I graduated college in May 2020. The coming months were some of the most formative of my life thus far. I became a nationally certified athletic trainer after passing the Board of Certification exam. I spent a great deal of time with family and friends. I joined my home parish’s young adult ministry board. And, most impactful of all, I began experiencing intense bouts of anxiety that would prevent me from sleeping and cause me to lose my appetite.
I felt like I had no control. I was not consciously anxious about anything in particular, but my body was telling me otherwise. I was frustrated and scared. I didn’t know what to do. My mind and body were not on the same page.
One day, I went to my best friend’s house to plan some young adult events for our parish. She was in a Zoom meeting when I arrived, so naturally, I sat with her and crashed the meeting. Little did I know the impact this Zoom meeting would have on my life.
A few weeks later, I joined the Zoom meeting as an actual participant. It was the first of many YES Series for me. I thank God often for bringing me this community when I needed it most. I was lost in my own thoughts and worries, so, naturally, God brought me a community of unconditional love and support.
Within the months following that first YES Series, I found myself completely immersed in the active pursuit of my faith. I was more involved than ever in various ministries at my home parish in Dallas. I participated in Spiritual Wakeup with OCF. I hopped on every YES Series. I joined the MNTR program hosted by the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. I began reading books from and about the church Fathers. And, most importantly, I surrounded myself with a few people who actively supported and challenged me in these efforts.
So what does all of this mean?
Oftentimes, we find ourselves lost, stressed, angry, and frustrated with our past, current, and future situations. Our lives are filled with noise from internal and external voices. All of this brings about anxious thoughts which lead to anxious tendencies which can manifest themselves in many ways, such as sleep disturbances and loss of appetite in my case. To silence all of this noise, we must search for peace in God’s presence. He is the answer to all of our worries. He has the power to rid us of our anxieties. Because we expect greater things than this world has to offer, we cannot be bound by the answers it gives us for they will never be satisfactory. Only He can heal our souls.
I found my answers in serving the church in any and every capacity I could. I found my answers in the people I love. I found my answers in not only speaking to God in prayer, but listening to His responses. To do all of this, I had to humble myself before Him and allow His works to be made manifest in my life however He deems fit.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned this past year is to let each day pass as it may. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) I am one who plans out my life by the hour. I make way too many to-do lists. I obsess over schedules. I need order because I have to know what’s coming next. But God had a new lesson for me to learn. He put someone in my life who is the complete opposite. Someone who does not obsess over time and order. Someone who truly lives in the moment and sees the beauty in every passing minute, not thinking about the last or the next. Our time together can be frustrating at times because I want structured plans and he prefers unstructured spontaneity. In opening my eyes and humbling myself, I learned to go with the natural flow of each and every day. Because of him, I have taken naps when my body says sleep. I have hung out with friends when I needed to be social. I have said no to plans when I needed time alone to relax. God gave someone I needed to learn from, to support me, and to care for me when I couldn’t do it all alone.
About a year later, I can say that I have really been letting God lead me where I am needed in every aspect of my life, from school to relationships to church, to work. Having this mindset has opened my eyes to new opportunities, experiences, and reflections. I have less anxieties, better sleep, and a real appetite. My mind and body are slowly but surely getting on the same page and it all started with serving Him.
I can now say that I am an intern with YES and have both attended and helped lead a YES trip. Did I ever think I would become this involved with a ministry I knew nothing about after one crashed Zoom meeting? Definitely not.
But here I am, writing to you today:)
~ Aliki Pappas, YES Intern