My Time in Ecuador

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Jesus, thank you for what this mission trip was. Thank You for every part of it. Here is my mission trip account:

I wasn’t really ready for Ecuador. I had packed my bags, prayed my prayers, checked my lists, but I was not prepared. In my head I had imagined this beautiful land with a beautiful experience and a beautiful story to bring back to my friends, my family, and my blog. I was quickly disappointed in many ways. I know, it doesn’t sound right to say that I was disappointed in a mission trip, but that disappoint came from my set expectations, not anything God had promised me.

The first time we landed in Panama to connect to Ecuador, I already felt the walls coming up around me. There was a suffocating feeling. I can’t go back home. There’s no way for me to turn back anymore. I feel so alone. While everyone else seemed to be in awe of the  whole experience, I felt isolated. Afraid of what was to come. Even so, I pushed a smile on my face and said, “Jesus, I trust in You.” What I didn’t expect was for that feeling to continue. Or for that feeling to grow even stronger.

When we arrived at our home for the week, I was anxious imagining about 20 people sleeping in one room, sharing one toilet, one shower, and one faith. That last fact is what grounded me my entire time in Ecuador. Through any division, we were still Catholic. I needed to be told that Jesus was the same in all of us and allowed us to interact with the people of Ecuador even though it was challenging to understand them.

The first night in Ecuador was the hardest night of my life. I slept under a mosquito net sweating, crying, imagining myself being taken to a foreign hospital for dehydration and nausea. While all of this was running through my head, I again began to repeat, Jesus, I trust in You. But this time more crept into my heart, I trust You, but why would You put me through this. Why? The week consisted of getting up early, attending mass and Eucharistic Adoration, then working on the chapel we were renovating or going door to door to talk to the locals and pray with them. Not only was my body not used to sweating constantly and standing in 90 degree heat, but my heart was not prepared for this suffering.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I was mad at God. I was angry that He would put me through this. I do Your work in Indiana, Lord. That’s where I’m comfortable. And I’ve given You so much. Why would You ever call me to come here? As I was sitting in the shade of la capilla (the chapel), He finally answered me.

Monday, March 12th, 2018 // Day 3 in Ecuador

“Jesus I think I know now why I am here. Yesterday was hard for me. I sat down in the dirty broken chapel we were working on and stared at You on the crucifix and asked why. Why did You bring me here? Why do I need to do this? I didn’t feel You. I didn’t hear You at all. But as I stared at You on the cross, the men outside working on the chapel began hammering the wall. I couldn’t see them but all I heard were nails being hammered, and I looked at You. And You didn’t say anything. You used those men to speak to me. I told You, I know, my sins put You up there. But You said, No Maclaine. I want you to share in my suffering. You told me You wanted my hands to feel and be with Your nailed palms. To be Your hands. I’ve used my hands to stay at arms length away from suffering. I’ve allowed You to work in my life and bless me and show me happiness and goodness, but I told You I didn’t sign up for suffering. But Jesus, You took my outstretched arm, and pulled me close to Your heart.”

Once I had realized what God was inviting me to, my week looked different. The people I met had You in their eyes again. The pain I experienced was being offered up for my loved ones. The tiredness I felt created a drive and a meditation on the tiredness of Your passion. The conditions didn’t improve, the work didn’t get easier, my heart was just lifted. I realized what redemptive suffering felt like.

In order for me to understand the fullness of the Resurrection, the joy, the light, the rest, God needed me to understand the fullness of the Passion, the pain, the despair, the ache. 

During the week, I met incredible souls who had so little, but gave so much. I met a little girl who danced with pure joy. One day there was an old woman who couldn’t see, but opened her heart to trust us and trust the Lord. A man named Manuel began praying with us immediately when we invited him into God’s word. The people I met and the friendships God created will never fade from my heart. The students and missionaries I went with left a piece of their heart in Ecuador, I’m sure of it.

This trip was the hardest week of my life. I wasn’t ready or willing to suffer in the way God was calling me to. But I eventually understood why I was called to this cross. Jesus asked me to be Simon, to get under the cross and help Him carry it. It was a leap of faith, but the people I met in Ecuador modeled for me just how I can suffer happily for Christ.

Walking to the final mass, we prayed the stations of the cross. I read the 11th station that states: “My Jesus, leaded with contempt, nail my heart to Thy feet, that it may ever remain there to love thee, and never quit Thee again.”

This mission trip I was called to be Christ’s hands and feet. The whole week that’s where I had the most pain. My hands were burnt and swollen, and my feet were burnt, swollen, and had rashes. I was called to be the places where the nails held Jesus up on the cross. If I could take on this minor suffering for His glory, I decided it would be an honor.

