This past month, the YAVs and I travelled to Phoenix, Arizona for a few days due to our invitation to participate and speak at the Synod meeting of the Southwest. Our 6-hour drive, filled with the beauty of glorious canyons, vast skies, and saguaro cactuses, filled my soul with an abundance of joy. Arriving around 9PM to the hotel, the YAVs and I unloaded our suitcases, grabbed our room keys, and quickly rushed to change into our swim clothes in order to take a dip in the pool before turning in for the night. After basking in the richness of our surroundings, we then headed off to our beds, in anticipation for an early morning Synod meeting.
I awoke, breathing in the morning freshness which the new day offers with her rising sun. Arizona never ceases to take my breath away.
The YAVs and I gathered our materials for the day and compiled everything into our packs (speech, notebooks, pens, books). We then travelled to church, greeted all involved in the meeting, and settled in to our seats for the day. Aside from the times when I was able to spend time outside and allow the hot Phoenix sun to sink into my bones, my favorite parts of the meeting were lunch and dinner (and not just because I love to eat!). I thoroughly enjoyed communing together with the people I sat next to through sharing stories and intentionally getting to know one other.
When it was the YAVs time to speak, we gathered our speeches and headed to the front of the room. We wrote our speeches around the prompt: “Take the lead-in, “On the day I came to town, this is what I saw . . . ” and write about an experience, event, happening, incident that you found to be especially meaningful and/or moving.” My story is written below.
“My morning began typical as always: sitting in the front lobby with my laptop, while waiting to assist people who enter through the front doors in search of La Mesa food pantry. As I sat, preparing to begin my work for the day, I heard the front doors open and watched as a small boy whom I recognized enter in. “Hey Ms. Bethany”, he said, as he gathered cans of food into his backpack. Surprised, I began prodding him with questions, in hopes that I may help him journey back to a place where he could find some refuge, such as his house, with his family, or maybe back to school. “I don’t have anywhere to go ‘cuz my father kicked me out this morning and I been sleeping outside since 3am,” he told me nonchalantly, while fidgeting with the office supplies which lay in the front lobby. With this information, I invited him to sit down with me. As we held one another’s presence, I tried racking my brain, in a feeble attempt to find a temporary solution to this systemic problem of neglect and abuse which exemplifies reality for this 13 year old boy. As a teacher, I hold each child delicately and with fierce protection in my heart, as if they were my own. Outside of the classroom, however, I contain no power of dictation. With this realization, I offered all I may to this boy, which was love through words and presence. From these tensions within myself, I learned that although I cannot change this situation, I can and will cast many ripples of love, compassion, and understanding, which will not fix everything, but will offer room for God to reveal God’s Divine presence.”
If you would like to read the full version of all the YAV stories, please click here .
Aside from our adventures in Phoenix, the YAVs and I also spent a weekend at the Norbertine Center, occupied by the Norbertine Catholic Monks (for more information about the Norbertine center, please visit their website).
During our weekend getaway at this profoundly beautiful and sacred place, we dedicated an entire 10 hours to silent prayer. Walking the trails, bird-watching, sitting on a bench and gazing at the turquoise sky, I soaked in the alluring music of silence. As much as my mind wanders, it was no shock to me when I found myself, 9 hours in, exploring off of Norbertine Center property, walking along the side of a canal. ‘I’m going to be late’, my mind repeated, along with ‘Wow look, blooming trees!’ and the latter of my two thought streams kept my feet walking at a steady pace, farther and farther away from the Center. The sounds, smells, and sights surrounded and placed me into this peaceful trance, where I felt this natural amazement for life rise within me. It is as if what separated me from this peace before is that I only needed to tune into the right channel in my mind in order to be in touch with how life-giving every moment truly is.
After walking for what felt like a good while, I decided it was time to turn around and head back to the YAVs and our fearless leader for dinner, before worry for my whereabouts sets in (I did not have my phone on me). I suddenly felt my feet quickening pace, and before I knew it I found myself jogging back on the soft, sandy surface of the canal trail. I knew I enjoyed running, as I run almost every morning before heading to church; however, I did not anticipate the amazing burst of joy for life engulf my entire being as I jogged my way back along this life-giving trail. It felt as though God had bursted through the seams of my skin and woke up every fiber of my being with this strong electric current which screamed, ‘Wake up and smell the roses! You are alive, feel it and enjoy!’Amen. I am, we are, all one body made up of many parts, which is constantly transforming, beaming with radiant love, and filling us all with life. Have you awaken yet to know this miracle? Wake up and smell the roses!
After jogging back to the Norbertine Center, breaking the silence by attending church service, and eating a delicious meal with friends, the gratitude and thanks I felt for life, for God, for all that is, ever was and ever shall be, permeated my being.
Thank you all for reading, praying, living, and enjoying life with me.
“It is the mystery that the heart, which is the center of our being, is transformed by God into God’s own heart, a heart large enough to embrace the entire universe. Through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness, and misery, not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity, but because God’s heart has become one with ours.” –The Way of the Heart