Day 19 – Serdio to Pendules

IMG_8556I awoke as I heard others getting up, while it was still dark. The bathrooms were out of TP that morning! I wondered if THAT was what our host had told me in Spanish the night before: “Here’s where you find the toilet paper…” But too late now!

After I dressed and packed I decided to just leave. I didn’t speak to anyone. Everyone was tired, and for me, after only a few hours sleep, I felt exhausted.

I walked alone. The sun was rising. IMG_8547The path through woodlands, through small villages,

along the train tracks, over a bridge, up a hill and after about two hours, I climbed up and up into the town of Unquerra. It was about 80F. There was a pleasant breeze. I readied for an all day wait.

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I walked to a bar Image-12across from where Grace’s bus would arrive, connected to wifi and checked in with home. After a tea and an hour rest, I walked the town. I bought groceries at three different places, some great trail mix, nuts and figs, all of which I ate and then purchased some salad for the rest of breakfast.  Grace and I had texted back and forth the past few days, prior to her leaving Ireland and then again in the morning as she left the hostel to get her bus. The last word I had was that she would arrive on a bus at about 4:30 pm. I checked the bus schedule at the bar, they sold the bus tickets there, and they confirmed the time.

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Image-11I couldn’t believe she was actually arriving! This long anticipated plan was happening.

I was nervous too. Grace and I had had some difficult times backpacking in 2014 and had had a difficult ending to a trip we had taken in 2013 internationally. She had wanted to come to redeem both international travel and backpacking—both loves she felt she had from me! So, there was a bit of pressure for this trip to do that. I loved Grace immensely and just hoped I wouldn’t somehow blow it this time! And, on the other hand, I believed that it was a huge blessing and gift that my 29 year old daughter would choose to fly around the world for some time together. Seriously, I knew, I was a super blessed dad.

Around noon I went to a restaurant and ordered tortilla served with two pieces of the most wonderful looking bread I’d yet seen.  I wasn’t going to try it, but then realized that the only way to discover if European wheat really was no issue for me was to test it.  Since I had four plus hours, before Grace arrived, if I did get sick, my body would have enough time to recover that I would be able to walk again. So, threw caution to the wind.

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The first bite brought this wonderful sensation to my whole body. Who knew bread could taste that good? I drank some red wine with it so on top of the taste were the ingredients of the meal of communion I’d often celebrated with my congregation at home. “Take, eat, this is my body given for you…this is my blood shed for you,” and I took into myself again the benefits of Jesus’ work for me, that true redemption, that forgiveness, that love, while there at that heavy, wooden table, in this alpine-decorated restaurant in northern Spain. I suffered no side effects, only bliss!

During my 8 hours in Unquerra I moved around from the bar, to a bench outdoors, to wandering the town.  As a result I became really familiar with the place. I knew where things were. As I waited for Grace’s bus later in the afternoon, bidding other pilgrims “Buen Camino,” some stopped and asked for directions to the best grocery stores, a restaurant, laundromator the path out of town. I became their local guide, immensely clear on the layout of the town.

Then one man came in bright green rain gear. When I bid him “Buen Camino,” he stopped to ask what the town this was. When I had told him, he began to cuss: “F**k! F**k!” He said again and again adding emphasis to the word each time.

“Do you know,” he spat, in a strong German accent, kind of snarling into my face, biting off each word intensely, “I first walked through here this morning at 9 am!! I thought (he gestured wildly) that perhaps I was heading to the next town, but no, here I am again at 4 pm. I’ve been walking all f***ing day!”  Anyone within the city block could hear him by now!

“Oh man! I am so sorry!” I told him. I could sincerely empathize.

I remembered how my guide said there were some misplaced newer signs that would bring you back to Unquerra. I told him about the signs. And bid him better favor on his way!

I felt this nervous joy to think of Grace arriving soon!

I removed my boots and relaxed in the sun. I drank water.  There was no rush or hurry. I was two days behind my other friends already by that point and there was no telling what would happen as Grace and I joined forces. Nor was there any telling, whom we would meet.

