Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Room of One's Own

By the time I arrived at Woodbrooke, it had already been a long traveling day and I was tired.  Between the Metro, Eurostar, walking, train, and bus, I was ready to set my bags down and to rest a while.  So after signing in, a woman brought me upstairs to show me my room.  Walking in behind her, I took a look around and spotting only one bed, became very excited.  A room to myself?  Really?  This was beyond my wildest dreams!  There are truly no words to explain how much this means to me.  I may be an extrovert, but after nearly three weeks of traveling in six countries, some time to myself in private space is exactly what I need.

I want you to know I am extremely grateful to all my hosts, grateful for their kindness, hospitality, and loving grace.  They have been a dear gift I treasure.  But after sharing space for so much time along with dealing with the stress and joys of travel, I love getting to "let my hair down" by myself in my own defined space. 

Upon later exploration, I found a hair dryer which means I get to do my hair up, an extra blanket to cuddle up in, my very own bathroom and shower, a kettle and fixings for tea and hot chocolate, a closet to hang some clothes up instead of always digging in my bag, a desk to write at, a window that opens, and a chair for reading.   Absolute heaven!  I even borrowed a hot water bottle from the Friends in Residence Office, a cherry on top of an already very large ice cream sundae! 

It is also nice to be at this particular conference as it is a writer's conference and I am happy to be with those who share my love of the written word.  I also feel very much a part of this group as this is the fourth meeting I have been a part of and they enjoy having Harriet, another editor of Spirit Rising, and I here as active members.

For those who don't know, Woodbrooke is a Quaker Study Center in Birmingham, England made up of several buildings, the biggest of which is a huge mansion, surrounded by beautiful gardens, a forest, and a lake.  The gardens are a world of their own, a magical place with hidden rooms and paths leading to unexpected delights, the kind of place you would expect to find fairies flying around in the air with the bees.  It is a place of rest and intellectual and spiritual searching and study.  It is just right for me at this time in my journey.  In fact, I have already been able to take the time to write some new poems during a poetry writing workshop this morning.  Oh yes, and the English breakfasts an d tea are delicious.

I tell you this not only to let you know how things are going, but as I have walked this journey, I have developed a passion for helping other traveling ministers by being a voice for them of the joys and the struggles of traveling and speaking.  It is not an easy undertaking and demands far more of the minister than they think they can give.  It also demands a whole new level of self-care, a learning curve of when to push yourself and when to let yourself "off the hook" and go rest. This conference is both a time for me to work on topics I am deeply passionate about and to take the rest I deeply need.  I am immensely grateful for both. 


Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Interview with God

The foothills of the Swiss Alps, Paris streets, and a German café – it has been a whirlwind adventure thus far for our traveling minister. Now at the half-way mark of her European speaking tour, this roving Walking the Sea guest reporter managed to sit down with Sarah on the Eurostar train while heading back to England. While asking the questions you all want to know (I already know), Sarah candidly shared her experiences with me (as she usually does) and the lessons learned while trekking across the European continent.

“Good morning Sarah. How are you doing today?"

“Pretty good. A little tired but I am on the train back to London so I can sit back and relax for awhile while talking to you.”

“Good. We’ll make sure you get to bed at a decent hour after you speak on the poetry panel tonight. But for now, let’s talk. You have been on the road for nearly three weeks. Overall, how has the trip been going for you?”

“The trip has been going well. It has been stressful at times and breathtaking at others. I’ve seen so much that it is going to take me a long time to digest it all.”

“What are some of your favorite things you’ve seen?”

“Many cathedrals and churches including St. Paul’s, Cologne, Sacre-Coeur, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapell, and one in Brussels. I’ve also explored many museums such as the Louvre, Rodin Museum, Dutch Resistance Museum, and the one on the history of London. I also loved seeing the original works at the British Library and a German poet’s museum in Germany. Two that really moved me deeply though and meant a lot to me were the Anne Frank House and the Corrie Ten Boom Museum.”

“What was so inspiring about those?”

“Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom are household names in America and were part of my education. They were stories I knew well but hearing a story and then visiting the houses where the events took place are entirely different experiences. I can read about the hiding place in Corrie’s bedroom all I want, but to stand inside it with five other people, the amount in hiding when the family was arrested, the truth becomes known in your body and what they did reaches way down deep inside me.”

“You also had some interesting thoughts in Europe about World War II you haven’t shared. What are those?”

“Being in Europe itself was also life changing. You hear a story but then when you visit the place, it becomes so much more real to you. Going to the beach, Marielke and Fritz told me as we sat in the dunes that they are still finding buried bodies from World War II when the Nazis would take their Jewish and political prisoners and make them dig their own graves there before shooting them. I am born a Jew and though it is above my grandmother’s generation (usually the cut-off for the Nazi’s), I am still racially Jewish and involved at Temple so I don’t think they would have had a problem killing me too. Besides being in places I would have been killed, not that I wouldn’t be killed for being a woman or Christian at other times and places, seeing the repercussions and hearing people’s stories of their families, I realized it is not something that happened 70 years ago, but is part of the fabric of life today. Temples still have tight security in Europe as anti-Semitism in still around.”

“You have spent a lot of time with people from other cultures. What has that been like?”

“For most of my time thus far, I have been the only person from my country. At the conference in Switzerland of 80-90 people, there were people from 26 different countries including a few Americans. Among the young adults there were 10 countries represented, I was the only American, and seven countries in my small group. I have really enjoyed these times of getting to know people from all over the world. It helps me gain a wider perspective on life, to not be so boxed in within my own culture, to be able to see past it and that there are many ways of speaking and living. By knowing and appreciating other people’s cultures, it has helped me see the light and dark sides of my own.”

“What are one of the major differences between European and Western American culture?”

“Most people in European cities take public transportation whereas in Oregon, we drive most places. This affects so many things! For instance, there are no car parks. The whole time I’ve been in Europe, I have only seen one car park and that was a small one outside Versailles. Most people who do drive park on the street and those cars are really small. Since people have to carry the food they buy, there are many small markets and food comes in smaller packages for easier carrying. I have not seen a single supermarket the whole time.

The houses and flats are also a lot smaller than in America, much more compact. They don’t have the drive to accumulate stuff like many people in my country do, there is no place to put it, and they are much more conscious of how their choices affect the earth.”

“You don’t speak Flemish, German, Swiss, or French. How have you got along language wise?”

“It has been really hard. I liken it to a cat having tape put on its paws. Cats sense a lot through their paws and having that sense taken away is very limiting. It feels like your hands and feet have been tied up as well as a gag over your mouth for you don’t understand the signs either in addition to conversations. Being a speaker and writer, having my career and this ministry based on the English language, this has been particularly difficult. I learned to tune most everything out, all the conversations and all the signs. In Germany I was in a huge bookstore and was not tempted to pick up even one book. This is huge for me as I love reading but all the books were in German so I just tuned them out. Most of my world has been tuned out. I have managed to learn to figure things out and get the gist of what some of the signs say and that has helped. I have also learned to search for someone who speaks English who can help me find my way. This has not been easy to do at times when each of us speaks very little of the other’s language but we usually get the gist across. One word I did learn pretty quickly is the French word for exit, sortie. That was a helpful one to know. Still, I have spent so much time conversing and spending time with people from other countries that it has become a huge treat to talk to someone who speaks English with an accent similar to my own. This gives my ears and brain a break from trying to understand all the different accents! It has been funny standing in lines for the various sights when I find myself next to someone from America or Canada (this does not happen often) who has something near my accent. We are so happy to talk for a few minutes together!”

“Traveling alone cannot be easy while dealing with these challenges. What has that been like for you?”

