Roseburg Reflection

IMG_4228Roseburg is a small town in southern Oregon. My heart unexpectedly found this town through my service with AmeriCorps. While driving down I5 and into town, you can see picturesque building-less land in all directions. You see a vibrant blue sky, green hills, mountains, and trees, plenty of tall evergreen trees. A vision of never-ending greens and blues. A vision of pure beauty.

The town sits on the Umpqua River where the water is a colorful mosaic of every shade of blue. The area is peaceful and the land is serene. It is a place that was essentially my home for two years. It is the place where I grew up into the person I am today. It was in Roseburg where I learned about the human need for silence and alone time and the need to escape into a land of stillness. It was where I learned to truly appreciate the beauty in nature and in the world around me. It was while I lived in Roseburg that I fell in love with the small town feel. The small town community.

Last week I was in complete shock when I turned on the TV to see Roseburg on all of the national news channels. A mass shooting in Roseburg? That just cannot be. My second home was plastered on the screen. Literally my front yard, Umpqua Community College’s campus, and the house that I lived in, were on the screen right before my eyes. The community that I had called home, a small town not known by many, on TV revealed to the world because of the horrific tragedy that had occurred.

I watched the events of this tragedy unfold from my screen 3,000 miles away. My heart ached for Roseburg. It was broken for those who had lost their life, for the families of those who had lost loved ones, for those who had been injured, and for the community at large. I wished that I could have been there to help out, to comfort those in need, and to show my support at community events. I wanted to be a part of the healing process of this community that I hold so near and dear to my heart.

IMG_0558Roseburg and other small towns in the region are separated by miles of open land and peacefulness. When I went into town, I would certainly see at least one person that I knew. If I were to say that I was going to go to the grocery store in Roseburg it would be assumed that I would be going to one of three buildings with Sherms Thunderbird being at the top of the list. I would frequent the same check-out line in order to see my favorite cashier. If I wanted to go to a concert in the park during the warm dry summer you would know that I was going to go to Stewart Park, no questions asked. This is the simple life of the small town.

Something about the vast, rolling, beautiful landscape made every day life in Roseburg peaceful, slow paced, and meaningful. It made it easy to appreciate life and the life that was around me.

Sometimes things can seem so distant, so far away until it happens in your own town. We have become so use to these acts of violence that at times, they no longer affect us if we are not immediately impacted by them. You never know when a tragedy like what happened in Roseburg will happen in your area. You never know when your peaceful world will be rocked.

When a heartfelt connection is built through connecting with your community, purpose and belonging will be found. Become an active member of your town. Appreciate your community and do not ever take it for granted.
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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.

Free Yourself From the Clutter

Thirteen. The number of boxes.

The number of boxes that had been piling up underneath and cluttered around the ping pong table in the basement of my house. Boxes that are filled with memories. Memories of high school, Shippensburg University, and Messiah College. Memories of track meets, friends, roommates, classes that I defeated, and classes that defeated me.

These boxes held it all. Papers I wrote in high school and college, church newsletters that had been sent to my college addresses, Halloween and birthday cards, rubrics, lesson plans, lifting schedules, and even a letter that I sent to Proctor & Gamble years ago concerning a commercial idea that I had for their Tide to Go stick.

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Pencils, pens, socks, cds, projects, cups, plates, race bibs, old textbooks, and pictures. Pictures of friends who came in to my life for a period and are now only a distant memory. Pictures of teams, of family, and of people who I know will remain my best friends until the day I die.

You name it, I found it. In those boxes.

In those thirteen boxes that continued to pile up over the last six years of my educational life.

It was the same story every year. It would be move-out day and my dad would drive to my college to pack up the car. Of course my friends and I never began the packing process until the night before we had to be moved out. When my father would arrive the following day my disaster of a desk would still be waiting for the box or boxes that were on their way to save it. Everything went in the box. The box went from the dorm room to the car. From the car to my house and ended up right next to the boxes from the previous years where it would wait until it was joined by the new set of boxes the following year.

On January 25th, I will be returning back to Oregon to continue working with the Boys & Girls Club through another 6-month AmeriCorps service term. I felt as though this time before leaving would be a great time to finally go through these boxes and take a look back at the last six years of my life.

It can be quite a daunting task. You see such a large portion of your life sitting in front of you. You look at it and know that it will be messy both physically and mentally. Digging things up from the past. Things that remind you of who you once were and what you once hoped for. Things that remind you of paths you were going down before signs started leading you in different directions.

Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to re-live the past 6 years of my life from running at Nationals in Texas while attending Shippensburg, to discovering my Creation Project I made my first semester at Messiah, to finding each and every notebook from every class that I have taken during this time period.

