Road Trip: Headed South

This morning I leave on my journey.  I’m reminded of the first road trip I took with my family to Florida the summer after second grade.  In typical ‘Daddy fashion,’ we left around 2:00 a.m. because he liked to drive when it was quiet and cool– since our two-tone-blue ’58 Chevrolet didn’t have air conditioning.  We took Highway #1 South to Marathon Key where Daddy’s sister and her husband lived.  Leaving in the dark of night added a layer of mystery to our adventure and made that drowsy daze almost feel like a dream.

As an eight-year-old, the drive seemed to take forever.  When we crossed the bridges to the Keys, I was amazed at the expanse of blue-green water, which may be why turquoise is my favorite color.  During our stay with my aunt, they took us out to eat at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant.  It was a big deal at that time because there were few restaurants in our town.  After that trip, anytime I saw that orange-roofed-restaurant I felt happy with its cheerful colors reminding me of that first big trip.


I won’t go as far as the Keys on my trip and I’m not that eight-year-old that had never been to a place so different from North Carolina.  I wonder how my eyes will see in a new way,   On our drive to Florida when I was eight, we spent one night on the road before reaching Marathon the second day.  I’ll stay my first night in Charleston, South Carolina with my son and his wife.  It’ll be our last visit before they have their first child. How will I see them now versus the next time when we go for our grandson’s birth?

The following day I’ll take off early and head south for the Gulf coast of Florida to visit my cousin.  My last time there was when I was eighteen, a road trip before college with my immediate family.  Now I’ll visit my cousin who’s older than me and knows a lot about Daddy’s family.  How will I experience the people and places in my path on my way there?  What will I discover about my cousin and what will I discover about myself?


While the first few days of this journey will be staying with family, I’ll have the same intention as I have for all pilgrimages, praying each day for God to bless me and the ‘people in my path.’  After I leave the Gulf area, I’ll travel to the Atlantic side for several days alone.  Years ago when I took my pilgrimage to Michigan, I started with visiting my cousin and ended with time by myself.  The time alone was a way of pulling in and reflecting on the experience with family but also going beyond to see what God was showing me about my life.  Drawing away from everyone to a place that’s distance from home, helps me gain perspective on my life.

It seems this journey is coming at a good time.  It’s been a year since I stepped into the new chapter of retirement from school nursing, it’s been almost six months since I started my part-time job as a research nurse, and I’m at a pivotal point in my writing.  It’s time for rest, renewal, and listening for God’s voice.

While I didn’t leave at 2:00 in the morning like Daddy would have done, I do take off with the anticipation as if in the dark of night, looking for light on the road, expectant about what I’ll discover in Florida.


How About You?

Where would you like to go on a Road Trip?

What would you be seeking to discover?

Celebrate Your Life

In four days, I’m having another birthday.  My husband, David is just five months older than me and once we hit sixty, several years ago, he took on a particularly disenchanted attitude about having birthdays, saying he just wanted to “forget about it.”  But I came back at him with, “You should celebrate every year of life.”  I’m not sure if I was just trying to be superior by taking the high road, or if I truly have a more positive attitude about aging.  I believe the older you become, the longer you should celebrate.

In my younger years, I waited on others to honor me on My Day.  I was especially ‘sensitive’ around that time, watching to see if folks would remember, hoping they’d choose gifts and paper products for my celebration that I liked.  But sometimes, I’d be disappointed because I have such a strong ability to visualize what I want, that nothing could match the perfection of my imagination.  Once I saw this pattern in myself, I almost dreaded the disappointment of the build-up, then let down, of my birthday.

But when I turned fifty, I took control of my own birthday happiness.


When David asked if I wanted a party, I quickly responded, “No.  I want a trip.  By myself.”  That was four years after my first Solo Journey to Sedona.  I’d forgotten how to slow down and be more intentional with my time—like I thought I learned when I went through breast cancer.  Instead, I’d gotten back into the over-busy, over-booked pre-cancer way of living.  When I turned fifty, I knew I needed to go away and try again to reset my life.

