I awoke at 530. I had slept 9 hours and I figured I wouldn’t sleep longer. So I just got up. I read Daniel. I was days behind in my regular pattern of reading the Word, but it was great reading.
I journaled: “I love YOUR word God. Love you in it. I love the work you did through Daniel and the way you worked for him to become all you intended. Daniel committed himself to you. He did not bow to the decree of the king but instead bowed to you. He served you faithfully even when he was threatened by the efforts of others who became jealous of his success. Daniel was remarkable this way. He encountered fearful experiences, yet remained mighty in you. Thank you God for him. And for the example to me set by him. I’m thankful that I can follow the same God as did he.”
It is interesting how the experiences of others can cause my own experiences to seem much less challenging! No lion’s den! No fiery furnace! Just a daily walk! But how often I behave and act as if the suffering is great and as if I fail every test. It is a mindset that was being dealt with along this Camino, a belief system, an ingrained habit. Each step stripped it further and further from me.
This morning Grace greeted me with, “I was in a bad space yesterday. Today looks much better.”
We left in the near light, just at sunrise, about 7:45. We found the path that we had accidentally walked a portion of the previous day and went up and up out of the city. It was not raining, even though the prediction had been ‘100% chance of rain.’” Seemed like at 100% the word “chance” would be unnecessary!
You know the way air feels and smells after a good rain? The very molecules seem to vibrate with joy? And colors are more exquisite sometimes in overcast conditions? So, that morning, it was beautiful with that kind of “take your breath away” beauty, and there was a joy evident. We walked, talked of life and both enjoyed the conversation. We stopped for coffee in Villapadre. That morning, I decided that bread was really addictive!
After four hours the rain began lightly and then came in earnest.
At that point three women from Latvia joined us. (a picture from their flight home:)
I walked with Elizabeth, 14, whose dream was to come study in the states. I said “Come to Portland! You can stay with us!” (not exactly her first choice, I’m certain in a dream to visit the states!). Her mom, Anna, and Inese walked with Grace. Elizabeth tried teaching me some Latvian, but I couldn’t manage it at all. This made her laugh and laugh.
Grace and Inese (34) hit it off. Inese was 5 years older than Grace, but had had similar experiences with men! They decided the issue with good men was an international crisis not just an American one. Grace and Inese became friends, laughing, talking, sharing and comparing life stories.
These three women had had these amazing Camino experiences. Twice this trio had gotten lost, and twice been taken in by a Spanish family. Both times the family spoke no English and this trio no Spanish, but had somehow communicated, been fed meals, coke, transported for free to the next Albergue or once to a small hotel (Pension). These were beautiful and typical Camino adventures.
Before they stopped in one town, Anna told us of their adventure in the corn fields we had already passed.
They had been walking in among the rows of corn, for the corn lessened the effects of the wind and rain. But at one point, fed up with the weather, Anna had decided to flag down a car. Hearing one coming along the dirt road, she had leaped out to get the driver’s attention, forgetting, that she how she might look. She had a bright green poncho that covered most of her body, an orange coat beneath it. She had leaped, but the car, rather than slowing had sped up and passed her. Her description of how she must have appeared to this hapless driver had us all laughing. Perhaps breathlessly telling his family that evening — “This creature jumped from the corn fields today!” The trio stopped in a town previous to our destination for a meal, and by the time they reached the albergue we ended up staying at, it was full. So, we got separated!
We had walked 20 miles, missed that Albergue on the way into town, and were turned around by an Aussie named John, also on the Camino. John had discovered the need for new light bulbs and TP at the albergue, so rather than complaining about the lack, writing it into the opinion page at the albergue, this guy had simply walked to town and purchased what was needed.
We arrived at this one-room,18-bed albergue looking like two drowned rats, and got two of the last beds available in this crowded room filled with many Germans and others. On the bunks below me, later that night, was a Spanish couple. The woman was distressed by the journey. She kept saying in Spanish, “Let me just go home. I want to go home.” My heart when out to them and I spent time praying for them since I couldn’t sleep.
I was not doing that great myself that night. After we had arrived, I found myself weeping as I showered. Something about the water flowing over me, the stress flowed out my tear ducts. Grace and I had bought some soup to heat up in the microwave, cheese, bread, wine and came back and feasted on this meal. After we ate, at about 4 pm, Grace showered then lay down to get warm. We had chatted with an American name Tomas while we ate. Grace rested into the evening. I had overeaten on cheese and wine, so later that evening, I walked back to town, went to a local bar, drank seltzer water and journaled:
“Sweet Jesus. I really am an idiot. When am I going to learn? I really know that I cannot drink that much. We shared a whole bottle of wine and ate a huge amount of cheese. That combination, I ought to remember is a bad plan. I know this, but apparently did not believe it. But now am experiencing it! Argh.”
Around me sat older couples at the bar to watch the local soccer match, cheering, laughing, chatting, drinking and enjoying one another. And here I was silent. Being silent, still, quiet was becoming more and more of the norm. I did not pray at meals aloud while in Spain. And this night I was concerned about this. So I wrote:
“Am I your follower still?”
God responded: “YES. You are still my follower.”
“Am I failing Grace?”
God answered: “No. You are not failing Grace.”
“So what does Paul mean to receive food with thanksgiving for this sanctifies all things? I tend to never pray over snack foods. So what do I do there? Am I receiving those with thanksgiving?”
1 Tim 4:5 says “God’s words and our prayers make every item in creation holy.”
1 Cor 10:21-2 “Eat your meals heartily to God’s glory as a matter of fact do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory.”
