wednesday wisdom. rule of living # 10.

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older & think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

what’s the meaning of life? what’s the purpose of life? how should we live?

all of these questions started rambling around in my head as soon as i read the dalai lama’s 11th rule for living. and i don’t have the one, correct answer to them. i don’t believe that there is one, correct answer. perhaps, it looks a bit different for each of us – but the core of how to live life is the same for each of us. perhaps living life is a life-long discovery and journey. well, i completely believe that at least.

along with these existential questions that never have a clear, real answer, i also thought about something i decided a few years ago – in those moments that i decided to change my life – to die to my old self, so that i could be born again into living an authentic life – true to myself. because, i had come to understand that, unless i was deeply true to myself, then i would never ever be of any true good to people. or perhaps i would be, but all i did was empty actions that exhausted me. i had come to understand that, in order to live an honorable life that makes a difference, i first had to fill my soul so that i had something to give.

me ego

and in order to live life authentically, i had to know who i was. i had to listen to my soul and follow my passions. i had to stop living for everyone else’s expectations, or society’s expectations, and learn to go against the norm, if need be.

so here’s the thought that changed my life:

i decided that when i am 85 years old, sitting in my rocking chair looking back over my life, i want to remember all of the amazing moments that i had, and not wonder “what if i had…” i don’t want the words “what if” to be part of my reflections when i look back over my life. i want to chase my dreams, take risks, make things happen. i want to look back and know that i tried – and even failed – instead of giving up.

when i got divorced in 2007, i knew that i had been settling – not necessarily with my husband, but i had settled for a life that was not big enough, did not reach far enough, and did not listen to my soul. during my year of separation before the divorce was finalized, i realized that i would never settle again. i spent almost a year writing in my journals and planning crazy, life-changing things – like moving to denmark.

for about 12 years, all throughout my first marriage, i knew that i had let go of a dream and i talked myself into being ok with that. i convinced myself that my “regular” life was just fine. turns out, that after my marriage fell apart, i had to reflect on who i am, on who i have always been, and reconnect with my soul. and i knew… this was the time in my life to make a change.

and i decided that i would not sit in my little rocking chair as an old lady and wonder “what if…”.

path in the woods

so, i spent a year preparing to move to denmark – a place where i already had connections and friends. i sold or gave away all of my things, including my house. i put in my notice at the church where i worked. i saved money. and i meditated every morning.

and then, after all of that preparation, i packed one bag, said goodbye, and took a plane to europe. i met up with lina in sweden (we were just friends at this point), and we moved to denmark together.

now, had i not listened to my soul and taken lots crazy risks, i would have never discovered the amazing love that i share with lina, my wife. i would have never lived in europe for three years, or moved to asheville and started writing, traveling, and creating a space to offer inspiration from my own experiences. had i not just believed in myself, i would have settled. i would have become that old woman with regrets and what ifs.

nickel creek risks

is this what a good and honorable life is? i am not sure. but, it is a life that is filled with peace, and one that i sincerely hope spreads the peace and love that i feel within me. if i am true to myself, living an authentic life, simply being who i am, then i believe that that, in and of itself, makes a difference in the world.

tapping into my inner self is tapping into the the universe within – and all of the energy that flows between us and all of creation. so, if i live from that energy-spirit-light within my soul, it only makes sense that i create and share that energy-spirit-light in my life. and that, is how i seek to live today. seeking to live like that guarantees that, as an old woman, i will be able to look back on my life, smile, and give thanks.

namaste, friends.

the next chapter from my memoir: 33 changed everything.

canton home

the view from my front porch.

my husband closed the door behind him and i was standing in our, in my, home… alone.

it was the beginning of august in 2007, and it was as if the slate had been wiped completely clean. i was almost 33 years old and i felt brand new. perhaps i felt a little bit of fear, but mostly, i felt free. not free because my marriage was now over, but free because of what that symbolized.

i was me. only me. and all the dreams that i had dreamed, whatever they were, now seemed more possible than ever.

what had happened to me was that i had gotten to know myself. i had allowed myself to listen to my inner voice, to feel my own soul, to put away all of the thoughts and pressures of others’ expectations and just listen. i felt more me than i had ever felt before. ever.

now, what was i to do with my life? how was i going to go about making dreams come true? i most definitely would move from the small town in the mountains in north carolina where i had been living. and, if i could make it happen, i would move to denmark. after 12 years, perhaps my chance had come. i suppose i could have felt overwhelmed and confused, but i felt more calm than ever before.

on my first night alone, and for many nights thereafter for the next 4 months, i poured myself a glass of red wine, sat on my little front porch, stared into the starry night sky, and just let myself be me.

the next morning, i woke early, make a pot of coffee and snuggled into a big, round chair on my back porch to read, write, meditate, and pray. i repeated this morning ritual faithfully for the next year. almost every single day. i used these mornings to fill myself with inspiration and then to reflect on what i had read, what i had done, and where i was headed.  i wrote and wrote and wrote. i dreamed. i planned. i processed everything. my soul was my counselor. my guide.

max patch

i also headed back to work after the summer of 2007 with all it’s adventures and transformations.

i worked full time as a minister in a united methodist church. it was my seventh year there, surrounded by inspiring, amazing, mountain people from all walks of life. i loved my job. i loved my co-worker. i loved the youth. i had built strong, important relationships with some wonderful, inspiring people. i had created a position that allowed me to use my gifts & passions at the time.

but, how long would i remain there? that question rolled around in my mind daily. i began to realize that, as painful as it would be and as ridiculous & careless it may seem to others, it was time for me to move on.

