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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
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sarah Spiritual Growth

God: The Ultimate Artist

I don’t consider myself an artist, but I am a creative and a lover of beauty. As such, I have a hard time seeing the arts marginalized today. Especially in the school systems and with our children, the arts are pushed aside, defunded, and are slowly disappearing as the cornerstone of a well-rounded education that they once were.

Our family had the opportunity, earlier this summer, to drive across our beautiful country. If you haven’t done an adventure like this, I highly recommend it. One amazing thing about such a trip, is coming face to face with awe-inspiring beauty. There were times I was literally struck speechless (a rarity for me!).

The wonders and beauties of this earth are beyond the scope of human scale. When you walk up onto the Grand Canyon, you can do nothing but stand in awe. In awe of God and all He has created.  

He created us – in His image. He could have created us and plunked us down on barren land. But He didn’t. He chose to give us the most beautiful land His perfect imagination could create. In its wonder, it is vast and varying. As you drive across the country, heading towards yet another canyon or vista, you think “surely I’ve seen it all.” And then you get there and realize that, no, you haven’t seen it all. He has a new surprise awaiting you. His artistry has created yet another bit of wonder for you to behold.

And so, this begs the question. When we devalue the arts, do we devalue the divine life in us? When we steer our children towards lofty careers and hefty resumes, when pen and paper call their names, we may be steering them from God. If He felt it so important to create incredible beauty, merely for us to behold and if He made us in His image, then surely He delights in our creations.

Beauty – both creating it and witnessing it – lifts the soul and brings us closer to God. Encouraging children to create beauty, no matter how crude or rough it may seem to us, draws them closer to God and closer to that spark of divine life that is in each of us. Bring children out into nature. Show them the awe-inspiring artwork of Our Creator.

Natural wonders draw crowds of people from all over the world. As we hiked the Grand Canyon, we heard countless accents and languages, we passed hikers of every age and demographic. Yet, when explorers came to the Grand Canyon, many of them declared it desolate and useless. Some were even so bold as to say that none would ever visit this vast nothingness. And yet today, it sees millions of visitors each year.  

Why?  Why do people travel hundreds of miles simply to experience a beauty that offers nothing of monetary value? Because we all have an intrinsic love for and need of beauty. We need beauty – God – to fulfill our human-ness. Nature is God’s art. And whether we are acutely aware or not, we have a deep desire for His art, His beauty, His creation.

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Guest Posts Studying Abroad

Studying Abroad Part I: One Short Week in the Eternal City

Two Pairs of Toms and a Rosary Walk into the Pantheon:
A Young Woman’s Study Abroad Experience

I have been given the greatest opportunity to study abroad with the University of Dallas at the Rome, Italy campus. Months of preparation, forms and permissions led up to the boarding of our flight from Atlanta to the Fiumicino airport in Rome. My first days in Rome were rough. Jet lag is very real and culture shock is actually terrifying. Handbooks and planning, meetings and orientations, cannot prepare you for landing in a country where you can’t read or speak the language. Living in close quarters with 106 peers, some of whom you know, some you don’t, some you dislike, and some you love is not always fun. Studying abroad isn’t all beautiful pamphlets and sunshine. In fact, it’s quite cloudy and cold. Very cold. And for some reason, “footwear of any kind” cannot be shipped to Italy. Neither can “haberdashery.” But I digress…

St. Peter Basilica, Rome, Eternal City, Vatican City
St. Peter Basilica, Vatican City

Despite my struggles, I also have had some of the greatest days of my life here. Our first day in Rome started with a private mass at the Altar of St. Joseph (Altar di San Giuseppe) in St. Peter’s Basilica. Walking into the breathtaking basilica made the 5am wake-­up call completely worth it. I walked passed some of the greatest art and architecture ever created and walked by the bones of saints that lived hundreds of years before I was born.

Ceiling in St. Andrew the Apostle, Rome, Eternal City
Ceiling in St. Andrew the Apostle

Our walking tour that first took us through beautiful church after beautiful church. We stumbled upon (and I do mean that literally, as Roman cobblestone streets are very uneven) the skull of St. Agnes in her namesake church at the Piazza Navona. We visited the beautiful Pantheon, previously a temple to many gods and now a Catholic basilica dedicated to Mary and all the martyrs. And wandered around St. Andrew the Apostle, which had some of the most beautiful ceiling art I have ever seen (granted, I have not visited the Sistine Chapel… yet).

