Friday, October 9, 2015

Gratitude, Humility, & a Revelation

Hey y'all!  When I imagined sitting down to write my first post after returning home from Basic Training, I honestly did not imagine that it would be anything like this.  It's taken me about a month, but I've finally got all my thoughts down and in one place, and I think the end result is incredible.  I usually don't write posts like this, but this is something that I really, really, really want to share with you all.  Enjoy!


When I left home for Basic Training, I though I had an insuperable sense of gratitude.  I knew that God had blessed me so incredibly with unconditionally loving and encouraging family and friends, a lifestyle that I truly loved, and the privilege of serving my country, the career of my dreams.  What I learned, however, was that these things were just the beginning of a never-ending list of things we all have to be thankful for.  My father raised me to never take anything for granted, but I was always focused on thanking God for the big things {everything I listed above}.  I never fully realized that even the smallest, seemingly negligible things that I think we all so often overlook were such incredible blessings.  

Long and warm showers, my own bed with thick sheets and a fluffy pillow, a little mascara, coffee in the mornings, sleeping in, wearing comfortable clothes, manicured fingernails, name-brand shampoo and body wash, contacts, umbrellas, perfume, being able to call your family and friends, feeling important, being able to freely express myself, sleeping peacefully and uninterrupted, personal space, ... the list goes on and on.  

Before Basic Training, I just considered all these things a part of everyday life.  They weren't anything special to me, and they were almost meaningless.  I almost considered them rights, things that I should never be denied or deprived of. When I had to give them up, I soon realized how truly blessed I was to have all of them when I did, and that they were surely not entitlements.  Basic Training taught me to appreciate every single thing that I could, because finding something to appreciate, even in undesirable conditions, got me through.  It got me home.  

Laying in a hole I dug in the ground with nothing but my uniform, my rifle, and my sleeping mat, pulling security on a dark, rainy night, exhausted, wet, hungry, and feeling defeated, I looked over at my battle buddy, smiled, and thought to myself "at least I'm not alone."  This thought led to more: "at least I'm not under fire", "at least I'm not overseas", and "at least I know that at the end of it all, I'm going home a soldier".  This became a way of thinking for me: analyzing each and every situation that I was put in and looking for anything positive I could possibly draw out of it, and that's what made me realize how truly blessed I was and how much of a privilege it really was to be there.  It helped me develop an invincible sense of optimism that I rely on even today to get me through the difficult times I am faced with.  Not only am I now able to keep my own spirits up, but I am able to encourage and motivate my battle buddies too, and that is probably the greatest and most rewarding part of it all.

On my first Sunday at Ft. Jackson, I found Philippians 4: 4-9, which states "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and see in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you."  As y'all can imagine, that's exactly what I needed to hear, and that was just the first of many times over those nine weeks that He would guide me right to what I needed.


In a place where strength and determination are everything, it is so important to remember that ultimately, our strength comes from God.  Basic Training was the hardest thing I ever did, and it was where I learned that God did not give me this life to go through alone.  Through all the trails and tribulations, I finally realized that when we are at our breaking point, when we feel defeated, and when we finally admit that we can not do it alone, that is where we find our strength.  It is in that moment when we step aside and let Him take over.  In humility, we learn to seek God's wisdom and knowledge.  It is then that He picks up all our burdens and carries us to the finish line.  It is then that we become strong, because we are no longer in it alone.  We have the best battle buddy in the world, the one that will never leave us behind, never put Himself before us, and never let us fail.  It is when we give God full control that we become invincible.  2 Corinthians 12: 10 reminds us of this, stating "Therefore, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  And trust me, this could not have proven to be more true.  It wasn't easy to admit that I couldn't do everything alone, that I wasn't capable of completing the mission by myself.  However, once I submitted to His grace and generosity just one time, I finally realized what I was missing.  Physical strength carried me a long way, but it was spiritual strength that carried me to the end, and spiritual strength that brought me home a soldier.  

I learned that humility is necessary to be a faithful follower of Jesus and that we must lead by example as Jesus did.  I learned that I should compare myself to nobody but Jesus, because He is all that I need.  I learned that God will give me whatever I need if I ask humbly, acknowledging His power and strength.  I realized that Jesus didn't want recognition and that it wasn't about Him.  It was about God, and that is how I need to serve my country.  

The uniform that I wear each and every day represents the fact that I am a part of something much larger than myself, and that's what it's all about.  It's not about what the Army can do for me, it's not about me being comfortable or things working to my advantage.  It's about selfless service, my brothers and sisters to my left and to my right, and about the American values of freedom, liberty, and justice.  And most importantly, it's about doing it all for the glory of God.  Without my battle buddies and without my God, I am nothing.

And at the end of it all, I had an amazing REVELATION:

Not only did Basic Training transform me into a soldier of the United States Army, but it transformed me into a soldier of Christ.  I have embraced the fact that I am called to a mission of serving the Lord and that prayer, reflection, and receiving the Eucharist provide the world-class training I need to execute my mission of living each day in accordance with the Gospel and going out in faith to share His glory with the world.  

Galatians 5:13 {my new signature verse} reminds me of my purpose, stating "For you were called for freedom, brothers.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love."  To me, this verse reaffirms my belief that part of living in the Land of the Free is understanding how blessed we are as Americans.  It reminds me that our freedom is our divine right, but that we must use this blessing responsibly, remembering that God has given it to us to share with the rest of the world.  It commands me to use this freedom as an opportunity to serve my country selflessly, with the best interest of my fellow Americans and my brothers and sisters in arms in mind.

Not only has he assured me that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life, but He has fully armed me with everything that I need to complete my mission.  Romans 8:28 states "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  This tells us that as we serve the Lord, He is always with us, watching over us, protecting us, and guiding us in the right direction.  This has allowed me to have one hundred percent confidence in the belief that my military career is teamwork between God and I.  I am serving Him through serving His nation and His people, and He is with me constantly.  He will NOT let me fail, because I am not in this alone.  Part of having faith in Him is having faith in the way that He works within me, and I am learning to understand and have come to truly believe that through Christ, I am invincible.  If I come to Him humbly asking for help, doing everything for the glory of  God, I will be successful.  When He is within me, I will not fail.

On my last Sunday at Ft. Jackson, I heard the Lord speak to me through Sunday Mass before He sent me off, my mission of becoming a soldier nearly complete.  I was reminded of the importance of living from within and allowing the Gospel to work inside of me.  The Gospel that day reinforced the importance of caring for one another, encouraging one another, and making it a daily commitment to recognize the need for God's strength within us.  It directed us to let the Spirit shine forth through us, and that's what I am encouraging each and every one of you to do today.  

Take it from someone who knows, there is no feeling more incredible than allowing the Spirit of God to overcome you, opening your heart and allowing the Lord to work through you.  It's the simplest thing that you will ever do that will change your life entirely.  

It's too easy battle, hooah.

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