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The adventure of coming home

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I got to the train station with just minutes to spare, purchased my ticket, loaded my luggage and took my seat on the bus. It all felt very familiar. I had been here 3 weeks to the day ago, but this time, I was heading on an even wilder adventure than before. I wasn’t tired so I couldn’t sleep. A cold was growing in me and so I sniffled my way through the six hours, cognizant of the near by passengers and the annoying and slightly grotesque noise of being the constant sniffer. We passed by land that reminded me of northern California and some that reminded me of the arid places that rest just outside of San Diego.

We paused about two hours into our drive and people got coffee, snacks and enjoyed sitting and stretching. Not one person carries a coffee with them, coffee is meant to be enjoyed while sitting. Like many other habits of European culture and specifically Spanish culture, lingering is not a waste of time, but a way of living. It is one part of my experience that I will miss and hope to adopt in my every day living.

I made it to Madrid. I knew how to find my hotel and even get directions in Spanish. I am proud of my Spanish skills. They are kindergarten at best, but I was a toddler just learning to talk when I first visited Spain in 2013, so I will take kindergarten.

By the time I got in my hotel room I was exhausted. I took a nap that lasted nearly until nightfall. I ordered room service and fell asleep again. The next day I woke up, walked to a little coffee shop I had seen on line that looked enticing, walked back, took a nap, and headed out again. My senses couldn’t take much more in. I was tired, in about every way a person could be tired. But I was also alive, like the color yellow, but more of a mustard rather than a canary. Still alive, but muted by the exhaustion of being out of my context, missing my people, not feeling well, and the traveling… UGH bus rides can be so tiresome.

I walked that evening, seeing a palace, an old cathedral, some gardens, a fountain and the loud evidence of consumerism that drew people to the shops and restaurants lining the streets approaching the larger historical sights. The sights didn’t captivate me, for I think there comes a time when I can take in no more and I had hit that place a few days earlier.

The larger adventure that awaited me was calling me and was louder than the sights and sounds of the city. The larger adventure that was calling me, was my every day life back home. I knew that awaiting me at home were people, there was work, there was a home, unfinished projects, and dreams not yet realized all inviting me to it. My time in Spain was a reminder of the every day adventure I get to live, right here in Englewood, Colorado.

I think at times it is easy to think if I lived somewhere else, or could visit this or that place, or was able to participate in this or that thing that the adventure of my life would increase. Often, we see others who venture off often, traveling, seeing the world, starting new things, conquering fears and nomadically living as the adventuresome ones. They are the ones who are really living! I would think… But I’ve come to know, that the greatest adventures happen in the every day nature of living. When consistency and normalcy root me and invite me into depths of relationship that only happen when staying put.

Home is the place that has pulled my roots in and caused them to grow. Home holds the most beautiful life and adventures and to be honest, I am so glad to be here and to know I won’t be leaving for quite some time.

The adventures I’ve lived in Spain or traveling here and there for work, have been beautiful and have enhanced my life for good. The life I live in my home, in my neighborhood, in my city, with the same people… this one, has lefts its mark on me and has shaped and changed me and continues to do so. As I head for bed tonight, after having had dinner with my neighbors, people I see multiply times a week, I am glad to be home, to be rooted….. to belong.

 

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The goodness, truth and beauty of my days in Altea

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I laid in bed soaking up the morning sun like a cat in a window. As the bells rang informing me of the time, a tinge of guilt came and went. I was not going to be compelled by guilt to leave the comfort of my bed, but the light did eventually call me to get up. I feel settled, calm, peaceful, unlike my first days here where I woke up to anxiety and to do lists. Recognizing the shift in me, I smile and thanked Jesus and blew him a kiss from my bed. I was at home, because I was with him.

These days in Altea have been filled with quite the story arch: The tired American makes her way to a small Spanish town to write a book, along the way she meets fellow travelers who become friends, there is a lot of laughter, talk about the important things of life and meals shared, eventually the woman wakes up and the sun creeps in (cue happy soundtrack) and she is seen with her hair down, smiling and free.

The people who have filled the list of characters in the scenes of this time have been an unexpected source of learning and expressions of light.