For that fiftieth birthday present, and five years since my cancer diagnosis—that point I’d been hoping to reach without a recurrence, I went to Jekyll Island, Georgia.  When I was there, I kept remembering that it was my birthday gift.  The entire trip was truly that as I relearned how to play— riding my bike, swimming in the hotel pool, and reading through a thunderstorm while sitting in a wicker rocker on the Vanderbilt cottage porch.  One morning before I headed out on my bike, I read Psalm 103:5 (NIV):

He satisfies my desires with good things,

                                         so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

 That seemed to be the perfect scripture for turning fifty, and perhaps it’s perfect for every year—no matter what age we’re turning.  Now I’m wise enough to see that I can go ahead and act on those unique desires of my heart—whether it’s for a certain design on birthday napkins, picking out my own cake, throwing my own party, or taking off on a journey.


This year, David asked me how and when I want to celebrate—since I’ll be leaving on my pilgrimage to Florida the day before my birthday.  I’ve decided that today will be my designated birthday and I’ve made reservations for us to eat brunch at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles— a combination that I’ve never tried.  By the evening, I’ll be ready to Swing Dance and will request my birthday song by Van Morrison, “Precious Time.”  It’ll remind me that “precious time is slipping away” — which sounds sad, but because I love to dance to it and love the part about being “queen for a day,” I will feel happy and energized, ready to take on another year.

I’m glad for the chance to Celebrate My Life and I hope you’ll do the same next time you’re turning a year older.


How about You?

How do you approach getting older?

What are the ways you like to Celebrate Your Life on your birthday?







Stepping Over the Threshold

One week from today, I’ll leave on my yearly pilgrimage.  For months those days have been blocked out on my calendar with very little thought about the actual journey.  Now that I’m almost one year into my retirement from school nursing, I find that my life has been filled with new activities to take the place of those forty-hour weeks in my middle school.  Just like the previous fourteen journeys, I’m working right up until the day I’ll leave for Florida.

Map Location Direction Location Remote Relax Concept

The beginning of my trip, I’ll travel by myself but stay with family.  The first night will be with my son and daughter-in-law in Charleston, South Carolina.  The next three nights will be spent with my cousin on the Gulf coast of Florida, and the final three days will be by myself on the Atlantic side—the truly Solo part.

Over the past few years, I’ve planned my trips so that some of my time is spent with family.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that as one of my favorite artist, Van Morrison sings, “Precious time is slipping away.”  Not only have I seen the value of being intentional about time alone with new eyes for sacred travel, I’ve realized the importance of intentional time with family.  With my son, Brooks, and his wife, Emily, we’ll have our last visit before they have their first child in May.  Life will change for all of us when our baby boy arrives.

With my cousin, Linda, I have a chance to know her life at her winter home.  I’ve written before in two blog posts, Second Chance to Know You (Nov. 19) and Distant Cousins (July 12 ), about the value of spending time with my cousins at a different point in life.  As I feel the rush of time whirling by, I want to grab onto those opportunities while I still can.


I’m glad I decided to focus this blog on getting ready because my life has been so busy with working part-time as a research nurse and completing my book proposal—that I’ve been totally absorbed in tasks.  Now I’ve pulled out my ‘guidebook’ for my sacred journeys, Phil Cousineau’s, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred and I’m reminded of what I need to focus on before I head out next week.

In the book, Cousineau encourages the pilgrim to prepare carefully, believing that intention is everything.  In the chapter entitled Departure, he notes the importance of being able to completely disconnect from everything at home—the pressures, tasks, responsibilities, in order to leave.  Stepping over the physical threshold of your house is symbolic of leaving the known behind in order to encounter the unknown and divine in the journey.  There’s a natural resistance to doing that—we don’t want to leave the safety of the known.

It also requires energy to transition from everyday life to a new pattern of physical, mental, and emotional preparation for the journey.  For me, that means reserving a rental car, pulling out spring clothes for what I hope is typical Florida weather, completing my paperwork at the research job, and finishing sections of the book proposal.

Meanwhile, I need quiet, meditative time to prepare for my journey, praying with intention for God to ‘bless me and the people in my path.’

Like Cousineau points out, a pilgrimage doesn’t have to be to a place far away.  Having that same intention with new eyes for seeing the sacred, can transform a trip around your neighborhood—if your heart is open.

