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.

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.