I believe in the power of one...that one person can change another's life which then has a ripple effect. A small kindness, or a moment of selflessness can have a lasting impact. This is not to say that everyone will be a Mother Theresa or invent a vaccine that eradicates a crippling disease, but that I, yes even someone like myself can help someone else see the possibilities their life may hold, or that an hour of compassionate listening can ease another's burden.
I believe that following the path that God has laid out for my life will lead me to my ultimate happiness even if at first it happens to appear to be diametricly opposed to my own desires. Leaving my heart open to His leading has taken me places, both spiritually and physically, that I never imagined visiting. Putting aside my own vision for my life is not always easy, but I have learned through the years that pounding that square peg into that round hole just because it is what I think I want has never really led me to a place of peace. However, even when I have shaken my head in utter disbelief at what God wants for me, if I elect to follow His guidance I am often amazed at the unexpected joy it brings.
I believe that being the one person willing to the do "the hard thing" may often be uncomfortable, but that tackling the uncomfortable is the one way to true growth and strength of character. Tenacity is key and by giving up too soon we often miss out on the reward for fear of what may be required of us.
I believe in being open hearted, that one of the gifts I have to share with the world is my willingness to be completely honest and hide as little as possible, for often others may find comfort in learning they are not alone after all.
This, I believe.
So that was the result of my efforts this weekend at our church Retreat. It was a fantastic, moving and wonderful experience for everyone who attended. I sat back and watched all 3 of my boys being shown love and compassion by so many people, young and old alike. Friendships were strengthened, and new friends made. It was a cool and somewhat drizzly weekend, off and on, and sure beat the heat of Montrose which was in the 90's.
As I looked around the log chapel we held our Sunday morning service in, I was struck by this immense feeling of connectedness to this amazing group of people. I know that everyone who attends church regularly probably loves their church family, but this was more. The United Church of Christ is filled with "characters", those who think outside the box, those who have the ability to admit they don't have all the answers but have the courage to continue searching for them. Our particular congregation is chocked full of talented, outgoing, interesting and eclectic people who all have this common bond born of their desire to know God in whatever way works for them. I love the fact that there is respect for differing opinions, that no one stands before you saying "You are wrong" because you may not believe in the exact same tenent that they do. So here we all sat, some sharing their beliefs with the group, some taking it all in, all with aching backs from bad camp mattresses...and everyone so very glad to be there expressing their love for one another and for God. It didn't matter who was a Republican or Democrat, who was "saved" or "unsaved", fundamental or liberal. It was all about the peace that comes from a relationship with God that touches each individual spirit in incredible ways. There are those I agree with, and those I don't, but each person holds a special place in my heart and I respect their right to see the world the way they do. I have finally recognized that a differing opinion does not devalue the human being. I am not always right, I am simply right for my life. Interesting what maturity does for you, isn't it? For some it means a more firmly entrenched black and white world, and for others...myself included...it means an opening of the mind to new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world.
As my 41st birthday approaches this week, I am grateful to be right where I am in my life, in almost every way. I feel I have finally arrived, put the past behind me, and see the future from a new, healthier perspective. I see myself as worthy to be loved by others and as giving love back in equal measure when possible. I am realistic about where I am headed and why I am here, and yet I recognize that there is much more yet to be discovered. I am filled with gratitude at every turn, even though things are not always perfect. I see myself as leading a life of purpose for my family and friends, of trying my best, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, but never giving up trying. I guess I am saying I "get it" now in many ways I never did in my younger years.
I will never be President or CEO of a major corporation. I will never be a brain surgeon, or a rock star, or a world famous tennis player. I will never be a Domestic Goddess. I am, however, a child of God who is worthy of His love. I am special in my own not-so-really-important ways. I know there are many that have passed through my life who do not see me as special or worthy or smart or any other positive adjective you could come up with. I have slowly learned that the way others see me will never really be the accurate picture of who I am in the fullest. It will be the pieces and parts of me that they have had revealed to them because of encounters we have had, but we almost never know anyone completely. All of that is ok, we can never please anyone 100% of the time nor should we try. And harboring anger towards those who think ill of us only hurts us and hinders us from being the best person we can be.
So as the weekend drew to a close, we all left that special place with a renewed sense of purpose, of recognition of all that we don't know about one another as well as an appreciation for what we do know. We had our preconceived notions tossed on it's head, and our hearts were opened.
Can't wait until next years Retreat!!