Category Archives: travel

My encounter with the cross

The shadow the cross has weighed heavily on me the past few days. As I sit and rest in the stillness of this Easter Sunday I am overwhelmed with the power of the cross. Death did not prevail.

As I reflect on the cross, a picture of love with it’s blood and brutality,  I am brought back to the Camino. In 2014 I hiked 500 miles in 33 days across El Camino de Santiago with my mom when I graduated high school. It was the hardest feat I have ever accomplished and my life truly restarted through that experience, I have never been the same.

In preparation for our trek we did what all good pilgrims do. We each selected our rock from our home to pack in our backpack to leave when the time is appropriate. Per tradition, nearing the final stretches of the Camino stands Cruz de Ferro, it’s base a composite of the aches and groans of this temporal world.

When space in your pack is so limited (your pack weight is meant to be less than 10% of your body weight for this nature of hiking), carrying a rock feels a little ridiculous. Mine rested in small pocket in my waist strap for weeks.  Sometimes I’d open that pocket and remember that I had a stupid rock in there and couldn’t use that space.

Journey with me to the cross.


 

Early morning start. I fight against the fatigue and work to open my eyes and guide my feet to another day of hiking. I throw my feet over the side of my bunk and pause to nurse my aching muscles. My body is unrecognizable at this point. My legs are scratched, sunned, and raw instruments of strength. As I hobble to the communal bathroom, my legs feel as if they can barely support that pack-less trek. We have a long day ahead. As the sky is barely waking with us, my mom and I begin our day’s walk. Today we encounter the cross. I have replayed what I have thought this moment would be in my mind over and over. For us, Cruz de Ferro loomed about an hour into our morning hike.

We each walked alone during this hour’s silence and march to the cross. I finally pulled my rock from it’s residence and held it in my hand. It was smooth, polished by Alaskan water that had pushed and pulled this rock to shore and then gingerly lapped against it, refining and smoothing its texture. It was split, half gray and half white stone. I turned it over and over in my hand and started to talk to Papa God. My conversation quickly transitioned to song. “Lead me to the Cross” filled my mind and tears threatened to burst at the beauty of this anticipation.

Lead me to the cross

Where Your love poured out

One foot in front of the other.

Bring me to my knees

Lord I lay me down

Earth crunches under my feet as I step closer and closer to the cross.

Rid me of myself

I belong to You

Lord, can I finally surrender to you?

Lead me, lead me to the cross

With one bend in the path we were suddenly there. Not to sound ungrateful for this experience, but it was smaller than I expected. As morning due still clung to the earth, the cross appeared in it’s humble glory. How appropriate that it would seem smaller and a humble image. The cross that held the body of Christ was of simple wood, with simple nails, with blood staining the earth. The gore of a crucifixion doesn’t fit comfortably with the narrative of a stained glass church.

It’s time.

I move to place my rock, warm from anxious turning in my hand, and I laid it down at the cross. The relief I feel as tears stain my cheeks is incredible. All my anxieties, my heart hurts, my wounds are represented in that rock that is now just one of many at the base of the cross.

At this place are the rocks of sinners, of widows, of orphans, of those battered and bruised, of those weary, of those seeking, of me.

As Easter Sunday continues to tick away I am brought back to my knees at the cross. I have been in a spiritually dry place for so long and the truth of what today, Easter Sunday, means moved me to tears for the first time in a long time. As our congregation sang “How He Loves” and I belted the truth of his grace and affection for his people, tears made their way down my face as a smile covered my face. As our congregation welcomed three more members to the church family through their public declaration of baptism my heart stirred. Death did not overcome. And I return to the cross to remember that it is paid in full, it is finished.

And I have joy to face the morning.

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That Moment When Texas is Actually Awesome

I feel like I missed a memo. While I was growing up in Alaska I was taught that I needed to defend myself against Texans who would try to claim that “everything is bigger in Texas” and then I’d need to yell at them that three of their state can fit in my state. You think Texas is proud? Pshhh you should see Alaskans! While I was prepping for the fight (that honestly no one has with me. People really don’t care how much land your state has to it’s name. This and stop drop and roll were disproportionally stressed to me growing up), I missed the memo that Texas is low key awesome.

I said it. This Alaskan can humbly accept that though everything isn’t bigger in Texas (We’ve already covered that Alaska is the biggest and best) some things are just plain better in Texas. My mom used a mileage ticket to fly me from Twentynine Palms to San Antonio to meet her while she went to her conference here. I didn’t know what to expect really, I went in blind and I have effectively been blown away. I think part of it is I thought it was going to be tumbleweeds and cowboys. I didn’t see either during my whole trip in San Antonio and instead was greeted with a bounty of trees and some of the best food I’ve ever had.

