I recently lost a dear friend of mine – we hadn’t spoken in a few years, but she was one of those friends, “I want to be like when I grow up.” The news of her death was a sucker-punch to my gut, and as I say goodbye to my latest adventure in FL, I found myself mourning two-fold – the people I have met here, and the woman I knew previously. She wouldn’t want me to mourn, though, because she loved our Savior, was a fearless Christian and I am certain she is one of the “unknown saints” to the collective.
But, finding out the world lost a bright light made me contemplate the concept upon which I had already spent a time ruminating.
There is an adage when camping which says, “Always leave the site in better shape than when you found it.” It’s a point which drives both my husband and myself when we move out of our many homes, when we trade in vehicles, and when we leave the RV parks. It’s a mindset which we are trying to teach our small children, so that hopefully they will understand hard work gives way to hard play, but our responsibility is to always leave our wake in better condition to be kind to others.
I had big, grandiose plans for my writing career when our family moved to FL. And, as I got busy with the family and my chapel job, I noticed writing was often put on the back burner. All of my creative juices were still working, but they were being translated into projects and creations for the religious education program I was in charge of overseeing. Two months into my job at the chapel, while sitting in prayer, I heard God whisper softly in my heart, “Give it up.” When asked for clarification, the words I received were, “Beautiful Camouflage.”
And, I have wrestled with that instruction and guidance for the better part of almost two years now. About a year ago, I was complaining to my priest-boss that I wasn’t finding time to write or create for Beautiful Camouflage. His advice was spot on, and a needed reminder, “You focus on what you can do; focus on the world around you… where God has placed you, that is where you make your focus.”
Several times over the past year, I have bargained with God. I have negotiated (unsuccessfully). I have stomped my foot, both literally and figuratively, trying to get my way… trying to force the words for my blog, and the creativity.
But, looking back, my priest was correct – I needed to focus on where God had placed me, even if I struggled with the path He was leading me down.
As I so often do when I look back on my time at a duty station, I take time to assess the areas I grew and the areas that still need improvement. This past month has been no different.
In the past couple years, the world has gotten even darker than it seemed when the Church was rocked by the priest abuse scandals out of Pennsylvania as I sat in our camper, writing my Advent Journal published in the fall of 2018.
2020 seems to just have hits coming left and right, with no end in sight. The world is heavy right now.
This past month, I have found myself coming back to the adage of leaving my campsite better than I found it… except, the campsite is really the town in which I have lived for the better part of two years.
At the end of this time in FL, I have realized that I have spent my time here in trying to make the world around me a little better than before I found it…
As I look back at this time in FL, I can honestly say I have tried to leave my campsite here in a better place.
It has come with a great cost to my blog, and to those lofty goals I held close only two years ago. And, I won’t say I regret that decision to focus on exactly where God had placed me, or to use my talents that I have been gifted by Him, to hopefully plant some seeds within His field.
With the world feeling so heavy, and as I leave behind the community in which I invested so much time, energy, and love, I am reminded of the passage found in 1 Peter 3:15,
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…
I look back on the last two years and I realize that God’s Hands are masterfully writing a story in which love doesn’t just bloom, but spreads like the Cherry Blossoms and accompanying allergic sneezes throughout the National Capital Region every spring.
But, in order for the love to spread, each of us must play our part in His masterpiece.
Each of us must stand firmly rooted in faith of God, and each other. We must stand firmly rooted to hope in God’s promise of everlasting, eternal beauty and richness with Him. We must stand firmly rooted in love… not just toward ourselves, but others, related or otherwise.
Love of others isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, and not always pretty. Christ, out of love for us, upended tables when He displayed righteous anger on the temple steps.
Christ also, out of love, shed His blood and water, for every single one of us.
And, the challenge to us is to not simply accept His blood and water which poured forth… but, to then be changed by His redemptive Grace, and to go out and actively love others, even when the cost seems so terribly high.
Looking at the Stations of the Cross, we see just what active love looks like – from being silent to crying out. We see Christ accompanied by people He knew in His life, and those He knew would come to His aide. We see that love is not rainbows and unicorns, but gets terribly messy at times.
When everything is said and done, Christians are called, in the words echoing St. Thomas Aquinas, “to love as Christ loved as He hung on the Cross.”
Active love means leaving our temporary or more permanent campsites in better condition than we found them – whether we have lived in the same city for our entire lives, or are only there for less than six months.
It also means maintaining hope that everything that is weighing us down will not be in vain!
We are experiencing this time in our lives because God has determined we are strong enough to face the heaviness around us, and reminds us to turn to Him with confidence that His will be done… “on earth, as it is in Heaven…”
Almost two years ago, I was asked by God to give up Beautiful Camouflage, and I have decided it is time to follow Him down the new path He is asking of me. I don’t know what that path is, nor what it holds. But, I know I need to follow Him.
I am not giving up writing, as I know this gift has been given to me for a purpose. Rather, I am still trying to decide the outlet He has planned for me. And, until then, I will still be over at CatholicMom.com, Catholic Sistas, and WINE: Women in the New Evangelization. I will still be on Instagram regularly.
I even plan to still post here on occasion. Beautiful Camouflage, though, is entering a new stage for the time being… a stage that isn’t fully clear, yet.
What is clear, however, is that I know I need to continue to work on leaving the world a better place, one campsite at a time… one city at a time… one day at a time…
The friend I was blessed to have in my life knew that lesson years ago. She knew how to leave her campsite in a better place than when she first arrived. People were touched by her mere presence… and inspired by the kind of Christian love she displayed, not just toward strangers, but also the fierce love she demonstrated for God, her husband, and her children.
I ask that when you have read these words, dear reader, you take some time to ask God to open your heart to actively love as Christ loved on the Cross – to be courageous enough in your campsite to love with the love that only He can give…
Remember to always have ready the explanation for the hope you bring to your campsite…
And, I ask that you love your campsite, and leave the world a better place in your wake…
In order that we may all be able to say we have “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
Stay blessed, dear reader!