Guatemala 2020

I don’t know when I first fell in love with travel. I didn’t leave Canada and the United States until 16, although I did travel quite extensively through my homeland before that. But even before my first trip abroad at 16, I dreamed of going to France. I’ll admit that I held quite a romanticised notion of France in my head, helped along by my beloved Beauty and the Beast. But visiting France along with several other European countries at 16 only whet my appetite. Once I started experiencing other cultures and countries, it seemed like I couldn’t get enough of it. 

Combine this with my passion for education, and teaching overseas seems like a natural fit. But it took a long time to have the right place, right school, right time where I feel certain that this is God’s plan and God’s timing for me, not just my own hopes and dreams. 

So… in case you missed it – in case you didn’t come here via a Facebook post – I am taking a leave of absence from my current job teaching in Canada, and I am moving to Guatemala in the summer of  2020 to teach English at a Christian school outside of Antigua. 

 

To tell you the story of how I got here, I actually want to use something I wrote in 2014. I had just finished the Camino, and I was given the privilege of leading staff devotions with my colleagues as we returned to school in August. (Remember, that means references to the present as you read is 2014!)

 


 

For we walk by faith, not by sight. II Corinthians 5:7

I walked alone through the dawning day as mist swirled around me. It was not quite light enough to see easily yet, and I was carefully searching for arrows that would tell me I was on the right path. In Galicia, the most western province of Spain, mist is commonplace in the early morning. Eventually the sun causes it to disappear, but the first few hours of my day were generally spent in mist. Particularly when I was walking alone, I was aware that a lack of attention might mean missing a turn off the path and result in getting lost somewhere in the Galician countryside.

Often during these misty mornings my mind would turn to Paul’s words in II Corinthians – we walk by faith, not by sight. This was my theme verse for my journey, and it was literally true for parts of the Camino. There were times I would be walking for a while without seeing an arrow or waymark, but trusting that I was still on the right path. Or there would be places where the arrows seemed to point away from the direction that intuitively seemed right. I learned the hard way to follow the arrows. It takes faith to believe that they are leading to the final destination. We cannot see the whole scope of the journey in one view, but we trust that we will get there eventually.

In my personal devotions time about a year and a half ago (context = early 2013), I began praying with urgency to know what God’s plans were for my future – not just the immediate next step, but I longed to know EVERYTHING God has planned for the rest of my years on earth. I am without a doubt a planner. I want to be prepared and equipped. I wanted to know ALL the good things God wants me to do, and what the timeline is for them.

The image I kept receiving from God was of the Good Shepherd leading me, one step at a time, up a rocky mountainside. The way is difficult, and I can’t look up from the path too much as I am walking, because I have to be concerned with where my feet are at present. The path is winding, and I can’t actually see where it is heading beyond the next curve. Plus the Good Shepherd is in front of me, and he is kind of blocking the view.

This was an image that kept returning to my mind throughout my journey this summer. It probably helped that I was actually climbing rocky mountainsides, but I also couldn’t help but think, if I had actually known, at the beginning of the trip, what the whole thing would be like, I wouldn’t have started. I would have given up before I began. Sometimes I think God purposely does NOT reveal everything to us. Walking by faith instead of sight is not a task given to us by a mean-spirited God, but by a heavenly Father who has our best interests at heart as he continues the sanctifying work in our lives. If we knew all the experiences that lay ahead, all the challenges, all the difficulties, would we dare continue?

 


 

I want to pause here from what I wrote back in 2014 to take you through the last year. Actually, let me stay in 2014 for a minute and tell you that even back when I was walking the Camino, living and teaching in another country was a dream of mine. One of the things that I was praying while walking the Camino was that God would give me clarity about when and where and how to do that. I felt a little let down arriving at the cathedral in Santiago without feeling like I had an answer from God. It was after I had dropped off my bag at my hotel, showered, eaten lunch, and returned to the cathedral to pray that I heard the Holy Spirit’s words, “Follow me.” 

Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, God! Was my unimpressed response. And God again brought to my mind this vision of the Good Shepherd leading me, but not being able to see more than one next right thing, more than one foot step at a time. 

