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 AlvarĂ©].
  • 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

my lobsters

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Kevin and I were in Ann Arbor, MI this past weekend for one of my best friend’s weddings. This was the first time I’ve seen any of my closest friends since moving to Minnesota. It was a BIG deal. I left after five days with a hoarse voice, probably due to the fact that I have not talked or laughed this much in a looooong time.

These friendships make me think of Phoebe’s lobster philosophy early on in Friends – obviously she’s talking about romantic love between Ross & Rachel, but I’d like to think it also applies to my friendships. They are my lobsters! As Ashlie put it on Saturday, we’re on the forever friendship train, destination: eternity, no getting off.

These are the friends that comfortably embrace the toilet humor that would embarrass anyone else, the ones who know your most intimate stories, the ones that love you through your ugly cry no matter the reason, the ones that you can unload all the feels onto and need no words in return, the ones who allow you to grow as you need but also keep you accountable. It’s truly such a gift. And one that our husbands and “sig-o’s” (as Elise has labeled them) have been absolute heroes for embracing, cherishing, and becoming a part of.

Life moves forward for us all, and we have to fight more and more for that quality face-to-face time, but I haven’t been disappointed thus far. I’m excited to be on this forever friendship train with these incredibly special people.

Also, Elise & Joey’s wedding was incredible: beautiful ceremony, tear-jerking speeches & first dance, and all around wonderful community time.

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Above was at the rehearsal dinner with the happy couple! And below our dear Elise – such a STUNNING bride!

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The wedding was a blast. How could it not be when I have such a handsome date? He’s quite accustomed to being with a bridesmaid ;).

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Since it was a Friday wedding, Saturday was mainly just spent with all our peeps. Boston, Ohio, Duluth, Houston, Phoenix, Virginia, etc. We come from so many places, but ours hearts are together!

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And finally, a Sunday send-off brunch with this wonderful group of friends. Not pictured: my waterfall tears from all the goodbyes.

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Deo gratias.

 

a happy Easter!

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Despite me being a little bit lazy and out of it this past Lent (though, our Pastor gave an excellent homily about this recently and it really encouraged me even in my failures) – Saturday night brought such joy. I didn’t realize how much my soul was longing for Easter until it was upon me.

These past several weeks have been quite full. Work challenges, more big life decisions (and no resolutions as of yet!), finally seeing the grass in our yard before it getting covered in snow again, etc. March always seems to have a consistent air about it, doesn’t it? At least for me, every year that March hits I’m 100% ready for spring and the Easter Alleluia. And yet every year it’s a month that drags on and taunts us. That’s what I get for living in northern climates, I suppose.

Anyway, enough of the dreariness, it’s Easter! In all fairness, we’ve experienced a great amount of peace this winter/Lent. God has been merciful. It’s such an odd thing to say, but I just feel so at home in this Diocese and it’s really hit me in the past month or so. I could say I feel at home in Duluth, but I think it’s actually something more particular to the Duluth Diocese. Not sure how to describe it, but it’s a lovely consolation. So thank you, Jesus.

Now as we head into spring, we’re in a similar situation as we were last year (classic!): do we stay, do we go, what about work? Of course, we’re praying God will provide for us to stay in Duluth (which is not what I had intended when we moved here), even if our life looks a little atypical. But may His will be done! Because as I’ve discovered this year (and all my years…), He values our little leaps of faith and will make it work out for the best (even if it’s not what I had initially wanted).

May you all carry the joy of the Spirit with you this Easter season! Let us rejoice and allow ourselves to hope in the One who makes all things new!

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? Sounds like a simple question, right?

Savior.

Son of God.

Redeemer.

Prince of Peace.

King of Kings.

The list goes on and on. The past few months the title that has resonated in my heart and kept me pondering is the Word of God. Isn’t it funny when we find ourselves in these moments of epiphany? Then we speak it out loud, and all of the sudden it sounds so silly. Because it should be obvious, right?

It’s right there in the first lines of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” [John 1:1-2]

And yesterday’s first reading:

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55: 11]

While it’s been right under my nose for years, it’s finally hitting me. A deeper understanding of the Second Person of the Trinity through this title: Word of God. The fact that all of scripture is God’s one uttered Word. Total & complete. The catechism states that we venerate the Scriptures as we venerate the Lord’s body. How beautiful is that?

