Tag Archives: Gratitude

The Gifts We Thought We Didn’t Need

Last night, we celebrated my final farewell at the Sheil Catholic Center.  There have been many opportunities to say good-bye to people one-on-one, but it was important to see students in this “official” capacity one last time. Thanks to everyone who joined us, for your kind words, and making the night special!  These were my remarks.

Gift Box

I have a favorite quote from Will Willimon, a professor and former dean of the Divinity School at Duke University. Willimon says:

This is often the way God loves us:  with gifts we thought we didn’t need
which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be.

I’m really grateful to be back at Sheil tonight for this official farewell. As many of you know, I left Sheil very unexpectedly at the end of June. Since then I’ve been spending a lot of time traveling, seeing family, and catching up with friends and professional colleagues. Two quick stories:

I have a friend who just turned 40. She and her husband recently learned that she is pregnant-again. Needless to say, having another baby was not part of their “plan”.  She said to me, “We weren’t ready for this!  But by the grace of God and a lot of prayer, we realize what a GIFT this new life is for our family.”  This is often how God loves us, with gifts we thought we didn’t need ….

I have another friend, a professional acquaintance, who runs a ministry for homeless people who struggle with addictions. I asked him, “How exactly did you get to be director of such a great organization?” He laughed to himself and said, “I spent the first three years out of college binge drinking and couch surfing. I finally grew up, got sober, and someone gave me a second chance. I’m not proud of the mistakes I made, but by the grace of God I’m still sober. And 25 years later I have a tremendous amount of compassion for those who are homeless and struggling to overcome their addictions.”  God often gives us gifts we think we don’t need that transform us into people we never expected to be…

As I look back at 10 years of ministry at Sheil, I am incredibly grateful for all of it. There were plenty of moments along the way, where I thought to myself, “I’m not ready for this! And this wasn’t part of the plan! And I’m not always proud of the mistakes I made.” But this is often the way God loves us… 

As a campus minister I was invited into some really holy and privileged conversations with students. Students changing majors or discerning vocations, thinking about getting engaged or deciding to break up, the student who got accepted into graduate school and the one who didn’t, when a grandparent died or a mom was diagnosed with cancer, or sitting with a student in the hospital and the RA who had to call 911 over the weekend. All of this in the midst of classes, athletics, music recitals, and theatre productions. And retreats, small groups, service trips, and everything else that happens at Sheil.

It is really incredible to be with people in moments of joy and celebration and in times of heartache and confusion.  Every conversation, every service trip, every retreat, every event on campus, every moment of silence in the chapel is a gift that- welcome or not- God is using to transform us.  And I am certain that God is using all of this to transform me and prepare me for what is next!

In leaving Sheil, there is one thing that I have been reminded of over and over again – and that is how incredibly faithful God is. God has gifted this community with his presence, and God has given you (given us) the gift of one another.  I am confident that good things will continue to happen in my life, and in yours, and in the life of Sheil Catholic Center.

Thank you for letting me be a part of it for the past 10 years.  What a gift!

(Photo from Flickr Creative Commons)

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40 Reasons to Be Grateful

SONY DSCJuly 3, 2013

Today is the 10 year anniversary of my 30th birthday.  Or is it the 19th anniversary of my 21st birthday?  I had dinner with a colleague last weekend.  She said, “You’re turning 36, right?” You do the math, but if anyone asks, I’ll probably tell you that I’m 29 again! 

Ten years ago, a very wise woman reminded me, “Birthdays ending in zero signify life changing moments … Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s here! Take stock of where you are and where you’ve been, so that you can begin to see where you’re going.”

Today I took the day off work to do some of my favorite things – Mass, Spiritual Direction, lunch with my goddaughter (and her amazing mom!), worked out at the gym, dinner with another best friend … and now laundry and packing to leave for Silent Retreat. 

For the past several weeks, leading up to today, I’ve been showered with gifts and surrounded by love.  (And there are a few more celebrations yet to come!)  And I am grateful.

  1. For my amazing parents who love me (and my siblings and our nieces/nephews) more than I will ever know or imagine.
  2. Spending an entire weekend in Nebraska with everyone there together, loads of laughs, lots of memories shared, and new experiences created.
  3. Angel food cake with fluffy white frosting.
  4. Celebrating my birthday 2 weeks early with the other six summer birthdays in our family.
  5. A breakfast meeting with someone who is sure to become an important mentor in my life, especially after she shared her own experience of turning 40.
  6. Discovering some of the best new restaurants in Chicago (including the ones right in my neighborhood!)
  7. Having friends who enjoy checking out new restaurants!
  8. A home to call my own in a city that I love.
  9. Free Starbuck’s Coffee
  10. Mass this morning in one of Chicago’s most beautiful sanctuary spaces.
  11. Kaia time (my god daughter).  Seeing Kaia light up with a smile when I walked into the room.  Watching Kaia laugh at raindrops falling from tree branches.  Kaia making funny faces while sucking on a slice of lemon.
  12. Dark chocolate sea salt carmel gelato from Paciugo.  OK … anything from Paciugo!
  13. Birthday greetings from some of my favorite students – past and present.
  14. Inheriting my mom’s green thumb and love of plants. And although I will never out-do my mom, I did plant four new hostas in my front yard!
  15. Grateful for the incredible women in my life … the most important of whom are my mom and my sisters.
  16. Ten years ago today, I was in Nicaragua for the first time with some amazing people!  My life has forever been changed for the better because of the people, experiences, and opportunities that have come from this one trip.
  17. Grateful to be of service to others – physically and financially.
  18. The chance to connect good people with important causes.
  19. Friends who really value time spent together in prayer … even at the risk of being interrupted by a well-meaning waiter.
  20. Surprise cupcakes, candles, and a card at the book club event where I was invited to present last week.
  21. Grateful that God has given me enough words to fill two books, and blessed for every invitation to lead a discussion about them.
  22. Birthday wishes from Facebook friends from around the world, some of whom have known me the entirety of these last 40 years.
  23. I’m especially grateful for those friends whom I have known for less amount of time, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever.
  24. A spiritual director who is kind beyond measure and wise beyond years!
  25. Birthday messages from ALL of my siblings.
  26. Grateful to be a part of doing creative, collaborative, and “innovative” work.
  27. The potential for new opportunities on the horizon … for writing, for mentoring, for ministry.
  28. For the freedom to discern where God is inviting me to use my gifts.
  29. Coupons for free birthday treats at all my favorite stores and restaurants
  30. For friends who openly share their joys and struggles.
  31. Amazon Gift Cards (thanks Mom!) and the love of books.
  32. Making time to get to the gym and having the energy for a really good workout.
  33. I am especially grateful for the incredible staff at the fitness center and how they continue to inspire me!  Today’s bit of wisdom from Jesse our cycling/spin instructor, “Don’t be afraid of the big gears!”
  34. To be at a place where I can truly appreciate the past decade with all its milestones and moments of celebration.
  35. And despite its less-then-pretty moments, I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned (as painful as they were!)
  36. An email message from the dental office that said, “We hope you have many reasons to smile today!”  Yes, I do!
  37. Fresh cut flowers, especially big yellow sunflowers, from a dear friend.
  38. Red Wine. Caesar Salad. Pasta. Chocolate Mouse. A birthday dinner worth every last bite! And a great conversation partner to share it.
  39.  A week away on silent retreat to soak in all the gratitude and love!
  40.  And hopeful anticipation of what the next ten years have in store.

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