How long have I been here in chilly MN?  Two months?  I just asked Will how long it felt he had been here and we both agree – ages.  It feels like we’ve been here for 8 months rather than just 8 weeks.  A lot has happened in our lives.  We are broadening our horizons, being yanked outside our comfort zones (it seems like that sometimes) and being plopped in a new, interdependent community.  Will and I are the only ‘evangelicals’ in the whole community, so for us, there is A TON of Catholicism going on, lots of Catholic ideas, and the annoying thing is sometimes they will use terms and assume we understand what they mean.  Like “diocese”.  It’s a geographical area consisting of a multitude of parishes (Catholic congregation) but they’d been throwing that word around for weeks before I even had a vague idea of its meaning.  Just little things like that.  We went on a retreat to St. John’s (a school named after Saint John the Baptist) and it was a lovely change of scenery but very, very Catholic.  I don’t even know if that makes sense to any of you other Protestants out there… But otherwise my experience really is enlightening and my faith is deepening.  I can feel it. As a young adult it seems I’m continually learning more about myself and how I tick – how I grieve, what I appreciate and don’t appreciate, what drains me, what gives me joy, how I communicate and how I connect.  Here are a few things on my mind this weekend:

1.  I need you to get back to me.  When I call you, send you a text, write on your Facebook wall, or any other form of contact, multiple times, I’m gonna need you to validate that and at least send me a winky-face emoticon. Something.  This has probably been the worst thing for me to deal with in my relationships, since college, definitely now that I’m a thousand miles away from my friends and family.  I wish I could say it’s just one person, but it’s more.  It hurts that the same people are still doing this, but maybe some friendships (as much as I want them) aren’t going anywhere and that’s that.  When to pursue and when to give up… hard question.

2. Community. Community, community.  Just, community.  I know, I’m sick of hearing that word, too.  But it really is a gorgeous thing.  My faith is exercised amongst others, my perspective broadened getting coffee with new friends, my heart expanding the more I listen to Sister Cordy’s stories.  I adore sitting down on the couch with one of the Sisters after a long or frustrating day and just talking and being in their presence.

3. Nuns.  Well, Sisters in general, but mostly the ones I live with.  They are marvelous listeners.  I could chat Loretta’s ear off over a pot of coffee for an hour and she wouldn’t bat an eyelash.  After living with them for two months, I’ve decided there’s no one more sincere than nuns.  They are all about relationships.  They are peaceful, concerned, compassionate, endearing, kind and beautiful.  The best roommates I’ve ever had.

4.  My relationships with others is reflected in my fellowship with God, and vice-versa.  When I have a hard time letting people in, I have a hard time letting God in, too.  When I can’t express myself in prayer in a healthy way, I can barely communicate with other people.  I have a rough time being genuine with others and I’ve begun to see that pattern in my quiet times, too.  It’s such a breath of relief to understand the connection.

5.  Catholics aren’t so bad, after all.  I won’t lie, I had reservations about moving to MN.  It wasn’t too much about how far away it was, or even that I’d be working with at-risk children in a social work setting, something I have absolutely zero knowledge in.  The most intimidating part was knowing I’d be in a richly Catholic setting.  Daily I’m bombarded with iconography, Sainthood, penance, liturgy, etc.  The things I wasn’t prepared for was all the looking inward rather than outward (and upward) for sustainability and peace.  There’s not a whole lot of Biblical sincerity either, and they don’t take the Word too literally.  There’s a lot of abstract ideas and metaphors.  So it all sounds wishy washy to me, coming from my Campus Crusade background… but there’s something about Catholics that I can’t shake.  They are genuine.  Real.  They look me in the eye when we talk.  They get back to me (see #1 above).  They care more about social justice and peace than anyone I’ve encountered.  They spend time with the poor and the pour their lives into proclaiming Christ in their actions and words.  They place loving others with Christ’s love above everything else they do, and I can see that in the way they live.  The Catholics here are among the most beautiful I’ve ever encountered.  Apart from all the unusual theology, that’s got to count for something.

6. Intentional with Scripture.  So as I stated there isn’t a whole lot of Scriptural preaching here.  It’s hard to even find available Bibles, let alone ones without the Apocrypha, or in my favorite ESV translation.  I’m currently borrowing a Bible from my work.  I just need to be intentional in exposing myself to it.  I have learned a lot being here that I really feed off of Scripture and when I go long periods without it, things get loopy and uncertain and I start looking inward instead of outward for my strength.  Last night the group of us on retreat looked at the reading for Mass this week, the passage where Jesus gives Bartimaeus, a blind man, his “sight” back.  It’s a lovely and encouraging story in the Gospel of Mark that together we just ingested with eagerness and pondered and tore apart and applied to our lives.  I had been feeling drained that day with all the inner spirituality talk and this was our first reading from the Bible.  I was rejuvenated.

It’s been a long and meaningful two months.