Africa, Faith, Life Musings


Tears are streaming down her cheek as we sit in the quiet chapel. She looks up at the dome ceiling, the late afternoon winter light barely illuminating the space around us. She is smiling, glowing through the moistness collecting in her dark eyes, grateful.

It started with a simple survey, a task to be crossed off a list, a professional exchange.  As I filled out the questionnaire on her behalf, it prompted me to ask, “If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?” Her answer was, Africa.
Cape Coast, Ghana 2014

Curious, I investigated further. “Any specific place in Africa?” “Ghana” was her immediate and confident response. Half an hour later, my promise to have her on her way before 10 minutes had passed was broken. Suddenly, an older, formerly homeless native of Nashville and I, had more in common than I could have imagined. An elated phone call to her fiance was placed and I said the words I haven’t said in so long, “Ete sen (how are you)?”

We both forgot about the survey all together and started delving into the mission and purpose of our lives, Love. I showed her pictures of my students wearing santa hats in the sweltering heat of Africa and she told me about how she sells the newspaper to PhD candidates and college students at Vanderbilt, acting as a surrogate mama, comforting the homesick, soothing their fears. We laughed and high-fived as we talked about letting go and perfect timing. I told her about my own experience with Ghana and how I had no intention of going there until I started seeing and hearing about Ghana everywhere I looked and everywhere I listened. Divine timing. Serendipity.
Dancing to the Macarena in the rain.
Teiman, Ghana 2013

“I have no idea how I’m going to get to there,” she confessed. “But I’ve been feeling nothing but peace about it lately. I have a work and a ministry to do there. God just confirmed everything I already knew by talking to you. It will work out.”

These moments of serendipity are becoming more and more frequent. At first, they were a slew of negative “No’s” from the Universe. This Spring, “Don’t go there” and “Don’t do that” sent shock waves of disappointment through my system as I watched carefully crafted plans dissipate into thin air. Changing my own trajectory in favor of being directed by Divine intervention has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s been a shift in perception, a letting go of control with clenched teeth and barely open palms. It’s something I re-learn and forget daily.

Yet, over the past few months, a change has taken place. The more I allow myself to sit in the place of uncomfortable transition, the more I refuse to move or make any decisions without an intuitive knowing, the more I give up trying to force a way through, the more the Universe responds with soft and reassuring “Yeses.” The more I rely on feeling instead of thinking, the more opportunities come to me with ease and complete surprise on my part.

This week, just in time for the holidays, my Dad has driven down to spend a week with my sisters and I in Nashville. As an added bonus, my 80 year old grandfather decided to join him. Sitting across the kitchen table from each other, a rare opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation without oogles of uncles and aunts, cousins or sisters, presents itself. We have a lot of catching up to do.
My Grandpa, wearing a Panama hat from Ecuador.

I start telling him about my year of miracles and how after an entire summer of struggle and endless job searching, the two jobs I have now were literally handed to me out of the blue. Sans filling out an application, sans asking, or searching. I tell him how after months of disappointment and failed interviews, I had felt something telling me to stop trying. Stop writing cover letters, stop visiting job boards, do nothing.

Within a week, a stranger I met at a party I almost didn’t attend, invited me to an interview with her boss at a middle school. I got the job on the spot. A month and a half later, I started thinking about getting a second job because as much as I loved the first one, it didn’t quite pay all the bills. Before I had the chance to make any of my own moves, another new acquaintance called me about an opening working with homeless men and women in Nashville. “Are you still looking for a job?” he asked. The next week, I was interviewed in the same chapel where I now work. The same chapel where a conversation about Ghana just sent shivers up my spine and made the woman seated next to me cry. I could write about at least a hundred more coincidences like this, but I’m not sure I can call them that anymore.

When I pulled into the driveway of my new home in Nashville, I had only a backpack full of a few belongings that I had just traveled around the world with, and zero expectations. I had no inkling of where or when I’d find a job, what my roommates were like, or how I would get around without a car. I had no clue that a third sister would be joining me in relocating to Nashville just a month later from Mexico. I had no idea I would fall in love with my roommates and my neighbors or have the privilege of creating a community of love and joy together.

I never could’ve anticipated the perfect way two part-time jobs would fulfill so many of the things I’m passionate about, or that having so much fun while getting paid was a real life thing. I definitely wouldn’t have known that I’d learn to ride a scooter through the winter, that I’d be abundantly blessed with more friends than I can keep up with, or that I’d start experiencing contentment as the rule instead of the exception.
Nashville, 2014

This time last year, I was struggling with choosing where I would begin the New Year. I had a one way ticket back to Paris that left Ghana on Dec. 31st. I knew it wasn’t time for me to leave, but I wasn’t sure how or if I could stay. After taking a leap of faith and canceling my flight back to France, I brought in the New Year under an African moon casting shadows on the seashore, barefoot and carefree. The fact that I was in Ghana in the first place was a miracle, the fact that I had decided to stay was another. I had no idea that decision would set a precedent, or that this entire year would be dedicated to miracles beyond my wildest imagination.

I think the point is, every decision is really more of an invitation. Trust or Fear? Faith or Force? Love or Hate? Let go or hold on? My year of miracles has absolutely nothing to do with me or anything I have done or deserved. It has everything to do with getting myself the hell out of the way so that goodness and grace can flow into my life unobstructed by by my own stubbornness or selfishness.

It has everything to do with allowing, accepting, and believing that Love is the order of the Universe and always has the final say. It has everything to do with giving up sooner and still imagining the best possible outcome. Serendipity has everything to do with noticing that coincidences are really just evidences of grace and perfect timing. It has everything to do with smiling more often and dancing in the kitchen, getting icing on your nose, taking words like “should” out of your vocabulary and replacing them with something closer to freedom.

This has been a year of miracles and serendipity, but I have the feeling it’s only the beginning of a life-time full of more of the same. 

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