Sound the Alarm

*Before I start this story, please know that everyone involved is safe and fine, but we are a little shaken and a little stressed, which is why I wrote this post. I needed to get these things out of my head.*

Have you ever been responsible for waking up more than 5,000 people at 6:45 am on a Saturday? I can now cross that one off the bucket list.

There’s something incredibly surreal about waking up at 6:23 am and smelling smoke. I spent a minute trying to convince myself that it was something else, that I was dreaming, that I was imagining things. But, unable to fall back asleep, I knew I needed to check it out.

I opened the door to the hallway and it was even stronger, and I could even see the smoke when I turned on the light in the bathroom. Just as I was hoping this could be a problem that could wait a few more hours, the smoke alarm downstairs started beeping. I ran downstairs and the smell of smoke was everywhere. Inescapable. Panic (and thankfully some adrenaline) started to set in. I woke up my roommate, called my dad for advice, and then proceeded to call 911.

We left the house and sat in my car, hoping that this wasn’t a big deal. And then the town sirens started going off to alert the volunteer fire department that we needed help. At 6:45 am. On a Saturday. Liz and I could do nothing but laugh at that point, and then laugh some more as not one or two, but THREE FIRE TRUCKS, carrying approximately 20 firemen, arrived at our house.

firetrucks

Can I just pause for a moment to talk about volunteer fire fighters? WOW, I am so grateful for these men who all woke up and came to our aid. They were joyful and understood our worry, and did not leave until they were certain the situation was stabilized. And now I’m on a first-name basis with the fire chief, so that’s pretty neat.

At this point we realized that we were supposed to be out of town this weekend, until a massive snow storm hit and our scheduled retreat was cancelled. We would have been gone. Our house could have literally burnt down. God really knows what He’s doing. His ways are so, so high above our ways.

The rest of today has been long, but filled to the brim with generosity. Our neighbor offered to let us come into his family’s house while we waited for the firemen to be done. Our male teammates welcomed us into their home at 7:30 am with a pot of coffee and a plate of cookies ready to share. A few of our students have volunteered to take us in for the next few nights until our furnace (the source of the issue) can be replaced.

Today was a wake-up call. I’ve learned lessons about checking smoke alarms (CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS, KIDS. RIGHT NOW.), generosity, detachment from material possessions, gratitude, and handling stressful situations when alarms go off, be the alarms literal or metaphorical.

In the midst of the chaos, I got to see a gorgeous sunrise. I am alive. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me in these ways.

fire-sunrise

To The Heart That Loves

I’m going to get real vulnerable for a minute here.

I struggle a lot with loneliness. It’s been a common theme throughout my life. I blame a lot of this on some of the TV shows I watched as a kid. Shows like Lizzie McGuire or That’s So Raven – shows where the main character has two best friends, the trio is so solid, and never does anything without the others. I wanted that so badly.

I’ve been taught by society to place my identity in how many friends I have, in how many people like me and want to spend time with me.

This reached a peak for the first time in 6th grade. I didn’t have any friends and I was aching to belong somewhere. I remembered my grandma telling me a story about praying for the intercession of St. Therese, who would send you a rose when she heard your prayers and brought them to Jesus.

st-therese-young

I prayed the first real prayer in my life for her intercession one night as I lay in bed, wishing for friends, and the very next day at an event for the girls’ group I was involved with, a woman named Andrea handed me an orange rose.

I was ecstatic. Prayer was real! Hope filled my heart. But more importantly, that day I realized I have a friend in HEAVEN.

I ended up choosing St. Therese to be my confirmation saint a few years after this event, but as the years have gone by, I realized more than anything that she had chosen me.

Therese died at the age of 24, the age I am now. It’s strange to think this woman had such a mature, yet constantly childlike, faith, amidst a life marked by both suffering and simplicity. If I developed tuberculosis today (the disease she died of), I would probably complain constantly and place my worth in how many people came and visited my sickbed. (This must be why I’m still alive – I get some more time to work on this!)

I have learned and will continue to learn so much from St. Therese, and I think one of the greatest gifts she has given me has been connections to others. It’s always a moment of bonding when I find out someone else chose her for their confirmation saint or has a special devotion to her.

St. Therese is a powerful intercessor, so if there is anything you need prayers for, ask her to bring your intentions to Jesus!

Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything… Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events – to the heart that loves, all is well.

St. Therese of Lisieux, a heart that loves, please pray for us!

I realize that it’s been literally a full year since I’ve written anything for this blog, but it’s something that I hope to get back in the habit of doing!

Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to read about, and you can always send me any questions or prayer intentions as well! May God bless you!

Forgotten

Since I’ve now had multiple family members ask if I still have a blog/if I’m alive, I figured it was time to admit that this blog has fallen by the wayside with the start of a crazy year at Wayne State College.