central umc canton

at the same time i was working full-time, i was also beginning my final semester of seminary, my final four months of preparing to receive my master’s degree. the last few months of soaking up the information, knowledge, and spiritual development that was part of the process of becoming me in my professional role. however, throughout my entire seminary journey, i knew that it was not really a preparation for a job, but a preparation of who i am called to be… as an authentic, whole person, living out her dreams and using her gifts. seminary actually never was, for me, a professional endeavor, but a personal, spiritual one.

i recall the last assignment i had that semester. my final project was to write my spiritual autobiography. a look at my past, my present, and my future. what an appropriate assignment for this particular time in my life, i felt, as i began my life anew. i looked forward to getting my journey down on paper, in black and white.

but, we were also told that we would share our autobiographies with each other, and then take a day to discuss each person’s journey as a group. i was nervous. really nervous. i knew exactly who i was, who i felt i needed to be, but i did not know the answer to that age old question, “what are you going to do?” – an integral part of the last part of the assignment… to cast a vision for what we felt called to do after seminary, how and where we would work.

for me, that question was irrelevant. i had cast aside all pressure to answer that question in my life, after i had slowly come to understand that it is not about what i do, but about who i am. and if, and when, i am faithful to who i am, what i do will come directly from that.

nature and me

with that the guiding belief in this new life i was embarking on, i decided to mark myself. literally. i had a vine tattooed onto my right wrist as a reminder and a celebration of the knowledge that all i need to do is simply be. to simply stay connected to my soul, to the divine that is within. my job is to be. and just as a branch bears fruit simply because it connected to a vine, so will i bear fruit in my life, if i am connected to that which is true, light, love, and peace within me. my soul will lead me where i need to be. and what will i do? i will only focus on being me. and in being me, i will become someone who can be used wherever she is.

i wrote my spiritual autobiography for my seminary class. i illustrated with words the journey i had been on thus far, and the dreams i had for the future. and i did not list any plans. i did not say where i wanted to work, how i wanted to live out my ministry, like my classmates did. there were no specifics when it came to my future. there was only a certainly in my present, and the plan to seek to be true to myself, trusting that the details would come.

of course i was terrified at how my classmates and my professor would respond. but, it was a beautiful moment, filled acceptance and support, as they congratulated me on finding a level of peace within myself that some of them had not yet discovered.


oh yes, the fall of 2007 changed me.

i was now legally separated from my husband. i was preparing to leave the church where i had been working for the past 7 years. and i was completing the last leg of my spiritual journey in seminary. it was a peaceful, slow, thoughtful, and inspiring four months. i felt safe. calm. hope. alive. peace.

it was during this time that i died to my old self. the final death came around my 33rd birthday in september. i sat one morning and literally said goodbye to my old way of life, to the old me. and yet, i appreciated all that the old me had given me. without those previous 33 years, would i have never celebrated the beginning of this new journey in life. though i let some things go, i held onto myself, because i had actually discovered that which had been within me all along.

and i was born again. life began again. i breathed deeper. laughed harder. sat in silence longer. wrote more. listened more intensely. communed with nature. lived more fully.

i had no idea what would come. but, come what may, all would be well.

*all photos taken in the fall of 2007

someone special in sweden.

our boat docked at the harbor, we disembarked, and were greeted by new, smiling, swedish faces and a cold, chilly swedish summer rain. everything happened more quickly than i could process it. we crammed ourselves & our luggage into the backseats of a couple of cars and were whisked off to someone’s home for a bbq.

our hosts here in gothenburg were all girls, or young women. some of them had been on the caravan the summer before. what that means is that they traveled to north carolina with others from denmark, norway, estonia, finland, & lativa, where they traveled and were hosted by americans, as we were doing this year in scandinavia. this exchange between united methodist churches in north carolina and scandinavia began in the 1950s. so it has been a long-standing tradition bringing people together for many, many years. once a “caravaner”, always a “caravaner”, i always say. and whenever you meet a fellow “caravaner” there is an instant and very strong connection.

after an intense 20 minute drive through the city of gothenburg, all of us drooling on the windows as we passed one european building or structure after another, we arrived in a suburban neighborhood. here, we were going to have dinner and just chill with our new hosts, since we’d been traveling all day. other than that, we had no idea what lay ahead – as it always was from day to day. that was part of the charm and the amazingness of this experience…. it required a willingness to face whatever came, flexibility, and an  adventurous spirit.

all of these young, swedish women seemed so kind, funny, & exciting. but there was one that actually took my breath away. when we walked outside to the back patio area, where the grill was, this one woman was quietly working to prepare the vegetables for the bbq. she greeted us quietly and sweetly, and i remember noting that she made me feel warm. she made me feel welcome, without even doing anything. there was something inside me that wanted to get to know her. i was intrigued, though i didn’t think much about it.

dinner was full of chit chat and getting to know each other, adjusting to the thought that we were now in sweden, and had left the first part of our journey behind in denmark. we would be together with some of these swedish women for a week, so it was time to shift gears and discover who they were. with full bellies and feeling a little bit more at ease in our new surroundings, we went inside to swap stories and  life experiences. some time passed, and the swedish chicks decided that we’d spend a little time singing. this beautiful blonde who intrigued me, sat down at the piano and began playing and singing. like an angel. i was mesmerized, drawn in by the softness of her voice. and the lyrics of the song… they filled me with emotion and peace.

