We drove. About 7,000 miles (give or take a thousand). We saw both coasts. Canyons, mountains, rivers. We watched elephant seals fight on the beach and an otter swim up river. We drank California wines and Colorado beer and ate hotel breakfasts which is always a thing all its own.
But the best part of everything was people.
First of all, the people with whom we traveled—the family. All shoved in a van, blasting music, eating too many snacks, laughing, napping, sometimes fighting, praying the Divine Mercy as close to the hour of mercy in whatever time zone we happened to be in. (You can still view those prayer times on our Instagram.)
Also the people we visited. It was precious. Some friends were new. Some friends date back decades. It has been a lot of years since we have hugged some of these people. We have grown and changed and so have they. And yet, to embrace them again—there were some tears, because our hearts are still connected. Bless God for that. As the kids say, if you know you know.
It has been 8 years since we have taken a family vacation. That was a simply magical month of road tripping with only 8 kids. And we have had a lot of miles as a family since then.
Surviving and somehow coming out thriving after the last couple years has been nothing short of miraculous. This vacation is a grace, a gift, and is full of Thanksgiving. The kids and I are well and healing body and soul.
We saw the end of the governor’s state of emergency for the pandemic (Which really changed our lives not at all, because we never changed them in response to the government overreach anyway) and the lifting of the dispensation not to attend Mass (which also did not change our lives at all, because the Maronite Bishop kept the liturgies open so we never missed Mass all year), we celebrated the big 2-0 for my oldest love bug, planted a garden, and I got good medical news. We also went on some beautiful hikes.
Besides the weather being like Satan’s armpit for a good portion of the time June was healing and fun and made me fall in love with my community all over again.
“What you do matters—but not much. What you are matters tremendously.” (Catherine Doherty)
Today I wrestled hard with my heart. I am not sure if my will or my emotions won or if it was a draw. Nothing causes you to face what you really are like rejection. My life has been a school of rejection. I never quite connected the dots until my spiritual director pointed it out and suggested I read On The Cross of Rejection by Catherine Doherty. (You know how the backside of every crucifix is empty? That’s the cross of rejection reserved for true disciples.) I read it two years ago, right before I officially separated from my husband. This book cut like a knife and healed like a balm.
And the lessons are not finished. They are like a spiral staircase going ever deeper. I have to circle back around the same theme, as God reveals me to myself and draws me a little deeper into his Sacred Heart. The thorns encircling the Sacred Heart go deep.
Jordan Peterson talks about how you know a friend is a real friend. He says the first mark is that you can tell them bad news and they won’t make you feel stupid or that all your back luck is your own fault. The second mark is that you can tell them good news and they will rejoice with you. They won’t be jealous or make you feel like you don’t deserve it or that they wished it had happened to them instead.
I know people who cannot be excited when someone announces a pregnancy because they long for a child. I know people who don’t want to attend any weddings because they long for marriage. I know people who will not rejoice over your promotion at work because they hate their job.
I have been thinking about this—how we keep space for those we love in the bad times and good. Life is such a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. Our responses to that mixed bag has far more to do with what is happening interiorly than what is happening exteriorly.
These ramblings are mine and mine alone and I have no cred except a lifetime of mixed emotions and learning to come to terms with them. I feel like so many people are scared to embrace the negative emotions. They hurt—hurt like bloody hell. And so we numb. We numb with work or social media or alcohol or ice cream. Because we don’t want to feel the pain, we avoid.
“Sometimes, at the dinner table, a man might get up
and go outside and walk and walk,
simply because there’s somewhere in the East a church.
And his own children consider him dead.
Yet another, who dies in his own house,
stays put, living on in his table and glass,
so that this time it’s the children who walk
to the church their father forgot.”
Rilke, The Book of Pilgrimage
There is a question that nags in the night. It doesn’t matter if all day I rode the struggle bus or if it was a day full of mirth. When all is dark and the babies have been tucked in and the cat let out and the gentle hum of the dishwasher is the only background noise, I light the candle on my bedroom altar and watch how the flickering light illuminates the face of the Infant of Prague.
I am not a terribly efficient confesser. This is a thing I know about myself, so I don’t usually line up 15 minutes before Mass when I know other people want to get in. I make an appointment or go at a daily Mass. (It’s my little sacrifice. Not all heroes wear capes.)
The typical confession—simply listing number and kind of transgression—is all well-and-good. Certainly valid. Probably appreciated by our good and faithful priests. However, one thing going to Confession frequently does for a person is a peeling away of the layers, revealing deeper desires and core motives.
Sometimes it is not enough to say, “these are my sins…”
Sometimes I have to say, “these are my disordered motives…”
Sometimes I can’t say, “these are my actions…”
Sometimes it comes out like, “my interior life is chaotic.”
Which is exactly how I began a recent Confession. I had my little list ready. I could have just tried to read them off. But when I looked at it, it became clear that outward actions stemmed from inner chaos. My interior house needed some cleaning. I eventually got to the outward stuffs. But first I dumped all the messiness of my heart at the feet of Jesus.
We live in a world where innovation is highly valued, disruptive technologies sought after, fresh ideas praised. It is as if what is current is interchangeable with what is important and the only relevant ideas are those which can be captured in a sound bite in the 24 hour news cycle.
There is always the temptation to be on to the next best thing.
This temptation draws us away from the romance of daily life, from rhythms and rituals, and practices as old as the world itself.
The world is old—at least in terms of humanity. (The world is young in terms of the eternal God who made and sustains it.) And the sun rises each day the same way. We can count on the seasons, the ebb and flow of the tides, the days of the week slipping in and out book ended with liturgies and weekend chores.
There is this sameness about the world—despite cars that drive themselves and phones that listen to my conversations in order to advertise to me things I neither need nor want. The sameness of things can either feel stifling or grounding, depending on my perspective and how much I let the monotony speak to me of things eternal.