Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Joy is in the Journey

It seems a lifetime ago that we were in the cockpit of a KC-10 flying from Travis AFB to South Carolina as we began our trek to the United Kingdom. As always, it had been a crazy time getting out of town and so getting to ride with the pilots for the entire flight across the United States was such a beautiful gift to me to as we began our sabbatical this fall. We love this mode of travel because it is unpredictable and out of our control and to truly receive the fullest benefit from it we  
must begin the process of relinquishing our own agendas so we can be free to truly enjoy the joy that is this journey.

Our sabbaticals have always been an opportunity in which we take the time to pull back from the busyness of life and open ourselves to a perspective that deepens and refines who we are. By sheer definition, we are learning something each and every time we indulge in this beautiful ritual and I find I have become both enamored and dependent on it. We happen to be blessed that in this season of our lives as we are able to do it in the beauty and solitude of long distance walking. Walking is akin to prayer for me and so I thrive on it. It is also a time for Tom and I to have some time together and savor moments that feel as if we have them for a lifetime instead of just the weeks or months and season that they really are. It is the beginning of a process I call retrospect…taking time to reflect on what is happening or has happened and allow myself to be made new by shedding the complacent parts of who I am and being open to the vulnerability and growth of who I can become. It is always a deeply spiritual journey and one I pray is from a perspective greater than mine. I found the words to a favorite song of mine lingering in my mind as this time drew near and I was excited for what was ahead…

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

I find I am craving depth, longing to go deeper and becoming intentional in my personal relationships with both my Creator and those He has given me to love. I do not need to do a lot of important things in this season, I am longing to do the significant ones. I felt a stirring in my heart to see my father for his birthday this year. I had not seen him for quite some time and, quite honestly, the timing for this trip was a bit inconvenient. We had planned our travels abroad with a specific date in mind which is something we rarely do. We love the spontaneity of our travels and deadlines can add pressures we do not want or need. We had the numerous ‘emergencies’ around here before we left which added to our fatigue and stress. It felt incredibly overwhelming to leave but also incredibly right at the same time. I arranged a flight and quickly called and my dad’s wife to let her know I was coming. It was to be a surprise. I called my sister along the way and she agreed to come out also. My relationship with my father is multifaceted and while not always easy, it is one that I have come to understand and love over the years. It was not until I was an adult that I could begin to understand an adult perspective of marriage and divorce. I was a young, vulnerable, teenage girl during that time of transition and while that season in my life was very difficult, it was the impetus of my formative process and without that season I do not believe I would be the woman I am today. Not an easy process, but, to me, one I would not change. While parts of it were intensely hard, it was also an incredibly beautiful visit and it evoked deep feelings of compassion, empathy, and love for my family. I never go astray when these feelings are brought up to the forefront of who I am. It was a most memorable time and I will always cherish it. Did I mention I pricked myself with a vine while doing yard work with my dad… 

To say the course of events that were to follow were crazy would be an understatement. The details are too long to enumerate but suffice to say the small prick of my skin developed into an autoimmune mediated response and subsequent infections of my skin. Our trip changed in a moment as we were grounded in Spain with daily medical appointments and hospital visits. Many things happened that we had not expected, planned, or wanted but when I think of it today I could not imagine a better way in which these events could play out. We were cared for by a wonderful physician and every physical need met without difficulty on our part. The staff and our friends on the Naval Base loved and looked after us as if we were family. Our ride home was comfortable and expedient and I appreciated the depth and tenderness of care Tom gave me during this period of vulnerability.

Take me deeper than than these feet could ever wander... 

 My prayer…fully answered! Just not the way I had planned or  expected. I have to admit, I love it 
when  my prayers are answered predictably and in beautiful and comfortable ways. Walking along the English countryside, staying at lovely farmhouses while enjoying the beauty of nature and adventure, then celebrating Tom’s birthday with our friends in London would have been my plan and preference if asked. Take me deeper...Our journey was just another way to go deeper, fully dependent upon His care and guidance and cleaving deeply to each other... than my feet could ever wander. It was what I had asked for...

We are home now. Resting as the season changes to my beloved fall. Waiting for the temperature to dip a little more so we can light a fire in our fireplace, watching the leaves begin to change to the beautiful hues of red, orange and gold, wanting to bake bread, cook soup, and spend time with you. Beginning to think of our next adventure but for now, just savoring the beauty and joy that was in this journey...

You are loved...

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Gentlemen's Walk

One of the most outstanding gifts we receive while on our travels are the friends we make along the way. We met a lovely couple from Pacific Grove while we were walking along the Portuguese Way and to this day they have become one of our favorites. Barbara and Terence Zito are definitely like minded travelers and so when we heard that they were going to the Cotswold in the UK we thought we should check this out. We became enamored by the English countryside (we were also watching Downtown Abby) and we decided that we would branch out try some walks in this area. We love Spain and had a few moments in which we felt as if we were betraying her but decided we could handle the change of venue.

We consulted with a few of our friends in the UK and came up with a list of three walks. The Coast to Coast walk which begins in St Bees on the Irish Sea and ends at the North Sea in Robin Hoods Bay. From there we had planned to walk along Cornwall on the Southwestern coast and then finish up with a walk through the Cotswold. If we were so inclined we might finish up with a short holiday London. 