shepherd of my soul. i give you full control. wherever you may lead, i will follow.i have made a choice, to listen to your voice, wherever you may lead, i will go.

the lyrics haunted me. her voice soothed me. i knew, in that moment, that i was doing the right thing. that i was here, on this trip for a reason. that the decision i was making to end my marriage & seek to find my soul, was right. that to abandon it all, to face all uncertainties and fears, to step out of the boat, was exactly what i was supposed to do. this woman was a messenger for me.

the days in sweden rolled on, and i found myself spending more time with this intriguing, beautiful, sweet woman… lina. since we were both leaders ( i, the leader of the american youth, and she, the leader of the swedish hosts), we had a lot to talk about. practical things. what we were going to do next, where we would go, how we were all feeling. but, it wasn’t all practical. not at all. lina and i laughed. hysterically. a lot. when we played games, we found ourselves near each other. hugging on each other. teasing each other. flirting without knowing we were flirting. we just clicked. we just fit. perfectly. something inside me felt so comfortable, at ease, and like this person just got me. i wasn’t attracted to her, and yet i was. it’s so hard to explain…

it felt as if this person knew me, even if i’d just met her. and i knew that she was something special. someone special in this world.

me & lina. june 2007.

the week came to a close, and lina & a few others took us to the harbor in stockholm. we were there to board a ferry for an overnight trip to helsinki, finland. after a week of laughing, joking, sharing, and just being together, i felt panicky as i approached the big boat which was going to sail me away from sweden.

this was a typical feeling when leaving each & every place we visited, because we always met such wonderful, hospitable people who took care of us and shared their lives with us. the goodbyes were heart-wrenching. especially because there was always a connection that was established and you had know idea if you’d ever see any of the people again or not. so, you said goodbye and just assumed you’d never meet again.

this feeling of never seeing lina again filled me with anxiety as i stood in line to board the ferry. i just couldn’t leave this special friend i had found. and we both acknowledged that it was a special friendship, even using those exact words. we had swapped email addresses on the train on the way to stockholm, so at least we had that. nevertheless, the time had come.

i lifted my backpack onto my shoulders, hugged lina tightly, made a little frown, made sure all of my youth were in front of me, slowly walked behind them, turned back one more time toward lina, waved, and said goodbye.

goodbye, sweden. goodbye, lina.

(click on the “from death to peace” category link just below to catch up & read the previous “chapters” of my story.)

get out of the boat.

summer 2007


the plane touched down. five excited, never-been-to-europe-before university students, a fellow minister, and i found our way through customs, got our passports stamped, saw a smiling & familiar (to me) face holding a “scandinavian caravan” sign at the arrival gate , and were whisked out of the airport and onto a train headed for odense, denmark.

just like that. we were there. after an overnight flight, all of us, with butterflies in our stomachs, sleepy eyes, & silly grins, found ourselves in a foreign country. i found my way back to a place that felt like home. on that amazing danish soil again. i felt my soul glowing inside me. i felt breath filling my lungs as the train zipped by fields of green, crossed Storebælt (the Great Belt Bridge), and passed colorful, old, european buildings. i was really there. i had returned.

of course, i was not just there to be on vacation. i had responsibilities. the youth that were with me were my main priority. this was their trip. their chance to experience what i had, yet in their own special ways, twelve years earlier. i had my heart & mind in the right place. priority one was their spiritual journey. at the same time, i was completely ready for anything to happen. i was totally aware that the experience would affect me & my life too.

the train rolled to a stop in odense. i had never been to this city before, but i was curious & excited. we grabbed our bags, found our way off the train by following the crowd, and saw two, smiling people waiting at the top of the stairs to drive us to our first stop. the methodist church in odense.

the youth were freaking out hearing danish spoken all around us, and not understanding a single word. to me, it sounded like heaven. not because it was danish, but because it was a foreign language… and that sounded like music to my ears. it meant that i was far, far away from the expectations and rules, and embracing my soul.

we arrived at the church and dragged our bags up a little staircase to a room that overlooked the modern blue/green sanctuary. we were greeted by one person after another, always with hugs, smiles, and warmth… immediately feeling like part of the family, part of the church, and completely taken care of. this pattern was to be repeated in each and every city & country we visited.

now. here comes the twist to our odense, denmark visit: ian lived here. yep. after 12 years, there was the possibility of seeing and/or talking with ian once again. to be honest, i couldn’t comprehend this. or even begin to imagine it. i’ll put your curiosity at ease…

the next morning, the youth were invited to be part of the sunday church service. it was their first chance to tell their stories and be a part of a church service in another country. we also heard one of the church’s amazing choirs sing and were extremely inspired by them. and then, it happened. through the crowd of people drinking coffee and chatting with each other, i saw him.

ian was there. we hugged. we chatted. we were nervous. and it was awkward. but, it felt really familiar at the same time. i think we had about 5 minutes to update each other on our lives. married. minister. north carolina. divorced. daughter. odense. and then, it was over. we were headed back to the train station and off to our next city in denmark.

while in the next city, ian called the person’s home where i was staying. he wanted to come & see me. so, during one free afternoon, i met him at the train station in vejle and we walked around for some hours, getting reacquainted. old feelings came flooding back, and confusion set it. i was uncomfortable and energized all at the same time. it was definitely not the same as it had been 12 years earlier, but it was something. but, you know what it really was? it was me, remembering my soul. it was me, hearing someone talk to me again about not being afraid to be me. the afternoon i spent with ian was a push for me, a reassurance that i was exactly where i was supposed to be. that it was time to take back my life. i was certain that i had made the right decision to follow my gut feelings to accept this trip and to even perhaps accept that my marriage was over.