Thank you to everyone who supported me financially, spiritually, and emotionally. I got to travel to a different country, drink the most amazing juice, dance to the best Spanish music, witness more smiles on kiddos than I ever have before, teach people how to pray in English, listen to God’s word in the mass every day, eat the tastiest rice I’ve ever had, ride in the back of pick up trucks, see hundreds of stars, celebrate mass outside with two priests and 20 turkeys, doze off in a hammock during breaks, shovel rocks to help build a chapel, walk through rice fields to meet lovely people, and praise You through it all. Though the week had suffering, it was the most joyful I had ever been. Suffering truly is redemptive when it is centered in the heart of Jesus Christ.

God in Darkness

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I see God in darkness.

When I close my eyes to pray, there He is.

Not just in the light of the church, but in the black of my heart.

I see God in darkness.

When I turn the lights off, there He is.

Not just in the sunny day, but in the storm.

I see God in the shame I feel when I sin.

God is the sun, but I see Him and His true mercy in the thick of night.

For God did not just come to be your light, He came to wrap Himself up in your darkness, and shine through it.

What took me so long?

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“What took me so long?”

I was listening to Matt Maher’s song, “Alive Again”, and thinking about my journey to God. I couldn’t help but think, what took me so long? Why didn’t I see God working in my life earlier? Why did I choose to bike to him instead of jumping into a car and zooming straight into His arms? What took me so long?

And then I realized that the journey was blessed. The journey to get to God had a lot of bumps and uncertainty, but that struggle and that wandering was necessary. It’s easy now to look over your shoulder and say, why did it take me this long to fall in love with You, Lord? Your journey is between you and God. It’s something that no one else can touch. And even God, through His goodness, preferred the stumbling and the flat tires we encountered paired with our free pursuit over a neon arrow pointing directly to His arms. He wanted a love story, not an unconditional script for our lives.

Know that your journey is important, and that when I fell off my bike, He continued to call me and shout to me, making my journey to Him all the more beautiful. He does the same for you.

Why Jesus Is Better Than That Boy.

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To all the ladies out there:

How many men did you marry in your head today? Was it the cute boy who held the door open for you at the IMU? Is it the dreamy guy who sits across from you in K201? This sounds kind of funny right, when you say it out loud, but it is totally something we do! Let me tell you three reasons why it’s not fair for all parties to create a list of all the boys in the Catholic center of who you would marry.

First, you are precious. You are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of a perfect God. Wisdom 13:5 says, “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.” Catechism 41 says, “The manifold perfections of creatures – their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God.” The manifold perfections of creatures – you are the most beloved created thing! So you, who you are reflects the infinite perfection of God. It is not fair to you to emotionally invest your heart in someone who may not even know your name. You deserve the greatest of loves, not an imaginary love.

Second, they are real men. The boy who you have created him to be in your head is not real. It is not fair to them because they could be a really great guy but if he doesn’t live up to who you created him to be, then you will find it hard to even be his friend.

Finally, its not fair to your future husband (if you are called to the vocation of marriage!). Your future husband is real, he exists, and right now you are spending your time emotionally investing yourself into a boy who may not even know your name or may never pursue you in the way that you deserve.

If you find yourself spending time creating a fake life with a random guy or worrying about what the future holds, write a letter to your future husband. Even better, tell it to Jesus. Jesus is incredibly in love with you RIGHT NOW. He is pursuing your heart perfectly at every moment. He knows every desire you have, everything you need to make you happy. He knows all of this because He created you to be in relationship with you. He created everything! Think of the most beautiful thing you have ever seen – mine is a South Dakota summer night in the middle of a cornfield where you can see every single star in the galaxy. That was created by God to woo you, because he LOVES you. He is love and He sacrificed Himself for you. Let Him love you in the perfect way that you deserve to be loved. Never let your standard be less than Christ on the Cross for you. You are loved.

Written by Kelsey McCann

The Novena Story. One Year Later.

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St. Therese gave me red roses. She gave me six bouquets of red roses spread across the chapel to show me God’s vocation for my life: marriage. The bottom picture is my status on Facebook about the work of God on September 11th, 2016. One year later, I decided to revisit the place I originally saw these roses from my novena.

Before I get into that story, here’s what happened one year ago today. When I returned to college August of 2016, I was ready for the school year. I had never had a boyfriend, and I was ready for whatever God’s plan was for me. As I was talking to my campus minister, Fr. Patrick, he asked a group of leaders who was going to be a nun. I had never seriously considered the consecrated life, because I had assumed I would be a wife and have a family. After thinking about this possibility, I told Fr. Patrick that I wanted to dedicate September to discerning the consecrated life. He helped me create a prayer schedule and guided me through the differences of these vocations (thanks again, Fr. Patrick you’re the best). I had been speaking with some of my sorority sisters for a little bit about St. Therese. It kinda weirded me out because three girls had separately talked about her novena, so I decided to check it out and asked Fr. Patrick if I should discern my vocation through this nine day prayer. The St. Therese novena is very popular and known for having a question answered through a specifically colored rose. I always knew, if I prayed it, I would ask for red roses to mean marriage and for white roses to mean consecrated life.

