Categories
A Family Woman Linda Prayer Spiritual Growth

Vacation Transformation – Travel And The Road To Self-Discovery

School has ended and the hustle and bustle that comes with all the juggling of schedules and activities has come to a halt. By now you’ve probably exclaimed, “I NEED A VACATION!!”

Somehow our bodies and minds seem to know when “we’re ready.” Hopefully you haven’t filled your vacation time with that same list of to-dos. So often we go against what our bodies are telling us and continue the same pattern of planning activity after activity – even on our vacation. As the years pass, our vacation or travel time has changed. Although my husband and I enjoy exploring and finding fun things to do in the communities we visit, we have also found that the travel process transforms us in our quest for self-discovery. Whether you are travelling abroad or simply taking day trips, the process of leaving the everyday routine and exploring new things can be a deep, spiritual experience.

Travel time, when done reflectively, can offer us new perspectives as well as being able to recognize harmful patterns in our life. By immersing ourselves in another culture or lifestyle, we can better understand our own beliefs and values. A few years ago, I found a small book at a local flea market called The Way Of The Traveler, by Joseph Dispenza. The book speaks of the process of how, with each new experience we encounter, we find out something new about ourselves. Although I couldn’t relate to everything in the book, I did find some of his thoughts and exercises helpful in transforming the way I view my time away, wherever that may be.

Sometimes we choose a destination, other times, a destination chooses us. Travel isn’t just about the destination, you’ve heard, it’s about the journey. Each facet of the journey is part of the experience, the preparation, the departure, the approach, the arrival, and the return. If you embrace the idea that travel can be a road to self-discovery then the goal is always to bring something back that becomes a new part of who God calls us to be.

As we prepare for travel, there are things we can include with the swimsuits and sunscreen. We can ask God to show us why we have been called to this place and bring an open mind to chance encounters, a joyful spirit (leave the negativity behind), and a great sense of adventure.

Next, there’s the departure from home. The simple act of stepping away from the same routine of everyday can be an act of willingness to change. Change can be so scary for people, but knowing that you have the roots of home to return to should empower you. Your home is a place of comfort, familiarity, and stability. Closing the door is temporary and you are opening the door to the mystery of adventure; an adventure that will bring an exciting change within you.

I was intrigued with Dispenza’s remarks on the approach to travel; getting to our destination. He references how “medieval cathedrals were designed with the concept of the approach foremost in the minds of the builder.” There have been times that the approach to travel has been crazy with my husband. His “let’s take a short-cut” proclamations make me cringe and hours later (and a few angry words shared), we finally arrive. Even though this isn’t always an ideal situation, he’s taught me to appreciate the approach – the sights along the way can be just as moving as the destination itself. The past few years we’ve done this a few times as we traveled to Vermont, upstate NY, and most especially back in 2015 when he announced that our vacation that year would be a College Road Trip.

My son was a junior in high school at the time and after a rough year, we hadn’t really made many college visits with him. We took a little over a week and incorporated three different visits. The most frightening part was when my husband said – we’re not making any reservations, we’ll find something along the way. Did I mention that I’m a Type A personality where checklists and back up plans are just a natural part of my nature? But, no reservations were made and we were off!

waterfalls
Taughanook Falls State Park, NY

I’m thankful for a God that always surrounds us with His provisions. Surprisingly, there was only one overnight at a hotel.  Otherwise, with a few short phone calls,  we were invited to stay with friends as well as a great visit with my brother and his family. We saw the river life and superb hospitality in Massachusetts, wine tasting at a quaint vineyard in Rhode Island, and the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont (with all its twisty roads). We enjoyed the comforts of home with family while lounging in their pool, and ended with a scenic drive along the Finger Lakes which was filled with  wineries, distilleries, and breweries tucked along a strip of road that shares the wonders of cascading falls and some of the most picturesque woodlands I’ve ever seen. Even the occasional wrong turn promised adventure. Remember even mishaps can turn into an encounter.  

