I’m blogging again…

You read that right, fam! I’m back in the blogosphere.

After a significant hiatus, I’ve made my way back – and this time, on a namesake website.

From Fearlessly Feminine, to A Soul at Work, to Twenty Five & Catholic… if you’ve been following along all these years, thank you! I’m deeply grateful for the many people who’ve encouraged my ever-changing writing endeavors, and I continue to hope that these little website projects eventually become something much larger (and perhaps, one day, printed on paper)!

If you follow me on social media, you’re likely aware that I am now the executive director of Illinois Right to Life. For some time, I wasn’t sure what this meant for my individual voice – particularly as it pertains to writing for the web. A few impassioned posts of my creation on our Illinois Right to Life blog (specifically, this one and this one), however, have convinced me that my personal voice has a role to play in this fight. So, here I am!

Obviously, a lot’s gone down in Illinois over the past six months. Madigan and his gang of cowards down in Springfield executed a manipulation of historic proportions back in May, when they added the overwhelmingly unpopular Reproductive Healthcare Act (RHA) to unrelated mental health bill SB25 and passed it through the House on the Sunday over Memorial Day Weekend. Pro-lifers came out in droves to fight this bill (4,000+ in attendance at a protest on March 20 and 15,000+ filed witness slips with the House Human Services committee to voice their opposition to the bill) but legislators sided with the national abortion effort. It’s a pivotal moment in our state history and now, more than ever, we need to speak out.

Illinois Right to Life and Illinois Right to Life Action communicate directly with the pro-life people of our state on important updates and action items (witness slips, anyone?) and do an incredible job of relaying that information. That said, I want the opportunity to speak directly (and regularly) to those who follow us and the work that we do.

And of course, as always, I want the opportunity to talk about other things – like, uh, the Democratic presidential primaries (tiger don’t change his stripes, folks).

I anticipate that this blog will take a different tone that much of my writing has in the past , especially given my personal involvement in the issues directly affecting Illinois.

I hope that you’ll follow along and continue reading what I write – as so many of you have for years! As we observe the strange (and often scary) twists and turns our nation continues to take, it’s clear that there’s plenty to say. Social media is a powerful tool that lets us relay truth with the simple click of a button. That said, I encourage you to engage with what I post here by commenting, sharing, liking, etc.

If you haven’t yet, you can also keep up with my posts by subscribing via email, liking my Facebook page, or following me on Instagram (where I’m most active).

Thanks for your friendship and support! Let’s make waves.

 

In The Quiet Of My Heart | A Reflection On My Time In Rome

Tomorrow marks three weeks since I’ve been home from Italy. One more week and I’ll have been back in the states the same amount of time I was gone. It almost makes my stomach hurt to think about how fast that went. When I was in the midst of my trip, I kept reminding myself that when it was over, I’d feel like it had lasted only days instead of weeks. So far, that’s absolutely true.

There’s so much about this trip that I still can’t wrap my brain around. I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe it’s over. I felt, at the time, that I was constantly taking pictures, constantly posting about it on social media, constantly making mental notes to share with friends and family when I got back – but now that I’m home, it feels like I have so little to really do it any justice.

I never intended for this trip to be four weeks of back-to-back-to-back travel, nor did I necessarily have a checklist of places I wanted to see or things I wanted to do. What I was really looking for was retreat, and that’s what I got. I thought I’d read a lot, and I did. I thought I’d write a lot, and I did. I anticipated I’d post on my blog much more often, but my brain had other plans, and thoughts wandered elsewhere, so I let them. Much of my time was spent in prayer and reflection. This was what I wanted.

The four weeks I was away felt like such a dramatic pause, at times, that it almost made me anxious. I sometimes found myself feeling antsy, thinking, “I should be doing something. I should be working. I should be job hunting. I should be at home, cleaning or spending time with my family or helping with projects around the house. I should be DOING something.” But in these moments, I tried to remind myself that there’s something to be said for simply “being.” There’s something to be said for moments of rest, and moments dedicated to prayer, and time spent in contemplation with God. After all, Saints have done it. Jesus did too.

In the months leading up to my trip, I prayed daily that it would be purposeful. I prayed that I’d use my time well and that I’d benefit from the time spent away. Truthfully, I gave myself literally down to the minute I was on the plane to decide that I shouldn’t go. At no point did I take a “no turning back now” mentality; I told myself all summer, and into the fall, that if Election Day came and went and I felt it was wrong to leave home, regardless of the reason, I wouldn’t go. But obviously, I did. And here we are.

If I’m sure of anything, it’s that I highly recommend traveling alone, and I plan to do it again. The week before Thanksgiving, I wrote that visiting these places by myself was lonely in some moments, mostly because I wished I had someone to share these experiences with. At the same time, though, traveling alone is so remarkable because it is so deeply personal. And when I’m asked about my trip, this is ALWAYS my initial response (although I don’t usually say it out loud): it was deeply, deeply personal.