The house is now thankfully bat-free (I know you were wondering) and autumn is finally upon us (it’s 65 degrees right now!), which are both very exciting. My day-to-day life here in Wayne is finally falling into something that resembles a routine. It’s wonderful.

But the simple word “forgotten” has been weighing on my heart in so many ways recently. I seem to have forgotten the importance of updating my blog (sorry mom!) and I came to the realization last week that there have been a few times that I had felt forgotten by God.

It hit me that I’ve been in a state of desolation (a time period where I can’t hear or feel God’s presence, even though His love is certainly still there) and I hadn’t even realized it. (I pay really good attention to my own mental state, clearly.)

So on Thursday evening, I walked into the church, planning to do my daily holy hour at a different time than normal, thinking I might get some alone time with Jesus and that being alone might help me concentrate better.

I was wrong.

On Thursdays in Wayne, there’s a Spanish-speaking prayer group held by the Latino community in the surrounding area. I took a seat quietly in the back, attempting to not disturb their group.

Even though I speak a fair amount of Spanish, I wasn’t listening too intently when one woman came up to request prayers for healing of some sort. After a few minutes of explanation, she knelt in front of the altar, and the rest of the members of the community began to pray for her, most of them praying aloud. One woman led the prayer and spoke into the microphone so everyone could pray along with her.

Immediately, I was struck with gratitude for the universality of the Catholic Church. Here I am in Wayne, Nebraska, getting to practice my Spanish listening skills as well as unite my prayers to theirs, all of us in front of the same Jesus Christ who can be found in all the tabernacles throughout the world.

As the prayer continued, though, it got more and more intense. I could hear and feel the Holy Spirit moving through the words of these people, even though I couldn’t understand all of what they were saying.

It wasn’t until the woman leading the prayer almost yelled repeatedly “MIRA, JESUS!” (“Look, Jesus!”) that I understood what was happening in my own soul. The words were welling up inside of my own heart and being shouted, in sincere and humble honesty, by someone speaking a different language.

“Jesus, pay attention to me! Do not forget me! Remember me! Here I am! Come and be with me! JESUS, LOOK!”

A few nights later, during the eclipse on Sunday, some of the students and my teammate Liz and I went stargazing. We sat on the rugby field in the dark, looking up at the myriad stars, perfectly visible in the absence of the moonlight. I explained to a few of the students this experience I had had in prayer, and as I looked up and out at the great expanse of the universe, feeling tiny, I felt so loved and so remembered by my Heavenly Father.

In our smallness, in our humility, in our crying out, and in our most honest moments of pain and forgotten-ness, God never leaves us.

I just read an article from the Daily Nebraskan (the newspaper written by UNL students) by a girl struggling to reconcile her atheism and how it fits with death. Her honesty is beautiful, and I wish so desperately that I could explain to her why death doesn’t scare me — because I am remembered at every moment, never once forgotten, by the very same God who created me. He made me (and YOU!) to be with Him eternally in Heaven, and He will continue to pursue our hearts until we’re ready to find Him. You can invite Him in — you can choose to believe — with your free will, and He will not forget or leave behind your heart. As much as I hate to admit it sometimes, it is not all about feelings.

“When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:12-14

A few pictures of what we’ve been up to this year :)

Nachos are a thing here in Wayne, mostly because the gas station that sells them is the only place open past 10:00 pm.
Nachos are a thing here in Wayne, mostly because the gas station that sells them is the only place open past 10:00 pm.
Team Wayne State College doing some outreach (AKA handing out candy and free stuff) during the first week of classes.
Team Wayne State College doing some outreach (AKA handing out candy and free stuff) during the first week of classes. I probably take too many selfies…
Snapchat screenshot of part of our stargazing group - Josh, me, Nick, Jordan, an Brie! And Wayne's watertower has it's own tag. #toocool
Snapchat screenshot of part of our stargazing group. And Wayne’s watertower has it’s own snapchat tag. #toocool

In My Tower

There are some things in life that you will never be prepared for. A bat flying around your house while you’re completely alone is one of them.

Here’s how it went down.

I’m in the process of painting my bedroom, so I came down to the kitchen to grab a chair to stand on because I’m short and can’t reach about half of my walls. As I was carrying the chair, something small and black came zooooooming out of nowhere straight at me.

I immediately sunk to the floor and tried to cover myself with the chair. (Chairs apparently don’t only work as shields when you’re facing a lion.) I was screaming and crying by this point and that didn’t cease for a few hours.

After another terrifying few minutes of it finding my room and flapping around lost in there while I sobbed on the bed, pleading with it to just leave my room (bats don’t speak English? I guess?), it flew out and I slammed the door.

Finally having a moment to calm down, I started thinking about what to do next.

