Miscellany

So it’s been seven weeks since I returned from Spain and the Camino.

And make that almost seven weeks since my last fearful post on here about how to incorporate what I learned/experienced on the Camino into my life here in Chicago.

I’ve realized I don’t have to know what it looks like. I don’t have to know how the story ends. I don’t have to know how the pieces fit in the puzzle. I don’t have to have it all figured out.

When I was walking across the meseta in central Spain, wheat fields meandering towards the horizons on both sides as I crawled under an azure dome pocked by clouds that were few and far between, I didn’t need to know where I was staying that night. I didn’t need to know where I would sleep tomorrow. I would be ok. Everything’s gonna be alright

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There are days I am nigh overwhelmed by the brokenness in the world.  There are refugee crises, and sickness, and violence.  The weight is huge.  And I am reminded of it daily as I sit in the pain and fear of the boys and girls who I work with have fled violence, destruction, and death.  I sit in it now.  And it is heavy.

We kick at the darkness, and hope that one day it will bleed daylight…  But we keep kicking.  One starfish at a time.  And we keep jumping, even if we’re not entirely sure how deep the water will be…

http://bmiller.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/bleeding-daylight/

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And sometimes when the darkness draws in close, it doesn’t take all that much to drive it back.  Sushi and an old Rasputin.  Friend talks and laughter.  Music and poetry.  And reminders of truth and beauty from Richard Capon as he plays with language and metaphor, meaning and mystery:

Might it not be, then, that it is by bearing for love the uncertainty of what we are to do that we come closest to his (God’s) deepest will for us?  In our fuss to succeed, to get a good grade on the series of tests we think he has proposed, we miss the main point of the affair: that we already are the beloved.  We long ago wound God’s clock for good…

It is our thirst for success and our fear of the freedom which he wills for us that keep us the poor lovers we are.  If the cross teaches us anything, it should be that the cup doesn’t pass from us, and that agony, bloody sweat, and the pain of being forsaken on a dark afternoon are the true marks of having said, Thy Will Be Done.  He is no less lost in this affair than we are.  What really matters for us both, though, is not the lostness, not the doubt, not the fragile, mortgaged substance of our house – only the love as strong as death which has set us as a seal upon each other’s hearts.

This is me learning to show up.  This is me, embracing love.  This is me, realizing that its ok to give up on my quest for certainty, for answers, for control.  What you find in the process is life – and life to the full.  This is me embracing the questions.

It feels good to be back…

Home?

My flight touched down in Chicago last night after almost 24 hours of traveling.  I am home now, close to six weeks after I left.  And while in one sense it is so good to be home – to have a hot shower for as long as I want, use a real towel, sleep in my own bed with clean sheets, walk the streets of my neighborhood in the cool morning light as I head to one of my coffee shops – in the other, it is terrifying.  I had six weeks away from the day to day – six weeks of self-discovery, of newness, of walking slowly, of inhabiting silence, of learning to listen to God, to my body, to others, to the world around me.  I had six weeks where I did not eat a single meal alone.  It was lovely.  Six weeks of talking to strangers and finding that we weren’t strangers at all, but family.  Six weeks of simplicity – of sharing – of community – of delight.

Joy

It has changed me.  I feel more free – more myself – less afraid – less isolated.  More who I want to be, more who I was made to be.  I return tired, but full to overflowing.

And the thing that gives me pause – that scares me more than anything – is that I don’t want to lose that.  Now begins the process of learning to walk the Camino here in Chicago.  Friends have told me this, and commented on it.  I have read that the true Camino begins once you arrive in Santiago, and realize that your entire life is a pilgrimage – and that what matters is not only the destination, but the process of arrival.

I remember returning back to college after spending four months in Nepal and India with WMF, and being terrified that I would slowly forget the lessons I had learned – the relationships I had made – the people I had met – the growth that had happened.  And I didn’t want that at all.  So I made changes to my life.

That process begins again today.  As I look back on this last year, much of it seems covered in fog.  I was existing, but not really living.  Isolating myself from those who loved me, seeking intimacy and relationship from books and TV and movies and fantasy and imagination…  So, time for changes.

I’m not sure yet what those changes will look like.  Simplicity.  Relationships.  Sabbath.  Community.  Slowness.  Grace.  Celebration.

Toast

But my goal for the Camino was to learn to hear God more clearly so that I might be more closely attuned to the things that really matter upon my return to “normal life.”  Now begins the hard work of continuing to walk when there aren’t necessarily yellow arrows spelling out your next destination.

