How The Camino Messed Me Up

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It all began in September of 2013…

It was my first encounter with by beloved Camino de Santiago, the 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. Since that day, I’ve struggled with words to adequately describe this unique experience, failing miserably each time.

Trying to explain this little blip in time, so outside anything I’d known in my life, both before and since, leaves me stammering and stuttering.

It’s no exaggeration to say that who I am was forever changed – profoundly and to my core. Trying to put that transformation into words that make sense is futile.

Instead of talking about it, the natural next step for me was to bring other women to experience this life-altering phenomenon for themselves. I created groups, providing every method I could imagine for this adventure to be easy and stress-free. My deepest desire was to have others feel like I did.

The lesson with my first group was definitely mine. I learned I had to let go of my attachment to having everyone else experience what I had. It was their Camino. They had their own lessons to learn, and blessings to receive that had nothing to do with me.

Since that first return trip, I’ve accompanied two more groups of women with hopes of several more to come.

Each time I arrive in Spain and make my way to our designated point on this precious trail, I breathe deeply silently rejoicing at being in this place I love. And as I walk through the doorway of our first albergue and am greeted by the loving hospitaleros, I am home. Home to a place that my soul is peaceful and at rest.

The ironic thing about this situation is that at my own home, I don’t feel stressed or unhappy. I am very calm and comfortable there, grateful for my joyful life. There is just something different on the Camino. Something words don’t describe.

I like who I am when I’m there, and I feel that for this short period of time, I step into the fullness of who I was created to be.

So, now, here’s how this centering loving place has messed me up…

For the time I spend in this soulful place, or alternative universe as I like to call it, I feel deeply connected to nature. This is something I was a bit surprised by, not even realizing what I was missing. There is this heart connection that I experience with people that I can only relate to the way I feel with my family or very good friends. Some of these people, I know for less than 24 hours, yet tear up saying good bye to them. The most profound awakening for me was my spiritual connection. I consider myself a woman of faith, but what that meant to me completely shifted from my head to my heart. What I believed as a concept became a very real and personal knowing.

I know this sounds very ‘woo woo’ and maybe even unrealistic, but that is my true experience. Not just the first time – every time.

The struggle is: How do I continue this elevated state of being, once I return home?

I try. When things are rough or if I’m having a hard day, I close my eyes and visualize myself some place on that trail. I smell the forest, I hear the birds, I feel how I felt, and it soothes and comforts me. But that’s temporary. I’ve yet to find a way to have that become a regular way of being in my everyday life.

It leaves me longing for the Camino like a lost child, counting the days until I can be back in its inviting comforting arms again, safely enfolded in its unconditional love and pure beauty.

This is the closest I can imagine to what it will be like to be in the arms of my Heavenly Father again.

So, thank you, Camino, for a glimpse of that joyful precious reunion. I guess you haven’t messed me up after all.

Dark Hallway or Sparkling Space?

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My sister, Sylvia, once said I think so far outside the box that there isn’t even a box anymore! For the most part that’s true, as I embrace my playful title of “Infinite Possibilities Sister”. I get excited exploring what could be instead of what is, and not just for myself. I love helping others, especially women, see what’s possible in their lives and to live from that place. To kick that stifling ‘box’ aside, to see with new eyes, and to live with an open heart.

We all get stuck from time to time, wandering aimlessly in our own limiting box of what we believe is possible and what we’re used to. I, myself, am certainly no different. I love my life and how I spend my days, but recently found myself settling into a comfortable routine because it’s easy. So, at the beginning of 2019 I decided to shake it up a bit!

Instead of planning and leading four women’s retreats again this year (which I love) I decided to take my own advice and open my eyes to ways of providing meaningful experiences and seeing what else is possible.

I have a slight obsession lately (saying ‘slight’ makes it sound a little less crazy, right?) with Marie Kondo and her method of simplifying and organizing by consciously choosing what sparks joy. And it got me thinking. If this can work for our material possessions, why can’t we apply it to our lives? I decided to test this concept out by exploring what in my life not only sparks joy in me, but truly fills my soul and has me living the best version of myself.

Sounds enlightened and inspirational, doesn’t it? Yes, in theory. In reality, I am now sitting in a place feeling unsure, unsteady, and even a bit anxious.

