Don’t Miss the Signposts

signs

I leave for Bolivia in the morning. And I’m excited! But not because I’m visiting a new country. Or having another adventure in the Andes. Although both of those are true.

It’s more about the anticipation of how this trip will speak to me.

We’re calling it a pilgrimage — seven other like-minded women and myself. We’re all from different backgrounds with different expectations. But each of us is going with the intention of listening more deeply to how the Spirit might be calling us as we visit a mission in an area of extreme poverty.

I plan to be awake, attentive, and as present as possible. I don’t want to miss anything.

I read recently that after Thomas Merton first visited Gethsemane Abbey, he couldn’t get it out of his mind. Surprisingly, this place had affected him so deeply that he saw that as a “signpost”  — a signpost to which he should pay attention. He kept returning to what he called, “a persistent feeling and idea.”

Merton would eventually leave the secular world and return to Gethsemane to become a Trappist monk. Not exactly a mainstream decision. But he believed the signposts had revealed his calling.

Hmm. A “persistent feeling and idea.” That sounds a lot like what I’ve been experiencing. Ever since November 2012.

Already I’m noticing.

In November 2012 I was mysteriously drawn to an invitation to go on a border awareness trip to El Paso. That experience would change my life.

November 2013 I visited Peru. The earth-centered, rich spirituality of the people there opened me up to the desire of serving and following my heart. Two months later I would return to El Paso to volunteer at the border. With only the realization that I was following a “persistent feeling and idea” deep within that wouldn’t leave me alone. And then last November I received an affirmative response to my request to return to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Now it’s November again. And I’m leaving for Bolivia. Simply because I was attracted to a place. To a people. To the children. The moment I checked out the Amistad Mission website, I felt an inner prompting. Go.

So I am going. And I’m going with an important question on my heart. How do I move forward from here? Because the passion to follow my calling persists. But I have yet to determine the where, the when, and the how.

I’m hoping to pay attention to the signposts that will show up in Bolivia. To listen to my inner guidance. The guidance that’s always trying to get through to me: “See what I’ve put in front of you? Pay attention. There’s a deeper meaning here.”

Small plant on pile of soil, part of it reflected
Small plant on pile of soil, part of it reflected

Like Merton, I want to ask regularly, “What of God is being revealed in this experience?”

Even though I honestly don’t know what I’ll find in Bolivia, I fully expect that the voice of my Higher Self will be eager to speak to me through the “signposts.” Just as it did in Peru, in El Paso, and in Mexico.

Just yesterday morning, after my meditation, I was writing in my journal, reflecting on what I could anticipate on this trip, when I heard its voice pipe up:

Come and see.”

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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