The God Box

“What’s this?” I said, picking a book up from my friend Tara’s dresser.

“Oh — my friend gave it to me and Russ for our engagement. I haven’t read it yet though. It’s about a woman whose mother puts her prayers in a box, and the daughter tells about finding the boxes after she dies.”

I turned the book over and read the back cover. Then, I opened it up to read the synopsis on the inside cover. I put the book back on Tara’s dresser and filed away the thought that perhaps I could find time to read it in the next couple days — in between my duties as one of Tara’s bridesmaids.

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My Day-by-Day Spiritual Journey

At the parish hostel I stayed at in Tosantos (population: 20) we all went up to the third floor chapel after our shared meal. The hospitalerios (a volunteer who runs the hostel) led us in a prayer service that included readings, blessings, songs, and prayer in French, German, English, Spanish, and Italian (representative of the countries from which the nine of us pilgrims had come). He then had a message to share with us: The Camino is not so much about the outward physical journey as the inward journey of our hearts. He encouraged us to take this message with us along The Way. Having just passed the half-way mark on my journey along the Camino, I thought now would be a time to reflect on that inward journey.

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Unloading My Fears, Lightening My Pack

“Don’t let your fears load your pack,” Rick said to me on our third day on the Camino. He’d read this advice on a Camino Forum, but admitted he didn’t follow it close enough. As we walked along, he decided to heed this advice and let go of his bedbug spray. Years ago the hostels along the Camino had a problem with bedbugs, but I’d read it had since been remedied. I hoped that was true. So did Rick.

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A Day of Freebies

“You don’t happen to have any more change, do you?” I asked the guy filling his parking meter behind mine.  I had decided to lighten my load of change into a tip jar at a local coffee shop earlier, which didn’t bode well for my current situation: parking at a meter in DC to meet a friend for lunch.

“Actually…I think I might,” he said.  He opened his passengers side door, dug around and said, “I’ve got a dollar fifty.”

“Great,” I said as I tried to hand him two dollars.

“No – don’t worry about it,” he said.

“At least take one dollar,” I persisted.

He laughed and explained, “I work around here all the time – and work pays for my parking.  Don’t worry about it.”

I thanked him and we went our separate ways – him to work, and me to feed my meter, thanking God for (sm)all favors.

—-

While browsing in a consignment shop in Alexandria, a young man entered the store behind me and asked the owner if she’d like some free cases of Vitamin Water.  Seeing the puzzled look on her face, he went on to explain that the company sponsors a lot of fashion events in the city and they have neglected Virginia.  So they’re giving out free cases of Vitamin Water to the local businesses.  She asked what the catch was; he said none, so she accepted.  She then proceeded to offer me three bottles of it.  I graciously accepted one.

—-

Later that same day, in a mission to escape the ninety-two degree heat, I slipped into a hotel lobby.  I sat on a comfy couch in a corner, plopped my bags down beside me, and basked in the coolness of the air conditioning washing over me.  My 6:30 waking time caught up with me, and I just wanted to curl up on the couch and fall asleep.

I noticed some people with wine glasses and figured out that I had come in for the daily happy hour the hotel offers its guests.  The doorman came over to me, said he wanted to cheer me up a little (apparently “tired” is not a good look for me), and so offered me a glass of sangria.  I explained that in my current state, a glass of sangria would put me to sleep.  “A glass of wine, then?” he offered.  I politely declined again, but said I’d love some water.  So he left and came back with an icy cold bottle:)

Some of you may recall the 29 Gifts adventure I did a few months back.  One of the lessons it professes is that by consciously giving we become more open to receiving.  It was a good lesson for me to learn – and I am thankful for all the gifts I was offered yesterday.

A Stop Along the Way

As we fiddled with the buckle across the toes on a pair of sandals, I said to the saleswoman “Well, once we get it right, I hope I never have to change them again.”

“If you do, you could just come back,” she responded.

“Well, I’m actually moving to North Carolina,” I said.

