Sunday, October 20, 2013


Our grand adventure culminated when we entered the plaza in front of the beautiful Cathedral in Santiago.  It was quite a sight and very exciting to have reached our goal!  The plaza was filled with activity...pilgrims and tourists...little souvenir stands and living statues.  Very cool!  What we had worked towards for several months, right?

However, it was also a bit of a downer.  It's like my body instantly knew the pressure was off, the challenge was met, and it was time to shut down.  We had been on a high energy pace for 6 weeks and loved it.  Now the walk was over and my body wanted to go into low gear.  I found myself a bit depressed and on the verg of tears for the last three days in Spain.  Not what I expected.  Suddenly I wanted to be beamed up and home instantly.  Where did that come from?

We were grateful for a smooth ride home, both flights.  Our friend, Mike, was at the curb waiting for us to arrive.  The first three to four days we did only what was necessary...getting groceries, doing laundry, eating, sleeping.  Jet lag, weariness, foot still hurting - I didn't have much energy.  

Then on Friday Andy went out to check on Cedarly and found the place overrun by cars and people...with an estate sale in full swing.  We were in shock.  We knew this was a possibility, but I think we were in denial.  We didn't anticipate it would actually happen.  We hadn't heard a word while in Spain.  We had dinner with Dwayne and Rita Hanon.  They had no idea the sale was going on this weekend either.  Our time together was bitter-sweet.  They were very anxious to hear about our trip but we were all in pain and grieving over what was happening with Cedarly.

This morning we went to the 8:00 church service at Elmbrook.  We never found a Protestant church on The Way.  Our only formal church experiences were in Catholic churches and offered in Spanish.  It was good to be in our home church, especially at this particular time.  It's HarvestFest.  For two weeks we host about 20 international pastors for a time of training and encouragement.  They were all introduced at the start of the service.  Next weekend one third of our own missionaries will be in town from all over the world for a week.  It's a big deal and always well done.  Os Guiness is the keynote speaker this year.

We have been talking for quite some time about getting involved in missionary care after Cedarly.  So we were praying and thinking about this while on The Way.  One of the highlights on The Way was meeting and interacting with people from  33 counties.  Coming home now was great timing.  Next week we will be working with another ministry couple, meeting individually with the missionaries during the week offering friendship, encouragement, and counsel.  A new ministry!  Exciting stuff!  It all fit together...

So, my emotions are still in high alert...up and down for over a week now.  The first song we sang in the service was Matt Redman's Blessed Be Your Name.  It's one of my favorites and we haven't sung it in months.  I felt like we sang it just for me...

Blessed be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your Name

Blessed be Your Name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk throughout the wilderness
Blessed be Your Name

Blessed be Your Name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be You Name

Blessed be Your Name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your Name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of The Lord
Blessed be Your Name
Blessed be the name of The Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your Name

When we got to "You give and take away, You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name" I lost it.  The tears started streaming down my face...and continued the rest of the song.  It was cleansing and encouraging.  I really could say, in the midst of all the ups and downs of the past week, Lord, blessed be Your Name.  You are in control.  You know what is best for me.  I can choose to say, Blessed be Your Name!  It may not be my choice to experience the death of Cedarly, but in the midst of the pain and grief, Blessed be Your Name.  We have some ideas about what might be in store for us in the years ahead.  You are in control.  You know what is best for us.  I can choose to say, Blessed be Your name!

The other song we sang this morning was Chris Tomlin's Everlasting God...another great song of promise and encouragement!

Strength will rise as we wait upon The Lord
We will wait upon The Lord
We will wait upon The Lord

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary

You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pilgrim's Prayer

Although I may have traveled all the roads,
crossed mountains and valleys from East to West,
if i have not discovered the freedom to be myself,
i have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have shared all of my possessions
with people of other languages and cultures;
made friends with Pilgrims of a thousand paths,
or shared albergue with saints and princes,
if i am not capable of forgiving my neighbor tomorrow,
i have arrived nowhere.

