It’s not a Tumor… (you have to do it in Arnold’s voice)

This year I’ve had a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, and a mammogram.  I swear, I’m not a hypochondriac. I only take a multivitamin & vitamin B. I see the doctor for check ups, but “I’m close to that age…” (No, I’m 28, my birth certificate is lying!) The tests have all come back normal. So I expected a similar result when I went in for an MRI to rule out MS last week. I’m 39, at least on paper.

They were ruling out MS because my jaw went numb on my left side a couple of months ago & it was spreading. I have struggled with ear pain for years & was convinced I had trigeminal neuralgia. (Truth: I only went to the doctor because I’m vain and my left cheek bone was protruding further than the right🙄.)

So, last Monday I had an MRI. I was scheduled to return for a consult on the 30th. On Tuesday (election day) I traveled to Frankfort for work.  That evening I ignored a call from a woman about work (I thought). Then my husband called asking me why I didn’t answer the phone. The doctor’s office wanted me to call first thing in the morning. Hmm, that’s probably not good. 

I called my friend – you know the one who is always there, the voice of reason, the one who steps on your toes when you need it & sometimes when you don’t- that friend. I told her I was trying not to freak out, she listened and then began what has become my common theme this week… she prayed over me. She didn’t pray for me, she prayed over me, as I listened and received God’s peace in the process. I hung up, called my husband & my parents, and text my prayer warriors. Then I went to bed and slept soundly. Seriously, I did.

The next morning I went to work for a couple of hours, still at peace. When I called the doctor, they asked me to come in that day and not put it off. “I can’t tell you much, the doctor will have to be the one to read the report, but we need to see you today if at all possible.” 

Prayer #2 came from a colleague just before I hopped in the car and spent two hours talking on the phone and day dreaming about possible problems. I figured it couldn’t be too bad, they were letting me drive, right? 

As I thought through different scenarios, I started to pray. I don’t remember the words, but I remember this idea,”Lord, I told you when I was 19 my life and my death were yours. Use this to draw my family to you. Use this so others see you. I trust you, you’ve got this, no matter what this is.” Again, just complete peace.

My mother and my husband met me at the doctor’s office. We traveled up an elevator to a waiting room and were escorted in pretty quickly.  The doctor was great. He was approachable, asking questions about symptoms, tapping on elbows and knees, nodding in an understanding way as I explained my pain and numbness. All the while I’m waiting to hear MS. “You have tumor.” Well, ok. Somehow that sounds better.

We went to look at pictures, which for this nerdy girl, was a delight. And suddenly it made total sense. Yes, that explained why I couldn’t fly without pain meds, the ruptured ear drum, the dry eye. 

Turns out this tumor is “unique” (I’m nothing if not unique!) and it’s probably best to visit a doctor at MD Anderson who specializes in this sort of thing. Thankfully my doctor has worked with the best in the country before. Waiting for him to get things lined up in Texas, I learned I’m particularly bad at sitting in silence waiting for news to sink in, so I cracked jokes instead. Cary was kind to put up with my insensitivity. I know this was much harder on him than I.

This is where I find myself now. Waiting a few more days to travel. I figure I will share this journey, if you’d like to come along.

I’ve been through several different feelings, and peace is the most consistent. None have them have been worry or pity. In fact, I don’t like hearing other people express those emotions on my behalf (I do appreciate them & feel loved.) No, what I feel is gratitude that I live in  a nation with health care & doctors. I’m grateful I can fly on a plane and don’t have to walk.  And I’m excited. I’m excited because God is good, He will do what he says he will do & I can trust him. And I’m loved. I am overwhelmed by coworkers and friends and people I don’t know who will stop and pray or send a friendly message. I’m overwhelmed by the strength of my husband’s arms when they are wrapped around me. I’m overwhelmed by God’s presence every moment. It’s a beautiful place to be.

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🛐Lessons on the Camino 

For me, the Camino is about change. 

It starts easily enough. Each day, as you walk, the landscape changes.  You may begin on a mountain with low growing brush and end the day in a forest of tall Eucaliptus trees with bark peeling and sweet aroma swimming in the cool breeze. Yet, what I was doing didn’t change. 

