I Pursued a Spiritual Journey and Failed Miserably Along “The Way”

Fresco Tours 161 rob and ken sweetUNEXPECTED LESSON ONE from The Camino:

              By Robin Hurst, Author, Founder, Your Path Matters and All In Retreats

When I anticipated our eight days of trekking on the Camino de Santiago to the tomb of Saint James, disciple of Jesus, I was sure that it would be one of the most incredible spiritual journeys of my life.

The visions in my head and heart were romantic. The dream of taking this trip with my husband, Ken, had been stirring in me for years. When we finally scheduled our adventure for September, Ken and I knew there would be a possibility of rain, so we planned accordingly by packing the appropriate gear if needed.

Unfortunately, our rookie planning was no match for the thunder, lightning, torrential rain and hail that met us our first day on the trail. There was no quick exit off the course to catch an Uber and it was unwise to escape into the immense evergreen forest canopy because the tall timbers were basically natural lightning rods.

The first half of our day was filled with warm sunshine and a joyful journey. It was a delight to meet up with others in our group for lunch. We lingered. We laughed. We enjoyed a bountiful feast. And yes, after much deliberation, I decided to shed my raincoat and extra shirt layer since the morning hike was so lovely. The additional gear seemed like unnecessary weight.

Those burdensome layers were left on the bus that we would not see again until the end of the day. After the first mile or two into our afternoon trek, the winds picked up, the temperatures suddenly dropped more than twenty degrees and torrential rain followed swiftly creating unavoidable ankle-deep water on narrow and uneven parts of the trail. The rain was announced by dark purplish-blue skies along with the symphony of rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning. The circumstances were surreal, but unfortunately undeniable.

As we grappled to mentally adjust to our circumstances, the situation was exacerbated by half-inch balls of hail that began to pelt our bodies relentlessly. Whimpering sounds came from my being as the reality of physical shivering escalated my discomfort while my fear of the true danger of a lightning strike intensified. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to lecture myself to stop the whimpering and to just pick up the pace to the finish line. Whining was not going to get me there sooner or dryer.

I then noticed that my husband pulled a peach umbrella out of his backpack and held it over me. He literally covered me. He held me close to him while holding the small umbrella over my head protecting me from the hail while sacrificing his own cover. Both of us tried not to think about the lightning magnet it was.

We hiked several more miles in the torrential rain to our destination of the iconic Iron Cross. I had looked forward to dwelling at the cross, saying a prayer and leaving a stone as a symbol of leaving something from within me behind while looking ahead in hope as is Camino pilgrim tradition. Dwelling at the cross was not appealing to me in the freezing cold, blowing wind, torrential rain and wicked hail. Not an inch of my clothing or body could get any more soaked than it already was, but lingering in the wide open at the foot of this metal cross in the elements was not part of my fairy tale dream of our precious spiritual adventure.

Until then, it had not occurred to me that the 100 miles we had ahead of us could be in the pouring rain – every day! This pilgrim would not have signed up for that kind of experience and labeled it a vacation. I prefer a more comfy kind of spiritual journey. These thoughts that were stewing in my mind were interrupted by the arrival of our bus. Bus transportation never looked so glorious to me.

Even though our first day was far from what I had envisioned, I made it through. My husband protected me from the hail and God protected us from the lightning. It was good to see the balance of our hiking group, who would soon become our dear friends, arrive and share their stories. They all laughed at Ken’s feminine colored peach umbrella – the only umbrella detected on the trail. Even though the laughter was welcome and warranted, I was grateful that particular umbrella was in my husband’s backpack and that he used it to protect me beyond his own comfort even if the rest of the group called him “Kenny Poppins” for the remainder of our adventure.

The lessons were many that day. However, not only did I not appreciate them at the time, I simply did not see them at all. I was wet, freezing and concerned for the days ahead. I was disappointed that I did not get to dwell at the foot of the iconic Iron Cross. I barely offered a feeble prayer there. That perspective prevented my dwelling with God to thank him for Ken, a peach umbrella, a group of new friends, and the fact that the Iron Cross was a reminder that He sent His one and only son to die for me so that I, in every kind of weather, get to experience His grace and the greatest love the world has ever known.



My circumstances and emotions can get in the way of my gratitude, my faith and my dwelling at the foot of the cross. Thankfully, God is patient and faithful. He will wait for me to find my way.

