The Joy of Living

I’ve noticed something over the past couple weeks, a subtle change that has taken over.  I’ve been smiling more.  Not a forced smile, but a genuine, loving smile.  I’m happier.  More satisfied with where I am.  Comfortable.  And it has been awesome.


I have recently returned from Montana with the AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team (ERT) with a handful of other Second Year Members.  We departed a week earlier than the remainder of the Corps, but we got the opportunity to grow close together through the long drive back and two weeks working on the Ozark Trail.  I look back and I can see the difficult times, the pain, and the frustrations of the past couple months, years, but yet I still smile.

Through all the chaos, I have found the strength to smile.  And in doing so, I am reminded of the joy of living.

Call it love.  God’s grace.  Innocence.  Forgiveness.  Every morning I wake up, I am reminded that this life is a gift.

My life is not my own.  It belongs to God.  He purchased me with the blood of forgiveness.  Passion.  And through this knowledge, I have found the joy of living.

It’s no secrete.

Every time I wake, I am given the opportunity to live.  And I know that any moment that could be taken away from us.  So I have decided to live and love with all my heart in every moment.  Oh, I still get frustrated with people, situations, and the chaos of life, but my heart is grounded in the joy of living, the ultimate gift from God.


Every moment in this life we have the opportunity to choose how we are going to live.  Are we going to allow each breath to be consumed by anger, rage, and indifference or are we going to breath out love, compassion, and joy to those around us?

Just some thoughts…


Five Words…

My sketchbook is filled with quotes from books, inspirational people, and song lyrics.  It’s a way for me to look back and remind myself how blessed I am to be living this life of adventure.  There are many that speak to me each day, like the following:

You can’t give up if you want to keep what you love.
– Rise, by Skillet


One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow.  But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again.  Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them.  And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.
– Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts


If you want to go fast; go alone
If you want to go far; go together
– African Proverb

It reminds me of all those times when we see inspirational quotes plastered across the internet, but this way I keep them with me.  And they inspire me to live a life of love, adventure, and hope.

It may have been the loosing side.  Still not convinced it was the wrong one.
– Captain Mal Renalds, from Firefly

Many are repeated throughout sketchbooks and pages, a constant reminder to be strong, to remember the words, and to live to the fullest.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
– Bob Marley

But I’m writing this post in concern to one quote that was speaking to me this entire day.  It speaks to all of us, if we choose to listen.  I never truly caught the full meaning of the lyrics until I took the time several months ago to look them up and transcribe them onto the page of my sketchbook.  Since then, they have stood out again and again, catching peoples eye, and forcing them to pause for a second.

Five words, repeating over in your head
That’s all you ever have to do
Five words, is it really that hard to say
You’re worth more than this?
– Stitches, by Haste the Day

Take a second to read that again.

And read it again.

And again.

Memorize it.  Repeat it over in your head.  And take a couple moments to think about the implication of those words.


Each time I read those words I smile.  They are the words that God has been whispering in our ear ever since we allowed society to rule our lives.  It is a cry of revolution and hope.  It is a reminder that we are truly loved.  And that we have a purpose on this earth.

Life gets difficult.  It sucks at times.  Some days I wonder what the [edit] I am doing.

Just the other month, I felt lost.  As if I was wandering aimlessly through this period of the journey.  I was upset with the circumstances of life.  I wanted to be somewhere else.  To be beside those I thought needed me the most.  But God had a different plan.

He put me there in that field for a reason.  And after I prayed for guidance and cried in frustration, I opened my eyes to a rainbow stretching across the horizon.  And those very words, YOU’RE WORTH MORE THAN THIS, echoed in my ears.  That night, I had an amazing conversation with an individual who shared their struggles.  And I was able to be there for them.  Fully.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Things happen for a reason.  I don’t know them all.  But we look back and smile.

So, remember those five words and know that there is always light if you open your eyes to see it.

And I’ll leave you with one last quote:

Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light.  Give thanks for your life and strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.  And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.
– Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Indian Chief

The Power of Love

The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and a crash-course adventure out through the mountains of Montana and back.  Oh, I have tons of stories in those short two weeks; Of how seven of us second years went up into the Tobacco Root Mountains to blast rock out of a new reroute of a trail.  Of how I got my FAL-B certification (with restrictions) after falling two trees, the second I turned down due to the fact that I was not comfortable with it.  Of how I watched as hesitant first years handled chainsaws and learned how to utilize them as a hazardous tool.  Of how we laughed together as we crammed eleven individuals in a cabin built to hold four.  Of how a hundred thousand stars reached across the night sky.  Of how each sunrise and sunset echoed over the horizon.

All these stories I have locked away in my heart.  They cry out with joy.  And I smile.

I said a prayer for a friend as I rode back to St Louis.  A prayer of protection bathed in love.

It’s a prayer that I have been telling myself over and over throughout the past couple weeks, months.  It’s a prayer for redemption.  And a prayer for God to use us in ways that surprise us each and every day.

I know that the most dangerous place we can ever find ourselves is in the palm of God’s hand.  I know this from experience and I have seen it in the journeys of others.  God puts us in places that make us uncomfortable.  That show us what we truly fear.  And He reveals His love for us in that place.

Our lives our His love reflecting though us.  We are His presence in the lives of those around us.  His love is our light that shines out into the world around us.

The power of love is what gives us life.  It sustains us.  It protects us.

I pray constantly that God surprises us with His love, revealing opportunities that would have gone unnoticed.  I pray for forgiveness and redemption, but in a way that takes us by surprise.

It could be as simple as a friend asking for a prayer.  Or a strangers smile.

Our presence is the love of protection that blankets those around us.

At times, the danger is here and now.  God never promised us that we would make it out of this unharmed; His promise is that He will always be there beside us.  We will get beaten and battered, cut and bruised, left out to perish by the world, but God will be there every step of the way.

The power of love is that we may never know all those lives we have touched, but knowing that we are a beacon on the mountain top for all those with eyes to see.

Love defines us.  Love created us.  And through love, we have conquered this journey.

I look out onto the faces of those returning ERT members and the first years that serve beside us.  I look up into the night sky and take in the multitude of stars that are scattered across the heavens.  I sit and I stare out at the rising and setting sun that has painted the skies before us.  And every single moment, I am reminded of the love that surrounds me.