Editor’s Note: Current DC Service Corps volunteer, Amy Brandt reflects on the transition and surrender that accompanied her move from Washington State to DC for a year of service.

Painting of Olympic National Park, the view from Amy’s parent’s home in Bremerton, WA. Mountains drawn by Amy’s father, Doug Brandt, and painted by Amy.

Moving almost 3000 miles from home, I am often confronted with the unfamiliarity and newness of my surroundings here in Washington, DC. I find myself searching for things that I didn’t even realize I had an attachment to. Where are the big leaf maple trees, the Seahawk jerseys, the Birkenstocks, and the Fred Meyer grocery stores?

It is when I can’t find the comforts of home that I realize how much surrender a year of service requires of me. When first saying “yes” to DC Service Corps, I knew it would mean temporarily saying goodbye to my family, friends, home, and a steady income. But I didn’t necessarily prepare myself for the smaller surrenders. I hadn’t realized how much I turn to the mountains for support, how much I love the rain, and how reliant I had become on the casual culture of home.

Humans are creatures of habit, so it is only natural to latch on to our surroundings. We build relationships with our possessions and our homes, making the uprooting process especially challenging. But by separating myself from the only life I’ve ever known, Jesus has been patiently reminding me that those things that I surrendered do not define me. I am still Amy, with or without the Pacific Northwest. My identity rests in the fact that I was created to love and to be loved. He’s been asking me to lean on Him and on the people who are present in my life right now. I’m beginning to learn that leaning in requires letting go, trust, and a lot of surrender.

Amy in front of the Reflection Pool in Washington DC.

By saying “yes” to service, I am not only invited to surrender my tangible surroundings, but also my ways of thinking. I’ve started to notice changes in my thoughts as I learn more about the Franciscan Charism. I am being challenged to surrender anxieties, fears, and failures. The ministry of presence is beginning to trickle into the natural workings of my decision making. And a desire to speak up for my beliefs is flourishing from the refreshing idea that being a peacemaker does not mean being passive. For it is when I hand over the plans and concepts that I have tediously built on my own, that I am able to see rays of truth through the chaos of this world; a truth that is rooted in the love of our Creator. And it is when I challenge and surrender ideas that are a product of privilege that I am able to honor the dignity of others in my thoughts, words, and actions.

Even though surrender is sometimes extremely difficult, it has helped me understand the beauty and gift-like nature of life. It’s important to remember that surrender does not mean rejection; rather, by surrendering something, I am entrusting it into the Creator’s hands. Everything that I hand over to God, I do so in a spirit of “thy will be done,” which may mean that God hands something right back or takes it away. Being content with the temporariness of life allows me to actually be thankful for it. When the absence of my old routines weighs heavy and the familiar surroundings of home can’t be found, I am able to lift up that particular longing in gratitude and move forward, being open to the introduction of new light and inspiration.

Reflection Question: When was a time in your life that surrender brought forth beauty?