“Well, first, I am not alone. You are with me everywhere I go. But you’re right, it is hard not having any other human with me on a continual basis for such a long trip. Some people I am seeing in more than one place and that helps but it is a lot of saying hello and goodbye again and again and when there is a problem while traveling from place to place, I have had to find ways to deal with it on my own. I have loved spending time with my European friends and getting to know new ones. At the same time, it can be lonely when you do so much traveling by yourself. It is probably one of the hardest things about this trip.”

“How have you dealt with the loneliness?”

“Blogging on here has helped ease the stress of traveling by myself and hearing comments back on here and facebook helps immensely. If people wanted to support me while on this journey, that is something they could do that only takes a bit of time but gives me great joy. Not being able to communicate much in the countries I’ve been in, I know I can talk and lift my voice up on the internet and it is nice to know I have been heard and to hear back from friends.”

“Do you have any advice for someone traveling in the ministry on their own?”

“Oh yes! Have a few people back home who you can really talk to, be deeply honest with and trust and who are encouraging and loving. Make sure they are people who will respond back to you when you contact them through e-mail or Facebook and that they will be with you when you need to vent or share your frustrations and joys, people who will let you know you are heard and loved. This is what has helped me the most, these friends who help ground me and let me know someone is listening.

Also, if possible, spend time with people you already know from other places. While here, I have had the delight of getting to know better people I have traveled with in Kenya and spoken to in America. Some of these people I am seeing more than once and that helps as well. They have been those I ask for feedback on the talks and they who I rely on for help and companionship while here. In fact, there are not many times on this trip when I am not with someone I have already known or at least met.”

“How about any other advice for people traveling in the ministry in general?”

“Keep investing their time in a relationship with you. Nearly every morning, I read a portion of the Bible and think about what sticks out to me from what I’ve read. We also talk throughout the day and it is your strength I rely on when I don’t think I can go any further. There have been times I have been exhausted with aching legs and back, simply concentrating on putting one foot in front of another, and I feel you pick me up into your arms and carry me where I need to go. Having additional reading to feed me has been very helpful in learning about you. My pastor gave me a book to deliver to someone she knows in England and suggested I read it myself before I meet up with him and my spiritual director gave me the Sunday Missal with reading and reflections from the mass while I’m gone. Spending all this time with unprogrammed Quakers when I am used to a more structured style of church, these tools have been important. I also have been keeping a journal, not even necessarily about the trip, just things I need to talk out with you.”

“What have you been learning spiritually?”

“A huge lesson came yesterday as I was standing in line for the Louvre Museum. This is usually a line people try to avoid but it turned out to be one of my favorite moments in the whole day. On my ipod was a song I used to sing in youth group when I was in high school, a song I love, and I was reading the book Peggy gave me to deliver. What the author says has given me a lot to think about, and really, would be a whole blog post in itself, but in this interview, I’ll say it has taught me a new level of freedom living in your world, in your love. Instead of trying to learn how to do things better, I’ve been learning to live and love and BE and things another spiritual director once told me I see in greater clarity. I also learned that the sight seeing, the exploration and expanding of my mind and perspectives is also part of my work as a traveling minister. Realizing that made my time looking around a lot less stressful, more joy-filled and more relaxed. I also learned if you are standing in line trying not to cry for the truth of it all, people are too busy taking pictures of the building to notice.”

“What are you really glad you brought with you?”

"There are a few things I usually bring with me when I travel such as my watch, alarm clock, and Rick Steves backpack. However, there are a few things that have come with me for the first time that have made a world of difference. One of these is my ipod. I usually only listen to it on the long distance trains, when I’m alone, or waiting in a line, so at other times I can be aware of my surroundings and with the people I came to see but it is my comfort object. It is what gives me familiar sounds and feelings in a foreign land. I also bought the inside bags for the Rick Steves backpack and I am never traveling without them again! These three bags, one large, two smaller, make living out of a backpack so much easier, I cannot tell you just how much. Things stay organized and I am so glad I bought them. My daypack is another bag that is exactly what I needed. My cousin’s friend makes these and we made a barter deal for this one. Inside are many pockets, large and small, and as the trip has gone on, each thing in the bag has found the place it goes back to. I love this bag! It is my nearly constant companion wherever I go. The last item I cannot even imagine I was going to travel without is my netbook. A netbook is a small laptop with a ten inch screen and limited capabilities, light and compact. Realizing how much writing I had to do while on the trip, I wrestled with the decision of purchasing one to bring along and I have used it every day. It has not hindered me experiencing where I am at but has helped me stay organized, in touch with people, and has helped expand my writing time to you all ten-fold. Yay for netbooks!

There is also a whole other category of things I have that mean a great deal to me. In the last few days as I was preparing to leave, a few of my friends gave me small gifts to take along. My spiritual director gave me the Sunday Missal, as I’ve already said, another friend knitted me hand warmers and yet another gave me a pair of gloves. One friend gave me a pair of earrings I never have to take out and one gave me a blank journal. Two of the necklaces I brought are also gifts I’ve been given in the past along with a fuzzy pair of purple socks for comfort. One friend gave me a massage the day before I left and that has stayed with me too. With these items as constant reminders, I feel the love of my friends all around me, buoying me up as I’ve walked this journey. They are like warm hands placed on my heart.”

“Tell us about the talks you have been giving.”

“So far, I have spoken about Spirit Rising at Watford Friends Meeting, Der Haague Friends Meeting, and at the Friends House in Paris. In Watford I also spoke to the youth about Freedom Friends Church and evangelical Quakerism in my area and in Switzerland, I spoke about my passion for writing and about being honest with your readers. My next talk is speaking on a poetry panel tonight at the Quakers Uniting in Publications Conference in Birmingham, England. All these talks have gone well and people really enjoy hearing about Spirit Rising and my experiences as a writer. Giving these talks have been my favorite part of the whole trip! I usually start out by telling people about the book, how it came about and our process of putting it together. I then read a few pieces aloud, always including the poem describing the process of our editorial board working together cross-culturally, The Journey Worth Taking, and the story, Phish Food. I read Phish Food because I can always make an audience laugh whenever I read that story and I love to make people laugh.”

“You’ve been very busy. When do you breathe?”

"On the trains. I breathe and relax on the trains and they have quickly become hours I look forward to because I know that for a while, I can get lost in my own world. I work on my writing, look out the window, read a book, or just listen to my ipod. I also have the sense when I am on a train that you are bringing me to the next place you want me to be, that this is your itinerary and you know whose lives need to be blessed as I go along. Like a sower of seed, I walk through fields scattering your love and the deepest truth of you and when I am done, you take me to the next field. I know I won’t see what happens to the seed, but I don’t need to. I’m quite happy to be the one scattering them about and then stepping onto the train to head to the next field. I am hoping there will be a trail of flowers and life I leave behind.”

“Do you miss home?”

“No. I miss that face-to-face time with people I love to talk to instead of having to use e-mail or Facebook and I miss meaningful touch but that is it. I am in Europe and my mind is here, my thoughts are here. I am living in this moment, this time and place. This is the work I am given to do. For now, this is my life and I am happy in that.”

“Are we going to be seeing more blog posts from you?”

“Most definitely and far more often! The first half of the trip has been very different from the second. The first half had many days when I was out and about from morning to night and the second half I am free for many of the evenings and on trains much more often. This gives me a lot more time to write which is great because I have several good blog posts on the way.”

“Where are you going next?”

“I am heading to London for a few hours to tour Friends House and see friends who work there and then I’m taking a train north to Birmingham for the Quakers Uniting in Publications Conference. I’m looking forward to the writing workshops and specified writing time. I also hear the grounds are beautiful. It should be a rich time.”

“Thank you for the gift of your time. It’s been interesting to talk with you as it always is. I love hearing what is on your mind and I’m sure our readers will as well.”

“Thanks for the great talk God. I always love confiding in you, you really listen and ask good questions. And I’m really glad you’re on this journey with me. You absolutely fascinate me with all you’re teaching me. If I could ask one thing, please use me to bless those around me. Let them feel you inside of me. That would be to me great joy.”