Fast forward to 2019. I finally felt like God had led me to the right place, the right school, the right time. I had found a school I had actually seen in a country I loved in a place where I was learning the language. It’s a school that cares deeply about educating kids to grow within the Kingdom of God, creating shalom in the lives of the kids and families and teachers. I had met the TEFL department director, visited the school, sung with kids in chapel, sat in on English classes. I could picture myself there. All that remained was actually making the plans. 

A year ago, I started 2019 with a trip with EduDeo to Nicaragua to work for 10 days helping to construct a school classrooms and learning about Christian education in Nicaragua. At one point during the trip, one of my school colleagues very astutely said to me, “So when are you finally going to move to central America and teach somewhere?” Uhhhhhh…  I sort of stuttered, very shocked for a moment. I’m hoping to do that in January of 2020! You see, central American schools generally run from January to October, so my plan had been to start my leave of absence at Christmas break. 

But by March break, I felt like God was saying, “Just wait!” Okay, God… if I still feel like it’s the right place and right school, then what are we waiting for? 

When my principal approached me about staffing changes and taking on the lead teacher role for 2019-2020,  that was an opportunity I was really excited about. And considering that and wanting to finish the year well at John Knox, it seemed clear that the half  year would be in Guatemala instead of at JKCS. I prayed and prayed, and the path seemed to be made clear again. In the summer, I inquired, applied, interviewed, waited… and received word that I was accepted to teach for the partial 2020 year that I was available! 

Labour Day weekend, I went home to tell my parents that I was planning to move to central America and oh yeah I had just been in the hospital two days but hopefully that would all be sorted out soon. After all, none of the doctors I had seen seemed too concerned over my condition.

Enter September, October, and part of November which I can’t even tell as a coherent story because they were a haze of new medication that made me feel awful all the time with at least a weekly visit to the hospital, referral to specialists, or diagnostic test, plus so many blood tests I lost track. My doctor started using the word tumour when talking about a possible diagnosis. I wondered what on earth God could possibly be doing… but I also absolutely experienced the peace that passes understanding. Even now when I think back to those three months, I don’t understand the peace that God provided. And of course now when I think back and imagine having planned to leave in January 2020… well, thank God that his plans and his timing are better than ours. 

By November, I had a diagnosis and awaited a referral to a surgeon. When can I expect surgery? I asked the assistant when I got the news I was officially referred to surgery. Well… consult by spring and surgery by summer, she told me. I asked everyone who knew about my condition to pray for something speedier than that… and was shocked when I had a consult scheduled in two weeks.

Meeting with my surgeon was enlightening as he explained anew all of the details of my condition. He assured me that surgery would actually restore me to health and I would be amazed at how great I would feel. I explained about my plans, and he assured me that I will have surgery before I need to leave and will be able to carry out my plans. I have again experienced God’s peace as I continue to await a surgery date. (Yes, prayers appreciated as I wait for surgery to be scheduled!)

If there’s one thing that I’m certain of moving forward, it’s that things will not always seem clear of where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do, but the Good Shepherd will continue to lead, one step at a time. And I will follow, even when I can’t see the destination. 

 


 

Let me return to that writing from 2014 to finish things off: 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, God has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Even though we cannot see the whole scope of God’s work, we rest in God’s faithfulness.

Even when we do not know how our work will be used in the Kingdom of God, we will persist in believing that God has good works for us to do, planned long ago. Even though sometimes, the way God is leading us seems to be the opposite of the direction we should be going and we don’t understand what God is doing, we follow in faith. Even when we experience great difficulty and hardship, we will trust that God can work things together for good. 

 


 

Friends, I hope that you also experience the beautiful leading of the Good Shepherd.

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (One week of walking completed!)

