You Are Enough

That Saturday morning a year ago, I stood waiting for the ferry that would take me across the sound to the island of Iona for my week’s stay at the Abbey. I’d dreamed of going to Scotland to that historic pilgrimage site and it was becoming a reality. When the ferry workers were preparing for our group of passengers, a wave of anxiety hit me, and the critical voice of doubt said, “Who are you to be going to Iona?”

Won’t the other participants be more worldly, more theologically trained, veterans of international pilgrimages? Won’t you sound less educated, less cultured, less sophisticated with yout Southern, small-town roots?

The ferry workers motioned for us to cross over the ramp and I took a deep breath and stepped forward. As I did, the still small voice of God came to me and said, “You are my child. That is enough.” I felt a bit of relief and assured that I was following where God had led me.

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Iona Abbey Cloisters

That afternoon, we gathered in the Refectory– the group dining hall and met for the first time over tea and oat cakes. We learned about our housekeeping responsibilities, meal duties, and our dorm assignment. I shared a room with women from England, Canada, and Minnesota. We ranged in age from late twenties to late sixties and enjoyed conversations about what we were seeking that week.

When we met for our first session in the large group, there were a number who were pastors and seminary trained. But more of the group were folks like me; seekers wanting to be in fellowship with an international community of faith, all of us focusing on the Pilgrimage of Life, our theme for the week.

It was interesting to hear the forty-one participants share with cultural perspecitives and accents from Latvia, Germay, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, and the U.S. I’d wondered what it would be like to be part of that community. It felt like going on a church retreat with people whom you didn’t know before gathering, but yet you knew because you all shared a spiritual connection.

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The Sanctuary of the Abbey where we had worship on Sunday and each evening

I never felt the need for an escape route that week. We were allowed time on our own in the afternoons to explore the island. I chose to be by myself because the demands of the group interaction, while stimulating, were also draining. Some of the more extroverted folks would go out in groups, but there was no pressure to do anything other than what felt right for you.

One of my concerns had been how I would fit in. I had set an intention, like I’ve done on other pilgrimages, to be present, to absorb all that was going on around me. I knew Iona was a rich place and I wanted every benefit. One of the things we did as a group was to take a day walking the island and visiting the historic spots. At each place we stopped, our leader did a reading and then there was time for meditation. The most meaningful one for me was stopping at the shoreline of the bay and throwing in a rock that represented something we wanted to leave behind.

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St. Columba’s Bay

I tossed in a big rock that represented my pride, my fear of trying new things because I could make errors and look foolish. Flinging that rock out into the water, I vowed to just follow God’s lead and let go of my self-consciousness. Releasing that burden allowed me to relax and be myself during the week at Iona.

I did fit in, because I, like the other participants, was enough, and felt at home in that body of believers.

Toward the end of that walk across the island, we hiked to the highest point where we could see the sound and the Atlantic sides. In the sweeping view of that remote island, I felt my breath catch as I realized God had opened up my life, the wider space that had been provided through my pilgrimage to Iona.

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That Friday morning when our week together ended, a group of us walked to the ferry dock in the dark, with rain blowing sideways. We held our arms out to the sides to keep our balance while we made our way across the slippery landing. I remembered my fear when I’d boarded the ferry the previous Saturday, the doubt that attacked me.

Yes, I am enough, I thought, and made my way onto the ferry. And I am grateful for all the  richness of this past week with my new friends of faith from around the world.

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How about you?

Do you have times when you feel that you’re not enough?

How do you handle those feelings?

How do you move beyond that voice of doubt?

 

 

Gather Yourself: Lessons in Scotland

After all the dreaming, planning, and praying, I’m now at the threshold of Iona,” I wrote in my journal a year ago as I looked across the white-capped-waters of the sound toward the stone buildings of the Abbey. I’d made it to the village of Fionnphort in the Inner Hebrides, where I’d booked a room for two nights at the Seaview Bed and Breakfast, to rest and prepare for my week living at Iona Abbey. It was my solo journey, my yearly spiritual pilgrimage, but this time, it was to a historic pilgrimage site, my first trip to Scotland.