And so our traveling minister continues to walk the world, praying the message I have given her is somehow communicated to wherever she is being sent. I know for a fact she would appreciate your continued prayers and occasional messages as she begins the second half of her journey. I am with you all.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

How the Lion Learned to Roar

I was sitting tonight in business meeting as the Europe and Middle East Section of FWCC made nominations for the needed committees while we’re here in Herzberg, Switzerland. It’s often interesting to see how other Quakers besides my own meeting do business as my meeting is, admittedly, of a different variety, particularly as it relates to time and business conducted. Our meetings tend to be very simple, straightforward and as many of us were not brought up Quaker, they are pretty quick as well. One day, our pastor hopes we will have something truly controversial to discuss to see how we handle it, controversial being a deeply relative term for our church, but as of yet, this has not come to be. So I sit in the business meetings of other groups of Friends, observing the differences and the similarities in relation to what I know.

As an example, here in Europe, when agreeing on an item of business, they say, “hope so” whereas at home we would say, “affirmed”. Not understanding what everyone was saying, I asked my neighbor and she later inquired if I was a new Quaker. I told her I wasn’t but explained that different groups of Friends in America reply in business meetings in different ways. It’s a truth important for us all to remember: the ways we know are not everyone’s ways. We are all different. This has been very apparent this trip.

After business meeting, the clerk ran though the schedule for the next morning. This year, the Europe and Middle East Section of FWCC, the Europe and Middle East Young Adult Friends, and the Executive Committee are all meeting together. I’m not sure of the exact number, but there are over 80 Friends from all over the world here in Herzberg. Some things on our schedules are all together and some are separate. Since I had only seen the Young Adult schedule, I had assumed that the morning session where I will be speaking with four other people from around the world reflecting on four questions was only going to be with the young adults. Apparently not. It’s one of the times when we are all together.

It’s probably a good thing we had a bit of quiet after that announcement because what was going through my head was something along the lines of, “All eighty? All these weighty Friends whom I respect from so many countries? (Breathing.) Okay...” My reaction reminded me, on a somewhat smaller scale, of what I felt in Kenya when I was told I would be speaking first thing in the morning to 1,200 people. With this history, it wouldn’t surprise me if I was first up. Although that can be good when they have no one to compare you to yet! But right on the heels of this first thought came the second. I’ve already spoken to 1,200 people and as Ruth so beautifully whispered to me before I went up that day, “If you can talk in front of them, you can talk in front of anybody!” But more than this encouragement, that morning had already given me strength that changed me forever. Strength I know will be flowing through me tomorrow.

What happened that morning on the drive to the Kenya youth conference, something I have never written publicly about, is a conversation between God and I in the front seat of the van. I was praying for wisdom and that God would supply me with the right words to say and the ability to say them without a translator to such a large audience. I wasn’t nervous about the speaking or even the number of people in the audience, I was quivering a bit inside because of God’s trust in me to speak to so many. But what God told me are words I will forever treasure, words that still bring me to my knees in tears: “You were right.” I knew exactly what was meant. All those times people told me they didn’t see me in ministry, that they wouldn’t put me up in front of an audience, or didn’t believe in my abilities as a speaker, though I knew without a doubt that is what I was born to do, I was indeed right the whole time. God then told me, “Go and take your rightful place,” which filled me with visions of Simba walking up Pride Rock to take his rightful place at the end of The Lion King. I took that microphone that morning with a steady hand, an iron rod of steel strength up my back which has never left. Around my neck was a lion’s tooth hanging on a beaded necklace, a necklace that will also be around my neck tomorrow. A lion is a special image between God and I and I sometimes wear this necklace to remind myself of the truths I’ve been taught.

So tomorrow morning I am going to walk up there to the front of the room and share with them what I have to say. I am going to be strong and courageous for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go, the Mighty Lion who taught this lion how to roar.

Speaking in Kenya at the youth conference

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Road to Herzberg

So how long do you think it will take before the people here realize they are being blogged about?  Most here don't know who I am yet (it won't take long) and don't know I'm a blogger so I'll be able to get away with some things until they do.  The house church I go to have never figured it out. 

I arrived here in Switzerland tonight from Dusseldorf, Germany after taking four trains and one bus.  The bus dropped Marielke and I off on a hillside next to a road going further up a hill.  There wasn't anything else there, just a sign pointing to "Herzberg".   I wish life was that simple!  Being able to follow such complex directions, we started our ascent up into the stars for there were many all around us.  It was extraordinarily beautiful.  I looked for my dear friend Orion but didn't see him shining his light.  Since he was the only constelation I recognized while I was in Kenya, he has become a special friend no matter where I go.  

Some of the other Young Adult Friends already here met us partway up the hill and helped us with our luggage.  One girl took my backpack, though she may have immediately regretted that choice, for after about 20 meters higher in elevation, I heard her say to the people behind me, "This bag is heavy!" and I shouted back down, "You're telling me!"  I'm glad they laughed.  It is a heavy bag but it is for five and half weeks of travel and I have multiple copies of five different books in there.  (If you are someone I will see during this trip, please buy them.  I really would like a lighter bag.)

Finally we arrived at our intended row of lighted windows.  (It was dark so I couldn't see much else.)  Inside we're several young adults who introduced themselves including people from Russia, Norway, Germany, and Britain.  Truth be told, and this is a private confession so don't tell anybody I said this, but I am a little nervous.  Walking into a room full of strangers from a diverse array of countries and no one from yours is a little intimidating.  But hopefully, you would never know that by looking at me. 

Earlier tonight before we arrived they had a worship sharing where they opened up with their hopes and fears for the conference.  My hope is I represnet Spirit Rising in a way that honors what we dream of for the book, the reality that it is, and honors all those people who put so much energy into making sure it became a reality you could hold and read.  I also hope they like me.  I guess everyone is hoping that.  My fear is I won't represent the book well or even myself.  But fear is not of the Lord and if he called me here, he has equipped me to meet the task!  Just as Martin Luther put it so well, "Here I stand.  I can do no other."

One Young Woman came up to me while I was in one of the main rooms and introduced herself as someone who contributed to Spirit Rising.  I asked her which piece she wrote for the book.  Having read it four times, I recognize many of them if described.  When she told which it was, I had to smile and I shared with her that her piece was one of the ones I regularly read to groups when giving a presentation about the book.  (That was fun to tell her that!)  For those of you who have heard one of my presentations, it's the poem about silence. 

Coming to this conference marks a definate change on this trip.  Up to now, I have only been in front of an audience for a few hours at a time but now I will be representing the book to international Friends around the clock for the next couple of days.  This is more demanding and involves better self-care.  On the upside, it will also give me more time to write here.

It will be very interesting to see what happens tomorrow. 

(I apologize for any misspellings.  I have tried my best to spell words correctly but the back up spell checker thinks I speak Swedish since I'm  in Switzerland.  It is certain nearly all the words are spelled wrong.)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miles to Go Before I Sleep - Part 3

It is Sunday morning and Vivian and I have to catch the train to Der Haague for meeting. As breakfast went a bit long, we booked it to the station (walking very fast). Blessedly, Vivian is a gentleman and took my bag for me leaving me with my smaller bag and sleeping bag Hetty lent me. And though my leg is better now, it is still a very fast walk and my legs are aching from the exercise of the last week. Still, for twenty minutes we hurry along the canal with Vivian apologizing near the end, telling me he has been told he is a very fast walker. I reply, “Yes. You are. But we are in a hurry” and he agrees.  I want to stop and God blessedly gives us a reason when Vivian shows me a blue herron from two yards away. " Thank you God for the little break!" I think to myself.  After taking a train and then hurrying to a tram, we arrive at meeting a little late but are there in one piece. Afterward, Marielke and I take the two bikes to the supermarket then her flat while Fritz takes my big bag on the tram. After resting (thank you!), they ask if I would like to go the beach. YES!!! What they don’t tell me is that it is over five miles away. (I am sure this was a part of the phone calls in Dutch.)  I have never biked that far before and haven’t been on a bike on a regular basis in ten years. I only tell them this later. Occasionally, Marielke or Fritz come along side me in pity and help push me up the hills.  (Do not tell this to the other boot camp commanders.)  In all, we bike 14.1 miles around Der Hague. Dinner never tasted so good.