Oh, my. What a day. 28.6 kilometres!
I was up this morning before 6:30 and had breakfast at my lovely albergue. Then I said goodbye to Tammy and Lindsey. Lindsey had decided to take a rest day; her knee was really bothering her and she was quite discouraged. Tammy told me to go on ahead, as she was quite sore and would be walking very slowly.
I set out from Los Arcos, and just as I crossed through the arch at the edge of town, I had a woman call out to me. “Hey! You must be Canadian!”
“Is it my MEC gear?”
“You bet!”
Jodene is from Fort McMurray, and she had walked four days so far (to my six), even though we both began in the same place. She walked 40 kilometres yesterday, covering the same distance I had taken two days to cover! She has quite a time limit to work within. I wasn’t sure how long we would stick together if that was her pace, but I did all right in the morning.
We had quite the hills to cover, as always, it seems. Nothing like the mountains, but they are always a challenge. I knew today’s walk would be long, and it was nice to have a walking partner. We stopped for a mid-morning break, and later for lunch. By that time, we’d covered 18 kilometres. After lunch, there was pretty much nothing until Logroño, the city we’re staying in.
I hadn’t filled my camel pack all the way, and I ran out of water shortly out of Viana. It was quite a walk to the next crossroads, where thankfully we found another fountain. Then onwards again. And onwards. And onwards. We passed a man selling things out of his car, and asked how far it was to Logroño. Four kilometres, he said. Okay, I thought. I can make it that far. We went the long way around a Laguna, and hooked back in the direction we had come from. Finally, we came upon a sign that announced our entry into La Rioja. We began the Camino in the province of Navarre, and now we have walked through that whole province! There were some industrial buildings, but we couldn’t see the city proper yet. We began yet another ascent up a long, long hill. Halfway up we took a quick rest in a tunnel under a highway. Finally we crested the top – and could see the city a few kilometres off yet….
We began a descent. A descent this far into a walk is always risky. One misstep, one fall, and you could be done for. So of course our descent was quite slow. Finally we entered the city proper, but had quite a ways to go before we entered the historic city, where the Camino finally encounters albergues. We had decided to spend the night at an albergue on the far side of town. The first albergues always fill up first, as weary travellers want to stop at the first available space. But leaving from the far end of town is an advantage in the morning.
It was a long ways across town as weary pilgrims, but finally we found our resting place. We are staying in an albergue run by the Iglesia de Santiago – the church of St James. It is small and without amenities. But it has a mass, and then blessing for pilgrims, then communal dinner. It does not cost money, but you can give a donation if you’d like. We were very clearly told that this is NOT a requirement, but only if desired.
I lay down for a bit, stretched, and finally took a shower. I was sitting on the floor writing this blog entry when one of the volunteers came to the door. Does anyone speak English, he asked. There were three people in the room at the time, and I was the only one not sleeping. Yes, I said. Are you Catholic? Protestant. Would you say the prayer for intercession for the pilgrims in English for our service? I would love to!
So, that’s what I’m doing tonight! Very exciting!
Tomorrow is a very long walk again. 30.1 – my longest walk so far. My knees have been a bit sore even when walking, as have my hips. Please pray for my joints to be strong and pain free! I do continue to love my solitude and thinking/praying time, and even in hard days, there are many moments that make the hard work worthwhile.
I have been walking for a full week now, and while I question sometimes what made me come, it is always easy to see and experience my Good Shepherd along the way.