My hope as I write this is those who read these words will feel the call to step over the threshold of the familiar and into the sacred unknown, finding blessing along the journey.


How about You?

What is the resistance you feel against crossing the threshold to the unknown?

How would setting an Intention help to move beyond that resistance?





Places in our Path

I saw the old church up in a field of broomsedge—or broom straw as we called it when I was a girl.  I wanted to go inside, explore the abandoned building that once had been so alive– maybe a hundred years ago.  When I walked to the edge of the property, there was a fence with a prominent “No Trespassing” sign.  Looking about the overgrown churchyard, I could imagine ‘dinner on the grounds’ like we had at Grandma Smith’s church with makeshift tables of sawhorses with large pieces of plywood placed across the top to hold the plentiful home-cooked food.

The unpainted church reminded me of dark buildings that dotted the countryside many years before, harkening to a different era or economy where costly paint was an extravagance.  It reminded me of how my mother had taken us back to her first home, that her family always called ‘the old place,’ her house that had long been emptied, unpainted and sitting back in a field of broomsedge like the church.


Seeing the sun shining on golden broom straw always gives me a feeling of being settled, grounded, whether it’s an entire field or growing by a country road.   It comes from childhood when I spent days playing in a field of broom straw on our farm.  Some of my best memories are of Saturdays spent tramping down the sedge to form playhouse rooms then hiding down beneath the tall grass.  Thinking about that, I can breathe in the fresh air and smell the sweet smoke of fall leaves burning at a neighboring farm.

When I ride through the country now I’m reminded of how these remaining vestiges of an earlier time and way of life are disappearing.  When we hiked through the woods to Mama’s home deep in the country, I remember thinking we’d surely come back and visit, maybe when we had more time to explore.  But not long after that, the land was purchased by a new owner and we no longer had access.  I wish we’d carried a camera with us that day.

I think now that I should be more intentional about paying attention to the places in my path– the natural environment as well as the buildings that have special meaning.  My Grandma Smith’s small Presbyterian church was one of those places that I thought would be there forever.  But while I was away, sometime between college and moving out of state, the church membership dwindled to such a small number that the church folded.  For years, I drove past the property trying to envision the dinners on the grounds and our youth group playing volleyball over a net strung between two water oaks.

Now when looking at an old, abandoned building, I imagine the way it looked when it was alive with people and purpose.  I wonder about their stories from the memories of the community gathered in those places whether a family, a congregation of faith or workers making their living.


Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

Realizing that things don’t last forever, I have the opportunity to be present to all the places in my path.  I can step back and see what is unique and special about the land and the buildings that are important in my life.  Now I know that some places that seem so everyday, deserve a photograph.  I wish I had one of Mama’s ‘old place’ and Grandma’s church.

And when I feel that yearning to go back to the way things were, I can find a new crop of broomsedge and sit down in it, with the sun shining on me, remembering a Saturday morning being held in that place.


How about you?

What places in your path are significant for you?

What are ways you can return there?



Competitive Edge

The young mother told me about their family’s plan to travel to Europe during our upcoming Spring Break.  It wasn’t unusual in our affluent school community for students to travel to international locations.  But as she told about taking all five children to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, I found myself calculating the costs rather than listening to her.  I wondered how they could afford such a trip for their family of seven.


Walking away from our conversation, I felt irritated, wishing our family could have afforded a trip like that when our sons were in middle school.  Later, when the noise in my head settled down, I heard that ‘still small voice in me’ asking, “What would you have said to her if you hadn’t been jealous?”

There was no hiding my envy, the comparison of my life to her life.  What would I have said if I’d just listened and not come from a place of competition?

I would have responded that she was providing a wonderful experience for her family, making rich memories.  My mind would have been engaged in listening to her descriptions of places they would stay, sites they would see, experiencing the excitement of anticipation with her.  But instead, I walled that part off, putting a barrier up between us during our encounter.  I missed that opportunity to share in her life.

Having been a school nurse for twenty years, I’ve thought a lot about competition.  Every day in the Health Room, I saw adolescents that competed in academics, sports, and social standing.  There was the constant comparison of height, weight, appearance, artistic talent, and on and on.  They compared themselves to one another in their name brand shoes and clothes, latest and greatest phones, computers, and other tech devices.  The comparisons didn’t end with those in their immediate community like they did in my middle school days.  Now students had comparisons with their social media communities that kept the noise going 24/7.


