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. 


Penny: Ode to my Vehicle

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

This is a piece I wrote about my 1995 Honda Odyssey last spring during a writing prompt in class. Having just driven her 1,100 miles from Indiana to Colorado and then another 1,200 miles from Colorado to California to start a new adventure, it seemed appropriate to honor her with blogging this as part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.


The paint moved beyond “beginning to peel” years ago, back in our Colorado days.  This morning as I chipped the packed snow off the windshield, I noted the growing patch of silver emerging from the green paint on her hood.

She’s been with me a long time, my ’95 Honda Odyssey. I bought her in 2001, right after college, alongside my first full-time job and my very own apartment. I named her Penelope, in hopes she’d embody the steadfast character Homer chronicled so long ago. She goes by Penny and is still running some 270,000 miles later.

Sometimes when I look back on the past 12 years I feel lonely. Eight homes in five different states, three jobs, and now graduate school.  I’ve been living a life that edges on overload in the “new and interesting opportunities” department. I’ve left homes and communities that are dear to me and started new with tentative taproots. I’ve explored numerous places and many miles. Some on planes and trains and buses, most in my fading green Odyssey with her sun-roof and flip-down backseats that accommodate a whole summer’s worth of living supplies without a fuss.

In 2010 I left my home where I had put down eight-year-old roots at the base of the Rockies. In saying goodbye, the dearest five-year-old gave me a picture he’d drawn. It was of him and me holding hands and he insisted it hang on my ‘fridge.  Bowing to the realtor’s advice for salability, the refrigerator was to stay “clutter-free and neutral.”  So I took the Scotch tape out to the parking lot and hung that crayon offering on the passenger glove box, where it brought close the love for a few years to come.

I’ve been with Penny through two timing belts, and a few batteries, an ongoing saga with cables, new brakes and ball bearings, and more oil changes than I can count.  She’s driven me through relationships beginning and ending, career changes, loosing grandparents, long-term illness, starting graduate school, my parents’ divorce, and the weddings of more friends than she can count.

I look at her graying hood as I pat her dash and whisper,
“Just get us through grad school Penny. A few more years and then you can rest.”


Traveling Yarns

Throughout my travels, I have continued to collect yarn at each place I’ve been.  At the end of June, I arrived directly back from the UK, via an extra 24 unwanted hours in Chicago due to weather. I found my car, a shower, and my pre-packed second suitcase of clothing at a friend’s in Indianapolis and then drove three hours to Urbana OH. Urbana held the Clergy Meetings and the Annual Convention of the Swedenborgian Church of North America, my denomination and the group that I am seeking ordination with.

580249_10151569647929094_1245221275_n After I had my ordination interview with the clergy I settled into the General Convention meetings and brought out my handwork.  I sat next to my good friend Sage, who was knitting a sweater.  She wanted to know the story of the project and when I told her, she offered a length of the soft, rich green yarn that she was knitting her sweater from for this leg of the journey.  Lovely!

My next migration was driving West…to my half-way point on the move, Boulder Colorado.  The next two weeks were spent with the joy of taking care of three dear children in my life.  The eight year old is an avid knitter and he wanted to learn how to crochet, as did his younger sisters. So we all played with yarn a fair amount in the time we spent together.  I added some strands from their projects into the mix…


My next stop was Almont Summer Camp, a Swedenborgian Church camp in Michigan.  The lectures on the Seven Days of Creation each morning were prime handwork times.  I was clear a day or so in that I’d need to find some red and white yarn for this section.  The camp is swathed in red and white, the colors that have been flown over the camp since it’s inception, embodying Swedenborg’s teaching that red represents love and white wisdom, the essence of everything.

And then back in Colorado for a few weeks. I think I may have to use this as an excuse to go down to my favorite Boulder yarn store and find a little something….

English and Scottish Pilgrim

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series 

In June my pilgrimage took me to Scotland and England with twelve fellow students from Earlham School of Religion and Bethany Theological Seminary and our professor Dr. Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm for a cross-cultural theology course.

