Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

Today marks the beginning of Advent. While I am fully embracing my "Beach Boys Holiday" Pandora radio station and strings of lights and ornaments, I am reminded of the true purpose of Advent. It is easy to fall into the mindset  that Advent is merely a countdown until Christmas. However, Advent is so much more than that. It is a reminder that Jesus calls us to watch in great anticipation for the most important event of all - His return in glory at the end of time! The Advent season reminds us that we are living in the end of times. The end of times begins with the first coming of Christ, His incarnation and birth in Bethlehem. The second advent is the arrival of Jesus Christ in the heart of the believer. The third, culminates in His final return - the second coming when Jesus will return in all His glory.  We must always be prepared for Christ to come, because "we do not know the day, nor the hour." (Matthew 24:36) 
Jesus' coming is good news! God is all merciful and he gives us the grace to turn away from sin and lovingly embrace Him with our whole lives. He gives us fresh hope each day so that we can keep our eyes on the eternal reward awaiting us, God himself. The source of all truth, beauty, and goodness, and the fullness of undying love and abundant life that never ends. Advent is a time to place our hope firmly in God and His kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy! As we begin a new Church year, let's refocus our eyes on Christ in hopeful anticipation of meeting Him face to face. 

In other exciting news, Papa Francesco has released a new document titled Evangelii Gaudium, meaning "The Joy of the Gospel." It is his first apostolic exhortation, and it is devoted to the theme of the New Evangelization. As a FOCUS missionary, this document is connects with my heart in a profound way. But  what I love about this document is that he is addressing the ENTIRE CHURCH. Pope Francis makes it very clear: Every Baptized member of the Catholic faith is called to evangelize and is called to be a missionary disciple. In Matthew 28:19 we hear the Great Commision: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Jesus isn't speaking to a select few, this is a call to all of us.
If you would like to learn more about this document, check out a FOCUS blog post by Kevin Cotter here! While it is a long document, I highly recommend you reading Evangelii Gaudium as well. I've only reached page 27 so far, but it's totally rocking my world. A must read. 

And now for an update on what has been going on with FOCUS at ASU!

Fro yo outting with Bible Study girls.

I so enjoyed our FOCUS West Regional gathering in San Diego. It was so good to see several missionary friends and to bounce outreach ideas off one another.
A little adventure to the "Secret Garden" on ASU's campus.

The Newman Center revealed a mural that will be placed in the church at the "Divine Beauty" night!

I was blessed to have had the opportunity to serve FOCUS at the Denver Interview Weekend. We had two students from ASU interview! 

My girls and I enjoyed a picnic in the park on Veteran's Day.

FOCUS held a "Get to Know Momma Mary Night" at Fuzzy's. Students were given the opportunity to learn more about who Mary is and different Marian apparations.

Some girls in my disciple chain and I went to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire midnight premiere! Sooo good!!

We celebrated Angelica's 19th birthday with a tea party at her home.

Love making new Nebraska friends. :)

We have started "Catholic Jenga Tuesdays" on campus. This giant jenga game has questions about the faith on each block. It's a great attention grabber and conversation starter!

We recently had our November Upper Room event for our student missionaries. I led the event which was focused on the Gospel and how to present it. 

My discipleship chain enjoyed some ice cream at the Sugar Bowl in Old Town Scottsdale!

Since I wasn't able to make it home for Thanksgiving, I was invited to celebrate the holiday with my dear friend and fellow missionary, Jess Kunz! Her family was so welcoming and wonderful. We even enjoyed a taste of country at a bull riding bar!

Wishing you a blessed Advent season,

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lesley Minervini: Casting Out Fear of Image

On October 27th, the ASU FOCUS team held a day retreat at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center titled, “CASTING OUT FEAR”. The entire retreat was based on 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.” Four talks were given casting out fear of loneliness, vocations, image, and forgiveness. Lesley, a junior at ASU and a student missionary that I am blessed to work with, shared her testimony of how Christ has cast out her fear of image.

When Lesley was in seventh grade she was diagnosed with a disease called “alopecia.” Alopecia is an autoimmune disease in which white blood cells (that are supposed to attack dangerous elements in the body) begin to attack the hair follicles because they have mistaken them as something foreign. When they attack, it causes her hair to fall out unpredictably. She was first diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, meaning her hair fell out in small patches, and later it developed into Alopecia Totalis, which is when she completely lost her hair. Since her freshman year of high school, Lesley has worn wigs, and continues to do so because Alopecia comes back in repetitive cycles. Lesley has written a book about her experience, titled “Falling Out”. The book describes the various situations she has struggled with and overcome. She talks about how each difficult experience has made her stronger, and how she now views alopecia as a blessing from God, rather than a disease. Her purpose of writing the book is to inspire those who experience or have experienced Alopecia, cancer patients preparing for chemotherapy, and anyone who battles with their own insecurity. She hopes her witness of how Christ has worked in her life can allow others to see their true beauty as well.

You can listen to Lesley's talk given at the retreat here: 
-Lesley Minervini: Casting Out Fear of Image - Part 1
-Lesley Minervini: Casting Out Fear of Image - Part 2

You can listen to a talk Lesley gave to middle and high school girls here:
-Lesley Minervini: Bella Vera Talk

In her book, Lesley describes a powerful experience in Eucharistic adoration when she encountered Christ in a very real way. This encounter allowed her to see the splendor in her value as a daughter of God and to find peace in her disease. In this moment, Christ cast out her fear of image. Here is an excerpt from her book describing this experience:

"He pointed at the water in front of me, signaling for me to look. I looked at my reflection. "Nothing too special," I thought. Jesus then gently held my face with both of hands, turning my head toward Him. He gazed into my eyes, and then, slowly, moved His hands to my hair. I hadn't realized it until then, but I had my wig on. He grabbed each edge of the wig and slowly pulled it off. He kissed my forehead and said His first words to me. 
It's okay," He smiled. He motioned for me to look again into the water. This time I took a deep breath, and peered into the water, recognizing my reflection again. But this time, I had a bald head with a couple patchy areas. It doesn't sound beautiful, but it was. I felt the prettiest I ever had in my entire life."

