These past few months the word and the lesson have been Receive:
Receive what this day brings.
Receive the pilgrims that come into Pilgrim House.
Receive whatever Scripture is on the reading plan for that day. Even if it’s talking about dragons and babies and you need to eat breakfast soon.
Receive even that things like car accidents and sickness in the family happen.
What a difference this one word can make. Usually when something happens that I don’t like I get angry. Like when I’ve already set the agenda for the day and one of the kids gets sick and needs to stay home – those days I rail and rant and cry in my heart. It’s hard to be cheerfully responsive and flexible. Perhaps you can relate.
Having a mindset of receiving, though, totally changes my posture from one of anxiety and wanting to make things happen – or wanting things to have TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY – to one of simply receiving what God wants to send or allow that day. Receiving, rather than fighting or trying to make the world happen the right way, opens my eyes to how God is working instead.
One November morning in Pilgrim House our prayer was for hearts that would receive the pilgrims the Lord had for us that day. A few hours later a pilgrim named Drew came in. He flashed me his phone which read, “Hi Faith. I’m a friend of Lydia’s and she told me to stop in here. Can we talk?” *
Drew was in the middle of a three-month vow of silence and communicated completely through hand gestures, typing on his phone, and a very expressive face and eyebrows. If I hadn’t had a heart to receive him I would’ve instinctively panicked at the anticipation of awkwardness and made some lame excuse to get out of sitting down with him. How can a “talk” between a silent person and a talkative person not be weird, right?
As it was, we had prayed that prayer so it was easier emotionally to go with the flow. Drew and I went into the back room and had a long conversation – him on his phone typing like crazy and nodding and giving me a thumbs up every time I said something fab, and me sitting quietly trying not to stare at him typing, and then answering his questions when he held up the phone for me to read.
It was a great, life-giving conversation and a lot of fun. It actually did feel like we were talking as we covered a wide range of subjects. We later had Drew and Lydia over for dinner (the photo above is of the four of us), and a couple weeks later we had Drew over again, solo, after he had finished walking to Finisterre.
It turned out Drew had his own radio show and had had a lot of interesting things happen in his life. ** Had I shut him out right away, dreading the difficulty of talking to a silent person, we would’ve missed out on so much. The posture of receiving instead of resisting unknown awkwardness made the difference that first day.
There are still a lot of lessons to learn in the area of receiving, though, especially when I think about serious illnesses, losses, or other circumstances to come that won’t have happy endings on this side. Thankfully as a family we’ve been spared a lot of these until now, and this fall while the word receive kept coming, the worst that happened here was the car accident and multiple days of sickness the kids had to deal with. Those moments spoke of receiving what the Lord was sending or allowing, but also of receiving his care and a strong sense of his presence. In the future then, when the more serious things come, hopefully my heart will be more prepared because of this season.
For now, this prayer in Pocket Prayers for Pilgrims sums it up well when it comes to the people who come our way:
whoever you bring into our path today,
may we see Christ in them,
and may they see Christ in us,
for your love’s sake. Amen.”
– John Pritchard
* We met Lydia Smith when she passed through Santiago a few years ago to promote her documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago. She walks the Camino every couple of years and we get to see her whenever she’s back in town. This year Drew and Lydia happened to be in the same albergue at the same time and they became fast friends. We’re so glad Lydia recommended he connect with us!
** We Skyped with Drew last week and he gave me permission to share a bit about his story. You can find out even more about Drew at his website.
K and her new photo-face on Pikes Peak, Colorado
Well, we just got back to Spain a couple weeks ago after spending the summer in the USA. The last time we were home – in 2013 – Pilgrim House wasn’t open yet. This time around it was, so it was great to see so many supporters and friends and actually share what Pilgrim House looked like now and stories of pilgrims we’d met over the past two years.
One surprising thing was how hard it was for me to leave the US this time. During this visit, I realized how sad it was to not regularly share life with our parents, relatives, and good friends. When we only see them every couple years, it’s great and we make special memories, but the more that time goes by (9 years now!), the more I feel the loss of being able to share milestones and go deeper with each other on a regular basis.
And then while we were home we had to update our wills, since the last wills we did were ten years old and only included two kids instead of four. Our lawyer in Maryland looked at our old wills and said, “Well, if one of you outlived the other one, this would be fine, but if both of you ever died at the same time this would be a disaster!!” Then his office rushed and put together a new will and estate plan (not that we have tons of stuff, but of course whatever is there we want to go to all the kids, not just two). All of this serious thinking about what would happen to the kids if we both died, how things would go in Spanish court and US court, and what life would look like for them and how they would be provided for was a bit emotionally crazy!
