Saturday, August 6, 2016

Camino de ______

Since attending a quiet, mostly locals mass on our first night, there were few opportunities to attend mass.  As much of our route was through very small towns and we chose to stay in off stage towns, most churches were closed or did not have mass times.  So it was much to my delight on Saturday to discover mass in Triacastela.  We decided to have a short walking day, only 14 km, and to stay, enjoy, and rest up a bit in a bigger town.  When we arrived to Triacastela around noon we visited the Church of Santiago in town.  As we were leaving I saw a man and woman walking and chatting about something in the graveyard.  The man stopped me and asked me how my pilgrimage was going and assured me that he would be praying for my feet.  I left with a smile on my face from our interaction.

So that night we came back for mass.  What a different experience from our first day in mass!  Surprise, we were no longer the only pilgrims present.  In fact the church was almost entirely full of pilgrims from around the world.  As mass was being said I heard Spanish, English, and Italian responses being used.  I also saw some people from the Philippines, South Korea, Canada, and Germany, and those were just the people I knew.  Second surprise, the man from before was the priest.  I was delighted to see him again and to realize he would be presiding over mass.

The gospel for that Sunday was Luke 11:1-13 in which the disciples ask Jesus how they should pray.  Jesus responds by presenting them with the Our Father.  As I heard the priest reading this, reciting the Our Father, I was immediately filled with such wonder and joy.  Here I was present in this church with people from all over the world coming to share in communion with one another.  We don't all speak the same language, but we all pray and we all pray the Our Father.  I was struck by the beauty of how different and unique we are and yet how connected and in community we are.

As the gospel reading continues, Jesus shares an example of friendship to remind the disciples that through prayer what we ask for we will receive.  In his homily, the priest connected this to the Camino and how the Camino is a path for us to Santiago, a path for us to drawer nearer to ourselves, a path for us to draw near to God, and a path for us for life.   He asked us how we would finish this sentence: The Camino is __________.  He then proceeded to list several ideas:
Camino de amor.  Camino is love.
Camino de fraternindad.  Camino is fraternity.
Camino de paz.  Camino is peace.
Camino of finding yourself.
Camino of relaxation.
Camino de aventura.  Camino is adventure.
Camino de evangelizacion.  Camino is evangelization.
And more.

As I sat in mass in communion with pilgrims from around the world I contemplated the phrase "Camino de fraternindad."  Here we are, coming together in unity to walk, to pray, to break bread.  Here we are coming with different languages, traditions, customs to all experience the camino.  I don't yet know how to answer that statement, it is only day 4 of walking.  And I probably will continue to dissect that as I continue the camino of my life.

What I felt above all as we joined hands, shared peace, broke bread, and prayed the Our Father in our languages, was the love, community, and peace present along the camino.  Love, community, and peace that the camino gives me hope for, throughout the world, as we each embark on our own caminos.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pay Attention

The Camino lends to an interesting lifestyle that I grow more accustomed to each day.  Each day in a lot of ways is completely new and full of surprises.  And yet each day in a lot of ways has become quite routine.  I wake with the sounds of my fellow pilgrims, pack, eat, and walk.  When I arrive to a new place, I find a place to stay, shower, do laundry, rest, eat/explore/mass, and sleep.  

One constant each day is the time I have to reflect, to ponder, and to discover.  I cherish this time, solitude, the conversations, and quiet.  Unfortunately at the end of most days I'm too tired to turn my random musings into more organized reflection.

I did have an interesting encounter that I have pondered many times on Camino.  On Friday my dad and I climbed to the top of O Cebreiro and continued down to stay in a small (and by small I mean two albergues and two bars and one house....nothing else in sight) town Alto Poio.  As we were heading down from the summit O Cebreiro we were feeling awesome!  The climb up was more beautiful and achievable than we thought.  It was day 3 of walking and we had completed what we'd heard was the hardest part.  Things were still new and we are constantly in awe of the beauty. We were discovering a routine of walking and following arrows.  Onward, move the journey forward, we can do this.

The Camino is so wonderfully filled with signs to keep the pilgrim moving forward.  The path is full of seashells and arrows guiding you, beckoning you forward in your journey.  As is often the cAse when I hike, I get lost in my thoughts and day dreams and the beauty of the natural world that I miss or worry that I've missed an important trail marker.  So as we headed down we saw a path and we saw an arrow pointing down and without second glance we followed our arrow.  We were feeling great, conversation was flowing and we were on the path. 

