My Service Break Experience in Denver

Well, it’s been about two weeks since my Service Break Experience in Denver where I served people who are hungry, homeless, and in poverty with seven other members of the St. Edward’s community during spring break. Friends and family keep asking me about it, but it so hard to even know where to start. I am still trying to digest the whole week, and I think I will be for a good while.

For right now, I can definitely say it was a challenging, transformative, and refreshing trip. I wouldn’t say it was dramatically life-changing, but I was made aware of things in my life that need adjustment. Going into a trip like this, I would have thought its main effects would take place in the communities we served, but instead it was in each of our hearts.

I went on this trip because I knew I needed to be challenged and shaken a bit. I had become too comfortable with how I lived my life, and I felt a calling to something new. I had no idea what God had in store, but I knew I needed to take some leaps of faith and find out.

The first leap was giving up my spring break months before I knew what my other options were for it. I have yet to go home this semester, which is unusual for me. I love life in Austin, but home is home and something I cling to, maybe a little too much. God was calling me to let go of this comfort.

The next leap was disconnecting from almost everything familiar. I could not have my phone or any contact with family and friends. I didn’t get to know our schedule and had to let go of knowing what time it was during the day. I was in an unfamiliar city dependent on a student leader and faculty adviser to get us to where we needed to be. Surprisingly, my favorite part of the trip was not having my iPhone. It allowed me to be more present to the people I was serving, to the people I was serving with, and to what was going on in my heart.

Another leap was being completely open to whatever happened. I realized towards the beginning of the trip I needed to stop trying to MAKE IT a great experience and LET IT BE a great experience. So many times I want to control how things happen, where I go, and what I do. We split up and went to four different sites for Monday and Tuesday. While discussing where we might want to go, I was a bit anxious about making up my mind because I wanted to be sure I got the best site or the one most relevant to me. Did I want to work with kids? Would I enjoy the work at a emergency food bank? I finally had to make myself say, “Put me wherever.” No matter where I served, God had a plan and something to teach me.

Taking these leaps of faith I was able to do more than go on an awesome trip but truly experience it while we were there. Each day since returning, I have continued to experience it. When I stop at the light on Ben White and S. Congress and see my friend Stuart holding a cardboard sign, I don’t feel like I have to have something concrete to give him in order to roll down my window and treat him like my brother. When my personality doesn’t rub well with another person’s personality, I try to remember to see him or her as a unique child of God like me. When world problems seem to big and I feel helpless, I try to remember that I can still throw a few starfish back into the sea and make a difference in their lives. When I am confronted with stereotypes and single stories, I try to think about all the other situations or stories I haven’t heard. When I am quick to judge, I am reminded of my own faults and short-comings.

I am still sometimes selfish and lazy, sometimes wasteful, and sometimes don’t treat everyone I encounter with the respect they deserve, but life is a journey for growth. My service break experience was a checkpoint and renewal for this growth.


From iPhone to noPhone

Thursday, I had the opportunity to be on a panel during a SXSW event called It was sponsored by and Cadabra Media. The event featured innovators in the field of technology and faith that addressed “one of the great challenges of our age: to live connected to one another through technology and to do so in ways that are beneficial to our soulwork, connected in our communities, and useful to the world.”

I was invited along with four other St. Edward’s students to be a part of a panel to discuss how technology plays a role in our faith communities and spiritual lives (Check out a recording of it here. We go on about 37 minutes into the video). It was an awesome and blessed experience! Technology and media can and are truly enhancing the religious lives and faith experiences of many people. It provides a space for mass communication, conversation, and connection. I am a strong believer in the good that can come from it, but I also recognized the ‘bad’ it can create.

All that being said, today I will turn off my iphone and leave it on my desk for one whole week. I will be participating in a program called Alternative Spring Break in which I will spend a week with seven other people from St. Ed’s serving those in poverty in Denver, Colorado. We will be building community, doing justice, living simply, and engaging spiritually. That means no phones, laptops, social media, homework, watches, daily showers, etc.

I signed up for this program because I felt I needed to get uncomfortable. I felt I needed something new. I wanted to let go of distractions and be 100% present in what I was doing for once. I depend on my iphone and other technologies for so many things, but it’s time to refocus and depend on someone who can do much more than tell me when my next meeting is or where to closest coffee shop is. Being connected to the world and having a world of knowledge in the palm of my hand is great, but what does it all matter if I am not connected to myself, the one who created me, and the people I am in community with.