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Seaview Bed and Breakfast, Mull, Scotland

I was glad that after my arrival on Thursday afternoon, I would have until Saturday at 3:00 before I would join the forty others from around the world for our week together. We would live in that faith-seeking community and explore The Pilgrimage of Life– our theme for the week with our leader, Alistair McIntosh, a native of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Any doubt about whether I’d selected the best lodging was immediately dismissed when I met John and Jane Noddings, the owners and hosts at the B & B. John, who referred to himself as the ‘chatty’ one, showed me around and introduced me to Jane, who was in the kitchen cooking dinner.

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John, the ‘chatty’ one

That first night, I was so tired and her meal of lamb and potatoes nourished me and warmed the chill that had stayed with me since the ferry. John, who’d formerly been a fisherman, gave me helpful information to make my stay easier– like how the strong currents could shut down the ferry to Iona that was just a ten-minute trip across the sound.

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It was as delicious as it looks!

That first meal, I had the dining room to myself as the other guests had not arrived. How I savored those bites, looking out across the water, watching the vanishing light over Iona. I wasn’t able to post my pictures last year because I had so many problems getting wifi in that remote area. But I’ll make up for it now and share them with you.

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It was nice to sit in the quiet. I’d just come from Edinburgh where my husband and I had finished our trip together that had included Paris, London, and a day trip into the Scottish Highlands. Seaview B & B provided me a place to restore my energy before becoming part of a group for a week. It would give me time to gather myself, to pull in before I spread out– experiencing the dynamic growth of living and learning from a new community.

Looking back, that was a perfect plan.

How many other times in my life should I have recognized the need to fuel up, to allow for an intentional transition in order to be ready for what was ahead?

My usual practice was to keep going and not slow down. But having that time to see the threshold, that place of crossing from what is known to the unknown–like what has been experienced by pilgrims over the ages, helped me to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for that week that was life-changing.

After dinner those evenings at Fionnphort, I walked around the village.  How peaceful it was in the quiet of that small community on the western shores of Scotland.

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On the banks of Fionnphort

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View of ferry dock at Fionnphort

On my ferry ride from Oban to Craignure, where I then boarded a bus like the red one in the photo, I decided to make my first video while on a solo journey. But when the time came to post it, I chickened out, always a bit self-conscious about being filmed, about the sound of my own voice. Well, it’s time to let go of that.

While the day was sunny, I was not use to the dampness and wind, that I would learn was ever-present on the coast of Scotland. By the end of my ferry ride, I was chilly in spite of my layers of clothing. Seeing this video, lets me relive that Thursday afternoon last September.

 

As I anticipated joining the group on that Saturday, several questions pressed in on me. I wrote them in my journal:  “What will it be like to live in a community for a week? How will I fit in? How will I manage without an ‘escape route’ like I have with my trips in the States?”

I waited and prayed on the banks of Fionnphort and asked God to bless me and the people in my path in the week ahead.

Next time, I’ll tell you how God answered my prayer, how He Heard My Voice.

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How about You?

What times in your life have you been at the threshold of a life-changing event?

Were you able to take the time to Gather Yourself, to pull in and fuel up, allowing for an intentional transition so you would be ready to receive the benefits of what was ahead?

Posts from the trip before I arrived at Iona

Scotland Calling

Paris Can’t Wait

Tea at Two

 

 

A Father’s Care

I’ve thought a lot about a father’s care over the past six weeks as I’ve watched my son, Brooks become a father. You can see the joy, the weight, the responsibility, the wonder of his new role as he tenderly cares for his baby boy. From the time Brooks knew they were going to be parents, I listened to how he considered decisions in light of what would be best for his family, what a child would need– a father’s protection and provision coming forth from within.

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My son caring for his son

My son learned about being a father from his Dad, my husband, David always a rock of support for his sons.  David didn’t run away from infant care, or terrible twos, or late-night fevers, or problems with getting the boys to complete their homework. He worked hard to provide for all of us so that we could have a good life.  And David had seen that same behavior in his father– hard working to support his wife and three sons.

Likewise, I saw how my Daddy cared for Mama and we three daughters.  He worked long hours on our farm and in other jobs to provide for us. He was the best to bring special treats like ice cream when we were sick and to complement us in our Easter outfits, when we played the piano, or baked him his favorite cake. I was devastated when we lost him to a heart attack when he was just 57. I was 22 and suddenly without the care of my father.