©2020 Robin Hurst, All In Retreats, LLC


Today is my Father’s birthday.  I miss him deeply.  I was blessed to have written and read the “What I Learned from My Dad” to him on this very day last year.  I added some writing around the tribute to share as eleven days later as he unexpectedly passed on from this world to be with our great Father in heaven.  This is what I shared that day in May 20114All Time Favorite with Dad

My precious Dad moved on to heaven a week and a half ago. I miss him deeply. I know we all have special loves in our lives. My father was and always will be one of those for me. It is from experience I give YOU these words of encouragement. If there are words unspoken you wish you could speak to those still in your life whom you love in a special way – speak them. If there are loved ones who are no longer here on this earth yet you have words still to say – say them. God is an awesome messenger.

Just 3 weeks ago we were gathered for Dad’s 87th birthday. I wrote something special to read to him at his party. I am grateful these words were shared at a time I could feel his hand squeezing mine and could see the loving expression in his eyes.


By Your Devoted Daughter, Robin

copyright©Robin W Hurst 201420140507164236_00225A

I’ve learned to love with a generous heart instead of judge with a limited perspective.

I’ve learned to be kind because the world needs more kindness.

I’ve learned to ask questions about God as a way to grow my faith.

I’ve learned to be patient rather than quick to respond without thoughtfulness.

I’ve learned caring for others matters. Read more →

Word for the Year – A Trip Back to VISTA

If you were to choose a word of the year to live by, remain rooted in, would “PATIENCE” ever come to mind? Me neither! But this is how this true story unfolds….

My husband, Ken, and I travel every year back to the Vista Farmer’s Market (VFM) in California. (see other blogs: Back and Forth to Vista) This year was not exception. So, we arrive at the VFM and per our usual Em-O, Ken bee lines to the breakfast tamale booth as I continue to seek Joy – that would be my dear friend Joy Blessman and her booth filled with INTENTIONS. For the past 7 years I have returned to Vista to discover my guiding word for the year. I find the word or more like it the word finds me.Then I choose to live in it, by it and sometimes through it for the entire year. The word serves as an area of growth in my life and my faith.

This year, unlike past years, I arrived with a preconceived notion of what my next word of focus would be. I was sort of getting fired up about what I was sure would be my new word. Although, since it is important to me to surrender to what God’s plan might be for me, I said a prayer before we headed to the market. My prayer went like this, “God, please just make it clear what my word should be. Otherwise, I’VE got a plan. You know me, God, the sign has to be clear so I can be sure.”

So, when I arrived at Joy’s booth and laid eyes on my friend she greeted me with her smiling eyes and a new curvy, smaller frame. She shared her story about her new nutrition cleansing plan that clearly worked. Her size, her shining spirit, her glowing skin all revealed a cleansed new starting point. Somehow, Vista represents this for me each year. I yearn for this trip and these moments with JOY.

As our interlude continued to unfold my eyes began to search her booth for her famous INTENTIONS soaps and for my new word to treasure for the next 365 days. Concern entered my spirit. I did not see the soaps, only four INTENTIONS candles one of which was my anticipated word. Ok. Now all I need is the soap and I’m good. When I asked Joy about the soaps she said that a women earlier in the day had purchased almost all of her INTENTIONS SOAPS but she had this little row of them left. No matter really. I only needed one of them… right?

So, I begin to review the row of soaps, one soap hiding the next one. I looked at the first soap, it said “patience.” Well, no this is not it. The next one, “patience.” No way. The third one, yup, “patience.” The fourth, “triumphant” which was my word two years ago. The sixth and seventh soaps, “patience!” There were two more soaps, both said “joy.” As you can imagine, my heart was pounding. Not one WISDOM in the bunch! Maybe I’m supposed to switch to a candle this year. Who says the word has to be on a bar of soap?

Really, God? Patience? Ok, you may be asking me, why not joy? Great question! I thought that myself. Get this.

As I stewed in silent denial about the word that appeared 5 times out of 8 possibilities because someone else had bought all the others after asking God to make it really clear, I waited for the answer to change. I moved back toward the four candles. Remember, one of them had “MY” word – WISDOM – on it. I reached for wisdom. Meanwhile, my friend Joy had no idea what was going on inside of me as other customers were coming and going in her booth. Finally, as I reached for the wisdom candle I hooked the ribbon on the candle next to it. That candle fell into my hands. Joy quickly said, whatever that candle is that fell must be your word, Robin. It nearly jumped off the shelf at you. You are not going to believe this… YES! Dog gone it! It was the PATIENCE candle.

A brief moment after that happened, I remained in turmoil as more customers came and went. I picked up the “joy” soap telling myself that I could live with joy for the year. That would be just fine. It wasn’t wisdom but it trumped patience. Then a noticed a customer reaching toward the candles, as she was reaching her finger hooked a ribbon of one of the candles and it fell toward her. I repeated Joy’s advice – “that must be the one you are supposed to buy. It came right to you.” She looked at me, kept browsing and finally purchased the one that fell toward her. She said as she paid joy for her COURAGE candle, I do believe this was the one meant for me. REALLY. (Why couldn’t it have been the patience candle? She was ACTUALLY reaching for patience!) There was a complete stranger, hooking a candle just like I did. She accepted the message and moved on.

