Earlier this month, Word on Fire blog contributor Ellyn von Huben took a life-changing trip around the world. It was a divinely inspired amalgamation of talent, happenstance and support that led her to the journey, details of which she shared with us for today's Word on Fire blog.
It was a journey to the bottom of the earth, set in motion by God.
And Lady Gaga.
Writer, church secretary, former stay-at-home mom, and Word on Fire contributor Ellyn von Huben recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Auckland, New Zealand where she was a featured speaker at the country’s 19th annual Eucharistic Convention. She gave two nearly-40-minute talks, one about her conversion experience and the other about raising children in a world rife with spiritual detachment and technological attachment. The crowd of 800 ate it up.
It was a big development for von Huben, who blogs for Word on Fire and her own site. The convention’s director, John Porteous, happened upon the first piece she wrote for Word on Fire that first ran back in June 2010. It was a funny but thoughtful essay [link] about Lady Gaga, her misdirected relationship with Catholicism and her undeniably catchy music. Porteous thought conference goers would relate to her brand of humor and experience. He was right.
“The people there were wonderful,” von Huben said of reaction to her two original talks. “I was so happy to be there.”
The two-and-a-half-day convention featuring nearly 10 speakers culled from around the world took von Huben on a 8,000-mile journey that lasted a scant three days, five if you include the flight duration.
“It’s kind of disorienting. You’re vaulted a day ahead,” she chuckled in a recent telephone interview. “I get kind of antsy driving up to Wisconsin.”
But it was well worth the dizzying jetlag, she said. Her fellow speakers were fascinating and the feedback she received was overwhelmingly positive. Yet she was not always convinced she wanted to go. The distance was intimidating, as were the circumstances.
Why, she wondered, would they want her? “I’m just this church secretary who blogs sometimes.”
But Father Steve Grunow, Word on Fire’s assistant director who is in residence at the Church of St. Mary’s in Lake Forest, Ill., where von Huben works and worships, was instrumental in convincing her to go.
“He kicked my butt a little,” she laughed, explaining how he bolstered her confidence. She had sought his advice many times over on matters spiritual, and this time was no different. Father Steve had asked her to write that first blog on Lady Gaga that caught the eye of the convention director, and now he was pumping her up to pursue this opportunity.
“I decided to go for it,” she said. “It’s a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
It was also watershed moment for von Huben professionally—it was the first time she publically identified herself as a writer. Granted it was on customs paperwork she was required to fill out, but it meant something.
“For me, that felt like a real important moment in my development,” she said.
It was also an important moment in her development as a Catholic. Von Huben and her husband converted to Catholicism 20 years ago, and she was handpicked by an established conference to speak with authority on her experience to an audience in an extremely secular country.
“I think I brought a certain message—my own message,” she said. “There are so many things in God’s plan.”
“I hope I get a chance to do it again,” she added.
Watch von Huben’s talks here: