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Lessons from Spain - Part One

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

A week ago I returned from what has become an annual time away, this time a walking and hiking trip in Spain...12 days with Steve and another week + by myself. Pretty much all year I wait for that time alone to be really independent...self push myself to figure stuff out that may be challenging for me. But a really big part of what I look forward to is time out in nature with soul quiet. It is a time alone with God that isn't influenced or inhibited by anyone else's perceptions, thoughts, issues, needs or opinions. I can hear myself better and more clearly and I can hear God. This year's experience didn't disappoint... although I'm still just seeing some of it's impactful moments now that I'm home. As I recall my experiences from a different perspective some lessons kind of rise to the surface.

What was different for me on this year's trip was the Unknowns. There were a lot of them...stuff I couldn't figure out until it was the very next thing I needed to do. For instance, there would be transportation needs from town to town...buses that I would need to catch. But, I couldn't get information as to whether those buses had stopped running for the season or not. There was conflicting information on websites and posted schedules. These kind of things really fly in the face of planners like myself. My itinerary really likes to have every blank filled in! But on numerous occasions there was just no solution in advance... just the next step. So, I had to just take the next step, a lot, and trust for the steps that were to come after.

One day in particular illustrates this. Indulge me a moment as I set the stage. I am in the mountains, the Picos de Europa in central, northern Spain. There are some tourists but I've gone days without hearing any English. The "town" I'm in consists of two hotels and a hostal. That's it. My hotel is basically a bar with a restaurant and some rooms upstairs. There is no hotel front desk and the bartender who checks me in speaks no English. My Spanish is long forgotten. I manage with some charades for basic communication. The night before I am leaving this area my electric outlet plug converter loses a prong inside the outlet. There is no help from the "front desk" and my power and thus my contact with the outside world is cut off. I can't look up any resources and my Google Translate capabilities are gone. I am challenged.

I laid in bed for hours running the possible scenarios of how I was going to make all the connections I needed to make from Poncebos to Arenas de Cabrales to Cangas de Onis to Covadonga...taxis, buses...find an outlet converter, buy some groceries... plan, plan. But I couldn't plan for steps 2, 3 and 4, because I didn't know anything beyond what I was going to try to do to complete step 1. My aim for step 1 was to find a ride with a taxi that I figured would eventually show up to drop hikers off near my hotel in Poncebos and head back down the mountain road to Arenas. So, in the morning I paid my bill, strapped on the pack and stepped out to the street. A small gaggle of ladies were there at the trailhead and asked me IN ENGLISH if I would take their picture and we began to talk. They asked about the hiking and what I was doing and I shared with them my step 1 challenge. Immediately they said I could catch a ride with their driver who had just dropped them off. He even charged me less than the normal rate, without me even asking the price of the ride. During the ride I couldn't help but shake my head at the direct, super fast and rather succinct way God had answered my prayer that he would send someone to help me... and with the bonus, a discount.

The next challenge was to get from Arenas to Cangas de Onis AND to look for a plug converter along the way. When the taxi let me out in Arenas and I looked around I realized the idea that I would be able to find a USA converter anywhere in that town would be highly unlikely. However, since I had apparently missed the first of only two buses that were leaving that day I figured I had nothing but time to try to find one. I walked down the main street past two shops selling walking sticks and some pottery and cheese, with Spanish grandpa sitting out front and figured that probably wasn't the place to find a converter. Further down I saw a shop that had some hiking gear in the window and a sign that said "Fotos" which sounded close to technology so I went in. A man came out of a back room and I showed him my broken converter and asked if there was anywhere in this town that I might buy a replacement. He looked at it for a minute then disappeared into the back room and returned with one in his hand. All I could say in absolute disbelief was "Are you kidding me?" It clearly wasn't a product he sold in his store. It wasn't in a package or anything. He just happened to have one. I had already thought that if at some point I was able to find one I would probably have to pay quite a bit for it, but when asked the price he just shrugged and said 1.50. Again, I couldn't help but shake by head at the again, direct and succinct way God met my need.

Next was getting from Arenas to Cangas. The next bus wasn't until 1:30 and at that point it was only 10am. I had no idea how long it would take me to get the two connections that still would have to be made after leaving this town so I opted to try to find a taxi rather than waste half a day waiting for a bus. A woman at the hotel across the street called a taxi for me. A tidy old man zipped up and opened the door for me and soon we were weaving our way through winding roads, tiny villages and farm land with cows and goats and chickens. The sky doesn't get light there until 8:00am so at 10:00 the morning still felt early. The rising sun was streaming through the side window of the car and felt like it was just resting on my face. I felt the presence of God with me. That's the only way I can say it. For all the uncertainty I had had in front of me, at that point I just felt so cared for and provided for and really safe... and certain. Any anxiousness I had about the challenges and steps in front of me disappeared because of what had already been provided.

I arrived in Cangas still knowing only the next thing I needed to do. My kind faced driver let me out in the center of town and pointed down the road, like an instruction not a suggestion. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or find in going that way, but I did as I was instructed and came across an old Roman bridge that I had completely forgotten I wanted to see. Walking away from the bridge I was filled with confidence... not so much self-reliance but the deep understanding that if I walk in faith and trust and don't let fear creep in and take hold and rob my peace and steal my wonder and joy my experience can be so rich and deep... more than just travel or sight seeing. It changes the way I walk through life.

So, I come home changed... Kind of "leveled up" in this area of confidence. I think about the phrase "walking in faith" and what that means. It sounds spiritual. But I feel like I'm starting to get it more in the everyday, practical sense. I see the picture of Jesus being the lamp to our feet, the light to our path... illuminating the next step, not a mile down the road... just the next step, just like he said he would. It's pretty simple really. "Do the next thing. I'll be with you".

But like a lot of things that God has told us to do that we kind of relegate as just figurative speech or spiritual rhetoric I think that if we just did those things and kept it simple...and literal, we could level up in other areas as well. But that's more for another day.

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