One young man, I met in a writer’s group I joined, is also writing a book. He is on a spiritual journey, has lived a rather full life at a still young age and wrestles with what is next. He is kind and soft spoken, unless he is talking about his passion, then his tone raises and he looses himself in his words, still kind but not quite as soft.

Sara and Saundra have greeted me every day at the coffee shop where I write. They are kind, warm and work well together. I can tell they have fun, even as they work very hard to keep all of the customers’ needs satisfied, including mine.  I look forward to seeing them each day and I have a feeling if I were here longer than a month, we would become more than customer/owner friends. We call each other by name and they smile when I come in.

I met the men and women who participate in Altea Arte film club. And a number of men and women who frequent the mojito bar in the evenings.

Then, there was a woman with whom I shared a drink one evening. She told her story of love and loss and longing. She also spoke of her spiritual journey.

I met another kind woman, who is a part of the writer’s group. She is writing a book, and at the very same time finding connection with others along the way. She and I met up yesterday along with her partner and we spoke for nearly four hours about our upbringings, thoughts on religion and Jesus. She is warm hearted, curious, intelligent and thoughtful. I feel grateful to have met her.

I also had the honor of meeting a couple from Denver of all places. They had just come from India where they were both working and they found Altea on the internet in a hunt for the next spot on their journey. We have shared hours of conversations, a coffee, a meal, a movie, and a glass of wine. They left this morning for a weekend excursion then will stay in Altea for a while longer.

I met friends of friends and, of course, have connected with and spent time with the friends I already love in this place.

Each character I have met along the way has been an invitation to see and speak of beauty, goodness and truth. They have afforded me the opportunity to see the collective human longing for connection and spiritual attentiveness. I have been invited to speak of Jesus and cannot help but do so as He is the content of the book which I am finishing up. At one point, while I was sharing in writers group, I became keenly aware that I had been speaking of Jesus for a long time, I caught myself, “forgive me, I have taken up a lot of time, I know many of you have things you desire to share,” collectively the group responded with, “No! keep going, we only have you here for a bit longer!” I continued.

As I have spoken of Jesus to many who have only experienced a legalistic, exclusive, divisive, shaming, Jesus, I have been reminded of the beauty, grace and peace He brings. When Jesus, who is perfect love, brings us connectedness with the Father, it is good news. Jesus is good news. He has had some bad PR, but He is good news. In a conversation yesterday a woman said to the person next to her, “she is the one I was telling you about, she is the one who speaks of Jesus in a way I have never heard.” He is good news. Good good news.

He has been the good news in my soul as I have been in Altea. I have seen evidence of Jesus and his love for me in the people I have met, the beauty of the sea, the peace of my sleep, the thoughts that fill my mind, the stairs, the streets, the plants, the beauty, and in the words I’ve consumed from friends of His.

As you go through this day, my hope is that you will notice how Jesus is good news in your life. If you do not know, take some time to get curious. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and ask Him to show you.

The goodness, truth, and beauty that surround the person of Jesus is available for us, every one of us, every day and it compels us to be people of gratitude in whatever our circumstance. So I close today by saying how grateful I am to be loved by Him, to have been adopted into His family and to have His loyal love as my constant companion and pray that you know His loyal love along your side too.

 

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Why in the world am I in Spain…

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Many have been asking how I chose Altea, Spain to spend this time and what exactly I am doing while I am here. I thought I would take the time to answer these questions, for curious minds like to know!

In 2013 and 2015 I came to Altea and led, with a team of people, a summer project with American college students, focusing on Culture, Art and Faith. I fell in love with this little seaside village and the people who fill its homes and streets. I have not been back to visit friends since the summer of 2015 and I have been wanting a reason to come back.

As I took a look at 2018, I knew I needed some space to accomplish a few larger projects that would take a different kind of energy and concentration. I knew that I could not be in complete seclusion, for my people person would crumble, but I also knew that if there were too many people around I would not accomplish a thing. So, I thought, Altea! I have a friend who has been generous with her home here and had the space in my schedule and it all came together quite easily.

