The Challenge

I am sitting here on family vacation looking out over the Atlantic Ocean and I wanted to share a thought or two while it is still quiet. It’s been a long year. It’s been rough and, to be honest, there have been times where I loose focus on things that really matter in life.

Several weeks ago, I finished my last and final year as a Corps Member with AmeriCorps, having served the past two years with the St Louis Emergency Response Team (ERT). Before that, FEMA Corps. And before that, NCCC. I’ve had the adventure of a lifetime, something I wouldn’t trade because these experiences have shaped me. In that time, I have struggled with Faith, with people, challenges, and with discovering who I am and who I want to be.

Recently, I reconnected with my old roommate from college and a beautiful young lady and good friend who recently returned from a year in the missions field. I hadn’t seen my roommate in almost 5 years, so there was a lot to catch up about over dinner. This included side comments about how I was the only one who was eating flesh (Vegan-speak for eating meat).

The conversation went back and forth as we caught up with one another and shared our experiences and journeys with one another. We talked about faith and missions and churches and jobs. We shared our hearts with one another as we relearned about who was sitting across and beside one another. Five years changes people, but somehow we are still the same person as before.

As we embraced one another as brothers and sisters in faith, a friendship that goes beyond blood-bonds and distance, I smiled.

Since finishing my time with AmeriCorps, I have spent time holding my new nephew and watching him be baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. I’ve sat in quiet looking out over the beach here at Edisto. Sang and played music with my mother and her sister. Read for hours. And compiled a video montage of this past year with the ERT.

I’ve also woken up each morning with the reminder that God has granted each of us another day here on this Earth.

Something my friend said has stuck with me: God has a plan. This doesn’t always mean we are going to be happy, or safe, or feel like this is part of the plan, but we have to trust that God knows what He is doing. If we accept what is before us, the challenges and difficulties that come with our jobs, the people we work with, and the stress of living, if we take all that with a smile, knowing that it is an opportunity to grow, then maybe we can start to see that it is all good.

Someone once told me that you must wake up every morning and remember that each day, each breath, is a gift from God. So what are we going to fill it with?

It is easy to sit down and give up. To complain to no end about the injustices of the world and the terrible things that go on before our eyes. But what good does that do? Does it reveal God’s love through our actions?

When I dedicated my life to following the teachings of Jesus Christ and accepted a relationship with God, I made the choice to be His hands and feet. To be an example of His love. Every single person who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ, made the same choice. And that begins with accepting the gift of love from our Father, Abba.

Each morning that we wake up, each breath that we take in, should be a reminder that God loves us. And once we fill our hearts with this love, it will begin to pour out unconditionally onto all those around us.

It’s not always easy. There are people in our lives who are difficult, who are combative, who would rather see us fail. But we are still called to love them. There will be people who don’t share the same beliefs as us, who don’t want to believe in God, who actively try to turn us away from Him. It is not our place to convert them, to argue in circles. We are called to love them. And God will reveal Himself through this love.

It is a challenge. But I look out over the waters, and remember the mountains of Montana, the open fields of the grasslands, and even the shattered landscapes scarred by wildfires, floods, and tornadoes, and I can see God working through it all. And I smile because I know I have seen another glimpse of His love in my life.

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