I think it’s pretty dang beautiful. And powerful.

February at its finest

Lately, despite a little bit of sickness (that’s what we get for diving back into grains – I knew the paleo lifestyle is what kept me healthy this past year! I’m back to it now after my week of frivolity!), we’ve been really living it up & enjoying our time together. We’re trying not to get a case of the February’s, and I think we’re doing a fine job.

[Early morning running along Lake Superior…trying to get back into a habit.]

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[Sunday breakfast at Va Bene #worthit #twosundaysinarow #ournewspot]IMG_1611

[Day trips with friends – and seeing a real life mine!]IMG_1605

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[Our short-lived relationship with grains – good, but not good enough.]IMG_1613

[Making new friends (or reuniting for Kevin) & enjoying good company.]IMG_1614

So take that winter! I hope you’re all staying warm & getting your cozy on.

Something to miss

I love living in Duluth. In this moment, it is good that we are here. But lately we’ve been missing Boston hardcore. And I’m so glad we do. It means that despite any hardships we faced, we had a life worth missing.

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Today, I’m thinking of St. Clement’s Shrine in downtown Boston on Boylston Street. I was visiting a friend at her work the other day and somehow the Oblates of the Virgin Mary came up in conversation. They are a phenomenally orthodox order of great & holy Priests, and they work so hard to make the sacraments accessible to all people of the faith in a city that seems to have no faith (perfect example: these men ran into the scenes of the Marathon bombings with sacramental oils, without hesitation).

I mentioned that they have a shrine in the Prudential Mall, and it was just then I realized how unusual that must sound to an outsider. Yes, St. Francis Chapel is in the mall, directly across from Ann Taylor Loft and next to Dunkin’ Donuts. And it is a pure oasis. Such a gift. They hear confessions all day every day, they offer Mass three times a day (Monday-Friday) as well as multiple weekend Masses. They have a little shop with Catholic books, DVD’s, holy cards, etc. All downtown at an intersection of many major T lines.

One of the main reasons Kevin chose to move to Boston for art school as opposed to his other options was the availability of sacraments. And when I think about it, I don’t know a place that can compare to what we had. I bring up St. Clement Shrine because it’s Lent and every Lent since graduating college I’ve spent most of my Lenten season in this Church.

For many years it was right on my commute to/from work. Their 7am Mass worked well for having to be at work around 8-8:30am. Their perpetual adoration meant the doors were always open to visit & sit with our Lord. Their Friday night stations of the cross were always done beautifully, making it worth few extra hours downtown. It was also the place where our young adult group was held (the same group I met Kevin through). No matter what time of day you were in the Shrine – this haven in the midst of Fenway Park, Berklee College of Music, the Prudential Mall, and Kenmore Square – you could always count on seeing a friendly face.

And then there is the Triduum. I’ll admit, it’s going to be tough not experiencing the Triduum at St. Clement’s. While a couple years I ended up elsewhere for the Easter Vigil due to plans with friends, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and much of Holy Saturday were spent in this sacred place. While the Catholic faith is the same everywhere (or at least we hope) and the Mass is still the Mass, I’ll miss entering into the Triduum with the Oblates. I’ll miss the solemn entrance they make on Good Friday, the procession to the upper room after the Liturgy, sitting in our Lord’s presence before emptiness takes His place, walking into the quiet Church on Saturday in anticipation for His return.

Ah, but alas. He does make all things new. So while I will treasure the memories and gifts from those experiences and traditions, I know they will continue on in that Church in unity with my new Parish. The greatness of the universal Church! And I do love our new Parish, so I look forward to participating in all the Lenten activities as well as the holy Triduum.

May your Lenten season be greatly blessed! And go rock those ashes 😉

 

Just another day

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Sunday. It’s my favorite day of the week. I enjoy all the Sabbath has to offer. Prayer, community, rest. Often Kevin and I choose to do something special to mark the day for the both of us – a walk on the lake, visiting a new place, eating something special, watching a movie, having company over. Sunday.

