Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 389 - A special encounter.

Even though I've never set foot on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I have to admit that I've become somewhat of a Camino-junkie. As time passes and my departure date draws nearer, albeit at a snail's pace, I can't help but feel more and more drawn to this journey that awaits me.

Someone like Ermanno Aiello certainly  fuels the fire. He took to the road in Spain in April and May 2007 at the age of 69. Meeting him a few weeks ago was a very special occasion for me and if I was wondering if I was expecting too much from the journey I'm planning, he certainly confirmed to me that I am in for the walk of my life!

When Ermanno returned from his camino, he was persuaded by many of his friends and family members to put it all down on paper and he decided to write and self-publish his book, titled 'Forever a Pilgrim'.

I was fortunate enough to buy the last copy of his current print. This book has since become one of my most prized possessions and I treasure the lovely message that he wrote in there for me - sending me on my own camino armed with blessings from a deeply religious pilgrim!

Ermanno has given me permission to quote from his book and I would like to share with you some of his experiences in the next few weeks.

For those of you who are new to the blog and not quite familiar with the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage - click on the link at the top right hand side of this page titled ' History of the Camino...'. This summary will give you an idea of what it's all about. Even though the Camino was started by the Catholic church, it is certainly not only Catholics who walk it today. In fact, some people simply walk it as a hike of sorts but it seems to me that the majority of pilgrims actually do it for reasons much deeper than just that.

Personally, I have walked a much more focused road with the Lord these past three years and I am experiencing a very strong calling to this pilgrimage. Something about leaving all the luxuries of the world behind and just walking for miles and miles, with the freedom to devote hours to the Lord in contemplation, seems like a gift too great to pass by!

Ermanno the pilgrim - can that smile be any broader?

To start off, here is a quote from the book - this piece illustrates one of the gifts of the Camino - silence of a different kind.

' In wild and beautiful Galicia with its magnificent forests, mountains,countless streams, farms and fickle weather I experienced a different type of silence. The weather kept reminding me that, like life,there is no permanent silence and that if I needed silence I would have to create it within myself. Amazingly so, I managed this very well - eventually being able to find the silence (and with it the much needed solitude) that I craved for at will.'

 ' This silence and solitude led me to deeper and deeper introspection. The analysis of my life up to then, with all its good and bad times, my periods of moving away from my faith and the subsequent return to it, the successes and failures of my career, the value of my loved ones, especially my wife Lia, led me to the realization that my life had always been and always will be for a purpose only known to God. I do not need to know that purpose - that will be revealed to me when I am finally with Him - all I need to know is that I am of value to Him as I am and that I will do my utmost to fulfil whatever purpose He still has for me. This knowledge filled me with such peace.'

Since I made the decision to walk the Camino, countless people who are somehow connected to it have crossed my path. Each and every one of them has added value to my life. Sitting down for coffee with someone like Ermanno Aiello, a man who rejoices in his relationship with his creator, is very special. When you're in the presence of someone who loves and adores the Lord, the feeling is tangible. You can't mistake the warmth, the joy and the peace that fills that person. I felt all of this from the first minute I met this man and praise God for sending people to guide me along this road. A road that I am so happy to be on!

And thank you Ermanno. Thank you for being obedient. Thank you for sharing your beliefs, your experiences (good and bad!) and most of all, for proclaiming everything that the Lord God has done for you!

For those of us, like me, who are in our infant stages as Christians, your guidance is a blessing beyond words!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 383 - On top of the world!

Today, exactly one year ago, I started climbing Kilimanjaro. I'd been planning the trip for six months and to say that taking those first steps up the first hill was exciting, would be the understatement of the year!

Climbing that mountain was the hardest thing I've ever done and altitude sickness almost stopped me in my tracks that first night. I am so glad though that I decided to carry on! Standing on the summit after hours of climbing and months of planning felt like a million dollars.

I could not have asked for more special people outside of my family to have joined me on this adventure. My young friend Yolanda and I still hike together on Thursdays and sharing a tent with her was a blessing beyond words. We laughed so much, I felt like a teenager again at times! We can write the book about staying warm on Kili - at night our sleeping bags were filled with about half a dozen hand warmers from top to bottom - it actually felt as if I had an electric blanket switched on in there at times!

Yolanda also taught me how to pack for an overnight hiking trip. She got stuck into my bag at the hotel before we left and removed almost half the contents! Even I had to admit that I probably didn't need the full bottle of shampoo, the lotions etc.etc that made my bag weigh a ton! Talk about wet-wipes - I had a specific bags of wipes designed for every part of the body, including a 80-wipe baby pack!!