I am reminded of how desperately I need to know what’s next. I like having a plan and following said plan. I like feeling like I’m in control, even though I never truly am. I still like the illusion of control.

Instead, I sit. I sit in the unknown, secretly wishing I hadn’t opened this can of worms and would rather go back to my safe comfortable routine. But, I started this and will ride it out.

I’ve been in a similar place other times in my life. Haven’t we all? Transition and change are inevitable, and we navigate them the best way we know how. I used to refer to this season as ‘the dark hallway’ – that place where doors have closed, but no new ones have opened yet.

Today I choose to call it the ‘Sunshine Space’. The doors are closed, but the area is sparkling with potential. I don’t know what those new possibilities are yet, but I’m willing to set my fear aside to notice the slivers of light peeking through the cracks in the doors offering a glimpse of something more beautiful than I’d imagined.

I don’t know what’s next. I have no idea where 2019 will lead me or what the journey through this year will entail, but I’m open. I trust my Source, the One who DOES know all and will reveal it as I’m ready to hear it and move forward.

How about you? Have you ever felt, or are you feeling it now, the wind of change blowing in? Is it time for something new, but you don’t know what?

I’d love to hear about it so we can navigate this path together, moving forward, ever on the magical journey in this life we love.


What are you afraid of?

What’s your biggest fear? 

Snakes? Heights? Spiders?  If we dig a little deeper, we may discover what really scares us is not being accepted, not feeling lovable or loved, or not quite good enough.

When did we develop those fears?  For some of us it was one moment in time that was so traumatic we remember it like it was yesterday.  Someone said something or did something to us that made us feel unworthy or unimportant and caused us to view the world as unsafe.  For many of us it wasn’t one single thing, but a series of events that combined made us feel uncomfortable in our own skin, timid, and fearful.

This week I was reminded twice that fear is a liar, and only holds power if we let it.

Our granddaughter, Chloe is outgoing, creative and fun.  Her favorite things include kittens and all things sparkly.   Tryouts were held at her school for an upcoming talent show for grades K-3.  Being in kindergarten and one of the youngest participants did not deter her; she sang a song for her audition.  She was the only kindergartener selected to make the cut, to which she was over-the-moon excited!

The day came where she would perform in a room full of students, parents, and of course, grandparents.  Pretty daunting for a 7-year old, you would think.  But not for Miss Chloe.  She strutted confidently out onto the stage in in full regalia – pink sparkly shoes, polka dot tights, rainbow toile skirt, turquoise off one shoulder top, a big multi-colored bow in her hair, pink sparkly earrings, and a huge smile!  With pure innocence and joy, she began singing.  There was no sound coming from her headset, and my heart sank.  But it didn’t faze Chloe. She continued to belt out her song without skipping a beat, and within a few seconds the problem was rectified and we could hear her sweet song loud and clear. 

I was so impressed by her bravery as she sang her tender little heart out, having the time of her life.   I wondered at what point in my life I had lost the courage to be so visible, vulnerable and brave.

(Side note: she took Second Place).

Fast forward to the following night…

My daughter, Stacey, and I meet every Tuesday for dinner and this week she texted me that she wouldn’t be able to make it because her daughter, Mackenzie, was participating in a Choir Concert at her school.  She invited me to come, and I immediately said yes.

I figured this would be a typical group concert where Mackenzie was part of that group.  And it was.  With one exception.  I found when I got there that Mackenzie had a solo part in one of the selections.  This blew my mind!  I wasn’t surprised about Chloe’s debut, but Mackenzie is a different type of girl altogether.

First of all, she’s thirteen years old!  I can’t imagine doing something that bold at thirteen.  I would describe Mackenzie as wise beyond her years, witty and clever, but not particularly extroverted.  She tends to be more quiet and thoughtful.  She’s caring and considerate, and loves animals, especially her dog Muffin who she carries around in her arms most of the time. So, you can imagine my surprise to hear that she willingly volunteered and auditioned for this spot on the program.

As time drew near for her solo, I found myself becoming very nervous for her.  Thirteen can be a vulnerable age and I so wanted her to have a good experience.