Today I can’t even tell you how many miles I have walked between the power walk to the tram and then all around Dusseldorf.  I have been learning to just keep putting one foot in front of another and that when they say, "around the corner," they mean several blocks down the street.

So now you too know why weight is such a rare problem here in Europe and why it feels like I’m in boot camp. But I have to give credit where credit is due. Though my friends came up with this fun game of pushing Sarah beyond what she thought she could do, they have been there every step of the way encouraging and pushing and looking behind to make sure I’m keeping up. If not for them, I would have missed trains, taken more breaks, not gone as far, and, truth be told, not had nearly as much fun. A challenge to be certain but one that has been entirely worth it. God has been using the community around me to bring me father than I thought I could go, to do more than I thought I could ever accomplish. It expands my belief in myself. It is helping me understand on a deeper level the value of community: they bring you to more than yourself, or help you know better the strength within yourself.  Even the hard parts of ministry can be fun.So, yes, it’s boot camp but I can do it! 

(Since each stage gets successively harder, if I don’t come back from Switzerland, please send someone in after me. I’ll be the one panting by the road in a heap, a large red backpack squishing me down.)


Monday, April 18, 2011

Miles to Go Before I Sleep - Part 2

Delft is a beautiful town and the village just outside of it, Den Hoorn, is a lovely little village. The day after I arrive, Vivian lends me a bike and we bike from where he lives in Den Hoorn to the train station in Delft. Though we get on the same train (translation: so I could get on the right one), he gets off in Leiden and I continue on to Amsterdam where I will be spending the day. Amsterdam’s main city center is a spider web of canals radiating out from the train station. It’s quite extraordinary. On my list are three places I really want to see and wouldn’t you know it? They are in three very different places along the spider web of canals. But today I decide to save my feet. I spot a hop on/hop off canal tour that has four lines going through the canals and you can get off at various spots to go see things nearby. It was the canal ride for me. Best euros I've ever spent. I’m not even sure I would have been able to see all three places without it. (What those three were is for another post.)  Heading back to Den Hoorn, I managed to find the right trains but got lost bicycling in the village. A group of older folk saved me on this one as they lent me a phone to call Vivian. I learned enough to have his phone number on hand but not his address. Go figure.

The next day was a simple matter of walking, trains, and biking which by this point, I was used to. I think that is when my friends made some secret phone calls in Dutch and decided to see just how far the American can go.  And so a new week in European boot camp began.


Miles to Go Before I Sleep - Part 1

Many people have wished me well on this trip and commented on what a wonderful time I must be having and indeed I am.  Just last night I got to watch the sun set over the rooftops of Dusseldorf, Germany and it was a beautiful sight.  The talks so far have gone very well and Friends here have been very welcoming and kind.  However, on a trip like this, there are also times of stress and of striving to meet difficult challenges when you want to stop and take a break.  There are times when you are tired, at your end, and wounded.  This too, is a part of traveling in the ministry and also, an important one to talk about.  Adjusting to a different way of life can sometimes take more than you think you have.  Coming from an area where people usually drive to get where they want to go, the physical demands of being in Europe has probably been the most difficult for me thus far, not to mention getting where I need to go while not understanding the language.  Thus, I wrote this post to honor the difficult parts we all have when traveling in the ministry.   It is probably the part I will learn from the most.

So, you all want to know what Europe is like. I’ll tell you. Boot camp. It’s just like boot camp, except with better food. Even after just nine days, I have been put through the paces and I now know why seeing an overweight person is an extremely rare sight in Europe.

I am beginning to suspect the friends I am staying with got together and planned this out before I arrived because boot camp has come in succeeding stages, each calling for more endurance and energy than the last.

When I was staying with Simon, they went relatively easy on me. After all, I was a very green recruit and they opted to break me in gently. Simon had a car so he picked us up and dropped us off at the train stations. However, I still had to manage the tube as my first challenge. You may be thinking, “But Sarah, even I know the tube is the name for the underground trains in London. How strenuous is it to sit on a train?” If you are asking that question, you have obviously never been to London. Yes, it is pretty easy to sit on the tube but you have to first get to the tube and getting to the right tube station and then the right platform involves a maze of tunnels, stairs, enormous escalators, and lifts. Then once you are in London, you are on your feet the whole time and the city is extensive. I can’t even imagine how many miles I walked in London alone.

When I went to stay with Hetty, things got a little harder. Hetty lives about a fifteen minute walk from the nearest tube station. The neighborhood in Tufnell Park is quite beautiful but Hetty had to draw me a map so I could figure out all the turns to get to her flat. So now I had the walk to and from the tube plus the tube plus walking around London. Doing that is when I strained a muscle. (At least, that is what I am guessing I did.) Wounded, but I survived Stage 2.

At this point, they up the ante a couple of levels for Stage 3. I wish they didn’t have such faith in me and my level of endurance. Let me tell it to you from the perspective of working through it:

First, with the heavy weight of my bag (and I thought I packed pretty light!) on my back, I walk to the tube, catch the Northern Line to St. Pancreas Train Station, find my way through there, get through the border checks and onto the Eurostar which takes me to Brussels. Now, for the second time in my life, first time on my own, I am in a country that doesn’t speak my language and all the signs are either in French, Flemish, or Dutch, none of which I understand. I manage with some Euros my mother gave me to get change for the loo, use the loo, then find the section of the station for the Metro. Finding people who speak a bit of English, I manage to get on the right one, then make the correct transfer. From there I have to find my way to Friend’s House though fortunately, I had looked at a map of the location in the US so I find my way. Still, carrying all my stuff makes this quite a bit more of a challenge and by the time I arrive at Friends House, I drop my stuff on the floor and sink down into a chair while John hurries to the sink for a glass of water to revive me which I gratefully accept.

After walking around Brussels, I reload my bags onto my back and set off for the grueling trip to the Netherlands. First, I take the wrong street and so have to ask for help to find my way to the station. Then, instead of simply reversing what I did that morning, I have to find a different station. Ideally, this will be easier but I don’t know the language and I have no sense of direction in this city. Two people tell me this is the right Metro, one person says it is not. I go with the majority. The majority is wrong. So now I am on the wrong train with no map of the metro trying to find my way back with all the signs in Flemish. By now, if not quite a bit earlier, people can hear the desperation in my voice. With their help, I find my way to the right station, and after a time, the right train to Delft. Now you think my stress would be over, but no, there are two stations in Delft. Which one am I supposed to be at? I decide on the main one but my friend is not there to meet me. Did I choose the right one? Should I find a train to the other? By this time I am an inch from sitting down and crying. This is quite stressful! I neglected to write down his address and phone number, it’s in my e-mail which I do not have access to nor do I have a phone. I sit down on a bench, put my stuff beside me, and take a shaky breath. Deciding to try for internet anyway, I find you can pay for internet. Though expensive, I decide it is worth it and I get the phone number then call my friend on a kind man’s phone. When my friend comes to get me, he asks how I am doing and that is when the tears finally win the battle. Wisely, he takes my bag from me and we walk home and he and his wife feed me. It seems I hit the wall after 5-7 days in boot camp of the foreign country variety, typically after a stressful day trying to get somewhere on my own. I know from past experience, it gets better from here. And, after all, I did manage to get myself from Hetty’s to Vivian’s passing through three countries so I am rather proud of myself. However, little did I know this was just the test that would launch me into Stage 4 of European Boot Camp.


How Small a World is It?

