I had many expectations and hopes when coming to Bristow. It was a new adventure and I knew there would be many firsts along this journey. I expected to enjoy my time at the monastery, to be cared for by many of the sisters and to make a small difference in the ministries that I would be serving. I hoped to make friends and lifelong memories. I hoped to find something (or someone) that inspired me, that led me to what I should be doing with my future. So far, all these things have happened. However, I never expected or hoped that I would find my experience to be healing.
I’ll be the first to admit that I secretly hoped I would find romantic love while also here in Bristow. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic and I watch way too many sappy movies. (How great would it be to say that I met my future husband while volunteering for a year?) In all honesty though, I did find love. It might not be what I originally anticipated, but I found love here at the monastery. Every day I wake up and I am reminded that I am loved by the sweet smiles and greetings of the sisters. I’m reminded of the love in the secret smiles and eye contact during prayers, and the everyday hugs from Sister Connie Ruth, Sister Miki and Sister Charlotte. The love that surrounds this monastery and those in it are endless and not a day goes by that the love and joy that the sisters share for one another is extended to all those around them.
Not only did I find love embracing me on my adventure here, I began to love those around me. I found friendships that I never thought would exist. I love teaching and my students ─ so much that I’m now considering education as a future option for me. I found a love for religion (again) and a deeper understanding of faith. Never in my hopes and expectations, which I long thought about before beginning this journey, had I thought that this experience would be healing. I wasn’t broken, but I knew something was missing. The past six years of my life have been a struggle. My family structure had fallen apart and mental illness had truly taken its toll. Without going into great length about my family dynamics, my family is very diverse and about a year ago, my entire family lost hope that we would ever be a stable family again. Love was no longer the grounding features to my family, but rather anger and mistrust. I was afraid to volunteer for a year for fear that my family would slip further into the abyss and that there would be no returning. I took a leap of faith and it was the best thing that I could have done.
My family is doing great, by the way. But I truly believe that the love I found here was the healing that I needed after a rough year. Not only did I need to be reminded that love exists in all of us, but I was able to remind my family that through everything, one constant remains: we all love each other and together this is what would heal us. Love will always trump hate.