Twenty-Seven Beds

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

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Twenty-Seven. That’s how many times I’ve changed where I laid my head at night since I moved out of my Indiana apartment in May. Twenty-seven times I’ve picked up my toothbrush and put it back in its travel bag. Twenty-seven times I’ve put my head on a pillow, knowing that in day or week, I would be in another place.

Earlier this week, I settled my head on my own pillow, with my very own white striped pillow case, pulled the matching deep red comforter that I made back in my Colorado days up to my chin and breathed into new space: one that is mine for this next season. Unpacking in my new home, my mind flies back over these twenty-seven beds, and the places and days spent between them. It’s been a summer overflowing with rich experiences, learning, growth, travel, and change.

I’m reaching for a “concluding blog post.” One where I tie everything together, tracing those threads back through each location and tie up each theme in a nice crisp bow.

Nope. Not going to happen. And it wouldn’t be honest to the pilgrimage to try. The tangled, interconnected, still processing, led by a Force greater than the journey, energy resists being wrapped up and captured in a few pithy phrases.

But here’s what I can tell you.

I can tell you that I have lived these months of being a pilgrim fully.

I can tell you that the Divine had themes woven throughout my travels that changed me.

I can tell you than I laughed more than usual and that I’d like to continue that trend.

I can tell you that nature and I reconnected and have taken up our old love affair with a passionate commitment.

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I can tell you how there are beautiful and fascinating people everywhere and potential for human connection around every corner.

I can tell you that coming home to a place that has been a grounding space for years is sweeter than ever.

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I can tell you that new friends who you swap stories with fresh energy are gifts, and that old friends who know your story because they were there are blessings.

I can tell you about my time in various Swedenborgian communities and how connecting with my faith heritages has strengthened and formed my future ministry.

I can tell you how I love children and how spending time with them feeds my soul.
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I can tell you how exploring a city and finding out of the way coffee shops and secret gardens is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. Especially days when you do it with two good friends and you climb a tree and visit while swinging your legs in the air and having deep theological conversations. 

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I can tell you that the life of a nomadic pilgrim is humbling when you’re relying on others for your “homes.”  And how I know that my experience of this is incredibly privileged.

I can tell you about that privilege and how I always knew where I would sleep and I thought a lot about the people who cannot say that. Especially one day when I was sick in the UK and we had to move and all I wanted to do was be home in my own bed and I began reflecting on those who are sick and don’t have their own bed, until my prof told me that I really didn’t have to be doing theological reflection all the time and to have some more vitamin C and water.


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I can tell you than I see God in more places now than I used to, especially as I hunt for God’s image in the faces of people. 

I can tell you that I trust the Divine leading more now than I did three months ago and that doors keep opening and my trust and delight is growing.

I can tell you about how I’ve stood and preached when there were no words to say and that God gave the words.

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I can tell you that the curved balls came, as they always do, and that with them always came the breath, or laughter, or strength, or help that was needed.

I can tell you that some of the best conversations happen over a drink in the evenings after the meetings, or workshop, or class.

I can tell you where the yarn shops are in a number of cities in the US and UK. And about how I met the sheep that gave me this yarn.

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I can tell you how long it takes to fly and drive and walk all sorts of places. And I can brag that my sense of direction has improved with dedicated attention.

I could wax on and on, worthy of commercial or two, about the virtue of my Sherpani carry-on suitcase, my Haiku purse, my Jambu shoes and my NorthFace jacket, four items that accompanied me without exception throughout all my travels.  And I could tell you about the women who tried to steal my shoes at camp because they loved them so much.
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And I can tell you about how I found home in the few moments of intention as I entered each space, and how my mini art and spiritual practice kit was pullout out all over the world and how I kept crocheting that prayer shawl.

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And I can tell you about how I appreciate and fought my commitment to blog throughout the trip and how much your comments and accompaniment brought companionship and joy.

So that’s what I can tell you today. And the steps of the pilgrim continue.

It’s about seeing beauty and humanity everywhere, feeling the Divine infused in all things, and showing up to what is in front of us. Here’s to the continued pilgrimage called life. 

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Independence. Dependence. Interdependence.

I was brought up in a world where being independent was highly esteemed. As an American. As a radical homeschooler. As a Woofenden. As an oldest. As an Anna. Independence was prized, and had a profound and primarily positive impact upon molding me into who I am today.  Most days I have boldly forged ahead in life, moving across the country and putting myself through college, engaging in dream jobs that hadn’t existed prior to me taking them, traveled across the oceans, purchased a home at age 23, jumping off the cliff of secure job into the unknown world of seminary. I lead a self-sufficient and independent life.

Then there’s dependence. Certainly I was deeply dependent on my parents growing up: they fed me, clothed me, educated me, nurtured me, provided safe space for me to explore and grow. Even as a strong-willed teen-ager who thought she could do it on her own, I was provided for and cared for. Dependent. And that was a gift. I was depended upon as well, as a big sister to six, a leader in the youth group, and a part of the household. As an adult, I’ve learned dependence in other ways, from friends and employers, relationships, institutions and organizations. Some in ways that served, other times noticing that I had become depended on others for my sense of self and worth.  When I went through a serious illness, I learned the deep humility and gift of dependence.  I was taken in and cared for, fed, driven and gently nurtured back to health by friends, family and community. I learned that one could be loved and cared for while being unable to give anything in return. I learned the beauty of dependence.

As I move through life, the push and pull of dependence and independence continue to refine me.  I continue to learn how to be vulnerable with others, learning to ask for and receive help as well as give it freely. I’m growing in trust in the ebb and flow in human relationship. Finding the place of respect and appreciation for friends and their opinions, without relinquishing my sense of self to those around me.  We walk the tightrope, when to lean, when to stand tall, the time to break down walls, and the awareness to not become enmeshed.

I think this might be part of learning interdependence.

(A number of other blog posts are coming to mind here. How these ways of being dependent, independent and interdependent might manifest in our society, religion, politics, international relations, the world as a whole. But those are musings for another day; just one more paragraph before I go.)

Gotta talk about God for a moment. Am I dependent on God? Yes: for every life’s breath, every green tree, every compassionate gesture.  All of it.  Am I independent from God? Yes, I believe in someway I am.  It is this independence that gives me freedom, (or at least a sense of it). I feel free to choose to act and think and be. Independent in the idea that God is God and I am not. Being the human in the dance of Divinity and humanity. And yet, it is hard for me to state with any strength that I am independent from God, though on paper there’s something to it.  Maybe this third word is the one to use. Am I interdependent with God? Is interdependence, the ebb and flow, the giving and receiving, the reciprocity and mutual connection, the essence of Divinity itself?

I don’t have all the answers. But, then again, neither do all the experts. What do you think?