the next chapter from my memoir: 33 changed everything.

nature and me
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.

me!

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

when the universe conspires.

all my books. i'm in love.
all my new books. i’m in love.

sometimes there’s just this flow in the universe. like things are unfolding & connecting in ways that send out messages, or affirm thoughts. or at least that seems to happen to me at various times in my life. it’s a moment that just happens, without warning or understanding. a joyous surprise. i believe that it is a response from the universe. a confirmation that i am being true to myself. and i had the joy of experiencing this blissful kind of moment again a few days ago.

let me back up & give you the lowdown:

  • in april, my love and i are going to china for 2 weeks. helloooo, dream. i can hardly believe it. so surreal and such a once in a lifetime experience.
  • i love books. and for christmas, i received a gift card to barnes & noble (awesome, huge bookstore in the states).
  • all things spiritual always interest me.
  • with my gift card, i had plans to buy a book that was recommended to me by ashleigh paige, the tao of travel, and to find a book that i could use as a daily meditation guide.
  • a few days ago, i saw “eat, pray, love” again & all of my spiritual life journey emotions flowed to the surface of my consciousness. i felt that connection again with myself. combination of travel & spirituality.

on sunday, the universe conspired to bring all these things together into something that i now understand as a focus, vision, inspiration for the first half of 2013. here’s what happened.

i searched for that book that i wanted, and i found it. score. i think it’s gonna be amazing. then, totally satisfied, i headed over to the spirituality/philosophy section and began checking out book spines, hoping to find something to inspire my mornings throughout 2013. i found myself drawn to the easter spirituality area. no idea why. i looked and looked, and then i remembered “eat, pray, love” and a book about taoism found itself in my hands. then, i found another one. and another. before long, i had about 8 books on the tao, christ, and travel on the floor all around me. i sat down int he middle of the bookstore aisle (you can do that in barnes & noble) and began thumbing through them all. the words on the pages connected with me. i wanted the books. all. of. them.

i wondered why i wanted them. and then, i remembered that i am traveling to china in april for an amazing 2 week experience. i remembered i was searching for some inspiration for 2013. and i remembered “eat, pray, love”. and suddenly, though it didn’t fully understand, i knew that i was meant to be sitting on that floor with all those books around me. i knew that i was drawn there for a reason. i knew. i needed all of those books. for inspiration for research. for something to soak up, learn about, & experience.

as i gathered all of the books in my hands and headed (embarrassingly) over to my love, something clicked. it all made sense. the first book i found, the reason i was there, was “the tao of travel”. i had never considered that it was about the tao (the way). and here i was with all these books about taoism (& christianity). and then there is this trip to china in my near future. and finally, there is the inspiration i received from elizabeth gilbert once again.

for the first part of this year at least, i am immersing myself into studying, experiencing, and exploring taoism, the way straight from the heart, a belief in the journey of life as a balance between the inner soul & the outer world. what better time to do this than just before i find myself in china, surrounded by the mysticism of tao in its original setting?

what a gift. these moments of clarity. of connection. of knowing that you are on the right path. so, expect a post here, every now & then for the next few months, inspired by my journey and discovery of what taosim means at this point in my life, on my spiritual journey.

“There is no need to run outside for better seeing
Nor to peer from a window
Rather abide at the center of your being
The more you leave it
the less you learn
Search your heart and see
For if she is wise who takes each turn the way to do is to be”
― Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching in Translation: Five Translations with Chinese Text

thanks for reading, my dear friends. peace & love along the way.

the holy man.

IMG_3821

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. Albert Einstein.

the other day i was riding the tram (or trolly. whatever it is really called in english), and this man was obviously sitting across the aisle & facing me. i noticed him immediately when the doors open and i walked onboard. it’s not everyday you see a man such as he in the western world. a buddhist monk. a sense of calm washed over me. peace. he sat there silently, not even really looking around, but just absorbed in the presence of his moment. he was so present, so aware, and yet, not frantically looking around at everyone & everything that was happening (people-watching, or judging, as i would call it). i wondered what we was thinking. i wondered if he was praying. but, then, i realized it didn’t matter. i could see that all of his life was a prayer. of course he was praying. there was not a moment that passed that he was not praying. not with words exactly, but with his very being, with every breath. and he was radiating light and peace.

and i thought to myself, i want to radiate light with my being. i want to simply be, and for people to feel a sense of calm by just being around me.

since i saw this holy man a few days ago, i’ve continued to think about him. almost constantly. and i remembered the theme that we had at the camp i worked at in july. one of the things we wanted to focus on, as we spent time together in the archipelago, was being true to ourselves, living life with integrity, living what we believe.

it’s so easy to say a bunch of things and then do a bunch of different things. but, what i seek is a life that is whole, complete. what i want to be, and who i want to surround myself with, are people who say one thing and then act in the exact same way. the questions that i am asking myself today are, “am i spreading light? do i stand for what i believe? do i act on my beliefs? am i faithful to my journey towards holiness/perfection/light/wholeness?”

many people seem to be intimidated by the word “holy” or “perfection”. but i am not talking about being someone who is perfect, has everything figured out, pleases everyone all the time, never makes mistakes. no, not at all. what i am talking about when i talk about holiness, is someone who is whole. someone who is true to their journey in life. someone who, in the middle of all of their flaws and screw-ups, still keeps walking. someone who seeks to be whole and to spread light; for when we are whole, when we are on a journey towards inner peace, then the light & love of God simply shines forth from their lives.

like the holy man on the tram.

i am a true believer of focusing on our inner lives… being quiet, practicing mindfulness, meditation, prayer, or whatever you call it. time set aside for you & God. time to connect, and listen, and just be. and when we practice silence & solitude, and practice the being truly present in the present moment, then our lives automatically burst forth with fruit. when we connect with the divine, the divine spirit in us becomes visible.

being holy is not to be feared. no one has asked us to be perfect. being holy, however, does have everything to do with being faithful. faithful to our journey, faithful to ourselves, faithful to each other, faithful to the call to a life of simplicity, love, & peace.

there have been times in my life where i have wondered if i should have been a female monk (i prefer that term over “nun” for some reason). but there are problems with that. well, firstly i’m not catholic. and secondly, it just doesn’t feel right. while i have these contemplative tendencies, i am way too into society to live in a monastery full time (though a visit once a year to a monastery could be amazing). but, no. after years of searching my soul, and discovering who i am created to be, i am certain that i am meant to spend my life with one foot in the middle of contemplative spirituality and one foot in the middle of our global society. what that looks like depends on where i am and how i can be used at that specific time in life. but, always, it is my calling to put a secular spin on spirituality, and a spiritual pin on all things secular… thus, creating an understanding of the wholeness of life. spirituality, love, peace, hope, & grace permeate every minute of life.

the challenge is to be aware. to be present. to be faithful.

like the holy man.

wishing you a sense of wholeness & peace.