I challenge you to de-clutter your life with the start of this New Year. Both a physical and mental de-cluttering. Start with the physical. Maybe you don’t have thirteen boxes to go through, but I am sure that there is some area of your home or office that could use a little help. Get rid of everything you do not use and have not used. Throw it out. You do not need it. It is freeing. Your physical space and your mental space are connected. Somehow the throwing away of ten years of old clothes will not only free up the physical space but will leave your mind feeling less cluttered as well. Try it and see!

As I sat down to blog today, I asked my dad what one possession he owns that he has kept the longest, where he got it from, and why he has kept it for so long. His response was a shirt that his parents gave him his senior year in high school. He kept it through all of these years because of the good memories that he associates with it. Good memories of his youth and time spent with old friends during a different place in time.

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We all have physical things in our lives that we do not want to throw away. Memories in our lives can be woven into our possessions like the fabric that makes a shirt. While donating and throwing away our possessions can be a hard task to do, discarding of what is not needed allows us to feel free and to be free. It allows us to have space and to appreciate what truly matters. During my de-cluttering I most definitely saved my good luck signs, track and field secret sister notes, some birthday notes, and picture collages. I look forward to the time years from now when I pull this box out of the closet to reminisce about some truly amazing times.

Not only should we work on de-cluttering the physical realm of our lives, but the mental realm as well. As I previously stated, downsizing the physical is a good start to downsizing the mental realm as it allows you to create a new appreciation for your world. The start of a new year is a great time to look inside, look back on your year, and rid your mind of the clutter. Of what is causing you stress and tension. It is a time to forgive those whom you hold grudges against. Let go of your pain and hurt from the past year.

Take it out of your mental box, look at it, acknowledge it’s presence in your life, figure out who if anyone you need to forgive, do it, and then dispose of it and set yourself free.

De-cluttering will allow for space in our lives. A space that is meant to remain empty. When we free ourselves of this clutter, we will free ourselves from that which we are bound allowing us to fill our lives with simplicity and life.

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Follow your heart’s true joy-fulfilling passion

You may or may not have known, but I spent the past year serving with AmeriCorps at a Boys & Girls Club. Above all else, this experience has taught me about true fulfilling joy.

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In sum what I have discovered is that true joy is not found through anything that you receive. You find true joy through what you give. It is found in celebrating the successes of others and in feeling a fulfillment you only experience when you embrace someone else’s reason to smile.

I have discovered a type of love that I have termed need-love. It is a love that can be directly connected with joy. When someone counts on you and you are willing to protect them and support them with all that you have. When a child loses a friend or family member, is struggling with who they are, struggling with their home life, there is nothing that makes you feel more needed or more internally fulfilled than the feeling of someone turning to you when they do not have that support elsewhere. One of the most fulfilling experiences of joy is through helping someone in their time of need return a smile back to their beautiful face.

This need love is not a one-way street. Although you may be fulfilling the needs of someone else, whether you know it or not, they are somehow filling a need that you may or may not know you had. You do not go about looking for these people. They just come, impact your life and you wonder what you ever could have done without them entering in. Soon you find yourself wanting to be there for them, which then brings you back to joy.

Deep, deep down inside of every heart is a hole– a hole that we all too often try to fill with materialistic things of this world. This year I had thought that I felt a distancing from God, but really I had just stopped looking for Him. While I was not pursuing Him, He was still pursuing me. What filled the hole for me was this deep feeling of joy that now when looking back on it, I know only came from the Lord and using the passion I had been given. He was with me from the start and this joy that I found was evidence that He lives inside of me and was working on me even when I could not see it. Now that I am back in Pennsylvania, I can see that I was connected to my faith all along. Maybe I just needed to leave Oregon so that my foggy vision could be made clear.

Everyone has been given a gift or a passion that can be used to help others. Everyone. God would not give us a true good-hearted passion that he would not want us to use.

Do you wake up in the morning and cannot wait to begin your day? Are you doing what you truly love and what you are most passionate about? Is your heart filled with this joy, with this feeling of completeness? Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did what they were passionate about everyday.

I have been asked a countless number of times since returning to PA, “What’s next?” When sharing a few potential ideas about my future I have been told, “That is a great step up from what you were doing” and that I will “keep working my way up”. Instead of looking at what the next step is, look at the now and analyze what gives you joy. We all too often like to plan our lives out with the overly used 5-year plan. By using this 5-year plan you may be missing out on your true joy and passion that is trying to reveal itself to you in the meantime.

I think of the path that I am to take with my degree. Sure, I could go down that road which would give me more money than some of my other avenues. But what is money when my joy lies elsewhere? At the end of my life am I going to wish that I settled into this mold that we call life or am I going to wish that I explored every path and avenue?

I will not be confined by what reality appears to be but only be the passion that is in my heart. When your heart sets your soul’s passion on fire, YOU are unstoppable.

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love.” – Maya Angelou

When you follow your heart’s passion, the joy that you feel will be contagious.