I want to tell you so much and I have a running list of things to share, but I must be honest in saying that I'm so exhausted that I can't make too many coherent sentences in a row! The Camino is going well and we are still alive at the end of each day...just barely. I seem to hit some sort of wall each day during the final 4 or 5 kilometers and every muscle begs me to give up. But, I eventually make it to the church or albergue for the night.
We took a few more breaks today and stayed pretty loose with our schedule. Really watching our hydration because the days are starting to get warm and lots of the trail these past few days has been open field and open road, no shade. Every time we stop, Billy is ever - vigilant with foot inspection and blister care. We each have a couple of hot spots, but thanks to his great care, we don't have troubles and we are able to continue.
Stopped in a couple of different churches along the Camino today...churches that have been around since 1030, 1100 and 1200! The history! Countless pilgrims have prayed in those sanctuaries. Humbling to be counted among them now.
A few photos to end today's post. ..
Have you ever experienced when you are driving down the road and someone says :"Look at that!"? Often we focus on the horizon when what they want to show us is three feet in front of us. That happened to me over the past two days. I was looking for people to talk with, share with, and help. I was looking at the horizon not in front of me. I was looking for the person in need that l had not yet met.
Laurie has been keeping up with the blog on this trip. Whatever she writes she makes me wait to read later just like you guys. I have to wait until it is posted. I was surprised to learn that I had helped her at all since I was focused on the horizon. She had been the person in need. She was three feet away.
I remember a few years ago when a friend shared where Jesus was talking about serving "The least of these." His point was that oftentimes the least of these is in our house. Our spouse, our children, etc. It also makes me think about the commandment to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. When we have moved to different places in the world our Jerusalem has changed. It is where I we are. The people we are to serve are three feet from us. Our family, friends, and neighbors. I must continue to change my focus. I need to look where God is pointing out someone right in front of me, but I also must be open to change my focus if he is pointing out someone on the horizon.
Day Two held its own special offerings, different from Day One but special nonetheless. Apart from very little sleep and aching muscles, we were up and packing our packs at 6am for a 7am departure. Then we heard it...The rain on the roof of the church that we had stayed in the night before. Ouch. This would mean starting our day in a downpour.
Wearing packs and being covered in raingear is special all by itself. We looked like we were auditioning for the part of the Hunchback of Note Dame, with rain panchos that coveted our bodies and our packs. At first, we were freezing. Then, we were burning up as we started hiking and sweating under the raingear.
So our day went something like this... Freezing. Take off pack and put on more layers. Hoist pack and hike. Rain begins again. Stop and put on panchos and cover all your gear. Hike. Sweat and feel like a furnace has been ignited under your pancho. Stop. Rearrange layers to try to stay cool, yet also warm and dry. Hoist pack. Hike. Rain stops and sun comes out. Take off rain gear. Hike. Rain starts again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over again all day long.
There were some great people to talk to along the way. Four friends from New Zealand are walking together and they are a lot of fun. There is a deeper story that hasn't come out yet...The reason they are walking is hanging in the air and it's heavy, but no one's talking yet. We met a woman who turned 65 last week and says she's walking the Camino "because now I'm old and I need to figure out what to do with the rest of my life". Her story was amazing of what she has already done with her life! Kind of sad to me that she has such an amazing story and she feels like this birthday somehow signals the end of all that and a resignation to being "old".
I won't lie. ..my muscles hate me right now. I feel muscles that I didn't even know existed. Is it possible for rest to be painful? It was painful today. I officially have the first blister of the journey, with a couple of blister-wannabes following closely behind.
I'm now in bed, trying to write this post before I pass out. I'm kind of a prisoner in the bed anyway...I'm on the top bunk and I can't get down. In full disclosure, I must admit the fact that earlier when I tried to set up my bed and take a rest, my legs finally said "we're done for today" and they just quit working. Yes, I fell out of bed...out of the top bunk. because my legs refused to respond when my brain said "climb down".
Yes, I feel like a 5 year old again...not in a good way.
Time to sleep and start all over again tomorrow. But I will need help getting out of bed in the morning. ..
We left this morning with an aire of excitement and expectations. I had prepared, trained, and waited for the big day. finally, it was here.
The first day of the Camino was a lot like my first childbirth. I was excited and anxious. I was prepared and ready. And then labor began! Pain. Confusion. Wanting relief.
"What do you mean I'm only at 2!?! I have to get to 10 before I can be finished?! Oh no...This is not going to be pretty. Call the doctor. Get me some painkillers. I'll never make it to 10!"
It didn't quite work out like that, in the end. The doctor was in no big hurry to give me relief. Billy stayed by my side, helping me focus and breathe and push through the pain.
Fast forward to today. At 2 hours in to today's trek, my calves were screaming. In 2 hours we had only gone 4 kilometers, completely uphill. I knew it would be tough. I knew it was an entire day of uphill, from 500ft to 4600ft altitude. But having head knowledge and actually being there are two entirely different things.
