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Christina Gebel :
38 article(s)

Christina Gebel has theology and psychology degrees from a Midwest Catholic university. After college, she spent two years as a full-time volunteer at a faith-based organization in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys writing, taking walks, photography, and serving as a doula. She currently resides on the East Coast and is pursuing a master’s degree of public health in maternal and child health.
March 7th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

My generation is one of the last, if not the last, to remember regularly using a landline. When the phone rang at my house, someone picked it up, and the rest of the family was usually in ear shot of the entire conversation. There was only so far you could go, literally. When someone called us, I could tell by the tone of my mom’s voice whether it was good news or bad news. When it was bad news, I remember pretending not to listen, but in reality, hanging on every word. If it was bad news, unless the person could come over, he or she always called.
Nowadays, the land of landlines is long gone. I’m going to have to explain them to my kids, along with the concept of a family sharing a phone, not a minutes and data plan. With the changing…

March 5th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

I should start by admitting that this is not the first time I’ve given up Facebook for Lent. Note: this won’t be a blog about how hard it is to give up Facebook for the first time. This time around, I didn’t choose to do it to simply see if I could do it at all. I didn’t choose to do it because I was uninspired about what to give up for Lent this year and felt the need to hit replay (e.g., “I guess I’ll give up chocolate again this year.”).  This time, it’s for deeper reasons.
Facebook is a huge part of my life. It occupies my early morning hours before I leave for the day, waiting for the bus, riding the bus, waiting in line, taking a mental reprieve from lecture in class, killing time before dinner, and powering down…

February 10th, 2014
On Valentine’s Day, celebrate love and also reflect on what’s holding you back from loving more fully

Imagine getting a Valentine’s Day card that reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” (on the front) and “What are you afraid of?” (on the inside).
Yes, I know. That is single-handedly the worst and scariest Valentine’s Day card. Ever.
Though it might seem ironic, I love all the Valentine’s Day hoopla. That’s right: I love going to CVS in the month of February. I love the cheesy gifts, the dozen roses, and the candy hearts. Yes, I’m that person who makes all the plush toys sing in the seasonal aisle. For many years, I found myself agonizing over which Hallmark greeting card to buy in the card aisle: Funny? Sappy? Romantic? Heartfelt?
However, now at age 28, I genuinely wonder if we are really getting anywhere…

January 15th, 2014
Making the most of a day off courtesy of Mother Nature

When I was a teacher, I used to view snow days very differently. Each time school was called off, I’d feel like I was back in my twin-sized bed, under flannel sheets, in my Garfield nightgown, with my mom peeking through my bedroom door to deliver the good news before going to work. Few experiences could transport me back to childhood so quickly in my adult life as having a snow day, even if I was the one, now, in front of a room full of squirrelly students saying, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to listen to the news tomorrow morning,” secretly praying for school to be called off and just as excited.
In my years after teaching, I started working another job and began commuting to work. Snow days quickly…

December 4th, 2013
Rising above the immediacy of today's technological world during Advent

I finally got an iPhone. I often wait much longer than the average person to do things the average person is doing, like reading or seeing any of the Harry Potter series (and yes, my social life suffers after multiple HP references and the confusion that follows). I don’t know why I do it. Stubborn? Suspicious? Lazy? Perhaps a little of all three.
But my brother, the IT administrator in the family, made a commendable effort to convince me to get an iPhone, so I finally gave in. And of course, I love it. So much for being different.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a café with my friend and telling him that I distracted myself before falling asleep the previous night with thinking about how I might build an igloo if I was ever…

November 18th, 2013
Lessons learned from 12 years of keeping a gratitude journal

I distinctly remember the day I sat in my junior English class after returning from Christmas break. My teacher asked us what our New Year’s resolutions were for the year. To be honest, I can’t remember mine, but I remember a classmate’s: starting a gratitude journal. That sounded like a good idea to me, too.
Today, it’s been nearly 12 years since I made the commitment to keep a gratitude journal.
Over the years, what started as practicing gratitude slowly evolved into living a lifestyle of gratitude, two slightly different things. Think of it this way: When you announce to your officemates that you’re going to start running, you make a decision to run each day for so many miles (let’s face it, some days…