Along our journey there were several arrivals, each bringing something special and unique. The key was to embrace each encounter and search for the beauty in our surroundings, in people, in communities, and in ourselves. My husband and I are people watchers. We never seem to get bored while waiting – whether it’s for a flight, on line or anything else. Sometimes we watch people, other times we admire the architecture, breathtaking views, or sunsets. Sometimes we look at things that we never even knew existed. With each new experience, we are changed. A few years ago, I started talking to God in those moments and asking Him what he wanted me to notice about myself, someone else, or my surroundings. I often close my eyes and use my senses – to smell the aromas around me, or to taste foods of different cultures – it’s transforming.

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
~ Walt Whitman – Song of the Open Road ~

On my last day of vacation, I usually wake with a little knot in my stomach knowing that my little respite is over. It’s time to return to a life that’s very different. I realize that it’s also a life of familiarity and safety and that I’m bringing this new experience back with me. When possible, I like to rise early on that last day and take one last deep breathe in of all that surrounds me. Last year, I woke early to catch the sunrise on the bay. As the sun began to rise and I took another sip of my coffee, the certainty that the same sun was rising and/or setting somewhere else in the world filled me. Same sun – different experience. In these moments, I know that I am a part of something so much bigger than I can ever imagine and there is a God watching over every tiny detail.

As I use these experiences to journey inward, I find many times that there’s another person that’s been hidden away. Sometimes, I forget that person and I’m thankful to find her again. The artist sees the creativity in sculpted gardens and art, the missionary spots someone less fortunate, and the little girl sees the joy and laughter in an ice cream cone. It awakens me. Transforms me.

There is a new balance when I return home. Its familiarity welcomes me, but something is different. I need to find a place for these new discoveries. As Mr. Dispenza tells us, upon our return, “There is the grace of self-knowledge, wisdom, and peace.”

Here’s a sampling of some reflection questions adapted from The Way Of The Traveler:

  • The most surprising thing I am finding out about myself is?
  • What I am learning about other people that I never knew before?
  • If I had more time to spend at my destinations, what would I have done?
  • Of the things I’m learning about myself, I may have to readjust my thinking on the following:

So as you zip that last suitcase and hear the click of the door behind you, remember to invite God to be your travel partner and get ready to discover the vacation transformation He has in store for you.

Categories
A Family Woman Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Motherhood Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series Spiritual Growth Vocations

Ode to Feminine Genius: A Family Woman

This is the seventh installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic WomanToday’s topic will cover A Family Woman.

A family woman

When I was a child I always said I wanted 9 children. In fact, I said I wanted 9 boys! I would tell people I wanted my own baseball team, not a softball team, a baseball team. Family was important to me and I hoped and prayed that one day I would find someone who would love me enough to want to marry me and start a family with me. I was very fortunate to begin dating my husband in high school and to marry shortly after we graduated. We added to our little family just two years later when our daughter Kaylie was born. I loved my little family. Sure, there were ups and downs but I was happy. I was right where I had always prayed to be.

As the years progressed and my husband and I worked out our roles as both parents and spouses, I began to feel like I was losing myself. Sure I had gone to college, I had worked outside of the home, and ultimately I made the choice to stay home with our children, but I found that often people only referred to me as just a wife or just a mother. I wanted to shout, “I am Michelle! Can’t you see me?” Resentment invaded my heart. Why was it that Mike could be seen as more than just a husband or father, but I couldn’t be seen as more than just a wife or mother? It didn’t seem fair.

why can't you see me

I don’t know what happened to change my heart, but one day I realized how silly I was being. After all, wasn’t I the one who dreamed of being a wife and a mother? Wasn’t I the one who claimed that her family was her reason for living? Wasn’t I the one who prayed daily that God would bless her with more children and a deeper, loving relationship with her husband? Why did being a wife and mother take away from who I was? My husband and my children filled every space in my heart and every minute of my day. I lived for them. I cherished them. I thanked God each and every day for them. I realized that my vocations as a wife and mother completed who I was. It was a startling discovery.