When she stepped forward with quiet elegance in her simple white tank top, long black skirt, and neatly combed hair falling just past her shoulders, I knew my fears were unfounded.  She exuded calm, poise and confidence as beautiful tones emerged from this precious young woman’s mouth.  I was amazed!  I had never heard her sing before, and didn’t know she was holding inside her such a beautiful gift.  When she finished, her mom and I looked at each other in amazement, as we both said, “She was really good!”.

Afterwards, as I hugged her and told her how proud of her I was, I said, “You didn’t even look nervous”  to which she replied, “Oh, I was nervous.  I was really sweaty!”.

There was my second lesson.  Bravery doesn’t mean not being afraid.  It means stepping into life and playing full out in the face of being scared.

I’ve given a lot of thought to both lessons from my unique and precious granddaughters since then, examining what it is that I’m most fearful of, and why.  The power and hold those old stories typically had on me seem trivial as I reflect on what I experienced recently.  Fear tries to hold us back, to keep us small and ineffective.  But, I have a choice.  I can give in and allow that to happen, or I can choose to live the life I was created to live.  I prefer instead to be the greatest expression of myself and a courageous positive force and light in the world.

With tears in my eyes, filled with awe and pride for these two sweet girls that I love so much, and the lessons they taught their Grammy, a song came on the radio that stands as a constant reminder to me.

I hope it’s a good reminder for you, too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQTnREEtuNk

 

Good news, bad news, or just news?

Isn’t it funny how insights or ‘aha’ moments can hit at the most unexpected times and ways?

Last weekend I was leading a women’s retreat in Sedona, Arizona and all nine of us ladies were having lunch in a funky Sedona-ish restaurant.  After our order was placed, our server, a very insightful young woman in her twenties, returned to tell us she had ‘news’.  I asked if it was good news or bad news.  She quickly replied, “It’s just news.”.  Then she added, “You can determine if it’s good or bad, but it’s just news”.

In that instant, it’s like a lightbulb was switched on over my heads, and said outloud, “Wow. That was profound.” 

I was reminded how quick I am to label something as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without knowing the end game or how it will all play out.  It turns out the ‘news’ she had was that they were out of soup.  Initially I would label that as ‘bad’ news, but those who ordered soup, selected something different and were pleased with their choices.  So, I guess it turned out ‘good’.  What do I know?

This poignant comment stuck with me as I continued to replay in my mind how many times I have assessed a situation, without having all the information or knowing what twists and turns lay ahead.  So many times, okay MOST times, I was premature in my evaluation and had I watched and waited, a much different outcome than I’d expected would emerge.  I vowed to myself to be open to observe situations unfolding without a bias or preconceived idea of how it will be.

Sounds easy, right?  And, it is pretty easy when you’re talking about soup.  But just yesterday a very dear friend of mine, a sistah really, received a diagnosis of Stage 4 Cancer.  As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t let it be ‘just news’, and I asked myself why I couldn’t apply that principal to this situation.

I found the more attached I am to the outcome of a situation, the less likely I am to allow it to be whatever it is.  I don’t have the answer here.  I wish I did.  Instead, I’ll keep working at releasing my opinion of this prognosis and trusting the Source that is so much bigger than me and my understanding.

Which brings me to my third example.

As this is Good Friday, I am reminded of all the people who were present to witness Jesus crucified on the cross and those who heard of it afterward.  That could not have been ‘just news’ to them.  That was surely seen as very ‘bad news’ – devastating even.  Their friend, their teacher, and their leader was brutally taken from them.  Yet in just three short days, not only did their friend, teacher and leader return, but now he was their Savior, also. This news that could have been viewed as the worst news ever, turned out to the be the ‘good news’ that would save generations of people throughout the world.

So, what in your life are you calling ‘bad news’?  Can you remove that label as you watch it unfold and witness the unexpected beauty and miracles that may result?  Let’s all try together.

 

 

 

Amy's Camino Story

Amy's Camino Story

Amy, or 'The Little Sparkplug' as she was lovingly referred to by some of the ladies in our Camino group, is dynamic and friendly.  On the trail, not a fellow pilgrim got by her without her striking up a conversation and asking how they were doing.  I expected her story to be about one of those encounters.  I was amazed and moved by the encounter that meant most to her.  Thank you, Amy, for sharing from your heart.

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