Eucalyptus Forest

Step by Step by Step

Each day, each moment was just taking the next step. Sometimes (usually before lunch 😏) these steps are easy, sometimes each step hurts. Sometimes, you don’t think you can take another step because of the pain in your feet or legs. Yet to stay where you are allows no food, no shelter, no bed, so you take another step forward.

Life is like this. Right now, life is good. My kids are at great ages for conversation, my job is really fun, my husband and I get to spend more time together than when the kids were younger. So, I stop to admire the view and take another step. I know the scenery is changing up ahead. Next school year the oldest is off to college, the middle off to high school. But it’s just another step.

Steep Part of the Ancient Path Paradela Spain

Be Where You Are 

The day we climbed the mountain on the Camino, we started in the dark. We had on headlamps, and could only see as far as our beam would shine. At one point, I was climbing an incline and I noticed a light shining a story above me. When I looked up I realized that was mom, ahead of me on the path. Dread filled my psyche because I knew I would get no reprieve from this climb, but instead I had to go higher. In that moment I understood why God shows us one step at a time. Prior to this revelation I had not cared to worry about what came next, and I was perfectly content with the next step.

So, I’m choosing to keep my sights on the next step in life. I spent 6 years trying to figure out if I was in the right job, was I called into ministry, should I stay home to raise my kids.  I spent years feeling guilty because I’m not domestically gifted or skilled like “all” the other moms (I have no desire to homestead or homeschool or even clean my home). Surprisingly, quitting my job landed in a different position with the same company, pastoring a church,  and in circumstances where I learned I was playing  the comparison game and that stopping is an option.  I’m pretty content here. This isn’t at all what I expected and I see opportunities for change in the future, but I’m not stretching to see what’s ahead (ok, honestly I’m fighting my old habits), because I’d rather enjoy the journey than have all the answers.

We stayed at Casa Domingo and ate with pilgrims from Spain, Germany, France, and Sweeden. Food and company was fabulous.

God Provides 

There is a saying The Camino Provides. It’s true, well the Camino doesn’t provide, but God does. On our journey, every need was met, even the ones we didn’t know we needed. There were blackberries along the path. Often times I would stop to grab some, not realizing how uplifted I would be by the sweetness and the moisture they gave.  I didn’t know I needed to learn about St. Benedict until I visited Samos. I didn’t know people were the answer to distraction from pain until I talked to them in the journey and got so caught up in their lives that I forgot to limp.

God provides. I came home from Spain with the resolve to serve my family with less resentment. I tend to get frustrated that they need so much from me, and that I am the go to person for food, and dishes, clothing, and projects. I suppose I find it overwhelming. Since being home, someone else has pointed out this flaw in me.   This is a part of my character that needs refining. I don’t know how to change, but I want to. Jesus is the author and perfector of my faith. He will provide what is needed in this season and this day to take me from Glory to Glory. 

The longer I am away from the journey, the more thankful I become for the experience. Thanks be to God!

Biduedo ⛪️ Sarria

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music “I feel I’ve been hit by a truck.” were my first words of the day. I still had to get up and get moving. We started our day at daybreak and walked down the mountain from the from we slept at. We were thankful to be going down.

We started our day with a plan to walk to Tricatilla, catch a cab to Samos, and then walk to Sarria, from where we must walk. After the previous day, I wasn’t looking forward to walking all day. There was a shorter route to Sarria, but Kristin is reading a book about a Mennonite pastor who walked the Camino and took a Bindictine oath, The Way is Made by Walking.

Aware that I needed an attitude adjustment, I sang praise songs & prayers. It worked & the cows didn’t complain.

So, we decided to take another way and visit the Benedictine Monastery.

Big Tree in Triacastela On the path to Tricatilla is an 800 year old Chestnut tree. Kristin said she thinks Winnie the Pooh lives there. The whole scene looked like something out of the Hobbit. 

