember last year when a bunch of people went all up in a frenzy that Starbucks was ruining Christmas because of their updated holiday cups? First off, Christmas does not belong to Starbucks. It is a feast for practicing & believing Christians. If you let big franchises and celebrities ruin your holiday, you may need to re-evaluate your own perspective on what Christmas really is.

The Priest’s point was: let the world celebrate how they will celebrate. If they want to listen to “Christmas music” and decorate their homes and have parties, let them. But we need to our part in reclaiming the liturgical seasons. Advent will not make a cultural comeback until those of us “in the know” start celebrating it as it ought to be celebrated. We need to witness to the world the beauty of waiting and the reason for which we wait. It doesn’t have to mean we shut ourselves off from the world during these four weeks, but it may call for us to discern where to sacrifice.

Let us reclaim Advent within our own little Nazareth’s. And may the choice to live the Christian way resound with those around us.

Election Reflection (see what I did there?)

I reluctantly voted. I did not want to, but have read over and over by Priests and Bishops that it is my “obligation.” I respectfully disagree because for that to be true I would first have to acknowledge our government as a legitimate authority (which I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time). And while I was quite undecided as to what I’d do until very recently, I gave in and “exercised my right” as the people say.

No matter the outcome of this, or any, election, our hope is not and should never be in government or its leaders. As human beings, we ought to do what we can to love our neighbor without government intervention. Government simply cannot take the place of people loving & serving one another, and to think that it can is a prevalent and dangerous thought into today’s society. All our government does is steal, use the threat of violence to accomplish its agendas, and feed the deadly sin of envy. All under the lie of “for the people.”

So how can we, despite the downward path of our nation (which is most likely to continue), still work for a better society?

  • Have thought-provoking conversations with others and learn to think critically. Most of us are very good at being proud, opinionated, and emotion-driven, which keeps us from seeking truth. (I am terribly guilty of this, but thankfully have a wonderful husband who has been helping me grow in this regard.)
  • Give charitably to individuals & organizations that you believe you ought to support. (And how much more so could we all do this without the government stealing our resources and using them immorally?!) Take away the government’s “social policies” (which often do far more harm than good) and it is still our moral obligation to serve others according to the gifts God has given us.
  • Engage in community! Families, churches, neighborhoods, schools (private ones, homeschooling co-ops, universities, etc.) – beautiful support systems that help us grow and live fruitful lives. Good relationships will lead to a better society.
  • Do honest work. Work in business, education, healthcare, whatever. Stay at home with your kids raising little humans. But do it earnestly, and have enough courage to turn away from corruption and evil when confronted with it.
  • Love your neighbor. Yes, it’s great to care for those in need all around the world. But we often do so and neglect our next-door neighbor. Your co-worker having a rough day. The homeless person you drive by everyday on your commute. The cashier at the grocery store. Extend kindness to the people God has placed in front of you and make real connections.
  • Care for the vulnerable. There are many among us who need our care in a profound way. Lend some help to the expectant mother who is faced with a tough road ahead of her. Show generosity to the poor in ways that you are able. Look after the elderly and disabled. Peacefully advocate for the lives of the unborn. There are so many people often overlooked that could use our attention. And be genuine – grow in virtue and see all of these individuals as valuable parts of our lives.
  • Pray! Maybe you don’t believe in God or the efficacy of prayer. I still think this is by far the most important. Pray for conversion of hearts to the truth. When everyone’s heart is converted, then maybe we won’t be so naive as to think we need select men & women lording over us and directing our actions.

May God have mercy on us all. The world, our country, our neighbors, ourselves. God’s goodness will still reign no matter the craziness we see happening. Christ is the Victor. God bless!

Autumn without the treats

Just two years ago around this time, you would have found me in the kitchen using up all the flour & sugar making some deeeeelicious treats. Fall has always been my prime time for trying out special recipes and getting into a good grove with baking my favorites (I still have a fall baking magazine from 2012 that I just cannot bear to get rid of because there are so many goodies inside!). But for nearly the past two years, I’ve been eating paleo.

