Day 4 Oreo to Zumaia

day-of-conventI stood in the entry area of the albergue in Oreo. The bare lightbulb above me cast its glare across the three walls and out across the yard. There across the gravel and lawn I could see the single dim line of light along the distant hills, as the sun barely lit the sky. I looked, knowing, somewhat dreading the climb to cross those hills later that day.

Strewn around my feet were my sleeping bag, stuff sack, open backpack, boots, socks, and the clothes that had been drying on the end of my bunk. My second pair of socks, of course, was still wet. This was my daily reality, so I would have that pair of socks drying on my pack!

I checked my bunk and beneath it for anything else with my lit cell phone screen, seeking not to disturb the others, and then went back to this outside porch and packed things up. Steve was there ahead of me, had expertly packed up and left.

I shouldered my pack which felt heavier today and walked out into the dark streets following the arrows that led through the town, and then led me to climb up the first hill along this paved road out of town. The sun rose as I made my way through town, and then reached the road that climbed up, up, up the hills I had seen from the albergue out of the community.

As I hiked, a car approached me. The passenger window was rolled down on this already hot, hot morning, and this sweet woman with this big smile bid me “goo Mage” which I took to be basque for buen camino! Who knows what she actually said, but best assume the best and thus her greeting encouraged me.

Eventually I was again walking along the sea. The waves crashed below me and the sun beat down from above me. The taste of salt was on my lips from the sea air. I stopped and journaled: “I love this!”

I arrived in the beach town of Geturia at 11 am and decided to stop for a swim. I went down to the beach, positioned my backpack there and stripped off everything but my quick dry shorts and went into the cool, clear refreshing water. Ah! So wonderful. I swam for a while. It so refreshed me. Then stretched and rinsed off at the showers along the beach, washed the sand from my feet, and donned shoes and clothes. Walked on and my shorts were dry within a couple blocks.

It was another long uphill climb from there again. It took me by one of the oldest churches in Spain and through vineyards and open countryside. Beautiful. Then over a hill dropped back down into Zumaia. Another ancient city with streets paved with square stones. Old and new side by side. I stopped here and bought the rest of my lunch and more fruit. Figs! I love fresh figs! Then I asked the woman in the stand how far to the convento where I would stay that night. She knew what I sought and said with joy “one minute up the road.” It helped to know this. My feet were hurting. My left calf muscle felt like it was a rock filled with pain. Man.

I had one blister forming so when I arrived at the convento I took off my shoes and rubbed down my feet. The blister never fully formed.

The convento had not yet opened. The sign showed it would be a few hours yet.

At the doorway waited four pilgrims from France. They spoke limited English. We gestured and smiled and I sat down. I wasn’t walking another step. I’d hiked six hours that day.

Soon three Americans arrived from Chicago (That’s what they’ve been telling everyone- since no one knew where Massachusetts was). Claudia. Jane. Jill. They were Grandmas and all in their 60s. Two were sisters, the third a cousin. They wanted to go find food. “Would you watch our stuff?” They asked. “Gladly,” I told them.

Soon again three Spaniards arrived speaking no English. They came on their bikes. They too left their bags for me to watch. One of them gestured and spoke, making a big deal out of how important I was watching the bags. Then Helmut and Gunda arrived. They had been at the last night’s albergue.

So there I sat in charge of eight backpacks beside this ancient convent, in this cobblestone-like street as the sun blazed down from the heavens.

Soon after Steve came. I began to realize how unusual the previous night had been. Six of us around that one table. I realize I’d lost my one opportunity to “redeem the air,” as I termed it in my journal. I wrote:

“I am aware how weak my personality makes me. Dear God! How pitiful! How do you love me still?”

I got this immediate response:

“Your mistakes will never thwart My Plans. You will grow.”

Sitting by that walk, surrounded by backpacks and bikes, I read passages from the journal from the church. The church had found this blank book, and then been passing it around the three weeks before my departure. I’d decided to only read the messages as I came to them.

At this point, I read:

“My dear friend, May you open yourself to receive every rich blessing God is waiting to pour out upon you.”

Another had written:

“I love you because… you immerse yourself in Jesus; you believe one of your purposes is to bring joy; you give your spouse support yet space; …”

And…

“We send you off with prayers of safety and an experience that is life changing.”

And…

“I love you and will miss you but am so excited for your adventure with Jesus.”

And from Karen,

“If there’s a smile that melts my heart and brightens my day, it’s yours. If there’s a friendship that brings joy, incredible joy and comfort to life, it’s ours. If there’s a love that can strengthen what we have and make it stronger, it’s His. You and Me and God And love. What a beautiful pricelist gift we’ve been given. So thankful for you every day.”

And from another brother:

“May you learn to love yourself the way God loves you.'”

I was struck by this line. Love myself the way God loves me. It had always been easier to focus out. But clearly this journey would also be about self acceptance, for God loved me.

The hour for the albergue to open arrived and the large metal interior door swing open. The hostess spoke only Spanish, welcomed us warmly (me with my eight backpacks), and the others who had arrived.
She gathered us and told us everything we needed to know about staying there but I couldn’t follow her Spanish. So I just did what the others did. Got out my passport and money, took off my boots and placed them on the rack, then received my room assignment.

This ancient building once was a convent, filled with the voices of a community dedicated to God, filled with prayer. The deep hard wood floors and stuccoed walls seemed to hold those prayers. conventBuilt around a center courtyard I walked all the way around the square building to my room with two beds, #16. I entered to find another pilgrim already there. Markus Koch from Switzerland.

He’d grown up in a village close to where I had lived one summer while in high school and had my wife’s maiden name for his last name. Instant connection.

I did my laundry, showered, and then we walked a short distance to a local grocery for Markus to buy some dinner, returned to eat, and chatted outside in the garden of the convent until bedtime. Markus seriously loves ancient history. He once visited the British museum in London and had been so enthralled with the place, he was confused as to why they were closing right after he had arrived there, only to realize he had been wandering the museum already for 12 hours! Who does that!

Markus hooked me up to his hotspot in the room so I could text the family. I felt like God had sent him just for me. Bedtime came next for us both. We had opened the window to let in some night air. I slept well.image

About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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