Although i have carried my pack from beginning to end
and waited for every Pilgrim in need of encouragement,
or given my bed to one who arrived later than i,
given my bottle of water in exchange for nothing;
if upon returning to my home and work,
i am not able to create brotherhood
or to make happiness, peace and unity,
i have arrived nowhere.

Although i may have had food and water each day,
And enjoyed a roof and shower every night;
or may have had my injuries well attended,
if i have not discovered in all that the love of God,
i have arrived nowhere.

Although i may have seen all the monuments
and contemplated the best sunsets;
although i may have learned a greeting in every language 
or tasted the clean water from every fountain;
if i have not discovered who is the author
of so much free beauty and so much peace,
i have arrived nowhere.

If from today i do not continue walking on your path,
searching and living according to what i have learned;
in from today i do not see in every person, friend or foe
a companion on the Camino;
if from today i cannot recognize God,
the God of Jesus of Nazareth 
as the one God of my life,
i have arrived nowhere.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I did it...

I walked The Way...

...with a keen awareness of God's goodness every step, every mile, every day

...without getting bed bugs

...without once using the facilities in the weeds

...carrying my pack the entire 500 miles

...without completely losing The Way and having to back track 

...with a clean bunk and a pillow every night

...eating as much as I wanted and still losing weight


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Columbus Day!

Today is a national holiday in Spain!  Columbus Day we're told.  All go the restaurants and tourist shops are open but not the every day grocery stores, flower shops, and such.  Haven't really seen any special celebrations going on - just a day off as far as we can tell.

We went to a cafe for breakfast, checked out where to catch the bus tomorrow to get to the airport to rent the car, got money...  Then Andy went back to the Pension and I spent a couple of hours shopping for the first time.  Never even wanted to look before because I wasn't willing to carry anything more.  Was fun....lots and lots of shops.  We met at a cafe for lunch and then walked around the old part of town - somewhat half heartedly.  It is a cool cloudy day...kind of dark for pictures...kind of weary  of seeing old buildings and more churches.  We decided to just head back to the Pension and rest our weary bodies a bit more before meeting Faith tonight.

We met Faith about 6:30 at Pilgrim House.  What a great location and wonderful space.  It has been a long process to get the plans and now the proper paperwork from the city to renovate so they are not up and running yet.  They will have space for pilgrims to hang out and meet up with friends in a comfortable living room, a kitchen area where pilgrims can make a meal as well as do laundry, and an area for more quiet reflection and private conversations.  Should be a fantastic place for ministry.  At some point they also hope to have an Albergue as part of their ministry as well.  Check it out....they have a great website at

Faith took us to their home on a hill along the Camino.  We enjoyed a relaxing and fun evening and a wonderful meal together (at 9:00 Spanish style) with Faith and Nate as well as Nate's sister and friend. Unfortunately it was time for the kids to go to bed when we arrived so we didn't get to spend much time with them.  The time was filled with laughter, Camino stories, ideas for ministry, and lots of encouragement.  We are so glad that we had this opportunity and plan to keep in touch and be a part of their lives into the future.

For the second night in a row we were out until 11:00 after weeks of having a 10:00 curfew and lights out policy!

Sunday morning we took a bus out to the Santiago airport to pick up a rental car.  We had some difficulty getting around Santiago, but eventually enjoyed the drive up to the little town of Finisterre on the coast of Spain.  Unfortunately it was pouring rain when we got there.  We found a little cafe that served yummy hot wiener schnitzel and pomme frites for lunch.  Then headed out to the traditional end of the world 0.0 KM marker for the Camino...again in pouring rain.  Was a big disappointment for me as  I had seen such wonderful pictures of this beautiful place...and it was drab grey, dark and wet.
We walked out to the light house but were advised it was too slippery on the rocks to even make it down to the shoreline.  We didn't stay long.  Headed up to another pretty little coastal town called Muxia.  It was easy to picture blue skies, incredible shoreline and wonderful views, but that will have to wait for another visit.

