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Lauren in UK Walker

Lauren from the USA reflects on the changes her year of service in Walker has brought: 

This year I’ve learned a number of things about myself – some things more positive than others, and some things more important than others.  But in between all this self-discovery, I’ve learned that God follows through on his promises.  Since the moment I arrived and started working in Walker, I’ve felt my life falling into place for the first time in a long time.  This year has been like God saying to me over and over – “See if you trust in me, it all works out.  Everything I’ve ever promised, I’m fulfilling for you right now.”  Being at Kids Kabin and Wor Hoose makes me feel alive – energized.   Building a new community, meeting new people has allowed me new freedom to express myself, discover myself, and be myself without history or expectations getting in the way.

In February, I attended a week long parish mission by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (C.F.R.).  It was a week of spiritual revelations for me about God and his relationship with us.  I’m talking some major mind blowing revelations – at least for me.  Did you know we are God’s obsession?  He is engrossed by us.  Jesus desires us more than we desire Him.  At the same time, we are unsatisfied until we are fully filled by God because we know deep down we belong to Him.  God waits for us.  He doesn’t force us to come to Him.  He is poor because our hearts are not fully in his hands.  God is a solid, rock foundation.  However, we must trust God as the loving arms of a mother, and not as a cold rock.  Because in the end, God is love and we have to welcome Him into our hearts, and willingly enter into his embrace.  These and other mind blowing points led me to find a spiritual director (Mia) – which has been my 2nd best decision of the last year.  With Mia’s guidance, my priest, and the Franciscan Friars and Sisters, I’ve stumbled on an unbounding level of spiritual awakening and a new spiritual role model – Peter.

Peter is perfectly imperfect.  My priest said in a homily this year that Peter wins the award of Dumbest Apostle.  He said and did some really dumb stuff, but is the cornerstone of the Church.  If Peter wins the award for Dumbest Apostle, yet is the rock upon which Jesus built his church, then surely as imperfect a Catholic as I can be, then God will love, guide, protect, and teach me as long as I follow Peter’s example of placing his faith and trust in Jesus/God.  I’ve figured out – finally – that I don’t have to be the perfect Catholic for God to bother with me – in fact, in my imperfection He desires me all the more because in accepting my imperfection and placing it at his feet, God can help build me into the woman He desires.

Newcastle has become home to me in ways I thought only Cincinnati could.  This year of growth and exploration has been a true blessing and gift from God.  The thought of counting down the days I have left in Newcastle is heart wrenching to think about.  The freedom I’ve found to be myself, the love and complete fulfillment from my work, and the community of friends I’ve built are all things I don’t want to leave behind.  How can I conceive to say goodbye to a place where I’m more at peace with my place in life than I’ve been in years, a place where everything I’ve ever prayed for I’m receiving.  How do you even pretend for a moment to say goodbye to a place where you’ve started the process of rediscovering who you are, where your faith journey has taken moon leaps, where you’ve been challenged in so many ways, but grew in the strength and desire to be right here in the present moment, knowing with every fiber this is exactly where you are meant to be?

I don’t have the answer to this question, it’s something I praying about daily.  One big thing I’ve learned through this experience, though, is trusting in God is the way to go.  I know if I believe and trust in Him, place my desires, fears, and problems at his feet – He’ll fulfill his promise to guide me.  The answer might not always be what I expect or want it to be, but when God does open that door of fulfilled promises, it’s guaranteed better than the closed door I wanted.  Saying goodbye to Newcastle doesn’t mean I’m leaving all this growth behind.  I’ll take my new found personal freedom, imperfect role model, and greater understanding for my calling and direction in life to continue finding fulfillment and peace through each door God opens.