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

Each day when I open my blogging app on my phone, I check yesterday’s blog title before composing today’s. I am never 100% sure what day of walking it is. The only reason I know the date is that my watch tells me. Each day actually feels like two days: a day of walking and a day of resting.
This is maybe good in some ways, as it feels like we’ve been here for a really good amount of time. But in other ways, maybe it’s not so helpful. It feels like we should be closer to Santiago! As of Los Arcos, today’s town, we have walked 135 kilometres and have 635 to go.
Today I slept in (see? I AM vacationing it up!) until 6:30 and woke up because I was done sleeping, not because people were noisy. We didn’t leave the albergue until 7:15, and then went to a local panadería (bakery with café) for breakfast. We delayed our departure on purpose, though, since our first stop today was the WINE FOUNTAIN for pilgrims at the Bodegas of Irache. There are fountains everywhere for pilgrims, so you can get fresh water. (I shouldn’t say everywhere – sometimes there are loved stretches without.) but this wine company put a fountain in place with both water and wine! It even had a vending machine where you could buy a glass. (I wonder how many people use that, because all I could think was that I wouldn’t want the weight in my bag!) The sign said, Pilgrims, if you want to arrive in Santiago with strength and vitality, drink some of our wine! After a short pause and the joy of a wine break! I did feel strong and happy!
It was rainy this morning again, but not really too bad. We did quite a bit of climbing until lunch in Villamayor de Monjardin. While Tammy and Lindsey went to a bar for lunch, I decided to eat the hard boiled eggs and fruit is brought. It frankly seemed like too much work to climb the twenty steps to the plaza with the bar, so I sat on a bench in the street next to the church.
All of a sudden, a van drove by, honking loudly. Some women gathered at their doors, and I couldn’t catch enough of what they were saying. I thought maybe they were annoyed at the loud honking. But soon the van came back, honking again, and stopped next to the women. It had a bakery logo on it, and the man pulled open the door and gave the women the bread they asked for. He stopped and chatted a bit, and then pulled away again. The women stood and chatted, and then eventually went back to their homes. It was such a neat little experience, and one that I know would not have been seen travelling Spain in another way. My walking companions and I have often reflected that we get to see tiny villages that you wouldn’t see from highways, and we experience the scenery and landscape in such a different way, too.
After the girls came back, we popped into the church because churches will often have a stamp for your credecencial, your pilgrim’s passport. (It’s what allows you to stay at an albergue, and it is stamped at each albergue.) This church was also mentioned in our guidebooks because it had a very old silver cross in it. The church had a sign that it was open during the day, so we went in. You had to pay a Euro if you wanted the lights on, so I was going to pull out my phone to use the flashlight, but then an old man who had followed us gestured for us to wait and went and turned the lights on for us. He brought us over to the cross (which was well protected behind some bars) and told us it as a thousand years old (if I understood his Spanish correctly!). He stamped our credencials and invited us to light a votive candle. I asked him (in Spanish) if the church still had services on Sundays, because I saw what looked like a little electric organ (definitely added to this 12th century church!). He said, no, not services, mass. Oh, of course, I said. I’m Protestant, not Catholic. Oh, he said. That’s not important. Faith is important, but the difference between Catholic and Protestant is not. He was very sweet and helped me put my backpack back on and wished us God’s blessings as we left.
The rest of our walk was “easy” – mostly flat or ever so slightly downhill with just a quick up and down before the town we’re staying in. But, oddly for our typical walks so far, it was 11 kilometres with any villages to break it up. And the guidebook was right: you could not see the town until you were literally upon it, and the last part of the walk seemed interminable. After six days of walking, it seems like it should be easy and my body should have adjusted better. But six hours of walking is still taxing upon the hips and knees and sometimes spirit. A rest break, a shower, a snack all help one to feel ready to face the town and prepare for the next day. Stretching is also a necessity nowadays!
Tomorrow’s walk is a relatively longer one at 28.6 kilometres. So we rest and renew now in anticipation!

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Again, no pictures yet. But here´s today:

Despite sleeping in a humongous albergue (seriously – 72 people on 1 floor, and 3 floors altogether), I slept in this morning. i was sure that I would be awakened early by other people getting up, but my ear plugs and eye mask seriously did the trick.

I was on my way probably around 6:45. The first walk was quite a nice way through wooded areas and two small towns.  We walked literally through the middle of a farm. I was quite interested to see the farm equipment and animals! Gates block animals from wandering off, and there are signs for pilgrims to close these behind them.

Despite the fact that my guidebook made it look like things would be more or less flat until a medium climb (can´t call it big after yesterday!), there are of course lots of hills. Up, down, up, down.  I was complaining mentally about this, but had a change of attitude later. My asthma does not love the incline, but taking tiny steps at a medium to slow pace works so much better than trying to speed up only to have to stop every ten steps.  At my slow pace, I can more or less keep climbing the whole time. We were in the valley for the beginning of the day, but crested another mountain around 10. Then down, down, down quite a ways. My poor arthritic knee does not love the descent!

People walk at many different paces, and I tend to be a little slower. I know my hips will appreciate that more than speed, and I don´t need to risk any blisters (which are a bigger risk on the hills and very uneven terrain). It´s hard not to get up in a competetive spirit when people are passing you all the time, but I figure there´ll always be some place to stay.

Around noon, we were heading down the side of a mountain, and I could see pilgrims making their way up the next mountain across the valley. Not an encouraging sight! But I ended up with a very friendly walking companion, and that made the time and distance pass much more quickly. It was also incredible to be able to turn around at multiple times through the day, look back at the mountains behind, and think I just hiked through all of those! Over all of those! Quite the sense of accomplishment.

