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The Pleasure Is Mine

pleasure_child

Three-year-old Ana smacks a kiss on my mouth. I’ve just handed her a baby doll, complete with pacifier. Something to keep her company on her days-long bus ride to Florida.

Whatever pleasure I got out of finding that doll in our used toy bin at the Nazareth migrant hospitality center just got magnified a hundredfold.

Juana is 13. Too old for a doll.

Or so I thought.

But her eyes widen when she sees the one I’ve given Ana.

“Do you like dolls?” I ask in Spanish.

“Si.” She smiles. Off I go to locate another.

I have the perfect one in mind. Eyes as big as half dollars. Strawberry-colored plastic hair. The kind you can’t comb. But her face is more mature. Just right for a girl who’s probably never owned a doll in her life.

Why do I love packing a toy in these children’s travel bags? Why do I take pleasure in seeing their delight?

The answer, I think, lies somewhere in understanding the gift of pleasure.

pleasure-in-giving-pleasure-quote-1

If you’re a parent, you know the absolute pleasure of seeing your child delight in receiving a longed-for gift or special surprise.

I believe that the One who loved us into being takes that kind of pleasure in us.

And that God longs for us to take pleasure in the abundance of life. A life gifted to us. Created for us to enjoy.  As fully alive beings.

Sometimes, in between running around getting care packages ready for the migrants, answering their needs, calling for volunteer drivers, I have to step outside to get food in the walk-in fridge next door. And sometimes I pause and stand there in the sunlight. Look up into that constantly blue sky.

And give thanks. Aware of the pleasure I am receiving as well as giving.

Whether it’s in giving a special gift to a child. Preparing a meal for someone who’s hungry.

Receiving expressions of affection.

Or taking in the beauty of a golden full moon on a Friday night. Like I did tonight.

An abundance of opportunities to experience the pleasures of an abundant life.

But I have to say, I’m not always aware of them.

As Jesus said, it is God’s good pleasure “to give you the kingdom.” That kingdom is already alive in you. Alive in me.

Can I keep giving myself over to it?  Can I fully accept this gift?

abundance

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I Am 4 Love

yoga119

I’ve been wanting to write about love. It seemed like something I needed to do in response to the growing hateful, fear-filled outlandish messages bombarding the news. Especially from our political candidates.

My heart hurts as I hear entire groups of people being lambasted. For their religion. Or their race. Or the color of their skin. Based on misconceptions and downright lies.

I wonder where are the voices of reason and common sense? Where is the voice of love?

I’ve been thinking about Pope Francis and his visit to the U.S. It’s hard to believe he was here only months ago. Addressing Congress with words of tolerance, acceptance, mercy, and compassion. People seemed to embrace him and his message. Members of Congress were suddenly quoting him. Including my own Congressman Robert Hurt from Virginia.

Back in late September, Congressman Hurt was saying what an honor it was to meet the Pope and how his message, “reminded us of our obligation to help those who are in need, treat our fellow man with respect and dignity, and do our best to pass on the great blessings we have receive to future generations.”

Apparently my Congressman has forgotten his own words because these days he’s proposing anything but that. Maybe he thought Pope Francis was referring only to our obligation to care for American children and America’s future. That somehow closing off our borders to desperate refugee children and their parents is acceptable. That opening our hearts to those outside our borders escaping extreme violence and life-threatening situations — like the refugees from Syria and Central America — is not our obligation.

Many have joined him. Some voices have been shouting: “We have to take care of our own first.”

Well, I’m not getting on that bandwagon.

Because this is not about me and mine. This is about us. The human race. It’s about learning the lesson of meeting people where they are. With tolerance. Acceptance. An open mind. And love.

It’s not easy. But it’s why I’m here. To learn to love. And to follow the One who came to earth over 2,000 years ago to teach us about love. If I proclaim to follow him, then I have to be love in this world. As best as I can.

I came here to love. That is all. It is the hardest thing. And it is everything.

Funny thing. Pope Francis mentioned four famous Americans in his remarks to Congress. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day. Each of them had something to say about love when they were alive. Their words speak to what’s happening now in our country. And to why it’s important that we speak out and be the voice of love in the world. Read some of their quotes below.

Then ask yourself, as we come upon this season of Christmas, what does the birth of Love Incarnate mean in my life?

