Before NET, I struggled with not having a healthy concept of work and routine. I manipulated my senior year schedule so I wouldn’t have classes until 9:40, and yet I still had a hard time making it to school on time. After-school activities left me drained and I required a nap the second I got home. On the weekends, I would sleep for 10+ hours and spend most of my time sitting alone in my room contemplating life. I often floundered my responsibilities through distractions and more sleep.
The Lifestyle of NET
The fact of the matter is, the NET lifestyle is exhausting. At the time of this writing, our team has put 36 retreats in the books. We have traveled to 12 states and will add a 13th tomorrow. The longest drive we’ve had was 660 miles over two days with a retreat at the end of the second day. Personally, I average about 5 hours of sleep a night–in beds that hardly ever stay the same for more than 2 nights. In the mornings, we pack the trailer as early as 5:45 am (which can feel even earlier for us as we constantly switch between eastern time and central time). In the evenings, we get back to talk with the host family for another hour. There were many host homes that we never actually saw in the daylight, even if we stayed there three nights. Basically, we are always going.
Is it Possible?
On NET, the requirements asked of me are easily twice as hard as when I was in school, with even harsher deadlines and responsibilities fueled by half of the resources. My schedule is completely out of my control and often consists of 12 hour days. Days full of new faces and little to no down time. I often wonder how all of it is possible. Surely after two month, I would find a breaking point where I cannot stay on top of everything–a point that I hit many times last year during my senior year. The me that I know would not be able to do all of the things that are required of me.
Prayer is the Foundation
However, the me that I know has made some definitive changes since beginning this year of service. At NET training, we learned that everything was going to revolve around our prayer life. We were given tools to invite God into every single aspect of our lives and to talk to Him constantly through this. The me I am now spends at least 30 minutes in personal prayer every day. I read the bible, contemplate with prayer cards, and go through a weekly cycle of certain people to pray for. Most days also consist of team prayer, prayer ministry during retreats, van prayers, meal graces, sisterhood prayer before we go to sleep at night, and a rosary to fall asleep to.
One of the things I often ask God for is a term that I heard at training: road grace. In essence, God grants missionaries the ability to perform incredible acts with strength that are beyond their human capabilities. For me, it means finding healing in an area of my life that I struggled with. I used to heavily depend on complete solitude in order to internally process, recharge, and perform my duties. However, now my social energy is drawn from a constant conversation with the Lord. Even when personal prayer is done sitting next to my team in the van, God still provides me with time to decompress and ask Him for what I need for that day.
The Grace in Real Life
NET life and prayer also invites me deeper into love, another healing factor in my broken relationship with work. Where before I shirked from people around me and treasured alone time, I actually am comfortable being with my team because of my love for them. Where before I was terrified of public performance and harsh on myself for mistakes, I am now energized by my interactions with youth because it means I can be a vessel for the Lord. Road grace doesn’t just mean energy, but a retreatant coming up to me after a talk and telling me that my words really helped them. It also means a retreatant breaking down in tears while I pray over them because the Holy Spirit spoke a kind of love to them through me that they haven’t heard in a while.
At this point, I definitely feel as if our team has left the “honeymoon” phase. The NET lifestyle is no longer new, but is our reality and a routine that we have fallen into. However, even the word “routine” is different to me because of the way that God has blessed me in work. I do not have to fear or dread my responsibilities because God is literally providing me with a special strength to do the things He needs me to.