The Strong One and Our Burdens

Jul 19, 2014


So after all this time the opening of Pilgrim House is just around the corner. I’ve felt overwhelmed thinking that when we open we’ll be actually caring for the pilgrims that come to Pilgrim House. This has been the goal all along, of course, but these days the burden of caring for other people – hearing their stories, re-living their moments of loss, seeing some of the impossible situations they face back home – feels really real, and really heavy.

It’s funny – Nate feels overwhelmed now, by all that has to be done before Pilgrim House opens. All the tasks and to-do’s weigh on him, and the caring-for-people part doesn’t. Inversely and maybe perversely, I think this part is easy. This part is just a huge long to-do list that we pound out and get done! Yeah! Taking care of all the people that come through when we’re open, though – now that feels overwhelming to me, but not to him.

I was half asleep one morning and started to pray. There was a lot on my mind. I felt like God gave me an image: he had a blanket, and I was just dropping anxieties into it – burdens like opening up Pilgrim House, all of our tasks, unexpected renovations that have had to be negotiated through, critically ill children of friends, and so on. Anything I was worried about, I dumped in there. Afterward, he wrapped up the blanket like a bindle, tied it to a stick, rested the stick on his shoulder, and we started walking off. All the burdens were in this bindle, and it didn’t sag or weigh him down at all. He was strong enough to carry them – and he was actually joyful as we walked off, him with all my burdens, me with none. Like I said, they didn’t weigh him down at all.

Sometimes when Nate and I travel, Nate carries some things for me. I often feel bad for him, that my things make his load heavier. He always says the same thing: “It’s fine! Don’t worry about it.” That’s how God is, and yet without limit – my worries will always be fine for him, and they will always feel light to him. And yet sometimes we think, “We don’t want to bother God with our problems; he has enough to deal with.” I’m realizing that attitude doesn’t trust in the strength – literal strength – of God. He is The Strong One. He is strong enough to carry our anxieties and cares, and he’s powerful enough to actually do something about them according to his will.

This is one of the most important lessons I’ve been learning recently, especially in the face of all the delays we’ve gone through to get Pilgrim House open – I need to stop striving and scrambling, careening from anxiety to anxiety. So often I let my anxiety drive my reactions, emotions, decisions, and even conversations.

Instead, God is teaching me to go to him first, give him my burdens, and then turn around and face whatever from a place of peace and rest. He wants me to actually operate – always! – from a place of stillness and rest. Not because what I’m going through isn’t a big deal – sometimes it really is – but because he’s strong enough to carry it. I still have to deal – I have to have the hard conversations, do the 10,000 pieces of paperwork, go to the doctor and go through treatment, and seek wisdom in solving problems. However, I can do all that from a place of peace, not from a place of high anxiety.

The older I get, the more I see that God’s goodness is not in always removing the hard times, but rather in walking closely with us through them. He’ll always be the stronger one, and he can carry the emotional stress, frustration, desperation, and worry so we don’t have to be weighed down by them. At this very moment, we’re waiting on two critical flooring pieces to come in so we can install them and finally finish renovations, and open. We ordered them a month ago, and they’re still not here – so you can imagine that we’ve all had a lot of angst over these two small pieces! Yet with this lesson of giving our burdens to the Lord and being still, we’re trying to turn over that angst to the Lord and accept with peace whatever timing he gives us for opening up Pilgrim House.

A friend brought to mind Psalm 138:3 recently: “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.” It fit perfectly with all of this: what would it be like to go through life boldly, without any fear or anxiety because The Strong One is always with us? I hope the more we all go, the more we can all find out.

And, as we look to open Pilgrim House, our prayer is that we’ll all operate from a place of stillness and rest as we spend time with pilgrims, allowing God to make Pilgrim House a true oasis of peace and hope – because we lean on Him.


Why yes, it *is* a little crazy around here

Jun 16, 2014

Trying to get Pilgrim House ready to open during high season has been just un poco crazy! This past week was stuffed to the brim, in the best way:

- Nate had coffee with 18 pilgrims, two to seven at a time. I got to join in on a couple of his meetings, but for the most part it was him heading in to meet people. Many of them we’d never met before but mutual friends had connected us over email and Facebook. Here’s the group of seven – Stephen (far right) and his group of American pilgrims walked from O Cebreiro, about 8 days out from Santiago:


- Danielle, Gale, and I spent 8 hours at Ikea on Tuesday getting almost all the rest of the furniture for Pilgrim House. It took two coffee breaks and 10 minutes of silliness in the mirror section to get through the day:

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This is only 2/3rds of the stuff we had to get:

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- We welcomed in our Wheaton College summer team. Luke, Brooke, Nico, and Alley arrived in Santiago on Tuesday and had a couple of days of orientation before heading off to start the Camino on Friday. We were so excited to finally have them with us! Here they are in the market in old town Santiago on a beautiful day:

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We had scheduled in two days of orientation for them. In a neat intersection of time and place, two pilgrims Nate had met with earlier in the week, Jim and Sharon P., were still in town and we were able to have them talk to the Wheaton students on their second day of orientation. Jim and Sharon had walked 41 days of the Camino, from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, and they shared all about their experiences and what Luke, Nico, Brooke, and Alley could expect on the trail. It was great to have them here in this moment in time:

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- For the past couple of weeks, we’ve had five volunteers in Santiago helping out with Pilgrim House and with our kids. Wick, Helen, Nancy, Mary, and Hunter all have a heart for pilgrims, the Camino, and/or Spain, and they’ve been amazing assets to our team. Along with our teammate Gale (left), we had a Mexican fiesta at our place last Sunday:

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As Nate says, they’ve been great help, but they’ve been even better company, and during a break in Pilgrim House we had a totally unexpected yet fascinating conversation about which Disney Princesses do not have blonde hair. Who knew Hunter (right) had mastered the subject of Disney Princesses so well!