It is only love that can overcome the fear that is at the root of all war.
Thomas Merton

Dorothy Day love

 

martinlutherkingjr297520

“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.” (From Dorothy Day, Selected Writings)

“We must cry out against injustice or by our silence consent to it. If we keep silent, the very stones of the street will cry out.” –Dorothy Day

Giving It Up for Love

fall foliage

The fall foliage is crazy gorgeous this year. Vibrant oranges, golden yellows, and ruby reds shimmer in the morning sunlight. Whether I’m doing Tai Chi on my deck surrounded by breathtaking multicolored trees or driving along rural Rte. 810, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, I regularly find myself breaking out into spontaneous smiles and giggles.

Maybe it’s because I missed fall completely last year. Or maybe I’m just paying closer attention. Because who knows where I’ll be next year.

I really love fall in Virginia.

And I love my peaceful home in the woods. It’s a place of refuge and reflection. A place of beauty and blessing, for myself and for anyone who’s visited. It’s a place I can come to rejuvenate and reflect. To write and to find solitude. A sacred place.

And yet, I hear an inner voice asking, “Can you let it go?”

That’s the question I’m faced with now. And it’s a tough one. But there’s something I love more than my home in Virginia.

I love the possibility of fulfilling my heart’s calling. And I love the God within who urges me to fulfill that calling. In the process, I realize my True Self.

Every spiritual journey deepens when you’re willing to let go of the attempt to eliminate risks. This means you have to be willing to pay the price. To give up attachments to anything that might hold you back.

All that happens in our lives prepares us for our calling. I believe this. I believe that all the pieces of the events of our lives—the sorrows as well as the joys, the roadblocks and the unexpected detours, even the things that have previously held us back—all of it fits together like the pieces of a puzzle that leads to our true calling.  This house has been part of that. So has my husband. Had I been unwilling to let him go, I never would have come to this threshold.

Now the key is being willing to let go even further.

Maya Angelou
Maybe I won’t have to sell my home and leave it completely. But maybe I will. The real question is, am I willing? That’s all God asks of me. It’s all I have to answer right now. Are you willing?

Am I willing to trust the voice that says, “Do it for love”?

I try to listen more deeply. I want to know exactly what next step I should take. Where I’ll wind up next. But all I hear is:

Don’t think your way through the journey. Trust what you hear in the silence where I dwell. You will land when it’s time.

Next Stop, Bolivia

cochabamba

Mission. The word won’t leave me. It keeps showing up in unexpected ways.

Like through an invitation from a special friend. She asked me recently to consider joining her on a pilgrimage to Amistad, “the Friendship Mission,” in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where more than half the population live below the national poverty line.

I decided to check out their website (see http://www.amistadmission.org/).

As soon as I saw the children’s faces, the Andes mountains, the indigenous women donning wide-brimmed hats and colorful scarves, tears sprang to my eyes.

I had to say yes. With no clear indication why. I simply felt a pull on my heart. A pull to be with the poor of Latin America.

Who can explain such things?

I’ve no idea what I’ll discover there. It’s only for a week. But I know I’ll come back with much more than I could possibly give. Just like what happened with the migrants in El Paso.

Last week Richard Rohr used the word “reverse mission” in one of his daily reflections. His words say exactly what I’m trying to say.

“An overly protected life—a life focused on thinking more than experiencing—does not know deeply or broadly. Jesus did not call us to the poor and to the pain only to be helpful; he called us to be in solidarity with the real and for our own transformation. It is often only after the fact we realize that they helped us in ways we never knew we needed. This is sometimes called ‘reverse mission.’ The ones we think we are ‘saving’ end up saving us, and in the process, redefine the very meaning of salvation!”

Here’s where I’ve experienced “the real” while on mission:

  • In the sound of children’s joyous shrieks as we play a simple game of Uno at the health center in Anapra, home to Mexico’s poorest of the poor.
  • In the migrant woman, who after being paid a meager $15 for a day’s labor of housecleaning, gave $5 to someone “less fortunate.”
  • In the mud-caked, sole-flapping shoes of the little Guatemalan girls who showed up at our hospitality center with their mom.
  • In the airplane drawing of a six-year-old “undocumented” boy assigned to a Texas detention center who sees God as that plane, ready to whisk him up and reunite him with his mother.

Wherever this mission is taking me, it sure is a slow process. But that’s OK.

I’m learning that each slow step is a piece of the puzzle. And everything is fitting together nicely, just as it needs to, in order to fulfill my unique purpose, my heart’s calling. All I have to do is listen. And not let myself get too comfortable. Something I doubt will happen in Cochabamba.

