here’s to new friends and beef stew

My friend Stacy always says: “story matters.”

Last night I had the privilege to sit across the table from seven amazing women.  One woman fought for eight years to bring home her adopted son and daughter.  One thought that once her son went away to college to could relax but then felt called to get a Masters in Theology and become a spiritual director.  Another shared memories of a happy life that leaves her now a widow.  Story does matter.

I planned these dinners months ago and picked out four questions to ask.  Each woman was prayed for and personally invited to join us for a simple meal and good conversation.  I knew we wanted a diverse group of women, different ages, different backgrounds, different stages of life.  I didn’t know what to expect as I awkwardly made phone calls and pitched the idea of coming over for dinner to women I barely knew.  I don’t know what made them say yes, it certainly wasn’t my charm, but many did.  And last night was the third time I got together with other women from the parish and talked about life.

I heard about the [If] Tables about a year and a half ago when a group of fifteen women, from all different backgrounds and families, gathered for one thing: to get to know Christ better.  We all huddled in our cozy clothes around a thirty inch TV to watch a live stream of a conference going on in Austin, TX: the [IF] Gathering.  The conference sparked a thought in me about how we all have parts to play in God’s story of this world and it sparked the dream in me that I can gather women to journey together to Christ.

Stories matter.  Your story matters.

A year and a half later I took that dream and gave it a home at Blessed Teresa and we started our own [IF] Tables.

Last night I threw away the questions as after an hour only half had introduced themselves.  It was clear to me more than ever how simple and beautiful it is for us to share our stories.  It didn’t matter if we thought our lives were insignificant or ordinary, we shared who we are and where we’ve been.  I sat quiet for most the night as others conversed and laughed and interrupted one another when a common theme was mentioned; you never would’ve guessed how unfamiliar we all were when we first arrived.  I sat and admired how God has allowed me to watch His story of love and redemption play out in the lives of these seven women in truly incredible and miraculous ways.  Through loses and hardships to joys and hopes to consolations and blessings.  I sat and was inspired by the not so ordinary lives of these amazing women and I wanted to know more.

God didn’t make us to be alone.  He designed us to be in communion with Him through others.  It is a great gift to deeply know another person.  Not just to know their name and what they do, but to know their heart and their story.  Each one of those women has attached themselves to my heart in a particular way that I could never forget them.

One of the questions I had ready to ask last night but never got to was “what makes a true and authentic relationship?”

Even though I didn’t ask it, it was answered: beef stew and biscuits, just kidding, though food helps.  The openness and freedom that each woman had in knowing who they are allowed them to invite others in and made for many new true and authentic friendships.

Tell your story.  It’s important, it’s you and it’s beautiful.

with love,

Kiera

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raising my banner

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies.”
– Pope Saint John Paul II

In my heart I feel the faith of a great saint but I’ve been wondering lately if people would see me as such?  I want people to see that I have faith in a wonderful and immeasurable God.  I want people to see His character reflected in mine and to see His light and love shining from in me.  But I have to ask myself: is the life I’m living truly reflective of the faith I claim to have?

I’ve developed a “normalcy complex” this year, self diagnosed, of course.  I want to be normal and like everyone else.  I’m tired of explaining that I’m a missionary, of asking people for money to support me, of feeling different because of my title.  I want to be normal, with a normal job and a normal paycheck, a normal house with a normal dog.  I want to live as real people do.  But as I tried harder and harder to pretend to be normal I just got more and more bored with myself.  Sure, a missionary seems to be a pretty heroic job from most Christian viewpoints, a job filled with lots of adventures and stories of good conquering evil, how could it be boring?  It is an amazing life but it was boring because I wasn’t living the way that God wanted me to live.  I was settling for a false reality that told me that I would be happy if I would do what everyone else was doing, if I would be like everyone else.  And that was what being normal meant for me.

But God doesn’t make us normal – that implies that we’re the usual, what’s expected and typical, and that we’re average and ordinary.  But we’re not; how can I be ordinary when there’s no one else like me?  No one else has the same exact desires, the same exact hopes and dreams, or the same exact bedhead as me.  No matter how close I may come to be like someone else I am still not them and they are not me.  God makes each of us uniquely and specifically.  It’s not random that I love writing or that you love teaching or working with the elderly.  God instilled these passions in us with purpose and intention in order to give our lives a unique purpose and specific intention and that makes us anything but normal.