Chase after it? Try to capture it? I called my mom who told me to find someone to help me. Easier said than done when you’re in a small town that you just moved to and almost everyone is home for Labor Day. (Good timing, bat…)

I called my teammate Jacob who was thankfully hanging out with Patrick, one of the students here. They were on their way over to help.

So here I am. It’s about midnight. I’m 100% trapped in my room by this stupid bat. Once I finally stopped crying for a few minutes, I realized how good of a metaphor this was for growing up. There are so many situations I don’t want to deal with, whether it be bats, spiders, paying bills, emotional issues, or cooking dinner for myself, but no matter how long I stay locked in the safety of my room, these kind of problems don’t just disappear.

Eventually, my friends showed up and I went (with a laundry basket over my head, naturally) to open my bedroom door to walk downstairs, but the bat was LITERALLY RIGHT OUTSIDE MY ROOM WAITING FOR ME, so instead I shut the door, ran to my window, and yelled down to the guys to come in.

In between the moments of absolute terror and panic, I felt like a princess. I was locked in my tower, waiting to be rescued by my incredibly wonderful male friends. They came with tennis rackets and a desire to take care of this problem for me. I am so grateful.

I don't have long blonde hair or an evil mother and I'm not animated, but otherwise Rapunzel and I are basically the same person.
I don’t have long blonde hair or an evil mother and I’m not animated, but otherwise Rapunzel and I are basically the same person.

It’s all well and good to be independent – I am currently painting a room by myself for the first time ever, I made some awesome burritos earlier this week, and the other day I killed a rather large spider in our bathroom – but sometimes you have to ask for help to get out of your tower, and that’s totally fine too.

In light of this, I couldn’t help but laugh at the Mass readings today, when the first reading from Isaiah started with “BE BRAVE” and then Jesus, in the gospel, tells the deaf/mute man to “BE OPENED”. (Yeah, yeah, Jesus, I know I need to open the door and be brave and face my problems.)

Overall, things are very very good here in Wayne and we’re just going to collectively overlook the fact that I haven’t posted since I moved been here ;)

I promise now that I’m settled in, I’ll be able to write more often!

Please know that I’m praying for you! Please pray for me that I don’t somehow get rabies :)

Gratuitous Fangirling

I spend a lot of time thinking about (and often worrying about) the future. Little things, big things, things that might not ever happen. All fair game for my poor mind.

Lately, my parents listen to 70s music while they cook and eat dinner. They have a competition to see who can name the song, artist, and year it came out before the other. I’m constantly impressed with how good they are at this.

The other night, I casually wondered aloud, “Do you think I’ll be able to do that in 35 years with songs that came out now?”

And my dad’s response was perfect: “Sure! You’ll always remember all of those Jonas Brothers songs!”

How accurate.

Tonight, I had a song from their last album stuck in my head during my holy hour (it happens…) so I went to pull it up on Spotify to listen to on the way home, when I realized that THE JONAS BROTHERS’ FIRST ALBUM IT’S ABOUT TIME IS ON SPOTIFY NOW. 

Released August 8th, 2006, AKA NINE YEARS AND SIX DAYS AGO.
Released August 8th, 2006, AKA NINE YEARS AND SIX DAYS AGO.

Naturally I stopped and got an ice cream cone and drove around jamming to the entire album.

I was absolutely swept up in nostalgia, reliving 2006 and my entire freshman year of high school. As each song began, I couldn’t stop giggling just thinking about how many things have happened in my life in the last nine years. (Side note: It was nine freaking years ago that I started high school. Um. What?)

Here are some things I realized while re-listening to this album.

Things get better with time.

There were so many times I sat in my room and cried about various 14-year-old things while listening to this album. I only cry about 23-year-old things now, only a few of which overlap with 14-year-old things.

My dad was right.

I did remember every word to every song, even the ones I haven’t heard in 4-5 years.

Good, sincere, innocent pop music is so underrated. 

These three boys managed to capture my 14-year-old heart with some pretty cheesy songs and weird haircuts and strange dance moves. They were relatable and hilarious and just…

JUST. UGH. MY HEART.
JUST. UGH. MY HEART.

“Underdog” will always sound best being blasted at full volume. 

And you have to scream the lyrics at full volume. I don’t make the rules.

Some things never change.

Like my love for the Jonas Brothers. Or how good it feels to drive around at night in the summer with the windows down blaring music. Or how hearing the opening riff of “Mandy” = instant fangirling.

So much really has changed in the last nine years. In 1.5 days, I leave for Wayne to start an incredible adventure with FOCUS, and I would’ve laughed in your face if you told me at 14 that’s what I’d be doing at 23.

I’ve gained a lot of freedom, independence, friends, experiences, and more in the last nine years, but sometimes it’s nice to just feel 14 for an hour.