This week, I have been a part of a few conversations that relate to why are we here, in Dodoma, teaching. Other conversations have been around what I like to call “God Moments.” These are the moments when we know God is talking to us or sending us a sign of some sort. I would like to share one of my God Moments that let me know that I am doing what I am meant to be doing.
In an earlier post, I wrote about knowing that YASC and my placement in Tanzania was right. I spoke about filling a void that I had been feeling for a while. I knew in April that I was doing the right thing, and in fact even earlier than that. I would not have continued after discernment weekend in February if I didn’t know that this was right for me, right now. In June, however any shadow of a doubt was erased.
If you remember, at the beginning of June, I spent a week in the community at Taize, France. I spent the week on quiet retreat, sharing a bible study with others from around the world, and taking time to slow down and think about life and what my year to come would mean. This trip is one that would be meaningful, especially to anyone from the US as it’s such a long trip, but I remember leaving and thinking that it was the kind of thing I never expected to do. I had such a powerful experience there! I left with a new appreciation of the closeness I can have with God and a spirit that comes from quiet spaces.
The symbol of the Taize community is a cross in the shape of a dove. It combines the dove (Holy Spirit and Peace) with the Christian cross. While I was there, I bought a necklace with a charm of the Taize Cross. I wanted to be able to have something to bring home with me to remind me of what I learned while I was there. I have worn my cross every day since returning and even sleep with it on. Sometimes I hold the cross when I need to remember to slow down and find a quiet space, no matter where I am.
When I returned to the States, I was home for less than a week before taking off for New York City for orientation. These two weeks were amazing as well! I was able to reconnect with friends I had met a few months earlier, and connect with some that I met for the first time. My fellow YASCers embraced each other like old friends as we began preparing for our individual journeys.
One day that I was most looking forward to was the day we spent at the Holy Cross Monastery in New York. After just having spent a week with the brothers at Taize, I was interested to see how this experience would be different. I really enjoyed my day there, although the experience was quite different than Taize. At one point during the day, we had a little free time, so I decided to go with a small group of fellow YASCers to find and walk the labyrinth on the monastery grounds. I have always had an interest in labyrinths and get a different experience with each one I visit. This particular visit wasn’t about the journey through the twists and turns, or the journey back as most visits to a labyrinth are for me. This one was about what I found in the middle.
Many labyrinths have a stone or altar of some sort in the very center. The one at Holy Cross was a large rock. This rock was covered with things people had left. It reminded me of when I was younger and visited Sacagawea’s gravesite on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. We were told then that people bring things that are meaningful to them as gifts or offerings. In the labyrinth, there were similar gifts. Many people had left coins, but there were other things as well. I remember looking down and seeing a Harley Davidson keychain and rings among the coins. I had my camera with me and decided to take a few pictures of what I was seeing.
I stood up so that my shadow wasn’t crossing the stone and focused my camera. I noticed something bright red on my camera screen and decided that the contrast would make a good focal point for a picture. As the lens adjusted to the zoom, I discovered that the thing I was seeing was a bright red Taize cross, a slightly larger version of the one around my neck.
At first, I thought it was a neat coincidence. I thought of the person who must have left it here. Had he recently returned from a trip such as mine? The cord was a bit more weathered than mine, so it had been here a while. Where was this person now? Then I zoomed in to get a closer look.
I discovered that the coin that was so close that it was nearly touching was one of the US state quarters, but not just any quarter. It was a Wyoming quarter. That in itself would have been amazing, but I have a connection with this quarter that goes beyond being a Wyomingite. I was actually a part of the commissioning ceremony for the quarter when it was first minted in 2007. The University of Wyoming Western Thunder Marching Band was invited to play for the ceremony, and I had a front row seat.
So, as I stood there, at a monastery in New York during YASC orientation, I was able to witness my past, present, and future meeting. I was reminded that you can find a piece of home no matter where you are. I was reminded that at even the busiest of times, you can find a spot of peace. I was reminded that God really knows what He’s doing, and that I am on exactly the path which I am meant to be.