Monday, October 21, 2013


Earlier this week, I realized that I was losing the hard-earned calluses on my feet.  Considering that they were created in the places where I got blisters (the side of my left big toe, the ball of my right foot and on the heel of both feet), the process actually looks a little bit like it does when a blister pops and the skin flap comes off, but without the pain/weepiness involved.  Yes, I know, not the prettiest of mental pictures, but just a reality of not walking anymore.  The fact that I'm not doing near the exercise that I was makes me sad, as does the fact that I'm going to have to start all over again once I can actually handle walking more than a mile without pain again (and I'm currently at about .35 miles of running without pain!).  If nothing has brought home to me that I'm really not on the Camino anymore, this has.

Honestly,  getting over tendinitis has greatly restricted my exercising, although I am finally adding this part of my routine back into my days.  I have to say that  I will be incredibly happy when I can get up to 3-4 miles running again, but I'm thinking that it is going to take at least another month of recovery, even with taping up my ankles.  I found this really cool way to tape my feet for the type of tendinitis that I have, and I'm going to be trying it out later this weekend.  Keep your fingers crossed that it helps!

At this point, my goal is to be able to run about 3 miles by the time the beginning of December gets here, although I will be happy if I can run about 2/3 of that plus walk the rest.  I just don't want to lose the level of fitness that I have achieved, but every day that I'm not able to get out there is another day that I will be closer to my sedentary, unmotivated, couch potato self--an iteration of myself that I hope to never see again!!!

Losing my calluses made me think of other calluses I have lost.  You see, playing any kind of stringed instrument will give you calluses on your finger tips, and I spent most of my high school and college years getting and then losing calluses on my fingers, depending on how much I was practicing at the time.  When it comes to instruments, there comes a point when practicing becomes torture until those calluses form, and if you don't grit your teeth and fight through it, you will never develop the calluses you need to be able to play pain-free.

There is also a down side to calluses, though.  The thicker skin means that you don't have as fine of a sense of feeling through the calluses.  It protects you from the rubbing or the pressure, but it also means that you won't feel certain things as easily as you used to either, which made doing things like trying to pick up spilled straight pins more difficult than when I had no calluses.

A picture I drew in my journal while on the Camino.

Life has a way of putting Calluses on our hearts as well--those places where life or our own sin rubs or chafes us.  Before my Camino, my heart had a lot of calluses: my former daily life required that I protect myself just to get through the day.  In the Bible, this process of gaining calluses on our souls is often described as hardening our hearts, or that our hearts had become hearts of stone rather than hearts of flesh.  Walking the Camino began working on those calluses on my heart, softening them like a long soak in the tub softens calluses on the skin: you can now attack them with a pumice stone!  The Lord was scraping away on the hard places of my heart in order to expose tender, new flesh underneath. He's not done yet, but I'm closer to the tenderhearted person I used to be, and that, too, is part of the healing process.  I don't relish the process, but I like the result.  May the Lord help us all to lose the calluses on our hearts!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite

I saw this particular challenge on another blog, and just had to go with it.  While you might have seen some of these pictures from my Camino before, others you might not have, but all of these speak of the infinite for me...

Sunset from my drive home one night.  
Sunsets seem to show all of God's glory as He uses the sky as his canvas.  It is one of my favorite things about living in the Southwest--I think we get the prettiest sunsets here!

"The Road goes ever on and on..."

I took this picture on the day before I contracted tendinitis as I was walking to Ledigos.  I can't imagine the time it took for pilgrims to pile these rocks on the Camino.  And yet, there is a feeling of timelessness that overtakes you on the Camino.  No, that isn't right...the road stretches out before you, and time becomes irrelevant as you think about putting one foot in front of the other.  You become a part of the line of pilgrims that stretch out through time, both before and after.

This is a door to the cemetery surrounding a little church on the way to Samos.  Sometimes, when I am not in a hurry, going through an open door evokes a scene in my head from Pinky and the Brain: 
Pinky: What are we doing tomorrow, Brain?
Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. (pregnant pause) Try to take over the world!
 Doors open up new and exciting possibilities!

I took this on my next to last day on the Camino at Monte de Gozo.  This particular Albergue has something like 900 beds, and this is just one of many dorms. I found my reflection in the glass door, as well as the light shining through my reflection from the door on the other side of the dorm very compelling.  And, that is what the Camino did for me: opened a door into my soul to shed light on what was found there.