September 25th, 2013

I don’t usually share memes. I have nothing against memes. I just don’t want to be that person: the one who shares nearly every meme; the person who gets sucked in by a misattributed quote and serene landscape pairing. If I do share a meme, I’ve probably deliberated about doing so for at least five minutes, completed a hasty calculation of my meme-per-week rate, and actually thought it was pretty good, or quite funny.
One meme I did share was NBC’s tweeted photo showing the election of Pope Benedict versus that of Pope Francis. This photo, which was later debunked as misleading, was trying to make a point that technology has rapidly made its permanent home at every historic moment, even the election of a pope.…

September 16th, 2013

When my class of high school students wrote to the president, I had high hopes. I could see it now: I get a stately letter — very official looking — and gingerly open it to find a beautiful handwritten note from Barack Obama himself. It would be the ultimate fist bump, one you could frame and brag about for years. Well, no such thing happened. We got a generic letter, an electronic signature, and a picture of Bo, the dog, which was a nice touch. I framed it anyway. While I’ve given up my quest for a presidential letter, I’m not entirely ready to throw in the towel. Lately, I’ve been thinking I should start writing to Pope Francis.
The world has been watching as the pope has made a number of phone…

August 21st, 2013

When I made the decision to go to graduate school, I only had two examples to help me anticipate the experience: friends who had gone back to school and Adam Sandler in Billy Madison.
While Billy Madison is certainly entertaining, I dwelled more on the experiences of my friends. One thing was clear: graduate school seemed like undergrad on steroids. I recall undergrad being difficult, but it seemed like this idyllic time in life with perfectly manicured landscapes, late-night dining options, bike racks, and your friends all living just a block away. Sure, there were homework and papers. However, it seemed like a big playground for young, or “emerging,” adults. It was real life, but it wasn’t.…

July 30th, 2013

Since my move to Boston from Chicago, people often ask me what’s different about living in the Northeast versus the Midwest. Are people unfriendly? Are they more liberal? Is the traffic worse?
I politely answer all of their queries and usually dispel some stereotypes in the process. However, I have to admit, I have asked myself those same questions: What is different about where I live now versus the Midwest? What do or don’t I like about my new home?
I’ve found an overwhelming number of things that I like, and few that I don’t. One of those things that I like I discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, on a weekend in early June.
I was delighted to receive an invitation to the ordination and Mass of Thanksgiving of…

March 7th, 2013

Exactly one year ago, I was in the middle of a 40-day Facebook fast for Lent. Naturally, I found a new obsession: compulsively checking my email. It was the final step in a long process. The test was taken, websites combed over, e-applications submitted, and emails with an “.edu” extension opened immediately. Now, it was time to decide where to go to graduate school.
I did the “safe” thing and applied to a lot of schools (eight, in fact). I wasn’t sure if the admissions staff would buy my story: Theology and psychology undergrad major who taught English for three years, worked for an economics department for two, and then decided to pursue … public health? Of course, it all made sense to me. Was it going to…

July 16th, 2012

Oftentimes, when I wear one of my sorority sweatshirts or T-shirts, friends say, “You were in a sorority? I didn’t know that,” with a look of surprise. “Why are you surprised?” I ask. They reply, “You just don’t seem like that type.”
Fight it though we try, it’s hard to escape life without having stereotypes or preconceived notions about the groups we belong to. I am certainly not exempt, myself. Living in a large metropolis like Chicago, it’s easy to see someone on the train, learn where someone lives — or even what baseball team they cheer for — and not register some sort of thought. Everyone is, consciously or otherwise, asserting some piece of his or her identity, which is being…