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Grace’s bus finally arrived about 450. It was surreal to see her get off that bus! I felt so glad to see her.  I gave her a hug and wanted to take a selfie right away. She wanted to make certain it looked good. “Now, where do I look so we are looking the same way?” she asked. We got one picture, and I knew, there would be some need to learn a new rhythm for me and for Grace as we walked together.

We went to My Bar, across the street, bought water, used the toilet and chatted with English fellow named Simon. Then we began our Camino, walking up the hill out of this five block town where I had spent the last 8 hours. It felt wonderful to be leaving. Grace said as we first began to walk,

“Now, I want to hear everything, the blow by blow of your journey from the beginning,” she said. But even as I began to talk, I stopped.

“Grace,” I said, “I cannot possibly do that. I would only be sharing the data, but there is something so much deeper to this journey which defies description and I don’t want to miss that by just sharing the pieces of data of ‘I walked here,’ ‘I ate this.’”

She got that. So we continued the walk and talked of other aspects of life.

The walk up the hill was incredible.

It was beautiful! Who knew there was beauty like this waiting for me just moments outside of Unquerra! The path was this beautiful pavement. The landscape undulated away from us with grassy fields, flowers, houses and far off in the distance a highway. We passed pastures on the left and had this glorious valley to the right that reminded me of Switzerland.

Here I had spent the whole day in this tiny village surrounded by pavement and houses and shops literally steps away was this! What a metaphor that was for life. How frequently I settle for something much less than God has for me. I keep myself in the underworld of my own Unquerra of hurts, fears, loneliness and miss totally the dimensions of God’s powerful grace which can be found “just up the hill.” Lessons were everywhere!

As we walked this first hill, Grace stopped several times to take pictures. Image-5She reminded me of Gabri, her younger sister, the way she found great angles and settings for shots.

And she said, “I’m trying to take good shots like Gabri does!”Image-2

After just 2km we arrived in the town of Colombres which was a quainter place than I imagined, with colorful buildings. I realized that having Grace join me was already adding dimension to my experience with another pair of eyes, another person’s thoughts, and another’s experience along the way beside me. Grace said,

“One reason I really wanted to do this, Dad, was that I wanted there to be a witness of your Camino from the family. Someone had to taste this adventure with you.”

I was really moved by this. Grace has a giving heart like this. What a gift her coming was! Not only another viewpoint, but an investment in me so that she would be witness to at least some days of this journey of mine on the Camino. My fears of some attempt to redeem the past faded away, as I realized we were embarking upon something new.

After Colombres, we passed the signs my German friend had missed which had taken him back around to Unquerra. We headed out toward the coast and a hike over the next three hours.  I was We started up the hill out of Unquerra. It was more beautiful than I had imagined. Just minutes from the town the views were splendid. I totally could have been up in that beauty all day.

She shared into some situations she had been walking through at home and about life there. It had just been three weeks since I had left, but there was lots to share. As we shared, we hiked up on a ridge to the coast. Below us at one point I saw and waved to the German guy who had been so upset in Unquerra earlier! He had made it out of town at last!

IMG_8560We walked the coastal route and finally around 8 pm, we arrived in Pendules. We arrived at the first albergue to see a table holding about 20 pilgrims, many of whom I recognized, sitting down to the family style meal. Run by two Italian brothers, this Albergue was famous. I had looked forward to staying there, but we were too late. They were full. I greeted Michaela, Max, Thomas, Maria and others and introduced them to Grace, for they had all heard my stories of how she was coming!

We left those friends behind and walked to the other Albergue in town. In contrast to the one run by the two Italian brothers, there was no one at this place. There was one pilgrim’s belongings on one of the beds. There were signs posted inviting us to shower, but prohibiting the washing of clothes. So, we showered, changed, and left our things there and wandered the town and found a great little restaurant. There we enjoyed this incredible meal, bread, wine, Pulpo (the Galacian Octopus dish) and a heartwarming conversation and much, much laughter. Grace is famous for her humor!

It was a great beginning. We returned to the albergue, met our roommate, a woman from Canada, and then went to sleep.

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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