Entering school for another day of competition

I look in the dictionary at the word competitive—not so much for the meaning as for the synonyms.  Sometimes that helps me gain a broader perspective on a familiar word.  From the list of synonyms, the one that jumps out at me is aggressive.  Is that what I’m being when I respond from a competitive place?  Is that the world around us as we compare ourselves, whether we’re middle schoolers or adults?

I check the synonyms for edge and I’m struck by the word ledge.  It fills me with that fear I experience when looking down from a steep point, that feeling that I’m falling.

Now I put those synonyms together and instead of Competitive Edge, which sounds acceptable, like what we aspire to, it becomes Aggressive Ledge.  That feels scary, a vantage point of attack, a place that I don’t want to live from.

What if we came down from that ledge and lived our lives, honoring our own path and allowing others’ to do the same.  We wouldn’t need to feel less than or greater than, just be ourselves and be thankful for our lives.  Then we could hear each others’ stories without building barriers.

Maybe then my first reaction wouldn’t be envy, but curiosity about that path that you’re traveling.  If I’m secure about the life I’m living, I don’t need to be looking for comparisons.  Walking that course, I can be present to the people along my way, thankful for my life and supportive of theirs.


How about You?

In what ways do you compare yourself with those around you?

How could you become more secure in your own path?


Finding the Funny

I rummaged through the cabinet at the Cancer Resource Center.  An older lady joined me looking through the wigs and hairpieces that had been donated.  I didn’t need one, since my hairstylist and cancer nurse-therapist, Darlene at Lovely Lady Salon had fitted me in my short platinum-colored wig.  It wasn’t the best—since it was an affordable synthetic, but it would do until my hair grew back.  Looking through the pile, I could see that other women were all too ready to get rid of their head coverings.

“My sister wanted me to find one for her,” the lady said.  She had a dark brown wig that came almost to her shoulders.

My goodness, I thought.  Sisters going through cancer at the same time.

“That must really be tough with both of you in treatment,” I said, empathy oozing from my voice.

She turned her head to the side, looking up at me with a curious expression and said, “Oh, no.  She doesn’t have cancer.  She just needs a wig.”


The lady continued, finally picking out one and adding a scarf for good measure.  I watched her walking away, pleased with her finds.

I can’t believe she’d take that wig from here, knowing her sister doesn’t have cancer.  Filled with indignation, I closed the cabinet and walked away, angry at the woman who’d taken advantage of the system.  The scene played in my mind as I walked to my car.

Finally, that still small voice within broke through my irritation.  Did you see cancer survivors standing in line for those wigs?  What’s it going to hurt for her to feel good about doing something nice for her sister?

 Eventually, I looked back at that incident and saw how senseless my anger had been.  I told myself I should ‘lighten up’ and not be so serious, let go of my harsh expectations of others’ behavior.  Finding humor in that situation was a healthier way of living.

Likewise, it had been helpful over my years as a school nurse.  There were days working in a middle school that the only way to survive was to laugh; sometimes with the students, and other times at myself.  The older I became the more I felt a divide with the middle school culture.  One day, a student reminded me of that huge gap.

She was an adorable sixth grader and was sitting in my office on the cot.  We were chit-chatting and she said, “I like your shoes.”  Not unusual for an adolescent girl to notice shoes.  I thought mine must look cool for her to say that.  Then she added with a smile, “My Grandma has a pair like that.”

Oh, I thought.  Forgot I’m the age of your grandparents.

Finding humor in growing older seems to be an essential skill for navigating those changes we face.  It has helped me through times when I’ve tried to be patient with my mother.  Like when Mama was eighty-five and I took her for a bra fitting.

The oldest grandchild was getting married and I thought Mama needed proper support underneath that pretty blue suit.  It proved to be quite an ordeal with Mama, and me, and Ethel, the Fit Specialist, in that four-by-four foot dressing room.


Later, I found the humor in that outing when I wrote my essay, “Pull Those Puppies Up!”  One of my greatest delights was reading it at the ladies’ luncheon at my home church with Mama sitting in front of the room, laughing until her body shook and tears streamed down her face.  If she could understand now, that it was published this week in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, she would chuckle that her story was in a publication named after a mule.

