Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps volunteer, Nadia Barnett reflects on God’s grace that is often revealed through the present moment.

I live my life in the midst of God’s grace. We all do. It’s not always apparent, but it is always present. This time of service has taught me many lessons about God, my faith, myself and my relationship to my loved ones; my greatest love is God whom loves me infinitely more. This perfect, unconditional love is so far beyond me, yet I am grateful to have caught glimpses of its vastness. God’s love is vast. The vastness of God’s love is something that I’ve shared with many people – my community has often heard me in awe of His vast love and mercy – comparing it to the ocean.

I love the ocean. This year has shown me how important being near the water is for me; just like my relationship with God, being near the water brings me a sense of peace and calmness that is very precious, especially facing the challenges, questions and growing edges I have encountered during my year of service.

God’s grace, much like his presence in my life, is not new. It has been with me, always. I live in the midst of grace. Over the course of this year, this is the reflection that manifested, albeit in a number of ways.

Last Sunday, the priest towards the end of the Mass said, “it is a grace to be here with all of you.” And, it is. Just having the time, resources and energy to do a year of service is an element of God’s grace. It has helped me exponentially uncover my authentic person – the person I have been, who I am now, and who I am becoming – because with God, all of it is true. I am not a different person than I was in August, 2018 but there are definitely parts and pieces of myself that I have gotten to know and reconnect with during this time of intentional community and service.

A few months ago, I was fortunate to participate in a 10-day service program with the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. I, along with four other young women, spent a week as helping hands to schoolteachers, staff at a childcare center, elderly patients and more. Everywhere we went, we were met and welcomed by the generous spirit of Carmelite Sisters and those profoundly moved by their example. Now, nearly three months later, I am still incredibly grateful to have experienced that community and service. It was such a simple and profound experience of encounter. One of the key takeaways from the service program is “we must make a habit of practicing the presence of God” by spending each moment with God. See we didn’t begin the program with a day of service, rather we spent the first days with a schedule with talks on spirituality, a day of silence, trust-building exercises and prayer.

We were acknowledging “we cannot give what we do not have;” everything we have is a gift from God. There were three Sisters who remained with us throughout the ten days, and on the first day, one of the Sisters said, “grace is always in the present moment.

“The ministry of presence gave language to a desire I have always known. The idea of being present resonated with me and I keep coming back to it. From my very first blog until now, I have been grasping, admiring and reckoning with how to be: be where my feet are, be compassionate, be patient, be with my surroundings, be present.”

From the beginning, Franciscan Mission Service has uplifted the ministry of presence as the foundation of mission. But it is truly the foundation of faith in a loving, all-powerful, tender and merciful God – my eternal friend, my greatest confidant, my truest love. The ministry of presence gave language to a desire I have always known. The idea of being present resonated with me and I keep coming back to it. From my very first blog until now, I have been grasping, admiring and reckoning with how to be: be where my feet are, be compassionate, be patient, be with my surroundings, be present.

Even now, I am still pondering. And yet, I live in the midst of God’s grace because he is always present to me, with me. I cannot be without Him. But this year has shown me that being with God changes like the ocean. Grace is not something that I can necessarily predict or seek out. It resides with me, even when I can’t “find it.” 

This year of service has been a time of questioning and discovery. Over the course of this year, I have found a deeper sense of myself, my desires, my hopes for what the future holds. I am restless. My community (and my supervisor, and my spiritual director, and…basically anyone who has gotten to know me) knows it well because I am inquisitive and constantly asking my questions aloud. It is not new, but this year has allowed me the space that I needed to make more room for God. [Quick note: I highly recommend listening to Make Room by Jonathan McReynolds]

I’ve discovered one of my favorite verses is John 15:9 – “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Abide in my love.” This is the real takeaway from this year, to remember God dwells within me; the Almighty seeks me; He is always with me; He knows what rests well with me and He guides me closer to Him – whether it be visiting the ocean, living in intentional community at Casa San Salvador, my placement at U.S. Catholic Mission Association, or my time as a part of DC Service Corp 18-19 (aka The Incredibles).

Reflection Question: How are you challenging yourself to be with God in the present?