This last year my life was reflecting the sad reality that this life is it and that this world is all that matters.  But that’s just not true, life is so much more than what we see here.  The reality is that God is the Living God, actively working each day to bring about salvation for all.  This is the reality I want my life to reflect.  This is what I want people to see in me.  The reality that faith in God means trusting that it will work out for good even when it seems impossible.  The reality that faith in God means that Christ really did die on a cross, taking on the punishment we deserve for our sins, offering freedom for us.  The reality that a life with Christ is a life of constant transformation and renewal and one of inexplainable joy.

He doesn’t want for us to be normal or average or ordinary.  He wants us to live the faith that we claim to have and to enter into a life of abundant grace, allowing ourselves to be transformed into the face of Christ, reflecting His image and His glory.  To be extraordinary.  To be saints.

This is what I want my life to reflect!  For too long I have been caught up in the exterior life that I have forgotten my interior life.  I have let normal be more important than Heaven and I wasn’t surprised that I found the response to the above question to be no.  Is the life I’m living truly reflective of the faith I claim to have?  No, the life I was living wasn’t truly reflecting the faith that I have but it will now.  My faith requires boldness and transformation.  It requires that I take time to pray and learn who Jesus is so that I can become more like Him.  It requires that I build on the qualities that reflect His image and glory and that I get rid of the qualities that don’t.

Faith comes from within and if I want that faith to be known than I have to work on what is inside of me.  I’ve had a new conversion.  My desire to be a saint and to live extraordinarily has been reawakened and I have given my life, my hopes, dreams, fears and desires, everything I do and am, over to Jesus and I intend for people to know that I believe in Him.

with love,

Kiera

one year later…

yesterday was our anniversary, and while it was spent doing some of our favorite things like playing music at mass and shopping at savers, this post isn’t about that.

you probably don’t care that i wore my wedding dress around and pretended to walk down the aisle.  you probably don’t care that i had a gyro for dinner and nate had a burger (we’re simple folk).  and you probably don’t care that on our paper anniversary i got nate a roll of toilet paper to take on our next camping trip and he got me a cute old copy of one of my favorite books (wuthering heights, in case you do want to know).

this post isn’t about any of that either.

i laughed almost out loud yesterday before Mass when i saw that the second reading was from Ephesians 5: “husbands love your wives” and all that.  well i’m not a theologian and this post isn’t about the option to omit that part of chapter either.

it’s about this:

“As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?‘  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’
– John 6:66-9

this was in the Gospel yesterday.  Jesus told everyone that He was the bread of life, the bread that will satisfy them entirely and yet many walked away.  can you blame them?  it seemed to be a ridiculous claim.  of all the things you could be you chose to be bread?  not fire or a tornado or a shark, but bread?  and while many did turn away from Him, simon peter could see something in Jesus that the others couldn’t see.  peter could see that Jesus was the Son of God.

why bread?  well it’s delicious and everyone gets hungry.  but even more than that it shows once more how God has provided for His people.  this time it’s not manna in the desert but manna in a person, in love itself.  manna that will satisfy heartache and pain, all desire and search for love or happiness.

through working with nate each day and learning to live as his wife and through the loses and fights we’v shared, one thing has remained in my heart: Jesus, You are the words of eternal life.  You have everything we need.

marriage is really quite strange to me, even after a year.  my whole life i dreamed of a wedding and a true love and i never stopped to think what that would actually look like.  what is life like after the happily ever after?

i’ve realized every day this year how the rest of my life is in front of me.  years and years and hopefully more years of life and i have no clue how it will unfold.  and every day this year i’ve realized just how important those words of peter really are.

where else will we go when life gets too hard?  where else will we go when we’re too stubborn to admit our faults?  where else will we go when we are hurting and don’t want to go to each other?  Jesus, You have the words of eternal life.

i pray that in this next year of marriage that we do better.  i pray that when we do want to turn and run in fear that we turn and run to Jesus and we eat of the bread of life.

this post isn’t much but it will remind me of what we have been called to: a life giving marriage, one that at the end of everything will bring us face to face with Jesus.

wedding

“Jesus we believe that You are the Holy One of God.  Jesus we believe that you are our provision and protection and life.  Jesus, You are everything to us and we will follow.”

with love,

kiera

living a life like Christ

“the missionary is required to ‘renounce himself and everything that up to this point he considered as his own, and to make himself everything to everyone.’ this he does by a poverty which sets him free for the Gospel, overcoming attachment to the people and the things about him, so that he may become a brother to those to whom he is sent and thus bring them Christ the Savior” (Redemptoris Missio, par. 88).