While they mistakingly posted it as Fiction, it’s an Essay, a true story, ’cause I couldn’t have made that up!

Here’s the Link:

 Growing up in the South, I developed a love for stories. 

Or go to


Now I’m glad that I’m learning to see the ‘funny’ in situations, laughing at life, laughing at myself.


Mule pulling tobacco sled at Duke Homestead’s Harvest and Hornworm Festival

What about You?

How has humor helped you through life?

Are there ways you could ‘lighten up’ and let go of some of your seriousness?




Blame it on Rumi

I awoke at 3:30 in the morning, Paris time, and couldn’t get back to sleep.  In fact, I had barely rested the first two nights of our trip.  My body wouldn’t be fooled into thinking it should be snoozing when it was six hours earlier at home.  My mind was filled with the images of the city that my husband and I were experiencing for the first time.  It wasn’t just the time zone difference, the jet lag tiredness; I sometimes had insomnia at home.  And when I did, it seemed that I would awake around 3:30, just like I was experiencing in our tiny room on the fifth floor of our boutique hotel.

Lying there, I thought about how I would handle the situation at home.  Years before, I’d listened to a talk by Dr. Wayne Dyer who quoted Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, and Sufi mystic: “The morning breeze has secrets to tell you.  Do not go back to sleep.”


Dr. Dyer talked about the common experience of people waking around the same time during the night when they were the least influenced by conscious thought.  He told about how he got up and listened to the “secrets.”  In those early morning hours, he had amazing clarity that helped him work through writing blocks.

At home, I’d sit in the family room, or on warm nights, the screened porch.  In the silence, I’d wait to either receive some inspiration or guidance from that breeze.  Sometimes I’d write through a section of my memoir or record ideas for future blog posts.

But in that Paris hotel room, there was no place to go—not really.  The closest sitting area was in the lobby of the first floor.  I didn’t want to change my clothes and go down the five flights of the narrow spiral staircase.  I refused to ride in the tiny elevator because my claustrophobia could not tolerate that tiny box.  From the day we arrived, I told my husband to go ahead on the elevator and I’d take the stairs.  The housekeeping staff looked at me with curiosity when I dodged their cleaning carts, making my way up and down the steps.  If it hadn’t been for the Paris pastries, I might have lost some weight during my stay!

I tried to ignore Rumi’s advice, willing myself to go back to sleep.  But after growing bored, listening to my husband’s easy breaths, envying his ability to sleep, I got up.  Rummaging through my bags in the dark, I found my paper and pen and set up my writing ‘desk’ in the bathroom, putting down the toilet seat and closing the door so the light wouldn’t wake my husband—as if it could!

We’d been so busy walking about the city, riding the hop-on-hop-off bus, eating in the cafés that I hadn’t had time to write in my journal.  Sitting there at my ‘desk,’ I recorded the things that fascinated me about Paris: feeling tiny while standing on the ground underneath the colossal ironwork of the Eiffel Tower, the chance meeting of a family from Fayetteville, North Carolina while in line for one of the scarce restrooms, the upstairs of Shakespeare and Company bookstore where famous writers had gathered.


After writing for over an hour, I’d poured Paris onto the page.  Finally, my eyes felt heavy and my mind had let go of all those stimulating images.  Then sleep came easily and after three hours, I awoke, rested.

Now when I look at my journal, I have pages of our Paris experience that may not have been recorded if not for that night in the bathroom.  While I was irritated then that sleep wouldn’t come, those creative bursts so inconvenient, I’m thankful that I listened to that voice of Rumi.  That poet from the 13th century had shared his wisdom from his sleepless nights.


The River Seine

How about you?

When do you awaken in the night?

What have you discovered when you listen to the secrets of the morning breeze?



Be Present Now

The last week of that school year, I was standing in the grocery check-out, making my final purchase of health room supplies when I received a call from my younger sister.  Our almost ninety-year-old mother was in the Emergency Room of our hometown hospital, being admitted for an acute illness.   We’d never seen Mama so sick.  Over the next weeks, she gradually pulled through after that initial hospitalization followed by a transfer to the medical center at UNC hospital.