Beautiful Lesley

Lesley sharing her testimony

Following Lesley's talk

A tattoo Lelsey got after learning about Blessed Chiara Badano
"Chiara kept her spirits up, even when the harsh chemotherapy for her bone cancer caused her beloved hair to fall out. When a lock of her hair would fall, Chiara would simply offer it all to God saying, 'For You, Lord.'

Lesley's book cover
Check out Lesley's book, Falling Out, on Amazon here!

I am so grateful for the gift of Lesley and her beautiful witness as a disciple of Christ on the campus of Arizona State University. Please keep Lesley in your prayers as she continues to fearlessly live for the Lord.

God bless,


Friday, October 18, 2013

A Visit from FOCUS Founder, Curtis Martin, & Much More

The last two weeks have been blessed with many exciting events. I have been busy setting up one-on-one meetings with each of my Bible study members, holding events, and entertaining some very important guests. 

"Get to Know FOCUS"
On October 9th, the FOCUS team held a Wine & Cheese "Get to Know FOCUS" event for upperclassmen students. We shared testimonies about why we joined FOCUS and offered a Q&A session for the students to ask us anything about our lives as FOCUS missionaries. 

Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays
We have been holding many birthday celebrations for our students! This image is from the birthday of my roommate and student missionary, Lesley. She is such a joyful soul. :)

Natalie Visits from Boston
My sister, Natalie, came for a visit from Boston during ASU's fall break. We celebrated our German heritage at an Octoberfest celebration and explored much of the state's different landscapes. We made a visit to the mountains in Flagstaff, hiked the Grand Canyon, and trecked through Sedona with students from the Newman Center. 

NAU FOCUS Missions Fiesta
I was invited to share my mission trip testimony at the Northern Arizona University FOCUS Missions Fiesta on Tuesday, October 15th. I LOVED getting to see my dear friend and fellow missionary, Sarra Stanley, in the beautiful mountain air. Two students also joined me for the trip, and we enjoyed the luxury of seeing the aspen leaves changing colors in the Fall season. 

A Visit from FOCUS founder, Curtis Martin
On October 16th, the day we anxiously awaited, CURTIS MARTIN came to visit ASU! We enjoyed lunch with Curtis followed by a tour of the large ASU campus. After Mass in the evening, Curtis spoke to our students about how the college campus is the epicenter of the New Evangelization. Listening to the Holy Spirit speak through Curtis always impacts my heart in a new way, and the students walked away from the event awestruck and excited to participate in the New Evangelization. It was such a blessing to have him here in Tempe for the day!

Swaying to Country Tunes
Last night my teammate, Anna, and I attended the Jason Aldean concert with students. I loved getting a taste of some live sweet country took me right back home to the country dirt roads!

So much has been happening here at the ASU All Saints Catholic Newman Center, and there are so many exciting things to come. Stay tuned for more updates!

God bless,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moving Forward

Bible studies have begun, and events are in full swing here at ASU. Next week will mark the fourth week of my Bible studies. Currently I am leading three studies: two within the Barrett Honors College and one FOCUS Greek study. To make the girls feel special, I made them all little notebooks to use as a prayer journal. On the front inside cover I placed directions of how to pray the rosary, complete with a listing of all the mysteries. On the back inside cover I placed a quote from Pope Francis on World Youth Day in Brazil, and the Gospel presentation. 

The weekend of September 20th the FOCUS team and I served on the All Saints Catholic Newman Center's Freshman Retreat in Payson, Arizona. I LOVED spending the weekend up north on a mountain top, surrounded by fragrant pine trees and pleasant temperatures. It was the first time that I was able to cozy up in sweatshirt in months! (Never thought that would be something I would miss.) I led a small group and gave a talk about authentic freedom. Overall, the retreat was a great success, and we had the opportunity to get to know several new students.

Bus leaders/AKA Super heroes

Some of my Bible Study girls

My small group

Enjoying a hike

Nothing like roasting s'mores!

My cabin

My roommates-minus Lesley

The whole group

I was blessed to have a brief visit from my dear friend, Ali, last weekend. Ali is my Delta Gamma "daughter," and it meant the world to have her take the time to visit me all the way from Nebraska. Ali tagged along to my bible studies and our student missionary's Upper Room event. We also had the chance to do some hiking and exploration of the Tempe area. My heart is so grateful for such great friends the Lord has given me, and it was good to have a little taste of home through Ali. :)

At the top of Camelback Mountain

Enjoying some slickables!

At our monthly Upper Room event for student missionaries

At the ASU Newman Center tailgate

On Wednesday we celebrated our very first ASU FOCUS Missions fiesta. The event included, a FOCUS Missions promo video (which you can watch here), four testimonies of how a FOCUS Mission trip transformed one's spiritual life, horchata, snow cones, fajitas, piƱatas, a ¡Three Amigos¡ photobooth, and LOTS of salsa dancing! We also had quite a bit of fun with fiesta promotional materials.

In the midst of meetings with students and Bible studies, the team and I have been preparing for several more big events coming up, one of which includes our very own FOCUS founder, Curtis Martin! He will be speaking to the students of the ASU Catholic Newman Center on Wednesday, October 16th, to "Spark the Faith" here on campus. We will be welcoming him with lots of love, as you can see. 

Things here have been busy as ever, but I feel so blessed to work with such incredible students. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue the mission of Christ here on ASU's campus! God bless.