Last year, I pretty much relied on Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain books. They are so good. And it was fun to learn grain-free baking! But in recent months, my restrictions have increased (boooo!) and I am now grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free, egg-free, nut-free (almonds/cashews), garlic-free, and mostly sugar-free. This pretty much puts me in the AIP camp (autoimmune paleo).

I’m usually pretty good at eating as I should (and trying to make it interesting!), but man oh man! the fall goods! the pumpkin! It’s sometimes depressing walking into Trader Joe’s and shielding my eyes from what used to be some of my staples. I know that a more virtuous person than me would accept these limitations and not dwell on them. Me, however – I need to get creative and find ways to keep me satisfied without lusting after Kevin’s english muffin with pumpkin cream cheese (which I still do…).

Some of my saving recipes as of late that still give me that taste of fall (all paleo/AIP):

  • Crockpot Clam & Pumpkin Chowder from the Urban Poser – I haven’t made it with clam yet, but usually incorporate some sort of protein (turkey patties, prosciutto). It is delicious and we’ve had it once a week for the past several weeks.
  • Pumpkin, Bacon, and Chive Biscuits from the Urban Poser – THESE BISCUITS! They are fantastic and totally compliant. Well, they call for eggs, but I instead used flax-eggs with great success.
  • Squash Porridge from the Urban Poser – one week I had this four days in a row – any type of squash works. It’s that good. I did have to remove the chocolate chips (even the dairy/soy/nut free ones!) as well as the honey when my doctor and I decided I should avoid allllllll sugar. But with the strawberries and a bit of coconut manna, it’s still pretty dang wonderful. And what a breakfast to wake up to on a fall morning! I pop the squash in the oven immediately upon waking, do my morning things, and then enjoy this bad boy.

Other things that I’ve daringly incorporated into my diet for the sake of their incredible health benefits are sardines (actually pretty good as long as I do NOT mistakenly get the ones with skin & bones….gross), chicken liver (the first time I cooked these I had to mentally get over what I was eating, but have since enjoyed them!), and more collagen. So it’s been a new type of fall for me, but I’m surviving :). Let’s pray this is all temporary, though, and that full healing will come!

Lately, in the fall

Linking up with Kelly & gang!

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  1. Kevin and I seem have a lot going on right now (who doesn’t?), but we’ve also had a really nice pace of life. September kind of came and went, leading right into the perfect autumn weather I crave all year round. Actually, it’s been pretty dang perfect for the past month, which makes me question why Minnesotans are often complaining of the weather (remind me of this in three months)!
  2. I am loving my new job and all that comes with it (prayers are appreciated for the success of this campus ministry!). But I’m also incredibly grateful that this new phase is allowing Kevin to spend more dedicated time on his art. He’s got some fun part-time work and is able to focus the rest of his time to his creative projects. I look at him work and gain profound respect for fine artists. He is integrating geometry, calculus, philosophy, history, drawing, and more all into one. I admire him like crazy. And am very excited to see what comes of all this!
  3. Our mornings have been SO nice. Maybe it’s because I actually enjoy the work I have to do in my day, but I have no problem getting up early and sticking to routine (most days). And our apartment! It is the first place we both feel totally at home since getting married. Every apartment has their drawbacks, but I think this one may be my favorite physical space I’ve ever lived in (apart from my home home). fullsizerender1
  4. We recently took a day trip to Wisconsin, which was…an adventure. We got up crazy early to drive along the Mississippi (Minnesota side) through some fun looking towns, eventually landing in LaCross, WI. I’ll admit, I get a wee little judgy of places because I’m so used to East Coast charm (colonial feels, all the brick, cobblestone streets, quaint facades), BUT I still enjoyed seeing the place. It was not our final destination, though, so we got some coffee and moved on. To Viroqua. Here’s where the real disappointment comes in. I read all about this area and the surrounding region – the reviews were wonderful and I was half-expecting Stars Hollow. It was the most boring place EVER. And instead of finding a world-class farmer’s market, we found an Amish horse race (literally, HUNDREDS of Amish men riding horses). Not to mention that at this point our phones received no reception, so we pretty much drove around with our atlas for five hours looking for an apple orchard. All in all, it was still a good day, and the fall weather did not disappoint me. We found an orchard (a huge difference apple picking in New England vs. midwest), and then made our way back to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe! That was a treat. And I cannot wait to go back there.fullsizerender-1
  5. I’m on a huge Joaquin Phoenix kick. Why, you ask? Well, Kevin was itching to watch Signs, and while I normally stay far away from anything remotely scary, I gave in BECAUSE the movie was filmed in my hometown. At the beginning of the film, it literally says “Bucks County, Pennsylvania…” It was filmed there AND takes place there (double win!). I also actually really, really enjoyed it! After that, Kevin got me to watch The Village (another M. Night movie with Joaquin). While the story has a lot of flaws and was a bit disappointing in the end, there were many redeeming features: the music (tearfully wonderful!), the love story (simple, yet so lovely!), the location (Pennsylvania…duh), and some really magnificent shots that I’ve re-watched over and over for their beauty. Then I proceeded to watch Gladiator (one of my favorite films of all time). I believe that was Joaquin’s first performance I had ever seen, and I remember thinking him the creepiest of men. I was also profoundly impressed with his acting range. So, it’s been a good week – now time to read a book or something.
  6. Kevin and I are godparents! This should be number one, not number six…but we are SO excited! And so grateful! A couple of our best friends had their second child, a beautiful little girl named Abigail,  on October 8th and we are overjoyed with the role we get to have in her life.
  7. We are going to Coldplay again! I was NOT expecting them to do another round of North American shows for the Head Full of Dreams Tour, but they are! And they’re coming to Minneapolis next August! So we got tickets. Much closer seats than when we went in Philly (which was still awesome), and a lot more expensive. But who can say how much longer they’ll decide to tour in the US?! We can’t miss this type of opportunity.