Finally, at about 1, we started our final descent for the day. It was incredibly steep, and on loose rocks. Quite the challenge! Again, so glad for my trekking poles! We made our way to an albergue in Zubiri, crossing an ancient Roman bridge. Legend has it that if you made an animal cross the bridge three times, it would be cured of rabies. (Wonder how many people were bitten by rabid animals, trying to “cure” them!) Our albergue is a former school. I sat in the shade for a while, and then came to find internet to post.  While I was waiting for the one computer to be free, I met a lovely couple from Ohio who had just cooked some food.  They offered me some of it, and we had a great time together. It´s so nice to meet people and talk, even it you´re quite certain you´ll never meet again.

Well, I´m off now to explore Zubiri. Some good stretching is in store tonight, too. Walking uphill and downhill really uses different muscles than walking through flat Toronto.  Still glad I did those training walks, though – I have no blisters like many of my fellow pilgrims!

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

How to even begin to describe what life is like here?

Yesterday I woke up before 6, had breakfast, and was out the door before 6:30. If you know the Camino at all, you know that there are two options for walking on your first day.  One is all the way up and over the peak of a mountain; the other follows a valley before being up and over a mountain.  The first is more climbing, and more popular. I had been praying that God would help me decide what route to take, but when I woke up I was still unsure.  Then at breakfast my hospitalera (the woman who runs the hostal) was talking about how it would be rainy, so you wouldn´t see lovely sights, and really, really windy.  She said people often break their legs falling when it´s that windy. She had once seen a girl fall over and remain unable to get up because of the wind and her backpack.  She had seen a man bracing himself against the wind and running a few metres every five seconds or so, while everyone else turned back.

Since I do not have a death wish, taking the Route Valcarlos was an easy decision. And, hey – if it was good enough for Charlemagne, it´s good enough for me!

Starting out, there was lots of happiness.  The route followed a river, and was off the main road.  All around me were lovely Basque houses and birds singing. Euphoria!

Eventually it started raining. It didn´t stop for most of the day.  Then there were also hills involved. What killed me was that every time the road went down, it felt like a waste of altitude gained – I knew I was just going to be going back up again later.

I found a walking partner in a young man from Korea. This was really a gift from God. Even though we didn´t do much talking, it was great just to have a companion and not be alone.

We crossed over into Spain, and I actually didn´t even know that we had until we crossed back into France. Then along the river for a bit until back into Spain for good.  It´s crazy that you can just walk across a border and not even know it. And people there are probably living in one country and buying their groceries or gas in another on a regular basis.  If you´ve ever crossed the border Canada/USA – it´s just so the opposite of that experience.

Then came the mountain(s).  Up, up, and up.  Sometimes we were walking along a path literally carved out of the mountainside, with a rushing river beside.  I almost fell over the edge once. Walking poles were great for balance and to help drag myself up.

Finally, finally, finally, we crested the peak. And then a swift downhill to the albergue.  Where I showered, and then pretty much sat exhaustedly.  Met some nice people, though!

I am paying for internet on a computer in my albergue right now, so no pictures yet.  People here know how to get money – pilgrims need a place to stay, and it´s more money if you don´t offer free wifi! I´m sure I´ll find one eventually where I can post, though.

The Pilgrim Way

Today, beautiful words from Psalm 119:

 

verses 33-38

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.

Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—

my whole life one long, obedient response.

Guide me down the road of your commandments;

I love traveling this freeway!

Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot.

Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.

Affirm your promises to me— promises made to all who fear you.

 

verses 55-56

I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.

I meditate on your name all night, God, treasuring your revelation, O God.

Goodbyes

Lots of goodbyes lately.

On Friday the school year ended, and I said goodbye to a fabulous group of students. (I cried! I will miss those kiddos!)

Today it was goodbyes to friends, until I’m back in August. One or two goodbyes might have been okay, but there were so many to say that it led to tears again.

(If you are a friend of mine and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to you today, know that I will miss you very much while I am away!)

I am really blessed to be a part of such a wonderful community, and to have so many people to say goodbye to. Thank you, friends! Thank you, church! Thank you, God!

Many friends told me how excited they were for me. I needed that today, because my excitement is finally matched by nerves. Up until this point in time, I have been able to say that I am more excited to walk the Camino than nervous. As my departure comes closer and my terror has grown, my excitement has grown, too, so that I’ve always been more excited than terrified. But now, with just days to go, they’re pretty much at equal levels.