We got on off the little country roads we had traveled and on to the A-6 and headed for Madrid.  Stopped around 5:00 or so at a hotel out in the middle of nowhere.  Must be a popular place in the summer but in mid-October we were the only ones there.  

Monday morning we were back on the road to Madrid.  The scenery was beautiful, the clouds were moving and changing, and we had great fun...because the road went right by several of the places we had hike the past two weeks.  We could see towns, hills and paths we had hiked.  We drove across many of the huge bridges we saw from a distance on the trail.  We talked about what we had seen and done along those trails, who we had been with, what we had done.  A good reflection time.

Somehow we picked a beautiful old town to stop and have lunch.  The sun was out and it was warm enough to sit outside.   Arevalo dates back to Roman times.  An old castle, beautiful churches, wonderful town squares....much of it restored to its former glory.  In olden days it was a political center.  The brochure says,  "In Arevalo, on the 7th of June in 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed, through which Spain and Portugal shared the recently discovered New World between them."

Isabela lived there in her childhood and her brother, the failed infant king Alfonso, established his royal residence.  Ignacio de Loyola was educated here as a young person.  Jews and Muslims also populated the town.

Late in the afternoon we arrived in a suburb of Madrid near the airport.  We stayed in a very modern but very hard to find Holiday Inn Express.  It was one of those "you can't get there from here" experiences.  We relaxed and had a nice dinner and prepared for the trip home.

We got to the airport just fine, but the car rental area was not marked on any of the signs.  We pulled into the parking lot for Terminal 1 where we needed to check in for our Delta flight.  We could see the car rental places, but there was no way to get there from the parking lot.  So, we parked and Andy walked to the Enterprise counter and the agent walked back with him to drive the car in...NO SIGNS along the way.  Even the agent laughed and made fun of how hard it was to find.

Our flight to Atlanta was on time and pretty much a smooth flight.  Andy listened to music and I watched a couple of movies.  We snacked and napped our way through the flight.  In Atlanta we had only about 70 minutes to get off the plane, go through customs, get our bags, recheck our bags, go through security, get to Terminal B on the train, use the restroom, call Aimee, Sarah and Mike (our ride in Milwaukee) before boarding....but we made it!  That flight was pretty quick...must have had a good tailwind.  Mike was at the curb waiting for us and we were home in good time.  

A cold house with a counter piled high with mail greeted us.  We unpacked our backpacks, turned on heat and hot water, and I was in bed by 7:00 local time. I am not sure when Andy came to bed...I was out instantly.  Slept until about 2:00 and since then have opened and sorted all the mail and written this blog...

I would have to admit the last three days were a bit of a challenge for me.  I seemed to be on the verge of tears much of the time, my left foot was (and is) still swollen and achy, and I was just a bit let down, maybe depressed after arriving in Santiago, the end of The Way.  Re-entry to the bustling crowds, the frustrations in driving unknown territory in high traffic, saying goodbyes, leaving the quiet, beautiful all seemed to come so abruptly.  Now it is good to be home, but the to do lists are already forming in my head...calls to make, groceries to buy, laundry to do, people to all comes rushing back so quickly.  

I guess I need to go for a hike in the woods!

A shell on the front of the Cathedral 

So beautiful!
A different angle...the Catheral is quite large and has plazas on every side.
Was a bit dark when we arrived...
We made it! 
Another live statue...
Selling souvenirs everywhere...

On Saturday morning we came across this group of men who had completed the Camino on horseback.  They posed for pictures and then whopped and hollered, celebration a Buen Camino.
Kind of cool!
More sales...
Here's the outside of the Pilgrim House that Nate and Faith Walter are working so hard to open.  It is great fun to picture what it will look like full of pilgrims next season!

The doors on Pilgrim House are beautiful and inviting.

Finisterre...the end of the world...

The town is situated in a pretty bay...don't think I would go out on the Atlantic in one of these little boats.
The cross is high on a bluff overlooking the ocean

0.0 on the Camino trail....
A pretty little bay on the other end of town.
This bay and the next couple of pictures are from another little seaside town north of Finisterre...called Muxia

This is the wonderful town discovered whe we stopped for lunch on the way to Madrid...Arevalo 

Taking a class picture...