Naps with  Geese We opted to forgo the cab in Tricatilla & I’m so thankful we did. It was a stunning walk. Shortly after entering Samos we stopped by a grocery and purchased local cheese, bread, crackers and sodas. (There are no Pepsis in rural Spain, for those wondering.) We walked a few more meters and saw stairs leading down to a grassy area beside the river, where we could soak our soar feel and legs in icy water.  I lay my yoga towel under an apple tree. I should have noticed the 10,000 feathers on the grass. As we are, 4 geese swam by. I threw my left over crust to them & we made fast friends. After eating, Mom and I stretched out for a siesta & Kris went exploring. The ducks decided to join us for our rest, apparently I picked their home to lunch in. They nestled down and groomed & I meandered in and out of consciousness.


I fell in love with a Benedictine Monk The Monastery in Samos was founded in the 600’s AD. We wanted a tour, but they siesta until 3:30. So, Mom and I did yoga at the entrance to the church (where no one was except us), and Kristin tried to pretend like she didn’t know us. Her phrase for moments like this is, “You are STRETCHING me.” 😜

A Monk unlocked the door promptly at 3:30. We bought tickets. All the signs said The tours were in English and Spanish. They were wrong. The tour was in Spanish & we were the only ones on it. So, I was the translator, as best I could. Father Geraldo showed us the portion that was built in the 1600’s and the portion built in the 1800’s it was beautiful. Each side a large square with a plaza in the center. On one side was a huge statue. Holding up the statue were Nymphs with naked breasts (ironic in a place where men vowed to celibacy live). Kristin covered her eyes like she was embarrassed and Padre laughed. The tour was off to a good start. We decided we liked him even more when we saw the blue jeans peeking under his black robe.

We climbed a flight of marble stairs and ended up in an area covered in a mural that told about St. Benedict’s life. Because of the language barrier, this helped with the tour. I asked questions and he answered in SpEnglish. It worked! 

St. Benedict was my kind of guy. He devoted himself to studying science and medicine. He also devoted himself to disciplined prayer, as the monks continue to do to this day. He cast out demons,  healed people, listened to angels and recorded what they told him.

Padre Geraldo is my kind of guy too. He has studies at the monastery for 9 years. In June, he became the guy in charge (I cannot remember his title). He is humble and has a kind spirit. He is from the Dominican Republic (I think). I asked if he would bless is before we left. He prayed a prayer over of for protection and other things I couldn’t understand. I could feel the Holy Spirit with us in the gift shop. He then bought us each a gift. It was such a special time. The  Camino provides.

We also got to meet a couple of the other monks. One (whose name I cannot remember) came to the Camino 2 months ago. He is from Mexico. He stayed at the Alburgua attached to the Monastery and never left. He goes home next week and will return in 3 months. He is 28.

There was an 18 year old from Puerto Rico studying there as well. His English was really good, and he helped us understand some things about the monastery and St. Benedict.

The Camino provides From Samos, we could follow the yellow arrows, or we could follow a route that Mom found on an app on her phone that is a “short cut”. It was, until the last turn. As we started down our path, yet again there was a little Spanish man saying, “Mal Camino! Mal Camino!” So, we found another way back. The details of which will be discussed when I am back on US soil. 😏😉

The Camino does give opportunity for us to reflect on God’s provision. Whether it’s the sweet bites of blackberries we have picked off the vines that have made climbing the hills tolerable, the kindness of little Spanish men,  the laundry that was done for us at one of our hotels, or the conversations that happen with people from all over the globe, God provides.

Buen Camino amigos!

The Journey Begins 

Today, I am abandoning my family, and flying across the world for my own selfish endeavors. I’m not on mission, I’m not working, I’m really not even vacationing. That’s how it felt as a lay in bed before light wrapped in my husband’s arms preparing to exit the familiar sheets, and walls, and routines. 

What kind of wife leaves for two weeks, in the middle of soccer season and homework and 10 hour work days. What kind of mother leaves without having to?  This kind. The kind that knows there is something more outside of my nice American life. The kind that knows God is worthy of a couple of weeks away listening to him. The kind that no longer wants to make decisions based on fear or people pleasing, or even what is convenient. So, today begins my Camino journey. Today I become a pilgrim. 

I have packed 2 outfits, 2 pairs of shoes, moisturizer, medicine, some essentials, and my toothbrush in my backpack and hopped on a plane with two of the most adventurous women I know: My parachuting, snow skiing, piloting mother (who dreamed up this whole trip in the first place) and is traveling with her knitting & my world traveling, mother of six, college roommate.  Over the next 13 days we will hike 120 miles over the Way of St. James, to arrive in Santiago, Spain. God willing, I will blog my journey.