John and I had arrived back at the Friends House in Brussels after he showed me around the Grand Place and nearby environs. Paul, who had not been at his desk when John had introduced me around to the staff that morning stood up to greet me and when he found out where I was from, he said to me, “Let’s find out just how small a world this is. Do you know this person? She is from Oregon too and I’ve been reading her blog about a trip to Africa she took last year. A friend of mine went too but she had a lot more information.”

I ask, “Has she changed the background?”

“Yes, she has changed it recently.”

“That would be me.”

“Wow! It IS a small world!”

By this time, the whole office is cracking up. It’s a small world after all.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

You Know this Painting?


"What did you say about that painting, Simon?" I ask from across the small wooden gallery.
"It was painted here."
"You know this painting?" he asks in surprise.
"Of course!" Hugh and I exclaim together.

I join them over by the stairs for a closer look.  I know the painting well but I have never stopped to look closely at the architectual details but when I do, my jaw drops to the floor.  It WAS painted here.  Oh my gosh.  Are you kidding me? How amazing is that?  All the details are there, down to the spindles on the back of the bench.  Simon suggests going downstairs for a picture and that perhaps, when we develop the film, Christ will be seen standing beside us.

Hugh, who is from Ireland, Emily, who is from London, and I take our places on the facing bench looking out into the room just like in the painting, trying to look worshipful while grinning inside.  After taking the photos, we actually do sit there for a while in quiet before heading outside, to take in and try to hear the voices of all those who had worshiped there throughout several centuries including many of George Fox's original followers. It felt rather like stepping through some magical doorway into a world you have only dreamed about but is now very real.

Being one of the oldest meeting houses, just think of all the words those walls have heard.  At the time we were there, there was a talk going on in another room about how a building is infused with what has gone on within it, that there is an unseen memory.  What kind of memory does Jordans Friends Meeting have?  To me, it felt sacred, hallowed, as if I was entering into a larger circle of living fellowship beyond what my hands could grasp.  The Friends there must feel the same way because that belief is illustrated in how they laid out their graveyard.  The gravestones may be very simple, but the truth they stand for is simpler still,  yet it reaches down to the depths of living testimoney.

The gravestones are set up as in meeting, the people burried there are still listening to the voice of God.  Alive in a deeper sense than we are, we sat with them in meeting, hoping to catch a bit of what they were hearing, the words that were transforming them so they might transform us too.  Can you imagine the reality they live in?  They are listening to God far better than we.  Seeing the gravestones like that tells me that death doesn't stop us from being in God's presence.  It doesn't stop their community nor the holding of their light together.   They may not be present in the meeting house as they are pictured in the painting, gone from the building and moved outside, but they left behind truth and love that will never leave, that you can almost sense around you when you sit where they have been. 

They may be there in the graveyard, but the truths of their lives rise far above the grass that covers them, it goes on sharing with us that we are all in a cirlce, a community going far beyond denomination, beyond being Quakers, reminding us of a deeper commonality of all being in relationship with God and thus in relationship with each other, smaller circles inside larger circles.  Maybe if someone painted us in the graveyard, they could paint all the people sitting in the circle with Christ in the center, smiling at this wide community of friends.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Learning the Language

British English versus American English are two different languages.  On top of pronouncing words differently we use different words for the same things.  My first few days in England were partially spent learning and getting the hang of these words and learning to understand the British accent.  Here are several words I have learned to use.

Queue – A line
Loo – Bathroom or restroom
A lie-in – Sleeping in
Uni – University
Tely - Telivision
Biscuit - Cookie
Tea – English Tea, usually with milk and sugar


Discovering God Through the World of Harry Potter

After visiting London for several days, I have a whole new appreciation for Harry Potter. In America, the whole world of the wizarding world is fantastical with a whole new language and ways of doing things. But it is not like that in England. For British readers, it is their world, a culture based off their culture. They know what boarding schools are like and they know the tests the O.W.L.S. are based off of. They can picture Kings Cross in their mind and what it’s like to walk the London streets. They know the kind of house Harry would live in. Coming here has felt a little like entering Harry’s world at times, seeing and experiencing things I’ve read in the books and seen in the movies. Attending the football game, I now understand far better the spirit of Quiditch and what it means to the wizarding community. Though I couldn’t understand the last three syllables, at one point the crowd chanted nearly the same thing they chant in the movies, “Go! Go! Gryffindor!” Other things that gave me a better understanding of the stories were seeing King’s Cross Station, ordering something off the trolley on the train, seeing and being inside a British house, and feeling the panic of finding the right platform when you know the train is coming soon.

This is one of the things I like best about travel. Stories I have only heard come alive before my eyes. Having just seen pictures, I am now inside of them, from a flat image to objects you can touch and feel, scents you can smell, chairs you can rest in. From hearing about King Henry VIII to walking in the rooms where he lived, from hearing about the Romans to seeing their walls, coins, and sculpture. By experiencing these things, my world widens; I have a wider perspective and things in my own life are brought into a better balance. My images of God are broken as well. We tend to place God in the culture where we live but when we see other cultures, we see new reflections of the one we worship, new lights to mix with our own. We enter into the story of the one we love on an ever deeper level, letting it become ever more real to us. By moving beyond whatever boxes we are in, whether through travel, making a new friend, or trying a new experience, it can be like stepping into a whole new world and understanding it a little better. It feels rather magical to me.


Loose in London

I’m writing this while on the Eurostar, traveling from London, England to Brussels, Belgium. At the moment, we are traveling in the tunnel underneath the English Channel. Having researched the other options, this is by far the easiest way to travel to the continent from London.

The last several days have been extraordinarily full but I expect the pace to slow a bit for a while so I will be posting more often. To catch you up, I landed in London last Saturday morning. The flight was very smooth and I had no problem at the border though I had to wait in the longest line I’ve ever seen to get into the country. Simon, George, and Hugh came to pick me up and took me back to Simon’s house where we and some other young Friends talked in their garden. In the afternoon, we walked to the local stadium to watch the Watford Football Team (soccer for you Americans) play Hull. We lost by one goal but I loved watching the game. It’s different than watching sports in America. The team supporters have chants and songs they all sing together and there is much more of a community feel to the games versus in America where the teams are supported here and there. At least, this is how it is where I am from. Also, the stadium is right in the middle of the city with houses and shops bordering the stands. There is no car park (parking lot) around it. You park on the street, take a bus, or walk. Many walk. After a game, the streets around the stadium are packed with people walking home.

In the evening, Emily and Hugh from last year’s Quaker Youth Pilgrimage stayed over night and some Friends from Watford meeting came over for dinner. I met Simon, Hugh and Emily when I spoke to the group about Spirit Rising and my trip to Kenya. Emily is from Wimbledon, south of London, and Hugh is from Dublin, Ireland. It was a fun reunion!

Sunday morning we all went to Watford Monthly Meeting. After fifteen minutes of worship, Simon, Emily, Hugh, and I left with the youth group to another room where I spoke with them about my own monthly meeting, Freedom Friends Church, and evangelical Quakers in general. Simon thought it would be interesting for them to hear about other ways of being Quaker. It was nice to have Emily and Hugh there as they could also share their experiences of Quakers in the Northwest. After meeting, I gave a presentation on Spirit Rising for which most people stayed. It is, I believe, the smoothest presentation I have given thus far on the book and this reassures me as I am giving it many more times in various forms. Hugh thought it went really well and told me it was just as interesting the second time around as when he first heard it last summer.

In the afternoon, Simon drove us out to Jordans Friends Meeting but as I am writing a post telling you of our visit, I will not go into it here. Afterward, Simon dropped the three of us at the train station and we took a train into London to walk around Kennsington Gardens. After stopping for ice cream, we walked around seeing the Elfin Tree (a tree with little elves carved out of the wood), the Prince Albert Memorial, the Siene Lake, and after asking around, we finally found the Peter Pan statue commemorating where James Barry wrote his classic story. Afterward, Emily headed home and Hugh and I headed back to the Colbeck’s for dinner.