in fact, i had a conversation with the woman i was staying with, anna, about my marriage. we stayed up late every night i was with her, and one night she just came right out and said it: “liz, what if a divorce is what is right for you now?”. her words were a gift from God, a sign and an assurance that my marriage was actually over, and that it was time for me to move on in life. to what, i had no idea. i didn’t even care. i just needed to move on.

so, after 4 days in denmark, my little american group moved on to…


we took a train (by the way i love traveling by train) and then a ferry to make the afternoon journey from denmark to gothenburg, sweden. on the trip, i talked with the youth. it was time to process a little of what was happening with them, check on how they felt, what they thought, if they needed anything, if they had learned anything or felt anything. it was a powerful few hours on that ferry… ending up in a conversation about a story found in the bible.

a story about some people (disciples of jesus) who were in a boat. one of them, peter, saw jesus out on the water, standing. he desperately wanted to join jesus out there, so jesus called to him and told him to come. peter looked back at his friends, who thought he was out of his mind crazy, and looked back at jesus, beckoning him to trust and take a leap of faith. standing with one foot in the boat and one foot on the sea, peter decided to risk it all… he got out of the boat.

these amazing youth & i sat on this boat in the north sea, reading this story about a man finding the courage to get out of his boat, and we began to wonder together… what were our “boats”? where were we standing with one foot in the boat of old habits & lives, and one foot on the sea of uncertainty & fear? did we have the courage to risk it all? to get out of the boat?

the image of the boat, of taking a risk to leave the boat, stayed with us all throughout the entire 5 weeks we traveled together. and each of us had something that we could relate it to in our lives. for me, i silently sat and pondered all that was happening in my personal life. it was pretty obvious to me that i had a foot in the boat of the past, and a foot on the unknown future out on the sea. this trip was my present moment. it was my choice. i was in the exact same position peter was in. do i stay, or do i chance it and go?

the answer was easy. i take my other foot out of the boat and walk on water. i risk everything… safety, knowledge, understanding; for the possibility that i just might experience something more amazing than i’d every imagined.

so, on that ferry between denmark and sweden, i stepped out of the boat.

and then, i met my wife.

fly away, little bird. fly away.

may 2007

i knew change was coming. i knew that getting on a plane and heading to scandinavia would, once again, change my life. of course, i had no idea how much everything would change.

it had been twelve years since i’d been to scandinavia, since i’d seen or heard from ian. my marriage with jake was crumbling, though it was really difficult to admit that to myself. the therapist i was seeing on a weekly basis, after nathan (my co-worker) encouraged me to begin to really deal with my marriage/life issues, wasn’t completely sold on the idea of me going abroad in the middle of a marriage crisis. but, i knew it was right. i couldn’t explain it, i just knew. it was perfect timing.

there was a part of me that was, of course, saying, “to hell with this marriage counseling. how can i fix my marriage if my partner won’t go to counseling with me?” and then, there was the other side of me saying, “i must be crazy to think that jet-setting off to europe in the middle of all of this craziness in my marriage. how selfish am i?” but, in the end, there was actually no decision to make. this pull that i felt toward scandinavia, to denmark – and it was actually more than ian, because i had no idea about his life – won out. i knew there was an opportunity staring me in the face, and i knew that spending five weeks away from my life in north carolina would prove to be therapeutic.  i also knew that when i returned, i would not be the same.

and to be completely honest, somewhere deep, deep, deep inside me, i subconsciously knew that it would be the end of my marriage.

so, i wasn’t gonna just sit around, live with the status quo, and miss this opportunity. nope. it was time to take back myself, to set this part of my soul free – only i didn’t really, truly know that’s what i was doing. i only knew from deep within my bones that it was right. besides, jake was completely supportive of me going. i don’t think he needed or even really wanted me around. an indication of how far apart our lives already were – and how long we’d already been living our own lives.

i had had enough of living in the midst my so-called peaceful life. a life without conflict. for years i thought it was so much easier to just make everyone happy, to always keep hoping that one day everything would be as i imagined it with jake, to follow the path that was expected, because i everyone told me i was soooo good at what i did.

i sought shallow peace without conflict in my marriage, and in my entire life.

but, in may 2007, i took the bull by the horns and moved forward, forcing myself to realize that peace is not the absence of conflict, but that true peace is finding one’s self in the midst of conflict and being authentically you. real peace is the presence of self, of spirit, of hope, of love right smack dab in the middle of chaos. real peace looks fear in the eyes and casts it aside. real peace comes from an inner fight to recognize who you are, accept who you are, and love yourself anyway – because you are already loved exactly as you are by this great spiritual being that creates & re-creates. real peace comes from knowing yourself and living life from that deep place within your soul.

for the first time, in a long time, i heard that deep place in my soul crying out to me. i felt that deep place in my soul stirring. elizabeth was still inside there. not, liz, the wife, the minister, the student, the daughter, the sister, the friend, but, elizabeth. the raw, real, untamed, untouched, undiscovered elizabeth. and i knew, that even though i was more scared than i could imagine, and that my life was about to become more insecure, more uncertain, and perhaps more unaccepted that it ever had been, that ignoring that small, still voice would result in the fire in my soul dying out. but instead of letting it die out, it was time to let elizabeth out.