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We spent a week with the Iona Community in the Iona Abbey on the West Coast of Scotland. While we were there we worshiped, worked, studied, and enjoyed fellowship with people from all over the world who were there as guests and staff. And we soaked up the incredible beauty of the landscape, ocean currents, rocky coasts, and rich green fields and hills.

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We then took a few days to explore Edinburgh and notice the paradox between old and new in culture and church.

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From there we moved to Sheffield England and spent four days working with Rev. Dean Peter Bradley at the Sheffield Cathedral and the Church of England Parishes in the area.

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We finished off our trip with lovely hosts from the Churches Together group in Marketharboro where we all took a workshop from John Bell.

John Bell and audience2 - 22.6.13The trip was overflowing with learning, exploring, laughing, and growing. I hope to post some snippets and snapshots from some of the writing I did while on the trip, and maybe some that is yet to emerge.

Hopping Across the Pond

2013-06-06 00.14.04Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

This evening I’ll be getting on a plane with classmates from seminary, and a wonderful professor, and heading to the UK for our Cross-Cultural Course. 

We will be exploring Celtic Christianity, worship, music, community living, and inner-city ministry. Starting at Iona Abbey and then moving our way south to spend time with a few other communities and finish off with a workshop with John Bell.

I’m going off grid for the trip and am looking forward to leaning into the rhythms of nature and the community around me, without the distractions that are usually so easily at my fingertips.  I am taking my camera, sketchbook and journal, and I look forward to sharing yarns and yarns with you when I return at the end of June.

New York Yarn

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

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Well…that basically tells the story…

After this failed attempt I didn’t have time to search out another yarn store during my short and glorious time in New York.

But the time there was deeply meaningful and needed to be marked.  So the day after I got back to Indiana I had dinner with a dear friend who wanted to know all about my travels. After telling her about my time in the city, the vibrant shows I took in, the powerful swirling of Spirit-led connections and opportunities at The Riverside Church, and the deep joy and and inspiration I found worshiping with St. Lydia’s Table, we agreed that these needed to be marked in the pilgrimage shawl. So, we went to Hobby Lobby.
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I know…neither small, nor local, nor overflowing with culture, and connection. But full of beautiful yarn none the less. And accompanied by fabulous conversation as we roamed the aisles and found a fancy brocade to represent some aspects of my trip and a glorious vibrant rainbow to represent others.

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These have yet to be woven into the shawl, as the last 24 hours have been filled with paying bills, doing laundry and re-packing. But they are sitting in a nice stack to be taken on the long long plane ride tomorrow where I will weave them in and honor the time in New York City.
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Vibrancy in NYC

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series 

I spent four days in New York and they were overflowing with gifts and beauty, inspiration, and unexpected blessings. 

A few highlights:

~The incredible hospitality of Russ and Carol, who welcomed me in as a friend of a friend and shared their beautiful home and interesting lives with me.

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View from the beautiful room I stayed in

~Spending my first evening in the city at the ballet with Benjamin. I’ve wanted to see Don Quixote since I was about eight years old. The show was all that I’d hoped for and more. Great student seats in the Opera House, incredible costumes and set, and the dancing. Well American Ballet Theater…what can I say, the dancing was amazing. 2013-05-30 18.52.292013-05-30 18.57.21

~Coffee with a church planter in Brooklyn. Hearing her stories and walking the neighborhood and seeing the street art.

~Enjoyed live music on the subway, along with many other interesting people watching incidents. 2013-05-30 22.21.52

~Had a lovely wander through Central Park, complete with a Central Park hot dog, sans bun.2013-05-31 14.37.26 2013-05-31 14.40.15

~Enjoyed a night out downtown. Drinks with my dear cousin and heart-to-heart catch up. And then dinner with a childhood friend, swapping life stories and reconnecting after many years.
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~Peaceful relaxation crocheting, reading, and writing in Riverside Park.

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~Seeing The Trip to Bountiful on Broadway (again, love student rush tickets). Laughed and cried and enjoyed the show with the new friend who happened to sit in the seat next to me.

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~Being invited to lead a Bible study on Emanuel Swedenborg and Swedenborgian thought at The Riverside Church, and attending the service and meeting people there.