The other girl in our party, Sandra, came from Namibia and she climbed the mountain to celebrate her 50th birthday on the 24th of July. The three of us just 'clicked' from the first time we met for coffee in Cape Town a few weeks before the trip. I'll never forget the magical evening (albeit with a hurricane strength wind blowing outside the tent!) we had at Baranco, celebrating her birthday with a mash potato cake the porters had baked for her!

But most of all, I remember the special conversations I had with God on Kilimanjaro. There I discovered for the first time how to listen for the messages that are sent to me. Not only how to listen, but also how to actually hear! The first night I was so ill, I was ready to turn back the next morning. At one stage it was so bad that I actually ripped the zipper open, just to get fresh air. I can't remember ever feeling so ill and claustrophobic at the same time - it was was not a good place to be. Then, somewhere in the early morning hours, I started praying. Like I've never prayed before. I made all the emergency promises that we make when we shoot up those 'I'm -in-trouble' prayers to God. This time there was just one difference, I really meant to keep each and every one of them! :)

Words can't describe the feeling of utter peace that came over me in those early hours of the morning. It literally felt as if it was poured over me and washed over my body in slow motion. I knew, there and then - my life could never be the same again.

A few nights later, at the camp on the photograph below, I opened my little Bible randomly and it fell open at Psalm 61. I had never, to my knowledge, read Psalm 61 and to understand why it made such an impact on me, you have to go and read it for yourself.

I say again - on Kilimanjaro I learnt to listen to God. His messages are SO clear, all one has to do is open your heart, tilt your head and LISTEN. And trust me - you don't have to climb Kilimanjaro to get full reception! :)

And if you're still reading my blog this time next year, I hope to share pages full of Camino memories and miracles with you as well!

destined, devoted, daring

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 380 - A special evening!

My first attempt at hosting a Christmas in July dinner. Done and dusted! I cooked up a storm and made all my traditional Xmas dishes and passing around the 1989 copy of the 'Fair Lady' magazine that contains my traditional English Trifle recipe was quite funny! We realised that not that much has really changed - maybe I should take some pictures of the articles in the magazine and post it here so that you can decide for yourself!

Anyway, I decided to use apples for the flowers on the table and yep, I was pretty pleased with the result. As I never got to take pictures of the food, I thought I'd share some of these with you instead. What an inexpensive way to decorate a table! The flowers came from my mom's garden and the chicken pie she made for us, by the way, was to die for! What would I do without my mother? Even now that I'm a grandmother myself, there are some things that remain her specialities!! I have NEVER eaten a chicken pie as tasty as the one she makes and my guests agreed!

So, on the menu was:
Pumpkin soup
Sweet potato bread

Leg of lamb
French beans with garlic butter, walnuts and blue cheese
Cauliflower with Parmesan and mustard sauce
Cinnamon and orange Sweet potato
Green salad

English Trifle with Port, Sherry and Brandy

Filter or Irish Coffee

Today is Tuesday and we've just finished the last of the leftovers!! What can I say, I cooked for a battalion, even though we were just eight! I share recipes with the greatest love, so if anything above tickles your fancy, let me know and I'll tell you what my instructions were!

To top off a GREAT evening, my friends all brought gifts for the playroom at the Red Cross Children's Hospital here in Cape Town. I'm delivering it to them tomorrow, what a wonderful way to end off a great get-together with very special people! 

I am blessed!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Christmas in July!

I've always wanted to do a 'Christmas in July' dinner. Well, tonight I am doing exactly that. I'll be spending most of the day cooking up a storm and hopefully the reward will be eight happy guests by the end of the evening!

As always, at the start of all the preparations, I ask myself, WHY did I take this on? And as always, I remind myself how amazing it is once everyone is seated around the table, enjoying each others company, laughing, sharing and creating great memories.

This little group of people is particularly special to me. We met at a book launch just over a year ago and have been getting together every second month for dinner ever since that initial meeting over lunch. We were all perfect strangers to one another, yet we've become the most amazing friends since. We call ourselves the 'Table 13' group and I can't think of more special group of friends to have over for Christmas in July!

So, without further ado, let me whip out that apron...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The countdown has begun!

Today is my birthday. This means, God willing, in exactly one year from this day I will be walking into Santiago. I have had a wonderful day and feel really blessed tonight. I haven't blogged for a while but look forward to sharing the countdown journey to June 2012 with you in the coming months!

As they say - buen camino, I guess!!