What is the project I am working on? You ask… I am completing a book titled Listen and Live. The book is a walk through the book of John, listening and responding to the voice of Jesus, with reflection and questions for personal reflection and action… all in response to the voice of Jesus.

The hope is that people will read the words, learn to listen, and then see how the words of Jesus invite us to be people of kindness, grace, love and beauty in the world. The book will be coming out sometime later this year. I will be excited to share more about it when the time comes.

So, for now, I write in my seaside cafe, stare at the sea, listen to Sacred music in Latin and soak in the time I have here. And, like in all things, there has been so much more for me here as I’ve listened and lived among my friends old and new.

I look forward to sharing more of these stories.

Today, I must go back to editing…

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The wonder of it all

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There are certain things I have come to count on here. I know that each day I will see the sea and how it reflects the mood of the sky. I know that I will be greeted by Saundra and her friend who host me each day at L’Interdit. I know that I will go up and down at least ten flights of stairs. I will feel dirty from the dust that seems to come off of buildings and walls with the greatest of ease. I will contemplate all I see and wonder what I am going to learn or understand as a result of it, and I will eventually end up realizing that for now, that which I am to glean from this experience is simply found in the experience of it.

My mind and I have a curious friendship. My mind races and is constantly working, drawing metaphor and insight from nearly every moment. I want to know it all, like a child who asks why incessantly. I want to know what, who, where, why, how about it all.

Today while talking with a friend on a balcony overlooking Altea and the sea these are the thoughts that came to me while we chatted, (and thus became part of the conversation)… “Do you ever wonder about the clouds and the fact that there is only so much moisture in the atmosphere but it moves around the earth cycling itself from sky to land?” We then spoke of clouds and second grade science. Soon I say, “Isn’t it amazing that just beyond that water is Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.” We talk about Geography and where things lay on a map and how we love Europe. “OH look at those giant ships! I wonder what they carry? Where are they going? How long can produce last on a ship?” Conversations about carrier ships and their subsequent cargo follow.

We laugh about my train of thought and how at times it can seem as if I am a sponge with all the questions, awaiting to be filled with knowledge. We spoke of people we know who we wish had been there, because surely they would know the answer … then we google.

My mind is a never-ending land of curiosity and I search every experience for meaning, information and connection, at times to the detriment of experiencing the moment.

I do this with Jesus too. It has been both a huge gift, for my mind has guided me to ask questions about Him that have led to deeper knowledge and understanding and at times, my desire to know more facts about Him, has kept me from simply experiencing His good for me. So for today, my writings end with this prayer:

Lord of Heaven and Earth
You who created the land and the sea.
You who created the clouds, rain and patterns there of,
I worship You and am in awe of the wonders of Your hand and thank you for the blessing of it all.
May I have eyes to experience all the good you have for me and be open to receive it as the gift for which it was intended.
Grant me a thankful heart and joyful spirit.
Fill me with wonder and may I live in and out of that wonder daily.
Thank you for it all. Amen

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Stepping into relationship, the sea and reserve

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Spring came to Altea with temperatures nearing 70 degrees. The warmth blanketed the village and like ants moving towards a picnic, people streamed outside. Children were playing among the rocks which outline the sea, couples were holding hands and laughing as carefree vacationers do, the bikers, runners and aerobic walkers were out in force and the sea was clear. I could see the rocks through the water, they looked as if they were sleeping on the bottom of the sea. The warmth was a very welcome companion as it also warmed my home and I felt the heat of the sun rather than the cold of the rocks which embed themselves into the side of the old wall in to which my home is built. (The wall was built in the 1400s, so this wall is older than the county which I call home.)

A friend and I were out to coffee. We sat in the sun, along the sea, drinking our cafe con leches and felt the heat of the sun upon our faces. She stepped inside the shop for a moment and I was left with her baby. She and I were playing a game of turn your head to the right and smile (repeat) when a couple strolled by and said hello. They had an accent that was familiar. I spoke up, maybe our mutual accents would strike up a conversation. And they did. I asked where they were from, Colorado they said. I was filled with delight, “Me too!!!”  Two hours later they got up from our table and we had plans to meet up later in the week.