If you want to join in, feel free to use the link below to add your own post on the weekly photo challenge!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain." (NIV)

This verse in I Timothy 6:6 has been going through my head ever since I have been home from my Camino, and at least part of it is that the greatest result from my pilgrimage has been that I have "found my peace." So, really, I have found some contentment in my life and in my current state in life.  That doesn't mean that I'm like Mary Poppins ("Practically Perfect in Every Way")--Not by a long shot!

Graffiti in Yellow on a Grey wall that says, "Still a long way to go!"
This is some of the Camino-related graffiti that is on the trail...If you can't read it, it says, "Still a long way to go!" It was at about the 150 km mark from Santiago.  One of my friends told me after the fact that she mentally gave the writer the middle finger when she saw this.  Of course, she had already walked about 650 km at that point, too!

One of the things I'm realizing as I integrate back into my "real life:" I am still the same person I was before I left, only more joyful. I still struggle with getting up in the mornings, especially if my niece and I left the A/C on all night.  I still struggle with being lazy at work, and procrastinating (although staying on track is easier since coming back).  I still struggle with what it means to be creative, and what my role is at my place of employment.  And, I still struggle with doing the same chores that I found onerous before I left for Spain! The difference is that I don't feel this all-consuming discontent about my life and where I am.  I don't have that "itch" in my gut that is telling me that I need to be doing SOMETHING (only God knows what) to change where, what, or who I am right now.

This is the Femur bone of St. Benedict, the father of Monasticism.  It was given to the Monastery in Samos by the Monastery in Monte Cassino in order to show how important their community is to history (this monastery is the oldest monastery built to care for pilgrims on the Camino) and to the Benedictines.
That is why we have so many different types of saints--It is because God doesn't change us into something that we aren't when we become saints.  Instead, he makes us into the people He truly intended us to be, and in the process, we become lenses for His Love to shine through to the people around us.  That means what I would look like as a saint, and we are ALL called to be saints, is different from any of the saints that have gone before. Honestly, I really like the idea that God doesn't make cookie cutter saints--only one type of saint would be boring, and it would mean that only certain personalities would have a fighting chance of becoming one!

This particular sign in Leon made me giggle--we have been prohibited, El Paso!

One one level, I have expecting the contentment to dissipate because I have a hard time believing that it can last the onslaught of all the craziness that is my life. While walking the Camino, life had a different pace and a different rhythm to it... But, it hasn't been going away, and for that I am very thankful.  For the first time in my life, I can truly say that I am comfortable in my own skin--something I'm not sure I have ever truly felt until this point.  Now that I have been home for a little over a week, I'm beginning to suspect that this contentment may last for the long-term, and that is a joy and a blessing in and of itself.

As I have been exploring this contentment (much like a child worries a loose tooth), I think a large part of it stems from the fact that I have come to a greater understanding of what it means to trust God, no matter what the circumstances.  Like I told one of my co-workers upon coming back, I didn't get the Camino that wanted, but I got the Camino that I needed. God seems to be incredibly good at that, just like any good parent would be!

The arrow on this post is actually pointing right, but I really liked the blurb someone had written on it, about 100 km away from Santiago: "No amount of miles can make a mockery of IRON WILL."

I also gained some insight into how my free-will interacts with God's plan for me.  Heck, I think I became the queen of getting lost while on my Camino, in spite of the fact that I was trying to faithfully follow the arrows along the trail.  And really, I only ever had to backtrack once.  All of the other times, my "lostness" ended up becoming slight detours that, pleasant or otherwise, still got me closer to my goal.  Some of my prettiest pictures were the result of getting lost, so good even came of those times when I wasn't sure of where exactly I was going.  This process made me realize how utterly ridiculous my deepest fear and insecurity really is: I have always feared that I would wake up some day and find that I had totally missed God's will for my life.  Pilgrimage is our walk with God writ small, you see, and every time I lost the trail or got lost, because I was seeking those arrows, I never strayed very far.  There were also people along the way that pointed me in the right direction (and a few that got me lost unintentionally--unless you know the pilgrim has walked this way before, DON'T follow their directions!!!).  If God sees to it that I don't end up in the middle of Nowhere, Spain, how much more will He see to it that I fulfill His will for my life, especially if I am seeking it out?

So, I am basking in the contentment and joy that I have been given, and seeking to be more godly in my thoughts and my actions.  I'm not there yet, but my prayer of late has simply been, "God, make me a saint."  I don't know if I will ever make it, especially considering all of the selfish, thoughtless things I do on a pretty regular basis, but the Yellow Arrows embedded in the Sacraments, Scripture, the lives of the Saints, and in my little corner of the Church Militant keep me moving forward and redirects my path.  As C.S. Lewis writes in The Last Battle,

Come further up! Come further in!