"What do you an were only at 4?! We have to go to 25 km today? Uphill? We've only been walking for 2 hours and we've only covered 4km. My calves feel like they are full of fire rocks. I have to stop every 20 yards to stretch and rub and beg for mercy. I can't do this..."
Again, Billy was there. Encouraging. Telling me to focus. Telling me to breathe. Telling me to push through the pain.
I admit to a fair share of complaining and begging for relief. But, like every good coach, he kept up the gentle but firm pushing me forward and showing confidence that I could do it. Even when I was pretty sure that I couldn't.
Today was many things. Muddy, wet, cold, windy, foggy, difficult, painful. But it was also beautiful and wonderful and I learned a lot about myself. And I got to do it all with a great coach and my best friend by my side...encouraging me and challenging me and instilling in me the confidence that I could do it.
Well... one great thing that came out of being too busy and overscheduled and overcommitted these past couple of weeks is that I haven't had a lot of time to sit still or think. Because once I start thinking, I start worrying and questioning. Not good. So, in this case, too much on my plate has served me well.
We have had several house guests over the course of the last two weeks. We hosted two Christian puppeteers who came to do a workshop in Spain. We hosted the workshop at our church. We welcomed my mom as she arrived here to help us with Sarah while we walk the Camino. She hit the ground running with Granny Training Boot Camp... how to drive in Spain, how to grocery shop, how to get Sarah to and from all of her school and extracurricular activities, how to care for the house and animals, who's who and who can help in emergencies... Mom speaks ZERO Spanish! So, she's a pretty brave woman to show up a week before our departure and take on this huge task. We have had overnight guests, dinner guests, coffee guests, guests who wanted to pray for us, guests who wanted to say goodbye, guests who wanted to meet Mom... yes, we have been busy! And we kept up with the normal ministry routine, too.
But now we are down to the wire. Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow at 8 a.m., we hoist packs on to our backs for the first of 36 days on The Camino de Santiago. Tomorrow we say goodbyes to Sarah and Granny and we kiss cheeks. Tomorrow we board the train for Pamplona, Spain, then we catch the bus to St. Jean Pied du Port, France where we will begin the ancient pilgrimage of The Way of St. James.
The forecast for the first days isn't pretty. Hail and winds devestated crops in the area yesterday. Highs to reach 52F and lows at 40F. Rain, rain, and more rain for the first few days. Day One is a 7-9 hour trek over the Pyrennes from France to Roncevalles, Spain climbing from 600 feet to 4600 ft in altitude.
Do I have the right gear? Do I have enough gear? Do I have too much gear?
Will I stay dry? Will I be warm enough? Do I still have my Peruvian Andes lung capacity, or have I reverted to a coastal plains girl? Will the internal scars from my bouts of pneumonia cause me trouble on this first day? Amidst all of the physical questions, will I have the emotional and mental whereabouts to stay in the game, to listen well, to reach out to others, and to minister along the way?
Maybe I need to get busy with the rest of my list so I don't have time to think before tomorrow!
Get up, hoist the pack, walk... repeat... Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four... until the end of June. It all begins tomorrow.
It has been almost a year since Billy began his walk on the Camino de Santiago in 2014. A year ago, we were double checking to make sure that all was in order. He would be walking the 791 kilometers from France to Santiago de Compostelo, Spain while I would be staying behind and caring for our home and daughter. It would be 5+ weeks apart. Five weeks when I would be taking care of bills and home repairs, health issues and economics, ministry and school, and everything in between. Billy would spend his days counseling and trekking the ancient pilgrimage alongside many, many different people.
Now, a year later, we are again double checking everything to make sure all is in order. Only this time, we will be walking and ministering together on the Camino. We leave my mother behind to take on the caregiver role this time. She speaks no Spanish. She has a one week window to learn our schedule and routes and the basic necessities before we leave her in charge of the house and Sarah and all the daily tasks. Yes, I’m a little stressed about making sure that all is in order and that she will have everything she needs!
This year, it’s me who will be the new kid on the Camino. I’m the one with the butterflies in my stomach. I’m the one who is worried about whether or not I have what it takes to walk all day every day. To not only walk, but to also minister to those I walk alongside. To do it with grace and to listen with love. Do I have what it takes?
At the same time, I’m afraid I have too much. Too much in my backpack. Too much weight on my shoulders (maybe both physically and mentally). Too many extra pounds on my backside and hips. Too many expectations. Too much stress. Too many worries…
And maybe that is what God wants to work on in me during this time. Maybe the one thing that I’m walking for – to minister to others who are burdened – maybe that is the one thing God wants me to deal with in myself… the burdens I carry.
The journey begins next Friday, May 22.
News flash! Dates just in for our Camino de Santiago ministry and pilgrimage in 2015.
