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.


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.


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.


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. 


The people you’d call in the middle of the night

2013-05-03 18.20.15Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night. Abruptly with a traumatic nightmare. As I breathed and tried to calm myself down, I worked to reconcile the images and finish the dream with some peaceful conclusion so that I could go back to sleep. In the dark of 4:00 a.m. ideas such as “that would never happen” were not tangible, but who I would call if the dream was reality were clear.

I gathered the faces around me. The people that I would wake up in the middle of the night without hesitation if I needed someone to accompany me through a scenario like the one that invaded my dreams. I pictured the faces and the hands that would gently hold mine. The hands that have sat with many throughout the years and would not blink to be present in the tough stuff. The friend who would be in her car minutes after I called driving an hour and a half and who would be the one to call family and friends if that was needed. Because she knows who in my life would need those calls and has met some of them or at least knows them by name.  And the people here who would care and act and surround me.

It amazes me to remember that two and a half years ago I moved to this town knowing no one. I joked that I had one friend in Richmond when I moved here. Valerie, the Director of Admissions. After all, we’d talked on the phone twice. I came committed to diving in and finding community…and how grateful I am for that investment.

And how much harder it makes it to leave. 

2013-05-03 18.20.10I worked three sets of rows on the prayer shawl early last week, in the spirit of noticing all that is here that I am journeying from. And then I made myself stop. Because this thing can’t get so big before I even begin to try to stuff it in the back pocket of my carry-on bag.  And so I started crocheting strands to gift, to thank people for being part of the fabric of life here in Richmond. To honor the way their lives have inspired and impacted me. And to leave a tangible reminder of their presence in my life and on the journey.

And so all of a sudden I’m madly crocheting. In every class, through Peace Forum, meetings, and in the few free moments I give myself at the end of the night. I crochet these bookmarks, these pieces of my pilgrimage shawl, in the same pattern and style, with the “Richmond yarn” woven through the middle. And I crochet madly because I look around me and see face after face that I want to thank for their presence.

The faces of classmates, walking this adventure together.  Remembering those whom I connected with back in Spring of 2011 when I arrived, the first conversations, each of us tentatively figuring out who the other was and beginning to show our selves. And those who I have just met this term, and yet feel the connection of true friends.

The professors who have changed me forever through their teaching and mentorship. The profs who have seen me when I could not see myself, believed in me, challenged me and expected me to rise to be the preacher, the writer, the theologian. The profs who have become friends and in their accompaniment and mutual conversations that have impacted me more deeply than any lecture.

Community members. The people at Richmond Church of the Brethren. The friends who have become family. The home where I could spend Easter and feel I was with family and where I know I can come back and stay anytime. The families who have had me over for meals and been part of the journey. The people who just know.

2013-05-03 18.20.15The people are endless. How is it that in two and a half years one can accumulate such a list of precious friends? They will not all get hand crochet bookmarks. Let’s be realistic people–I still have three big final projects, an exam, a house to pack, an intensive course to prepare for, and overflowing details to get this summer set. But their faces will get noted. Each person honored as I notice. And appreciated.  I am grateful. And I am in awe of this thing called “humanity” and the beauty of relationships and people in our lives.