Here I am, sitting in my room staring at my computer screen, and regretting having not kept up with this blog more prudently. It's so much harder trying to find the words you want to say when there are so many of them backed up in your mind.... As most of you know, I recently returned from a mission trip to Constantinople. It was more than I ever hoped it could be, so forgive me while I struggle to give you a glimpse at what I have just experienced...
I think, for the most part, what we want most want in this life, is to find a little bit of the happiness we all so desperately seek. I also think that when we do taste just a tiny morsel of that happiness, we often don't know it before it's too late, and all we have are memories to sustain us until our next little opportunity. That, in a nutshell, is life.
Two things have occurred to me since I have returned home from Turkey. The first being that I have never been so acutely aware of how easy it can be to find happiness. We try so hard to make ourselves cognizant of joy, but it is a true blessing when it can come unexpectedly and effortlessly. This past week, I found myself laughing until I cried, and crying until laughter was the only sane response I could think of. There was nothing exhaustive about the process.
The second thing I came to realize was the notion that everything that I experienced in Turkey was magnified through the experiences of the people that I was traveling with. What I mean by that is that we are never monogamous in our experiences. When you feel emotion within a group as tightly knit as mine, the feeling is amplified and reverberates throughout one another with such clarity, that all you can do is enjoy that moment in time that much more.... I owe so much to the 15 amazing individuals that I came to know and love over the 10 days in that foreign land. I am not the same person that I was 2 weeks ago, and I'm not really sure if I can ever explain exactly why.
I can't ever be sure, but I suppose what made us so close was the fact that even though everything was so new to us, we could still fall back on our commonalities in regards to our faith and morals. We were able to forgive ourselves of our selfishness, guile, and insecurities because the only thing that mattered in that group was being with one another. In a way, we became a family not because we had to, but because we were already a family within Christ. We were family before we even knew each other.
Our group was led by Fr. Mark Leondis, and all I can say in regards to his mentorship, is that I will never forget the things he taught me. I truly hope that I can make him proud one day because he is an extraordinary person with a heart of pure gold.
With Fr. Mark's guidance, we saw things that I'm nearly certain that I will never get to see again, but the truth is, once is enough if it means that the friendships I made will last a lifetime. While visiting the Holy site of Vlacherna, where the Akathist hymn was first sung, I remember feeling a particularity stirring emotion that is hard to describe. I guess I was just fiercely proud to be singing this ancient hymn to the Theotokos with young adults who have proved to be champion leaders of The Faith, themselves. I have never been so proud to say that I was a member of 15 souls that did seemingly little to change the world, but everything to change our worlds.
Having said all that, I still wonder if I can ever really find the words to thank everyone for the trip of a lifetime. If I have then Amen, but if I haven't then I leave you with a quote from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis....
"What are we born for?" "For infinite happiness," said the Spirit. "You can step out into it at any moment..."
So my dear friends, here's to stepping out and finding our infinite happiness through Christ with each other again very soon.