Living in love

I’m not a touchy-feely-hugging person. At. All. But when I was asked to write about one of my best moments with work this year, I realized it was all about being more open to opportunities to act and live in love.

Even when things are stressful, God is really working and molding you so you can become a better you. The best analogy He ever gave is that He is the potter and we are the clay. To get something beautiful, we have to go through fire. My experience was probably the equivalent of picking up a hot mug from the microwave, but it’s a burn that still lingers and made me a better me.

Breaking down the wall

On the fourth night of my Learn and Build Experience trip to Avery County, North Carolina, everything from my hips down felt like shredded lettuce.

I was done. I had learned and experienced, and I was ready to go home.

The two-week trip in June was my first Habitat work site experience, but it came with the responsibility of working with three counselors and managing 16 teenagers. I was out
of my element in every way.

After an afternoon of cleaning trails at Grandfather Mountain turned into a three-mile hike, my legs and spirit had grown weary.

I was tired of the jelly always being on the fridge handle; I was done with rounding up playing cards and water bottles; and I didn’t understand why everyone’s random bits of life were always left for someone to trip over.

They were comfortable; I was not comfortable. I really just wanted to hide in the bathroom.

As my mini-breakdown spilled over my personal pepperoni pizza and Mountain Dew during our halfway-point day trip to Boone, North Carolina, my leaders graciously let me have my moment away from the participants.

I don’t know what I expected; I couldn’t realistically take the van and go home. But they didn’t make a face or tell me I was being ridiculous. They just moved on with the conversation, undaunted that I said I couldn’t keep going.

I had to move on, too.

During the drive back down the mountain, the teens in my SUV joined in their daily concert of top 40 hits and reflected on the fulfilling parts of their first week: putting up siding, sorting clothing donations and weeding a community garden.

I got over myself real quick.

Checking out because of the things that annoyed me personally meant I missed out on living Habitat’s mission — seeking to put God’s love into action. While I toiled every  day to work in love on our site, I’d failed to make that happen with my participants. In tackling a new, unfamiliar experience,
I’d put up a wall so I could just get through it. My pity party kept me from enjoying my makeshift family and the party they were having at that moment in the car to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Although attending a home dedication and sharing in a partner family’s story will always be special, those 16 participants helped me drink the Habitat Kool-Aid in a different way. They are incredibly smart, genuine youths who want to change their world and the injustices they see and experience.

Watching them soak in those two weeks and exchange stories about other mission trips and service projects was incredibly humbling.

What am I really doing to put God’s love into action? What walls keep me from living that?

After we returned, I hesitated to accept that group of teenagers as friends on Facebook. Now I couldn’t imagine not seeing their daily updates. They’re starting campus chapters, working with affiliates, applying for our alumni build and pursuing college degrees that are service-focused.

I’ve never had an experience stay with me every day the way these participants do. Every day I’m blessed to be reminded about those two weeks and to consistently act in love.