These are much different walks than our traditional Spanish walks in that we will actually stay in some beautiful old English Victorian homes and small country estates. 'Upon arrival we will be served cream scones and a pot of tea' which I think will make my gentleman of a husband very happy. And, while I may long for a glass of wine, a piece of fresh baked bread, and a good goat cheese drizzled with olive oil, I can think of no better way to begin the celebration of Tom's Diamond Year, the 75th anniversary of his birth in this lovely setting! 

So with his loafers and a sweater vest packed we are off on another adventure. We are currently in South Carolina awaiting a flight eastward. Remembering always that the joy is in the journey...

Cheerio and Buen Camino...You are loved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Life Well Lived

The Via de la Plata was an epic journey. The ever changing scenery captivated us as we passed through the many regions and seasons of Spain. Sevilla, The Extremadura, Castillo de Leon, Galicia, each region presenting us daily with the very best it had to offer and solidifying the love we have for this area. We were challenged  by the off road navigating, the length of our journey, and the significant weather extremes. This of course, was offset by the beauty of the area, our solitude along the way, and the experiences we had and the  people we met. We found it a beautiful experience and it renewed our passion to do it again. It will become one of my favorite stories to tell.

These journeys give me plenty of time to contemplate the innermost workings of my heart, mind, and soul. We received the news a few days after we had left that a dear friend of ours had passed away. While we had known of his illness for quite some time we had hoped he would, again, be waiting for us when we returned home. I know he played a round of golf a day or two before he died and so his wife would say he was doing the things he loved until the very end. I have thought about these words many times over the last several weeks.

We know this time was a gift to us. For me, my days were filled with thankfulness as I throughly enjoyed being exactly where I was. There was great peace and joy to be found in the simplicity of our walk and I thought about the things I want to fill my remaining days. This time is my someday life and I want it to be full of the things that move my heart and bring me peace and joy. It is not complex nor does it require a lot of work, I just have to be receptive to all that is waiting for me. I realize that I have lived a full and busy life filled with family, career, and missionary work, which are fine and noble pursuits but now is my time to be still in Him and wait to see what is ahead. I am excited and know I will not be disappointed in His plans for me. They are full and rich and in that I am certain and most thankful.

One of my all time favorite movies contains a quote I have never forgotten and found myself thinking about on these travels. "...the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these we stay alive for."  I would be foolish to settle for anything less.  

So I think of you as we head home. The anchor on my heart, the foundation of all that I am, and the integral and defining parts of my life well lived.

 You are loved. Buen Camino.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


While Finisterre was once known as the "End of the World", for those who seek the roads less traveled, the end of the Way is considered to be Muxia. For us, this was to be our final destination for this trip.  When we arrived we found Muxia to be somewhat of an enigma. It does not have that celebratory aura that Finisterre has and yet it gives one the sense of completeness. In fact, it's outward appearance is a bit solemn and devoid of the everyday busyness of life. The people we met were warm, kind, and validating to us in the completion of the final trek of our journey.

It was a very peaceful time and we enjoyed it very much. It's hard to imagine but people come from all over to visit this area. Muxia's claim to fame and the reason it is so intimately connected to the Camino story is to be found in the legend of the Nosa Senora da Barca, or Our Lady of the Boat at the headland of the Santuario da Virxe da Barca. The legend states that the mother of Jesus sailed to these area on a stone boat to tell the apostle James he had not failed in his evangelism attempts and call him back to Jerusalem. The boat is supposedly petrified in stone and stands erect at the headland near the 18th century sanctuary dedicated to this event. The sanctuary is a stunning sight as it hovers on the waters edge.

For us, it was a beautiful time of solitude and reflection. We have much to be thankful for and in these quiet moments we recognize our blessings. You are among them and we hold your heart next to ours. You are loved. Buen Camino.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

On the Road to Muxia

We had decided to alter the number of kilometers we walked each day because, quite frankly, we were getting a little tired after the nearly two months on the trail. We felt it was important to slow down a bit because this was a beautiful area and we wanted to really appreciate it and not just rush and walk through it. It took us a bit longer this way but we have no regrets about this decision.

We stayed in a lovely town called Lires at a beautiful pension. Our host, Paublo was born in this home which has been converted to a lovely restaurant as well as the pension. His mama Leta does all the cooking and it was superb. Beautiful seafood, padron peppers sauteed perfectly, fresh tomatoes, good wine and wonderful bread and cheese. It was heavenly.

In Spain, they celebrate  Mothers Day the first Sunday of May. A walking club from Asturias, Spain was also coming through and so a lot of the wives of the walking club members arrived in Lires to celebrate both Mothers Day and the arrival of their spouses. I had realize a few days ago that I would not be home for Mothers Day and was feeling incredibly homesick. In my limited Spanish and their limited English we managed to have a lovely afternoon eating the wonderful delights Leta had made and drinking wonderful Rioja wine. Leta sat with us for awhile and it almost eased my heart.