Villafranca to Herrías

Villafranca 

Dinner at the plaza after our long day.
We were too exhausted to explore Villafranca last night. 9 1/2 hours of travel took its toll on us physically as well as mentally. We got to walk through the the beautiful town today & it is BEAUTIFUL! Far less Graffiti than Ponferrada. We started the morning walking through the streets that took us back 100 years with cobblestone roads and stone buildings that opened up into a bridge over a meandering river surrounded by lovely gardened houses. Today, we planned to take a detour. (On purpose this time.) A small one that would have gone up a mountain. As we were walking through Villafranca we started up a hill to our path as two older gentlemen were out for their morning walks, on walkers (I’m serious).  When we stared up the harder path, the man in front started shaking his finger. “No, no, no! No Buen Camino” He continued in Spanish I cannot understand. When he figured out we don’t speak Spanish well he said, “Mal Camino, no buen Camino.”
Villafranca as we left

The Road 

So, we took the road more traveled. It was a beautiful walk gently uphill through the mountains beside a highway. It was, however, A LOT of highway and A LOT of blacktop, which makes for sore feet. It was also an opportunity. I could choose to look at the mountains and the beauty in the distance, or I could look at the cars & the road that looked like any road, except, thankfully, there was a 3′ high concrete barrier between me & the highway. To pay too much attention to the immediate surroundings, the road, the brush, the graffiti would cause one to think this was an ugly mistake. To look solely at the mountains might cause you to trip and fall or miss a very important yellow arrow. Life is like that. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and where you are, but to keep all your focus there can make you unhappy & task focused. The balance is that looking only at what is in the distance can allow you to be broadsided by a truck. The road also made me appreciate even more the beautiful travel through vineyards and farm country yesterday, a little more appreciation for our previous struggle.

VILLAGES The villages we traveled through today were a nice escape from the highway. I’m so intrigued by their gardens and irrigation. Some did feel a bit like a tourist trap, like we only walked through them to buy a Coke, but they were cute & clean. Kristin compared them to a gift shop at the end of an amusement park ride.  We stopped in one to soak our feet in the stream flowing by. That was the best decision we made all day. A few minutes of rest and ice cold water on our tired feet was just the energizing we needed to finish the day. Anna, a lovely girl from Sweden  joined us. She is delightful and walking alone for nine days.

Garden behind a chapel

Herrías We’ve only just gotten here. We are staying at Paraiso del Biertho, which is a charming hotel on the left as you enter with a view of a valley with the prettiest stream flowing through the middle. This is the view out my bedroom window.

Other Thoughts 

As we were walking today, we were discussing children and motherhood and the fact that Kristin and I don’t feel as old as we are. I stated that I don’t understand women who are able to embrace motherhood so completely. This is a struggle for me.  Kristin, however, feels she has no other identity. “I’m Mama Mitchell , in many continents.” She has traveled to Africa, Haiti, and India working with orphans as well as raising her own 6 children and many foster children over the years.  It got me thinking about this thought: I would give my life for my children.  I would kill for my children. But, do I live for my children? I don’t know that I should, but it has me thinking it is something very different to live for someone or something than it is to die or kill for someone or something. I want to live for God! Lord, help me to live for you!

Anna & I soaking our feet
Villafranca
Beginning of our hike throught the streets of Villafranca

Ponferrada to Villafranca

It’s only out of commitment that I am writing this😉. It’s been a wonderful day, but some navigational errors were made & our 15 mile journey became 20. 

I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday, upon arrival in Ponferrada, we napped briefly and then traveled across the street to visit the Knight’s Templar Castle. It is so impressive. I loved touring around and wondering what it would have been like in that time. There was one spot when you could look through a narrow slit in an upper window and shoot down at enemies that might come to the gate. I love the display of period clothing & especially loved the pilgrim discount, because I’m thrifty like that.

We had a lovely dinner in the plaza. It was so fun to see the local families walking around & the children running and playing. We turned in around 10:30, but the life of the city kept going late into the night.