Alright, now gonna enjoy a relaxing weekend with some continuing lovely fall weather (it could go away any day now…).

P.S. – Kevin discovered he can draw on the iPad mini (no, we don’t have a stylus pen yet…just his hands). This is one of his many fun doodles that takes him no more than a few minutes. img_6451

Collections // 6

Reading // I recently got caught up with Harry Potter book 7. Sometimes I can’t help it. But reading these novels always helps get me into a greater reading groove. However, after finishing, I went right into book 6. After this (which never takes very long), I’ll discipline myself better and start something new. I have also been reading, and thoroughly enjoying, Hallie Lord‘s new book, “On the Other Side of Fear: How I Found Peace.” I have not yet finished, but I would highly recommend this to any woman, especially married (and I can imagine it’d be even of greater benefit for those with children).

Cooking // With my newfound allergies (what else is new?), the kitchen was a bit of a dull space for me in August. But I’m resolved to not get into a rut, lest I be tempted to eat what I shouldn’t. So I’ve been reaching for some more creativity. Kevin recently placed in our shopping cart 2 lbs. of figs because they were on sale. Shortly after that, we both realized we didn’t absolutely love plain figs. So I made a fresh batch of fig jam using the smallest amount of honey and coconut oil, and it was delicious. Naturally, I needed to find more ways to use the jam. So I tried a trusted recipe for grain-free/nut-free/dairy-free pizza crust, replacing the required egg with a flaxseed egg, and made fig & prosciutto pizza (with arugula and goat cheese). Kevin has said I’ve found the greatest pizza recipe of all time (whether he was being totally honest or just complimentary, I still am not 100% sure).

Baking // On a similar note, I tried Danielle Walker‘s totally allergy-free cookie recipe. I had tested this out several times before, with a real egg, and the results were so-so. They tasted great, but looked like massive blobs. The flax egg version was a bit similar, but I used less oil and so they were less blob-like. But still super yummy!

Watching // Can I ever really stray from the classics? Parks & Rec and The Office, obviously. They never cease to brighten up a blah day. I think I’ll be starting the North & South mini-series soon, though. I’ve heard good things!

Listening // everything Coldplay. I just can’t not. Also, now that I drive to work, I put on the radio here and there. And it’s awful. There are literally five songs on repeat on every station and they are awful. Has this always been the case? I guess I just haven’t had to drive much during morning and evening traffic since high school.