Or maybe I just need to learn to pay a little closer attention to what’s around me…

Arrow

Fair & lovely

Today marked day 13 of walking across Spain on pilgrimage to Santiago. We have walked close to 400 km (240 miles) since starting out in France. It seems like we just started yesterday… It seems like we’ve been walking forever…

A few things that were beautiful today:

– the sunrise over the meseta as we watched the blacks & grays fade into golds & greens as far as the eye could see.

– songs & prayers & conversations & silence & laughter & stories & generosity & love that are slowly turning strangers into family.

– a beautiful impromptu guitar concert performed by a professor of classical guitar in an 11th century church as the setting sun painted the white stone walls into every shade of gold imaginable.

– the local priest laying hands upon us and blessing us as we continued our journey.

– a warm shower, clean clothes, hot coffee, & a soft bed.

– other people.

– a friend who will bandage your bloody & blistered feet with care & tenderness & patience.

– going to sleep knowing that tomorrow we are sleeping in until 6am & only walking 19km. =)

There is much to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for today?

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Consolation

I am tired. And my feet hurt. A lot. A few blisters. A few deep aches in the muscles & bones. 180 km. 7 days of walking.

But those things fade away quickly when you’re seated around the dinner table sharing a meal with friends who you hadn’t met a week ago, laughing through the beauty of blended cultures & spilled out stories, love & laughter abounding. To have someone lift your blistered foot into their lap to help bandage it, the sharing of your last cashews, or simply walking in shared silence through Spanish cities & countryside… Beautiful signs of consolation today. And I am thankful.

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Tomorrow it begins

Tomorrow morning, I will get up, load my pack, and walk for 20+km over the Pyrenees. If I drove, Google tells me I could get there in 30 minutes.

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Instead, these are taking me:

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Why am I doing this? As I lie awake tonight, others snoring & roosters crowing (waking up my new Irish friend Frank enough to mutter “Shut up ya bastard, for fooks sake…” swear some more, & then doze off again…) I laugh a bit as I ask myself that again.

There are many reasons, but as best I can tell, it is primarily to step out of my daily ordinary life in order to hear God better & to love God more, so that I may continue to do so more fully in my life back home.

There is the adventure piece – to simplify – the camino as a metaphor for life – a chance to unplug from distractions – an opportunity to practice living w/ freedom & lightness – freedom for God & for others – a chance to be a blessing & a witness – discernment in my life – space to laugh, have fun, & receive life… All secondary however.

My hope & prayer is that this pilgrimage – instead of simply being a long walk, or a journey to some sacred place – will be a sacred time, that helps imbue my days & my steps with an awareness of all that is holy around me, & the presence & work of the Spirit (& then somehow carry that home at the end-but that’s a problem for the future…) today I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I walk over these today…

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Buen camino…

On the road again…

The last several months have been a blur… I find myself now with a few minutes to catch my breath, sitting in a departure lounge at O’Hare.

A few months ago, I had gotten home from a late night run after a long day (let’s be honest: it had been a long week, long month, & long year…) & as I was thawing out from the freezing cold in a hot shower, I realized that I didn’t have to start work right after graduation. In fact, this might be the perfect time for a Sabbath of sorts – El Camino de Santiago.. (That’s Spanish for The Camino of Santiago!)

So, three months later, here I sit, embarking on a pilgrimage… Preparing to board a series of flights that will take me to DC (where I will get to meet my nephew Caleb for the first time), then on to Dublin, then France. And then I will start walking-across the Pyrenees, through Pamplona & rural towns of Spain, ending close to 500 miles later in Santiago de Compostela.

I’m hoping it will be a time of rest, rejuvenation, laughter, & joy… I’m imagining about two days into it I will be wondering what in the world I’ve gotten myself into… Solitude, silence, community, space to hear God, space to know myself, adventures & exploration, tiredness & brokenness & blisters… All things I both expect & long for, as well as fear.

For those who pray, pray that these five weeks will be what I need, & not just what I want. For those who don’t, you can just follow along for adventures & misadventures. 🙂 Documentation may happen here regularly (or not). =) but I’ll be putting up occasional thoughts, pictures, reflections, etc. on here, & facebook, & instagram. Feel free to follow along for the ride… =)

I. Can. Not. Wait.

Boarding time…

& thus it begins…

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