On Monday morning Simon came with me into London to see some of the shts. At the British Library, we viewed some of the greatest written treasures of Europe. There were original scores handwritten by Handel, Beethoven, and Schubert, a handwritten manuscript of Jane Eyre, scientific notes of Leonardo Da Vinci and Charels Darwin, Bibles and fragments from throughout the last 1,800 years, Jane Austen’s writing desk, and King Henry VIII’s prayer scroll among many, many other priceless treasures.

Our next stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral but on the way, I asked Simon if we could stop off at Kings Cross Station. Asking why I would want to stop there, I replied with no little delight, “Platform 9 3/4!” It is at this point, I got a look along the lines of, “Think you’re being funny do you? There is no such place.” I assured him there was, that it was from Harry Potter, and though he didn’t believe me, even asked if I was sure it wasn’t St. Pancreas Station, I told him I was sure it was at King’s Cross. Still skeptical, we asked one of the attendants and instead of also replying, “Think you’re being funny do you?” he blandly answered, “Down there, left then left” as if he said this a hundred times a day which I am sure he does. Shocked that I was telling the truth, we found the platform and Simon took a picture of me pushing the cart through the wall. With renewed respect for my knowledge of what is in London and assured I wasn’t crazy, we took the tube to St. Paul’s.

Simon opted to wait outside and take a nap in the garden as he had arisen early that morning to take Hugh to the airport. I meanwhile, walked up the steps upon which was filmed the famous Feed the Birds scene in Mary Poppins, a movie I grew up with so this moment alone was special to me. Entering the church, I realized I actually had no idea what it looked like inside, I had only seen pictures of the façade. But let me tell you, it is extraordinarily beautiful with all the paintings and mosaics. It is very colorful and serene at the same time. After seeing the main floor, I took the stairs to the Whispering Gallery, then all the way up to the top of the dome, 528 steps for which I have been paying ever since. It was worth it. After a quick walk through the crypt and a purchase of a photo book (you aren’t allowed to take your own as it would disrupt people’s worship of God), I met Simon back outside and we walked north to the Museum of London.

On our way, however, we saw a gate into a public garden that is in the middle of a block surrounded by buildings. Venturing inside past a pond of large oranger fish, there was a memorial to dozens of people who have died in London sacrificing their life for another, many by trying to rescue someone from a burning house or drowning in a river saving someone from that very fate. Each plaque had the name, often an age, and how they died. It was a very moving place to be and we spent a while there just reading about the lives that were lost.

The Museum of London wasn’t on my original list of places to see, but it soon became one of those unplanned delights. The museum explores the building of London from prehistoric times straight through the present day. Many of the displays are interactive. In the medieval display, I picked a character then made a series of life choices for her, to see what would happen. I had basic schooling and then apprenticed myself to a dressmaker. I then chose to marry the baker who was happy to take me as a wife. Later in the museum we saw a bakery and Simon said that must belong to my husband. You could also answer trivia questions about the different trades and touch pictures in “water” to find out what they were and what will happen if you get sick by ingesting them. I loved the museum.

From there, Simon and I split ways for the evening. He headed home and I headed to Trafalgar Square for a quick bite to eat and to see the show, “Billy Elliot” with Emily who met me there. The show was brilliant! It was fun to see music I had only heard performed on stage and to understand the songs in the context.

Tuesday morning I headed over to Hetty’s flat in Tufnell Park. After sharing tea with her, I headed off to Camden Town and she headed to Uni. The night before, my nose ring had come out without me noticing and Hetty suggested Camden Town as a good place to buy a new one. Wow. She wasn’t kidding. I had so much fun walking around and looking at the market that it took a while before I got back on the tube to go see the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. These are both art museums, the portrait gallery being only notable figures in British history and the National Gallery being art throughout the ages. There were several times I turned a corner in the National Gallery and came face to face with a painting I knew and I would gasp and stand there thinking, “This is the original. Wow…” Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the famous one of Lady Jane about to be beheaded, and Monet’s bridge over his water lily’s were several of them. My two favorites in the Portrait Gallery were the paintings of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra, and one of the Bronte sisters painted by their brother. I then saw the church nearby, St. Martin in the Fields, and sat for awhile listening to someone practicing on the pipe organ.

On my way north, I walked up Charring Cross Road, ducking into high quality used bookstores, to simply admire what they had on the shelves. To end my sight seeing day, I enjoyed a spaghetti dinner outside and then attended “The Wizard of Oz” at the London Palladium across the street. It was a great show and seeing Michael Crawford and hearing him sing live was an experience in itself. At one point when he was playing the wizard, he sings loudly, “GO!!! AND OBEY!!!” He sang that very “GO!!!” in Phantom of the Opera too. Andrew Lloyd Webber was also in the audience I hear. He is the one who created the show. When I got home that night to Hetty’s, we stayed up and talked before heading to bed.

By this point, since I had been covering a lot of ground, I was tired and ready for a more relaxed day. I started the day by having a lie-in (sleeping in) until nine then joined Hetty and her roommates for tea and toast before getting ready and taking the tube and a train out to Hampton Court Palace. There I walked around William and Mary’s apartments and the rooms and great hall of Henry VIII. I also got to explore the kitchens and look out at the gardens. After seeing Henry VIII’s rooms, I was going into the Georgian Aparttments when I saw Henry VIII himself walking down the hallway toward me with one of his wives then turn down the staircase. It was a surreal experience.

Rejoining Hetty at home and having a sit-down, we then took the tube to Westminster Friends Meeting to take part in their service then afterward, several of the young adults went to a café a few doors down for tea and dinner. Among the party was Pete, one of the contributors to Spirit Rising and Jez with whom I traveled in Kenya. Jez will also be going to the conference in Switzerland next week.

It’s been a full schedule and I’m enjoying having a few quiet hours on the train, in one place where I can write for a while. If you’re praying for me, please pray for my legs and feet. They are tired and sore while they get used to all this walking. Believe me, there is a lot of it.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

And So It Begins...

As I write, I am flying thirty-five thousand feet in the air. One hundred years ago, this was beyond people’s perceptions. If they saw a plane flying, they would assume it was falling through the air. Not possible! Earlier this week I met with my friend MaryKate who has known me for years and we sat together marveling at how I’ve grown over time into someone who would be going to Europe on a speaking tour. We found this quite funny. Neither of us could have imagined such a thing. But God can make incredible things happen we would not otherwise expect. Like being on a plane to Europe flying thirty-five thousand feet in the air starting on a journey.

A few weeks ago at the beginning of another journey, I attended mass at my favorite Catholic church on Ash Wednesday in the town where I live. The room is spacious and filled with light that streams through beautiful stained glass windows. My favorite icon hangs in the front of the sanctuary and there is a font of holy water in the back. In the midst of planning for this trip, I needed the liturgy, the worship on my knees. I needed the hymns, the candles and the Word. What really made me think though was the priest’s homily. He asked us if we were going to journey through the advent season like a tourist or like a pilgrim. A tourist sees the sights, takes some photos and buys a few souvenirs while spending too much money in hotels and restaurants that actually shield them from the place and the people they have come to see. A pilgrim on the other hand, experiences the sights, taking time and space to really notice what is around them, the sense of the room, the way the light filters through the leaves on the trees and they let themselves be changed by that place, by those people. I want to be a pilgrim on this journey. I want to grow and learn and change and have a better understanding of the world around me, of myself, and of God. I want to become a part of it.

When I was first invited to speak at the Quakers Uniting in Publications conference in Birmingham, England, I had no idea a week in England was going to turn into a five and a half week speaking tour through Europe. I am still amazed at how God worked this journey out and to tell the truth, I don’t think it will fully dawn on me where I am going until I am actually there. That is when the reality of it will finally hit me in the face. Thus far, it’s pretty much been a lot of planning, grant applications, and finding the right things to pack.