Truthfully, I don’t really know why I’m going to Bolivia. But I do know what I hear in my heart: “If you want to live a truly fulfilling life, you must follow me.”

As John O’ Donohue writes:

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment.

These pics were taken from the Amistad website

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Picture of mother and child taken from Amistad Mission website

Amistad sisters

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On Belonging

belonging-to-oneself1

Where do I belong? It’s a question I’ve asked many times over the course of this journey. It came up whenever I found myself starting something new and unexpected. Facing unfamiliar surroundings.

That happened a lot this past year.

I moved so many times the post office didn’t know how to handle my forwarding requests. Neither did I!

Late July I started out in a simple room in a convent in Mexico City to attend the missionary program’s two-week orientation. My ministry began in a one-room apartment in San Antonio — a place where I felt more alone than in my cabin in the woods. By early November I had changed ministries, and locations — a coworker’s guestroom in the suburbs. Then on to my cousin’s outside of Austin while I awaited news about El Paso, where my heart continued to call me. Not willing to wait until mid December when “permanent” housing would be available, I moved to two different locations in El Paso before finally settling into my little bedroom at Grandview House.

With each move, I’d mindfully set up my personal things, trying to create sacred space as best I could. On my little altar, my special talismans and touchstones offered comfort.

Uprooted so many times, it’s a wonder I could feel grounded at all. Sometimes I’d stand in the middle of a kitchen trying to remember which drawer held the silverware. Or I’d awaken during the night, needing to pee. Disoriented, I’d have to sit up and be fully conscious of my surroundings before I could find the bathroom.

The journey challenged me for sure.

But even in the midst of it, I wrote in my journal:
I am not lost. I have not lost my grounding. I am sure-footed as I walk the trail, feeling my emotions as well as my certainty that I want to follow this path all the way through to the other side. I trust the wisdom and guidance of my heart and Spirit. I trust something deeper and more imaginative than reason.”

Like the migrants and refugees I served in El Paso, I learned what it means to depend on God, to trust in the mystery called “divine providence.”

Primero Dios. The migrants’ favorite saying. Always God came first in their lives. With simple faith they surmounted grueling circumstances. Trusted they’d be given what they needed.

Like them, I found the Universe provided exactly what I needed along the way. Often at the very last minute. Almost as if to sharpen my ability to trust. In God. In myself.

And something else, too. I found that this very loss of control over my circumstances is what led to my freedom. I finally didn’t have to know what was coming next. I didn’t have to figure it out.

Now I’m back “home” in Virginia. Friends ask if I am settled in. I don’t think I ever will be. Settled in. Because home doesn’t feel like where I belong anymore.

So, where do I belong?

That question no longer preoccupies me.

During the course of this journey I have learned what it means to belong to myself. To belong to the God within. I have learned that I belong nowhere — and everywhere. My true home is within God.

And I have come to understand — in a way I didn’t before — that I can never be separated from that “home.” No matter where I find myself.

Once again, John O’Donohue’s poetry resonates:

“At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage,
Through unforeseen sacred places
That enlarge and enrich the soul.”

And the pilgrimage continues.John ODonohue river flows

The Sound of Freedom

 

(image by Gary Gray)

(image by Gary Gray Photography)

Faced with loud, unfamiliar noises, our imagination tends to leap into action. That’s what happened to my friend Nina.

Nina’s probably one of the funniest people and greatest storytellers I know. She’s got that Erma Bombeck kind of humor. For those too young to remember, Erma penned a funny newspaper column about suburban family life for about 30 decades, until the late 1990s. Like Erma, my friend Nina could easily be writing her own column. Lucky for me, Nina’s been supporting my journey by regularly sending along humorous emails about life back in Virginia.

But this week Nina’s intended humor turned into a different kind of — and unexpected — gift.

In her email update, she joked about how her hearing has been declining. My hearing has been declining, too, so I can relate, even though Nina’s quite a bit younger than I am. I guess that encouraged me in a weird kind of way. So, right away she peaked my interest.

“My hearing is shot,” Nina writes.

“It’s been a steady decline for 15 years. However, I REALLY thought I was ‘hearing things’ yesterday.  Is it my heartbeat?  Is the ringing in my ears getting worse?  Am I now schizophrenic? Because I HEAR noises that are SO LOUD?”

As would happen with most of us at this point, her imagination has kicked in.

