The pretty pilgrim (la pellegrina bonita) & the fifth threshold

 

The pilgrim waiting for Le car
The pilgrim waiting for Le car

Me + TGVs + France = LOL!!!

I literally sprinted to make my train this afternoon. Not because of missed connections or anything. As a matter of fact I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I sat in the “Le car” winding my way through the streets of Paris to Gare Montparnasse. “Les cars” by Air France (lescarsairfrance.com) are the fastest/most economical way to get from Charles De Gaulle Airport to the Montparnasse train station. They have 4 bus lines (the one to Montparnasse is line 4) that shuttle passengers to places all over Paris. My fare was 17.5 Euro and it only took 1 hr and 15 min. “Les cars” picks up every 30 min. A lady at the airport info booth let me know I could pic up my “Les car” if I walk to the Starbucks in the airport and turn left out to the curb. I crack up how so many of my directions this week  have had a Starbucks reference.

When I arrived at Gare Montparnasse I had a whole hour before my train would depart. Considering what happened to me the last time I took a TGV in France, this was a good thing. I’d need all the time I could get. I got my e-ticket, walked around, ordered a smoothie and sauntered onto the wrong train. The right track mind you, what I didn’t know was that there was another whole train in front of it––the one I needed to be on. French people have all been so friendly. I speak a little French, but I never learned “am I on the right train?” (note to self) Something just felt off so I asked a few guys hanging outside the train to take a look at my ticket. By that time a few people had told me different things about where I should be sitting on the train. The guys pointed down the track enthusiastically, motioned to run and pointed to their hearts in a sympathetic way like I might die. 🙂  Me + light backpack + sprint = Right train. I had just boarded, slung my backpack up in the storage area over my seat when the train pulled out of the station. People around me sort of applauded. Hee-hee. Looks like my pilgrimage, starts with a sprint. There’s a beagle sitting next to me too. He’s really cute. Ahhh…the French.

Le dog
Le dog
included in the price of the room and soooo yummy
included in the price of the room and soooo yummy

At breakfast this morning at the Pure White Hotel in Praha,  I wrote in my journal with a light blue pen that says “I <3 Prague.” It has silver sparkles at the top. The sparkles remind me how Praha bewitched me at night with castle spires lit against star-filled skies, the full moon taking center stage. A city where even the buildings dance.

Gehry's dancing house
Gehry’s dancing house

The city got her name from a woman gifted with prophecy. She saw the hillside and declared a city would be built there and it would become great and gave it the name Praha, which means threshold in Czech.

It’s no accident that I visit Prague now. It’s more than the call to the mission trip for Christian Associates or the interest in exploring the city where my Great Grandfather was born and who likely attended Prague University the same time Einstein taught there.

People I've met have reminded me that it's my camino
People I’ve met have reminded me that it’s my camino

I wanted to know more about the word threshold. There’s the meaning I usually think of: “a strip of wood, or metal that forms the bottom of a doorway.” Underneath this meaning another was listed…”the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested––nothing happens until the signal passes the threshold.”

After learning the meaning of Praha, I recalled all my thresholds. I’ve been carried over four. Each brings a big smile, every threshold different, every one special. I was carried over the first as a young bride and the last one was to be my last, a place where we’d grow old together. Now I’ve been granted a fifth which will not involve a house at all and one that will take me 40 days and 500 miles to cross. In the Bible God talks about being sure of our calling. St. James keeps me company as I discern my call, as will all the other pilgrims past and present that have walked the Camino. God-willing I’ll arrive in Santiago having some incite into the threshold I’m crossing.

All I can remember from the previous ones I’ve crossed is a feeling of joy and happiness. To me that’s what thresholds represent. A promise of hope and excitement, of embracing what will be. It’s important to me to be a pretty pilgrim, so I’ve packed my tiara and painted my toes “pilgrim purple” even if they’ll all most likely fall off 🙂 I won’t be wearing much make up but I found a tinted sunscreen for my lips and that makes me happy too.

Tomorrow I’ill be a pilgrim along with thousands of others with thousands of stories. Everyone called to walk. One thing is certain…I am in divine hands.

James 1:2-8 NIV
“[2] Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, [3] because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. [4] Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. [5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. [6] But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. [7] That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. [8] Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

So what the heck is this pilgrimage I’ve been writing about? It’s the Camino de Santiago.
A 500-mile walk that begins in France and ends on the coast of Spain. Some people walk part of the way. Some take years to complete the pilgrimage.

“Pilgrims have been walking the “Camino de Santiago” for over 1,200 years. According to
anecdotal testimony, the Disciple James (brother of John) spread the gospel to
Galicia (northwest Spain) some time after the ascension of Jesus. At some point, James returned to Jerusalem where he was beheaded by Herod in 43AD. Following his martyrdom, St. James’ disciples brought his body back to this region in Spain. In 813, a shepherd was guided by a star (stella in Latin) to a field (compos in Latin) close to today’s Santiago where St. James (Sant Iago in Latin) was buried. Lore is that St. James reappeared to help banish the Islamic Moors from Spain, and the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage was born. St. James eventually became the patron saint of Spain, and “Pellegrinos” began making long pilgrimages to Santiago from all over Europe to honor the Saint and be healed of various afflictions.
There are many Pilgrim routes, but the most traveled one (and the focus of this guide) is the Camino Frances, which stretches ~800 kilometers or ~500 miles from St Jean Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.”

–– I’m quoting for the Camino Guide APP I have on my phone. (I recommend it for all pilgrims dreaming of or embarking on the Camino. It definitely helped me prepare, now I’ll find out how it will be on the walk.)

here’s to a buen camino, your pretty pilgrim…

Hermits, dandelions, ladybugs…and a prayer

“If the path is beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” –– Anatole France

In my last post I mentioned that The Spirit has revealed Himself to me a handful of times in my life. In the week after I typed those words, during my mission work here in Prague at the Christian Associates VBS (Vacation Bible School) at their Summit Conference, it’s become apparent that the Spirit is with me all the time.

