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Day 210: Ashley B

I've written and rewritten, and can't get it just right. This post was supposed to be for Tuesday, July 26. I wanted this post to be eloquent and well-written, but if I don't post it now, I might never remember to do it!

Background: My friend Ashley (my dear friend Monica's sister) lives in a convent in New Ulm, Minnesota, with the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus. She was back home in Moorhead last week. She'll soon begin her two novitiate years, and she won't be home during their duration.

I had expected to see Ashley at a small-group meeting Monday night, and greatly enjoyed our visit there and lingering in the parking lot chatting afterward. Unexpectedly, Ashley, Monica and Monica's two girls joined the boys and I for lunch on Tuesday morning. The kids braved the humidity and ate picnic-style out on the deck while the grown-ups happily enjoyed the air conditioning. I really savored our conversation, casual and unremarkable as it was. I wavered between being regular and comfortable as though it was normal that she was there, and wanting to ask her all the things while clapping my hands like a 4-year-old at DisneyWorld.

On the surface, my gratitude for that day can be that they were able to join us for lunch and that I was able to see Ashley one more (unexpected) time. But deeper than that, I realized later, I am so grateful for her vocation, the courage with which she is answering God's call, and the joy that it is bringing to her and all those who meet her.

I am not in her diocese, and will likely not be directly served by the Handmaids, but I can't help feeling somehow that her vocation is for me. She is giving up all the things that I can't and won't give up. She is taking on challenges that I am not called to take on, and she is doing it all with such great joy. I know she prays regularly for me, as I do for her and her sisters there. I do know that this young order, like many other religious orders around the world, is building up the body of Christ in a way that will benefit countless souls, my own included. Their sacrifice is a gift for all of us. Ashley radiates peace and I can feel Christ present in her. It's just such a gift!

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