It’s been a week yesterday since I walked my last steps on the Camino. My clothes are clean and put up, my backpack dirt has been soaked away, and my shoes are dust free. My mind is at peace, body relaxed, and I’m already trying to organize my next Camino adventure. Who would have thought ten days of walking would change a person so much.
Time is quickly slipping by since my epic Camino adventure, and the memories are still swirling in my brain. Before I put into words all the incredible experiences of my walk, I feel it’s important to reflect on how I got there. One of the great gifts God has given us humans is free will. We can listen to what He says, say yes, or ignore it, and move forward with our desires. So often, we do not intentionally ignore God’s path; instead, we become so involved in day-to-day life we fail to listen. I have no doubt the Camino de Santiago was a crossroad God placed in my path. Did I ignore the messages that God was sending me many times? Did he give up on me, NEVER.
Roughly eight years ago, I was listening to a talk radio show (coincidence? #1); one of the hosts was walking a short distance on the Camino de Santiago. I had no idea what they were referring to and didn’t think much of it that day. Days, weeks, months passed, and those words, Camino de Santiago, kept popping up in my thoughts. Finally, I googled the words and was intrigued by the thought of quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Over the years, I joined Camino forums and Facebook pages, reading the experience of others. Inspired, I hung a canvas map of the Camino in my office for inspiration. I dreamed of the walk, then moved on with my day-to-day life. Every so often, the Camino would come back into my thoughts, and I eventually put it on the when I retire bucket list. The ultimate plan was to use the Camino as a time to decompress from my stressful career as I transitioned into retirement. In October 2017, I submitted my retirement paperwork and thought April would be a great month to start my walk. However, uncertainty and FEAR crept into my thoughts. I doubted the Camino was for me, so I did not move forward. God, however, did not give up on me and kept planting the seeds, and I occasionally listened.
You heard me correctly; I occasionally listened. Although I wasn’t intentionally not listening, I lacked faith in God’s plan for me and my abilities. I had no doubt I knew what was best and was having difficulty accepting what God knew was best for me. One day (coincidence? #2), I received an email concerning a Camino group organized by Gus Lloyd, radio host on SiriusXM Channel 129 (the Catholic Channel). I quickly read the email and moved on, knowing this was not for me. My mind, however, did not let go of the email, and several days later, I went back and reviewed the email again. This time I prayed to God and made a genuine effort to listen. Within days, I submitted the forms and payments and was committed.
Several months after signing up, I received a group email from Gus with training tips. I noticed one of the group members was a friend from a prior pilgrimage. I sent her a Facebook message, and within weeks, the two of us had moved from being solo travelers (coincidence? #3) into roommates for the trip. This lovely lady, so full of faith and joy, taught me to open my heart to joyful confession regardless of the burden needing to be confessed—more on that in a future blog. Eventually, a Facebook page was created so we could begin to meet and bond with our fellow pilgrims. Once again, FEAR and lack of confidence crept in. It seems this group was full of endurance athletes. Anyone who knows me knows athlete is not a word one would use to describe me. I can recall some entertaining memories of me and hurdles, LOL. I was ready to drop out, willing to lose my down payment. But, again, I decided to listen. I prayed to ask God if I had misheard him and if I should drop out of this trip. As always, God had my back, and just to make sure I was hearing Him, He sent a very clear message to me. Two days after I prayed for clarity, a new member was added to our group, a replacement for someone who had to drop out. This replacement (coincidence? #4) was Mary Ann. My mother’s name is Mary Ann; I had no doubt God was telling me I was in the right place.
Later during the journey, I was discussing these chains of events with Gus; he told me the 1st email I received was never meant to be sent out to the public, yet it did go out. There is no such thing as a coincidence; God has a plan for us; he puts things in our path to lead us to what we need; we only need to be willing to listen and hear to help us make the best choice for us.
I hope you find encouragement in the message and know God has a great plan for you. Even in times of despair, have faith; God is with you, and if you listen, a crossroad is in your future.
Please continue to follow my blog to see what the Camino and those faithful, fantastic fellow pilgrims provided to me. Please pray for me to continue to listen and hear God’s plans for me. I will also pray for you.