April 25th, 2012
A doula's view of new life and the Paschal Mystery

I love to talk about birth. A lot.
I assume everyone wants to hear about birth, so at social gatherings, with people I’ve hardly met, I find myself telling birth stories, bodily fluids included. Half of the crowd listens politely before dismissing themselves to “get a refill” on a drink, often finding a more normal person to talk to on their way to the kitchen. The other half presses in, wide-eyed with fascination. What can I say? I’m a doula.
Doulas are an ever-growing presence in navigating the healthcare choices in today’s world. The word doula comes from the Greek word for female servant. Doulas provide physical and emotional support for laboring women. Many people will seek…

March 26th, 2012
Reaching out to a growing number of hungry people

In the shadow of what was once a functioning residency for priests, a line forms toward a door. Word has spread by now, and everyone knows the day and time to be there. They also know what to expect to receive.
This scene is a familiar one every Friday in the Little Village neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Donna Oborski, R.N., has taken on the health and needs of Our Lady of Tepeyac parish and surrounding neighborhoods since she assumed the role as parish nurse in 2009. The parish food pantry, which opened in 1995, has been growing steadily over the years. Feeling strongly about keeping the pantry open and growing, Oborski took over its operations when she came on staff. At the time, the pantry was serving,…

January 18th, 2012
Hearing God's call and trusting where it leads

Let’s talk about the New Year. If you’re like me, you picked up a few magazines with promising headlines like “Finding the New You in 2012: Your Easy Guide to a Physical and Emotional Makeover!” at the grocery store, wrote some resolutions on a piece of paper you might be lucky enough to find if you happen to be moving, and checked out the “Year in Photos” feature of a news website for good measure. If you’re really serious, you might have even gone… to the gym. Twice.
But now that all the newness has worn off, it’s time to revisit the New Year. What makes it so attractive, anyway?
Can’t explain? It’s probably God
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about new things, particularly new beginnings. There

November 15th, 2011
How the practice of writing in a gratitude journal has become a 10-year spiritual practice

I’ve only kept one New Year’s resolution.
Well, maybe I’ve kept more, but the fact that I can’t remember any others I’ve made makes me think that they weren’t kept.
When I was 16 years old, on our first day back after winter break, my English teacher asked us what our New Year’s resolutions were. I remember one classmate saying that she had decided to keep a gratitude journal, an idea she heard about on the Oprah Winfrey show.
Being an Oprah fanatic, my interest was piqued.
It seems odd to admit that I love writing but hate journaling. It’s the type of feeling I get from hand writing a letter, too. My handwriting and thoughts start out all nice and beautiful, and by the end, I am scribbling indiscernibly…

October 19th, 2011
Getting over the stress of praying the right way and simply talking with God

Last week, I paused to look out the front window of my apartment just long enough to see a middle-aged woman briskly get in her car, make the Sign of the Cross, and turn over the engine.
I felt somewhat comforted knowing someone else prays before driving. I never used to pray in the car, until I came to Chicago. Something about driving here reminds me daily of my mortality. I sometimes wonder how I arrive back home without an insurance claim. This all occurs in a car that is adorned by religious medals that my very-Catholic mother sneaks into it in the same manner she tries to hide $20 in my purse.
As much as I could talk at length about Chicago drivers, what stayed with me about that morning is that someone else prayed the same…

September 19th, 2011

“I actually enjoyed unemployment.”
I don’t remember who said this to me, but I do remember agreeing. It seems strange to enjoy an unwanted thing, but I agreed because not every part of it was unwanted.
I came to Chicago in 2007, fresh out of college and brimming with idealism. I was going to save the world and do two years of a faith-based service program, teaching high school English on the south side of Chicago. Sure, it wasn’t the most financially sound decision ($100/month really does mean another day another dollar — or three), but what did that matter? All I needed was a noble cause to feed my praxis-hungry undergraduate mind.
2010: I am very much in love with these teenage girls, even if my classroom…

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