By that point in mid-June, I was always exhausted from the school year and ready for our two-month summer break.  Instead of finally being at home, I was sitting by my mother’s bed at UNC, watching her sleep.  I’d stay all day then leave the hospital exhausted, saying to myself, “How can watching someone sleep be so tiring?”

I felt restless with having to be in the confinement of the hospital room when I was ready to be free for the summer, outside enjoying the June weather since I didn’t have to be in the tiny windowless box that was my school office.

In the midst of my frustration, it was as if the still small voice of God said, “Just be here right now.  You don’t need to be anywhere else.”  There is nothing more important than sitting by your mother’s bed, being that familiar face when she wakes from her confused sleep.

In prior situations when I was forced to be in a place I wanted to flee, I would use my familiar coping skill of daydreaming—zoning out.  I would go some other place in my head if I couldn’t in my body.  But somehow, this time I felt like I needed to be ‘here’ with not just my body, but also my mind.  Be totally present.

I found myself praying through my struggle with how to do that.  When my mind would start to slip away, I’d catch myself and bring my attention back into the room.  I’d be more observant of how Mama slept– did she favor sleeping on one side more than the other?  She often talked in her sleep and I tried to imagine who she was talking to in those medicated dreams, listening for her tone of voice, the mood she seemed to be in when she awoke.


My son, Ross, visiting Grandma

Fortunately, Mama recovered from that long summer of illness.  I’ve often thought about God’s instruction to just be present—to bring my whole self to the person in front of me—no matter the situation.  It has occurred to me that sometimes, I want to escape because I feel responsible, especially as a nurse, for fixing the problem—whether it’s a physical illness or emotional upset.

And what if I can’t.  What if no matter what I do, the problem remains.

I come back to Mama’s hospital room.  My purpose being there wasn’t to fix the problem but to be with her through it; for her to know that she wasn’t alone.  I wasn’t going anywhere, in my body or my mind.  We were in it together.

Recently, I have felt that same tension of wanting to be with people who are dear, through their emotional pain, but also wanting to escape to a brighter place.  I hear God’s voice to “Be Present Now” and know that it’s not up to me to fix things.  What is up to me is to offer all of myself, at that moment, only choosing to be totally with them so they will realize they are not alone, that they have a familiar face to wake up to.


Mama and Me, Thankful for her recovery

What about you?

Are there ways that you try to escape from being totally present with another person, especially in difficult situations?

How can you bring your total self to be present with that person?

Better than a Pen Pal

One of my favorite classes in elementary school was geography, especially in Miss Harrington’s fourth grade.  I loved how we learned about the lives of people in faraway places.  Back in that day, we would say they lived ‘overseas’ and that seemed like an insurmountable distance.  The only people in my family that had traveled that far were the men in the military.  For me, the closest thing to going there would be having a pen pal—something I read about in My Weekly Reader, our individual newspapers that we received on Fridays.


Back then, our class didn’t pursue a pen pal relationship with a classroom in another country—like the French students did at McDougle Middle School where I was the nurse.  While the idea fascinated me when I was a girl, my interest wasn’t keen enough to pursue that on my own.  The closest I came was making Christmas cookies with my Girl Scout Troop and sending them to soldiers serving in Vietnam.  Months later, I was so excited when we received thank you letters.  How special to see that envelope with the unusual stamp and my name in the soldier’s handwriting.

Today the world’s very different with how we’re surrounded by people of so many nationalities.  While they bring the world to us, there’s still something about having a friendship by correspondence with someone living far away.  Perhaps it’s that feeling from childhood, the sense of mystery in wondering what their community is like, how their daily routine is in that foreign place.

Last September, I spent a week at the Abbey in Iona, Scotland with forty-one people from around the world.  We all went there to learn from our leader, Alistair McIntosh, about The Pilgrimage of Life.  Because we came as fellow sojourners with the common need to explore our life journey, we quickly formed a bond.  Recently the email list was sent to all the participants.  There were folks that I’d enjoyed time with but had failed to get their address.  I sent them a message and now think of it as sending a letter to a pen pal that I never had as a girl.  With my electronic letters, I didn’t have to wait for weeks for a response.  Instead, I had notes back within forty-eight hours.