It wasn’t that I didn’t do my job as a wife and mother before that point. I did; and I did it well. But after I realized that my vocations as wife and mother were more important than any other aspect of myself, I found that I had a desire to do better. I wanted my husband and my children to be proud of me. More importantly, I found I wanted God to approve of the wife and mother I was becoming. This meant I had to let go of me so that He could mold me and make me into the woman He desired me to be. It was the easiest, and the hardest, choice I have ever made.

wedding-ringsThe Proverbs 31 woman does well by her husband. She respects him as the head of her home. While I had always respected Mike, I don’t know that I had allowed him to become the head of our home; the head of me. When I decided that my vocation as wife and mother was the most important calling in my life, I decided to actively submit to my husband. When we talk about submission we are often faced with criticism that no man should ever “rule” over us and that as women we are strong and should stand on our own. Submission in marriage doesn’t mean that the husband rules over his wife. In fact, more often than not you find just the opposite. You find a greater amount of cooperation and trust. You find spouses working together to make decisions that will affect the family. You find mutual respect and love. Submission often equals greater satisfaction within your relationship.

But what does it mean to submit to my husband? When I submit to him there are certain things I do to make sure that I am honoring him and holding him up as the head of our house. I encourage him in his work and in his fatherly duties. I speak highly of him to our children and to our family and friends. I never talk badly of him to others. I respect his views and his thoughts and consider all that he says with an open heart. I truthfully share my thoughts and opinions with him knowing that he also respects my views and wants to know what I think. I trust that he has our best interests at heart and when I am not sure that we are making a right decision, I trust him to lead us down the right path. I try my hardest to do nice things for him that will bring him joy and peace. I do not deny him any part of myself- my time, my attention, my thoughts, my heart, my body, or my love.  What I have found is that when I submit to my husband, he in turn submits his heart to me- he loves me the way Christ loves His church.

But the Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t just respect her husband. She also loves her children and nurtures them. She teaches them the ways of the Lord and trains them in the faith. She is a model of love and wisdom. Perhaps this is the harder role of the family woman. What a tremendous task to set out to accomplish! As I began to see that my role as a mother didn’t preclude me from being Michelle but actually made me a better version of myself, I could see just how important my role was in my children’s lives. I knew that I had to take it seriously. But how could I make faith an important part of my children’s lives? How could I be a model of love, wisdom, and care?

fritz family 1I started out the best way I knew how… I took my children to church. I made the decision that church was important and that meant we needed to go. And so, we went. I often had to go alone and I often wouldn’t hear the Gospel or the homily and would be sweaty and tired by the time Mass ended. But, each Sunday I was there I prayed that God would accept my offering and know that I was doing my best. The graces I received were innumerable. They spilled over into my everyday life. I was able to bring our faith into our everyday lives as well, centering our family around God and His promises. I had more patience and more hope. I found peace in the mundane and joy in the hardships that accompanied motherhood. I saw joy and peace spread into my children’s hearts as well. Their eyes sparkled and their laughter rang through our home. I felt fulfilled. I felt that my life was exactly as God had planned.

My vocation as a wife and a mother helps to make me Michelle. My family helps me to be the best version of myself that I can be. They help me to see the good in life; they help me to call on God when times are tough; they help me to trust and to love in ways I could never do on my own. When I take care of them I am rewarded in ways I could have never imagined. When I fall short of my calling we are all affected by those shortcomings. While I am not perfect by any means and fail more often than not, when I try to do my best my family thrives. I thrive. When I focus first on my family I become a better version of myself than I could ever be on my own and I uphold the calling I willingly accepted when God invited me to enter into family life. I become as much of a blessing to my family as they are to me.