Wanting // Sperry boots. And this dress. And maybe for the apartment to be in order soon :).

Making // a new home! I’m beginning to lose count how many times I’ve moved apartments/homes over the past several years. But here is another! We really love it, we just need to finish the furnishing process. But it’s getting there!

Traveling // We did just go to Utah, which was awesome. Coming up this weekend, we will be driving up to Brainerd, a city/town about three hours northwest of St. Paul known for the lake life. Our good friend, newly ordained, is assigned to a couple of parishes there and has invited us to stay at a vacant rectory for the weekend. Then the first weekend in October, we will be venturing out to Viroqua, Wisconsin! I’m not terribly certain of what we will find, but I have reasonably high hopes that it will be pretty. 🙂

 

7QT: a move, a family trip, and the state fair!

  1. We have moved! It happened pretty quickly, but to sum it up – I had a few different people refer me to a position in the Twin Cities (the one that actually got my attention was a woman I met at Given). After a few interviews and an offer, we made the move to St. Paul within three weeks! (And we are praying that’s the last time something like this happens, but the Lord is humorous in his ways…). img_6232
  2. We are absolutely loving life here. Granted, we’ve only really both been here for two weeks with vacations and tying up loose ends in Duluth, but we are here, and it’s splendid. The Cities have so much to offer and I’m falling in love with so many different neighborhoods. And while I was a bit skeptical of our apartment location before moving, I really could not have been more pleasantly surprised.
  3. My new job is uhhhh-mazing. I have made a complete change in my career (no longer your friendly HR rep, but always happy to give employment-related advice!), and it’s a change I’m quite thrilled with. I’m working at the Parish & Newman Center at the University of Minnesota as the Development Director. While I had never worked for the Church before, I’ve known many to do so and not have the most positive experience. However, this team, this ministry, this everything – it is blessed. And I’m also working alongside the Brotherhood of Hope (they ran our campus ministry at BU). I have so much to be grateful for. img_6285
  4. Kevin and I went on a Krouchick family vacation to Park City, Utah, and I’ll admit – I kinda was like “Utah? Umm, okay.” But it was great. It’s always a joy spending dedicated time with my family AND the babies J. We explored the city, hiked some beautiful trails, enjoyed the fancy hotel life, and played far too many games of fishbowl. I’m already aching for Thanksgiving to come my way so we can all be reunited.
  5. On Labor Day, Kevin made his first trip to the Minnesota State Fair! I know, it’s absurd that he hadn’t been up to this point, but I was kind of glad I got to accompany him the first time. The funny part is that I HAD been before. It was quite random, but my best friends and I took a YOMO – you only Minnesota once – trip back in 2012 (our YO_O is an ongoing tradition, we’re considering Newfoundland next – YONO) and enjoyed the Great Minnesota Get Together. While this time around, I couldn’t exactly eat all the foods, it was still great to just walk around and take it all in.fullsizerender
  6. Speaking of foods I can’t have, I’ve been working with a naturopathic doc for the past few months and have discovered some interesting sensitivities (the big ones were foods I had already suspected, but hadn’t totally eliminated). So my absolutely no-no foods are: eggs, almonds, cashews, garlic, beans, and chili powder (this one confuses me too). So that’s now added to my avoid list, which already includes grains (although I can now experiment with rice & buckwheat on occasion) and dairy. It’s so interesting looking at the evolution of my diet over the past two years. I’ve gone from eating anything and everything (while still eating healthy & balanced) to whole 30-ing to paleo to paleo-ish to this. While I have very strong convictions around nutrition, I’m learning to let go a bit. Everyone’s body is different – I am still figuring out what works for me, and it’s such a process.
  7. It is September. And while we’ve had some terribly humid days in the 80s (which is nothing compared for my Arizona friends), I’m getting super excited for fall. Isn’t everyone? I did, however, mistakenly indulged in a PSL from Starbucks (coconut milk, of course), and it was too early. It just didn’t feel right. I’m going to hold off on any more of pumpkin until we’ve had a few days in the 60s. Every morning, I keep trying on sweaters hoping that my weather app will reflect chillier days, but alas, each morning I put those sweaters back in the drawers for a later time.

