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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

My Pilgrimage to Chartres: Part 2

     I was privileged to lead devotions in our staff meeting yesterday and I began by saying that I thought training for and running a half marathon would be the hardest thing I had ever done. I was wrong. This walk was the hardest thing I have ever done. And I began to weep once again. I have been weepy since Sunday morning, unsure of what the emotion is saying to me. It's likely a combination of reasons but leaning into how hard this walk was seems to trigger some deep emotion. I'm not sure if it's just saying out loud how hard it was, or the fact that I'm deeply thankful that I was able to walk the entire road and finish, or if it's the pain in my left foot that lingers as a reminder of the roughness of the journey, or continuing to embrace and more fully understand the deeply spiritual lesson of "I am weak but God is strong". That was a clear message for me and fully understanding what it means for me to not operate out of my own strength is something that I continue to really ponder.
     I was well prepared for this walk in terms of provisions but overly optimistic regarding what I night need for foot care. So I had to borrow moleskin and tape from my fellow pilgrims. I was grateful for their foresight in knowing that blisters would come. Here's what I know for sure: If you are going to do a multi-day walk that involves lots of kilometers, you will get blisters. Or at least you will get hot spots that need to be tended to. So I spent the first part of Day 2 wrapping up my toes. I also decided to switch out my shoe insoles in order to see if that helped with the chronic hip pain I was experiencing. Our morning devos focused on Jeremiah 29:11-13: "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." Our question for the day was what do you think the Lord's plans are for you? If that was too big, you could simply focus on what brings you hope. And we were off.
     It was so nice to be in the countryside right away and to not have to slog through an urban environment. Our mood was light and we were eager to see how the day would unfold. We saw more and more signs that confirmed that we were indeed on the Chemin. We even saw a sign that told us that the end of the Chemin was a mere 1773 kilometers away! I was glad we weren't traversing the entire way to the west coast of Spain! But even so, to be on the pathway that other pilgrims have walked for thousands of years was a deep connection that I was grateful to make.
     We had to stop in one of the villages to acquire provisions for lunch and as it was public holiday in France, November 1, All Saints Day, many things were closed. We were able to finally find a bakery and a grocery store that would provide what we needed. One rest stop was near a church with a gorgeous cross and stained glass over the altar.  I love the shadow that the cross casts on the wall. One of the few restaurants in the village hadn't opened yet but they were gracious to open for us, made us coffees and allowed us to use their bathrooms. I also used the first rest stop to tend to ever emerging hot spots on my toes.
     I was admittedly very grumpy when we stopped for lunch. I was tired of being in pain every single step I took. When people asked me how I was doing I was honest and said, "I'm hurting." But it was my pain and I knew that I just needed to deal with it so suggestions of various solutions were not that helpful to me and the suggestion that I might need to call the driver to pick me up really angered me. I was not quitting! Later that night in our sharing time, I was able to say to the group that if they ask me how I was doing I would tell them the truth but what I didn't want from them was a cacophony of solutions. Just be empathic and let me be. They all received that and I was grateful.
Kim, our fearless and faithful leader, smiling brightly as our walk ended for the day. Me? Well, that's more of a grimace than a smile!
     Fortunately the day was beautiful. And the end came quicker than some of us expected. One woman commented that it didn't feel long enough. Of course, since I was ready to pass out from pain at that point, I was utterly thrilled that it was over. It had been shorter than the first day. Only 11 miles or 17 kilometers. But it was truly enough for me. As the walk ended, we were in a gorgeous park where you could see the town on the left on a bit of a rise. An old castle and the church dominated the village. But the hotel we were staying in that night was about 15 minutes to the right. It was early afternoon and gorgeous and some folks wanted to head into the village before going to the hotel to look around and perhaps get a coffee or a beer. I wanted to join them as that all sounded so lovely but my feet were on fire and I knew that what I needed to do was go lay down. So I, along with one other woman who wasn't feeling so good, bid the group farewell and as they headed into town, we headed to the hotel. I was so grateful for the beauty and quiet of the hotel. The beds were covered in these big, fluffy duvets and all in all it was just a lovely place. I took a very hot shower and crawled under that inviting duvet and rested. I talked to Doug on the phone for the first time since I had left. I tended to my feet. I stretched out my leg. I googled helps for hikers with sore feet and learned a bit. I rested. The rest of the gang showed up a bit later and we had pizza and wine in one of the rooms as we watched another day come to a close. I was grateful for the beauty of the day, the comfort of our evening resting place, the joy of the company I was keeping and the rest that had helped to restore my aching body.
     3 days to go. It felt long and arduous. The next day was about the same length as this day was. Then a shorter walk. Then the longest of all heading in Chartres. I was trying to get my head around how I was going to find the strength to do 7 miles more than today was on Saturday. I realized that I couldn't think about that. I needed to focus on taking one day at a time and really just one step at a time. Saturday would come. For now, on Wednesday night, I just needed to rest. And so I did.