Our oldest son lives in southern California… so very far away from where we live. A benefit of this (particularly in February) is that from time to time we get to visit him and enjoy warm weather in the winter.
Last week, my husband David had a business conference in Palm Desert, California just two hours from our son in Los Angeles. Had the conference been in Oklahoma or Seattle, I’m sure I wouldn’t have jumped so readily but when David asked, “Do you want to come too?” I nearly bowled him over with a hug and enthusiastic YES! What’s better than to see your loved and missed son and enjoy sunny weather in February? I’ll tell you – not much!
It just so happened we could bring the five girls still at home with us. Perfect! And I found it providential that when I checked online, airline tickets were cheaper than normal. Next, my husband reminded me that I had an American Airlines credit that would cover the cost of my flight. Bingo! I immediately went down to the basement to dig out bathing suits, humming happily.
We flew four hours to summer, in February, landing in the evening at the airport. It was a chilly 48 degrees, as it tends to be in the desert, but that was nothing compared to the 20 degrees we had left behind. The next four days were a blessed blur of relaxation and rest, sitting on a sunny patio under God’s gorgeous mountains, watching the girls enjoy some miniature golf, splashing in the pool with my daughters (the temperatures rose to almost 80 during the day – hurray for the desert climate!) and exploring the local zoo, called appropriately, the Living Desert with our son and his girlfriend, who drove down for a Saturday visit with us. I didn’t mind at all that our cuisine was limited two days to no meat, and a day of fasting, on account of us traveling on Ash Wednesday and on a Friday. I felt guilty for the pleasure during Lent only for about a minute. God provided this opportunity without me even looking. I gratefully accepted.
Our flight home was scheduled to leave Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m., early as most West Coast flights are. Therefore, our family attended Mass on Saturday night. We scooted into the pew after a busy day, and I wasn’t as mentally prepared and focused as I usually am.
After a few moments, in the presence of God, however, my soul was calmed. I looked down the pew at my girls and was suddenly grateful for the vocation of motherhood, for my wonderful husband, and for the unique opportunity for this travel to see our son and enjoy some warmth and sunshine. Then came the homily and I was blown away by it.
It was one of the few times in my life that I wished I had a recording device to have documented the words top to finish. I’m not going to be able to do it justice here, but I’ll share some highlights – some of the main ideas, which are not earth-shattering, yet are profound, at least they were to me. They weren’t ideas that most of us don’t already know, but somehow they spoke to me deeply. Here they are:
- Nothing else matters in this world more than serving God and loving others
- Loving others begins first and foremost with our own family
- Activities should revolve around the family and not just the children
- Family is more important than most anything else in life
- We are all broken in some way and need God’s grace
- We are not to worry if we have not discovered that until now. The important thing is to recognize now that God loves us and calls us to Him, and begin to live the way we should have been living all along. Whether we are 80, 60, 40 or 20, or somewhere in between, we can begin today with the simple act of loving others.
- When we love people we don’t have time to judge people.
- We sometimes don’t realize the saving grace that simply loving someone can do to his soul.
- We can convert hearts and change lives with simple acts of love.
I’m sure Father had no idea how much his simple homily affected me. I had gone with my family to Palm Desert so my husband could attend a business conference, so I could see my son, and so I could enjoy some relaxation with my children. But, in the desert, I also found sweet consolation for my soul, which quenched a thirst I didn’t know I had. I offer it now to you, in case you too, need a drink.
I wish you a happy rest of Lent, this penitential season. Don’t miss the joy and love and gifts God offers here and now during it. Joy is not an oxymoron during Lent. God’s surprise gifts are everywhere and in every time. I hope you take them when He gives them to you. Happy, yes happy and penitential Lent!
Theresa Thomas is the co-author Stories for the Homeschool Heart (Bezalel Books, 2010 & winner of About.com Best Catholic Book of 2010), family columnist at Today’s Catholic News and a contributing writer for the Integrated Catholic Life™.
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