I went to The Farm with Fr. Patrick and as we were checking out what we picked up at the cash register, he brought my attention to the single red rose sitting by the cash register. He then looked at me and said, “I think you’re supposed to pray the novena”. So I began on September 2nd, and went about my days. In the middle of the novena, I saw roses at my church in front of the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a bouquet of wilted, crumpled white roses. When I looked at the statue of Mary, she was holding a single red rose bud in her praying hands. Interesting, but I was still awaiting the final day of the novena: September 11th.

It was a Sunday, and I went to visit The Farm to show my friends the beautiful stations walk and the chapel I had never been in before. As we walked up the hill, I got excited to see if St. Therese had put any roses in the chapel. We walked inside, saw that there was Eucharistic Adoration being held, and sat in our pews. As I looked up before I knelt, there they were. Six beautiful bouquets of red roses surrounding the alter. I instantly started crying and felt so so happy and warm and joyful. Something I felt and had hoped for regarding my vocation had always been true. I felt so reassured to know that what I felt God had planned for me was the right path. He had put it on my heart since a very young age to pray for my future husband, and in the moment I saw those roses, I felt so comforted as He told me those prayers had been going to my future spouse all along. I thanked St. Therese, I thanked God, and I got even more excited to meet my future husband.

Fast forward to one year later, today, September 11th, 2017 . . .

I arrived at The Farm this morning around 9:30 am and walked up the hill to the chapel. Along the way was the Stations of the Cross walk represented in bright white statues. I huffed and puffed up the hill as I snapped (probably too many) pictures. This year, I wasn’t expecting roses. I wasn’t praying a novena, and I just wanted to go back to where it all began. As I walked in the chapel, there was no Eucharistic Adoration. There was no one with me. But there were roses. Some were yellow, some were white, but every single one of them were half red. They had red on the ends of each petal, sitting in the same position as they were a year ago. I decided to sit down, get out my journal, and figure out what God was trying to tell me this year.

God told me to slow down. For some reason, I had a song that continued to play in my head as I was at The Farm. It crept back into my head this morning as I sat there in that tiny chapel, packed with statues, and prayer cards, and roses. The song is called, “Bring Your Love To Me” by The Avett Brothers. God was telling me to bring my heart to Him, always. I have a habit of taking non-Jesus related songs and relating them to our savior. This one in particular reminded me over and over of a message from Christ. As this tune played in my head, I knew the significance of the roses. They were essentially half and half so God could tell me to only rely on Him. I had been so caught up in finding a new boyfriend, or discovering my future husband that I put God on hold for the time being. After coming out of my first relationship, I was ready for God to tell me who was to be next in my life. Rather, He had been telling me – it was Him. It has always been Him, and I vow to my future husband to always put God first in our relationship. No matter your vocation, God is first.

Bring your love to Him and it will be held tight, protected, and cherished. Today, I learned that our lives can only improve when they’re handed over to God. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trust-falling into the arms of your loving creator. As Saint Therese of Lisoux once said, “Our Lord has deigned to make me understand that by simple obedience I shall please Him best.” May Your will be done, Lord. Your beautiful, exciting, rewarding will.

 

Sit in the Light

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As my friends were leaving the room, I realized I was going to go back on my word. A couple hours ago I had told my friend Kelsey that I couldn’t go to 9 pm mass. “Eh, too busy today. I have to, ya know, order some books and stuff.” She’d understand, right? Well, of course she did, because she’s Kelsey. However, God knew I needed to be there. So as my friends walked out of our room giggling and excited for their night out, I began to feel lonely. I couldn’t hang out with them, and I was by myself. Jesus then pushed me to go to mass.

I walked through the back of church, trying to be quiet. I knew exactly where I’d sit: in the 8th pew that was in the dark so no one would see me. I was comfortable staying in darkness when I tripped over the kneeler trying to get to my perfect seat. My foot was in pain, my identity compromised, and my ego totally embarrassed. Kelsey was sitting a couple pews up in the light, and turned around before gesturing for me to go sit by her. I was so focused on staying back and not testing myself. But alas, God (through Kelsey) brought me into the light. Let’s be real, that’s what mass does. It takes us out of our timid darkness into the unsure yet beautiful light of Christ.

Thank you to Kelsey for always inviting me to be with God. Keep challenging me, please.