One thing I am excited about (among the many!) is leading a workshop called “Writing as the Authentic Self.” It’s about finding the balance between expressing who you truly are in your writing and having healthy boundaries. This goes for speaking as well. To be effective, one must be themselves. I recently served as presiding clerk at one of Freedom Friends Church’s business meetings. Our usual presiding clerk, Ashley, needed a Sabbath rest and so Ministry and Oversight asked me to step in for the day. At first, I felt the weight of that responsibility but as I thought about it, I realized the weight I felt was not in the thought of leading the meeting itself, I knew I could do that, but it was in the expectations I thought were placed upon me. But then I realized I am not Ashley. I’m Sarah. And Sarah was the one they asked to help that Sunday. So while deeply grateful for the instructions Ashley left me to use, I brought myself and my own personality into them. We had a reading, we had a few laughs, we had some quiet. We listened to God and to each other. We decided some things, we heard some reports with joy. And you know what? I really enjoyed it, I really enjoyed leading that meeting and getting to use some of my gifts for the benefit of my meeting, as myself, without the expectation of having to be anyone else.

So as I undertake this journey, I am holding to the truth that it is I who has been chosen to speak. And God placed me here to speak and talk and share with Friends in Europe for his own reasons and the qualities and personality I bring to the table are exactly what he wants served. There is great confidence in that. Great confidence he knows that with him, I will do this well, that I have a voice worth hearing. It brings me to tears to know he believes in me like that, to know he is loving me and guiding me, helping me find the courage within myself to take the microphone and raise my voice.

I have had many people ask, “Are you going alone?” And the deep answer is, “No, not really. I am going with God.” I feel his presence around me and I know he is by my side. No, I do not go alone. I am on this journey with one whom I love. Only he could have grown me into this person who can stand in front of an audience and speak with confidence, only he could have made all the arrangements come together in the way they have done to make this journey possible. I know there will be many surprises, many unexpected conversations and experiences. Things will bring me to my knees, whether in joy or frustration I know not, but I am alright with that. It is only on my knees I will be able to bring something of worth to the lives around me.

And so the journey begins.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Being Held

(This post was started at home and finished at the airport so it says two days until I leave but I am actually about to board the plane.)

"I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, sister, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people."
Philemon 1:4-7
Yesterday afternoon my spiritual director commented on how much this trip will change me.  When I went to Kenya, another spiritual director said the very same thing.  She was right so I'm expecting this one is too.  And it has already begun.  Preparing to go on a trip like this is an interesting time.  I have learned a lot about Europe, about Friends there, and a great deal about myself.  This, I am sure, is only a foretaste of what is to come.  For example, I have never before fully realized how persistent I am.  I can be like one of my favorite dogs, Sasha or Ginger, with a chew toy in my mouth playing tug of war.  But let me warn you, you will not get the chew toy.  Eventually, you will get tired and let go and I will still want to play.  That is how I have been able to fund raise the money for this publicity tour and plan out all the day-to-day details.  I have been persistent.  I have stuck with it until done or when I have received an answer.  I like this about myself.  There is strength in that quality and I like knowing my own strength, the power I wield in my hands.
Now that the countdown to the trip has dropped down under the one week mark (two days now), life has been both draining and deeply fullfilling at the same time.  Bit by bit, item by item, the to-do list is getting shorter but it has only been by very late nights and very early mornings.  I am tired and I am praying I am able to keep up my health since I know my immune system must be running low.  I am looking forward to getting on the plane and taking out a book by Robert Bell that I am delivering to a Quaker in England for my pastor.
Yet, this has also been a deeply fulfilling and rich time for me.  I feel the love of my friends and mentors deep inside as I prepare the final details, pack the final items.  It's been a full week of seeing women whom I deeply admire, trust, and love and whom I know love me. I feel held by them as I go, their hands are upon me, lifting me up.  One friend gave me a pair of earrings I won't need to take out, a gift I treasure.  The same friend also delivered freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to me after midnight one night while I worked on my computer.   Another knitted hand warmers for me and another gave me a new journal.  These are reminders of their love, supports I need as I undertake such a large trip with so much speaking involved.  They will remind me of the people I love and that inevitably warms my heart in the midst of whatever difficulties arise.  Thank you friends.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Follow by E-Mail

You can now follow this blog through e-mail.  By simply typing in your e-mail address in the box on the right and clicking submit, an e-mail of the post will be sent to you whenever I write something new.  Thank you for bringing this possibility to my attention Katie!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Traveling Minute

This is my traveling minute from Freedom Friends Church for the upcoming trip. Among Quakers/Friends, a traveling minute serves as a way of introduction and authentication for someone in ministry as they travel to places in which they may not be known.  I am grateful to Freedom Friends for writing this one on my behalf.

March 28, 2011

To Friends gathered in Europe and everywhere,

This letter is a traveling minute on behalf of Sarah Katreen Hoggatt. Sarah is a member of Freedom Friends Church in good standing and we support her in her public ministry. She is a beloved member of our community and is a bright, creative, f/Friend who carries concerns for writing about one’s spiritual journey, supporting a diverse array of voices, and living in a loving relationship with God.

Sarah is traveling to Europe as a member of the editorial board for Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices, to speak about the book and writing in general at the annual Quakers Uniting in Publications conference in Birmingham, England, the Europe and Middle East Young Adult Friends Annual Spring Gathering in Herzberg, Switzerland, and Friends meetings throughout Europe in April and May of 2011.

We commend Sarah to you, knowing you may trust the testimony she brings you, and entrust that she will encourage and inspire the people with whom she interacts. Please care for her tenderly and encourage her heart. We request you receive this traveling minute on her behalf and document her service among you under this concern. She will hand carry this minute back to us and report on her experiences. Thank you!

Blessings of peace, love, and joy to you all in Christ Jesus,
Ashley Wilcox
Presiding Clerk, Freedom Friends Church

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

My European Speaking Itinerary

I know many of you would like to know where I will be on which days so I have written out my itinerary for you.  In all, there are 11-12 talks over the 5 1/2 weeks in addition to all the time I will get to spend hanging out and building relationships with old and new f/Friends.  In between all the conferences, meetings for worship, and speaking, I've scheduled sight seeing in the areas I'll be traveling so that of course is included as well. 

This schedule is subject to change and I am sure it will (!) although because of all the planning I have put into this, I don't expect it to change that much.  Thank you for all the prayers I am sure are going with me.

European Itinerary

April 8, 2011 – Friday
Fly from Portland to London

April 9, 2011 – Saturday
Arrive in London in the late morning. Meet up with several members of the 2010 Quaker Youth Pilgrimage and attend my first British football game in Watford. There will be a dinner at the Colbeck’s with Friends that evening.

April 10, 2011 – Sunday
Attend meeting at Watford and speak about Spirit Rising afterwards. In the afternoon, either explore Hyde Park and Kennsington Palace or hang out with members of the Youth Pilgrimage. (Or both!)

April 11, 2011 – Monday
This is my first “tourist” day in London and Simon will be joining me. It’s a nice way to ease into the trip by having some fun days to explore one place. My plan is to pray at St. Paul’s Cathedral, then take the boat to Tate Britain to gaze at the art. In the evening, I am joining Emily to see a musical in the West End.

April 12, 2011 – Tuesday
This is my second “tourist” day in London and now that I have found my feet, I will be exploring on my own. I’ll start off the morning by being in awe of original works at the British Library then explore the art in the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. I’ll then get outside and walk up Charring Cross Road nipping into the used bookstores. (Yes, for me, this is definitely a tourist destination!) In the evening, I want to go see “The Wizard of Oz” in which Michael Crawford is performing LIVE. Yes, that’s right. I will get to see him perform LIVE! Tonight I’ll be staying at Hetty’s flat.