The last picture I took in Spain...the only picture I took in Madrid.  We will have to come back for that adventure!


What a great day!  It was dark and cold when we started out at about 7:30 this morning.  The batteries on our flashlight are getting pretty weak so we had only a little light.  Fortunately it was a good path, but through very dark thick forest.  We missed the large crowds leaving early, wanting to get there in time for the noon mass.  They were all ahead of us, so it was a fairly quiet walk through woods, up and down hills, around the Santiago airport and through the suburbs.  We stopped once for a snack in a fairly new and quite nice cafe, Porta de Santiago in San Payo.  

High on a hill there is the first marker for Santiago, so we got a picture there and saw our first glimpse of the city off in the distance.  Just out of town there is a huge monument to Pilgrims and to Pope John Paul II from his visit to Santiago some years ago.  Then you head down and at the edge of town pass the El Templario Peregrino satute - figures of notable historical figures connected with the Camino.

It was about 11:30 so we stopped at a very nice little upscale cafe and had a wonderful lunch.  Andy had eggs, grilled chicken, salad and a huge pile of French fries.  I had a wonderful chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes - big enough for two people - chips, and a coke.  Well fortified, we started the trec up up up into the city.  There was a steady stream of Pilgrims all the way to the top.  The old section of town was bustling not only with Pilgrims but with tourists and locals as well.

We ran into friends from the Camino almost immediately...walked by the cathedral and headed to the Pilgrim Office and waited in line to get our passports stamped and receive our Compostela.  Took 45 to 50 minutes to get through the line, I think.  

We were ready to lay our packs down, so we got some maps and directions at the Tourist Info center and headed off to Pension Pumar.  If you are ever in Europe, is a great place to arrange accommodations while traveling.  Easy and very dependable.  We rested, took showers, and made arrangements to meet up with Faith Walter who has been so much help to us.  She came over to the Pension with our box of everyday clothes and we had a coke together and got acquainted in person for the first time.  (The Pension was willing to wash and dry all of our clothes so we gladly paid them 6 Euro to do just that - what a gift!).  We are meeting her again on Sunday and going to the Walters home for more fellowship and conversation about the Camino and their ministry. Looking forward to that!

We snacked on an ice cream bar and went to the Cathedral about 75 minutes early to get seats for the 7:30 mass.  Andy saved seats while I walked around the church.  Relics of Saint James are buried in a crypt in the church.  You can also go to the High Altar and ascend the steps to hug the Apostle or lay your hand on his shoulder.  You are no longer allowed to place your hand in the a Tree of Jesse like Martin Sheen did in the movie.

The service was nice...some singing, a reading of all the countries resprested today when Pilgrims signed in at the Pilgrim Office, a sermon of sorts, communion, and at the very end the swinging of the giant incense burner Botafumeiro.  Originally it was used to fumigate the Cathedral as sweaty and dirty Pilgrims stayed in the church overnight at the end of their journey.  The ritual takes six attendant tiraboleiros to get it swinging and keep it going.  Was very cool to see it happen!  There was a wonderful organ in the church but only one song was played at the end of the Mass.  The pipes were right above us and just magnificent.  Such a pity they don't play it more.  The church seats 1,000 people and many were standing as well.  The singing and chanting is quite pretty in a stone building like that.

After the service we met up with a group of friends and went out for something to eat.  Was fun to share one last meal together.  Was 11:00 when we got back to the Pension.  The lights out/door locked at 10:00 rule from the Albergues was not in force, so this was the latest we had stayed out in weeks!

So, it was a day of finishing and rejoicing!  Everyone seemed to be happy to have made it safely through the journey.  Stories galore.  Abundant laughter.  Lots of 'remember when' sharing.  The square in front of the cathedral was full.  People took off their packs, laid down with their heads on the packs and just stared at the cathedral.  Everyone wanted their picture taken in front of the church.  Laughter.  Tears.  Rejoicing.  Emotional sobbing in the weariness.  A little bit of every emotion imaginable.