i had finally realized that i was unhappy & unsatisfied, and that i had dreams to chase. i finally accepted that i deserve more than being beaten down with words that were meant to make me feel guilty. and i finally felt the desire to live life on my terms – not the church’s, not my family’s, not my husband’s. i needed to be me. i needed to explore me. i felt called to discover me – the me i was created to be.


at this point, if you know that i am married to a woman, you may think that this is my coming out story. a story to release the lesbian that lived inside me. that i had these secrets about who i was & who i wanted to love, and finally, tired of suppressing my desire for women, i decided to make a change in my life.

but this is not that story. not at all.

this is a spiritual story. i was on a journey, an uncovering, a discovery of who i  was from my soul. and that has nothing to do with who i have loved, or who love now. i thought nothing of loving women at this time in my life. in fact, i had never thought of loving women.

instead, this story has everything to do with my relationship with myself, and with the God that i believe in; the God that i believe is inside all of us. it is a story of a journey inward, to connect with my spirit, which is the same spirit that connects us all.

it is a story about my death. the death of my false self, and the birth of my true self. a spiritual being, a free woman, a dreamer, a pilgrim, a nomad. it is a coming out story of sorts, but it is more like a story of coming out of the shadows and into the light, of coming out from my cocoon and flying as free as a butterfly.

it is a story of letting go. of breaking free. and learning how to be me.


so, in the middle of june, i gathered with the five university students i would be leading across scandinavia and we boarded the plane in charlotte. the plane that took me back to where i first felt my soul 12 years earlier, the plane that would change the direction of my life, and set me free.

we lifted off. i left north carolina & all my expectations behind, and set my sights for what was about to come. i didn’t know any specifics, only which countries i’d be visiting. but, i knew, that when i returned to the states in five weeks, i would not be the same.

yes, i was only sitting on a plane, but i felt as if i was actually flying on my own. for the first time. gliding. completely free.

inger & her apples.

every fall i think of her. inger. and her apples. and the mornings i shared with her in the fall of 2008.

every morning lina & i woke up when the alarm rang at 6:30. the song we woke to was “only hope” from the movie, “a walk to remember”. we stirred, rubbed our eyes, and eventually lina got up. i stayed under the covers as she moved about the room, getting ready. and then, a few minutes before 8, we said our goodbyes. lina closed the bedroom door, walked down the creaky stairs, and out the side door. i climbed out of bed and opened the skylight/roof window, shoved my hand out, and waved as my love took off her borrowed bike to begin her day at her internship.

alone now, i washed my face, grabbed a sweater, and headed downstairs to make my morning cup of coffee. this is how i began my day. most mornings as i slipped into the tiny kitchen, i was greeted by inger. she would always be standing over a giant bowl of apples on the counter, peeling away, while another pot of already peeled apples simmered and sputtered on the little stove to her right. we greeted each other in danish. god morgen. and then, we tried to communicate further, but mostly with hand gestures or really slow english. the eighty-something year old danish lady pulled out a danish-english dictionary, which lay on a bookshelf in the tiny kitchen beside her cookbooks, whenever we got really stuck. and then, finally, we’d both understand and burst into laughter, always amused at our morning conversations.

inger kept peeling away at buckets & buckets of apples. i pulled out the cutting board from under the counter, you know, one of those little wooden ones built-in/under the stainless steel counter. there was a stool just beside the kitchen door, which inger invited me to sit on as i prepared my breakfast of yogurt, cereal, bread, and cheese. of course, i had some coffee, which was already prepared & waiting in a thermos.

from september to november, the whole time we lived with inger, the house smelled like apples. though she was in her eighties, this amazing woman went outside to gather apples day after day – in the rain, in the cold. before i came downstairs to take part in my morning ritual, inger had already picked apples, cleaned & peeled some, and begun baking & canning. it was unbelievable. and i was inspired by her dedication, her discipline, her energy, and her positive attitude. every day i pinched myself, wondering how could i be so blessed to meet such a fabulous lady in my life. and to get to live in her home. in denmark. for three months. for free.

after spending about 30 minutes with her in the tiny, apple-filled kitchen, i moved into the living room to watch an episode of some american sitcom and read the news. inger went back outside to pick apples or do some other chore, while i sat on the sofa, pulled out my pen & my journal, and began writing & reflecting. i would stay there for about 3 hours.

but, how did i end up in denmark, living with lina in inger’s home in the fall of 2008?

well, to tell that story, i need to go back one year. to the day in 2007 that i told jake that our marriage was over…

the hardest words.

here is the next part of my memoir, “from death to peace”…

Luggage in my hands, butterflies in my stomach, and my heart racing, I slowly walked up the stairs onto our tiny front porch, grabbed the shiny gold door knob, and pushed the door open into our home.

“We gotta talk”, I said, on that hot mid-July day, perhaps even before I had even dropped my bags.

Seeing my lovely, bright, open-floor plan home nestled in the mountains of North Carolina should have made me feel peaceful, comfortable, and happy; but I was terrified, insecure, and determined. Seeing my husband for the first time in 5 weeks should have been a moment of joyous reunion, but it wasn’t. Instead I knew what I was facing. I knew what I had to say.

I had spent the last five weeks in Europe, working and reconnecting. I traipsed all over northern Europe as a leader for 5 amazing college-age students who embarked on a pilgrimage through Scandinavia and 2 Baltic countries, visiting Methodist churches and exploring different cultures. The Caravan, an exchange between Methodist congregations in Western North Carolina and Scandinavia/Baltic Countries, as it has been called for the past fifty-seven years, exists to provide a cultural and relational exchange between brothers and sisters who otherwise would never meet. It is an opportunity to realize that we are all family, and that although we live in different places and have different customs, our hearts are the same. The Caravan is also an intense pilgrimage, which has a tendency to leave such an impression that one’s life is changed. Countless tales exist of pilgrims returning home transformed. All this to say, that these 5 weeks were not only transformative for the youth I was leading, but for me as well.

