Signs Along the Way

“Pay Attention to the Signs” is on a placard at the entrance of a local farm/event venue, directing people to their gathering location. A good reminder. I know that I need to look at the signs to see God, whether it be in a little sign (the whisper– like Elijah’s) or a big one. And even though I have been hit a few times with a big “pay attention,” I am aware that I need the reminders to make me mindful. I know that I am supposed to try to be attentive to all the signs that God gives us, yet I rush through life, jumping from one task to another, from one thing to another, not allowing the signs to register. This is true even though I know that by slowing down and paying attention, I will recognize the signs.

One such “pay attention” moment was last year when I dreamt about going on the Camino de Santiago. I had talked about walking it with my son, some ten years earlier, but we didn’t follow up. Too many things got in the way. I had an invitation to go in 2022 but I didn’t feel like it was the right time. And then I had a big “pay attention” moment. I dreamt I was on the Camino. I don’t often remember my dreams, but this one I did remember. I could see myself on the Camino. So I inquired about participating in the Shalem 2023 pilgrimage and a gift was given to me: I was asked to co-lead.

Walking the Camino meant I had to prepare mentally, spiritually, and physically. Lots of trips to REI, new boots to be broken in, and questions about what needed to be in the backpack. However, the biggest questions were “What was I bringing on the Camino?” What did I need to “Remember, Release and Reimagine?” I knew I was carrying my husband JJ who died in Oct. 2020. I was carrying the cancer diagnosis of family members and friends. I was carrying the prayers of many and many were holding me in prayer.

There were so many gifts and blessings on the Camino and many learnings…. A big one was to pay attention to the signs. All along the Camino are signs pointing the way to Santiago. Sometimes they were so easy to find, and other times, you had to look. We were told if you don’t see a sign for a while, turn around to make sure you are on the path. One time, I had to stand at the crossroads and carefully look down at the road. Was the arrow there? I needed to look up at each building. Was the arrow there? Finally, I saw it and continued on my way. I lost the path a few times, but I found my way. And even though the signs point to Santiago, it is not only about the destination but also about the journey.

In my preparation and on the Camino, I had many signs that JJ was with me. One was on the first day. As we walked in silence, suddenly, I looked up and saw that the address on a house was 123. JJ and I signed our cards to each other with “123-I love you.” The first sign that JJ was with me. Another was a large beach umbrella with flamingos in a window- a reminder of JJ. I also had the reminder of my grief. I saw a couple holding hands in front of me and thought “How cute!” When I walked in front of them, the floodgates of tears sought to burst forth. I couldn’t accede in the moment because I would have become even more dehydrated. But I was enfolded in love by my companions. All of us carried those we had lost; we carried those in our families who had difficulties and illnesses; we carried behaviors that we wanted to change; we were going through transitions. They were heavy burdens but were made lighter by the sharing of them and knowing that it is God who holds it all.

I got terrible blisters but I knew they would heal. They made the walking really uncomfortable. The day before I left for the Camino, a parishioner was in the hospital and my pastor said that I should go visit her before I went to Spain. A sign. I popped in and she asked about my trip. There she was, a double amputee, with many health issues, interested in my trip. I promised I would tell her about it upon my return. I found out that she died while I was walking the Camino. Her indomitable joy, and her sense of service, despite her health, helped me walk the Camino and walk through the pain of the blisters.

The roads that we walked on the Camino were varied: cobblestone, sidewalk, boardwalk, beach, dirt road, rocky road, boulders. They were straight, crooked, wide, narrow, hilly, steep ascents, sharp declines. Isn’t that our way in life?

I learned some helpful hints that were not only for the physical walking but for how to walk through life. Take your time. Look down, but also at what’s ahead. Plan your steps. One step at a time. Just worry about today and now. To traverse the steep downward slope, don’t go straight down, walk it diagonally. When life gets hard, remember that you accomplished the Camino.

Signs invited us to listen, to be prepared, to walk through it, to know that we were not going alone, to ask for help when needed and to accept help when given. I carry the signs of the Camino today, both externally and internally. My seashell, the continual unpacking of the experience, and Cami, my new pup. One day on the Camino, I made the decision to adopt a dog. I had been vacillating over the decision, but it was clear. I made the statement to my sister who was walking along with me and we even talked about names. Cami for Camino. And when I met Cami, the women who were fostering Cami, asked if I would rename him. I said, “Cami for the Camino.” They excitedly said, “You walked the Camino, so have we. We are from Spain.” Another sign.

September 09, 2023 by Chris Jeffrey 5 Comments
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Elaine Dent
Elaine Dent
6 months ago

Beautiful reflection, Chris! As one who has done pilgrimages (but not on the Camino), I identify with the blisters and the physical challenge part. But what is more important, I love how you noticed your husband’s and God’s loving communication which brought so much healing and guidance to your heart. It inspires me to pay attention to the signs. Thank you!

David Andrews
David Andrews
6 months ago

Thanks Chris.

James mccann
James mccann
6 months ago

Thank you for sharing. Great moments of awareness and self reflection.

6 months ago
Reply to  James mccann

Bravo, Chris. Your rememberings have a universal quality to them.

Janet Hudson
6 months ago

Thanks Chris for sharing glimpses of your inner journey that aligned with your outer journey. Such a privilege to witness your commitment to the journey.


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