I spent this past weekend in Phoenix with my cousin and her husband and their four young kids. Last summer they talked me into visiting in February (the season I need to run away from in Michigan and a particularly lovely season in Arizona). Perfect. So I used some remaining frequent flier points I found from long ago and booked my visit.
It honestly could not have been better. Not a minute of it. A couple of times they asked if I needed anything, wanted to do anything particular. No. I am perfectly content. Truly. From the minute I stepped off the plane until I took off again, the visit was perfect.
The weather was delightful – sunny, warm (high 80’s). The kids were hilarious and funny and snuggly and insane. The new baby is one of the sweetest little people I’ve ever met. And spending time with my cousin and her husband was just delightful. Jeremy humored me and let me go to Home Depot with him and the kids and we did some of the framing for a shed roof. And they let me paint a dining room bench. (That’s right, projecting is my love language).
The kids and I played pirates, cowboys, doggies, and more. They are such an energetic, smart, questioning, and imaginative crowd – my favorite kind of people. Oh there were meltdowns and fights and broken hearts and scraped knees about every other minute- and it feels weird to say this- but that feels very much like real life. I am most comfortable and most myself in the midst of that kind of chaos. Watching my cousins as parents is also delightful. They do such a beautiful job of parenting – time outs, hugs, games, boundaries. Truly an inspiration. And then once the kids were in bed we talked work, politics, family, friends, community, church, and more.
On Sunday I went to the nearest Catholic Church which was a huge blessing. It was a large parish and the 11 am Mass was well attended, though not packed. I was struck by the diversity of the people there- older people, middle aged, young people. Families, singles, men, women. The music was beautiful and the priest gave a wonderful homily about using Beauty to evangelize. That Beauty is one of the ways we can talk about God and a relationship with God with people who don’t understand it. We all experience Beauty and it leaves us with an ache. We don’t want to leave it or let it go. We want to stand in that beauty forever. And the gospel was the Transfiguration and he talked about Jesus allowing the apostles to see a glimpse of his glory and majesty to strengthen them for the journey ahead. So they would know and remember who he was. The whole homily left me wanting to just stand and cheer. Yes. Yes. YES!! (You can listen to it yourself if you are interested: http://dev-staphx.org/podcasts/1LENT-02-14-2016-frb.mp3)
I’ve been intentionally looking for those moments of beauty in my life: encounters with people, the beauty of silence, beauty in nature. This parish was such a wonderful experience of an engaged congregation, wonderful music, and it felt like home. It helped that they sang the Mass parts in Latin, just like my home parish and even prayed the St. Michael prayer at the end of Mass. But more than that, I’ve noticed that the older I get and the more I travel, the more I am convicted of truly being home and among my people when I’m at Church. Jesus is there and He is our true Home, our origin and our destiny.
Spending time with Naomi and Jeremy and their little people was a constant experience of Beauty. In the chaos of living with young kids – the tears, the fights, the corrections, the mealtime messes, the time outs, the absolute insanity of it—there was just this overwhelming sense of being part of this beautiful mystery of family. Of embracing the joy in this moment and letting it change me, comfort me, and delight me.
The whole trip was just a balm to my tired self. I am so very grateful for the gift of family who are also such dear friends. As Anne of Green Gables would say, Naomi and Jeremy are kindred spirits. They are my kind of people and I enjoyed every minute I spent with them.
One of my favorite kid quotes from 4 year old Josiah, who is fascinated with the natural world. We were talking about my mom’s free range chickens, particularly the scary roosters that chased Abby last summer. I said my parents butchered two of them themselves to eat them (large fascinated eyes from Josiah) and that I thought the remaining roosters met their end with coyotes. Coyotes? I explained that if the roosters don’t go into the pen, and coyotes are hungry and walking around, they will help themselves to chicken for dinner. Completely serious and engrossed he asked, “May you please say more about that?”