Many friends also told me they would be praying for me. THANK YOU! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Please keep praying!

When I remind myself of the purpose of my trip and of God’s faithfulness, I rest in God’s peace that passes understanding.

And here’s the verse I’m clinging to today:

And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38 NLT)

 

In Which I Practice Some More

As you know, I’m really not an outdoorsy, let’s-go-hiking-or-camping kind of person.And when I decided to walk the Camino this summer, it never really occurred to me that I would be backpacking across a country while walking this pilgrimage.

So amidst my preparations – getting the right gear, buying plane/train tickets to get to my starting point, getting Euros – I also began the physical preparation for hiking: walking really long distances.

Oh, boy.

The first Saturday that I took the train downtown and walked 30 kilometres back home, I had no idea what to expect. The first kilometres were easy, of course. About 15 kilometres in, I stopped for lunch, and was SO glad for the chance to sit down, as my hips were starting to feel the distance. When I started walking again, the skin of my feet literally hurt with each step. Thankfully that stopped relatively quickly, but possibly only because the pain in my joints was a good distraction. At about 20 kilometres, I was sitting down for a quick break every ten minutes or so. At about 24 kilometres, I was sitting down literally every time that there was something to sit on – bench, ledge, railing, didn’t really matter what.

When I got home, there was a brief period of euphoria. See? I can do this! But underneath it was a more concerned sense of okay, I did it once but I have to do it every day of the summer. Every. Single. Day.

My next walk was a little better – my feet didn’t hurt, and stretching my hips on a very regular basis was helpful. It was my knees that hurt. I made it about 25 kilometres before being exhausted for the last five.

The next week was better again – my feet, hips, knees were all fine, and it was only the last three or so kilometres that were really hard.

Then I started walking the 30 kilometers with everything in my backpack that I’m taking with this summer. That added a new challenge – always monitoring my back to make sure it survived. No matter how much easier it gets each time that I walk the 30 kilometres, there’s no way that I would refer to a day spent walking as “easy”.

 

When I tell people about the Camino, or especially if I tell them how I’ve been spending my Saturdays lately, I get a lot of reactions like I would never do that. That sounds terrible. This is your vacation? I would give up. I appreciate the people who are excited for me, but I do actually understand the negative reactions. Like I said, backpacking across the country wasn’t really something I had considered when I decided to walk the pilgrimage.

 

So why do we do these hard things? Why backpack across a country when there are so many easier ways to travel and sightsee? And couldn’t the spiritual aspect be gotten as easily with any other kind of spiritual retreat? Why is the Camino actually experiencing a resurgence of popularity? Is it just for the physical challenge of seeing if you can do something hard?

 

Andy Crouch spoke at a convention I went to a couple years ago, comparing spiritual disciplines to learning a musical instrument. There is a long, long, LONG period of no noticeable growth as you begin to learn to play. There’s not a lot of payoff in happiness as you put in long hours of practicing, practicing, and even more practicing. (As someone who took piano and violin lessons for years, I can TESTIFY.) But eventually, things change. You start to improve. You start to enjoy what you’re doing. If you keep practicing long enough, you get to the point where you can play almost anything that is put in front of you, or even anything you hear. You can get hours of enjoyment from the skills you have acquired, and others can as well.

Spiritual disciplines require the same slogging in our lives of spiritual development. They take a lot of hard work for years, as we seem to make no progress at all. The payoff comes years later, and then we reap the benefits of our disciplines with much less effort.

 

Pilgrimage is not officially a spiritual discipline, but I feel like there are a lot of parallels between it and the spiritual disciplines. At the least, the comparison is a good explanation for why people still go on pilgrimages nowadays. It will be long, hard work to walk long distances every day. There will be, without a doubt, days when I want to do anything other than walk again. There will be sore, tired feet, legs, back. Even as my body adjusts and gets slowly stronger, I am under no illusion that this is going to be anything other than a tiring trip. And yet, like the other spiritual disciplines, it will be worthwhile. Spending time with my Father in his world, conversations with others, time thinking and praying, seeking God. That is worth all the blisters, sore feet and legs, sunburns, terrible nights’ sleeps, and whatever else that I face along the way.

