Find home in your heart

photo If you would have told me during my early college years that upon graduation I would be living in the state of Oregon, I probably would have laughed in your face. Adventurer was by no means a word that I would have selected to describe myself. I was fine in my bubble and saw no need to adventure out of it. I saw no need to look outside of my walls. Here are three of the definitions that Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary provides for the word home.

  1. One’s place of residence
  2. A place of origin
  3. A familiar or usual setting

There are three specific locations where I have lived that I would call home for some time period of my life—York, PA, Mechanicsburg, PA, and Roseburg, OR. I grew up in York, went to college in Mechanicsburg, and completed my AmeriCorps service terms in Roseburg. If I had gone to Messiah College and not been on the track team, not made friends, and not became one with the community, I do not think I would have ever called it home. What if I had grown up in a house where I did not feel loved or supported by my parents, would I have called it home? If I hated my AmeriCorps service term, did not like my position, and had no friends, I am sure that it would not have made the list of places that I call home.

Clearly, the idea of home is not defined by the location in which you live. Home is defined by experiences, by love, by fulfilling your hearts passion, by friendships, by a support system, and by living in an environment that brings out the best in you where you can say “this is me”.

Within the past 2 years I have moved to Oregon, back to Pennsylvania, back to Oregon, and in August I will be moving back to Pennsylvania yet again. When I returned back to Pennsylvania after living in Oregon for my first year, I realized that I had forgotten something out in Oregon— my heart. So, I came back here to find it. I came back to the place where I had lived for the year after I graduated from college. I came back in search of where I had left my heart.

Did I find it, you ask? I found my heart in the Oregon trees. I found it in the children who I work with every day. I found it in the stillness of my river journaling spot. I found it in the simple, laid back Oregon lifestyle. Yes, I would say that I found my heart. Well, part of it at least.

Life was easy when I had one place I called home. Heck, it was even easy when I had two places that I called home because they were only 45 minutes from each other. But now that I have a place I call home that is 3,000 miles away from my other two homes, my heart becomes torn.

You frequently hear that “home is where your heart is”. This definition makes my heart feel slightly confused as it is defined by a location in which you feel the deepest affection. I think that it is more accurate to say that home is where you left a piece of your heart. Home is a chunk of your heart that you permanently left somewhere that you will never get back.

As I have struggled to discover my true home, I realized that there is not one specific place that I can say is my home. My actual house where I grew up in, the apartment that I stayed in during college, and the house that I am currently renting from are only bricks and wood. A physical home is easily demolished while a heart home can last forever.

But sometimes you unfortunately find that something that was home has become home no more. A broken friendship. Sometimes home doesn’t last forever. Sometimes certain homes are meant to come and go– change us, teach us, and prepare us for our next home.

I like to think that I have a big heart. My big heart can hold a whole lot of home. While my heart is at home with the children in Roseburg Oregon, it is also at home with my friends in Mechanicsburg, PA. My heart is at home when I am at my church in York as it is when I am in my church in Mechanicsburg and Roseburg. Home is everywhere where two souls connect.

When I leave Roseburg in a little over a month, I am at first saddened by the thought of what I will be leaving behind. I will once again leave behind a part of my heart. What I find comfort in, is the fact that the same heart that will be losing a part will be regaining a part that it had not seen recently. I no longer look at it as a piece of my heart that I have forgotten, but a piece of my heart that will forever be a part of who I am.

There are so many places in this country and in this world that are looking to enter my heart. New places with people I can impact and with people who can impact me. New views on life and the world that I can discover; new journaling places. With every stranger you have the potential of becoming friends just like with every place that you visit you have the potential of finding a new home.

I was once asked what it is that I am searching for—why I can’t seem to settle in one place. I could not answer the question at the time I was asked. But know I can see that I am returning to PA for a rejuvenation of part of my heart before I adventure off to discover yet another new part.

Find the adventurer inside of you and discover your heart in a new place. This may be somewhere nearby or it may be that big move you’ve always dreamed of. Take a chance in discovering a piece of your heart that you never knew was missing.

Home is the make-up of everything that has stolen a piece of your heart. Therefore your heart is the make-up of what you call home.


Embrace the Silence

photo copy 5It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon today so I decided to go to the Colliding Rivers to do some journaling. The water was pure blue, the sky clear of a single cloud, the sun shining down lighting up the lush green Oregon landscape. The perfect place for an afternoon of nature, relaxation, and thoughts.

After finishing up my journal entry, I decided that it was too beautiful of an afternoon to head home just yet. I got in my car and started driving down the road so I could visit a few more lookout spots along the beautiful Umpqua River. When I got in the car, I put the key in the ignition, unconsciously pushed the radio button on, and I began driving like I would do any other time.

Within about two minutes whatever it was that I had been listening to turned into noise. Why yes, I am aware of the fact that the song, was indeed sound which is a noise, but it was obnoxious, annoying, and made my head spin. It was not just the song because it was a song that I would enjoy on any other day.

I had sat by the river for nearly two hours expressing every deep thought onto paper. I was deep in my mind and deep in my soul as sounds of rushing water were quietly heard in the background. I had gone from listening to my soul to listening to something that was filling up empty air. The music was overtaking the silence in my mind and soul. My mind was slowly becoming busy with words of nothingness.