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~Worshiping with the community at St. Lydia’s Table, a dinner church in Brooklyn that I’ve been following online for a few years and my purpose for going to NYC. It was an absolute joy to be there in person and see this beautiful model of church, and to connect with the Emily, the founder and pastor and soak up her church planting wisdom.

2013-06-02 21.11.422013-06-02 21.11.55 2013-06-02 21.12.00A soul-feeding time all around.

Thank you New York City! I’ll always come back…  

Boston Yarn


Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series

Though I already had yarn from Massachusetts, I had yet to find yarn in Boston. Not because I hadn’t looked. In fact the yarn shop that got the best reviews was right down the street from where I’m staying. I was excited to find that fact, until I walked by and learned from a small sign on their front door that they were to be closed until mid-June for renovations.

This was not the only yarn shop in the city though, there were a few others that popped up, and I kept them in mind as the week went on. But it wasn’t until my last evening in Boston that I was out and about and had the chance to go find it.

My aunt and cousin and I met up for dinner and decided to go on a ramble before we ate. After checking out some of the sights on Beacon Hill, we headed towards the Commons and the Gardens and I asked how they’d feel about adventuring six or seven blocks past the Gardens in search for yarn. They were both agreeable with this plan and we found ourselves walking down Newbury Street. My aunt pointed out the block where the Swedenborg Book Store used to be back in the day, now blending into a row of high-end shops.

And in and amongst shoes stores and men’s suits, tucked down in a bright basement space, we found Newbury Yarns. I knew from the website that the owner had a great story and it seemed like a community-based spot. We were greeted at the door and welcomed in not only to the shop, but with the information that that evening they were having a “Yarn Tasting” and the artist responsible for the irresistible hand-dyed alpaca that was tantalizingly displayed near the front door was there.

It only took me a few short strokes to fall in love with a baby alpaca, multi-colored blend that just asked to be touched and stroked on one’s cheek. I dutifully looked through the rest of the shop, a lovely collection of yarns to be sure, but nothing quite measured up to that alpaca. It was a little over my $10 limit, but surprisingly not much more, and the artist herself was there. It had to be the one.

I went back and met the artist, who didn’t seem that interested in my yarn collecting story, and hesitated when I asked if I could get her picture, saying it was a bad hair day. I will respect her hesitation and not post her picture here. I thanked her for her artistry and purchased the locally raised, hand dyed yarn with appreciation.

And happily walked out with a soft and beautiful addition to the tapestry.


Yarn in Western Mass


Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

Okay, I’ve done it. I’ve gone to the pinnacle of all yarn shopping experiences and I’m only on my second yarn shop. It’s like buying the 8″ canvas before practicing on scrap paper, or eating at a five star restaurant and then expecting to enjoy your local diner. Today I went to Webs.

That’s Webs American Yarn Store. A store so well-known in the fiber world that it’s website is: A store that I see posted about on Facebook at least semi-annually when Emily, Becky, and Nancy pilgrim there and post pictures that make any knitter drool. Yes, I went to Webs.

Thanks to my dear host and pastoral mentor Sarah, who scheduled it as a meeting on her calendar today. After the Ecumenical Bible study, where I got to meet her local colleagues, and before lunch at the local feeding program and homeless shelter, we went to Webs.

Being on a time budget, I had to take in quickly the rows and rows of color in the showroom. Shelf after shelf of alpaca and wool, vibrant magentas, and subtle greens. The showroom is larger than most yarn shops and each shelf is overflowing with texture and color. I kept my eyes focused at shelf level, only occasionally letting my gaze drift upwards to the beautiful projects gracefully displayed on top of each case. If I’d started fingering each sweater and wondering about the stitch in each shawl, well, we would have been very late to lunch.

Then Sarah pointed out the sign: “Warehouse.” I could barely go in. It seemed borderline sacrilegious to even think about walking in for “only five minutes.” I paid homage to the first few rows and then bowed and promised my return when I had a day and a paycheck to spend in appropriate engagement with the wealth.


Back in the showroom I found the yarn. A wool, cotton, silk and angora mix. Mixed into a stream of vibrant colors, appropriately indicating the depth and variety of experiences I’ve had here.

Thank you Web’s…may we meet again in the future.