FFA, what a year it has been already! At this moment, it has been two weeks since the National FFA Convention & Expo with only 158 days until the Minnesota FFA State Convention. Since the 90th Minnesota FFA State Convention, I have facilitated three state conferences, attended three national trainings, worked with numerous supporters and sponsors, and started my freshman year of college. On the outside, this is all that I have been dealing with, but that’s simply the tip of the iceberg. I officially joined the FFA in seventh grade, but I was truly involved in FFA before I could even walk. It has always been something I love to do, but as a state officer, I am involved in an entirely new level of commitment. Every week we were busy with something, always focusing on how to improve ourselves for the better experience of our members. I knew I was growing, but it was a constant fight to avoid burning out.
During the National FFA Summit training in Washington D.C., I got a text from my little sister, a text a sophomore in high school should never have to send. She let me know that a member of my home FFA chapter, a young man I worked with in football, wrestling, student council, and one of the members of our General Livestock team that I coached, had passed away due to a heart attack. With no prior conditions, I was in disbelief and went into the staircase of the hotel we were staying in and just cried. I pushed through the week, but it was difficult being away from my community in such a time of grief. I had an alumni event following Summit, but I emailed the coordinator and let her know I needed to be with my community and grieve with my family and friends.
After the wake, life got busy again with FFA. We kept having events, traveling, and making memories. Finally, college started! I moved into the University of Minnesota in late August, and it wasn’t long before I realized that is where I belonged. I became close to one of my friends from high school, I was going on adventures every day, loving my new schedule. But life constantly throws new trials and challenges. I have mostly been struggling with balancing all the things life has been throwing at me. I haven’t been going to church as much as I should, I don’t eat healthily, I sleep very little, and working out is a rare activity for me.
This isn’t a call for pity, I write these things because I think a lot of you reading this have a story that is similar or can relate to mine. Although it does feel as though I have been crushed down, chewed up, and spit out; although it is a tough state to be in; one where it feels like we are just waiting, not knowing what to do to change the tides, it is something that everyone experiences at some point.
When we feel broken, we tend to think that life is just spitting on us for no reason. However, what we often miss and can’t see is that we are being broken with purpose. Those falls and punches we experience in life exist to refine us. The best diamonds start as ugly masses, and it’s not till they have been broken to their core we start to see their beauty. Once those diamonds have been through the difficulties of the refining process, they are then built up, polished, and become worth much more than their original state.
In moments where we feel at our lowest, we need to focus on what matters. As Bob Goff said, we need to take an evaluation of what is important to us, hold it in our right hand, and let go of everything else that doesn’t. For me, that is my faith, my family, and those who have helped me through all these challenging times. Maybe for you, those things are the same, or perhaps they're athletics, drama, academics, or your animals. Knowing what is important to us allows us to get rid of what doesn’t. Deleting a social media platform or spending less time on Netflix and more with friends is a great way to focus on what matters. Instead of spending time laying in bed, go for a walk of reflection. Over time our focus can change from the tough times and instead focus on the moments we can treasure. I haven’t mastered this by any means, but seeing my family, spending time with my friends, and taking time to read a devotional are the moments of my day I see that hope and brightness again. I remember what truly matters and I can let go of what doesn’t. Life is going to be hard, but if we surround ourselves with what matters, we will truly be living the dream.
Stationed by the Rising Sun,