April 13, 2011 – Wednesday
Today I am off to Waterloo Station to catch the train out to Hampton Court where I will explore the grounds to my heart’s content. Arriving back in London, in the afternoon I will then head toward Charring Cross Station and take a train the other direction out to Greenwich where I will stand over both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. In the evening, I will be attending the Friends meeting at Westminster.

April 14, 2011 – Thursday
This morning starts really early as I catch the Eurostar shortly after seven to Brussels. There I will meet John at the Friends International Center. We will go out to lunch and then he will show me around the city including the main city square which I understand to be quite spectacular. In the late afternoon, I will take a train to Delft where I will be staying with my friend Vivian and his family.

April 15, 2011 – Friday
While Vivian works, I will take the train an hour north to Amsterdam and explore the Anne Frank House, the Van Gough Museum, and perhaps a canal tour.

April 16, 2011 – Saturday
Vivian will join me today and we’ll explore more of Amsterdam together including taking a bus outside the city to see the Corrie Ten Boom House and then walking along the canals.

April 17, 2011 – Sunday
On Palm Sunday we will be heading to the nearby city Der Hague, the capital of the United Nations. After the Friends Meeting there, I will be speaking on Spirit Rising. Afterwards, we will walk around Der Hague and that night, I’ll be staying with my friend Marielke and her fiance.

April 18, 2011 – Monday
Marielke and I will be taking the train to where she lives in Dusseldorf, Germany. While Marielke works, I’ll be exploring on my own.

April 19, 2011 – Tuesday
Today I will be taking a train south for a day trip to Cologne to explore the city and walk along the Rhine River.

April 20, 2011 – Wednesday
I will continue exploring the Rhine River area in Germany within a day’s trip of Dusseldorf. In the late afternoon, Marielke and I take a train south to Herzberg, Switzerland for the Europe and Middle East Young Adult Friends Annual Spring Gathering.

April 21, 2011 – Thursday
The conference doesn’t actually start until the evening so we will be spending the day getting to know the other participants.

April 22, 2011 – Friday
I am speaking this morning at the conference on my personal testimony, how I live out my faith, using Spirit Rising as the centerpiece. The rest of the day will be spent attending the conference.

April 23, 2011 – Saturday
Today we will be following the conference schedule including working on presentations within our small groups and going hiking in the afternoon with a social evening that night.

April 24, 2011 – Sunday – Happy Easter! HE IS RISEN!!!
We finish the conference in the morning and after lunch, I catch the train through Basel onto Paris where I will be staying for the next few days. Jeanne, the clerk of France Yearly Meeting, will meet me at the train station.

April 25, 2011 – Monday
I am spending the day at the Louvre Museum exploring its galleries and trying to figure out why Mona Lisa’s smile is so intriguing. In the late afternoon, I’ll take a boat tour on the Siene.

April 26, 2011 – Tuesday
This is my ambitious day touring Paris. I’ll start out exploring the neighborhoods along the Siene then reverently walk through Saint Chapelle and Notre Dame Cathedral. I then am longing to see Opera Garnier, the setting for The Phantom of the Opera. After that, I will see the Place de la Concorde where all the aristocrats got beheaded during the French Revolution then walk along the Champs-Elysees, a main street in Paris leading to the Arc de Triumph where I will overlook the city. To end the day, I will ride up to the top of the Eifel Tower. In the evening, I may be meeting with some of the Friends there (with the help of a translator!).

April 27, 2011 – Wednesday
Versailles is the highlight of the day, the opulent palace outside the city limits. Back in Paris, I will seek out the treasures of the Orsay Museum and the Rodin Museum, a museum dedicated to my favorite sculptor. In the evening, I may attend a ballet.

April 28, 2011 – Thursday
This morning I take the Eurostar back under the English Channel to London where I will tour Friends House in London, saying hi to my friends there, and then take the train up to Woodbrooke in Birmingham for the Quakers Uniting in Publications Conference. I am meeting up with Ben Pink Dandelion for tea and then the conference starts that night. For the first plenary session, I am on a “Panel of Quaker Poets.”

April 29, 2011 – Friday
Today the conference continues with workshops, free writing time, and afternoon tea.

April 30, 2011 – Saturday
After our morning meeting for worship, I am leading a workshop on “Writing as the Authentic Self” a new workshop I am creating. After morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea, with business in between, I’ll be listening to a panel on publishing and technology with an evening session that night.

May 1, 2011 – Saturday
Today are some fantastic workshops, more writing time, and more tea! After an open mike and dinner, Harriet and I are leading the UK release of Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices.

May 2, 2011 – Monday
The conference finishes up this morning after concluding business, tea, and lunch. I then catch a train to the north of England to Ulverston where I will walk to Swarthmoor Hall, one of the earliest Quaker historical sites, also now a bed and breakfast. It is here I will be taking a rest from the road and some time for quiet relaxation and walking.

May 3, 2011 – Tuesday
My only plan for the day is walking in the English countryside.

May 4, 2011 – Wednesday
After breakfast and a lazy morning, I am taking the train from Ulverston to Kendal to see the famous Quaker Tapestries. Carole often used pictures of them in her lectures at seminary so I am looking forward to seeing them for myself. From Kendal I am heading to Burley Park, just outside of Leeds to meet Rhiannon, one of our contributors for Spirit Rising.

May 5, 2011 – Thursday
Rhiannon and I, or just me if she needs to work, will be heading to the village of Hayworth to see the Bronte Museum where the Bronte sisters wrote several of the classics of English literature. Though Charlotte didn’t write Jane Eyre here, the story is one of my all time favorite books. In the evening I will be speaking on Spirit Rising at the local Friends Meeting House in Leeds.

May 6, 2011 – Friday
I am heading out in the morning via train to meet up with Hetty in Manchester. We will be staying with friends of hers in Clitheroe and explore the area together.

May 7, 2011 – Saturday
Today Hetty and I are climbing Pendle Hill, a pilgrimage for Quakers where George Fox saw the flaming sword. A trip like this to England is incomplete without it.

May 8, 2011 – Sunday
Hetty and I are going to meeting in Lancaster where I will be speaking on Spirit Rising. In the afternoon, we are exploring the city before taking the train together back to London where I will stay overnight.

May 9, 2011 – Monday
I’m joining a tour that goes out from London west to Stonehenge and then onto Bath. In Bath, I will depart the tour and head to Christine’s house where I will be staying. I will then spend the rest of the day exploring Bath including the cathedral and the gathering rooms.

May 10, 2011 – Tuesday
I will continue exploring Bath today in such places as the Royal Crescent and the Jane Austen museum. In the evening I am speaking at Bath Monthly Meeting about Spirit Rising.

May 11, 2011 – Wednesday
A morning train is first on the schedule taking me back to London. In the afternoon I will attend a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and an evening show in the West End.

May 12, 2011 – Thursday
This morning I am taking an early train east to Cambridge to stay with my friend Simon (different Simon than before) and his family. Seeing the colleges there and punting in the canals is on the top of my list for the day.

May 13, 2011 – Friday
After a relaxed morning with Simon’s family, I am taking the train south to Lewes, near the southern coast. George and his family will be waiting for me and will show me around the area.

May 14, 2011 – Saturday
The annual arts festival is going full swing in Brighton so we will be spending the day there walking around and seeing the sights. In the evening I will be speaking to Lewes Friends Meeting about Spirit Rising.

May 15, 2011 – Sunday
The morning will be spent worshiping with Brighton Meeting and then I’ll talk with them about Spirit Rising. After hanging out with George and his family for the day, I’ll head back up to London.

May 16, 2011 – Monday
Today I’ll spend in London seeing anything I have greatly wanted to see but haven’t had the chance and decompressing a bit. In the evening, I’ll catch one last show in the West End.

May 17, 2011 – Tuesday
Fly home to Portland in the morning, arrive late in the evening.