I turned off the radio and I continued driving. After a minute, I was at peace. I could hear nothing but silence. A beautiful silence. A silence that allowed for nothing to fill the void between my mind and the world around me. Nothing to take the place of the thoughts deep inside that are often covered up by the noise of the world. I had spent the last two hours releasing the thoughts from inside my mind, inside my soul, and that noise from the radio was trying to refill my mind.

In the silence I could truly appreciatephoto nature and the beauty of that drive, of seeing the green grass and the vibrant blue sky, and keeping my mind still. In the silence I could fully take in the beauty of God’s Earth and relate it to the beauty that is inside of me. There was nothing in my head and there was nothing interfering with my ability to think and live in the moment.

Turning off the noise allows you to be where you are and to think what you need to think. Turning it off allows you to discover what is within and what you need to see. It allows you to think the thoughts you should be thinking. It allows you to deal with today and not put off things you do not want to deal with.

Sometimes we need silence. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate music as much as the next person does. But sometimes taking the time to turn off the phone, tv, radio, or computer and just being, just existing, will bring us back to our true selves.

Silence allows you to uncover your deepest thoughts. It allows you to not only uncover them, but to experience them, to understand them, and to live them.

“Bucket of Yellow”, aka “The Bucket of Happy”, aka “The Happy Bucket”

IMG_1580About halfway through the school year at the Boys & Girls Club I put a blue bucket in my room at the club. I called it the “Happy Bucket.” The idea was based off of a journal that I started a year and a half ago that contains things that make me happy, smile, laugh, or feel blessed. My book currently contains 980 items and I am getting quite excited for the happy dance that I will have when I reach 1,000. Some things are small and rather insignificant, while other items made a huge impact on my life. Items range from Here Comes the Sun Pandora, leftover board meeting food, and Frostys in Coos Bay to seaweed, sunshine in Eugene and the Barko’s Bible study.

My final year in college my Nana gave me a book entitled, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. The book is essentially a list of things that make the author happy. After reading through a few of her items that made my roommates and I giggle, we decided to each start a book of our own.

In my room at the Boys & Girls Club sat this blue bucket filled with yellow slips of happy phrases. The directions were simple:

What makes you happy?

1. Take a slip of paper.

2. Write down something that made you happy today.

3. Put it in the bucket.

Let’s see how much happiness we can fill the bucket with.

The first day that I put the blue bucket out, it was one of my activities for the day. As members would enter my room I would direct them to this bucket. Eventually, this bucket was placed on my side counter next to my Member of the Month Bulletin Board, member’s artwork, the Bored Jar, and popular books that members would enjoy.

Sometimes I would gather a few members to walk around the Club with the bucket and ask other members to put some yellow in the bucket. It made me so happy to see these kids encouraging their peers to think about things that make them happy. For most of the year though, the bucket of happy would sit on the side counter and be visited daily by its usual visitors.

There were many members who would frequently stick a yellow slip into the bucket. Occasionally I would check out the new level of yellow and a smile would be brought to my face. How can your day not be made when you look at childrens’ happiness of bacon, God, video games, staff Katie, candy, or sunshine? How can your heart not be filled with joy after seeing what brings other’s joy?

Out of all of the members who slipped some happy into the bucket, there were two teen girls that I will never forget. Every day, and I mean every day, these two girls would giddily gallop into my room with huge smiles, take a slip of paper, and record their happy moment for the day. Sometimes when these girls would arrive, my room would not yet be opened. Many times I would be in the Games Room when they got to the Club, which was right outside of my door. I would usually wait in the Games Room until more members arrived before opening up my room for the rest of the day.

When I was not open, these girls would run up to me, yelling my name, and tell me that I HAD to open my room. They had something that they MUST add to the bucket. I would open my room just for them to go in and add their happy. Skipping to the bucket, they would put in their happy, thank me, and skip right back out of the room. One day was especially memorable as they brought a new friend who proceeded to sing and dance to the song Happy while his friends made their daily deposit.

Before leaving the Boys & Girls Club and returning back to Pennsylvania last week after my AmeriCorps service year ended, I gave each of these two girls a Happy Book of their own so that they could continue to record these memories and so they could look back on these items when they needed a boost or when they needed to be reminded of a happy time. I wrote each girl a note and ended with the following quote:

            Take your time.

            Take chances.

            Believe in possibility.

            Do something creative every day.

            Do what makes your heart sing.

            Inspire others.

            Inspire yourself.

On the very last day that I was at the Club, I asked one of the girls how her Happy Book was going. She told me that she had written something every day since she received the book three weeks before and that she even has her sister now writing in a Happy Book. I truly could not have been happier. As my Uncle Tim had once shared with me, “Joy is something deeper than happiness and is found in helping others.” This quote has taken on a whole new meaning in my life after spending a year at the Boys & Girls Club of the Umpqua Valley. Seeing a member laugh or smile is what made me truly love the opportunity that I was fortunate to have for the last year.

 Spread the Happy.