A little way into the walk, I began to worry that we hadnt seen a comforting arrow in awhile and that we were the only people walking on a busy highway.....  And so went our walk.  It would be quiet for awhile and then one of us would question if we were on the path.  The other person would then reassure that we had followed the arrow.  

This continued on for a disconcerting amount of time and I knew we had missed the trail.  There weren't signs, we were on a highway on the side of a mountain with no where to go or to ask for help.  We had two options: continue onwards and hope to reconnect or to go back up the mountain and try again (yeah right!). 

So we continued onward.  It was then that I began to notice the many tiny butterflies along our route. Now there are many, many butterflies along the Camino (happy dance) but there appeared to be more here.  As many of you know, I am often attracted to butterflies as signs and hope.  So I immediately recognized them as a comforting sign that God was indeed with us and pushing us onward.  Eventually we arrived at a statue and saw the path we were supposed to be on.  We realized at we somehow ended up on the bikers path and were able to rejoin the walkers path that led through more beautiful mountains.  

As we continued on the "right" path, I pondered more what had just happened.  My dad and I talked about it as well.  "But how did we miss the arrow?"  "We were paying attention."  "Where was the arrow?"  These thoughts occupied our conversations and thoughts.  the trails are so well marked and we were paying attention, so how did we miss it?  But that's just it.  Sometimes the "right" path can be right there and yet invisible.  How easy it can be to miss a sign, a call, a voice, a direction.  And we're all going to miss many in our life!  So then I thought more about those butterflies.  Because even though I didn't take the intended route, God was still there guiding me, leading me, and pushing me onward.  

And in the end we got to our destination.  So did it matter how?  I don't think it matters how.  Push onward, be in the present, turn to God.  "Right" path or not I'll try to look for the small ways He's guiding me forward and leading me closer to Him.  And of course, I'll try to pay attention. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Journey

There's a popular quote, "It's not about the destination, its about the journey."  I think that statement almost always rings true for me when traveling as I often face the biggest hurdles before I even arrive at my intended locations.  The start of the Camino was no different, in fact two days late different.  Being on day 2 of walking, I am not about to imply that the airport fiasco was and will be th ingest hurdle, but it certainly but new meaning and simple joy into that.  As I walked today and felt my 3 blisters I thought, but I'm here and at one point that never seemed possible.

The first three days have been days of such beauty!  Arriving in Ponferrada brought out such intense joy to be able to wander and enjoy such a city!  I'm so glad we began in Ponferrada because we arrived on time and there were so many treasures to uncover in that town that we could finally feel like everything was clicking on our trip.  There were lots of bikers and a beautiful bike mural outside our hotel balcony. There was a medieval castle to explore. There were tapas to be had.  And the best part...pilgrims  mass.  We wanted to see the Basilica de la Virgen de la Encina.  When we went to visit I read that there would be mass at 8. When we returned the church had a handful of spainards present and us. It was my dads first time at a mass in another language, which was a great experience!  The mass was relatively quick, no homily, but at the end the priest called all pilgrims forward.  He then blessed us, sprinkled holy water on us, and gave us a prayer card to, as he said remember and pray for their community as they would remember and pray for us. How beautiful.  Just the start we needed and wanted for our pilgrimage.   To receive the Lord's presence at mass, to have our first encounter with pilgrim hospitality, and to go forth connected and prayed for, was more than I could hope for.

I definitely channeled that strong presence, motivation, and community feel as we entered walk day 1.  As we left Ponferrada, we moved at a moderate, excited pace through various small towns and stopped at every small church we could along the way for 8 km.  The second 8 wound grouch beautiful vineyards and countryside. What peace I felt to be moving among the vineyards, watching the stretch out with the mountains in sight. The last 8 km were rough.  It was very hot, there were some uphills and some more boring segments along a highway.  So we arrived to Villafranca Del Bierzo, hot, wiped and ready to relax.

