Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Trusting the Journey

In Madrid, there is a park called El Retiro.
In the Retiro, there is a glass building called El Palacio de Cristal - the Crystal Palace.
In the Palacio de Cristal, there is a tent, a jaima.
Made of fabrics designed and dyed by women in a refugee camp in the Saharan Desert.
The name of the collective and cooperative work that created the tent is
"Tuiza" - a word "that refers to the act of gathering, participating, and constructing
something with everyone's involvement... This great tent is presented as 
a space of hospitality and conversation between cultures."
(Taken from the brochure handed out to visitors in the Palacio.)

The first time I visited the Bedouin tent in the Retiro, I was with a dear friend, the one who worked a flight from NY to Madrid so that we could spend six hours together. (I am so thankful for her love and friendship...) She and I sat and talked, shared stories, took photos, marveled at the wonder of the handiwork and creativity of the refugee women who had created the colorful panels. Dozens of people sat and lay and stood nearby, taking it all in, resting, reading, talking, and enjoying the serenity and beauty of the tent.

The second time I visited - I will share about that a little later.

The same night that we discovered that gorgeous space in the Retiro,
my friend and I met up with another dear one
and we had dinner together. Outside. 
Sharing wine and food and stories and laughter.
Sharing our hearts and our hopes, our dreams and our dreads.
Sharing ourselves.
What a gift. 
Thanks be to God.

In the main cathedral church in Avila, Spain, the day after seeing the tent.

This is what I want - to be pierced through the heart with love and passion for God.
Wait - that has already happened to me.
So much love. So much passion. So much faith.
So many questions. So many doubts. So much fear.
It's all in me.
And I'm grateful for how every emotion, every experience,
every trip, every adventure hollows out deeper places within me,
teaches me, transforms me, and heals me.

Just beyond the statue seen in the previous photo is this small sign,
one of Santa Teresa's most famous, oft repeated prayers.
"Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything passes/changes.
God doesn't move/change.
Patience accomplishes everything.
The one who has God lacks nothing.
Only God is enough/God alone is enough."
(There are so many ways to translate these poignant and powerful words.)

In my moments of fear and doubt and worry,
like this morning when I was out on my morning walk,
I need words like these to come back to my mind and heart.
Speaking of which, while I was out on my walk this morning,
asking God lots of questions, listing my concerns and prayer requests,
I listened to Rezandovoy - a daily prayer that is recorded in Valladolid, Spain, 
the hometown of my favorite Jesuit (Te echo de menos, AA)
 and posted on the internet.
What was the final portion of the prayer this morning?
These very words by Santa Teresa de Jesus.
Thanks be to God.

One of the tiny details that caught my eye in Avila -
These tiles that say, "Footsteps - Teresa de Jesus."
I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to walk in the tiny footsteps of that giant of the faith.

"So two nuns and two priests walk into a bar..."
Or meet up with each other on the street and talk.
Ask after each other's health and then ask for prayer.
I wished I was bold enough to approach and listen to what else they said to each other.

A fuzzy photo of an ornate altar at San Francisco el Grande -
one of the largest and oldest churches in Madrid.
I had done some reading before this last journey and came to realize 
that there are many churches in Madrid that I've never seen.
This was one of them.
Three weeks ago today, I planned and walked 
a pilgrimage between several churches,
covering over 12 miles on foot that day.
Entering, wandering, sitting, listening, praying.
Taking photos. Taking notes. Taking notice.
Marveling at the thought of how many thousands
of pilgrims and worshipers and tourists and beggars and 
priests and painters and other curious souls have entered those same buildings,
sat on those same benches and cried out to the same God.
Wow. Glory be.

San Antonio de los Alemanes Church.
(Saint Anthony of the Germans)
There is a work of restoration going on behind the altar.
I loved this covering, this curtain.
Reminded me of the separation between the people of Israel 
and the Holy of Holies in the temple.
Reminded me to be grateful that those curtains no longer exist.

Standing under an orange tree in the courtyard of a museum
in the middle of Madrid.
So much beauty and bounty and nourishment
and quietness and peace and growth.

The second time I returned to what I dubbed "the tent of meeting," 
I entered it with the desire to be alone with God.
I knew I wouldn't actually be alone - that other people would be present -
but I wanted to have an experience of being alone with The Alone.
And I did - I journaled and prayed and thought and shed a few tears,
all while being surrounded by people,
all while a woman was giving a talk about Spirit and being heard
and being seen and how we all need and desire to be loved.
And I was able to capture this photo - 
it looks like the tent was empty, but it wasn't.
I simply had a few seconds when no one was in my line of sight,
a few seconds when I could look straight ahead and see nothing and no one -
but The Alone.
That place felt mighty holy that day.
I almost took off my shoes. Almost.

I followed this woman past the estanco - the pond in the middle of the Retiro.
She stopped several times and took photos.
She was as fascinated by the beauty of the day and the place as I was.
I was grateful for her presence, her grace, her elegance, her life.
I was grateful for the three people she joined up with soon after I took this photo.
They looked like they were having a great time together in the park.
I confess to being fascinated by the hijab, the abaya, the caftan,
the head coverings, the tunics, the saris, the modest attire, 
the ways in which women adorn themselves
and choose not to adorn themselves because of their faith and traditions.
Oh, that we would learn to respect one another,
to accept one another, to welcome one another -
especially those whose traditions are not our own.

From the first day until the last day of this trip,
I embraced the motto on this tee shirt
(a shirt I saw in Asheville a few months ago):
I trusted the journey.
I trusted the strong women I walked with and ate with.
I trusted the Tour Guide I walked with.
I trusted that when a church or a museum was closed,
I wasn't meant to see it.
I trusted that when I missed a train
or a flight was delayed
or a conversation lasted longer or shorter than expected,
that I could trust that all was well.
That I was not alone.
That there would always be reason to give thanks.
How can I not be grateful?

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