Stories of Renewal: Mind

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Our world moves quickly. And we get stuck in patterns, in ruts, mental or otherwise, that do not serve us well. We end up serving the cause of efficiency, or success, or an organization–and our mind begins to form to the values and desires of the world we are engrossed in. Sometimes these are healthy causes, healthy motivations, but often not, and often they aren’t created for the flourishing of humanity. Our minds are being formed in that way all the time whether we are aware of it or not, hence the need to ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds.’ The very form of our mind needs to be changed. Here are some stories about how peoples’ minds were renewed over break.

“I am a person whose personality lies at the anxious/worrisome end of the spectrum. Being so, I find renewal and relaxation through reassurance. I spend time doing things that allow me to reconfirm my passion for, or decision to pursue, different activities, beliefs and schoolwork. As a result, I spent this winter break recharging at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo (my workplace for the past 8 years). I am fortunate enough that my current work is my passion. At the zoo, I was able to recharge and reconcile the discrepancies of my thoughts and feelings. I addressed the doubt that I, and surely others, experience as we sit in classes that we absolutely hate but are told we’re supposed to enjoy. I woke up at 6:00 AM, 5 days a week including holidays, to sift through wood chips on my hands and knees looking for fecals and to scrub remnants of the previous day’s dinner off enclosure walls. Like all other past experiences at the zoo, I absolutely loved it! It was another chance to calm my anxiousness and renew myself for the upcoming semester.”
-Dominic Dongilli, Cortinian

“When I left Creighton for winter break I had no idea that I would end up having a “change-of-mind.” Last semester was the busiest 4 months of my life. Not only was I taking 19 credits, but I also had 2 jobs, was the co-president of a student organization, and was involved in multiple other activities. Needless to say, I did not allow myself very much quiet time, alone time, nor reflection about the person I was, the things I was doing, and the people I was surrounding myself with. It wasn’t until I had these past 4 weeks of no commitments that I was able to step back and evaluate my situation.

Giving myself the ability to take a breather over break has been more beneficial than I could ever explain. It has allowed me to reflect on my relationships, both at home and at school, that I really value and cherish; it has opened my eyes to those relationships that I have that are really unhealthy and that I need to either work on or distance myself from; and it has helped me realize that I have a lot of people at school who I really want to get to know better. When I am around a lot of people and don’t allow myself sufficient alone time, it is hard for me to separate the friendships that bring out the best in me from those that bring out the worst. Because when I am around certain people, I can unwillingly change into someone I don’t want to be. But by stepping back, I have had a change of mind, and now everything seems so much clearer; I know who I am, where I am going, and who I want to be. This change of mind has definitely been for the better.”
-Haley Warren, Cortinian

“Over the course of this winter break, I’ve experienced something I hadn’t known in a very long time: nothing was due.  Though I am far from spending all of my time during the semester working, there is always the knowledge that there is something I should be working on, particularly this past semester with graduate application deadlines all at the end of the calendar year.  That was all essentially complete before Christmas though, allowing me to enjoy time with my family and then something very different: true free time.  And in that period I discovered something about myself—I don’t know what to do with true free time.  While I enjoy getting the chance to read, watch TV, etc., it doesn’t provide the same level of satisfaction I find in the classroom, the research lab, with my friends at school and in the Cortina Community.  The break has afforded me the possibility of a mental renewal, a ‘hard reset’ on my own thoughts, to let me face the new semester with a fresh mind.  I’m glad I had the break, but now it is time to start again, and I’m excited to do so.”
-John Otto, Cortina RA


Stories of Renewal: Spirit

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year, but rather that we should have a new soul.”
–G.K. Chesterton

This seems a bit intense. What a change! Does the movement from December 31 to January 1=new soul? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I can envision a very strange science fiction novel that adopts that kind of plot line. But in all seriousness, at the rollover to the new year we are usually at home, enjoying a crazy-long break (1 month?! What?!). Things are fundamentally different than they are during the semester. If there is any time best suited as a season for renewal, that was it. Listening to the experiences of people in our community, whether Cortina students, alumni, staff, or community partners, can help us understand what the break and the New Year has brought in the way of renewal for some, and remind us to reflect on ways we received renewal this break, maybe even ways we weren’t cognizant of at the time.

We need to be renewed. It gets old to feel old. Today we will hear stories about ways people were renewed in Spirit over break.

“As a gardener, I find the winter season somewhat challenging. When that first freeze hits and all the plants die, my spirit can plummet just like the temperatures. I live for the warm days of spring, filled with the smell of fresh rain, the sight of tiny green sprouts and the feel of the sun and the sounds of birds filling the air. Just so you know how much I love spring… I start counting the days from the December Solstice – 64 days now til spring!
But then I have to remind myself that the winter also brings opportunities. The cold days are great for sitting in a comfy chair with a beverage, studying seed catalogs, dreaming about the new varieties of plants I will try in the garden this season. I think back on how the past season went, what I will do differently, what I considered to be successful. It provides a time for the soil to regenerate, for the remains of last year’s crops to break down in the compost pile, returning valuable nutrients to the soil.
But then I have to remind myself that the winter also brings opportunities. The cold days are great for sitting in a comfy chair with a beverage, studying seed catalogs, dreaming about the new varieties of plants I will try in the garden this season. I think back on how the past season went, what I will do differently, what I considered to be successful. It provides a time for the soil to regenerate, for the remains of last year’s crops to break down in the compost pile, returning valuable nutrients to the soil.
These cold, gray, snowy days remind me that in August I may be cursing the hot, humid, scorching days. Many people enjoy living in the Midwest because we get to experience the change of seasons, each with its own joys and disappointments. As Ecclesiastes says, “For every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” My goal is to use each season to renew my joy, energy and passion and appreciate all that each change offers.
-Roxanne Williams, City Sprouts