Day 2 then begins feeling sore and with 3 blisters on my feet.  My pace is no longer as excited or quick. As I meet more pilgrims, I am learning to embrace the journey more and more.  The first day felt like such excitement to find our first albergue and experience everything.  The second day became more realistic.  I go at the pace I need to, how far I need to, no worries.   That's fine by me...hope for dad too :).  We only walked about 18 km today to arrive early, relax more and rest up before climbing mostly uphill tomorrow.  As for now, I'm just remembering how much I love journeys.

Also, I don't know how to add photos via iPad, if anybody does let me know!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lesons in Humility

       "So I think, though, that as much as you're doing with them, this is an ongoing problem that we face every year, and I think it needs to come from me, not you.  So, I'll just organize the lessons and you can tell me when fits into your schedule.  And, you can go relax, get a coffee.  I'll take care of this."
       This year has been beyond challenging.  Another new school.  Another new grade level.  Change.  Change. Change.  Stress.  Pressure.  Overload.  I feel like people often throw around quotes that refer to things getting better or easier over time.  I question that one.  I've been teaching now for almost 5 years and with the exception of that first, crazy, whirlwind, lost year that is first year teaching, I disagree.  Instead, I think each year has been more difficult and challenging than the last.  
       I've been struggling a lot at school this year, but more than that I've been struggling with myself.  Struggling to understand and make sense of these challenges.  Trying to solve problems and answer the questions that invade my mind.  One such question that I try to focus on is, "God, what am I supposed to learn from this new challenge?"  
      I've been grappling with the answer to that question since the beginning of the year.  I've tried piecing together this year's particular hurdles into patterns.  I came back to this question more intensely when contemplating my New Year's Resolutions for 2014.  I thought if I could sort of pinpoint a common thread through the obstacles I face, then I could devise a plan that allows me to be more accepting of the challenge.  As stressed out and uptight as I get about challenge, I am also a thrill-seeker and I thrive on challenge.  My comfort zone, however, with challenges is rather narrow.  I like to enter into the challenge with a purpose and a plan to face it, learn, fail, and hopefully grow.
               This year's challenges have really taken me outside of my comfort zone as I struggled to find something specific that I could work on to face these challenges with a better mindset.  And then, I had this particular conversation and I began to piece things together for myself.
          I can be rather stubborn, strong-willed, and protective, especially when it comes to my teaching.  I spend a lot of time planning, grading, worrying, tutoring, discussing, and the list goes on for my classroom.  I'm by no means perfect, in fact i often feel incredibly inadequate as a teacher.  But, I do take my craft very seriously.  I give my all, all the time.  In fact, I take it way too seriously.
        Which, at first, was harshly pointed out to me during this conversation, because my first reaction was to take offense at it.  I'm not good enough?  I can't do this on my own? (I hate asking for help)  The problems in my class have escalated so far, that I need someone else to combat them for me?  Most specifically the dislike of me in my classroom has increased so much that a series of lessons need to be taught to me class about how to not gossip about me.
          At first, I saw it as a major WHAM!  An insult, even.  How come I'm not enough?  Why can't I be a apart of the lessons?  Why am I not making a positive difference in their lives?  I need help?
          Humility.  I can't do everything flying solo.  I need help.  Yeah sure I may spend hours laboring over this craft, but that will never be enough.  I'm not perfect, never will be, never want to be.  It's a dose of much needed humility.  People are given as gifts from God for the very purpose of being a supportive community.  You don't have to do everything alone.  It's not an insult.  It's not looking down on you.  It's a simple reminder that we're all merely human--weak, sinful, lost, small, and insignificant.
      Reflecting back over the course of this year, I am now more aware of hints and signs to a need for increased humility.  You see, while this has been a difficult year, it's also the first year in my teaching career that I am supported.  In the past, I was working in environments that provided me with no back-up, guidance, help, nothing.  So I had to do it all and do it all on my own.  In four years, that's what I've become accustomed to, but I don't have to be anymore.  I've got the most supportive administration.  Now I've just got to let them in, let them do their job, let myself reach out to the help that's willingly there.
      So all in one swoop I got a crushing blow with an answer to my prayer.  I got served and I got a focus to my challenge.  I got a new lens through which I can tackle each day, and it's through humility.  I don't have it today, won't have it tomorrow.  But I can promise to attempt to be open to its presence in my life.  I can promise to commit to learning more about humility.  I can promise to try to be a more humble servant.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Hurricane Sandy has really hit home for me in this faraway spot.  With so many friends, students, and family members up and down the East Coast, since the first news of Sandy hit, I've been worrying about who is safe, who has power, and what this storm will do to so many people that I love.  

