I think it was about three weeks before Easter that he mentioned it again.
"You should come with me to Miami." I'm pretty sure I rolled my eyes. This crazy idea was a clear illustration of the disconnect. This man has no concept of what the three weeks before a major holiday hold for mothers. He doesn't understand that we were going to throw Bluebell Week in there a month early, that soccer season began the day we were to leave, that we were going to move most of the contents of two bedrooms right after Easter. He was suggesting that I just take a week off and leave everything. Go in an airplane. For four nights away from my toddler who still nursed herself to sleep.
But just as my eye rolling ceased I saw for a brief moment the look on his face.
I didn't say anything. Instead, I sulked and thought to myself that he was adding something pretty huge to an already crammed to-do list. I needed to finish spring cleaning before Easter. I needed to cook and bake and get ready to host his extended family for the holiday. And besides all that, who takes a vacation at the beginning of Holy Week? The whole idea grated on my liturgical sensibility.
The next day, I dashed off a whiny email about my predicament to a very dear friend--the kind of friend who would read my ungrateful rant and say not a word until much later, when I'd come to my senses. And even then, she would not remind, she would just smile broadly at my note telling her how wonderful this whole idea was. My initial complaint was blown away with a puff of loving grace.
Shortly after my haughty email, I called my father. Would he, could he, could they, please watch six of my children for four nights so I could go to Miami? Of course they could, came the ready reply. And then he handed the phone to my stepmother. She listened to my litany of ifs, ands and buts. And she wholeheartedly encouraged me to go. She was happy to have them, happy to give us this chance to get away.
The three big boys would remain at home so that they could go to school and to work. I drew up a long list of chores that required manual labor so that they wouldn't kill each other would have a positive outlet for all that energy.
I knew that Mike would be at work all day while I was there. So, I set some intense writing goals. I prepared three embroidery projects. I downloaded two new books to my Kindle. And then, after a conversation about something entirely different with my friend Becca, on a complete and total whim, I ordered this book. I described it a little to you last week. Here's what I said:
I spent Holy Week reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus. There are a small handful of books in my life where I remember exactly where and when I read them because those times and places are turning points. This book is one of those. It is easily at the top of that list. This incredibly readable volume makes some of the most beautiful truths and devotions of the Catholic faith understandable (at last) and accessible (even to busy mothers of large families). Fr. Gaitley brings together fine threads of several spiritual traditions and weaves them into a beautiful and exceedingly useful tapestry of a do-it-yourself retreat. It is Ignatian spirituality made accessible. It is the Little Way of St. Therese for all of us. It is consecration to Mary and devotion to Divine Mercy explained in plain language and made clear to little souls. Mostly, it is a rich volume of Merciful Words that brings Merciful Love to its readers. You don't have to have a weekend to make the retreat. You can just read a little each day until you are finished. If it's your heart's desire to get to know and understand Jesus better, tell Him. He'll help you find the time. I heartily recommend that you hurry and get yourself a copy of this book--what a beautiful way to spend the Easter sason.
I started reading on the plane. By the time we landed, I knew that this Holy Week was set apart for me by God Himself, in His infinite mercy. This time would be a time of retreat. I would fill my days with God and spend my evenings with my husband. No interruptions. No distractions. Just the three of us.
I kept to my general prayer program.
I started my days there at the gym. The hotel bike is considerably newer than my 13-year-old one. The voices from divineoffice.org joining me in prayer were familiar, even far from home. Mike and I had leisurely breakfasts at an Argentinian market. We walked hand-in-hand back to the hotel and he went off to work in his office right next door. I returned to the room and to my retreat. At ten o'clock, I went back out for another walk, soaking up the gorgeous sunshine and drinking deep of the lovely town that is Coral Gables. I stopped at a sushi restaurant and ordered a salad to go to bring back to my room. Back to my retreat. When I got there, the bed had been made, the room straightened and it all smelled like a tropical breeze. It's amazing how clearly one can think in the absence of clutter and a to-do list.
At three o'clock, I walked again. One day, I looked see where the closest church was. I walked three miles to The Church of the Little Flower. I wish I had pictures for you. There's a tour here; you can even see the street I walked. It's actually only two miles, but I got lost on the way there. Then I walked back to the hotel, stopping at a cafe for iced tea to bring back to the room. I sat in the courtyard and read some more. After a day or so of filling this way--of relishing much needed silence--words came back. I found myself drawn to keyboard, fingers flying and thoughts tumbling from my hands. The time I spent at my computer wan't much at all, but it was rich.
The embroidery went untouched. I didn't have my camera, so the very few pictures I have were taken with Mike's cell phone from our table outside at dinner one evening on South Beach. But the images in my head? All art created by Him.
Mike and I enjoyed wonderful evenings. We had all the time in the world to finish conversations, to think deep thoughts together. His workday was pretty intense and he was not on vacation at all, but he was so genuinely happy to have me there. We ate great food and we took in the sights and sounds of the unique culture that is south Florida. I saw through his eyes and my own the places and people he spends so much time with. It was all good.
I returned to my home and my children early Holy Thursday afternoon, in plenty of time to make a seder dinner and go to Mass together. Mike did not join us until Easter Sunday.
Despite all my reluctances, I know I spent those days right in the middle of God's will. I am so grateful that my husband saw much better than I did how much I needed to get away. I'm grateful to my father and stepmother for sacrificing their own quiet and rest for my rowdy, energetic crew. And I'm grateful to a merciful Jesus for the gift of graces he showered on me.
I am so glad I said Yes!