That’s us right now. I hope your day, your week, your month, and even your year are swell.

Coldplay!

For probably as long as I’ve known Kevin, I’ve known how important Coldplay is to him. Truly, it could be one of the first things I ever learned about him. And how, back in 2009 (I think?), he had tickets to see them in Omaha during his stint at IPF, but gave them away as he felt compelled to attend an ordination instead. Now, I don’t want to say that he regrets that decision…but he may, just a little. So I knew that the next time Coldplay toured in the US, we absolutely had to go.

As for me, I’ve always been a fan of Coldplay. It’s not something I’ve thought too much about, but they would always have been in my top five probably. And I’ve often thought that “Fix You” is the greatest song ever created. I could truly listen to it all day every day, and still cry each time I hear it.

Two years ago (almost to the day!), Kevin and I were driving home from my cousin’s wedding in Philly with my sister & brother-in-law. Coldplay came on the radio, and there began massive praise for all things Chris Martin & company. We agreed (post-wedding festivities, mind you) that we were GOING to Coldplay next chance we got.

Krouchick siblings (minus Keith, who is away serving our country!)
Krouchick siblings (minus Keith, who is away serving our country!)

Needless to say, when tour dates were announced for Head Full of Dreams, we were all in communication. So this past weekend, Kevin and I got to see Coldplay in Philadelphia with some family members. Despite being practically in the nosebleed sections (it was best available even though we purchased them instantly as they went on sale to the public!), it was a truly phenomenal show. I haven’t gone to many concerts in my life (Backstreet Boys, Imogen Heap, Ingrid Michaelson, Trampled by Turtles – that may be it?), but if I never saw anyone else perform again, I’d be okay with it. This was spectacular.

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The playlist could not have gotten any better – they played all my favorites (but they’re all greatest hits as Kevin says). This band was made to perform. They are amazing. And Chris Martin – what a guy. One of Kevin’s total man crushes (I’m completely okay with it).

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We’ve now decided that we’re going to wait to take an international trip until Coldplay is on tour again, and we’ll see them in London front row…it could happen, right? 🙂

 

P.S. If you ever need a Coldplay song for various occasions – I’ve compiled it below 😉

Nostalgia/Melancholy

Clocks // The Scientist // Everglow // The Hardest Part // Warning Sign // Army of One

Feel Good

Message // Army of One // Lovers in Japan

Dance Party

Charlie Brown // Hymn for the Weekend // Princess of China // Every Teardrop is a Waterfall // Sky Full of Stars // Adventure of a Lifetime

Let those tears fall

Fix You // In My Place // Everglow

Moodiness

Midnight // Trouble // Amsterdam // Magic // Ink // Fun

Serenading your love

Til Kingdom Come // Yellow // Green Eyes // Swallowed in the Sea

Anthem Moments

Viva La Vida // Lost // Paradise

Happy days

Life in Technicolor // Speed of Sound // Strawberry Swing // Up & Up

 

There and back again

This summer (similar to last) has been one of lots of transition. And in the three week period that we had to find a place to live in a new city AND move…I decided it would be prudent to plan an impromptu trip to Boston. Not gonna lie – it added a little bit of stress to the situation, but I also think it was worth it.

I surprised my dear friend, Sarah, and her new boy, Rafa, at Boston Children’s Hospital with the help of her awesome husband. It was the first time I’d been back to Boston since Kevin and I left last summer. It was completely surreal and totally normal. However, it was only the fact that I was visiting that made the MBTA bearable (one of the tipping points in our move away from the city ;)).

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Me and some of my favorite people! I’m still not sure what Sarah was really thinking when I walked into their hospital room, but I hope there was some excitement there! To everyone’s surprise, Rafa was taken home just a couple days later, so these parents certainly had their hands full. I simply took in their presence in the little moments I stole with them. Such love <3

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I spent an evening at the Green Briar (an old neighborhood fave) with some truly wonderful people. My heart was exploding with how much I miss these people. The only thing that would have made it better was if Kevin was with me, but sadly he had to work (but he is in Boston right now, so he’s getting his fill!). There was just an immense amount of organic laughter and joy; I never wanted it to end. Which is pretty much how all moments are with the Boston community, no matter where we’re congregating.

