In The Ordinary

By Jenna Breiner, FC 19 Costa RicaIMG_1350

After 17 years of Catholic education, one would assume that I possess a great sense of knowledge of my faith. It should be something deeply ingrained in my upbringing and strengthened further throughout my life- which isn’t necessarily wrong. However, I still don’t think I have even pulled back the first layer to discovering the truth about who God is, what His plan for me is, and how I fit into the big scheme of EVERYTHING. What I do know is that God is found in everything around me, if I just take the time to seek it out. I’m not talking about finding God in the same way we find car keys but rather something much deeper.

I ran across Psalm 105:4-5 the other day and it began to shift the way I am viewing certain things in my life right now: “Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly.” After reading this, I began to think about how we as humans actually serve God in this busy world, where it seems as if we serve everyone except Him. But in this very thought is where I found consolation through personal reflection.

The things we do in our everyday life and how we do them matter. This includes our actions, behaviors and words, which permeate every single relationship (even with God)Our doings also give us a glimpse into our authentic selves and in turn, help us view what we can do to become the best version of ourselves. These thoughts have led me to establish three ways I am able to find God in my daily life:

  1. SLOW DOWN
    • Working with kindergartners has made me realize that they might be onto something…sometimes we just need to slow down and pay attention to the minute details of everything around us. So often, kids can become transfixed by something so ordinary, and this should teach us a lesson. When was the last time you stopped what you were doing to just look around and enjoy it? To truly take in the beauty of it all and remember the One who created it and further think about how it could be calling us to change?
  2. LISTEN
    • Stop to actually listen to the needs of others. God is speaking to each of us through every relationship we have, but sometimes, we just don’t listen. However, when we do, it helps us to become more aware of how God is prompting us to be His hands on Earth. There are so many needs in the world and we are all uniquely equipped to serve Him in the exact way He is calling us.
  3. BE THANKFUL
    • When I look for things to be thankful for, I can see how and where God is meeting me everyday. I can hear God’s voice in a compliment from a coworker, I taste His goodness in the fresh mangos we have growing in our courtyard, I can feel him in the warm embraces from my kindergartners and I can see His face in all the relationships I have formed. Taking a moment at the end of every day to picture these sources of gratitude is pretty effortless— and the results are incredible.

The past four months since I went home for Christmas have absolutely flown by..but as I take a moment to reflect back on the little moments, it all becomes so clear that God has been right there the whole time:

  • in the smiling and always sassy faces of the children I work with at Rostro de Maria
  • the new relationships formed: with Costa Ricans, the women and children at my work site, the friends and family of my community members and SO many friars
  • every moment spent in my dynamic community, whether that be washing dishes and jamming out to remixes, traveling out of the city for a breath of fresh air, wandering into the city for a gallo pinto breakfast, going to support the local soccer team, or even just nights where we stay up way later than we should making cookie dough and talking about the most random things
  • spending time with the friars: sharing meals, celebrating birthdays and recently attending the beautiful ordination of two friars
  • our FrancisCorps retreats, which teach us more about the life of Saint Francis and help us reflect on the reason we all ended up here

It’s hard to believe that my time in Costa Rica is winding down. However, these last few months require all of us to stay present and mindful of everything that is happening. And if I can carry these three ways to find God into my daily routine, I am confident that the rest of my time here will be filled with so much purpose, love and life.

Seasons Of Change

By Catherine Rainey, FC 19 SyracusePhoto May 09, 2 24 49 PM

As I sit on our front porch on a sunny afternoon, I can’t help but notice how my time in Syracuse began and will end in the same season of warmth.

Our sweet Malia, Hawaiian by birth, has been saying all year how excited she is to see a full change of the seasons, especially fall and winter. I was intrigued by her fascination, but having grown up in Ohio, I’ve never paid this much attention to the natural phenomenon.

For some reason this cyclical idea keeps sticking in my head.  I guess when you know your time in a place is limited to 11 months, you are much more aware of its passage.

I remember the feeling during those first few weeks in the FrancisCorps house with my community. Everything was fresh and exciting, the warm breeze pouring into our windows. It’s almost as if we were giddy little kids, with new friends, a new place to explore, and a year that seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of us, full of unknown opportunity and adventure. My earliest days at L’Arche were often spent sitting on the porch, getting to know the core members and other assistants in the home.

As the weeks went on, I got to know both of my communities better. Our laughter increased, and so did our conflicts and disagreements, as one can only expect. By this point, everyone’s true colors began to reveal themselves, as naturally as the leaves changing on the trees outside. The Thanksgiving I spent at L’Arche, with two of my FrancisCorps community members joining in too, brought a new meaning to the holiday.  I realized how much these people, whom I’d only known for a few months, were beginning to mean to me.

I dread the winter and the cold, but looking back, this year’s coldest temperatures brought a period of incredible transformation. Being stuck inside, or often forced outside to shovel, really brings people together. I can see how during these months my friendships, which took root in the fall, really began to grow in the warmth of our respective homes. We may have gone a little stir crazy at some points and gotten fed up with one another, but learning how to navigate that was part of our growth process.

When spring finally decided to roll around a few weeks ago, I had the thought, “I made it. I survived another winter.” But coming out on the other side, I feel that I’ve gained so much along the way.

I’m excited to make the most out of these last few months in FrancisCorps (and soak up as much sun as my delicate Irish skin will allow). My awareness of time and the changing seasons have helped me to truly appreciate and live in the moment, and all the blessings that come along with it.