I could easily spend this Sunday like all the others, celebrating the turn of the month and being just a bit more closer to spring.

But today is different.

Today was the projected day that I would have held a child in my arms for the first time. My child. Many women spend nine wonderful months in hopeful anticipation of their due date. I had that mentality for just a little while before it was taken away.

I had all the possible names written down – boy or girl (still an untouched, yet adored, list in my email drafts – where I keep random notes). I’m not sure if we would have opted to know the sex ahead of time. I like the idea of waiting, but have never been good with surprises.

I remember back when we were expecting thinking what it might be like to deliver a baby in the height of winter in northern Minnesota (although we weren’t set on leaving at that point). I mostly made jokes about how we’d be snowed in and end up doing a home birth.

Just as any type A planner would, I had completed my registry with all the natural & organic goodies  – the bamboo swaddles, the organic sheets, the cloth diapers.

But none of it mattered. We never got that far.

I’ve tried to reflect this month on the emptiness that comes with passing a due date and nothing to show for it. Too many women deal with this time and time again.

And it’s a tragedy. It is sorrowful. It’s tear-inducing and hurtful.

But the most amazing thing of all is that there is healing. Healing that is unexplainable, but very real. Healing that is truly a gift. It is not a coincidence we named our child Giovanna Raphael: “gift of God that heals.”

While I can’t understand it, I know that I am in a good place. While my heart longs for children, I am also content. That contentment has days of sadness, but it’s still there.

So we continue on. We continue to hope and pray for what only God can give. I’m trying to do my part, but I shouldn’t be so naive as to think that it’s all on me. That’s a heavy weight. One I can’t carry.

In the meantime, I thank any of you who have offered prayers for our unborn child, the gift that I hope now rests in the presence of her Creator. And for the prayers for us as we figure things out and let them happen.

God is good and in that I firmly believe. My hope is in Him.

Deo gratias.

that [delicious] gluten-free, blueberry pastry

Last Sunday was the brunch for The Guiding Star Project here in Duluth. If you haven’t heard of them, you should look them up. They are a phenomenal organization doing ground-breaking work in the world of holistic & life-affirming women’s health. We were invited by some friends to attend at the Graysolon Ballroom (um, stunning). We had a lovely time and were so glad we went.

But I did something that day I don’t normally do.

I ate a gluten-free, blueberry pastry.

Yes. Katie, the self-proclaimed anti-grains queen (who was also on day 15 of her second Whole 30) ate a gluten-free pastry filled with grains, sugar, and dairy. And it was damn good. Now why on EARTH would I do such a thing when I’m trying so hard to improve my health?

Let me tell you. Up until the first time we conceived, I had become obsessed with nutrition. While there were reasons that made it necessary for me to look more carefully at what I was consuming, I went full-throttle into the world of “let’s eliminate everything and maybe it’ll work.” Do I still think grains are harmful to most, if not all, people? Yes. But I became so regimented and strict with myself that any mess-up would lead to extreme guilt and shame. (Like when I blamed myself for eating a piece of bread just before we miscarried.)

I love my lifestyle. I genuinely enjoy eating paleo. I am grateful for the Whole 30 and the perspective on food it’s given me (and I’d recommend it to anyone). I’m even inclined to start the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol soon (which is like a few steps beyond the Whole 30 – no eggs/nuts/nightshades).

But just as someone can be a slave to food by over-indulging in unhealthy items, I too can let food rule me to the point of deeply fearing a cupcake. How ridiculous! While there have been good intentions of bettering my physical health, I’ve failed to notice what it was doing to me psychologically.

So I very intentionally ate a gluten-free (blueberry) pastry. And it was delicious. And I felt fine. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice and maybe I’ll regret it. But I had lost the freedom I once had in choosing what I eat, and I am now re-claiming it. It’s important to me that I be happy. That’s not to be confused with gluttonous or over-indulgent. No. I probably won’t dip back into grains anytime soon, for sake of prudence. But I need to know the reasons for which I am doing this, and I need to freely choose this path.

So there. I’m a work in progress and I hope that’s okay. 🙂