David and I married just eight months after my father died. I was grateful to David’s father, ‘DB’ for welcoming me as a daughter– one he’d never had. For the next 22 years, we were close and I depended on his fatherly support. I really missed that when 3 months after he died, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and could have benefitted from his concern, knowing I had a father watching out for me. I certainly trusted in God my Father during that time, but it would have been nice to have that from an earthly father. I missed the practical way DB had of showing his love, his signature parting instruction to his sons to “check your oil,” the way he said I’m thinking about your safety on the road, without saying it directly. A father’s care that’s a tangible love with an extra twenty dollars pressed into your hand or groceries loaded into the back of your car.

I appreciate what feels like fatherly care– even when it hasn’t come from Daddy or DB. I’ve received that type of support from people in my path on my solo journeys. One of those experiences came the first time I camped.

In July of 2015, I took my first trip by train.  I boarded the Amtrak in Durham and rode to Penn Station in New York, stayed over the weekend with my son, Ross, then continued on to White River Junction, Vermont. There I stayed in a hostel room located in Hotel Coolidge, a historic train hotel. After a couple of nights, I rented a car and drove to the western side of Vermont to camp at Button Bay State Park on Lake Champlain. I’d stayed in a state park cabin before and hoped I could do that in Vermont.  But they only had a cabin available for one night.  If I wanted to stay for three as I’d planned, the second two nights would be in a lean-to.

I was a bit skeptical, never having camped in a lean-to and wondering how I’d be able to take enough gear– since I would only have my backpack and a small suitcase. Around the time I was planning my trip, I met a woman from that area and she assured me I’d be fine without a tent.

The State Park was on a beautiful point of land overlooking the lake.  If you walked down the road to the west you could see the Adirondack Mountains of New York in the distance.

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Button Bay State Park, Vermont

The first night when I stayed in the cabin, there was a  family from Massachusetts at the site next to mine.  They appeared to have a well-established camp site with tents like satellites around their cabin, bikes for the children, and a table for their Coleman stove and cooking supplies.

They watched from their campfire as I unloaded my backpack, suitcase, bedding, and bag of Vermont cheese and apples. Later, they came over and spoke, seeming curious that I was a woman traveling alone.  I told them how I’d made my reservations too late to get the cabin but for one night. They’d been coming for a week every summer since the father was a boy, maybe around forty years. The mother asked me where I would spend the other nights. I told her I’d move to the lean-to sites.

“You gotta tent?” the man asked me.

“No. Just bedding and a floor cushion. A woman I met from near here camps and said that should be adequate,” I said, trying to sound confident.

He looked at me, like he was studying my response, then said, “Those mosquitoes will eat you up. I’ve got one you can use.”

He went to the back of his van and pulled out the tent that he said he’d had since he was nine.  I thanked him and told him I’d return it the morning I left.

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My Lean-To with the stranger’s tent

I managed to rig the tent inside the lean-to using rocks to prop up the poles since I couldn’t anchor them with stakes in the ground.  I just did manage to crawl in and zip up the tent without everything collapsing in on me.  I heard a couple of mosquitoes buzzing and got them out before I fell to sleep reading by flashlight and listening to the groups nearby talking or singing around their campfires. It felt familiar to be camping again after all the years our sons had been in Boy Scouts.

The next morning when I went to the bathhouse, the counter was dotted with what looked to be hundreds of tiny mosquitoes.  I shook my head in amazement.  He was right, I thought, and was thankful for the stranger in my path. He’d made my stay at Button Bay pleasant and had reminded me of how wonderful it is to receive fatherly care.

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Morning view of Lake Champlain

https://www.vtstateparks.com/buttonbay.html

How About You?

What are the special memories you have of your father’s care?

What other people have provided that for you?  How have you provided that type of support to others?

