Hello, thirty.

Two years ago, I was sitting with a friend on the steps of a church. He had just come back from a year-long journey around the world. I forget exactly what we were talking about, but it somehow led to me lamenting the fact that I was almost thirty. (I was 28 at the time. I know. Dramatic.) I remember this because what he said next stuck with me:

“Jen, you’re not 30. You’re 28. You have two years until you’re 30. Do you know what you can accomplish in that time? In one year you can travel around the world. You’re not 30. You have time.”

Here I am at 30 and he was right. I had time. In that year and a half, I:

  • left my government job, which I had for thirteen years
  • to work in Catholic ministry helping people in the work of evangelization through traveling, writing, and designing,
  • established relationships in Haiti and led several mission teams,
  • became part of a very new intentional missionary community,
  • deepened unexpected friendships in unexpected ways, and
  • grew in my understanding of who I am and what I desire.

All in all, not bad for a year and a half.

Still, I knew this changing of decades would be difficult. With the help of friends and family, it was a weekend of celebration instead of lamentation. AND the best part isn’t even here yet. Continue reading “Hello, thirty.”

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Goodbye, twenties. Gulp.

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I took this picture one week before my twentieth birthday—probably for MySpace to announce my upcoming 20th birthday, if I’m being honest. I was entering a new decade and had no idea what was in store. I was a confused teenager taking class after class at my local community college trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

A decade later and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But this time I’m moving from one decade to the next with far less confusion (…I think).

My twenties were, as they are for everyone I know, a transformational decade. I tried new things, I made a lot of mistakes, and I started discovering and pursuing the things I’m passionate about.

With that in mind, as I prepare to enter my thirties—gulp—I thought I would share a few things I’m glad I did in my twenties. Continue reading “Goodbye, twenties. Gulp.”

Hola, Papa Francisco.

I, like many Catholics, remember where I was when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was named the 265th successor of Saint Peter. I sat in a work meeting with anticipation,  compulsively checking my phone for any sign of news from Rome. Although I had my “re-conversion” in 2007 with the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and I had a special love for Pope John Paul II because Polish, this moment in history felt new and exciting. This was the first papal conclave I cared about. I knew I would be meeting the first Pope I could claim as my own. He would be the first Pope I’d follow from his beginning. The first Pope in whom I would see a shepherd chosen by God instead of just a cultural icon.

When I got word our new Pope was elected, I was filled with a joy and comfort I couldn’t articulate. We learned he chose the name Francis. Oh, how I loved St. Francis. I had my moment of re-conversion in a Franciscan Friary. My grandmother was a third order Franciscan. Franciscan spirituality greatly influenced, and still influences, my faith life. I knew this would be a man from whom I’d learn and who would inspire me to go deeper in my relationship with God. That night my friends and I celebrated the only way we knew how… with prayer and cake.

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Pope Francis has inspired me, just as I knew he would. From his love of mercy to his joy for evangelization. From his profound and prophetic words to his simple gestures of love. Naturally, I was excited when I found out he would be coming to the United States. When I found out there was a ticket to the Papal Mass in Washington DC with my name on it, it took everything in me to refrain from a fangirl frenzy.

My friend, who invited me and was also excited to be there, referred to our tickets as the “cheap seats.” I referred to them as, “Ohmygosh I can’t believe I’m at a Papal Mass.”

Continue reading “Hola, Papa Francisco.”