The trip to Europe inspired me and reminded me of dreams, goals, and callings I had 12 years earlier when I was one of those youth on my own Caravan journey. The trip was a culmination of many years, thoughts, feelings, and fears I had been pondering for a while. And the trip came precisely when I needed it.

Let me back up.


It was mid-May, two months earlier, and I walked down the hall at the church where I worked. Nathan was sitting in his office, cup of coffee in hand, when I walked in and helped myself to the coffee pot which sat behind Nathan’s desk. We were like that. Invading each others’ space, teasing each other endlessly, laughing hysterically, and joking constantly. Completely comfortable together. On rare occasions we were serious and intense. This was one of those occasions.

I sat down across from Nathan, holding my coffee cup and sipping on probably 4th cup of the morning. Nathan did the same. We chatted and caught up with each other. I was gone three days out of every week because I was in seminary, so we spent many mornings chatting about professional and personal things. Yes, I worked full-time and studied full-time. It was a crazy balance, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though it was Monday and we had worked together the day before, it must have been one of those times where I needed to vent. We don’t get much chatting done on Sundays. So I needed to spill my guts.

I began recounting (again) for Nathan the ways I was currently frustrated with my marriage… the lack of communication, the time spent apart, and so much more. Nothing had been the same after one sultry July morning in 2002 when my husband confessed that he had been unfaithful. We stayed married and did our best to make things work, but lately (as in perhaps, years, when I look back now), things had been feeling very disconnected. Unexpectedly, Nathan stopped me in the middle of my griping session and basically ripped into me. It was time for me to make a decision, he said. He was tired of listening to me complain about things, tired of hearing about my roller coaster ride of emotions, tired of watching me suffer internally, and tired of me not doing anything to make anything better. He fiercely challenged me to be honest with myself, to look at my current situation, and to stop putting all my hopes my “one day it will be better”mantra . Today was the day I was going to do something. If I wanted to live the life I wanted, I needed to stop bitching and start accepting (not his words exactly, but you get the idea). With firmness in his voice, he suggested for me to contact a counselor and to confront Jake with all of my feelings and frustrations. I needed to stop venting my frustrations at other people, and start being honest with myself and with Jake.

I was shocked. Hurt. Terrified. Stunned.

Natham scribbled down the name of a counselor/therapist and challenged me to call her. Right then. Looking like a deer caught in headlights, mouth gaping wide open, I shuffled out of Nathan’s office and down the hall to mine as if I was on auto-pilot. Somewhere deep inside I must have known that it was time to take action. A few minutes later I walked back down to Nathan and reported that I had an appointment in a few days. I actually felt a bit of relief. Just taking that step to make the call released some of my anxiety. The moments building up to something unknown are always the scariest, you know. Yes, I was pleased with myself… even a bit proud.

Then my bubble burst. Nathan reminded me that now I needed to go home and tell Jake about the appointment with the marriage counselor. Shit.

Later on that Monday in May, I sat down on my sofa, Jake in the chair nearby. My palms were sweating, I could hardly breathe, and I wasn’t sure that if I opened my mouth to speak, anything would come out. What was I so afraid of? Jake getting angry? No, I think I was most afraid of the fact that nothing would be the same as soon as I spoke the next words which would come out of my mouth…

“Jake, something is not right in our marriage. It just doesn’t feel ok, and I’ve contacted a marriage counselor so that hopefully we can figure out what’s wrong and begin to fix it.”


“There’s nothing wrong with us. I don’t think we need a counselor.” He was shocked. My words came out of the blue. I know it sounds drastic that I even contacted a counselor before talking with Jake, but I needed to do it right then… or it would have never been done.

“Perhaps you don’t think something is wrong, but I do. And if one of us in this marriage thinks something is wrong, then something is wrong. Will you go to the marriage counselor with me, Jake?”

“No. I told you before that I don’t like counselor’s, so I’m not going to go. I don’t think there is anything wrong.”

Panic. Anger. Fear. This is not going how I planned. He’s refusing. What do I do?

“Well, I have an appointment already made and I’m going to go. I would love it if you would come too. Please. Just to talk some. Think about it.”

End of conversation.

A few days later I went to that appointment and I continued to go weekly for the next few weeks, before I left for 10 days in Greece (an educational trip). I had another appointment or two in between my Greece trip and my trip to Scandinavia. I knew that I would be going back again and again, even after I returned from all of my trips that summer. Turns out, I met with Mary throughout the whole next year.

But I always went alone.


I dropped my bags, hugged Jake briefly, and could feel the tension. It was thicker than the humid air surrounding us on that summer day. We went through all the rituals, “How was your trip?” “Good, how was your time here?” “Good. I got a new tattoo.” “Oh.”

All the while we could feel it. I am certain that Jake felt it too. Something big was about to happen. Palms sweaty again, breath almost gone, hands shaking. Standing in our office, I said it:

“I think we need to get a divorce. This isn’t working.”

There is no need to go into all the reasons why I knew that we needed to separate and go our own ways, but I knew it… from deep within my soul. While I was terrified beyond belief, there was a sense of peace swirling around inside me, like some beautiful, warm glowing light. We had tried. We had given up. We tried again. And then we created our own lives, even as we were still married. There were good times, great times, and good memories. But, there was hell too. Those are all stories for another day. That is not the story I am telling here.