Meeting room at the Abbey

One of my messages went to Jenny and John, a lovely couple from Australia.  How nice that Jenny responded with a newsy email about recent visits with family and friends and her work as a minister in the Presbytery.  It was as if we were sitting at one of the tables sipping tea and eating oatcakes, as our group did each night in the Refectory.  I could feel her warm presence and hear her lovely Aussie accent.

And then there was the message to Aldo in Holland.  He was the one who’d called my Southern accent “weird”  (See post, Southern Drawl, Oct. 11, ’17).  He had such a thirst for understanding and was so open to discovery through the process of that week.  It was refreshing to see an adult who had that kind of energy for faith– given how worn down we can be by the time we reach mid-life.  What a gracious response he had to my email and blog post.  How exciting to hear of his plans for a future journey.

The urban Dictionary ( defines a Pen Pal as, “A species of human made nearly extinct by the advent of electronic mail, penpals communicate via the ancient art of Penmanship.” Ouch! Makes me feel ancient!

Maybe I’ll create a hybrid form of pen pals by emailing Jenny and Aldo and asking them to write me back.  Then I can enjoy that ancient art of penmanship, excited by their unique handwriting on those envelopes with the foreign stamps waiting for me in my mailbox.


Our group taking a pilgrimage across Iona to important landmarks

How About You?

Have you ever had a Pen Pal?

What was that experience like for you?

Are there people you connect with through email or social media from other countries?  How does that impact your life?  How do you think it impacts theirs?


Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey

Taking yearly pilgrimages started after my serendipitous journey to Sedona.  What made that such a pivotal point, was the juxtaposition of entrapment with freedom.  During the preceding eight months of cancer treatment, I’d been closely monitored; by the clinical trials research company I worked for to see if I was able to do my job; by my family and friends to see how I was physically and emotionally holding up.  While my employer was difficult and my family and friends well-meaning, both made me want to escape to a place where I was free to move about, unnoticed.

Between two business meetings out West, I took my trip to Sedona, Arizona.  If it had been up to me, I would have returned to North Carolina between those meetings, to see my husband and teenage sons so I wouldn’t be away for so long.  But the company business manager suggested I stay in the area and travel.  After considering her idea, I thought she was right.  My mother had visited a friend in Sedona and said it was one of the prettiest places she’d ever seen.  Since it was within two hours of my first meeting, the business manager and I agreed that it would work.


Unlike all the negative things that happened during my employment there, the support for me traveling to Sedona was serendipitous.  It was something good, beneficial that happened by accident at a time where I was seeing no other ‘happy accidents.’

Because it was not something I’d planned at length, like other things in my life, I was in a state of receptivity to what that new experience would offer.  I didn’t have a list of ‘must see’ places or companion travelers to work out the details of where to eat, or “What’s next?”  It was just me moving as I felt led, following that still small voice of God within me instead of a schedule.

How freeing for a mother of teenagers, used to balancing work and family.  What a wonderful change from going to the countless appointments of those intensive months of cancer treatment.

Instead, I drove around the red-rock-splendor and absorbed the beauty of each moment.  How nice it was to take a quiet hike at Oak Creek on a weekday, sitting in the grounding presence of the shadow of those rock formations.

I lit a candle in The Chapel of the Holy Cross and thanked God for my life and for the unexpected time in Sedona.  It wasn’t something that I’d asked for; It wasn’t something that I knew I needed.  My heart was full of gratitude for the abundance God had provided.


Throughout my toxic job and cancer ordeal, my go-to scripture was Psalm 40: 1-2 (NIV): “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  Remembering that day when I drove into Sedona, I had a feeling that I had come home, like God my Rock was leaping off the page.  Of all the places I could go for that serendipitous trip, my ‘happy accident’ led me to a place of rocks– and later I would learn, of energy and healing.

Sedona opened my eyes to other ‘happy accidents.’  I see how good things have shown up in my path– things I haven’t asked for, things I didn’t know I needed.  Now, when I see images of that special place, it reminds me that God my Rock is still leaping off the page.


How About You?

How have you experienced serendipitous events in your life?

What impact have they had on your journey?