“So if prayer is a part of eating and if I’m serious about following you then I want to pray with food. How I do that? I want to be immensely thankful for the taste texture of all food and delight in it. And eat it with gusto. Heartily. But I don’t want to do anything to the detriment of others. So I’m back to the question does bowing to pray bless the food differently than just being thankful in my heart? And how is it that my own spirituality has mimicked my parents? How is it that prayer has not become more of the practice of our lives? Together? Somehow my type of practice early on burned Karen on everything. I was too spiritually self-important. I used too many words trying to impress others or perhaps You. There was too much self in the way. There was too much doubt driving religion to want to earn the love you had already given. All this and more burned Karen, I know. God forgive my childish ways. Forgive my selfish behaviors.”
A peace had flooded my heart. Journaling does that sometimes. I knew that I was free. That prayer was a matter of breath and movement, and that yes I could pray aloud, or I could pray silently, or just be rejoicing in my heart, God was in all of it. Freedom seemed to be the lesson of the camino on one level. That freedom really is a huge aspect of what it means to walk with Jesus.
“‘You will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burdens from their shoulders,’ You spoke through the prophet Isaiah (ch 9). Perhaps all my life I had been more intent on keeping the yoke and the burdens rather than allowing You to break and lift them.”
After I returned from the bar, I tried to sleep, but was up again at 1 and 2 in the morning, feeling ill, seeking to find a way to rest. I ended up sitting up and praying and journaling far through those wee night hours. Looking around that area I realized that everyone else had their boots inside the building, but mine, I knew were on the front porch, outside. And it was pouring. I hopped that meant they were under cover out there, but decided I had best bring them in.
So, I opened the front door to get my boots inside. That heavy door opened with this enormous, surprising, LOUD crack bang burst. I was dismayed and felt so bad feeling certainly I would disturb the sleepers. I got my boots which were still dry, but unfortunately the door also shut with the loudest slam imaginable. Of course it was the middle of the night, and everything sounded louder then! I was certain it awoke someone sleeping in far-off Ireland! It was that loud. I was certain cursing would soon rain down upon me as I stood by the door, and willed all the stirring sleepers back into slumber. Thankfully, No one awoke! As I journaled, it turned into a night of prayer for Grace, for our relationship, for others and a night of seeking to just connect with Jesus in an authentic way. And, thankfully, He and I did.
Once I went back to sleep around 3 am, I awoke again at 6:30 am. There would be no wine, no cheese and no bread on this day! My stomach was a mess still.
We started walking around 7:50 am and it was raining steadily already. There were no pictures that day. We trudged along the path.
Grace needed to find a toilet at about 10 and for next three hours we passed no bars. We walked through several towns but not one boasted any bar at which to stop. I thought that she could just take a break off the road, perhaps, but she would have none of that. What emanated from her felt like anger. She was quiet, kind of shut down, frustrated, and I dared not ask what I wondered, “How are you doing?” For really it was obvious! I could tell from thirty feet away where I was walking.
On this day I learned some of our different wiring. I feel first, react second and think third. In that order. But Grace reacts first, thinks second and then feels last. There was nothing quite like making the walk seem worse, than having a need without a solution, and having wind and rain pelt us through the day.
Finally we came to a bar, that was just 2 km from our final destination! Talk about the 11th hour! We stopped there, got hot drinks, used the toilet, (ah!) and all of life brightened. She then said “Thank you so much for not asking me how I was doing today!” 🙂
We then made our way across this treacherous bridge,
some 200 meters above a river, with a chain-link fence between the walkers and the traffic, but with just a railing between us and the long, long, long way down to the river. The wind pelted us all the way across. Grace had insisted on wearing my heavier pack for this portion of the hike. I was so concerned she’d get blown over! Once across, we walked into town, stopped at a local place for the “meal of the day,” and with wifi found a booking.com hotel that was just 1/10th of a mile from the restaurant. It was a great clean place. I took our wet stuff and laundry, and took a taxi to the Laundromat, and got everything cleaned and dried.
At laundromat I met two other pilgrims there for same. Dididre from Belgium. And Christopher from Spain. Christopher arrived soaked to skin took off shoes and socks and dumped all the contents of his backpack into the washer. Threw in socks. He then needed help getting change and Dididre assisted him. Then he told his story.
He had gotten to La Carnidad that day soaked to bone. Everything wet and had gone through town seeking a place to stay. He’d been in forest praying “Lord what do I do?” There were no rooms. At one place there was a man delivering luggage and Christopher asked him if he could give him a ride to Ribadeo and the man did. Such a “Camino provides” story! Christopher was very thankful.
I walked back from laundromat although I had taken a taxi there. I stopped by the bus station, on my way, but no one on duty, and there were no schedules posted. I got back to the hotel at 530 pm and we chatted about dinner and talked about getting pizza. I’d passed a place on my walk home and we decided to go there.
Before we left Grace was saying how she would like to see our Latvian friends again. I said I would hopefully see them again and would get their contacts. We left for pizza. Walked up to main drag and in second block who should be walking across the street toward us but these very friends! We met in the middle of the crosswalk, in the middle of the road and had this grand, joyful, hugging, kissing reunion!
We helped them find hotel. Then agreed to meet an hour later at 8 for dinner together.
Grace and I came to room. I sorted and consolidated my belongings planning on sending things back with Grace that I didn’t need to Ireland!
We went to a bar and did a crossword together and then met them. Hugs again all around. We went to this fine restaurant that didn’t open until 830. So we waited in the bar for 1/2 hour enjoying glasses of wine, coke, etc. The meal — a glorious salad and a dish of the Galacian octopus, “pulpo,” and we shared desserts- was wonderful, laughing, stories, life. It was wonderful. Rich. Full. We were the life of the room, for certain. A couple having finished their meal walked to our table and asked if we had been on the Camino and saying we had, they told us their story of their journey walking the Portuguese Route 200 km into Santiago! We shared with them and then parted arriving back at the hotel at 11 pm. What a day!!!