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- This week, as a team, we focused on laying flooring in Pilgrim House. Different teammates also had several meetings with key people such as our architect, IT guy, contractor, water service provider, and electrician. There are hundreds of details to think about and it’s hard not to feel scattered.

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- As far as the home front goes, school isn’t out yet for our kids, but it’s winding down and it feels like every day is different. Our kids had field trips, concerts, and birthday parties to prepare for and attend. And yesterday, Saturday, Ryan had a soccer tournament that went from 10am to 7:30pm. So that was long.

- Last but not least, we got all ramped up for the World Cup and then dealt with the distress of watching Spain lose to Holland 1 – 5 in their first game in the World Cup. As far as emotions-related-to-sports go, we were devastated. They’re still our Super Team, though! We’re hoping they can at least get out of their group.

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So it was a full week! We’re getting close to opening, and praying that God would continue to multiply the work of our hands so we can be efficient. It’s also fun to be in the thick of high season again with so many pilgrims passing through. These days we meet up with them in cafes and in our home, but it will be great to one day soon say, “You’re finishing your Camino? Great! Meet us at Pilgrim House.” Soon!


A Ditch Story

Jun 5, 2014

Well, girls, the timeless story of men wanting to save the damsel in distress rang true today. While trying to make the right turn you see below, I got the car seriously stuck in this ditch (note the storm drain that I didn’t see at all, but still tried to move forward on):


The car wouldn’t move at all. Over the next 30 minutes, though, three different guys stopped to ask if I was OK and if they could help.

The first guy got out of his car, looked at my car lopsided and in the ditch and said there probably wasn’t anything he could do. Then he took a picture of my car because his “tow truck friend would want to see this.” He was hilarious.

Ten minutes later, another guy drove by, stopped, and got into the car and tried to reverse it out of the ditch. It didn’t work, but by that time the third guy had driven up and stopped. The second and third guy now had me put the car in reverse while they pushed it from the front. Voila! They pushed the car straight out of the ditch, looked at the front bumper which had popped off at one corner from the fall, diagnosed some newly-leaking fluid as from a puncture in the windshield wiper fluid container, picked up my traffic-warning triangles and brought them back, and then happily drove off.

It was an extremely stressful 30 minutes, but it was nice to know there are some really nice and helpful people out there!


Back Room Photos: the Steady Constants

Apr 23, 2014

Back in November, I posted about the back room of Pilgrim House, and how the photos there were a reminder of our storefront’s history as a photography studio:


During the daily bustle of the first six weeks of renovations, this collection of photos was still a reference point, a constant during all the changes happening in the back room:

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History was on one side of the room, and new walls and windows were on the other. It was a cool mishmash of past and present, with hints of the future:


Finally, the other day we took down the photos so they wouldn’t get damaged during the rest of renovations. We’ve been looking at those pictures for over a year now – ever since we first visited the storefront to see if we wanted to rent it – so it was a touching moment for us. It was like we were officially closing a chapter and moving on.

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The blank white wall seems strange now:

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At some point we may put some of the pictures back up so we can show pilgrims the world the old photographer used to inhabit. They’ll also help us remember that Pilgrim House will always be just one part of the centuries-old history of this building. Up on the wall they’ll linger again, steady, watching our space take on new vision, new purpose, and new memories.


Resurrection Morning: Peter and John

Apr 20, 2014


This painting by Eugène Burnand hangs in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It’s titled Les disciples Jean et Pierre accourant au sépulcre le matin de la résurrection (The disciples John and Peter running to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection). Ever since we saw it in person 18 years ago, we’ve thought of it every year at Easter.

What I find so moving is the emotion captured in the painting: Peter and John are so anxious, not daring to believe the news they’d just heard about Jesus. In previous days, they’d gone through Gethsemane and Jesus’ arrest, Peter had denied him three times during the night, and they’d watched Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. For them, it was over, and we can’t even imagine how disappointed, lost, and alone they felt without their leader.

Then that Resurrection morning they heard the news – Jesus was alive! Jesus was alive?! What?! You can see the unease and agitation in their faces. The things they’d heard him saying while he was with them – about being buried and then rising again after three days – finally started to sink in and bloom as hope as they ran to the tomb. And it was true – He was alive! What exhilaration and excitement! What a relief to know that He in whom they’d placed their trust was actually worthy of everything they’d given Him! What a swing from hopelessness and despair to joy and confidence!

So this Easter, we come back to this painting, and imagine that moment again, when Peter and John had just heard the best news ever. Happy Easter! He is risen!


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