The group I will spend the next week with!

Getting back on track

It’s a little over a month into the spring semester, and I don’t know about you, but I am starting to get behind on things. My apartment looks pretty disastrous, my to-do lists (when i have the time to make them) are getting longer, I am finding loose papers scattered in my binders, books, and room, and I am simply not using my time well because I am so tired. I am determined to get back on track though. If you want to too, here are a few tips that have helped me before.

1. Make the decision to change your ways. Lent just started so it’s the perfect opportunity to get your act together, but you have to make a commitment to yourself to make a change, to become organized, to be more productive. Maybe ask someone to hold you accountable and check in with you.

2. Take it slow if you need to. Try doing 1 thing a day. If you apartment looks as bad as mine, take 10 or 20 minutes of your day and focus on the kitchen or laundry or your desk. You don’t have to do it all in 1 day.

3. Schedule everything. Some people have a hard time with this, but if you want to make sure something gets done, scheduling it will force you to manage your time wisely. I use Microsoft Outlook because I can color-code everything :) You can even schedule in naps and veg time.

4. Don’t feel guilty about taking some time to do nothing productive. It’s good for your mind to get a rest by reading something for pleasure, catching up on your favorite shows on Hulu, or taking a nap. The problem comes when you do this for an extended period of time. I am very guilty of accidentally watching 4 hours worth of Netflix before I remember I have a paper due the next day. This is when scheduling everything is helpful.

5. Make sure you are eating well. I have noticed the more unbalanced my meals are, the less productive and more tired I am . Try not to grab anything just to get food in your stomach. Take the time to eat a real meal at least twice a day. Don’t forget to drink water through out the day too.

Do you have any tips that have helped you? Share them below!

St. Edward’s University Homecoming 2012

I love February! Not just because it is my birthday month, but because it holds my favorite week of the whole year: Homecoming week.

Homecoming week at St. Edward’s is the most fun, spirited, and exciting week in the entire year. I never feel more at home on the Hilltop than I do during this week. Why? It is a time to simply celebrate being a part of one big family, a time to celebrate being a Hilltopper, a time to celebrate our mission, values, and the impact St. Edward’s has had on so many lives. There is a spirit in the air during Homecoming week that I can’t help but react to.

Competing for the Topper Cup, gambling and dancing at Casino Night, tailgating with friends, cheering on our athletic teams, celebrating mass with and blessing our parents (or pseudo-parents), eating the best brunch ever made. These are a few of my favorite (Homecoming) things. Here they are in pictures:

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So I invented a new game. A few weeks ago I was driving home from my internship and was not looking forward to another game night, Netflix, or homework. I just wanted to take my camera and do what I promised myself I would do this semester: take time to do what I love and experience Austin. So I called up a few friends, we got in my car (Tuscon Joe), and I started driving. We ended up at Mozart’s, a local coffee shop on Town Lake. We bought a brownie, took a few pictures, and caught up.

Once the sun had set we debated on what to do next. Unfortunately the 3 of us are the most indecisive people ever. So we decided to ask a stranger. Our stranger of choice was a barista behind the counter. He suggested Halcyon, a coffee house, bar, and lounge downtown. So we got in Tuscon Joe and started driving again inventing my new favorite Friday night activity I am going to call Localing.

Here’s how you play:

1. Get some friends and a camera and drive to any new place in whatever city or town you are currently in. You can just start driving until you see a new place with a cool name or you can pick a random spot on a map. It doesn’t matter. Just start driving and stop eventually.

2. Once you get there, take it in and experience wherever you are. Have a drink, read a book, take some pictures, play a game, whatever you want.

3. After you feel like you have experienced this new place, ask a stranger where to go next. Tell them about localing or make up a story about how you are the host of a new TV series that explores local spots in different towns. It doesn’t matter. Just get a new placeĀ  to go to.

4. Go there and repeat all the steps until you are ready for bed.

To add to the difficulty, make up some more rules. You can make it a competition among a larger group of friends and see who can find to coolest or most unique places. You can make it a rule to not turn down any new place a stranger suggests. Do whatever you want. Just get out of your house and experience your city or town.

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