woof, that’s a lot. renounce himself and everything that he considers his own? be everything to everyone? i don’t even know where to begin. this quote makes my stomach churn and my heart soar all at the same time. this is what it means to live a life like Christ?

am i really suppose to drop everything and follow Him wherever?

well yes…and fortunately He has landed us in st. louis, at a good job, with good people and a new couch.

sure sometimes when Jesus says poverty he means to be poor in pocket. yesterday i had to walk a mile and a half to the grocery store to get food for dinner. i  packed my backpack up and carried another bag in my hand and started my journey uphill both ways (you know how it goes). as i was walking and thinking about the decision nate and i made not to get a second car i felt inconvenienced. in a few short weeks we will be in our apartment less than a mile from where nate works – he can walk or ride his bike and on especially cold or rainy days i can drive him, it’s really quite ideal to be so close. and that means the car stays with me to use. but we’re not there yet and nate still needs the car to get to work so here am i, wallowing in self pity and mourning the car i so hoped to have this fall.

on my twenty-five minute walk uphill both ways i remembered our neighbor jackie. she lives just up the road from us and almost every day i see her out walking, bringing a dinner plate to an elderly friend or on her way to church or rolling a small cart down to the grocery store. jackie doesn’t have a car and every week she takes her cart down to the shop’n’save. as i thought about jackie shame rushed over me. i had taken for granted the fact that having one or even no car is the reality of so many and yet i silently complain over this minor inconvenience.

sometimes when Jesus says poverty he means to be poor in pocket. it is a poverty to me to not have a second car simply because i want one for my own. but moving my two feet as fast as i can to avoid the rain with twenty pounds of groceries on my back is not a poverty. i now realize it is a grace to be like jackie. i now see that by giving up a car has allowed me to honor my friend and to understand her way of life, to become a sister walking alongside her.

sometimes when Jesus says poverty he means to be poor in spirit. Jesus said “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Mt 5:3, NAB).

“the missionary is required to ‘renounce himself and everything that up to this point he considered as his own, and to make himself everything to everyone.’ this he does by a poverty which sets him free for the Gospel, overcoming attachment to the people and the things about him, so that he may become a brother to those to whom he is sent and thus bring them Christ the Savior” (Redemptoris Missio, par. 88).

the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit because it is brought to this earth by those who are poor in spirit, who are self emptying instead of self seeking, who are givers instead of takers. those who are following the path that leads to the foot of the cross.

we don’t need a lot of things in this life. i don’t need a car or cable or a new dress, even though some days i think i do. what we need, you and me, is a heart that is poured out for others, a heart that can say “it’s not about me, it’s about Him and His mission and His people.”

if that’s what Jesus means by poverty, then i’m in, are you?

with love,

kiera

a future with hope

“missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. faith is strengthened when it is given to others!”
– 
Redemptoris Missio (introduction)

at the beginning of my first mission year i felt so weird about calling myself a missionary. i didn’t feel like one. i didn’t feel like i had some divine calling to make disciples of all the nations. i wasn’t even sure i knew what a disciple was and tiger, georgia didn’t exactly seem like ‘the nations.’ i have to admit that for a long time i was embarrassed to tell people i was a missionary because i didn’t feel like i lived up to what that meant. i had never read acts or even most of the gospel before, how could i go and tell people about Jesus? did i even know who he was?

i can’t explain the feeling i had in my heart 4 1/2 years ago when in a small hotel room packed with 20 tired college students i said “i think i’m supposed to be a missionary.” or the feeling i had my senior year when i realized a career in film wasn’t for me. or the feeling i had when i told my mom i wanted to join Life Teen Missions and calmed her by saying “don’t worry, it’s in the US.”

but what i can describe is the faith that was in my heart, the sense of knowing that my life was no longer in my control but in God’s and no matter what he asked me to do i just had to do it and that it would be good.

so i packed my life into a few suitcases and flew to georgia, not knowing what to expect and now 3 years later i’m still trying to figure out what happened.

i’m a missionary, now without a mission (at least not a well branded one that gave me credit and not to mention all the t-shirts). i’m a missionary simply trying to live out the truth that faith is strengthened when it is given to others. so here you go, take my faith. it is for you to know that God is real. to know that He is wonderfully in love with you. to know that He has already forgiven you. to know that the break in your heart you feel for the hurt of some random stranger or the incredible love that you have for whatever it is you do is from Him. my faith has showed me that God is the best writer there is and he wants to make your story incredible. but don’t just take my word from it, take His:

“for i know well the plans i have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for woe, to give you a future with hope” – Jeremiah 29:11, NAB

to give you a future with hope.

with love,

kiera

signing a lease

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nate and i signed a lease for an apartment last week – our first real home together.  i say “real” because the past year in missions we have been sharing a house that was picked out for us.  don’t get me wrong it was a great house, filled with lots of fun memories, like mornings beside the fire with hot coffee and that one time my husband ripped pants off our roommate….

i’m excited to have a home that we picked for ourselves.

in the past year we’ve lived in 2 houses so i feel like i know a good deal about what i want and don’t want.

