I’ve always said that my room mirrors the current state of my life. Before this weekend when I helped staff a retreat called Longhorn Awakening hosted by the University Catholic Center, my room looked like the “sour” part of a sour patch kid came in and did his dirty work.

Indistinguishable piles of clean and dirty clothes, papers everywhere, books and half-full cups hiding what is supposed to be a desk, half of my unmade bed dedicated to sleep and the other half dedicated to putting stuff on. This was my “pre-retreat” life: kind of chaotic and a little bit messy.

Then comes this past weekend. I went into it a little bit stressed because I had two tests the Monday after the retreat, meaning that I wouldn’t have anytime to study. Also, our retreat site was at a different place because the retreat center we usually rent got double-booked. It seemed like everything was going wrong and nothing was going right.

But, as per usual, God’s timing is absolutely perfect. We’re all running around with our heads chopped off, and God’s all, “Calm it down, bro”. He knows what is best for us even though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

My semester has been so crazy that I haven’t been able to just pray without thinking about the next thing on the list I have to do. I’ve been super stressed about my classes, work and about life in general and really needed the encouragement to keep going.

Serving God through serving others

One of the reasons I love to staff retreats is because as a staffer, you not only get to bring the retreatants closer to God, but you can get as much out of the retreat as they do. One of the nights, I got to spend hours uninterrupted with Jesus through Adoration, a Catholic tradition in which the consecrated Eucharist is displayed, which we believe holds the true presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I got to talk to Him about everything, even the non-important things like how I heard a funny joke that morning. It was so renewing and I haven’t felt that kind of peace for a really long time. The beautiful thing about coming back to God is that He always receives you with open arms. For me, it was like talking to my best friend whom I haven’t seen for months; we didn’t skip a beat.

If you live in Austin, you know that this past weekend was freezing cold. Of course, it was totally expected. God always sends us a cold front whenever Longhorn Awakening comes around because He wants to bring us together. We hug, we share blankets, we share testimonies. When standing outside in the cold, we come together to share with each other not only body warmth, but also the warmth of the fire the Holy Spirit has put in us.

To add to the wonderfulness of this weekend, I got to meet some of my fellow Longhorn (and even Aggie) Catholics, which I always love. They inspire me so much and I’m so blessed that God has put them in my life.

Sometimes, it’s as if God has given me too many blessings.

Almost heavenly…

I truly believe that I got to see a little tiny itty bitty glimpse of what Heaven is like this weekend. Making new friends who are longing to be in full communion with Christ, being in the state of perfect peace and joy, not to mention having crazy dance parties late into the night.

I mean, this is what the whole world is striving for, right? Whether secular or religious, all we really want from this life is happiness. It’s just how we go about it that’s makes us different. Some go to frat parties and others go to church. Some look for happiness in other people while we Christians look for it in God.

Anyways, the point of this little story is that my room is clean(er) now. I don’t mean that it’s spotless or anything, but a lot better than it has been. It’s amazing how God can change our lives almost instantaneously.

(So, as an advertising major, I am required to do a little plug for Longhorn Awakening here. It really is an amazing retreat that is open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Make lifelong friends, eat amazing food, and grow in your love for Jesus! If you’re interested in going to Longhorn Awakening for the Spring semester, make sure to check back here when the application drops, which is probably sometime early next semester: http://utcatholic.org/orgs/awakening/. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me!)

“But it was you, my other self, my comrade and friend, You, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in the house of God.” Psalm 55: 14-15

Laurelin Ontai is a media intern for Campus Renewal Ministries. She is currently a junior at the University of Texas at Austin and active in her ministry at the University Catholic Center. If you have any questions or comments, please contact her at laurelinontai@gmail.com