Joy looked at me. Robin, I can feel your angst from here. Why are you fighting patience so much? Girl, don’t you know the only way to it is through it? You may have all the wisdom you need for now to take the next steps in your dreams and God’s plan. Trust that. You just may need more patience to understand it all. She wrapped up that patience soap. We embraced. I left ready to tell my husband the unbelievable story.

He asked, “so what’s your new word of the year, Rob?” I said, “are you ready to hear this story?” His response, “it’s a whole story. Maybe later.” WOW. Already, I’m being tested in patience. No problem. I can wait.

While I thought I had grown so much in patience I guess there is more to learn. I’ve grown more patient with others, with the pace of the world, even more patient with myself, but I’m not so sure I’ve been patient in understanding how and when my dreams may be realized. People say that God’s timeline is different than ours. That’s a tough one. That means I’m not always the driver. I’m learning that I’ve got to depend on others and God to help me in this “dream plan.” That’s not easy for me. How about you?

Do you fight or embrace patience? Do you have a story of patience you can share in the comments? I’d LOVE to hear it! I’ve got all year…



Risking to Really Live!

“If we risk nothing, we risk everything.”
Geena Davis

Words are never sufficient when we lose those we love. My heart goes out to all of you who understand this. A year ago, we lost my beautiful and courageous niece, Samantha, my sister’s daughter. Sam was 23 years and 5 days old. She stepped out in risk… a lot. Sam loved mischief. She loved adventure. She loved deeply, especially little children. She risked using her voice for others and for advancing a worthy cause or project. I learned so much from this young, yet very wise soul. I understand that losing those we love is part of life, but it is difficult to accept. It is painful. Grief from our loss lingers within us. I am also learning that grief is part of healing.

It is becoming clear that I must risk to really live which in turn honors what Samantha taught me about living. I am learning to risk through stepping out in adventure. I am: risking to stand up for what I believe… risking to support others…. risking to share my faith… risking to speak words of love over judgment, perfection or self-doubt… risking to take on physical challenges when my mind or fear would prefer to stop me. Read more →

Un-ZIP Your Courage!

I have a fear of heights. It’s not exactly the height I fear necessarily but the falling from up high. Looking down makes my stomach feel like swirling butterflies. Therefore, I probably avoid situations of significant height unless I have solid ground under my feet so I can enjoy the vast vista. Therefore, when I signed up to “BE BRAVE” recently, as part of a conference in Nebraska, jumping off a 55 foot platform to ZIP LINE and walking swinging wooden planks 45 feet above the ground was what I had in mind to expand my comfort zone. I guess that is why they say “EXPANDING” your comfort zone. Read more →

I Need a Sign …A Skywriter..


A Skywriter, a Billboard, a Bumper Sticker and a phone call…

Just ask… Really?

I am learning how amazing and powerful prayer just is. There have been times when I have so badly desired God’s guidance. Do you ever feel like that? While, for me, His answers are not always clear sometimes the answers show up in such a big way there is no mistaking they are a response to my “ask.”

The very first time I remember intentionally asking for a sign, I was sort of new at this believing thing. I was not really sure that God could love me so much that he would provide personal answers to prayer requests. I thought that I would give it a try even though the magnitude of this love was hard to grasp.

Shortly after I had made a commitment to try on this God life, I was invited to go on a girls golf trip. I had reservations about this trip as the others in the party walked on the wild side and I was pretty sure they might not “know Jesus.” Silly, really. I know that. I wanted to share what I was learning but was afraid I might be rejected by them. So, I decided to ask God, “please send me a sign in a way that makes it possible for me to share my new found faith.” I wondered if and how God might show up on this trip to answer me. After all, I was new at this prayer thing. I didn’t have any idea if God even answered such prayers when there are so many greater needs in the world. Read more →

The Morning Fog

The words for this poem entered my head and heart as I was walking in November 2011 along Riverside Drive. The fog was so thick I could not see the river at all yet I knew it was still there. I knew it existed for sure. But if it had been my first walk along that river that morning, I may have never known a river flowed there. Read more →

The Breakfast Special

There is every day life, every day friends, every day responsibility, and then there is the last Friday morning of each month.  Though the last Friday of each month occupies only one day on the calendar it is anticipated every other day – during which “everyday life” is taking place. Read more →