We walk by faith, not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7 says. The benefits we reap from a life of following God are not always benefits that we can see, but we walk on, step by step, trusting that God will continue to lead us and work in us.

Por Fe Andamos

In Which I Start Worrying

Deep breaths now.

Today it is two weeks until I leave. In fact, by this late in the day, my plane will already have left Toronto. (Stopover in Montreal, then land in Paris the next morning.)

People have made several comments to me about how I must be getting nervous, and I have countered that I wasn’t really. And I don’t think I really was. Partly that was because I was procrastinating on several tasks that really needed to be done, and therefore procrastinating the worry, too. But today, waking up and realizing that departure day is getting really close… I kind of panicked. I still had a lot to do!

I have now spent too many hours scouring the Internet looking for plane or train tickets, hotel rooms, RER and metro information. I have resisted the urge to call my older sister at each turn to ask for advice on travelling through Paris. I have reminded myself that I am brave and I can do hard things, no matter how scary they seem. I have reminded myself that I have lived in France and travelled through Paris when I was 11 years younger and less wise than I am now (I hope).

 

I spent a lot of time worrying while looking for various details. I wanted the best trip, time-wise and price-wise. I wanted someone else to give me some advice so I didn’t have all the responsibility lying on my own shoulders. Despite earlier delight at a trip that really requires little planning ahead (mostly walking however far you want and then stopping in whatever albergue you can find), I bemoaned having so many options. Take the TGV? Fly? Leave Paris right away? Stay for a day to see favourite places? How long does it take to get across Paris on the RER/metro? How long should I factor in for making it through customs and collecting my bags when I first land in Paris?

Eventually I realized I had to let go of “the best way” to do things and settle for “a good way”. In the end, the smaller details won’t make enough difference to stress over like I was. And my time has got to be worth factoring in here, too.

And so, praying over the choices and committing my way to the Lord, I bought a plane ticket and a hotel stay. The train and bus ticket will be purchased along the way – I’m confident that I can do those ones easily!

 

I’m thankful for God’s reminders today:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 NLT)

 

I just got a fortune cookie.

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I laughed when I first read it – my upcoming vacation is what is causing my worries. But this fortune is like a little inside joke from God. Don’t worry about your worrying – I’ll teach you not to worry!

In Which I Drink a Lot

I am so thirsty. Walking 30 kilometres through the middle of the day will do that to you, apparently!

I have a 2 litre bag for water that fits nicely into a special pocket in my backpack. A tube with a bite valve lies right along my shoulder, and getting a drink is the easiest thing in the world while I’m walking. Spending money getting something “fancy” (fancier than my water bottle!) was important to me because I found on my earlier training walks that I just wouldn’t bother to stop when I was thirsty. It was a production – unclip the belts, set down the backpack, drink, haul the backpack on again, clip and adjust everything.

Nice as the hydration pack is, it doesn’t solve the thirst problem completely. About 20 kilometres into my walk this past Saturday, I was sucking as hard as I could on my bite valve, but not getting any water. I figured it had a kink in the hose somewhere and found a place to sit and put my pack down. Everything was working perfectly – I had just finished all the water already. Well then. (When I was telling my parents this story, my dad found it necessary to point out that I “get” 10 kilometres out of 1 litre, which is the same mileage that my parents’ van gets – 10L/100km. Thanks, Dad.)

Since I’m not a hiking aficionado, I don’t know the best way to solve this problem. If I can find a place to refill my water, it seems to me like I will need to haul a bunch of stuff out of my backpack just to get the water bag out and then back in. I’m not quite dumb enough to try to refill it while it’s in my backpack… Any experienced hikers have good advice for me?

My walk is more than 48 hours over as I write, and yet five minutes ago I went to the kitchen yet again, filled up my water bottle, and gulped down the contents. It seems I can’t catch up with rehydrating. I drink and drink and drink, until I do not want to drink any more. But I wake up each morning so parched, and need to drink often. I suppose this isn’t really a big problem. There are lots of worse things in the world than drinking a lot of water.

 

As I continually go to refill my water bottle, I keep thinking of Jesus’ words from John 4:13-14 (MSG): Everyone who drinks this water again will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst – not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.

Mmmm. Sounds amazing!

 

And I’m off to the kitchen again to refill my water bottle.