 

If It Feels Wrong

When we were children, many of us heard our parents say, “If it feels wrong, don’t do it.”  That was a way to help us judge right from wrong, that internal compass that kept us on the proper course.  Probably those first deciding points were about how we were treating our siblings– at least it was for me.  If I didn’t want to share my candy bar with one of my sisters, then the assumption was ‘being selfish’ would feel wrong and I would give them a piece of my Baby Ruth.  When I was in elementary school and my circle expanded, it applied to telling my piano teacher the truth.  When she’d ask how much  I’d practiced, then my parents assumed that ‘stretching the truth’ would not feel right. Surely, I’d tell Mrs. Godfrey how little I’d practiced, playing outside instead of sitting at our piano.

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Over the years, I’ve found that the feeling of ‘wrong’ is sometimes hard to discern.  What my parents were referring to has gotten mixed in with those uncertain feelings produced by anxiety when I try something new. I’m not talking about something new that would hurt someone, but just behavior to move in a new and challenging direction in my life.  While I can mentally evaluate a new venture and see its components rationally, the emotions and the accompanying physical feelings are harder to navigate, especially when I don’t have the advantage of watching someone else go before me.

Sometimes what is unfamiliar can feel wrong because it makes me uncomfortable, raising my anxiety that something bad could happen– so that it feels like getting in trouble as a child for doing something wrong.

Years ago, I took my summer pilgrimage to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington.  I’d decided before that trip to hike Mt. Constitution because at its summit you are at the highest point in Puget Sound.  I wanted to experience the view from there.

While I’d read about the park and understood from their website there would be trail maps, when I arrived, that wasn’t the case.  Nor was there a park ranger station with staff to ask about the 2.2-mile hike to the top.  I had one bottle of water and was not prepared with proper hiking gear.  I was also on a very tight schedule because of having to rely on the island bus and ferry system.  I felt uneasy with no map of the trail, no one knowing where I was, and my cell phone probably useless in those remote woods.

I walked a short distance up the trail and stopped to ponder what to do.  I was flooded with emotions– fear that something could happen like spraining my ankle with no one to help or getting lost because there weren’t many blaze markers to guide my way.  The decision had to be made quickly in order to hike to the summit and back in time for the last ferry.

If I went with that lingering guideline, “If it feels wrong, don’t do it,” then I would have returned to the safety of the hostel at Friday Harbor.  I had no idea how hard the hike would be for me since it was rated as ‘difficult’ given the incline. I knew the chances of me returning were slim, and if I walked away, I would probably never see that sight of Puget Sound.

I decided to go forward in spite of feeling scared and uncertain– two emotions that definitely didn’t feel right.  After almost an hour of hiking through the ginormous Douglas fir trees, and areas that looked like a fairytale forest with fallen trees blanketed in moss, I passed other hikers who reassured me.

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Wildflowers along the Mt. Constitution Trail

I made it to the top, climbed up on the overlook tower, and couldn’t believe the expansive scene below with the little islands dotting the sound and snow-capped Mt. Baker.  Thank God I made it to this magnificent place, I thought, and felt rewarded for taking a risk.

Sometimes doing something that’s unfamiliar that creates anxiety, doesn’t pay off like that hike.  But from where I stand now, I’m glad that I’m beginning to distinguish between what feels wrong as gauged by my moral compass versus the discomfort of stepping out into the unknown.  If I’d continued to confuse those feelings, I may never have taken the risks of going on yearly pilgrimages, that unknown that is now familiar.

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How about you?

In what ways have you confused a feeling that’s new for you with one that you may have been warned about?

How would pushing beyond that uncertainty benefit your life?

The Stranger on the Bus

We stood at the West Tisbury shuttle bus stop on a Saturday afternoon in Martha’s Vineyard.  I’d been experiencing that island in Massachusetts for the first time, staying in a hostel for $27.00 a night—the only way I could afford that expensive place.  I’d enjoyed the morning at the Farmer’s Market at the Grange Hall and now I was ready to explore Oak Bluffs. Waiting with me, was a young woman standing off to herself and a man around mid-forties with salt-and-pepper hair, a bit scruffy with a two-day beard who stood alongside me.  Bored with the wait, I started a conversation with the man.

“The weather’s great today, isn’t it?”  I said of the mid-June morning that felt like a crisp fall football day in North Carolina.

“Yes, it really is quite pleasant, I think.  You’ve been shopping, eh?” he responded, and nodded at my bag.