Well, Sandy hit, and sure hit hard (understatement).  And listening to the stories and looking at footage it's devastating.  To talk to friends that have just completely lost everything, I'm heartbroken for them.  And then to see snow coming and to know so many still don't have power.  I feel helpless and powerless when so much help and aid and support is needed.

Trust in the power of prayer.  

A friend of a close friend of mine wrote this article about Sandy:

In the middle of such disaster and the feeling lost, but hopeful that my aid of prayers can do something and bring some light to a dark time for others, I came across another article about bikes.  Obvi, peaks my interest to read about bikes.  I'm happiest when I'm on my bike.  In fact, the other day as I rode home from one of the worst days of school and I was venting in my mind, I apparently still had a huge smile on my face, because as I rode past a girl walking on the path she said, "That's the biggest smile I've ever seen."  

Anyways, sorry for the digression, but bikes just really are the best.  They bring happiness and joy.  They help the environment.  They protect, promote health, and bring love.  They can also help.  What an amazing group of people to use bikes to help the hurricane victims.

"I was struck again by the power of the bicycle. It is a machine that is uniquely able to leverage and amplify human effort. . . The humble work of individual people, harnessed to simple mechanisms, can gain strength exponentially. And move a city forward."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Love You

Each year teaching I have had one child in particular that stands out for various reasons behavior-wise in my classroom.  Teaching is incredibly difficult and to be honest I struggle with it daily.  Each year I've had one student in particular that chooses to challenge and test my faith, my patience, and my ability to be a teacher.   Often as a teacher, I feel I am the "bad guy."  I'm the one who has to tactfully approach parents about testing, special needs, or counseling  I'm the one who has to give consequences, follow through on them, contact parents, and take away activities.  I'm the one who has to setup meetings, share stories, seek help, and get advice.  And often times it's difficult.  Communication is difficult.  More precious time is lost.   My schedule fills.  I feel lost and unsupported.

But, I can't give up.  I fight for my students.  There isn't a part of me that has ever felt like giving up on one of them.

I question things a lot.  Like, why does a child behave this way?  Am I a terrible teacher?  Am I bad person?  Why do these situations always seem to find me?  Do I have to follow through on a consequence again?  Or, oh no, what happened now?  How can I escape this impending battle?  And mostly, I question myself.

And so Thursday, after one of the most challenging weeks I've ever faced, as I was busy tying knots to dreamcatchers, encouraging students to work more quickly, and running around my classroom to quickly get our activities done, a student, who often challenges me and sees me as the bad guy, came up and whispered in my ear, "I love you."  The student ran back to his/her desk to continue his/her work, and I shocked, sat there and thought, but you always say you don't like me.  After all that, and all we go through as teachers, that one "I love you" is what I choose to hold onto.  

And, I, love you too.

Monday, October 15, 2012


This past week I was on Fall Break.  I debated staying in Denver or heading home for awhile.  Home won.  The week was fantastic and incredibly perfect (I wonder how that happened ;)

I saw my family, best friend since Jr. High, my closest family friends, my college friends, UCTC friends, college professors and a Honduran friend.  How is it that all those people could be present for my one week home, not sure, but I know it was one of the best miracles I've ever received!

In addition to all those incredible miracles, I learned that Joe Mattingly and the Newman Singers would be performing at my home church, St. Raphael's, another reason why St. Raphael's is still the best parish around!  Joe Mattingly wrote and composed one of my all-time favorite songs, "On That Holy Mountain."  I was also blessed because they performed at mass, which was kind of surprising considering it's often played around Christmas . . . more miracles.

I wish I had a beautiful recording of this song, youtube, is wonderful, but lacks in the church song department.  This song ever since it was sung by one of my fave cantors, Seth growing up, and then at Lessons and Carols at SMC, and always at St. Raphael's, moves me to tears.

And boy, when I returned to my mountains this morning, and admired the brightening blue sky glowing above the peaks with stars twinkling above, I couldn't help but smile and thank God.  And, as I drove to school, only half ready for the return to reality,  I couldn't help but repeat the line "led by all the children . . . "

Thanks for the miracles and the mountains.