Today in Belgrade I flip through the pages of a newly begun journal that detail some of the beauty I have thus far experienced, the quotes I have held on to, and the many new things and images that have run through my head during my first days in Serbia. The journal is a little book, and has my mother’s beautiful handwriting on the first page “a small book of beginnings…Glory to God for all things.”

A constant thread running through my little journal is that of beauty and struggle – and the continuous connection present between these two concepts. This has been a reoccurring theme in the conversations I have had in my first week here. These conversations have happened with both members of my team, and the new Serbian friends I have made here, and usually consist of an acknowledgement that all too often we find ourselves struggling. All too often we have no answers, and all too often we forget that Christ Himself is “ever present and filling all things,” and defend the self-constructed images we have justified to put in His place.

It comforts me to know that there is good in our struggle. That the search for meaning, love and God give proof to the existence of meaning, love and God, and must begin faithfully and continue always in our struggles. That as if by struggling, and an acceptance of our failings, we are beautifully connected to others in our broken humanity. Can there be anything so real as pain, and anything so palpable as the mercy which comes to fill our pain?IMG_0102 (1)

“No healing is possible. No repentance is possible. No prayer is possible, until the heart that heals, repents and prays is your sinful, fallen, yet beating heart. False images do not have hearts. False images do not love. Most painful than all, false images will never reflect Christ, because there is nothing false in Christ, nothing common between Life and void. Prayer begins with pain at one’s fallen nature; it grows out of this pain, and its flowers bloom out of it.” – Fr. Seraphim Aldea

Take my hand and struggle with me. Help me to struggle in humility alongside the Serbians with whom I cross paths, and within the relationships I strive to invest myself in.

Take my hand then, and struggle anew with me… because in it we find beauty.IMG_0065 (2)