After coffee we headed home, made dinner and cozied in for the night. We sat down to dinner only to hear a knock on the door. I ran the three flights of stairs down, (Once again there was no running at all. It’s a bit more like a set up jumps… perhaps a hop? I hopped down the stairs. When each stair is equivalent to a regulation stair and a half and the turns are so tight that you have to be careful where you step, as there may or may not be stair present, and the stairs are tile and you are wearing socks, there is absolutely no truth to word picture of running down the stairs. But I thought running down the stairs was the intension of my speed and fit better in the sentence. Now, my caveat is as long as the paragraph in which its written… I digress… So I carefully hopped down the stairs) and opened the door, there stood Lucas and a college friend. Lucas was a student who joined me in Altea in 2015 as a team member for the trip I led here. I found out a week ago that he was coming to Altea, but did not know he would be coming by this particular night. I invited them up and we drank a glass of wine and talked about the roads that brought us to Altea.

Something in me felt so alive. I had had encounters with strangers who became friends and then drop by guests! I was able to help connect people and also offer hospitality. Part of me perked up like a runner who hasn’t been running for some time and feels the rush of the wind as they pick their legs up and sprint down the street for the first time. It also felt like I should have roadside sign that reads, “proceed with caution!” This love for people is what can quickly sweep over me, like a tidal wave and take me out. I can tend to override my soul for the person in front of me. Maybe I am getting a little practice before I come home?

The friend with whom I was having dinner commented on her love for my life and how easily people feel disarmed around me. She is in the throws of motherhood with three children and a husband and all that these things entail and my life seems, and in all practicality is, very different. We were able to celebrate the life of the other and I wondered in my heart how life would be different for me if I had her story. I could feel the conversations of the day and felt a strange sensation, something like a full pot that could not receive one more drop of water before it spilled over. I was at people capacity. I could not feel one more thing, hear one more word or even know the presence of another person for one more moment. This is new. I told my friend that I must head to bed, and soon, tucked under the covers, I fell fast asleep.

Today, the sea is grey. It matches the clouds that have jammed their way into Altea’s sky. They are packed in like teenage girls in the front row of a Justin Bieber concert. They hang low and touch the horizon of the sea causing the two to meld together. The air is cold and misty, much more like a day in London than one on the coast of the Mediterranean. It is a sleepy day. I got up, ate breakfast, took a nap and then settled in at L’interdit to do some writing.

I am wearing a scarf and feel a bit constricted, it is what I felt like last night when my capacity for people had reached its peek.  I am no longer warmed by the sun, but chilled by its absence and feel permission to be still. I wonder to myself if this day is a gift, keeping me slow, revealing to me a pace of life that I can keep and be at pace with the tempo of my soul. I welcome the chill, the grey and the sleepy-slow morning that somehow turned into afternoon in the flash of a moment. I welcome the solitary table and the thought that later this evening I will be hosting dinner for 6 at my favorite restaurant, quite possibly in the world.

Reserve is important. It is something that exists for emergency use only, yet reserve is not something I have kept. I want to use every last drop of life, energy, and emotion every day. Today, feels like a reserve building kind of day and instead of making plans to fill my day, I trust that these moments of quiet and rest are building into the reserve tank of my soul and knowing that they will be needed at some point down the road, but not today.

I find myself praying: Jesus thank you for your good. Thank you for the things I am learning. The people that I am meeting. The way you showed us to live. The order that you gave us to live in. The beauty of your creation and the grace you fill me with. I am so thankful for the care with which you are handling me and I trust you with every result. My soul is yours… My heart is yours… My life is yours… every single part, may you and I be like the sea on this grey day, meeting and melding together where those around can not distinguish the difference. Amen

 

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The scent of a person

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Many of the stores here have an open concept, where the walls to the outside are actually doors that open. The various store owners, put their wares for sale out for all to see and some, put out scents that I believe they think will draw in the passer by. One such store, a man’s clothing store I can smell a block away. Innocently walking down the street and BAM suddenly I am attacked by the overpowering scent of cologne that reminds me of Drakar and Polo for men in the 80s. Once the barrage to my senses wears off I smile and know that my eyes are about to feast upon men’s clothing as bold as the scent that had just accosted me.