 A few minutes or hour later, I have no idea exactly because time stood still in those moments, Jake left the house. And just like that, our 9 year marriage was over.

* names have been changed for privacy

my journey to peace.

about a week ago, i had a request from a fellow blogger, the mezz, to begin a series on my journey to peace. as i said before, i was humbled & overwhelmed. and somehow i knew it was a sign… a sign that the time had come to finally tell the story i had been yearning to tell for 4 years.

so, i’ve begun.

i’ll post my first entry here as a blog post, and perhaps each one after i write it as a blog post too, but you can also follow the whole story at the top of my home page under the “from death to peace” link. i will keep my story there. i have no idea how long it will be, how much i will write, or what i will say exactly. i am just going to write until i am done, until i’ve said everything i need to and want to say. i am not promising a post every day or every week, or anything like that. i will just write as it comes to me.

i am truly excited about this series of posts, of this push that i now i have write and tell my story. i am telling it because i know that i must, it’s just something that i feel from deep within. telling you everything is part of my continuing journey to peace.

so, with butterflies in my stomach, my heart racing, and my hands shaking as i click the keys on my keyboard, i give you my first post…


i died when i was 33.

ironically, the same age as jesus when he was crucified.

and that was actually really ironic at that time in my life since i was also completing my masters of divinity degree (= studying theology) and working as a minister in a church. i never expected to die. especially right then. but, i did.

however, that’s not the end of the story. it’s actually the beginning…

you see, i rose again. not in some physical sense like we hear about how jesus rose, because i did not die in a physical way. but, just as i died, i rose… from my death to my life. one elizabeth died, and another one rose. and life would never, ever be the same again.

now i can split my life into two completely different parts. two volumes. two phases. two me’s (and yet the same me). before death & after death. however, it did not all happen in one day; my death and rebirth spanned across one entire year. though, i could actually say that the death part was shorter than the rebirth. perhaps i’m still in the rebirth part… still discovering.

during that year i finished my master’s degree, traveled to ancient greece, led a college group to scandinavia & the baltic countries, got divorced, quit my job at the church, spent an unbelievable amount of time alone with my journal & my thoughts, met my soulmate, sold or gave away almost everything i owned, and moved to denmark. but those are all of the external things that were going on.

internally, i was finding peace. in the midst of chaos, confusion, pain, and uncertainty, i found peace. in a journal entry dated 16 may, 2007, i wrote:

not until this week did i realize that in my life-long quest for peace, i sought the shallow “peace without conflict” in my marriage [and my entire life up to that point]. on monday, i took the bull by the horns and was finally ready to accept and experience peace as presence… in the midst of conflict. all fear has been cast out…. in the midst of pain, i found peace and strength and courage.

that was the death part.

the rebirth part began internally, as i began discovering myself. and the journey inward, combined with the journeys i made around the world that year, brought me back to life.

and so, begins my story. a story that i have been yearning to tell for 4 years now. finally, the time is right. so, i’m going to tell it here. to all of you.

it is my journey from death to peace.

here & now.

everybody keeps saying those words to my love & me.

focus on today. try to just be here. now. the problem is, i keep thinking about the past (fretting & dreaming) & wondering (worrying & dreaming) about the future. feeling overwhelmed & insecure? take it one day at a time. yeah. great advice. ain’t so easy to pull off though. but i’m trying. really trying.

i think i go to the past & the future in order to escape the not-so-pretty-present, whenever something uncomfortable pops up. but, i also think that i worry about what has happened and what will happen in an effort to control things. escapism and worry. two things that will suck the life right out of me. i know that. but, sometimes it’s just so hard. escapism & worry. a sure fire way to ignore the present situation, and therefore, miss out on little moments which may be beautiful ones. at the same time, perhaps escapism & worry serve as a tiny bit of a survival technique, when things are just too difficult to bear. the trick is the balance. i’m most definitely not saying that we should try to avoid feeling sad, depressed, afraid, worried, etc. our feelings are our feelings. it’s good to feel them. the balance comes when we feel them, but don’t dwell on them. don’t let them take over, so that we miss living in the present moment…  which may feel icky at the time, but we will survive.

many times the present is actually better than the past pain or the future worries. those things only bring us guilt & anxiety. focusing on the present allows us to breathe. to soak in the calmness & positive energy around us, whatever it may be. yes, the present is the place to be, the place to exist. the past & the future will always be there, tapping us on our shoulders, creeping up during our days. but, to hold fast to the moment we are in… therein lies our power. and our peace.

5 years ago i was in a weird, tough place. i had a lot of pain from a betrayal in the past that followed me around every day. but, i pushed away that pain, because it was too difficult to bear. instead, i chose to focus on the future. i kept dreaming of a future that was brighter. i lived for that future. i only thought about what was going to happen, and focused all my energy on what might come, how life could be. all the while, i was ignoring how life was. except for every now & then. every few months, then weeks, then days, i turned to a friend(s) and poured out my frustrations/fears/anger/confusion. deep inside i knew that something had to be done, but i was just too afraid; for deep inside, i also knew the outcome of facing the pain. i knew my marriage would end in divorce. so, i let off steam every now and then, facing the reality of the present. but, as soon as i let it out in a conversation with a friend, i went right back to living for the future. telling myself that everything would be better in a few months.

