Archive for April, 2013

Courage and the Will to Fight

Just about two years ago, my sister was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that has brought out the warrior within her as she faces each new day as a battle.  With two young ones (the beebops as they are often referred as) and life as a military spouse, not to mention the flood waters, cold winters and the long distance from family, the journey of life was already a struggle.  Add in MS and the courage and determination that my sister always possessed brought about a change that strengthened her will to fight.

My sister has never been one to stop when obstacles have been put in her way.  Twins born several months premature.  The flooding of Minot, ND that left her newly refurbished basement under several feet of water.  Her diagnosis of MS.  While she has slowed at times, nothing seems to be able to stop her.

When she set her eyes to race in the NIKE Women’s Half Marathon to raise support and awareness of MS, I was hesitant, but I supported her.  I questioned her at times, but I knew that she wouldn’t back down.  It’s not in her nature.

This morning, on her 27th Birthday, my sister crossed the finish line, 13.1 miles, after 3 hrs and 32 minutes.  Her good friend Krys ran with her the entire way, supported by family and friends who lined the course.  While I was unable to be physically present, I am proud of the warrior my sister has always been.

She is an inspiration in my life, to her family, the beebops, and all those that have come in contact with her throughout the years.  I am proud to call her friend and sister.

God Bless and PEACE

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Stepping Away for a Moment

Over the years I’ve come to realize that whenever I’m stressed, frustrated, or just confused with a situation, the best thing that I can do is to put it down and step away for a couple minutes, hours, days.  Whenever a situation becomes the routine, we need a fresh perspective, so we step away from it all and come back later.  It works for writing.  For art.  And whenever I feel like snapping at my team.

Life in AmeriCorps is not easy.  Living in the same hotel room as three other guys (all younger and louder than me) can be frustrating.  Working with the same people that you live with is probably not the smartest idea, especially if you want to remain friends (or just don’t want there to be bloodshed).

Sometimes I question the decision to become a Team Leader, even with only 45 days remaining in the program.  It is one of the most stressful positions that I could have found myself in.  The responsibility can become a crushing weight that there is no escape from, that catches hold and, sometimes, I can’t seem to escape.

This past weekend was spring break, in which I left my team behind and headed home to hang out with my parents and spent some quality time with my girlfriend.  There were no plans.  No mandatory meetings.  No work.  It was peaceful.

In some way, I was able to catch my breath.  To find a couple moments to rally my thoughts.  To put things back into focus.  To prioritize what truly matters.

Part of me dreaded returning to my team.  For a moment, I entertained thoughts of not returning.  Of throwing in the towel and calling it quits.  It took a matter of moments before I put an end to those thoughts.  The time away gave me a fresh look at what needs to be done to not only survive, but finish the year with strength.

I figure we (Team Leaders) can either be crushed beneath the weight of our teams, or we can lead through example and face the challenges head on.

Yes, it is going to be rough.  We will get bloodied, beaten, and battered.  It’s not going to be easy.  It’s going to feel like all out war at times.  But we are here for each other and for our teams.  We have families and loved ones beside us, lifting us.  Giving us support when we need it the most.

I’m not going to lie when I say that I will probably find my breaking point. It’s hard to return after four days and find that the dishes that were not washed when I left were still in the sink.  Food covered the “clean” dishes on the dirty towel that had hardened and become encrusted with something unknown.  Clothes littered the floor.

But I take a breath and remind myself of the time that I had away.  I remember what is important and focus on the next challenge, the next day.

I guess it helps knowing that in just over a week, I will be returning home to hang out with my niece and nephew (the beebops), my sister and brother-in-law, my parents, family and friends.  It helps knowing that it wont be long before I receive the opportunity to hold the hand of an amazing, beautiful individual again.

Priorities.

Stepping away gave me the perspective that I needed to refocus.  And so I hunker down and charge back into the fray.

God Bless and PEACE

The Fight of Our Lives

Yesterday several Team Leaders and Corps Members met up and faced off in several friendly games of paintball.  We joined several other individuals with various levels of experience and headed out into the field of battle.

If it had been actual warfare, I would have died instantly.  For the first several games I found myself out within the first couple minutes of the fight, sporting paint splatter across my mask and shoulders.  As the day progressed, I found myself lasting longer and becoming more comfortable with paintballs flying around me.

We returned to our hotels exhausted and sporting fresh welts as proof of our glorious battles and war stories.  And as I started to fall asleep last night, I couldn’t help but think of the actual warfare that we face every day in our lives.

Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
– 1 Peter 5:8

We get so used to facing the daily struggles of life and we forget about the spiritual aspect of our faith.  We have been called to be warriors, barbarians, but we so often forget what we are fighting against.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
– 2 Corinthians 10:3

Other translations put word it “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
– Ephesians 6:12

“This present darkness” as many texts state.

Jesus wasn’t fighting against the powers of this world, but he spoke of another and a kingdom that was close at hand.  His followers knew the darkness they fought as they came face to face with demons who knew the name of God, sickness that fled from the flesh, and watched as the blind were given back their sight.  They urge us, through their teachings, to prepare for a war that has consequences greater than death.

Our society is filled with war, from video games to books, movies to music, but we have lost focus on the fight for our personal lives.  The darkness surrounds us, infiltrating our thoughts and threatening our souls.

Spiritual warfare is more than a sermon that is preached on Sundays and then forgotten the next morning, but a daily struggle that we cannot forget.  And we don’t face it alone.  With our brothers and sisters of faith at our side, we have the strength of community, the true body of Christ.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
– Ephesians 6:13-17

Like the paintball field, some of the blows that we receive will hurt more than others, but with the community of faith, we can face the darkest of days with the light of Christ.

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God Bless and PEACE

When Answers Fail

Black RibbonLate Monday evening, a Corps Member of traditional NCCC at the Southern Region Campus was shot and killed.  The shock of this tragedy has rippled through the traditional Corps, the Campus Staff in Vicksburg, FEMA Corps both on and off campus, and crashed like waves against the ranks of current members, Alumni, and sponsors.

We each response in different ways.  We cry.  We try to find reason.  Seek the company of others.  Focus on the needs of others.

There is no “correct” or “wrong” way to grieve the loss of this young gentleman.

The AmeriCorps community is a family.  Hundreds, if not thousands of individuals have provided their support.  Alumni and sponsors of have poured out their hearts, alongside of countless others.

On Friday, 5 April, hundreds of Alum of AmeriCorps plan to show their support for the Southern Region Campus, the young gentleman’s family, his team and all those that have been affected by this tragedy by wearing the traditional grays and green associated with AmeriCorps NCCC.  Day in Gray.

God Bless and PEACE

(NOTE: I have purposely not included the young mans name out of respect for his family, team, and all those whose lives were changed by his service.)