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Baby Steps

It has not even been a week here in Ohio, so I am trying to gage the weight and value of first impressions. The small town girl inside of me wanted to cry driving into Toledo. It’s not exactly…… super picturesque.

As I went to bed, pulling out my journal in order to jot down moments or things I was thankful for throughout my day, I could only think of all of the things that I was not particularly loving. Why is it so easy to see the bad instead of all of the good?

While I am not a fan of the interior intimidation that comes with big cities and rougher parts of town, even in these short days I feel that I have come to learn a couple of valuable lessons. It’s true — you never truly value something until it’s gone. The first big move away from home has deepened the love, respect, and admiration I have for my parents. They are one of the greatest treasures of my life, and to have been raised in a loving and supportive environment is something that I will never stop thanking God for. That in itself is a gift more precious than anything I could ever receive.

Sure, I could rattle off a lot of things that I haven’t like about moving to Ohio, but the greatest lesson I am learning about being away is how to  delight in every single moment of my life. How to value the friends and family I miss with all my heart. I kind of like the ability to see my life through a different, farther away lens. I now appreciate my hometown 10x more. While it seemed boring at times, and sometimes small and suffocating, it was a very nurturing place to have grown up in.

I never quite realized the privilege of growing up in a safe place, never having to worry about violence or just personal safety. Naive? Oblivious? Indifferent? I am having to reexamine my character, and dig deeper. How can I learn to truly care for others? Ifeel like my heart is starting to grow a layer of compassion and empathy, and I am looking forward to learning how to go outside of myself and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I am surprised that the emotional breakdown of homesickness hasn’t hit. In fact, I keep waiting for it…..is tonight the night I cry a snotty mess of tears and scroll through my phone, thinking about how much I wish I wasn’t here? But… it hasn’t happened? Which leaves me a little worried honestly. Either I don’t know myself as well as I thought I did, or the time hasn’t come haha (it has only been 5 days.) Either way, it feels right to be here, in this place, with this team. I think that is what is keeping me sane. My team. They are loving me so incredibly well, and I can’t wait to take on this year of mission with them.

I truly love every single part of what I get to do. It is such a blessing to be working a job that incorporates prayer, reading, reflection and the sacraments into my day. I catch myself saying, wow Jesus, this is incredible. Thank you for letting me do this for you, multiple times a day. I just really really want to be a good missionary.

This morning in prayer, I started reading Matthew. I kept getting drawn to the passage of the Wise Men and their search for Jesus. Okay, I’ll stop here and pray with this, I thought. What are you trying to teach me in this Lord? I was captivated by the Magi. Their utter joy at seeing the star above Bethlehem. Their reverence and complete detachment to the treasures they held out to offer to Jesus. The more I prayed with these images the more I felt the Lord speak into my heart. What are you wanting me to offer up to you? To detach from? 

Pretty soon after we walked into the chapel to attend Mass. The Gospel reading of the day further struck the same cord; It was Matthew 19:

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.”

After a homily (that wrecked my heart in the best way) I could not deny that Jesus was driving home the message of detachment. And facing a beautiful image of Him on the cross, there in the daily mass chapel, I couldn’t deny it.

I am so attached. Throughout this whole process of moving, so much of my energy was directed to what I owned. Oh yeah. I have to take this and that and this and this. I have to go out and buy this. I need this. I want this for the new apartment. So much material clutter. But not only just material things. What else am I white knuckling that I just can’t seem to want to give up Jesus? What is keeping me from having hands open to receive?

I was under the false impression that saying yes to being a campus missionary was somehow going to make me, I don’t know, instantly holy  (spoiler alert, I was wrong). God has called us all to follow Him, and He alone, through His spirit and grace (so much grace) will sanctify us and turn us into the image and likeness of His Son day by day. Today Jesus in his customary gentle way whispered that He can’t make me holy if I don’t release my grip of I want and I need and just let go of the comfort and security I put into what I have.

If we want to go a step further into truly knowing the Lord and walking with Him, we have to drop the Target bags. We have to find our joy, security and identity in Him, as first belonging to Him, and not to our material possessions. We must have the boldness and courage to ask the Father what it is we are clinging to in our lives, material or not, and beg for the courage to be brave enough to leave them behind, confident that greater freedom and joy lies ahead.

Lesson one of life on mission? Check. Trying to live more simply so that I can simply live? Work in progress.

In Christ (and with a less and less compulsive shopping + lots of grace )

Izel

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