I slept quite well...didn't wake up until 7 and didn't get out of bed until 8.  Felt great...we didn't have to walk today!

Our first glimpse of Santiago!  There was a party like atmosphere at this marker.
For miles these large shell markers showed us the way though the outskirts and suburbs of Santiago.
A monument commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul ll stands sentinel atop Mount Joy.
A prominent monument to notable historical figures connected with the Camino.  
From this point it was pretty much  hill all the way to the Cathedral.
We walked by the Cathedral and made our way to the pilgrim office.

We went to the service for pilgrims on Friday night at 7:00.
We got to,the Cathedral early to get good seats so I walked around a bit and went to see the casket containing the relics of St. James.

We spent a few days with Briget from Germany as well as Barb and Dave from Canada
along The Way.  It was fun to have some together in Santiago as we all finished about the same time.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Let's Do It

"Let's do it" is a phrase Grandson Cade has used with me on occasion when I suggest a game or activity.  He is excited, he is ready, he is all in.  Today I used it, but in a different way...I just wanted to finish the walk as quickly as possible.  My foot still hurts when we first start needs to loosen up somehow.  I didn't sleep well last night.  Got right to sleep around nine but then woke up around 2:00 and tossed and turned the rest of the night.  

We started out about 7:15.  It was cold and dark but the sky was filled with stars with no light pollution to mar the view.  Really pretty as we headed up up up out of the river valley where we spent the night.
We had to walk through Arzua but the lights of the city helped up see our way.  We had a nice quiet walk through the woods the first 9 to 10 km when we stopped for a bit of a rest.  Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the path was crowded with people, noisy with chatting, laughter and music, fast moving with groups of high school aged kids.  It didn't let up much the rest of the day.  Everyone moving toward the goal...closer and closer to Santiago.  Suddenly, the Camino changed...maybe it was getting those of us who have been on The Way for weeks ready for re-entry.  Santiago will be crowded, noisy, and busy as well.  Saturday is a national holiday, so even more so than usual.  Have to admit, we didn't like it!  But we have been reminded time and again, each one creates their own Camino and we have to be patient, understanding and flexible with those who do it differently than we do.

We did have lots of shade in the woods.  Yesterday when the woods were so pretty with the sun shining through the trees making the leaves shimmer, it made me think of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and the maiden Marian.  Today the woods were filled with big trees, it was dark and foreboding, and it made me think of all the scary creatures in the woods in Lord of the Rings.

There were plenty of ups and downs, but not as long and steep as yesterday.  We took another break in Salceda but the cafe grounds were bustling with activity, kids playing music on their cell phones, yelling at one another, having one big crowded party.  Just different from so many cafe stops earlier in the Camino where it was just a handful of people and everyone shared conversations across the tables, getting to know new people, and enjoying the day.

We got to O Pedrouzo around 12:45...a long steep walk near a very busy road into town.  We saw our choice of Albergues across the street.  We had tried to call last night but the phone number we had didn't work.  The nice young man informed us that they were full, but wondered were we interested in a quiet pension that his mother runs.  For just a little more we could have a private room and a good nights sleep, so we said yes.  We walked into town, found the pension, got settled in and went down to the bar/cafe for some lunch.  We shared a big plate with an egg omelette, a large portion of crisp fries, and a green salad.  Tasted very good as we ate out on the patio in the warm sun.  Showers, rest, a walk around town followed.  

So, the day did go by quickly and ended quietly...another good day on the Camino despite my somewhat bad attitude start!  We are headed out to get fruit for breakfast and snacks and then get some supper.  It is still warm and sunny.  The forecast says temperatures will stay in the 60s tomorrow and the next few days.  Fall may be coming to Spain.  We have enjoyed such wonderful weather!

Amazing!  It is the middle of October and Bleeding Hearts are in full bloom. They are an early spring flower in Wisconsin!