“Oh really?  Where?” she asked.

“Brasstown, to a place called the John Campbell Folk School,” I said.

Her eyes grew big.  “My daughter has dreamed about going there!  And she wants to take her grandfather, too.”

“Oh – she must get there.  She’ll love it, I’m sure.  And he will, too.”  I said this without knowing anything about her daughter…because anyone who has “dreamed” of going to JCCFS will surely love it.

The woman went on to explain that her daughter went to college in western North Carolina and wanted to get to JCCFS before she left, but for whatever reason was unable to get there.  The more we talked, the more I was convinced that it was destiny that I spotted this consignment shop in a small town in New Jersey on my drive from Galloway to Lancaster, PA.

In just a few minutes, we were agreeing that God (or the universe or whatever you want to call it) sends us what we need when we need it.  For her daughter, it was the perfect job – one that gives her two months off and an apartment.  This is a young woman who did mission work in Cambodia and went to DC to represent her local high school’s Save Darfur campaign.  So that two month break will be well-used I’m sure.

“Just a little – that’s all they need,” the woman said.  A little what?  A little belief that whatever they want to do can be done – even if they have no idea how.  Because once you put it out there, the universe has a habit of sending you what you need, we agreed.

I gave the woman my blog address to pass on to her daughter.  “I can’t wait to tell her!” she said as she rang up my purchases.  She gave me her card.  “Let me put my name on it,” she said as she crossed out the name of the current owner and wrote her own.  She explained that she was in the process of buying the store.  She had worked there for a year, and was given first offer when the owner decided to sell.  She talked it over with her husband, and in just a few days time they decided to do it.

“Have you ever been a business owner before?” I asked.

“Never!” she said.

“Oh, how exciting!” I responded.

And this is what I love about traveling.  I didn’t see any sites today.  Didn’t drive any multi-lane highways.  I stopped in a little town at a consignment shop and had a conversation.  That one conversation reassured me that I’m on the right path – and maybe I assured someone else that she, too, is on the right pathJ

To Rest, To Enjoy

“Hey – why not just enjoy your apartment for a while?”  God said.  Hmph.  Imagine that, I thought.  Over the last few months, I have taken time nearly every day to work on paring down my “stuff” in preparation for my year of travels.  I’ve cleaned out files and closets and kitchen cabinets getting rid of those things I rarely use or don’t need.  But lately, I’ve lost my momentum.

After beating myself up for a few days, I said to God, “So what’s the deal with me losing my motivation?”  Like all good teachers, he answered my question with another question.  Didn’t tell me what to do, just led me to a solution I hadn’t considered.

So I’m just going to enjoy my little place for a few weeks.  Read in bed.  People watch out my windows.  Do whatever I feel like doing – especially if that means doing nothing at all:)

Letting Go

We are a society that likes to hold on to things: the clothes that no longer fit, the kitchen gadget never used, the man we just know isn’t right for us.

“I should just let it go,” I said to my mother the other day.  Except I wasn’t talking about clothes or gadgets or men.  I was talking about my attempts to reconnect with my Catholic roots.  Don’t get me wrong – God and I have a nice little friendship going.  And have for quite some time.  That’s not going anywhere.  And I am always renewed at the yearly retreat I attend and inspired by my sessions with my spiritual director.  None of that will go away either.  But when people ask what religion I am, I haven’t said “Catholic” in a long time.  My response is, “Well…I grew up Catholic.”  Because I no longer consider myself one.  I get the feeling the Catholic church doesn’t want people like me.  People that question things.  People that like new ideas.  People that don’t want to be judged by their stance on gay marriage or by their attendance at and contributions to a church.

I’ve left jobs when the management and I no longer agree.  And so it is with the church.  The management and I no longer agree.  The management here on earth, I should say.

And I thought I’d have a lot to say on this, a lot of explaining to do.  But as I sit here, I find it’s simple really.  It had its time and place in my life.  I’ve struggled a long time to hold on to it, and now it’s just time to let it go.