“What did I do yesterday to worsen the condition?” she muses. “Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that cheese enchilada at El Agave!!!!”

She is obviously baffled, and maybe just a tad anxious. Yet Nina ventures outside to her porch, where she is bombarded by this unidentifiable, VERY LOUD NOISE!

The culprit?

Thousands of swallows have alighted on the trees in her backyard. Nina relaxes and watches as the birds fly together from tree to tree, casting shadows over branches and earth. In the process, they create magnificent hues of darkness and light, like figures dancing across the sun.

“It was a little gift to me,” Nina writes.

And a very special gift to me. Because by the time I got to the end of her story, I was smiling.

Not because she had made me laugh. It was much more than that.

Those birds in flight represented a powerful metaphor: my own freedom.

Not simply because the image of birds flying symbolizes freedom. What really struck me was how the sound they had created was initially unfamiliar and somewhat scary.

Just like in my own life.

Here I am at another crossroads. With another decision to make. In about one week’s time. Living in liminal space can definitely create a little angst. And possibly lead to more risk-taking as I try to listen more deeply and follow my heart.

As a wise friend assured me, the risk involved is a small price to pay for the freedom of following our bliss.

The freedom to be who we truly are.

The freedom to live from our deepest self.

The freedom to create from a place of vulnerability and compassion.

Sometimes we can be surprised by the sound freedom makes. But if we are willing to venture out and follow the source, we may discover something breathtakingly beautiful.

 

 

Rekindling My Passion

 

Kindling fire by zlata petal

Kindling fire by zlata petal

Sometimes good friends remind us of what we love most. They help us get back on track. Regain focus. Most importantly, knowing us as they do, they can help reignite our passion.

That’s what my dear friend Margaret did for me recently when she connected me with her longtime friends in Austin. Many years ago she and her husband Rich were part of a close-knit, socially conscious group of friends living in Austin that came together for one purpose: to serve the poor and marginalized in society.

Now these friends were hosting the national gathering of U.S./El Salvador Sister Cities — a grassroots organization that works in partnership with rural communities in El Salvador. Knowing my interest in social justice and immigration issues, as well as my pull to Latin America, Margaret, who now lives in Arkansas, thought I’d be interested. I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

It was just what I needed.

As I listened to speakers from various U.S. states and El Salvadoran communities share stories of their efforts to support sustainable communities, conduct anti-mining campaigns to stop corporations from pursuing mining projects that destroy the environment, and protect human rights, I knew. This is where I belong.

In the middle of my note taking I wrote: “I have a passion for this!”

I realized that this is what speaks to my heart. I also realized how far away I feel from what initially got me started on this journey of the heart.

Trying to make myself fit into this ministry I’ve been assigned to in San Antonio isn’t working. It’s clear. My heart’s not in it.

During these nearly three months I’ve asked God what I need to learn in this. I’ve waited. I’ve listened within. I’ve come up against some tough stuff both inwardly and outwardly. And I’ve been learning.

So, now what?

Possibly another assignment here with the same missionary program, but with a different focus, using my writing skills.

Possibly pursue something elsewhere. Like El Paso.

I don’t know. I do know I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I found that voice in El Paso. Maybe because that’s where I found my passion too.

In less than two weeks I will need to move. One way or the other. And I don’t know where I’m going. But I feel amazingly calm, especially for someone who has spent a great deal of her life worrying. Just ask my son.

Maybe that’s because deep within my inner being there’s a greater wisdom that knows this is just another step. Another risk to be taken. On the journey to fulfilling my passion and longing for my true Source.

 

An Opportunity to Grow

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I’ve been experiencing growing pains. Yes, at my age. But I’d call them spiritual growing pains. The kind you get when you sincerely say, “Your will, not mine, be done.”

If you know me, you know I’ve been praying for some time to fulfill my longing to serve something greater than myself, and to deepen my connection with the Divine. Now I find myself asking, “Am I willing to pay the price?”

Because I’m finding that letting go of my little self-will’s desire to have things be as I want them to be is not easy.

Like this situation in San Antonio, for instance. Some things haven’t quite been turning out as I’d hoped or expected. I’m facing challenges in several areas. And in the process, I’m being shown just how much I struggle against what is present when it goes against what I’d prefer or what I think it should be.