His voice had a slight accent, maybe Scottish, somewhere in the U.K., I thought.

“Yes, it’s a nice market. I had no idea there’d be so much farming here.  I just thought it would be like the islands off our coast in North Carolina.”

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West Tisbury Farmer’s Market, Martha’s Vineyard

We talked about the variety of crops grown in the area.  I asked him where he was from.

“I’m originally from Glasgow, Scotland,” he said.  “I’ve been here sixteen years already, painting houses.  There’s a lot of work on the Vineyard with all the salt and wind on the clapboards.”

The bus came and we ended up sitting in adjacent seats.

We talked about the large immigration of Scottish people to North Carolina.  I told him about the Highland Games in our mountains and the popularity of music that had developed into what was now bluegrass.

“Yeah, the Scottish people have to come here if they want to hear their traditional music.  You can’t hear it in Scotland.  It’s like it came to the States in a time capsule.”

We continued talking about music and then moved on to the topic of Scottish Presbyterians.  I told him about my Grandma Smith who was strong in that tradition and he told me about his sister who lived on the Outer Hebrides in a community of Presbyterians.  He remarked that those islands had a stunning beauty but he wasn’t sure he could live in that remote area.

“They’re so strict they tie up the swings so the children can’t swing on Sunday.”  He chuckled then added, “their church is called ‘Wee Freedom,’ you know the Scottish word for little is w-e-e and that’s the truth about their freedom, they just have a little of it!”  We laughed and he pulled the bell cord and picked up his bag.

“This is my stop. Nice talking with you,” he said and turned to leave.

I couldn’t remember when I’d enjoyed a conversation so much.  I made a mental note to look at a map of Scotland and locate the Hebrides.

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And I did.  Off the western coast of Scotland, there was the inner and outer band of islands, the Inner and Outer Hebrides.  I looked up pictures and saw what he meant by their “stunning beauty.”

From that moment, a seed of desire was planted in me to go to those islands.  That was in 2007.  Eight years later, when preparing for a presentation on pilgrimages as a spiritual discipline, I came across a book about Iona.  I’d never heard of that island in the Inner Hebrides that had been an international pilgrimage site for hundreds of years. Slowly that seed grew and pushed through the ground and developed into a full-grown plant.  I took my pilgrimage to Iona in September of 2017—ten years after that conversation with the stranger on the bus.

I think of that morning in Martha’s Vineyard, how I started that day like every other when I’m on my pilgrimage—praying that God will bless me and the people in my path.  I had no idea, that the Scottish painter would be one of those people and that our conversation would lead me toward Iona.

Last September when I was standing on the shore of the South Beach, I was overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of that remote area, so many hues of blue, the pinkish sand, the strong winds and sudden rains, the sheep and Highland cows that seemed unaffected by the weather.  I marveled at how God had led me to that moment and honored the desire of my heart.

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South Beach, Iona Scotland

How about you?

What chance meeting has led you to a significant discovery in your life?

How could you allow yourself to be moved by God’s spirit so you can be open to the people and places in your path?

Taking Time to Savor

A boulder has been lifted off my shoulders.  The project I’ve been working on for months, the book proposal for my memoir, Saved by Sedona: Finding a Path of Pilgrimage, has been completed and sent to an interested Literary Agent.  Instead of resorting to my past behavior of rushing on to the next thing, or trying to catch up on what’s been left undone, I want to take the time to savor what I’ve accomplished.

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When I started out, I researched different writing websites for how to structure a book proposal.  Some of them introduced the process with, “Many authors find composing a proposal harder than writing their book.” While that didn’t make me eager to tackle the project, it did help me realize that others’ found it challenging and later when I wanted to quit, it reminded me that my struggle wasn’t unique.

Since January my dining room table has been strewn with papers including examples and my own drafts of each section of the proposal: synopsis, chapter outlines, target markets, author platform, author bio, competitive titles, sample chapters etc. The biggest challenge was to go from thinking like a writer to thinking like a publisher—seeing the world from a marketing standpoint.  I have no experience with marketing and that language is foreign to me.