Paul says that we are the aroma of Christ. Jesus says that those who believe are the light of the world. Both light and scent tell the story of a make-up of the object. Light shines and welcomes and displays, scent tells you whether or not food has gone bad or if the man in front of you has decided to purchase his clothing at a certain Altean clothing establishment.

Think of the analogies for those who believe and follow the way of Jesus, salt, light, aroma… we are the senses of the Kingdom in this world. Those who believe are to be a glimpse of the Kingdom and King to which they belong. We cannot gain the scent by simply an making an ascent to a certain religious belief. But like the scent of a house after a family has lived in it for years, we can, in time, and with connection with Jesus take on His scent, His light and His taste. When we are with Him, when our thoughts about Him and our study of Him turn to connection with and ultimately unity with Him, others can pick up His character when they are around us, through their senses.

It is for us to become people for whom loving and kindness and generosity are natural, rather than people who have a practiced studied way of life, where habits imitate the habits of the one they’d like to emulate, but are not natural. Our senses can pick out a phony in a hot second. Have you ever smelled a really bad imitation of a perfume or a candle? Oh man, there is not much worse than the horrific scent of plastic mixed with chemicals pretending to be something sweet and good.

My hope is that we, who follow Jesus, be people who, because of our scent, draw others to Him. Not because we follow rules correctly, but because we have spent such good time with Him that we have become like Him and others see, hear, smell, taste and touch Him in us.

As I sit in my favorite little seaside cafe and the scent of coffee and sea fill the air around me, I am thankful… and hopeful that my being here adds the scent of the Kingdom to which I belong.

 

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Keeping Time and Sabbath resets

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I have been struck by how rested I feel. The hurry that accompanied me here has subsided. Perchance the waves took it out to sea? I do not intend on taking it back with me.

I have made the statement a number of times in the past few months that I believe my mind and my soul move at different paces. My mind can move so fast, that I want to hop to the next lesson, before the one just learned has been realized. There is a difference between knowing something and implementing it. It is like someone with an injury. They know conceptually how to use their leg or hand again, but it takes time for the leg or hand to function as it should.

Our souls are the same. They move at a much slower pace than the rest of us. It is as though they are the internal metronome of the ideal human pace, set by its Creator, yet we hurry and hustle and quiet the sound and rhythm of its beat for the sake of accomplishment and perchance because the rhythm is one that keeps us in tune with the totality of our lives rather than a single part. I wonder if we know that the soul will speak truth so we avoid it with busy.

When the soul of the human is out of sink with the pace of the life being lived,  it is like a conductor or metronome keeping time with the orchestra rushing it. The music is hurried and something feels off. It may not be an instantaneous observation, but with in time the conductor, listener and the orchestra itself feel its effects.

It is 1:30 and I am sitting at my little seaside cafe. The sun is shining brightly and the sea which I see when I look up from my screen is moving slowly. The people who walk by the cafe also seem to be moving at a pace slower than the hurry of my American life.

I wonder a bit about the idea of Sabbath. Was this a day created for the soul to catch up? Was Sabbath actually a practice to help people live in sink with themselves and with their Creator? Is Sabbath, when practiced regularly a sort of weekly reorientation?

Yesterday as I reflected on the year ahead and what I desire out of it, I wrote that I wanted to observe Sabbath weekly. I am now beginning to wonder if that is not simply a nice idea, but is a necessity for living a fully engaged and integrated life? Has my inability to keep Sabbath said more about my attraction to noise and hurry and my fear that if I disengage from the work or the world that I would miss out and fall behind?

I do not think my internal metronome has completely reset, but I can feel its tempo and desire to be on beat with it. My prayer is that in my remaining days that I will find myself at tempo with my soul and establish practices that enable me to continue at such a rhythm.

I’d love to learn from you. What are your Sabbath practices? How have you noticed the pace of your life effect your well-being? What are things you do to remember that you are more than a production?

Grateful to be on this journey with each of you. Blessings and reset be yours. (I accidentally typed reset instead of rest and decided that actually is true… I do desire for each of us to reset… and rest)