The other day I came across some notes I’d scribbled during a Tara Brach weekend workshop I’d taken last year. Tara Brach is a Buddhist Insight Meditation teacher and presenter in the Washington, D.C., metro area who gives excellent talks available free of charge online. Her sage teachings have often helped me. Now, this particular line of hers popped off the page:

“Peace is this moment without judgment— that is all.”

This moment, in my heart space, without judgment. Completely open to what is in front of me. No matter whether my little ego likes it or not. No matter whether my self-will would like to change it into something else. That’s peace. It’s also the meaning of surrender.

A wonderful model of this for me, in the Christian tradition, is Mary. Her total surrender to God with the words, “Let it be done unto me,” are an example I find hard to replicate. Yet, I’ve said “yes” to a calling, and this is where it’s taken me.

At least for now.

And I do believe I’m here to learn and to grow in preparation for the next step on my journey. Whatever that may be.

In the meantime, I find San Antonio to be more of a desert experience than El Paso was. These are some of the temptations I’m facing in this desert:

  • To desire clarity and understanding over living with mystery and “allowing”
  • To doubt my faith and my discernment
  • To want to turn back when I don’t understand or I feel scared or I don’t have control
  • To want to mold and make what is present into something different
  • To take back my “yes” and resort to my more comfortable self-will

I’ve been humbled more than a few times as I’ve recognized these places within myself. It’s humbling to come up against my ego’s demands and my “no.”

Can I wait it out for a while? I think so. Because I truly do see this as an opportunity for growth.

Since I started this journey, I’ve been keeping a file of inspirational quotes that speak to my heart. Here are a few that especially speak to me now:

“In this well ordered universe, the perfect vehicle for our spiritual growth and unfoldment is exactly our present situation.”

 ~ Sevakra

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

~ Thomas Merton

Letting It Go

 

My Texas welcoming committee

That song from the Disney movie Frozen keeps popping into my head. You know the one every man, woman, and child has been singing since the movie came out: “Let it go, let it go…”

It’s not easy letting go of my entire life as I have known it for the past 28+ years in Virginia. It’s definitely a process. I hit the road nearly a week ago, leaving behind my house and most of my possessions, all my wonderful friends, my precious dog Cody (that was really tough), my beautiful state of Virginia where I’ve now lived more than half my life, and, most importantly, my son (which I’ve written about in previous posts).

Letting go of all this is definitely a spiritual practice for me. I realized the magnitude of my decision as soon as I drove over the Texas border and started to cry. It happened when I saw the “Welcome to Texas” sign. Or maybe it was the “Ammo to Go” sign that did it. But it happened suddenly and spontaneously. With no advance warning like you usually get when you know the tears are coming. The irony of this trip had suddenly hit me. The last time I drove through Texas was 1986 when my husband and I were relocating from South Texas to Virginia. A move we desperately wanted to make. Nothing against Texas, but the year and a half we had spent there was not pleasant. We were ready to move on. I remember feeling excited and full of anticipation, happy to be returning to the East Coast and beginning a new life in a new state.

At the time I never thought I’d return to Texas. Certainly not to live here again. That’s how I know this decision is not coming from me. Nor is it of me. But choosing to live in Texas to work with homeless women and their children for at least a year feels right. The decision is a good one for me.

Still, I fluctuate between feeling the sadness of all I’ve left behind, along with the anxiety of my inner child who thinks I’m a little crazy, to feeling the joy and anticipation of following my heart’s calling. I’ve been staying with my dear cousin Joyce in Austin to visit and relax a little before beginning my year-long lay missionary service. She and her husband live on a golf course where deer come to feed throughout the day. It’s been a much-needed respite. But one of her two little dogs, Cupper, reminds me of my personality. One minute he loves me, wags his tail and is fully receptive of my affection. The next he backs away from me, growling as if he wants nothing to do with me. Joyce jokes and says he’s bipolar. I don’t know much about that, but I do sort of relate to his personality these days.

Not to say that I want to change my mind in any way, shape, or form. It’s just that so many questions pop up about my home in Virginia. Did I remember to do this or that before I left? Did I remember to take everything I needed? Should I have left that behind? And on and on until that refrain “Let it go” sails through my mind again.

It’s a good song really. And a good reminder that following a calling involves trust. It’s a choice I choose to make. I choose to trust the Loving Presence that brought me here. I choose to trust that I’ll be given what I need every step of the way as I follow the guidance of a higher self. Not that small, fear-based ego self that wonders if I turned off the stove.