May 24 - June 27, 2015
We will leave Saint Jean Pied du Port, France on May 24th, 2015 to begin the 775km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostelo, Spain. We plan to arrive in Santiago on the 27th or 28th of June.
If you are not up to walking the entire 775km, we have a group that is meeting up with us in Sarria, Spain to walk the last week. This is the MANDATORY distance that must be walked in order to be registered as a pilgrim and receive the Compostelo at the end. The group walking the entire distance will be in Sarria and will walk the last week together with the "Sarria Group", leaving Sarria on the morning of June 22.
There are options for walking two or three weeks, too. Let us know if you fall in to that category and we will give you estimated dates of when we will be passing through those points to meet up with you.
Set your dates and begin to make plans! Let us know if you are going to join us. When you confirm that you would like to join in, we will add you to the information list to receive updates on packing, supplies, per day cost, etc.
Took me a couple of days to get this post up. Arrival in Santiago was emotional and busy and intensely personal and intensely relational. I'm now back home, resting and processing - slowly.
We arrived on Saturday in Santiago about 1 in the afternoon. We went straight to the cathedral and sat there in silence for quite awhile. Over to the side, we saw other people we had met on the Camino. Didier was talking with other pilgrims. It was a great time of reunions and reconnecting with people we had shared the journey with. The reunions included hugs and congratulations all around. We stayed in the cathedral plaza, taking photos and sharing stories and hugs, then the team sang the Aggie War Hymn together in the plaza. It was quite a spectacle.
I received my compostela which is an official document that recognizes me as a pilgrim and my walk from St. Jean pied de Port in France to Santiago, Spain - a total by their estimate 775 km. Also, the Franciscan order is giving out a special compostela to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the pilgrimage of St. Francis of Assi as he walked this very Camino to Santiago. It was a surprise and an awesome privilege to receive this special compostela.
Last night, we had a celebratory meal with many laughs, tears and stories from the Camino. I originally started this journey as a tag-along with the group, but ended as a member. They accepted me as one of their own and I am now forever connected with 14 incredible people. Quite an honor.
Today we attended the pilgrim's mass in the cathedral. It is a Catholic mass that recognizes the countries represented by the pilgrims that arrived the day before in Santiago.
After mass, I started the process of saying goodbye to my friends. We had many tearful hugs and promises to keep in touch. I also got to spend time with Didier today. We went to get ice cream and later toured the cathedral together. He is still in his wheelchair and continues to pray for healing. He, however, does not seem to be disappointed. We both told each other goodbye and hope to stay in touch. As we said goodbye, he called me his brother. He left this evening on a bus with some of the Aggies as they headed to Finisterre, the place once thought to be the end of the world. It is the furthest most point in Europe. Until Columbus, this was it. Didier had insisted on saying goodbye to the group and decided to take the trip to Finisterre with them.
I am still struggling with my feelings right now and still processing many things. I think that it will take some time for me to process all that I have experienced over the last 5 weeks. Debrief is a must. I plan on making the same trip next year with Laurie and a few others. Let me know if you would be interested in joining us in the journey.
Today I will arrive in Santiago de Compostela. It will be the end of the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It has been a dream for many years. I could not have done this without the help and support of many family and friends. I am dedicating this arrival and completion of this dream to Laurie.
Today is also the longest day of the year, the summer solstice but most of all it is the anniversary of my marriage to the love of my life. We have spent 28 years of life together as of today. So many times throughout this journey I have been reminded of you. I heard the songs of the birds and I was reminded of you. I saw the forests and was reminded of you. I saw the wildflowers (especially the wild daisies) and the beautiful gardens and was reminded of you.
I never imagined that 28 years ago today you would really be a part of me. I never imagined that the life we shared could ever be this good.
Like the Camino, our life has had its ups and downs. We have had many obstacles and I can remember in the beginning wondering if we could ever make it together. It has taken love, tenderness and kindness to overcome these obstacles.
You have helped me so much in this journey, both in our marriage and the Camino. Without your love, help and encouragement I could not have done either one.
I have missed you dearly. And I cannot wait to see you tomorrow night.
Buen camino my love.
Today we finished the next to the last leg of our pilgrimage. It was a good day of talking and reminiscing about the journey. We have about 20km more to get to our destination. Tonight, as we were discussing our plans for tomorrow, it was both exciting and sad. It is a really strange feeling that most of us are experiencing. As we were talking, it was really hard to keep from crying. I'm in strange place right now and having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.
I saw my friend Eve tonight. He had tears in his eyes, too, as he described the feeling. He is in the same place emotionally, and has said that it is now in his blood and he will return to walk it again. With his wife. Maybe they will join us next year when Laurie walks it with me. We plan on meeting up tomorrow to say goodbye.
We (the Aggies) leave at six tomorrow morning and plan on walking the last leg together.