While I know that everything I am seeing is new for me, at the same time it is all familiar. The monstrous dome that is the Pantheon feels like my best friend’s house. The statues of countless popes are like decorations in my own home. The small streets filled with Smart Cars and scooters feels like my neighborhood. Everything is foreign and familiar, strange and known. My heart feels the presence of Christ in these places where He lives, and where I now live for the next few months.

Pantheon, Rome, Eternal City
Pantheon

There is no doubt that there are marvelous things in Rome besides the churches and basilicas. Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, where Julius Caesar was killed, is now a stray cat sanctuary (I know it sounds like I’m joking. I’m very serious). The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and temples to Hercules and Portunus are grand and glorious. Trevi Fountain during the day has a majesty that makes tourist and local alike stop and stare.

But despite these marvelous other things, there is nothing quite as amazing as the smoky aroma of incense wafting over your tired body while walking into a church you’ve never seen, but feel like you’ve entered a thousand times.

I’ve been here for a very short and long few days, and I cannot wait for more adventures here in the heart of the Catholic Church!

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Avery Profile Picture

 

Biography: My name is Avery Utz, and I am on my semester abroad for the University of Dallas at our Due Santi campus, thirteen and a half miles outside of Rome. I currently have 6 scarves, 4 pairs of shoes, 1 jar of peanut butter, and no idea what I’m doing, but thankfully God does. And I think He agrees that I look great in a scarf, and that peanut butter is delicious. I love the Mass, my family and friends, and drinking way too much Italian coffee.

Categories
7 Quick Takes Devin Rose Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Guest Posts Ink Slingers Kerri Martina Perspective from the Head

7 Quick Takes Friday, No. 23

7_quick_takes_sm

Every so often we like to interview our Ink Slingers to provide you, our readers, a little insight into who we are. This time we are going to introduce you to one of our male writers, Devin Rose. Devin is the author of If Protestantism is True: The Reformation Meets Rome and he blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard.  We are honored to have him as a writer here at Catholic Sistas! We hope you enjoy reading this short interview with him and getting to know him a bit more.

–1–

Where is your dream vacation spot?

Assisi, Italy. My wife and I had our honeymoon there. The beauty of the land, the old walled town, the Franciscan’s monastery and St. Clare’s basilica, the olive trees, San Damiano, all of it. Downside is that food is pretty pricey. The few times we tried to “go native” and buy food for ourselves we ended up with a very pungent salami.

Devin-and-Katie-in-Assisi

–2–

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Pride & Prejudice, 5 hour A&E edition. The first time I watched it as a single guy, I thought it was the dumbest movie I had ever seen. To say it has grown on me would be an understatement. I am in awe of Jane Austen’s ability to capture human personalities.

–3–

What is your favorite animal and why?

Besides, I presume you mean, the liger? Which is pretty much my favorite animal ever. I would love to own an anteater and an echidna. Though apparently the jury is out on whether they would eat fire ants.

–4–

What is your favorite song or who is your favorite singer?

Gotta go with U2. Everyone loves them because they have had great songs and incredible longevity. None of them are great solo musicians, but together they often make powerful music. Favorite song? Too hard to pick. But I’d go with Zooropa.

–5–

Are you a cradle Catholic who never strayed, a poorly catechised Catholic and/or lukewarm Catholic who came to understand the faith later in life, a revert, or a convert?

Convert. Atheism to Southern Baptist to Catholic. I only spent about a year as a Southern Baptist before seeing that Protestantism could not be the fullness of the truth. Protestantism has no principled way to distinguish between the content of divine revelation and human opinion.

–6–

What do you wish everyone knew about the Church?

The Church is Christ’s. She is not merely an invisible collection of all believers but a visible institution, though no less supernatural because of her visibility. So many Christians still say “Jesus: yes! The church? No!” But that is the worst kind of false dichotomy. It’s Jesus: yes! The Church, yes!

Devin and his family
Devin and his family

–7–

Do you, or did you, play a sport and if so, which sport or sports?

One great gift my father gave to me was introducing me to just about every sport. He forced me to play each one at least once. Eventually I came to enjoy them and had the talent of being fairly good at all of them, but great at none of them. By high school I settled on soccer, and I could have played at a lower division college with a scholarship, possibly, but ultimately I realized that the sport wouldn’t be my ticket anywhere and went the academic route.

The upside is, I don’t look particularly coordinated, so when about to play a sport with people I don’t know, they underestimate me. Granted, now I’m old and slow and they rightly underestimate me.

For more Quick Takes, hop on over to Conversion Diary.