MD Anderson 

I’m writing from the Plane          As we pulled out of the driveway Cary said, “Well you haven’t woken me up to say this is just a dream, so I guess we are going to do this.

Everything I hear about MD Anderson is positive. I haven’t made it there yet, but all my interactions thus far have been positive. I’ve learned a lot. 

They first called me on my way out of the hospital from getting my MRI results to get health insurance information and start working to set up an appointment time.  I haven’t ever really been sick before, so the slowness of medical time is new to me and it is foreign.  Don’t take this to mean MD Anderson is slow, quite the opposite.  I am in awe of how quickly they have gotten me in and how efficiently they operate. To explain: my appointment is tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 in the morning. I called to try to figure out when to get a flight home.  I was expecting an explanation like, “You should be done by 3:00.” What I got was, “We tell people to plan to be here 3-5 days.” What! Well, ok.  They did look at my chart and told me I could leave Saturday evening, probably.

There’s an App for That Seriously, there is an MD Anderson app.  They way it works is you set up an account online.  They send an email saying you have a message.  You go check the message.  Eventually there will be lab reports and other things there.  Most of my messages are about surveys and appointment times, which are adding up. So far: 9:00 initial visit stuff, 9:30 brain doctor, 10:00 lab work, 12:00 neck and head doctor (this appointment is 15 minutes). (As a friend said, if they are trying to fix my head it will take a lot longer than 15 minutes. And that is why I love her!) 1:00 nuclear medicine injection, 3:00 full body bone scan, 4:45 MRI of my face.

Housing I think there are 6 hospitals within walking distance of each other.  It is a serious medical community.  There is a website Joeshouse.org that helps patients find affordable housing for their stay because most everything is outpatient.  We are staying in a 2 bedroom apartment.  It think that’s a great deal & we can walk to the hospital. I’ve heard everything is connected by skywalk. Kind of sounds like the Jetsons.  Maybe they will suck us through a tube from one place to another.

The apartment complex where we are staying. Elan Med Center
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Jeremiah 

I found this in my drafts from last fall. I don’t have answers, but I think it’s good to think on.  

If you’ve been in church very long, you have heard Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you,”. declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

This scripture is one of promise! It’s a good promise, but it’s not what I want to focus on today.  My mind is hashing out the order of things a few chapters back leading up to chapter 29.  Jeremiah was a prophet. The message from the Lord was a grim one.  The instructions were strange: strap a yoke on your neck, send a message to the surrounding kings from the Lord that basically is: I’m in charge of the earth and everything in it.  I decide who rules and who reigns. Nebuchadnezzar is my servant and I’m going to give you in to his hands for three generations.  Don’t fight this, it is going to happen. If you don’t serve him, I will crush you. There are going to be false prophets who try to tell you something different.  They are lying. If you submit to Babylon, you will get too stay in your own land and live.

Another prophet, Hananiah, shows up.   He has a positive happy message that within two years, things stolen will be returned, all the exiles will return. Jeremiah says he hopes Hananiah is right, but he respectfully disagrees with the prophesy.  Hananiah takes the yoke off of Jeremiah and breaks it, and Jeremiah leaves.  Soon, Jeremiah receives a word for Hananiah that “the Lord has not sent you and you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies.” and you’re going to die.  Then, he dies.

Jeremiah then sends letters to the exiles in Babylon telling them to settle in and go on with life where they are, because they are not going anywhere soon. The exiles, of course, do not like this message, but if you read Jeremiah 29: 1-7 it is a message of hope and instruction. It wasn’t what the people wanted to haer, but the goodness of the Lord is evident in the message.

A host of questions are banging against the side of my skull at this point: How did Jeremiah know that was the Lord’s message? How did Hananiah get it so wrong? Was he so distraught by Jeremiah’s message & so desperate for hope that he opened himself up to false prophesy? Did he just want to be popular & make prophets look better in the eye of the public?  Did he see that they had killed the last prophet with a message similar to Jeremiah’s and he wanted to save his own life? Did he fail to see God’s goodness in Jeremiah’s work and decide it must be wrong and so come with a “better more God worthy” word?

How do I make sure I am hearing the Lord and sharing His word? Where am I desperate enough to be misled into false belief for the sake of peace or popularity or fear? What messages from the Lord am I softening, when in reality I am just failing to tell the truth, which is lying?  Where do I fail to see God’s goodness or nature because I am focused on the negative, and thus fail to believe truth?

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.

🛐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