October 14, 2009

Ashley's meme: God told me to.

I just read a fabulous post by Ashley W that reminds me of my own story of when God "told me to."

At some point during my senior year in college, I had decided that I wasn't going to live on the east coast after I graduated. I had grown up in New Jersey, had visited many relatives in Baltimore and in Washington DC, and had spent summer vacations in New England. I didn't feel much desire to do more of what I had already done.

I quickly eliminated living in the southeast (hurricanes), or the west (earthquakes), or the south (heat and humidity). Then I realized that nearly all of my good friends from college were from the midwestern part of the U.S. and THAT seemed worthwhile to pay attention to!

During that last year of college, I made plans to spend my breaks visiting parts of the midwest where my college friends were from, including Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio as well as Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

But there was something else that was significant about my college years: Canada geese.

You see, I grew up in a very suburban area outside of New York City. The geese that I saw in my childhood were geese that I fed at a pond in New England during summer vacations. They were quiet geese, mostly white, and I certainly never saw them fly in a V.

But at college, there was the type of pond and semi-rural campus that attracted Canada geese, and the campus was part of a fly-zone during migrations. Every time I heard the honks of geese, I would interrupt my walk to class and look into the sky to see where the honks were coming from. Day after day, I'd spy the wedges of geese and stop and listen to them as they flew by.

Something about these Canada geese was calling to me, but what....?

Fast forward to my visits to friends in the midwest during my senior year. In October, I traveled to Milwaukee to see Linda, my closest college buddy, who had already been out of school for a while. While there in the city, wouldn't you know it, a flock of geese flew overhead and I was practically sold on relocating then and there.

But I had at least another semester to get through, so shortly after seeing Linda, I wrote her a letter that said, in part:

"I'm beginning to think about where I want to be after I graduate, and I'm thinking about moving to the midwest. I don't know what your plans are for the next year, but I might be in the area, looking for a roommate..."
It turns out that Linda was also writing me a letter at about the same time:
"I just found out that my folks are leaving Milwaukee to move to Indiana. I'll be staying in Wisconsin, and even though I don't know what your plans are when you graduate, if you need a place to live and want to come to Milwaukee, I'll be looking for a roommate..."

And the letters literally crossed in the mail.

So when people find out that I grew up on the east coast but have been living in the midwest since 1985, they often ask me, "Why'd you move to the midwest?" And I tell them:

God brought me here.

I've never looked back and God is still speaking to me, even here.



Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Liz,
What a story! Reminds of of poet William Cullen Bryant's famous poem about his uncertainty about his future, and his experience with a bird and God. From that experience he went on to become a leading abolitionist, etc.

Here's the poem:

To A Waterfowl

By William Cullen Bryant

Whither, midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

Vainly the fowler's eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.

Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or mlarge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
On the chafed ocean-side?

There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast --
The desert and illimlitable air --
Lone wandering, but not lost.

All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,
Though the dark night is near.

And soon that toil shall end;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.

Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
And shall not soon depart.

He who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.

And then there was Noah and two birds:-)

In the Light,

Ashley W said...

Thanks, Liz! I love how your letters crossed in the mail---definitely way opening. I've been hearing a lot lately about how we never know what impact our presence makes (Peter's shadow healing behind him and all), but it is nice to remember those times when we see God's hand at work and can appreciate some of the results.

Hystery said...

My life has been full of synchronicity, serendipity, "calling", "way-opening", etc. That's how I met my husband, chose my career, and became a Pagan and a Friend. As much as I would like to attribute these major life decisions to cool-headed logic, such has not been the case. I am not confident enough to say if it is one Spirit or many, my own self/Self or Over-Soul, or my ancestors leading me. Or dumb luck...but no. There is nothing dumb about this luck.

Mary Ellen said...

I love the geese too, though less so when they are just grazing on grass and making park sidewalks green and slippery. The most haunting geese times were when we lived out with Rosalie in Lake Elmo and heard them calling out as they went back and forth at dusk all winter long. My "God made me do it" event was the realization in the back of a car coming home from Northern Yearly many years ago that I was Intended to go to seminary - and how quickly and easily things fell in place to make that happen. A similar event was having Rosalie mention that she was looking for house partners and feeling an upwelling in Meeting that this was something I wanted to do. Thanks for sharing the story!

Nate said...

I can think of no more appropriate "voice" for God than that of wild geese.