“That sounds like reading tea leaves,” my spiritual director said. We were talking about discernment and how I discerned God’s will for me in major life decisions. I had just told her the process I had used at twenty-five to decide whether to move to Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Ohio, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My decision was made when my car radio play Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John. Not very prayerful, perhaps, but I took it as a sign.
Most of my major life decisions have been made in a similar fashion. When deciding to move to l’Arche, for example, I had wanted to go to l’Arche Toronto, but then a man from Winnipeg randomly appeared and said there was a l’Arche community in Winnipeg. It was a sign.
Or when someone from Midland, Michigan, tracked me down during a time I did not even have a phone and was staying with friends. Their persistence in pursuing me for a job seemed like a sign from God. Off to Midland I went.
When I look back on my life, I look a lot like a leaf blowing in the wind.
But my life also looks like a great adventure that has taken me to places I never would have considered.
Growing up, my future seemed predetermined—after high school, I would work as a secretary for a while, then get married, have babies, be a mom and then a grandmother—all very straight-forward.
But, I stepped off that path early on. I continued working as a secretary at the FBI until I was twenty-seven. Then a new plan formed—I would become an FBI Agent. It made sense; I had worked for the Bureau for eight years and becoming an Agent was a logical move.
Then I was raped, and all plans flew out the window. I spent my thirties bouncing from one job to another and one place to another. Even decisions I made in my forties and fifties were “like reading tea leaves,” once leaving a perfectly good job because of a picture I saw in a newspaper (it was a sign). I can only shake my head!
Now I am learning more about discernment and how to make decisions that are based on what I want and need.
Moving “home” to Michigan seven years ago has felt like I dropped anchor.
I wanted to come home; I needed to come home. Since moving here, I have had offers to move to other places (often to go back to Philadelphia) and I say “no” with confidence. Even if I heard Elton John singing Philadelphia Freedom or the twenty-first century version of that song, I don’t think I would be swayed.
Now the roads I want to travel all start and end here. I can visit other places, and I look forward to the time after the pandemic when that is possible to travel safely, but this is home. This is where I have decided to be.
Very touching story (I felt so glad that you eventually found home). It struck a chord with me. I’ve been listening to a lecture by Rowan Williams about hopeful living being rooted or anchored in the foundation of those narratives [of our own and other’s stories] where the Truth has come through in lived experience. This gives us a place on which to stand where our trust in God is not diminished despite the increasing hopelessness in the world around us. Your story of finding stability resonated with me as I engage in finding my own ‘place on which to stand’ spiritually where I’m rooted and anchored, secure and stable. Thank you Madeline.
Thank you, Ms. Liz, for your thoughtful comment. I agree that trusting God is crucial to withstand the hopelessness in the world. I don’t know how people navigate the ups and downs of life without faith.