This summer I spent six golden weeks in middle-of-nowhere Dahlonega, GA at LifeTeen’s summer camp Hidden Lake, and it wrecked my life. As has every mass since. At camp we woke up exhausted and went to bed exhausted, and we did everything as a community (including peeing our pants (if you didn’t pee your pants at every dance party was it really a dance party?) ) That part was exhausting too. Community is hard, people. But it’s more than hard, and that’s what I learned this summer. That “hard” is just a tiny part of life with Christ. In fact it becomes so minuscule that it becomes sweet, because the amount of love and grace and fruit that comes from “hard” makes you ardently desire sacrifice and desire to give in those particular ways, small and big, in order to be made soft.
At this camp I was given the opportunity every weekday morning to wake up early for either a holy half hour or a holy whole hour. I didn’t always choose the whole, because sleep was scarce, but when I did it was fruitful. And when I didn’t it was also fruitful, because Jesus was there both ways. (🔥) Then the community would pray morning prayer and each day the schedule was different after that. When there were campers, we went straight to breakfast to see our people and hang out with them the rest of the day until the missionaries met again as a community late that night. Y’all. Waking up was so hard, but I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to serve any other way. And what made it sweeter was on the way to the chapel teens were showing up to confession. They were waking up the same time as us, walking down the road to face their weakness on a grassy knoll in the middle of nowhere Georgia with a priest they’d never met. That’s Jesus winning y’all. I saw Jesus in these teens every day. And I saw Jesus doing so much work in every single person who stepped foot on camp property, from the mailman to the food delivery truck drivers to the bus drivers to the chaperones to the teens to the summer missionaries. He just wants to move and love. And it’s so obvious, and literally all that people did was pray and ask. That’s it. (#Jesusincreaseourdesire)

Like seriously. I am the worst summer missionary. I am so bad at so many things, and I failed so many times in so many ways. And I am so weak. But in all that, this summer I was able to see how much I needed a Savior, and that knowledge allowed my heart to let Jesus be who He is. Just by asking. He is no longer just a friend, to me, He is a Savior, a compassionate Father… This was so slowly revealed to me this summer, but it all peaked when I was kneeling on a mountain at mass at the end of camp, looking at myself in hatred and disgust and just being really mean to myself. Amidst all of that, Jesus spoke to me and He said this: “Emma. Your weaknesses do not discount you from my love.” Jot that down. Because he did not say to me that I am perfect and wonderful and amazing, He said he loved me. He did not lie to me or deceive me, but He said He loved me. Y’all… We just always think we need to be more. We need to be better at praying, more disciplined, more. But really, we just need more Jesus. Which means we need to be weaker.

Jesus Christ died and walked with us and suffered with us, and that’s a freaking big deal. But that is not the end of the story! The end of the story is that HE ROSE. And that is the part of history that we get to live into, that Jesus conquered death and sin. And the glory of that is that NOTHING can separate us from His love, He has shown us that. He is still here and He promised to send His spirit to dwell with us, that means He walks with us and that’s flipping cool. You know that gospel where the disciples are fishing, and they aren’t catching anything, but then Jesus says, hey throw the net in the exact same spot, and they do and they catch TONS of fish? (John 21) The disciples were doing an ordinary task, and it was only successful and fruitful and fulfilling when they did what Jesus told them to do. That was the difference. They did it with Jesus. He is here, and He is alive. And we are chosen and we are loved. And I am so grateful for the simple genius of LifeTeen missions and the yeses of each person who served with me, from summer staff, to those who cooked for us (and loved us so well!!), to those full time missionaries who led us so well. Thank you for trusting me, and loving Jesus, and being the best at building a good community.

A Letter to My Freshly Single Brothers and Sisters

My dearest siblings,

It’s hard. Whether you just got broken up with, or you did the breaking, I know that it is. I am currently sharing this struggle with you, and I want to tell you something so important. Everyone has probably been telling you the usual, “it will get better” speech, and they are not wrong. It most definitely will get better, but not unless you make one important decision. The decision to guard your heart.

Yes, I know that is the cheesiest thing that can be said at this moment. It is the stereotypical Bible verse about relationships and love, but THIS is the moment where it is most crucial to do so. This is the time where your heart is most vulnerable. When you are in a relationship you learn to let your walls down, and to let heart be softened to the person you are with. You get used to each other. You have those inside jokes, that one restaurant that is your spot, and that show that one of you ALWAYS wants to watch on Netflix. That is something so beautiful and special that you can share with someone, but it’s something so hard to forget when trying to get over the breakup.

