Training Day ten is a another walk with Battle Buddy MJ. I drop child number one off to a Confirmation retreat and take the other two kiddos to hang out at MJ’s house while we walked. I want to get a good eight km walk in on this day, and luckily MJ was game. She took me through some lovely neighborhoods in nearby Sittard, which present a few surprises. She shows me a house that has a wonderful small stained glass depicting the Camino, well-worn boots and all. On a post at the end of their driveway is a ceramic scallop shell tile. The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino, and once you are aware of it, you see them all over Europe.
We live in the southern part of the of The Netherlands, which is called Limburg. It is a culturally Catholic Christian area, and largely rural. My impression is that, while most people are Catholic in this region, church attendance is minimal. I have a Dutch friend who lives in the neighborhood and attends Mass in nearby Heerlen because the Church in our little village of Jabeek is filled with older people and does not have any religious education programs for her children. One morning over coffee, she made the comment that her neighbors give her strange looks when she tells them that she’s going to church. She is saddened that she needed to defend her wish to bring her children up in faith. It is especially poignant for me because a simple walk through any neighborhood here in Limburg reveals wonderful works of religious art in the form of sculpture, statues, small corner shrines, ornate crucifixes, and statues of Jesus and Mary. I may go two months with passing a McDonalds or a Burger King, but there’s a crucifix on almost every corner and a beautiful, old church in the center of every town. I love that about living here, and will miss it when we eventually move back to the U.S.
I mention all this because, during our walk, we find this lovely, large statue of Jesus in the middle of a little village. “Come all to me,” the plaque says. Later in our walk, we encounter a small shrine dedicated to Onze lieve vrouw van rust, which translated means “Our kind lady of rest.” This sweet, well-tended little chapel offers just that, and we enjoyed a brief respite half-way through our walk. I light a candle for a friend who’s been on my heart and mind, and consider what a gift it is to be able to intercede for each other. I feel certain that I am the recipient of many prayers of late, given how light my heart has been during the physical challenges of training.
MJ and I walk for eight kilometers as planned and are pretty beat by the time we make it back to her house. She makes me turkey sandwich, which is delicious, and I discover that she had spent time working at a deli when she was younger. That’s a nice skill to have on one’s life resume: sandwich expert. You’d think that after making 4 sandwiches a day for the last umpteen years, that I’d be a sandwich expert too. Not so much.
We are joined for lunch by MJ’s husband, who showed that “writing” the alphabet with your foot is a really good shin stretch. I could do it easily enough with my right foot, but my left foot presented a bit of a coordination problem. Apparently, I’m right footed as well as right-handed. Funny thing to find out when you’re 40.
A long walk, a tasty sammich, and interesting conversation with good friends equaled a wonderful Saturday.
Thanks for coming along.