24 August 2016

Sometimes s%#! happens & all you can do is pray

Preparing and planning for WYD in Poland took us a little over two years. But no matter all the dotting i's and crossing t's, sometimes the most detailed plans do not go as expected.

And that was WYD 2016 for me folks.

I would always joke in previous trips, the group was allowed just 1 hospital visit in case of emergency. Well this time around, I used the 1 visit + an additional one.

The day our group went to the salt mines, I got really woozy and dizzy and had to leave. On top of feeling a bad cold coming on, and feeling a little worse over the past few days I decided to make a run to the hospital because being a sick group leader of 11 people is no flipping fun.

The doctor was friendly, said I was starting to get dehydrated (so pump in the water!) and gave me some scripts for a viral infection. Well somehow it got lost in translation that I was here in Poland as a WYD pilgrim and was constantly outside in the sun.
Because the second time I went to the hospital, I found out the reason I was so sick (preview of coming attraction) is because those original meds I should have NEVER been in the sun to begin with.

So fast forward 2 days later.

After spending a somber, but powerful morning in Auschwitz, our bus was heading to the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa for Sunday Mass. On the bus ride, I began to notice small red bumps on the inside of my palms. Didn't think much at the time, but thought it seemed a little strange.

Over the next 2-3 days, my hands and feet began breaking out in small, red, and very painful bumps. My Dad and I thought it was an allergic reaction so I stopped one of the meds. They began to feel very itchy and the pain and burning was getting more intense. 

The afternoon we went to the Divine Mercy Shrine, I was at my mental and physical limit. I didn't even go in the shrine because I was in so much pain/exhausted and was waiting outside to meet up with two nurses from another group so they could see and try to figure out was going on with me.

The burning pain in my feet and hands was nothing I have ever experienced. I had to sit with my palms facing up waving them around to help distract me, and outside the shrine took my shoes/socks off because my feet were burning so much. Add to that an explorer's hat and I was probably quite the sight to see.

A friend kept me company outside as I waited to the nurses, and that's when I lost it. I started bawling my eyes out. 
I then proceeded to give God my two cents and said "I just wish I had something I could f-ing offer this up for!" And as soon as I uttered those words, I said to Katie, "My gosh, I know I need to offer this up for him!"...my former husband. It hit me like thunderbolts, I could use this physical pain and my feelings of being very scared for someone I'm still being taught about lessons of mercy.

I pulled out my tiny blue cord rosary and started praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. When the pain got more uncomfortable, I just moved the knots through my fingers repeating softly, "Jesus I offer this up, Jesus I offer this up." Throughout the next few days, I rotated between praying those words and the chaplet.

The nurses eventually came gave some medicine and cream and helped me get back to our dorm in a taxi.

However the next morning I was no better. The red bumps were now spreading up my legs. I could barely walk. The only way I could walk that was least painful was on the very heels of my feet.
Our travel agent arranged for an English speaking-Polish speaker to come help take me to the hospital. My feet were so swollen and painful, I could only wear socks without shoes.

Waiting in the hospital I just kept praying and trying as best as possible to offer up all the scary and pain I was experiencing.

This image, these words mean so MUCH more to me...
Finally I saw a doctor who then sent me to see the dermatology section of the hospital. 4 dermatologists later, I was told I should have never been on those original medicines and by the end of the week it could have almost killed me. Ummm....what the what?!
Moving forward I could not be in the sun, and if I was I had to be completely covered...that's why in a lot of our pictures I am under the safety of umbrella's.

4 new oral meds later, 1 shot in my butt, and completely bandaged feet (with instructions to do for the next 3-4 days) I hobbled into a taxi with my life-saver Polish friend Marta and we headed to the pharmacy. She even took me to a grocery store to get something to eat before helping me get back to the dorm.

For the next 1 1/2 days I had to stay behind from the group, so I could rest and let the new, safe, non-killing meds do their healing work. During that time, I just lay in bed praying the chaplet , drank a crap ton of water, and constantly went to the bathroom.

Eventually I was able to re-join our group and finish the rest of the pilgrimage with them. They were so sweet sharing their umbrella's with me till I found a HUGE one in Krakow and making sure I had enough water and was covered from the sun.

Waiting for the Pope, enjoying the shade ;)
It was very scary and confusing. 
But at the same time, I felt so close to the heart of Jesus. Literally I could do was lay in bed and pray. Those many, many hours God took me deeper into my understanding of what it really means to offer up and unite our pain/suffering to Jesus. I felt like this gave me a sliver of an insight into people who constantly struggle and suffer from chronic pain. Yes I was praying and offering this all up for my primary intention, but I was so honored to have friends from home (even some of our travel agent guides) texting me prayer intentions.

As a result, I have a much deeper appreciation and love for St. Faustina and the prayer Jesus taught her in the chaplet of Divine Mercy

I had strong sense in my personal prayer before WYD, that all that has gone in my life this past year + being the Year of Mercy was by no way a coincidence. God is using all of these details to weave something bigger and more powerful than I could have imagined. The word mercy is no longer a casual concept or "nice" Christian-ese word to me...it is a word that has broken and restored my heart many times over the last months.