  • want: hardwood floors – i hate carpet almost more then anything, i don’t like to vacuum and i much prefer the look and feel of wood on my feet.
  • want: big kitchen – the kitchen might be my favorite room in the house, it’s automatically warm and inviting. i like to spread out when i cook, take my time, and make it worthwhile so space in the kitchen is a huge factor in picking a home.  and i like to share that time with my friends.  the kitchen is a place of communion and conversation and i need it to be big enough to hold all that love.
  • want: a dog! what is probably even more important to me then a big kitchen stocked with homemade goodies and wine is a having a dog. the first place we were in this year had carpet – no dogs.  the second place we were in this year had nice new hardwood floors – also no dogs.
  • want: a place to walk – a safe neighborhood near nate’s work with lots of parks and places to explore.

i’m happy to report that our new home will have all that i desire and more!  beautiful french doors, new stainless steel appliances, new kitchen counters, cabinets and floors and plenty of space for activities.

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come september 1st we will officially be renters of a beautiful apartment in a great area of town and we couldn’t be happier.

here are my hopes for this new home:

  • to be able to host dinner parties and bible studies
  • for it to be a place of hospitality, generosity, warmth, joy and peace
  • to have family and friends visit and stay with us!
  • to become more creative – to write, sew, cook, paint and dream more
  • to welcome a little baby schaff into it

there’s so much more i could probably write but i am dumb with excitement.  this apartment isn’t just a new home for nate and i, it’s part of a new beginning.

we’ve only known life together in missions; this year we worked side by side every day and it has been amazing.  but with new jobs and new missions we will have to adjust and work harder than ever before to grow and serve together. i think we’re up to the challenge.

with love,

kiera

it’s gonna be a blowout

so this happened today…

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i’m not sure how long i was walking around with a giant hole in my pants revealing my beige grandma undies but i do know an apology letter to a coworker i was with this afternoon was just sent. i couldn’t at least have something cute on under those blue jeans?

well, i guess that’s life, this stuff happens. i’m not sure how or when this rip got so large. was it walking around the parish offices maybe? or could it have been on the home visit to interview a women requesting beds from st. vincent de paul for her and her son? perhaps we will never know but i am having faint memories of tearing these jeans in that spot a few weeks ago. i meant to patch them before the blowout but i’ve been away, i haven’t worn them and the initial rip was small….

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i guess this is what happens when you live with boys for too long – the makeup comes off, the dumpy ripped jeans come out and you just don’t care anymore.

when i came home to find my underwear staring back at me in the mirror the first thing i did was take a picture and send it to my closest friends and family – priceless.

now for their responses:

“i can’t stop laughing” yeah me neither

“didn’t you feel it rip?” nope

“wow that’s quite a hole” impressive isn’t it

“you must have had everyone in stitches” “nothing is ever as it seams” “lol did everyone rip on you?”

and my personal favorite: “thanks for sharing kiera. i love the picture. i can always look at it when i need to put a smile on my face.”

anything for you mom.

all i can say is what a day.

with love,

kiera

here goes….part 2

you’re back!  thank you.  really, with all my heart thank you for visiting again.  and if it’s your first time well thank you too!  this is my blog, this is my life, and i’m just getting started – with the blog, not with life….

as scary as it is to write on these pages, i am really excited.  for the past 15 months i’ve thought “i want to write” but have continually made excuses and firmly decided “there’s no time so it’s not the time.”  well folks now is the time.  there’s a verse in the bible that goes: “i am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (is 43:19, NRSV). do you not perceive it?  i do. in fact these last 15 months i’ve perceived it but i just didn’t know what to do with it.

well “now it springs forth” and  i feel like i am stepping into the mission that God has for me. i feel God narrowing my focus in on what he has specifically for me and nate.

it’s exciting.

and the craziest thing is i’m not really afraid that this won’t work out.  what i’m really afraid of is that it will and that God will use my voice to reach so many. but fear is fear and it’s stupid and small and my God is big and brilliant and masterful and good.  so need to worry, i will be back tomorrow.

with love

kiera