We signed the papers for the new wills on a Friday, and then we flew back to Spain the following Monday. I had death on the brain that entire weekend. The kids surviving without parents and needing to live with their guardians seemed so immediate those few days. It was a nice relief to land on the tarmac in Santiago without any mishaps and know that the plan we had so carefully executed with our lawyer wouldn’t have to be enacted in September of 2016.
Then, 8 days after we landed, I got into a car accident. Thankfully, K, M, and I were fine, and the other driver was fine. But our car’s whole left side was damaged when the Correos truck slid into and then stuck completely to our car:
The truck sheared off our side mirror as it dented in both doors on the driver’s side. Shortly afterward, when the police came and had the truck pull away so the two of us weren’t blocking traffic anymore, the truck couldn’t break away cleanly and ended up tearing off our front bumper with an enormous ripping sound and crash. It was nuts. And also a little hilarious because, as you know, all Correos vehicles are painted yellow and now our black car was all yellow on one side. But I was grateful for kind police officers and then our insurance company who literally took care of everything.
So our goodbye to America and re-entry into Spain over the last month has encompassed a range of emotions, complications, and good things. As always, though, seeing everyone in the US, catching up, sharing about Pilgrim House, and enjoying some of our favorite American things was worth it. It will be interesting to see how our next US trip and re-entry into Spain will be. After all, you can only get hit by a Correos truck once, right?
The longer we go in this journey of working in Pilgrim House, the more we realize how inadequate words are sometimes to describe how meaningful the Camino experience can be. With this in mind, our friends Andrew and Marianne Nicodem created a video of the deeper aspects of going on pilgrimage on the Camino. If you’re interested, you can watch it here at the Pilgrim House website. Enjoy!
Back on October 29, we moved from our great rental apartment into a new townhouse. It’s been a wonderful change for our family to have one more bedroom, a backyard, and a garage now.
We also have a mortgage now with a Spanish bank – and getting that was an adventure as well.
One huge drawback, though, was that for six months we didn’t have internet at home. Apparently the builder had never connected the internet cables from the street to the utilities box in front of our home, and we would eventually have to tunnel through a meter of concrete to get it all set up. “We” being our contractor friend Martin, who had also put in all of our lighting, painted the interior, fixed our defective window blinds, set up the plumbing for our washer and dryer, and patiently waited during all of these tasks as we fastidiously weighed all of the options and slowly made decisions. (I told him one day – he’s a pastor as well as a contractor – “Martin, I’m so glad God led us to you. You’ve been such a blessing to our family!” To which he paused and then laughed a bit unconvincingly. Not sure he feels the same about us, ha!)
Anyway, we were in survival mode from November through April, and now we’re finally starting to come out of it and have energy for things that we left behind in October. Blogging was one thing that totally fell by the wayside while we settled into the new house, but I have more energy now as well as more things that I just have to share with you all, being an extrovert and all (must share! Must share!!). The addition of internet and wifi into our home back in April also helped. So…here we go again!
Two weeks late, we started Advent readings as a family to prepare our hearts for Christmas. The first readings were all from the Old Testament, and at first I had a bad attitude, thinking, Why are all of these readings from the OT? When can we get to Jesus?!
Then it hit me – the people in the OT were all waiting. The prophecies about the coming Messiah were there to encourage them to wait expectantly, but they’d seen no one yet to fit the descriptions. It was just waiting, and waiting…and waiting.
Then one night Jesus was born, and suddenly the world was on the other side of all the waiting. The Messiah, the One who had a rescue plan for all of us, was here. Hello from the other side! How fortunate are we to no longer be waiting for the Messiah to come! We know how He was born, how He lived, how He died, and how He rose again. We have the privilege of reading the old prophecies as well as seeing how Jesus fulfilled them. If I reflect on how things were before Jesus was born, the Old Testament readings don’t seem as boring and obscure then; rather they set the stage for what was to come that one holy night.
This painting by Ron DiCianni, called Simeon’s Moment, shows the joy Simeon probably experienced when he held baby Jesus for the first time. Now there was someone who had been waiting, but who got to see the Messiah in person. The story is found in Luke 2:25 – 34. May the painting bless you as well this Christmas season:
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