then one day, as i lamented my woes and frustrations to one particularly patient friend (love ya, mean it), he decided to say something. mostly he just listened to me rant & rave. but, on this day, he said something like this: “i’m tired of listening to you complain. i’m tired of seeing you in pain. stop talking about it and do something. you are living for this future that doesn’t even exist yet, and are afraid to look at what’s actually happening. open your eyes and see how life really is every day. notice that the only time you feel ok is when you think about the future and how it could be. you need to be honest and look at how it is now. today. do something.”

ouch. that was painful, but i wasn’t mad at all. i needed to hear that. i was ready to hear that. i needed a friend who loved me that much. because of him, and because i was ready, i did something. and, so began a year of soul-searching, reconnecting with myself, and rediscovering the power of living in the moment. my marriage ended. i decided to move to denmark. i followed my soul. i listened to my heart. i lived in the moment. and i fell in love.

now, 5 years later, i am reminded of the power of living here & now. it has become difficult for me to do that recently, but i learned my lesson years ago, so i will fight to stay in the present moment. i will soak it up. no matter what comes my way, i am not alone. i have found a great love with whom to share my life. and together, we will fight for this moment, to stay in the present moment, to live life. it’s not easy, but we have each other. and that makes all the difference.

to all you out there wondering at times, like me, how you will make it… i have some advice for us. slow down. close your eyes. breathe deep. feel your soul & know that, come what may, all will be well. all the pain serves as a lesson to make us who we are today. all of our dreams propel us to the future & keep us inspired. but, right now, even in the midst of chaos, if we take it one moment at a time, we will get through it.

sending you strength & peace.

my beloved nc mountains: canton

there is this little town on the east side of the great smoky mountains/pisgah national forest. it’s a mill town. a paper mill, that is. i never knew much about it, or actually cared to know much about it, until i moved there in 2004 – the year i turned 30. growing up, i had passed by the town by way of the highway, and the only way i knew it was there was because of it’s smell. let’s be honest. it’s stink which came from the paper mill. however, that nasty stink reminds me of my childhood & my trips to the mountains with my family. we never, ever went through canton, but always around it. it meant nothing to me. a meaningless, little mountain town, in the process of dying. nevertheless, i found myself working there just after 9/11, and then living there three years later when i turned 30. and i had no idea how that little town would capture my heart.

there are only a few thousand people who live in & around canton, but they are good people. mountain people. now, i’m a city-ish girl, or at least i had been up to that point in my life. country people and i, southern country people and i, southern mountain country people and i don’t really have that much in common. and yet, these people – the doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, farmers, mechanics, housewives, mill workers, business owners, service workers, nurses, and kids of this town became a family to me. this very liberal, free-spirited, adventure-seekin’, tree-huggin’, peace-lovin’, gun-hatin’, free-thinkin’, boot-wearin’, tatted-up, cityified outsider minister breezed into the little, southern, mountain, country town and found a place to call home.

my reason for working and moving there? a job. the downtown methodist church hired me and i stayed for 7 and a half years. while there were days that i thought i’d tear my hair out from the boredom and monotony of the country life, most days i realized how lucky i was to live a.) in a such a beautiful place, and b). that the people i worked with & for changed my life & became like family to me. no, they became family.

it was in little ‘ole canton that i spread my wings, that i became a minister, that i fell in love with teaching theology, and discovered that deep inside me, in all that searching for inner peace, i was one who was called to speak, share, teach, guide, and offer others a message of peace, hope, & love. the relationships that i formed, the struggles that i had (i got divorced while i lived in canton), the inspiration that i felt… well, canton  – that little 5/6 block downtown and beautiful countryside –  raised me. from my 20s to my 30s. it was here that i lived, died, and was brought back to life as me. it was here that i met my soul. here that i learned to breathe. here that i became a preacher. here that i became a counselor. here that i held people’s hands as they died. here that i celebrated new life. here that i here that i put my master’s of divinity to practice. here that i loved & hated my job. here that i met people that have become my mentors. and here that i received so much love. it was here that i understood who i was called to be, and i found the courage to simply be me.

and then i moved away. spreading my wings as far as i could, but never forgot the foundation, the love, the growth, the cocoon that i lived in which led to my transformation.

last week, i had the chance to visit canton a little. to go to the church where i worked & hug a bunch of necks. i got to look into the eyes and hold the hands of youth, parents, friends, & older friends and let them know that, while i am not with them anymore, i have taken everything i have learned there with me to sweden. and now i am working with new people, knowing that as i build relationships here i am beginning to hold their hands & hug their necks. it was wonderful & difficult to be back in canton. i miss those people. i miss my job there. but the chance to  be reminded of the amazing years that i shared with the people of canton, nc was priceless.

i didn’t take any pictures at the church, or of many who are close to me. instead, i was soaking everything in, chatting it up with everyone, and leaving my camera alone. sometimes it’s better to just live. but, i did click the camera a few times. and here are the moments that i captured…

 lina & little b. our dear friends’ amazingly cute baby girl.

 we love her to pieces!

the country roads just outside of canton. fun to drive on!

 the weather was unbelievable!

 cold mountain. a 15-20 minute drive from my old house in canton. that’s right. i lived in this beauty.

 woo hoo!!!

 a canton sunset from our friends’ porch.

remember where you’ve been, but also love where you are. it’s exactly where you are supposed to be. keep dreaming big. and follow those dreams. all along the way you’ll meet people and experience things you could have never imagined. but, the journey, as different as it may be from what you had planned… oh, it’s so worth it.

follow your bliss, my dear friends. peace.