Saturday, August 10, 2013

Camino yo' life one step at a time...

The group, packs on, pre-trip.
That's right, it might sound a little more "gangster" than I typically aim for, but that's a phrase our group developed early on in our pilgrimage and thought it might be worthwhile to share with y'all. Essentially, walking the Camino de Santiago is more than just simply getting from point A to point B each day (although that certainly does motivate one to continue putting one foot in front of the other), it also consists of the journey to get there, and the adventures along the way. We realized early on how important it is to enjoy the walk rather than spending the entire time wishing you have already arrived, which, believe me, is a huge temptation.

Reading from St. Josemaría along "The Way"
In case you're wondering, I was blessed to have very few blisters coupled with a fairly high pain tolerance. Needless to say, the pain I experienced from the blisters was mild in comparison to the interior battles I fought each day.
At one point one of the students made a side comment, "the mind quits before the body does," and she didn't realize this at the time, but those words spoke directly to my heart. While I was doing pretty well physically, on the inside I was struggling. I felt spiritually dry, far from the Lord, and as though I were doing this walk for the complete wrong reasons. I later on realized that although I felt that way, that was by no means the indicator of the actual truth of the matter. It wasn't until one of the final days that I finally named the spirit of entitlement I experienced. I felt entitled to "feel God" as though I deserved all sorts of good feelings for doing this walk "for him." But that sort of attitude doesn't really reflect one who is doing something entirely for the sounds to me a bit like I was actually doing this for myself and any side effects were just an added bonus.

And then it dawned on me, the mochilas, the backpacks on our backs. Those mochilas represented more than just a convenient arrangement of materials to lug our possessions from place to place. Rather, the backpacks we carried represented, in a much more tangible way for some than others, Jesus' cross, as well as our own personal crosses. I can't speak for the whole group, but after thinking of it in that light, I was reminded that I didn't come all the way here to hike nearly 200 miles for me. I came here to do this for Jesus, so if He allows me to experience no good feelings the entire time I really can't be too upset. The feelings and/or lack thereof do not validate nor negate an experience from happening and even radically transforming us. I would love to share with you all of the little stories and details... but I don't know how to do that. For now, please allow me share a few of the main takeaways from the trip for me:
  1. God provided exactly what each person needed, at every point throughout the trip. Levi and I were in charge of food, and let's be real, even when it looked like all places would be closed for dinner, or nobody would accept a group of 14 hungry Americans, someone would walk by and overhear us and magically make us a paella. It was delightful. And that really happened.
  2. Everything I needed for almost 3 weeks fit into a 45 L backpack. That's pretty neat, huh? I find myself weighed down by so much stuff all the time and it always drives me nuts. I seek ways to be less materialistic, but it is extremely difficult for me and this trip broke me of a lot of personal vanities. Something that I, Kelsey Marie, definitely needed. Again, God provides.
  3. Traveling from place to place is not simply about the destination, it's how you got there. That seems a little cliche and kind of corny, but it's true. As India Arie sings it so wonderfully, "Life is a journey, not a destination." We met another group of 17 from Michigan very early in the trip and one of the young men in the group, Marcus the seminarian, was known for being incredibly fast (as well as an impeccable blister doctor). Marcus, always in the front of the group, using his walking sticks like ski poles and cascading down the mountains like a waterfall, encountered Alli and Jenny one day, who were surprised to see him so far in the back of the group and asked what "he was doing way back here." At hearing the question he looked sad and relayed the fact that he realized he had been so worried about walking so quickly that he hadn't taken much time to actually meet people along the way and travel at a speed other than lightning fast. That was good to hear, and definitely helped us enjoy the walk a little bit more, thanking God for each step we were able to take along the way, knowing that we were here to grow closer to Him.
  4. Our first albergue in León! No, it wasn't a hospital.
  5. There is no reason not to trust God. It's really easy to convince ourselves why it's okay to just take control over certain aspects, like the basic needs of the body, when in reality, the Lord wants to provide for them all. He tells us that in sacred scripture, and it holds true: all the hairs on our heads are accounted for and the Lord looks after them all. There were a few nights when getting into the towns and finding 14 beds to sleep in seemed dismal and unlikely. Somehow, making use of our resources and gifts, the Lord would give to us exactly what we needed: 14 beds (even if it was in a town six miles up and down the road...).
  6. Fr Keith & I near Astorga-day 2
  7. He must increase, I must decrease. That might sound familiar, and that's because it is. John 3:30. John the Baptist's words in regards to Jesus of Nazareth. On this trip, for one of the first times in my life, I was stripped down to the bare bones of KMK (and no, nobody took my clothes when I had them hanging on the line to dry, praise God!). We were surrounded by the same group of 14 very unique individuals literally for 24 hours a day--most nights we all slept right in the same room, just couldn't get away from each other! But that certainly led to myself having a shorter fuse than I would have liked, and my patience was tried constantly. I found myself first failing in opportunities for charity followed by simply serving the other members of the group, student, missionary and priest alike. By the end of the trip, however, I could feel in a much more tangible way, the presence of the Holy Spirit and it was easier than ever before to not only hear what He was telling me, but also follow any promptings. It would certainly not have been the case if I wouldn't have first been broken and poured out for 200 miles. Sometimes that's exactly what God needs to move this heart of stone.
    The missionaries! (L-R) Joe, Anna, Levi, myself
I have more thoughts on the Camino, and stories as well. I'll post some shorter posts with pictures and stories so you can hear more as the summer draws on. Be ye prepared! And stay tuned (wink).

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