In the of making dandelion chains….

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In the joy of a little girl treasuring a ladybug….

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In a little boy’s invitation to play….

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Incidents of serendipity filled the months before I left LA and all during my move. It appeared in the moving guys’ certainty they could get my car and remaining possessions into a storage unit that appeared to my unbelieving eyes as much too small. The guys taught me about the power of belief…especially as three of them had to direct me how to park my car into the unit––which could be a short story in and of itself about trust and faith.

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(After the guys placed the piano in the back of the darkened storage unit, I sat at the piano and played it for the last time. I’d been practicing some pieces over the last few years and finally flawlessly played Solfeggietto in C Minor by CPE Bach.)

To a friend in need who happily took furniture that would have cost me a lot of money to store…

To my neighbor, Desi, a woman of beautiful faith, who’s helping me as my assistant with mail and things…

To my dear friend Jeanne, who called and asked if I needed a ride to the airport, which led to a gorgeous send-off filled with stories and laughing our whole ride to LAX….

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To hearing my name at the gate at LAX––a friend of a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We flew the same flight to Moscow…. be sure to watch Jonathan’s show The Road Less Traveled on The Outside Network.

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To arriving in Prague, running into shuttle problems then finding exactly who I needed to help me figure out how to ride two buses and take a few metro lines which took me to within a few blocks of my hotel….
These are all the works of The Spirit helping me along an unknown path, but one that it’s clear I take. Every time I get overwhelmed, I believe The Spirit visits and gives me just what I need to help me along the way.

And this leads me to a prayer that I pray almost every day. Ever since I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. A lady I hadn’t met that night felt the need to introduce herself at the end of the evening and shake my hand. She said she had hoped to speak with me, but since we hadn’t she at least wanted to share a simple prayer she prays every day. Yet again, The Spirit found me. At the end of a friend’s birthday party. I mean how many times do you meet people that share a powerful prayer with you? Um…never. With a big smile she shared her prayer:

“Lord, please bring me the people I need; and, please bring me to the people who need me.”

She told me to pray that prayer every day. Ever since, I’ve been praying her prayer for myself and those I love. And  here for missionaries at the conference. I was invited to talk about leadership at one of the round tables and when asked to share a prayer, I prayed the lady’s prayer over them too.

Tomorrow I’m off to see a beautiful castle here in the Prague countryside as we get a day rest between conferences. In a week I’ll begin my pilgrimage on The El Camino de Santiago. I can’t believe it’s nearly here. I am preparing myself for the journey and open to whatever adventure the Spirit calls me to.

“In 814, a strange shower of shooting starts over Mount Libredón (now Compostela) attracted the attention of the hermit Paio. As he approached, he saw (hidden) tomb of Santiago (St James). This event turned Compostela a focal point for the Christian faith.”

I’m all over pilgrimages that come about because of things that grab the attention of hermits:)

“God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” ––Hebrews 2:4 NIV

A world begins….freedom in The Spirit

My girls look to the west together...
My girls look to the west together…

There are a handful of moments in my life when God’s revealed Himself to me. One of them was when I delivered my daughter Candice. I’d been given too much morphine too quickly and found it hard to breathe on the operating table. The Spirit spoke to me through the voice of my ex-husband. He said, “Laura, breathe in and out.” He held my hand and repeated these words the length of the surgery. His voice calmed me. I smile at the memory on this, Candy’s birthday.

Years later He’d speak to me again. Last March I had cancer surgery. The last time I’d been operated on was when I delivered Margaux. As I lay on the operating table a flood of happy memories couldn’t stem the fear rising inside of me. The Lord, in his very playful way, would comfort me yet again. It was just another day at the office for my plastic surgeon and as he cut and stitched he began to sing along with the songs that played over the speakers in the operating room, “Lean On Me” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”  To me, my surgeon’s serenade was a heavenly one. I smiled at the thought of Los Angeles as the home of singing plastic surgeon angels.

In the days afterward as I recuperated, the Lord put it on my heart to journey to Prague to take care of missionary children while their parents attend a conference. A trip that would take place in July. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I managed to go to a meeting for the trip but had to excuse myself early because of the pain and how fragile I felt. I told the Lord that I didn’t think I could do what He was asking. The idea of taking care of children in Prague seemed too much for me to handle. Too big an experience for me to wrap my head around.

By Palm Sunday I’d signed up and committed to the trip.

Something larger has been at work in me since that day. I’ve felt the need to sell or give away most of my possessions, store what’s left and go where The Spirit is calling me. I have no idea exactly where the Lord and I are headed.

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. – Matthew 14:29

This verse sounds so calm and soothing, but Peter stepped out of the boat in stormy seas. He must have been frightened. I believe doubt rather than fear caused Peter to sink into the water. This morning on a hike I breathed in the damp scent of sage and rosemary, filling my lungs with the freedom that is mine in The Spirit.

I leave this Friday for Prague and will be walking the Camino de Santiago afterwards, a 500-mile pilgrimage that begins in France and continues across Northern Spain to the tomb of St. James. I plan on taking 40 days to walk the Camino and have been advised to only carry 10% of my body weight. I’ll be walking into the world with 13 pounds on my back.

13 pounds? Hilarious 🙂 I can’t wait to see what He has planned. I’ll be posting about the journey here. I hope you can join us.

I’d like to share a wonderful book that’s inspired my journey Beautiful Outlaw :  Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge.

beautifuloutlaw.cover