“The holiday break of 2012 was on my mind since about August. Even though I have been out of college for a few years, the break before the start of a new calendar year must have become part of my biological clock. For the past few years, the holiday break has meant intentional quiet time with my family. To step away from work which exhausts a lot of my mental and physical energy, and there never seems to be a time when you ‘clock out.’
That quiet time with family leads up to one of my favorite things about the holiday break : Our New Years Eve party. A time when all of my community comes together to celebrate and reflect on our year together, eat good food and drink good drink, and to anticipate together how we can be better for the upcoming year. The part that is renewing for me is that the New Years Eve party is a reminder that I am continually shaped by who I invite into my life. Those who are in my life have permission to make me better, to continue to stretch my definition of ‘neighbor’ that I am called to love. It also is a constant reminder to always be considering ‘who else should I invite to this circle?’ and ‘whose voice is not being heard that needs to speak into my life.’ So over the break, I would say my community helped ‘renew a right spirit within me’…and it wasn’t just the spirits we were drinking on New Years Eve!”
-Jeff Spiehs, inCommon Community Development

“Hello, my name is Tim McDermott, and I am a new member of the Cortina Community this Spring Semester. During my Fall Break Service Trip to El Paso, Texas this past semester, I discerned that if it was possible I should take the chance to apply for transfer into the Cortina Community halfway through the year. I decided to take this chance because of all the stories and opportunities I heard about from some of my fellow group members on the service trip who were already part of the community. This was out of the ordinary but thankfully I was able to take the place of a Cortinian who is studying abroad in the Encuentro Dominicano program. Although I was not a part of the community last semester, I am extremely excited to be a part of it in this coming semester!
This past Christmas break has been a great time for renewal of my spirit. It was good to be home with my family from whom I have learned many lessons about love and service.  My home was also the foundation for my Catholic faith and identity. Returning to my parish at home as well as visiting with some close friends reminded me of where I have come from in terms of my faith and my spirit. I have much to look forward to this semester in terms of service with my weekly service site, which is the Crestview Apartments Group. I also will be coordinating a CCSJ Spring Break Service Trip to Stroud, Oklahoma. With both of these things to look forward to, as well as the Cortina Community as a whole I can tell that I have a great semester ahead of me!”
-Tim McDermott, Cortinian

“I had been dreading Christmas since about Thanksgiving. I felt like the consumerism was all in my face. I missed my grandpa and my dog and the friends I made last Christmas. I asked for nothing, which to my grandma made me difficult and a party-pooper, but she did come with me to a church in Springfield on Christmas Eve. The service was about ‘coming home.’ The pastor described ‘home’ as where ever you are welcomed with open arms, loved regardless of where you’ve been, and the party isn’t complete without you. I thought about a lot of people and places, some feeling more home-y by this definition than others. Even though I was feeling out-of-sync with my family Christmas, they welcomed me, loved me, and missed me. I can’t fully describe it here, but Christmas finally felt like home when our family friends stopped by Christmas night. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen them in almost two years. The sequence of being reminded how to find God in the spirit of coming home and the joy of catching up and laughing with old friends was the spiritual renewal I think my whole family needed.”
-Jordan Kellerstrass, Cortina Class Co-Chair

“During my time at Creighton, my family has changed as extremely as my worldview. In the past two years my parents divorced, by sister moved to middle-of-nowhere Missouri, my mom remarried, I suddenly had two stepsisters, ages 11 and 15, and my dad moved to New Jersey.
To some, this might seem like a story that should shake me to my emotional core—a true restructuring of my foundation that should have dramatic effects on my psyche. To a 19-year-old me trying to establish myself as a free and potentially independent semi-adult, I saw this potential for emotional disaster and instead responded in the best way I knew how—total detachment. I refused to let myself become emotionally involved in what I affectionately called “the family fiasco back home,” instead casually watching from the sheltered Creighton sidelines.
This strategy was particularly taxing on my relationship with my mother. We have never been particularly close, not because we don’t like each other, but because we just have very little in common. I have always been remarkably similar to my dad, which as you may imagine, now became a source of tension. Christmas break of last year, my mother and I had a conversation in which she told me she had a hard time being around me because she couldn’t get over how similar I was to my father. After a lot of tears and messy explanations, we mutually established a desire to “at least be cordial” in our future as family. Needless to say, the goal of “cordial” was not much of a motivator to hurry home and invest in my family relationships.
I delayed going home for Christmas this year as long as I could, longing for anything to do other than go home and ‘be cordial.’ But when I finally arrived, it was immediately clear that there was a renewal occurring both in myself and in my mother that stemmed from a love and a dedication far greater than anything her and I could muster. For reasons that I can only explain as ‘I guess God does, in fact, give a damn about our family,’ my mother began to clearly see me as her son independent of her ex-husband, and I began to love her for the simple fact that she is my mother—a reason that I usually find uncompelling. This love created space for the most enjoyable and beautiful time I have ever spent with my mother, and God’s gift of loving her for family’s sake created a foundation to love her for reasons specific to her as a person.
I left home with a completely renewed capacity to love my mother and to allow her to love me, and it was the first trip home I have ever wished was longer.”
-Westin Miller, Cortina RA