A Little Update | A Lot of Gratitude

Iowa, you’ve done it again. It has truly been a dream.

It has been nearly five months since I left Florida to return to Iowa – and even as I type that statement, my thoughts are sent to a screeching halt. I can’t believe it has already been five months!

In the grand scheme of things, the time between deciding to leave Florida back in July and the 2014 general election was minuscule. And yet, in that small period, I experienced so much.

I’ve added some crazy (or better said, unexpected) new skills to my resume, all mostly barn sign-related (ie: how to hang a barn sign, how to fix a barn sign, how to dispose of a barn sign) and gained some less-unexpected knowledge, ie: a greater understanding of the electoral process. Additionally, I’ve heavily expanded upon my network of contacts here in Iowa (translation: I made a crap ton of friends).

I cannot sufficiently express how grateful I am for the wonderful people I’ve met since working with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s team; the learning curve is ever-minimized when you have coworkers and volunteers so willing to offer help when it is needed, constructive criticism when it is deserved, and praise where it is due. It is rare to find oneself in such hard-working, intelligent, passionate company, and I can’t stop wondering how I got so lucky to have found myself in the midst of such a high quality group. You have all been a blessing!

However as election cycles do, this one has come to an end (a sweet, sweet, victorious end for Republicans nationwide) and now, I’m going where all Iowa campaign staffers go during the off-season: Des Moines.

As of this past week, I’m embarking upon a new journey as a scheduler for Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor, Kim Reynolds! I am both honored and over-the-moon excited to have been offered this wonderful new opportunity.

I’ll be moving to Des Moines at some point over the next month (and plan to buy my Des Moines: French for ‘The Moines’ t-shirt soon thereafter).

By now, moving to a new city feels like business as usual.

I can only expect to be completely surprised by whatever God places in front of me – which is also starting to feel like business as usual.

Old Home, Old Habits | My Iowa City Rut

For the three days I’ve been back in Iowa City, it has felt like every part of coming home.

It’s familiar and comfortable – I can once again frequent all my regular places, fall back into all of my normal routines. I can run the same route downtown that I’ve run for years, order the same drinks at DC’s and Spoco, and shop at the same resale boutique that I’ve browsed almost weekly since I was a sophomore.

But despite the comfort in these familiarities, I’m inclined to fight my return to old ways.
Returning home, whether it be to Joliet or Iowa City, means returning to old parts of my life – and returning to some of these parts means falling back into old, bad habits.

And already, after only a few days, I find myself being tempted by the same vices that plagued me when I was a student not 3 months ago.

Bad habits like ordering too many drinks at DC’s and Spoco or spending too much money at my favorite resale boutique have already reared their ugly heads and left me with the same temptations I dealt with all of college.

So in the midst of my immense happiness at being back in a familiar place – a place where friends live just down the street and Starbucks baristas know my name and complicated latte order by heart – I feel called to act against these habits.

I feel the call to make a change.

Living in Iowa City and facing these temptations over the years led me to think often of the concept of leaving everything behind to follow Christ.

Luke 5:11 speaks of the apostles and says, “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”

And Matthew 4:18-22 tells the same story, saying, “And He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately, they left their nets and followed Him.”
This past year, I felt a very strong urge to do exactly this. First, as I wrote the article Faith First on Campus – published in the National Catholic Register this past May – I struggled constantly with practicing all that I preached.

And again, as I’ve written this blog, I’ve felt an even stronger pull to leave my bad habits behind and follow Him.

Living in a new place like Florida meant the utmost potential for a new lifestyle. Being where I’ve been before though, in Iowa City, requires breaking free from a rut.
And I am so comfortable in my rut.

Yet, the knowledge that I’m made for something more creates a conflict within me.
I can’t help but wonder what incredible greatness God has in store for my life if only I stop settling for what is comfortable and start making the right choices.

What incredible greatness does God have in store for our lives if only we stop settling for what is comfortable and start making the right choices?

Coming home to Iowa City has relieved me of so many anxieties and discomforts. Yet, my conscience is far from at ease.

So as the work begins once again, my efforts to start anew in an old place begin with it.
As Christians, our efforts to improve ourselves and grow ever-closer to Christ should be unceasing. This makes life an on-going challenge, but makes recognizing our call very simple –

Seek the Lord. Turn away from temptation.

Leave everything behind and follow Him.

Faith, Hope, & Iowa | On Leaving Florida

The past 7 days have been an absolute whirlwind.

In addition to traveling back up to Joliet for the weekend to celebrate my dad’s 50th birthday, I’ve spent much of the past few days mentally preparing for an undoubtedly hectic week to come, because the week to come was (and now, is) my last week in Florida.

Last Tuesday, I accepted a job offer on a political campaign in Iowa. I put in my two weeks, broke the news to my coworkers, and am now in the midst of the stressful and frustrating process that is finding housing, arranging transportation, packing up my apartment, etc., etc.

This weekend, I’m driving all of my stuff back up to the Midwest and next weekend, I’m expected in Des Moines for my first day of work on this new campaign.

And as bad timing would have it, Howie had an accident that landed him in an emergency animal clinic on Sunday night. (Basically, what you need to know here is: emergency + Sunday + after-hours = A LOT of Starbucks lattes.)

If the first two months of this summer weren’t a lesson in faith, the coming weeks are about to be.

A friend asked me yesterday if I’m excited for my move back to Iowa City. After thinking about it for a moment, I told him that “excited” isn’t really the right word to describe how I’m feeling.

I was presented with a choice last week that prompted a decision. Now, the decision is made. A week later, I’m still unsure if my choice was the right one—but the choice is made regardless and I’m headed back to Iowa.

“Anxious” feels like a better word for where I’m at right now.

His response pretty well summed it up: “I know how you feel. I’ve never had more options available to me in my life and I’ve never had a more vague idea of what I’m supposed to do.”
Bingo. He hit the nail on the head.

12 months ago, I knew exactly what was expected of me. I was finishing an internship in Washington, D.C. and getting ready to start my last year of college at the University of Iowa. I knew exactly what credits I needed to complete, how many hours I needed to take, what forms I needed to fill out to apply for graduation, and so on. All I had to do was follow the steps.

And now, I’m here. I’ve got my degree, I’m leaving my first job to take a second and all only two months out from graduation.

Every question is open-ended. My steps are unprecedented.

I don’t mean to complain—it’s a blessing to have options. But how can I know what’s right when the choice isn’t black and white and is instead gray, ie: stay in Florida or move to Iowa?

It gives me heart palpitations to think about it.

But God is bigger than Florida and Iowa and campaigns and party politics. He is bigger than a college degree or a new job or an apartment lease. God is even bigger than the bill for Howie’s trip to the emergency clinic (and trust me, that’s big).

“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing scare you, all is fleeting, God alone is unchanging. Patience everything obtains. Who possesses God, nothing wants. God alone suffices.” – St. Teresa of Avila

It is inevitable that my flawed nature and my selfish tendencies will get in the way of my ability to follow God’s direction and fulfill His will for my life. Wrong choices will happen. This is simply the human condition.

But God is bigger than the human condition.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

My biggest fear in the present moment is that I’m leaving Florida prematurely. I am however deeply, deeply inclined to get home as quickly as I can.

So despite everything, I will keep moving forward. I will be grateful for my blessings—a job, a roof over my head, food in my stomach— and seek God in my anxiety.

I will trust.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6