In the evening we walked through this lovely small village and met some of the people who make this area their home. We shared hugs and kisses and stories about our children. In the evening Pablo took us for a ride to watch the sunset over the ocean. It was incredibly beautiful and he was so kind to do this for us. It made the evening so very special. In an attempt to catch our breath for a moment, the beauty and kindness of strangers truly took our breath away. We are excited for what is ahead... Muxia tomorrow.

Love and miss you. Buen Camino.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


We had some unfinished business with The Way to Finesterre. We had planned to walk into both Finisterre and Muxia after we had completed the Camino Frances on our first pilgrimage in 2014 but we were bombarded with torrential rains when we arrived. We waited a few days to see if the storm would let up (it didn't) and then we made the decision to take the bus.  For a pilgrim with pride issues this can be a hard pill to swallow but we did it because we are pilgrims working on these kinds of pride issues.

We were dressed and ready in our rain gear as we boarded the bus and much to our surprise there was a break in the storm a little over half way there. We quickly asked the bus driver to pull over and he obliged us and we walked in. It was stunning and we had vowed to walk this route in its entirety when we were back this way.

Our next walk was through Portugal and it was challenging for many reasons. Tom had a routine surgery in which he developed an unusual complication. We were not sure if we could even make this walk and he did not get the go ahead until the day we left. It was a hard walk and when we completed it we were met in Santiago again with torrential rains. We would have to save this walk for another time.

The weather along the Via de la Plata was tumultuous. Heat, wind, hail, snow, and  copious amounts of rain. Some days were filled with a little bit of each of these types of weather. We got very good at adapting to the changes quickly. We prayed that if it was sunny when we arrived into Santiago we would finally walk into both Finesterre and Muxia. Our prayers were answered when we arrived with a warm, beautiful, sunny day. We took it as a sign and quickly set out.

 To say it was a stunning walk would be an understatement. Old villages, wooded pathways, gentle hills (mostly), with the promises of a glimpse of a beautiful turquoise blue sea just around the corner. The sun was warm upon our faces and the breeze cool upon our backs. We thought of the Celtic prayer many times during these days and were very appreciative that we were the recipients of such perfect weather.

Finesterre is the place you go to celebrate your accomplishment. It is a fun and festive place where everyone is happy that you have finally arrived. We met up with some people we had loss track of along the way and met some other people we had not seen at all on the trail. There was a parade when we arrived and after we enjoyed the festivities we sat on our balcony overlooking the sea and the two of us celebrated the beauty of this moment.

We received our Fisterana, our certificate that verifies we have made this pilgrimage to Finesterre. It is beautiful and we are glad that we have completed this journey. No regrets and nothing left undone.

So now it is on to Muxia. We are excited to see what lies ahead. We are thinking of you a lot these days. You would love it here.

You are loved. Buen Camino.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Santiago in the Horizon

There is an interesting set of 'mind shifts' that occur as our walk progresses over the several weeks we are on the trail. In the beginning we are excited and think we can conquer anything. For these first few days our daily walking goal (in our minds) in kilometers surpasses our collective ages but very soon we realize that those days have passed us and we must quickly adjust to the realities of this season of life and slow our pace down a bit. 

This is followed by a phase of, "What were we thinking? Are we ever going to be able to finish this walk?" We daydream about luxurious cruises, travels in which every moment of every day is filled with ease and all we have to do is enjoy it. Our shoes are soft, my hair has a style, and we even have a sweater when we feel a chill.

 Then we get into the challenge of our journey. Off the trail and cross country walking and the skill this poses consume our thoughts. We are feeling good about ourselves and our abilities to adapt to the ever changing course we are on. Our bodies are getting stronger. We are not novices any longer and we think even our children would be impressed with our skills and stamina. 

Suddenly, we begin to feel a bit tired and start counting the days until we finish. We look for shortcuts and, I'm not ashamed to say, sometimes we take them. The goal of our arrival into Santiago takes precedence over everything else. 

Another strange thing begins to happen as we draw close to our goal. We really aren't ready for this to end. We find ways to extend our days by looking for alternative routes that will take us out on the trail for a few more days as we hope to capture every last moment before we reach the end of our travels.

We are beset by a barrage of feelings as we near Santiago. How did we get here so fast? We are excited to be here, and yet... It is like receiving your diploma after a long hard course of study. Excited for the moment but also with the realization that change is inevitable. Are we ready for that change? How will we acclimate back to a life other than the one we have lived these last several weeks? It was hard and so very beautiful at the same time. The simplicity of it makes it hard to go back to the life that we left and yet, at the same time, we are so eager to be with those we love the most in the whole world.

When we walk into the Plaza Major all thoughts vanish and we are engulfed with the emotion of the moment. Each of our entries into the city have been through a different gate but there is familiarity and excitement as we begin the long walk into the Plaza and to the cathedral which marks the finish of the Via de la Plata. So many have gone before us and many will come after us but for now this moment is ours.

We concentrate on the words given to us at the pilgrim mass as we stand at the zero kilometer mark. "It is a good thing you have done pilgrim."  Yes, we have to agree. We can walk through the rest of it later.

You are loved. Buen Camino.