IMG_20140724_091014_541I’ll finally arrive at my new temporary home in San Antonio later today. And I’m sure there will be lots more practice at letting go as the days and weeks unfold. Stay tuned.

The Journey to El Paso

I do not want to be a bystander in life. I want to fully live, and that means being still enough to pay attention, be fully present to myself and others as much as possible, and take action when needed. It means listening to, and following, my heart more and being willing to jump in even when I don’t know where I’ll land. This is one way of explaining why I’ve decided to volunteer with the School Sisters of St. Francis on the U.S./Mexico border to serve the immigrant population. I have no idea where this will lead. I only know that I am responding to an inner calling.

It started back in February when I traveled to El Paso, Texas, with four women from my church to learn firsthand about immigration. Kristen, our justice and charity outreach coordinator, organized the weeklong “border immersion” trip in response to our church’s growing Hispanic population and the separation she had observed between our Anglo and Latino parishioners. She hoped to bridge that gap by exposing us to the issues of immigration as experienced by those living on the U.S./Mexico border. Something attracted me about this trip as soon as Kristen mentioned it. My first thought: I can write about this. As a freelance writer I was attracted to the opportunity to learn firsthand about immigration, hear personal stories, and get the facts from those who live and work with the immigrant population. I also knew that this experience would affect me somehow. But what I didn’t count on was how it would awaken and inspire me, tugging at my longing to serve so strongly that the experience would continue to pull me weeks and even months later.

From the moment we climbed into Sr. Fran’s van to begin our immersion experience, I heard disturbing stories and facts about the plight of those crossing the U.S./Mexico border. Sr. Fran has been running these border immersion trips since 2006, hoping to eliminate the myths and misinformation many Americans have about immigrants. She had us going from 7 a.m. until dinner time, meeting with Border Patrol, the founder of a migrant farm workers’ union, a physician who offers health care to the poor, and directors and administrators of various programs, shelters, and detention facilities, all of whom inspired me in the work they do and the stories they told.  The immigrants themselves, because of their deep trust, respect, and love for Sr. Fran, welcomed us into their homes on the “colonias” — stark settlements in the desert where migrants buy a plot of land and set up a trailer.

I felt my heart opening more and more each day until one afternoon I met Ruben Garcia. Ruben is the director and cofounder of Annunciation House—a “house of hospitality” for refugees and the homeless in downtown El Paso. He and his young friends opened Annunciation House 35 years ago in their response to studying Scripture and recognizing how God “first and foremost identifies with the poor.” His stories of the people who have come through his house—some, victims of torture; others, simply trying to survive—cracked through the last of that invisible shield over my heart. Suddenly,  I started to cry. And in that moment, I knew why I had come on this trip. I knew God was calling me to something more.

That’s when I first felt the pull.

The night before we left El Paso we had dinner with the Sisters—all three of them—at Casa Alexia, their mission house. Sr. Kathy shared her work with trauma victims. Eighty-year-old Sr. Nancy brought up the issue of human trafficking, so prevalent on the border, and how she wants to attack it. Then they pitched their need for help, whether through signing up for their volunteer program or joining their order. In that moment, it wasn’t just Sr. Kathy or Sr. Nancy inviting me. I experienced a stronger invitation, coming from someplace deep within me.

Whenever I’ve tried to explain this to anyone, it’s impossible. My mind can’t make sense of it. Why do I have to go all the way to El Paso to serve? There are so many needs here. And Virginia is my home. Why would I leave this beautiful countryside of green-leaved  trees and rolling hills and ever-changing mountains for dry, flat, hot west Texas?

But truthfully, I am no longer comfortable in this place, in conducting “business as usual.” Something deeper is calling me. Something that defies weather and terrain and logical understanding. I couldn’t care less about the surroundings. It’s the people I can’t get out of my heart. And this pull to “something more.”

I have learned that matters of the Spirit can’t be explained. Yet when I listen and follow these “insights,” amazing and powerful things happen. So, a few months later, despite  anxious feelings about how I would manage to do this, I applied to volunteer with the Sisters at the border in early 2014. My application was accepted, and now here I am stepping out into the unknown with nothing more than the desire to listen to and follow my heart. In the process, I hope to serve something greater than my small self.

That’s what this blog is about: sharing my experiences and the stories of those I have met and will meet—stories that are as varied as the issue of immigration reform is complex. I hope along the way I will dispel some of the misinformation out there about immigration. And I will discover my heart’s true calling.