This is the time when you are searching for something to fill that void where your boyfriend/girlfriend once stood. There is that part of you, no matter how big or small, that misses the little routine things. There is this feeling of, “what do I do with my time?” This is also where something the world knows as the rebound effect happens. We all know what I am talking about, and how negatively it affects lives. There is such a desire to give and receive love that we convince ourselves we are ready to move on, to start fresh. Let me tell you, my dear brothers and sisters, that is not a fresh start at all. We have so many emotions happening at once that it is easy to get them confused. If you jump into a new relationship, or even back into the one you were just in, without really praying about what the right thing to do is, you could really do damage to both parties here. We really have to put aside our earthly desires and ask God to guide us in our decision making.

I had been with my boyfriend a little over a year before I decided it was best to end it. I told God no so many times; breaking up with him was the last thing that I wanted to do. It was such a hard decision and I cried when I finally decided to do it. I will tell you where I found comfort; in Psalm 37:4 it says, “Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart’s desire”. That is what made it all make since to me. I was focusing so much on my desires that I was completely disregarding that God had plans for me! However, this still did not make me 100% certain that ending it was, in fact, what God was asking me to do. I pulled out a prayer book I bought and read this prayer.

“Lord, I turn to you for help, that in your wisdom you might aid me in making the right decision. I am unsure about what is best for me, and at times I am scared to pray for guidance, not because I don’t believe, but because I know that if I am honest with myself and with you, I will be changed – and that change scares me. I am comfortable now, and sometimes I am afraid of what you might be calling me to do. Shake me from my comfort. When I doubt my ability to choose what is right, guide me in my discernment and point me in the direction you want me to go. When I turn to you, I will always find the courage to choose faith, the strength to choose hope, and the compassion to choose love. I am not made or unmade by the things which happen to me but my reaction to them.” – St. John of the Cross

After reading, and really praying this prayer, I felt it. I started hysterically crying in my room and I knew that it had to be done. Again I say yes, it was hard, but God granted me such peace that even though I was hurting greatly, I knew that I did right by Him.

So my lovely siblings in Christ, run to Jesus. Run to Him with all your hurt, all your desires, and everything making your heart feel heavy. He will be exactly what you need. Guard your heart by giving it to Him. Find your desires that you didn’t even know you had by calling out to our heavenly Father and asking Him to hold you and shower you with grace! I will be praying for you! That you may pray the prayer I have shared with you and have stillness in your hearts to listen to God’s call. You are all so important and I cannot put into words how much I love you!

With all of my love always,

Venessa Benitez

“God will never show you gold and give you silver.” – Jackie Angel


First Blog Ever

It’s the best time to wear a striped sweater, sweater. Welcome to my first blog, first blog. Ever 🙂

Hey guys! I was just thinking, while eating my punkin’ pecan ice cream, that holy cow Christmas is in three weeks. THREE WEEKS. I have, like, SO MUCH to do. I have projects to complete and speeches to write and Taylor Swift’s new album just came out so there’s that, and ministries to give my heart and time to, and of course I have to work too, and I need a new laptop, and probably a new car! It’s kind of crazy. But you know, with all that stuff on my mind, I just want to snuggle up with my sister and listen to music and watch comforting romantic movies and laugh at stupid things. But let me tell you a little something about life, it demands to be lived! I was at work today, I’m a nanny for five kids so I do laundry A LOT, and I was putting clothes away inside the master closet where I was literally brought to my knees. This has been happening a lot lately) (I don’t know, maybe it’s a wardrobe to Narnia) (Narnia as in heaven?) Okay, so I was brought to my knees because so often I show up to work already exhausted and I forget who my God is. I’ll show up to work without a prayer behind me, without even a thought towards Him, and you just can’t live like that. And as soon as I so much as speak His name, I’m on my knees because everything makes sense in His name. All of the stress, all of the confusion, all of the heaviness of my heart and weight of my life and the world, all of it becomes sweet with God. No, it doesn’t disappear. I still have a lot of stuff to take care of (like the socks that are still in my hand), and I’m still confused about a few things, (like why is there literally no match to this stupid blue sock) but I have a greater purpose than this life. I have a greater purpose than myself, and that is Love. This Love is so big, and so understanding, and so deep, that nothing in this world can come in between it and me. It’s CRAZY. And it demands to be received, and it demands to be released! We just can’t keep it inside ourselves, it rots in there! And with all that love inside me, the rest of the day is a slime trail of love that keeps overflowing out of this cup God gave me. I have a purpose, a purpose that fits in with everything I do, and We are all given this love, and a cup, and a slime trail, and we were all given this gift of life. So I encourage you, friends, to pray. Often. And be comforted in the fact that sometimes prayer is you listening, and sometimes it’s God listening, and sometimes it’s both of you listening at the same time. Prayer, in its way, is you centering your life on God, it’s you refocusing. So pray pray pray, and take heart in your purpose, and know you are so so loved. Praying for you 🙂

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