A Tiny Whisper

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Today is the day!! I’ve worked so hard on this little nugget of love to present to all of you. God works wonders in small details, as you’ll soon find out. This morning at mass I read the first reading from 1 Kings 19:9-13

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

I sat there and realized: March 30th, 2017 there was a small whisper. This project started as a little mustard seed with a lot of doubt. I wanted to share God, but I didn’t know how. I’d always loved photography and thought I could be decent at writing, so with the Holy Spirit on my side and in my heart, I started A Catholic Convo. Four and a half months of taking pictures and writing whatever comes to mind regarding Jesus Christ. I decided to share this website the day I reached 500 followers on Instagram. In this reading, Elijah is waiting for the Lord to pass by. Numerous natural disasters occur, but God is not in any of them. And then this happens: “After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.”

This small idea began as just a tiny whisper. I hope to continue seeking out the whisper of the Lord, instead of waiting for an earthquake to hear Him. Our God is a gentle God who moves mountains with a slight nudge. He is a God that blesses us every second with the calmness of wind. He is mysterious and for humans, unreachable. But through this mustard seed sized whisper, I continue to seek Him in all His majesty. And continue to learn every day.

Thank you for having an open heart. May God guide you down His path of goodness, and welcome to A Catholic Convo.

I Don’t Want Clean.

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I was ready for my life story to be clean. I was prepared for it to be simple and sweet. However, my life is not so. It’s messy and cracked in many places. A lot of things have become broken and worn over time. But then I think of a pristine reality: no cracks, no damage, and I don’t know where God would find room. Every time something breaks in my life, I have a choice: God glue or abandonment. I can either fill the pain with God, who could only mend such a crack in human hearts. Or I can leave it be, never mending the gash and allowing it to remain broken. If life wasn’t broken, we wouldn’t have space to let God in. It’s okay to have an oddly shaped puzzle or a confusing story book, because Jesus is the one who makes the puzzles and the stories make beautiful sense.

Why Jesus Is Your Soulmate.

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Have you ever heard of the 5 Love Languages? It’s actually a book written by Gary Chapman, and a website that contains a quiz identifying YOUR love language. Yes, I very much enjoy taking quizzes in order to learn more about myself (even if it’s the crazy ones like what age I’ll be married based on how I’d decorate my house haha). The 5 Love Languages include: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Words of Affirmation. A couple years ago I took the quiz online and found out that I am most receptive to Words of Affirmation, and usually give Words of Affirmation or Gift Giving to show my love for someone else. The point of this book and quiz is to better identify the ways you feel love, and the way you love. This brings me to my next thought: what about Love Himself, Jesus? What would His results be?

So I have decided to dive into the 5 Love Languages and inform you why Jesus is The One for you. You two happen to be perfectly compatible 🙂

Acts of ServiceFor these people, actions speak louder than words. 

In John 19, it says: “When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” The greatest sacrificial act in all of history: God humbling Himself in order to die for a bunch of flimsy humans.

Physical Touch: To these people, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. 

In Luke 13:10-13, it says: “He was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, ‘Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.’ He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.” When Jesus cures people in the Gospels, He usually rests His hands on them to show that He’s not afraid of their disease or shame.

Quality TimeThis language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.

In Matthew 14: 22-26, it says: “While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.” Jesus, the night before the most nerve-racking day of His life, decides to spend time with His closest friends and share the Last Supper with them. He also institutes the Eucharist (no biggie) by giving His body and blood, then prays with His friends in the garden for many hours.

Receiving GiftsFor some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. 

In Mark 6:34-44, it says: “Then taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to [his] disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied.” Christ provides. He doesn’t just preach kind words and tell everyone to love their enemies, but He feeds His people. He fills them physically and spiritually.

Words of AffirmationThis language uses words to affirm other people. 

In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), it says: ” ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ ” Jesus fills the world upside down with His new teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, but other than that, affirms our grace-filled actions by calling us “blessed”.

I hope these expressions of love show you how Jesus is Love, itself. He is perfect in all He does and is the greatest model for love that anyone could have. When you’re searching for love, search for Him. He cannot disappoint.

A Missing Pen

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It’s been a hard day. I went to a convent to pray, and I was all prepared. I was ready to tell God what I had to say. Ready to take my journal and write my feelings until my hand cramped. Prepared to write until my heart didn’t hurt anymore. I looked inside my backpack, and nothing. No pen. Of course, I forgot a pen. All I had was my devotional to read from. After being bummed out, I knew what God had done. “Just be, Maclaine.” But I’d gone through pain today and I wanted to tell Him about it. And He told me to just sit, and listen. God isn’t on our time, He’s on His. And though I wanted to spill my heart out to Him, He already knew what I’d gone through. He already had the solution for the hurt: Adoration. He led me to Himself and asked me to “just be still, and know that I am with you.” So yes, God loves when we share our days and our lives with Him, but let Him share His plan and His grace with you.

 

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