Looking out the window this evening, I see deer grazing in the nearby field. I hope they don’t stroll into my vegetable garden and eat the sweet potato plants. I watch as they follow a small stream into the woods and leave the garden for another day. Relieved, I settle again into the twilight peace of home.
This Pennsylvania countryside of wooded hills and fields has always signified home to me. Growing up in a farmhouse where generations of my ancestors were born and died, I am deeply rooted here. Though I’ve lived in cities, in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and in an isolated Nigerian village, I’ve always returned to the land of silos and barns and woodlots and fields. With my husband Larry, I’ve traveled the world, hiking and exploring from Nepal to Peru, from Malawi to Bulgaria but my heart always turns me toward home.
Home is place but it is also family–my husband, my two daughters and their families. Family life is profoundly adventurous, stretching me into becoming Oma to four granddaughters and learning repeatedly the wisdom in embracing and letting go. Home is my Quaker community, too, another family that has stretched me through decades of quiet worship and deep love, of struggling together and discerning our way forward. The Quaker journey is a spiritual adventure of amazing vitality and power.
I am an adventurer who travels in circles. I go out and return. I’ve discovered in T. S. Eliot’s words, that the true end of exploring is to “arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Returning, I see freshly the beauty in a field of waving grain or in the spring greening of trees, in the brilliant autumn slant of light or in the first toss of snow. When I return to family or Quaker Meeting, there’s deep-rooted gladness to be once more surrounded by their loving, creative tumult. And I say to myself, this this is home.
But even more important is how the adventure of my work has returned me to my starting place. I grew up in a family of ministers and teachers but I happily broke new ground and became a psychologist. For a long time, it was a good fit for me. But then I was called to the work of my ancestors.
I was called to the companioning ministry of leading group retreats and individual spiritual direction. I was called to teach about spiritual formation and prayer. I was called to write. My poetry, published essays, blog musings, and especially my book Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment rise from my soul’s home. I have returned to know that this work, this truth-speaking, heart-tugging work is mine. May I offer it in love.
In the last couple years, I have had another call, that of story-telling. I inherited many family papers and artifacts with stories that I share with my family. One story, however, I offer to everyone. It is the life story of the grandmother I never knew because she died of tuberculosis as a young woman. My new book Fianna’s Story is drawn from her letters and those of her family and tells her story of love, grief and deep faith. I feel I know her now, and love her, too. I hope her story will strengthen your life and faith, as it has mine.