World Youth Day in Poland was absolutely NOTHING what I had prepared for over the last two years, but at the same time I wouldn't change one moment of it. Sure looking back I can say that now. But somehow I think it was exactly what God wanted to teach me and I can be okay with that:)

Grocery store trip with "Patty the Vampire!"

Sometimes in life shit happens and literally all you can do is pray.

And sometimes those are best teaching moments, the moments where God messes you up in beautiful and radical ways.

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22 August 2016

How Auschwitz Helped Me Let Go

Sometimes kids get obsessed with certain trends, games, or movie characters growing up. As a little girl, for me it was WWII history + the Holocaust.

May we never forget...

My Grandpa was a proud veteran of the war so maybe that had something to do with it. 

As I got older, I watched a lot of war movies growing up with my Dad and loved reading Anne Frank's diary. Watching documentaries or meeting survivors of the Holocaust always deeply impacted my young heart. For my first real research paper in 8th grade, I wrote about the history of anti-Semitism and what led up to the tragedy of the Holocaust. Our family patron saint was Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who gave up his life in Auschwitz to save a fellow prisoner. 

So for the longest time, I have told myself that I needed to visit Auschwitz someday. 

In preparing the last two years for World Youth Day in Poland, one of the things I was most anxious to see was Auschwitz. And having since been there, reading about a place and then visiting it are two radically different things.

It was also really important for me to see where St. Max died both personally and spiritually.

You see, St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of those who struggle with addictions. And when I was married, I developed a deep relationship with this humble priest always asking his prayers for healing and restoration to my former husband and our marriage.

Walking through this place I read about my whole life was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. The only way I can describe it was that this is the grave reality of what happens when we let hate, bigotry, and racism fester in our hearts and minds. It destroys people, it destroys our very humanity.

As I approached cell block 11 (where St. Maximilian Kolbe died) I knew I wanted to stop and spend some moments in prayer, but had no idea what would come out of my mouth.

I walked up to the brick building, put my hand on the wall and just began to cry. Throughout this year, I felt like God was calling me to really pray for my former spouse. I stood there crying and felt like God was somehow releasing me of that here in this place. I turned over the spiritual care/healing of the man I used to be married to St. Max; knowing he could not be in any better or safer hands.
I started crying harder. 

I prayed for this man's healing, and total restoration. I prayed my heart would be able to trust again and not be hardened to men moving forward. I prayed for myself and the healing work I still have yet to do. I even prayed for whomever that man is I would someday re-marry. I prayed for people trapped and battling with addictions. I prayed God would someday be able to use all of "this" to somehow help and minister to other people.

In place of great pain and suffering, it was like God was helping me detach emotionally and spiritually from the last several years of my life. In this place of death, it helped me accept a particular chapter of my life in a new, peaceful way.

Visiting Auschwitz helped me detach, accept, and show mercy. It was such a radical reminder of what happens when hate and unforgiveness lingers in the hearts of humanity...but yet, it also showed me that the only answer to pain, evil, and suffering is mercy. Divine Mercy.

Mercy doesn't erase evil and suffering, but it is a soothing balm that helps heal shattered hearts of anger, bitterness, and resentment. 

I am so grateful to have been able to visit this place and for all it is teaching me right where God has me right now.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

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19 August 2016

Sometimes life just gets away from you...

Life happens and that's a-okay.

I came home from Poland almost two weeks ago and survived yet another World Youth Day pilgrimage, although it definitely came with its own set of challenges this time around for me (another story for another time ;). 
No matter what, I still wouldn't have changed a moment of the journey.

Wanna get an inside peek?? Check out a video documenting our journey here
Who's ready for #Panama2019?! Hello malaria pills and boiling water!

Less than a week after coming home from Poland, I moved into my new apartment. I am mostly unpacked and looking forward to making it into a cozy, sweet sanctuary for myself. It is the first time I have ever really lived on my own because I lived with my parents until I had gotten married.
So this is just another step on a new adventure for me:)

I have been really blessed by making some new friends, specifically other Catholic young women who find themselves in a similar situation like me. There is something sacred and powerful when you realize you're not the only one walking a particular path. 
My annulment is moving forward and I am really grateful (and surprised!) for the healing process that has been for me too.

I was offered and turned down a job potential where it would have been a good career move + higher salary, but at the end of the day I just didn't have peace about it. I am really excited for another year of youth ministry to kick off in the next few weeks and am excited for what God has in store!

While summer has been full and felt crazy sometimes, it has been good to laugh with friends, relax, read good books, and explore new, funky coffee shops...

Thanks Cris for taking!! :)

Right now I am just trying to stay focused with training for the Detroit Half Marathon in mid-October and finish unpacking/settling in my new place.

Life is in a good place...even if its not where I thought I'd ever be:)

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