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I was also tremendously grateful to have some quality time with this treasured friend! Mike has been in Rome the past few years studying at the seminary out there (he’ll be ordained a Deacon in September!), but is home this summer. So I got to catch up with him AND his family, which is always a treat. I somewhat crashed his family BBQ, but if anyone asks, I’m a long lost cousin…or just an old friend from BU.

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Another gift! Ammmmmyyyyy! I got a beautiful morning (and Mass) with her and her husband plus the beautiful daughter that I hadn’t met yet! All of these moments would have been worth the trip individually, so can you imagine my excitement that just compounded as my visit continued?!

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I was fortunate enough to visit Mother Olga’s new convent and spend an afternoon with her – a nice oasis in the midst of my go-go-go. What a Saint, that woman. And what a gift her order is to the Boston Archdiocese.

There were many more moments not captured on camera, like visits with other lovely friends and my stay at my former apartment (back from my single days). And then just the beauty of Boston that seems so obvious and striking when you’ve been away for some time…

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Classic Brookline.
Beacon Hill!
Beacon Hill!
The original Trader Joe's in my book.
The original Trader Joe’s in my book.
Downtown.
Downtown.
"Star-Dunkin" - aka a little spot of compromise for me and Kevin just down the street from our first home.
“Star-Dunkin” – aka a little spot of compromise for me and Kevin just down the street from our first home.
The Watertown Public Library. THE best library we've ever belonged to. Ask anyone - it's legit.
The Watertown Public Library. THE best library we’ve ever belonged to. Ask anyone – it’s legit.

It was so rejuvenating to go back, and I am abundantly grateful for the opportunity to see people that I’ve missed terribly. It does, however, feel right that it was just a visit and nothing more. I love Boston, and I treasure the people, but we are happily at peace in Minnesota.

Though I’d also be cool if we took semi-annual vacations in the Northeast every spring & fall. And I’d be more than okay if all my friends moved to one big neighborhood. 🙂

Given & Grateful

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This past week, June 7-12th, I had the absolute privilege of attending the GIVEN Forum hosted by the CMSWR (Council of Mother Superiors of Women Religious). The application required each woman to develop an action plan based on a need she saw in her parish, diocese, or community. We will all be held accountable for these action plans that are expected to be implemented by spring 2017. Once accepted, each woman received a full scholarship generously provided by sponsors and a grant given to religious sisters for the year of consecrate life.

It was essentially a group of 80+ religious sisters from various orders coming together to build up 300 young lay women (ages 20-30) of the Church through encouragement, formation, spiritual nourishment, and practical advice. I’ll be the first to admit, I was a little skeptical about the entire thing, but all of my doubts were cast aside upon arrival.

WHAT WE EXPERIENCED

There was something so unique about this conference, it’s attendees, and the women pouring out to us. It probably has much to do with all of the cloistered orders in the US praying for us (talk about a storm of grace). At first, I thought it was just me, but it wasn’t long until it was out in the open: every personal encounter at GIVEN was an encounter of the holy Spirit. Simple “hello’s” lead to life stories (mainly because nobody knows how to answer the question “where are you from?” simply – understandably so!), and instant connections were made.

I truly felt God’s presence in every interaction, every talk, every meal – even my roommate and I believe that our pairing up was of divine Providence. I had come to GIVEN with a lot on my heart: many unknowns and an uncertainty of how to move forward. And while this was a conference, not necessarily a retreat, I think we all received the best of both worlds and experienced what we needed. And finally, I was most pleasantly grateful for the ways in which the sisters mothered us throughout everything.

WHAT WE RECEIVED

It was evident that the religious sisters took this event very seriously; much prayer and careful planning went into it. Every speaker was handpicked and had a specific message to deliver, while revealing his/her (mostly her) own vulnerability. It very much felt as if each individual was speaking directly to our heart of hearts while masterfully contributing her piece to a beautiful puzzle.