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Many times over the course of this project, I’ve gotten up from my chair and said, “I can’t do this, God. It’s just too much.”  I wanted to spend time watching movies, or taking a long walk, or reading someone else’s book.  I carried it on my recent journey to Florida and spent a rainy day sludging through the competitive titles section—trying in one paragraph to compare and contrast my book with other memoirs on the market.  What I wanted to do was nap all day like a cat.

But now as I reflect on the process, and the memoir is fresh from my final edits, I realize that going through the challenge of the book proposal was similar to going through breast cancer while working at The Research Company.  At my initial clinic visit when the plan for treatment was laid out—surgery, chemo, and radiation that would stretch over eight months, I was overwhelmed and didn’t know how I’d make it.  Gradually, the noise inside my head quieted down and I was able to hear that ‘still small voice of God’ say to just take one step at a time. Over those months, I found that, like my journeys that followed cancer and the toxic job, there were people along my path to help me.

I think of all those along this proposal path that have given me what I needed to complete the project: writers who’ve generously shared on their websites, fellow members of my Triangle Writers Group who’ve critiqued my proposal, a friend and media pro who worked with me to provide a marketer’s angle, family and friends—in person and through social media who have encouraged and prayed for me.

And there’s been the perseverance that God has given me that has been there because of feeling this is my purpose at this time in my life—what I’ve been given to do.  It means that I sacrifice some things that would be easier for what is best.  It means believing that this book will be published—at the right time.  That is the bigger picture and the impetus behind each small step through a task that felt bigger than me.

Now, I’m able to take a moment in the stillness without the boulder on my shoulders, and see that it has become a rock on which to stand, like the red rocks of Sedona.  Completing the book proposal has taken me deeper in faith and reminded me that no matter what obstacle I face, God my Rock is supporting me and will help me on that path.

 

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How About You?

What situation do you have that feels bigger than you?

Can you remember previous examples of how you’ve met similar challenges?

What resources do you have that can help you to take a step at the time and successfully navigate through the challenge?

 

Happy Wanderer

I should have left an hour earlier.  That’s what I said to myself when I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic for almost an hour, just after leaving Jacksonville, Florida with a seven-hour drive ahead.  My rental car was due back at Raleigh-Durham airport by 8:00 p.m. and I didn’t want to add an extra day of fees.  Besides, it was the end of my trip and I just wanted to get home.  But first I’d have to spend hours on I-95.

There were more slow sections after Jacksonville, with roadwork and onlooker delays for fender-benders.  Funny how it seemed like that road had actually extended in the six days since I’d driven down.  I stopped briefly for bathroom breaks and to fill up on gas.  I’d switch from one radio station to the next, then turn it off and compose a cover letter for my book proposal—saying it aloud to see how it sounded, then listened to a podcast—anything I could do to distract me from looking at the mileage signs—reminding me just how much further I had to go, wanting to pick that car up and fly it.

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Bike ride at Coquina Beach

I filled the drive with thinking of each day of my trip; the cozy birthday dinner with my son, Brooks and his wife, Emily, talking about our grandson due May 5th; visiting with my cousin Linda and sharing family stories; riding my bike under the cover of Australian pines then cooling my feet while walking in the edge of the Gulf; meeting my virtual friend, Jann from Twitter at Starbucks in Orlando; a rainy day at Atlantic Beach working on my book proposal, forced to face it with nothing better to do; driving over the bridges and looking out at the expansive vistas on my way to Amelia Island where I rode my bike on the trail then walked along the Atlantic.

Finally, I pulled into my driveway just after 7:00.  My husband, David, helped me unload the car quickly, dropping the piles of stuff on the couch then we headed to the airport.  I looked like a haggard mess, like I hadn’t slept in days, circles from allergies and tiredness under my eyes, my clothes as if I’d worn them for a week.  We stopped for dinner on our way home.  I was too hungry to care about my appearance, glad to eat in a restaurant instead of my car.

“We’ll have some birthday cake when we get home—since we didn’t celebrate before you left,” David said, while we waited for our food.

I liked the idea of continuing my birthday, and cake would taste good after a spicy fish taco.