This morning feels like days ago. Ponferrada is beautiful! The journey was stunning as we watched the terrain change from rivers and hills to beautiful vineyard covered mountains. On our accidental excursion to Monasterio de Carracedo one of us may or may not have grabbed a cluster of Concord grapes off a vine. So delicious, as were the wild blackberries growing beside the path.

We especially loved Cacabelos, and would most likely have stopped there if we hadn’t sent our bags to Villafranca (thank the Lord for that opportunity). 

We ended the trek exhausted, barely able to walk. But we stopped by Iglesias de Santiago, which holds the door of pardon. If you make it this far in the pilgrimage, your sins are forgiven. We almost didn’t stop, but I am so thankful we did.  As I was walking the last 5 kilometers, I was thinking how I came on the trip to search the heart of God, but I haven’t really noticed him yet. Upon entering the church, cool air hit your face, candles glowed, and understated beauty that is so different from the ornate decor of the cathedrals we visited, and a bench is there to rest your weary and beaten body.  The relief was overwhelming, to the point of tears. Isn’t that what forgiveness is like, isn’t that what God is like? Overwhelming us with his love, providence, and lighting our load by his presence. Buen Camino, Amigos

The Answer to Helplessness 

I talked to a marriage falling apart. A marriage I know God put together, a marriage I know is redeemable, a marriage I will battle for as though it were my own, because of my love for this family.  As I listened, I felt my spirit rise up and want to yell, “You can’t quit. Fight! Fight!” But how do you explain 20 years of life and experience and marriage in an hour to someone who hasn’t lived much longer than that?  How do you give hope to one who doesn’t yet know to trust God? 

After some time, tucking in kids, a quick bath, I settle down, and then the rumble started.  It’s been so long since I have felt it. I was sitting putting words to my broken heart and my helplessness to ‘fix’ the situation. Reading a few pages of Prince Warriors to my son reminded me of my position in the Kingdom, and who the real enemy is. THANK YOU JESUS! So I take my fighting stance on my knees in my living room, face down, faith up. 

In this position, I take authority. My Father in heaven, you are Holy, all powerful and all mighty, and you have this under control.  I give up my right to fret, worry, and manipulate in exchange for your wisdom and Holy Spirit’s lead in my thought, words,silence, and actions.  In your Kingdom, Lord, marriage is a reflection of your love for your bride, the church. I call on you to make this marriage like that.  Make this a relationship of deep love, sacrifice, and joy.  May you use every difficulty to make these people more of who you created them to be.  Knock down pride, dissolve isolation and self preservation! Give them vision of who you say they are in Christ Jesus. May it be on earth as it is in heaven.

Provide what they need today, and every day, not just monetarily and physically, but emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.  Provide relationships of support and wisdom.  Break off all relationships that stand in opposition to this marriage. 

Forgive them for sinning against each other.  Show each member of this union what is theirs to own in their troubles.  Show them where their mindsets do not align with yours. Guide them to repentance that aims their hearts and minds to your Truth so healing may come. Grant them the grace to forgive each other so bitterness cannot take root and so they can receive your forgiveness.

Lead them from temptation. May they recognize it, resist it so that it flees. Deliver them from evil.

YOURS IS THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER IN THIS MARRIAGE, IN THIS FAMILY, AMEN.

Lord,  I break off the generational curses of abuse, false identity, unworthiness, adultary, and abandonment, in Jesus name.  Your word says by your blood every curse is broken and every wound is healed.  I claim your unfailing faithfulness to your word!  You promise beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for morning, peace for disparity.  I claim this exchange.  What God has brought together let no man, nor angel, nor demon come against. I call down curses against those who would come against this marriage.  May you put a great fear on the heart of any that may come against this marriage, in Jesus name! In Jesus name!

All blessing and honor to you, oh mighty God! I love you. Great is your love and your faithfulness endures forever.  You are to be praised for all that you are doing, have done, and are going to do! You set my heart on fire and my feet to dancing. I praise you and thank you for the work you are already doing, that your answers are already on the way,as you answered Daniel on the day he asked, your answers are already on the way, and I praise your for them.  I praise you for deliverance, freedom, and new normal that is is coming! Hurray!