All of the speakers were true powerhouse women (with a couple men for more practical talks) who clearly live out their authentic femininity through service to Jesus and His Church. I could go on and on about all of them (each one was truly a necessary part of the entire conference), but some of my favorites included: Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV, Helen Alvaré, Sister Amelia Hueller, O.P., Audrey Assad (witness & concert), Dr. Carolyn Woo, Hallie Lord, Gloria Pervis, Dr. Mary Healy, Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, Ph. D., and Dr. Elvira Parravicini.

While it was a packed schedule and I think most people went home in a state of exhaustion, we all knew we had received something great. We had been given something wonderful. And it was the perfect blend of spiritual, practical, and emotional to propel us forward in our missions as Catholic women.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Now, it’s going to take me weeks, maybe even months, to unpack the graces and lessons from GIVEN. But here are ten of my favorite quick points impressed upon us by the speakers:

  • We, as women, cannot “have it all” and that is not only okay, but it is good. Our differences matter and point to something much greater than ourselves. Our world resists the idea of two sexes and that there is a possibility for diversity to co-exist among complete equality [Helen Alvaré].
  • We all have a desire to be noticed because we are meant to be noticed. And as much as we desire this – think of how much Jesus craves our attention. Therefore, we must also take notice of the Church and Her needs, as only we women can [Sr. Mary Gabriel].
  • We must develop the capacity for God to work through us [Dr. Carolyn Woo].
  • We can plan a lot of things, but we can never predict how God will move mountains [Hallie Lord].
  • The best decisions are non-decisions – they are accompanied by joy [Luanne Zurlo].
  • If God calls you to something, He will give you the time, energy, and desire [Hallie Lord].
  • The evil one is desperately afraid of women who know who they are and are filled with the holy Spirit. Walk in victory [Dr. Mary Healy].
  • God did not create us to be at the foot of the cross all the time – it is a state. We are called to be joyful; we are meant for the resurrection [Dr. Amal Marogy].
  • We cannot right every wrong. We are not always called to fight evil, but we are called to always do good. And an abundance of our good can drown out the evil [Dr. Amal Marogy].
  • The most important thing we can do to have an objectively successful career, and a spiritually fruitful one, is to be an authentic woman [Luanne Zurlo].

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Finally, as we go forward with all of this wisdom and grace, ready to respond to God’s call for our particular life, I’ll end with words from Gloria Purvis:

You are chosen – are you willing?

Now, what are you willing to risk?

You are able.

Two years!

Two weeks ago, on Memorial Day, Kevin and I celebrated our two year anniversary! On one hand, it seems so short and insignificant, but at the same time…long and quite significant. Our wedding really does seem like just yesterday, and yet so much has happened since May 30, 2014.

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We still feel like we’re just getting started. We are longing for some sense of stability – where will we live, what kind of careers will we have, when will we be blessed with children, can we buy a home yet? Classic questions for a married couple in their twenties, I’m sure. But all very real, nonetheless!

I can say with full confidence, though, that despite the struggles that come with marriage, there is always more than enough grace to compensate because of it’s sacramental core. And I would not want to be in this with anyone other than Kevin! We have both learned a great deal about ourselves and each other in year two. Like…a lot. With so many big life things happening (cross country moves, job searches, career planning, the continued fertility adventure), it would be a shame if we didn’t come through it more self-aware AND more united in our family mission. But we have!

One profound lesson I know I am learning is that the marriage comes first. Through frustrations, uncertainty, desires, and excitement, our Vocation is at the forefront of our actions. And it is a beautiful thing! It’s not necessarily a popular perspective these days, and I’m so grateful the Lord is showing us how to live out this sacrament as he calls us to – on good & bad days alike!

I love my husband, his unique quirks, his beautiful heart, and his ardent desire to serve the Lord through our marriage. He is just the best, and I feel like I’m rediscovering that each day. That’s a gift. I trust that things will only get better from here and I look forward to year three! #gearnses2016