Once we were home, I started putting away my things while David prepared my surprise.  He’d bought me a bouquet of flowers with pink roses and snapdragons, and blue hydrangea—my favorite mix.  My yellow cake with strawberry icing and a lemon filling was decorated in an Easter theme with a small duck and cheerful pastels.

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But best of all was David’s card– he always picks great cards.  The colorful flowers were made with embroidered stems and blooms, some with shiny glass accents.  They popped against the black cloth background.

Inside, he wrote:

“Happy Birthday to my happy wanderer!”

Oh, I thought.  I must appear happy in spite of my tiredness.  He sees beyond my haggardness to the heart of me.

It’s true that even with the day of driving, I was happy.  I felt that familiar satisfaction of planning a journey and carrying through with that plan.  With each of the fifteen pilgrimages I’ve completed, my confidence has grown and I’ve experienced greater awareness of God’s grace.

Eating my sweet cake, I felt overwhelming gratitude for David’s support and for all the people and places in my path—even my very long path along I-95.

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card by PAPYRUS

How about You?

What are the things in your life that bring you deep satisfaction?

How do others’ view you when you emerge yourself in that activity?

 

 

Bridge St. Breakfast: People in Our Path

Saturday morning of my Florida pilgrimage began in the usual way; taking my morning walk and praying for God to bless me and the people in my path.  Starting with this intention fills me with curiosity about who I will encounter along the way.  While most of the day would be spent with my cousin, the early hours would be alone at Coquina Beach.  After my walk in the quiet along the shore, I was ready for breakfast, and most especially, ready for coffee.

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Wandering around the area of Bridge Street, I found a restaurant at the City Pier.  I was delighted that my table had a great view of Sarasota Bay and the boats docked at the nearby marina.  There were few other patrons and it would be perfect for a quiet meal and place to write.

My omelet was tasty with its spinach, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes.  How nice to eat a leisurely breakfast—made by someone else.  I watched as folks prepared to sail their vessels and others fished from the dock.  After a while, I pulled out my pen and paper to write my journal notes for the previous day.  If I don’t get things down on the page, I will soon forget.  When I look back at journals from previous pilgrimages, I’m always surprised and delighted by the little details I’ve written down that I’d forgotten, the things that make me feel I’m back in that place.  Sometimes it’s hard to stop and write but it’s a necessary discipline.

My waitress refilled my coffee.

“Thanks so much.  If you get a rush of customers, I’ll be on my way,” I told her.  “This is a great place to write.”

“What do you write?” she asked.

I explained how I’m working on journal notes for my pilgrimage and mentioned that I have a blog.

“Do you like to write?” I asked her, knowing that many who are curious either write or want to.

“No, couldn’t do that,” she responded.  “I paint.”

“And what do you paint?”

“Mostly landscapes and birds.  I sell them in a gallery down the street.”

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Acrylic Painting by Corin Finnie corinfinnie.com

We talked about the enjoyment of creating, how absorbed we become when working on our craft, and how bothersome the business side could be—especially in our current state of ‘personal branding.’  She checked to be sure she wasn’t neglecting her other customers, looking about the room at her tables.  I didn’t want to keep her, but I enjoyed talking to this fellow creative.

“I finally gave in and learned how to do Twitter—something I never thought I’d do,” I confessed to her.  “I’d much rather just write.”

“Well, I’m not as far along as you,” she said, then added, “I just don’t know when I’ll have time to do that.”

“You’re young.  You have plenty of time,” I told her, not quite sure of her age– maybe in her thirties.  Thinking of my recent birthday, turning sixty-three, I felt the press of time, not as many years ahead to accomplish the things I’d like.

We exchanged business cards and promised to follow each other’s work, artist supporting artist.

Sharing your passion dissolves differences, I thought.  It doesn’t matter what age you are when you speak the same language.

When I finished at the restaurant, I walked down the street to the Cove Gallery and Boutique.  I found her paintings and purchased one of a solitary gull.  The painting would always remind me of this person in my path and the conversation about our artistic passions, encouragement for the journey.

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How About You?

What intention/s do you set as you start your day?

What experiences have you had with people in your path?

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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How about You?

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

How could you become more secure in your own path?

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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How About You?

How have you experienced serendipitous events in your life?

What impact have they had on your journey?