Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Friday, December 5, 2014

As Thanksgiving yields to Advent

The last wedding we attended was our own, six months ago. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, we attended the holy matrimony of a dear couple, Jeff and Chris. .Weddings are an outward sign of love, community, charity, and self-assurance. Stephen and I hoped ours felt that way as much to our guests as to ourselves. We certainly saw that in Jeff and Chris's union. In offering and sharing a sign of love, weddings are the visible rainbow promised to us and where we, if we desire, can find a pot of grace granted.

As the old hymn goes, "Ubi caritas et amor deus ibi est". We used that hymn as did Jeff and Chris. It means more or less "Where charity and love exist, God is there." People can be in love and keep it to themselves. I'm sure politically, many would prefer this. But loving just yourselves is basically self-focused, with no outward benefit or creation. By sharing the love with others in the most charitable way, one creates. Creation can be in offering life, in supporting life, or in sustaining life. Some have children. I myself prefer feeding children and working towards their safety. Charity and love combined show us the face of God.

Thanksgiving itself was a marvelous affair for us this year. It started on Thursday with a morning of work at Union Station Homeless Services's Dinner in the Park. We love the set up tasks. Many prefer actually dishing up the food, but we prefer to work with the team that hauls out the tables, sets up the temporary structures, and decorates. It's very behind-the-scenes, but for us it's not important for the one hand to know what the other is doing. It's about sharing hospitality, abundance, and grace with those who are in need.

We then had a quiet and intimate dinner at my sister's apartment. It felt warm and joyful. The next day, we had a much larger, combined dinner with both sides of our family together at our place. Noise and food were plentiful as we shared stories and laughs late into the night.

And then I took off to Cancun, Mexico.

At the top of Coba pyramid in the Yucatan jungle.
Stephen had to be at school so he stayed home. I traveled and did some work from afar. I met up with a Camino peregrino - 19yo Jakob from Austria - who I befriended on my pilgrimage. He was one of the two cousins who walked not 800 km, but 3000 km as he started from his front door in Austria. Together, we celebrated, learned, shared dreams, and immersed ourselves in culture, history, peoples. Jakob is starting a 9 month journey that will take him from Mexico down all the way to Chile in South America. In that time, he'll work organic farms, find odd jobs, camp, swim, hitchhike, learn about the cultures, and improve his 5th language Spanish.

And that's what led me into thinking about Advent. Advent is about preparation and waiting. I found myself turning on a dime from a season of thanks by spending time with someone preparing for what is to come. His dreams and aspirations are so similar to what I carried with me at his age. I share with all who listen that I view my young Austrian friends from the Camino de Santiago as almost my nephews. I hope that I can share my stories with them, offer ideas not based on judgment, and encourage them. Jakob has so much going for him and his heart is as expansive as his mind.

Spending a week with Jakob allowed me to feel hopeful and alive. It was a move from the past -- where your mind must be in order to give thanks -- towards the future where your mind must be in order to have hope. Jakob takes the needed risks on this journey so that he can be ready for what is to come. He's willing to walk away from worldly conveniences and stable relationships in order to ensure that he's prepared.  I feel blessed that he helped make my Advent more meaningful and personal.

Y con eso, para mí, mi Advent ha comenzado (and with that, my Advent has begun)

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