Disintegrated Orange Juice

22 Apr

A few weeks ago the pals and I spent a weekend atop a mountain in Kermit, West Virginia. It wasn’t quite a seven-story mountain, but it took us about half an hour in the van to make it up the steep and narrow path from the base to the peak.

The mountain is called Big Laurel, and it is the home to two bad ass nuns in their 70s. Talk about service—these women know not only the very breath of the mountain itself, but also of every individual who resides on it. They have lived atop the mountain for 37 years, living simply and serving boldly.

There really is something to be said for getting your hands dirty. My community spent the weekend helping the sisters with the mountain chores, from moving outhouses to painting shelves to vacuuming up dead ladybugs. Whatever they needed, we did. This mentality is what got Joy and I outside by the campfire on Friday afternoon, becoming “women fire tenders” and burning the trash that we accumulated the day before. It wasn’t a difficult task, really—we made sure the fire was contained, and periodically threw another piece of trash into the flames. At one point, we reached into the burn bag and pulled out an empty orange juice container. We were surprised that we were asked to burn such a substantial item, but we followed sister’s orders and threw it into the fire, watching it disintegrate into thin air. It amazed me—something so firm and tangible seemed to have vanished right before our very eyes. But it didn’t vanish—things don’t just disappear. That empty carton had just changed forms, no longer an object that we can see and touch, but none the less still present in the air around us.


The following night our community spent some time together beneath the stars and beside a campfire. At some point during the evening the casual tone of our conversation shifted, and we were prompted to think a little deeper. Kelly asked us to think of something that weighs us down, overflows our cups, keeps us from living our best lives. Once we determined what it was we didn’t want to hold onto any longer, we were asked to write it on a piece of paper and throw it into the fire, symbolizing release.

I wanted to be a good community member and follow the prompt, but for the life of me I could not stop thinking about that orange juice container. When we throw things into the fire, they don’t really go away, they just change forms. They remain with us. So instead of writing and throwing something I wanted to be rid of into the fire, I wanted to write and throw something that I wanted to remain with me.

Are you waiting in anticipation for the little nugget of wisdom?

We’re getting there. But first a quick life update.

When I made the trip to Chicago at the end of February, the clouds were lifted and I suddenly saw the next step in my path. I was supposed to apply to Boston College…I knew it deep down in my bones. So back in the Burgh I frantically applied to the dual Social Work and Theology programs. The odds, however, unlike for Katniss, didn’t seem to be in my favor. I had already missed the application deadline for the School of Theology, I only had two weeks to study for the GRE, and I have never even been to Boston, not to mention the whole issue of paying for grad school. But, the resounding gong of “apply anyway” rang through my being, so I did. Heaven knows why.

Then, a week after I sent in my GRE scores, I was offered a full scholarship to the School of Theology and Ministry. I had to read the letter three times before I could believe it.

Throughout my discernment and application process, the whole Theology aspect of the degree was just sort of there, quietly including itself in the Plan. My focus was on Social Work, and Theology just inched along unnoticed. The School of Social Work unfortunately did not offer me a scholarship, so unless something out of my hands fall into place in these next few weeks I cannot pursue that degree just yet.

So if my dense human brain didn’t have faith already, the decision to accept this offer from the School of Theology and Ministry alone is what really drove home the realization that I am following a plan that is not my own. This plan is God, the Universe, Fate, pushing me in the direction that I am supposed to wander to next.

Okay, back to the campfire.

I wanted to throw words into the fire that would stay with me. Because I saw that orange juice container. It didn’t disappear—it changed forms, it disintegrated, but it didn’t really go away. So, on that little slip of paper, I wrote the following:

“Don’t worry, Martha. I got this.”

Now, when I stand back and stare at the skies above in wonder and awe at this Plan that is larger than my own, I know that floating in the air around my head is a little reminder that all I have to do is trust.

And it’s right beside a carton of orange juice.


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