Sunday, February 26, 2017

Flexibility

Eating Texas-shaped waffles at our hotel in northern Texas.
As we got closer to our destination, my excitement intensified. The pines of northern Texas gave way to scrub, cactus, and eventually, palm trees. The temperature on the car thermometer steadily climbed from 57 degrees to 100 degrees. We were getting closer.

Here in “the valley” flexibility is the rule of life. Very little is certain here, except that your plans will certainly be interrupted and changed. That was the case for me as soon as I arrived. I thought I would have a few days to settle in and begin ministry on Monday. Well, I had to be flexible and start right away. Because the valley is by nature bilingual, there is a patience among the people. No one rushes me when I struggle to communicate or find the right word to use. No one brushes me off as being incompetent because I do not know Spanish well. And everyone has welcomed me with open arms.

Just one night’s rest after arriving in Weslaco, I accompanied Sr. Constance to teach English. This was new territory. I was afraid of not knowing enough Spanish. I was afraid of not being able to teach well. But the women welcomed me with open arms and big smiles. As we learned language about family (mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister), I realized that I have something in common with the people of the valley. We have all left our families behind to pursue a life. The “winter Texans” (like snowbirds, but in Texas) leave families behind for a warm retirement. The immigrants of the valley left family behind, sometimes not seeing them for years, to pursue a better life for their children. And I left my family behind to follow God’s call for me.

With all of these transplanted families in the valley, a new extended family is created between parishioners, neighbors, and friends. I have found common ground with the people of the valley. We all stand on common, holy ground.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day One to Texas: Spring in Fast-Forward

Amazingly, I was wide awake this morning when we began our journey to Texas at 6am. So I drove the early morning shift. The quiet was tangible, and as the city lights faded behind us, they were replaced by pillowy clouds of fog cradled in the Kentucky valleys, wrapped in a blanket of night. The scenery invited a peaceful contemplation.

As we ventured further south, little signs of spring began to pop out at me. Trees were flowing and small new-green buds populated branches on the side of the road. (Pictures 1-2)

As we crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas, the scenery moved from hilly to as flat as a pancake. 

Coming from Connecticut originally and having lived in Kentucky for the past year and a half, the flat terrain is jarring to me. Below is a picture of the Tennessee scenery and then the Arkansas scenery. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

A New Adventure

I have a bit of news to tell you...In approximately 1 week, 4 days, 14 hours, 33 minutes, and 48 seconds from the time this was posted, I will be starting the 21 hour drive to Weslaco, TX where I will spend the next 3 months. I will be making an effort to document my journey on this blog, including the prep time remaining and the road trip down. This adventure brings so many firsts for me: my first time living outside the eastern time-zone, my first time driving across the plains of the mid-west, my first time in Texas, my first visit to Mexico, my first time working with immigrants, you get the picture.

While I am a healthy dose of nervous (who wouldn't be with that much change?), I am also very excited and joy-filled. God had a big part to play in the fact that I am even going to Texas. I never thought I would be asking to minister on the border. But back in October when I was discerning about possible placements for my second year of novitiate, I reflected on some of Pope Francis' words, urging us to discern where the margins are in our world today and to go there. At the time, as there still is today, there was much hateful rhetoric about immigrants. And I thought, where else are the margins in our country today if not at the physical border? I felt this spirit pulling me to the border in a very real way.

But where was this feeling coming from? I was never the one to harp around immigration issues. Sure I agreed with those who did, but it just wasn't my passion. But here I am feeling pulled, called, to the Rio Grande Valley to stand at the margins with my immigrant brothers and sisters. As I went to my novice director and described this call I was feeling to her, I soon found out that she had felt the very same call for me and had already started investigating how I might spend some time on the US-Mexico border. How good God is to work in that way!

Teaching migrant children last summer opened my eyes to the hardship of an immigrant's life and the joy they bring to the world.

As I sit here, reflecting on my last year and a half in Kentucky, I am struck by how much the people I have met here mean to me. When I moved here, I quickly realized that I need to be rooted in my community, involved in city events, and making friends in all walks of life. And I have done that. I knew that I would have to say goodbye eventually, and most likely sooner rather than later. But what I didn't anticipate was how much my leaving would affect them.

I'm used to leaving, picking up the roots I so carefully laid out and transplanting them in another place. It doesn't make it any easier each time, but at least I know what to expect. But the people I have met here are not always used to my itinerant lifestyle. Sometimes wires can get crossed and misunderstandings happen. It can feel like a rejection.

But I am not rejecting Kentucky. I am not rejecting Cincinnati. And I am not rejecting the people I have met and so lovingly formed relationships with. In fact, it is just the opposite. I am taking each person with me. I have learned a unique lesson from each relationship and these lessons will help me in my next adventure.