So, I am now a self-ordained recruiter for the tourism sector of San Antonio. Let me tell you what you need to do and why you will want to go now.

Like right now.

Like stop reading and book a trip I’m so serious this is one of my favorite U.S. cities.

  1. That river walk that everyone talks about is actually pretty awesome.

Everyone will tell you to go here anyways but it’s far greater than the image in your mind is. I have been to the River Walk in Chicago but the restaurants are typically a level above from the water and it’s cold as heck most months. And I have also walked along the Seine in Paris and it had a pungent smell that can only be describe as a mix of urine and disappointed tourists with a dash of pollution. The River Walk in San Antonio takes it up a level. Restaurants line the River Walk and are right on the water. Performers’ music fills the air and the subtle symphony of water taxis cruising along the way. Along the River Walk you can pretty much dine on any cuisine that you desire as the diversity of Texas’ culture is showcased here. My picks of where to eat on the River Walk?

  • The County Line: I have never had brisket before and I had it here and I’m never going back. They have famous in house bread that is served warm and with a honey butter spread. I ordered the brisket with corn on the cob and garlic mashed potatoes. Okay, confession. I went here twice. I got steak the second time and they described it as “melt in your mouth” which I thought was weird until I had one bite… melt in your mouth can be a thing when referring to steak. And I think it changed my life.
  • Waxy O’Connor’s: I actually had dessert for dinner here but their homemade apple pie was amazing and came with caramel drizzled all over the pie. They also have Shepherd’s Pie and Chicken Pot Pie, great comfort food and sports bar vibes.
  • The Chocolate Factory: I’m embarrassed with how much money I spent here… they are very expensive but have pretty much any sort of chocolate concoction you can dream of.
  • Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville: I had the Cuban sandwich and was full for the rest of the day. Great portions and right by the mall and river.
  • The Iron Cactus: Please get their table side guacamole and marvel as they make guac an art form. Order one of everything is my recommendation.

 

 

  1. San Antonio knows how to do holidays.

I was in San Antonio over Halloween weekend and I couldn’t believe how intense they took it! Haunted house after haunted house, trick-or-treating on the river walk, a zombie walk down town, Dia de Los Muertos en la plaza: everywhere and everything! I was told by a San Antonio that this is just how they do things. In April they have a two- week long party! Why? BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. San Antonio is the epitome of fun. Once a year they drain the river to do some cleaning so what do they do? They have a fiesta! Christmas? Party! Halloween? You got it! San Antonio is festive and fun and a vibrant city that takes holidays to a new level.

 

  1. The whole state has a small town vibe.

I can really appreciate this coming from Alaska. I felt hospitality in every interaction despite being in a city. In Chicago I feel that I am constantly on guard for someone eager to steal my things or mess with me. In San Antonio? There were multiple occasions where in a big city someone would have taken advantage of the small town girls bewildered and lost but in San Antonio? Please were eager to help, give recommendations, and stud their response with a lot of “ya’ll” even though we giggled every time they did that.

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  1. Texas is the perfect place for #treatyourself2016

We didn’t just go to Texas, we TREATED OURSELVES! Here are my favorite ways that we placed tourist and treated ourselves

  • Go to Tower of the Americas and dine at the restaurant at the top. This rotating restaurant gives you full views of the entire city. We only did dessert but we ordered the lava cake with ice cream. I don’t think I could forget that taste if I had to. You won’t be able to go back to lava cake from Domino’s after this.
  • Mani and pedi’s with my mom because that’s what you’re suppose to do when you hang out with your mom.
  • Wildlife Ranch African Safari is a zoo where you drive your care through the safari park and get an opportunity to see a variety of African animals. You also get to feed them with the complimentary feed given to you with your purchase! A zebra got real friendly with my window and we saw a lot of unique creatures
  1. Remember!

You have to go to the Alamo. It’s right in the heart of downtown and free to walk through the main part and you learn a lot about the history that Texas is so proud of.

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  1. Trips are a thousand times better with family.

As you plan your trip to Texas (as I’m sure you will after you learned that Texas is not a barren wasteland that’s too hot and too country) be sure to bring family. I spent my time in Texas with my mom and we laughed and enjoyed the experience of a new adventure together. We also had the opportunity to spend a day with our cousin Lori Meredith.

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Ya’ll have a good visit in Texas now!