Everything comes to the surface when you’re alone for that amount of time. Fears, anxieties, dreams, “the deepest desires of your heart” (as my mom calls them) break free from the loud noise of our busy lives of work and relationships and home life. This wasn’t something I anticipated. It reminds me of the phrase that priests sometimes use at mass – during Prayers of the Faithful, they’ll say, “for the intentions we hold in the quiet of our hearts.” I think that’s the space I found in traveling alone. In certain moments, I felt as though I tripped and fell and landed face first in the “quiet” of my own heart.

I’m also sure that we need to be better at acknowledging the seemingly-purposeless desires (like a month-long trip to Rome alone) that God places on our hearts. I’ve wanted this trip for years – since I was a freshman in college, at least. I’m not sure that I have anything tangible to point to and say, “look what came from this.” But the thought of the entire experience brings tears to my eyes, because I’m so immensely grateful I got it and am so sad it’s already over. That has to count for something.

I was listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s podcast during my run tonight, and at one point, he was saying that God wills for us to be fascinated. It seems silly, but he gave the example of an armadillo. Armadillos serve virtually no real purpose – in fact, they’re kind of ridiculous animals. But if you consider an armadillo as a part of God’s creation, they are absolutely fascinating. Everything, he said, should be this fascinating to us.

Immediately, I thought of my time in Rome. If I had to pin a word on the reason I wanted to go, “curiosity” probably comes close. I was curious about what I might see, what I might think, how it all might make me feel, what I might take from it – and, truth be told, prior to leaving, a small piece of me felt a little bit guilty about that. Is curiosity reason enough to spend time and money on this? I wasn’t necessarily confident before I left that the answer to that question was yes.

But I’ve had 3 weeks to think about it and now, my answer is resounding: yes, yes, yes. It was so worth it. Every minute away, every dollar spent, every twinge of loneliness. Every time I got lost, every calorie I consumed (mostly via pizza and wine), every line I stood in, every selfie stick vendor I denied (all but one) – I’d do it again a million times over, exactly the same way. Coming home, I feel peaceful, joyful, clear-headed, optimistic, hopeful, and so, so grateful.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

I’ve told numerous people that I’m convinced I’ll reap the benefits of that time alone in Italy for a while to come, and in ways I probably can’t anticipate, even now. I don’t have many exciting stories to share, nor did I meet many people worth mentioning here, but I believe my faith is a little bit changed. Prayers will materialize, questions will be answered, and I’ll continue to look back on that time as something so deeply personal – time I spent alone with God, in the quiet of my heart.

A Month Of Anniversaries & More Changes!

This past month was one of many anniversaries.

First of all, it was Howie’s birthday. I can’t believe my little nugget is one year old (and 55 pounds)! He’s still just as much trouble as ever, but also a daily gift of snuggles and kisses, which is more than I could’ve asked for when I adopted him last July.

Second, it was the anniversary of my first blog post. This blog has served me well this past year, acting as an outlet while simultaneously giving me the opportunity to write when my job has not. Although the frequency of my posts has gone in spurts, this blog has only reaffirmed my love for writing and my desire to do so on a much greater scale in the future. I am hugely grateful for that.

And third, it was the anniversary of my graduation from college and my entrance into the work world. This is the scariest of all of the anniversaries. It’s already been a year since I took my last exam in Iowa City, said goodbye to my friends, and drove down to Florida to begin what was an unexpectedly short-lived stint in Palm Beach County.

But like everything else, the past year’s events have done nothing if not reaffirmed my belief that God is directing my path. And in hindsight, I can see that in every moment of weakness – when I felt lost, confused, or frustrated – He knew exactly where I was going and was guiding me all along.

As a single 22-year-old woman, living alone and working daily to maneuver my newborn career, life can sometimes feel like a waiting room. Surely, there are moments that I lay awake at night, wondering when the next important milestone will come and I’ll stop feeling like an island.

But in days like today, when I’m able to look back and reflect on everything that’s happened since last June, I remember that there is a purpose for this time. There is a reason that I am here, now, in this place, doing what I’m doing. And when I’m able to remember that, my faith is restored, knowing that there is a life ahead which far surpasses anything I could ever fathom.

And as proof that I’ll never anticipate the good that God has in store, imagine my surprise and really, pure joy, to learn that my sister, Emily, is moving to Des Moines!

Emily accepted an offer in the NICU at Blank’s Children’s Hospital and is moving in with Howie and me this July. I feel so blessed that she’ll soon be here with me and to have the chance to witness firsthand her first year out of college as I begin my second.

And in addition, if home is where the heart is, I’m joyful at the thought that 1/4 of my heart will now be here with me in Des Moines, and I’ll be that much closer to really feeling at home.

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

Hello Howie!

In the midst of my fast from social media, I’ve been chomping at the bit to share some exciting news with my friends and family—

I’ve adopted a puppy!

Howie is a Labrador/Weimaraner/Husky mix. He is 8 weeks old and mellow as can be chews literally everything within his reach.

For those of you who’re currently thinking I’ve left my sanity somewhere up in eastern Iowa, I promise I haven’t. I mean, really—you’d have to be insane to NOT adopt him after seeing this adorable face!

As you can probably imagine, I’ve had my hands full this past week, but I’ve got another blog post (or two) in the works and I’m hoping to post again soon!

Happy fourth of July, y’all!