Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is available in paperback and on kindle and is being reprinted on Catholic News Agency with author’s permission. Cheryl’s non-fiction book is called Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.Chapter Thirty-Five
I know that the Lord is great, our Lord is greater than all gods. Psalm 135:5
It took a few days for Elizabeth to regain her full strength after the trip. It was as if her body was putting up a good fight, not wanting to switch gears. The first day back, she actually slept on and off for a full day. Luke had taken a few days off of work and was still main caregiver to the boys and Sophia while Liz did her best to get herself together.
By the third day Liz was operating in the correct time zone and her eating was also falling in line. She wasn’t wanting dinner at breakfast and snacks in the middle of the night. Luke went back to work and Liz enjoyed having the house to herself. She did her laundry, packed away her suitcases, put her post-cards in albums, and finished reading one of the books from her trip. She wasn’t expected back to work until the following Monday, which still left her with a few days to herself.
She spent a lot of her time thinking of Luke’s words on her return. She loved his analogy of St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews and decided to read it from start to finish. Liz, like so many people, had read bits and pieces, here and there, but could not claim to have read any particular book of Scripture from start to finish. Even if she had, she knew her heart was now in the right place for a clearer, more meaningful understanding than at anytime before. Picking up the bible, Liz asked the Holy Spirit to imbue her with wisdom and love as she read the verses that her husband had so intimately shared with her.
Liz also filled her days with the chores she had previously felt were so mundane, responsibilities she felt were taking away from her life and not adding to it. Now, she found herself feeling quite grateful for her home and the tasks that were on her shoulders. She saw herself as an integral part of the family. She thought often of Ayala and saw how critical a mother’s role was in the home. Ayala had made a beautiful home because of her love and caring for people she knew and met. Ayala wasn’t famous nor had she traveled the world. But the world she traveled in was better because of her existence.
Beth thought of Rachel’s explanation of the universe. Rachel had shared with Beth that the larger universe was really made up of millions of smaller ones in which people existed. Rachel’s own universe, as she had expounded, consisted of her students, her family, and her friends and neighbors. What she did in that small universe greatly impacted the larger universe to which she belonged. Beth had been fascinated by Rachel’s perspective but hadn’t yet applied it to herself. Now, at home, she looked around at her universe and was in awe. She thought of the mother and son on the flight to Israel and understood the significance of Rachel’s words.
Liz had always wanted to know that her life made a difference and was seeing, as if for the first time, how very much it truly mattered. She was irreplaceable to her husband and her children. She was a daughter and a friend. Beth was a teacher and a co-worker. All of a sudden, Beth’s universe was bigger and more dramatic than she had ever imagined.
Although she and Luke had not had any more in-depth conversations, they were respectful and cordial in a loving, almost newlywed sort of way. That first night together, when Beth read Luke’s card and then they talked for hours, had been more productive than all their time at the counselor’s. But to be fair, Liz thought, the sessions at the counselor’s could have helped put both her and Luke in the right frame of mind for this step in their marriage.
Dinners with the kids were quiet and made Beth think of her peaceful silence with Miriam and Rachel. At one point, not too long before, Beth had found silence at the dinner to be maddening. She envisioned that every family dinner should be alive with conversation, witty banter, and gregarious tales of the day’s events. She had a whole new appreciation for silence and now felt blessed just to be at the table with her husband and children.
Other things were changing too. Luke made more of an effort to acknowledge Beth’s contribution to the family. He continued to be a major force, strong in his opinions, but seemed to realize that Beth was also as dynamic as he was and that he had to make provisions for her interests, her ways.
There seemed to be no change in the children’s bickering except that Beth now listened with less intensity. Whereas before each unkind word they spewed at one another felt like a stab in Beth’s heart, she now made a conscious effort to release herself from feelings of failure. When Sophia stormed out of a room because of her brother’s ‘lameness,’ Beth tried to shrug it off. Her children were not perfect, nor could she expect them to be. The kids knew, however, Beth and Luke’s rules, morals, and expected behavior. Beth began making a conscious effort to remind herself that she was, indeed, doing a fine job as their mother, even if she didn’t always see the rewards.
By her second week home, and her return to work, Beth’s perspective was slowly but steadily changing. She was feeling a renewed sense of purpose in her life as a woman, wife, and mother. Her friends became nearer and dearer to her. She felt blessed because God gave her the grace to see her life as His gift, not in what it didn’t have but in what it did have. And she was seeing that it had so much!
Writing a test for her science students, she also had a renewed sense of direction. For the past few years she had bemoaned her low salary and ever-increasing demands. Now, with her oldest son in college, she recognized her work as a way to help her students achieve their own goals and dreams. How fortunate to be in this position! she found herself thinking. She thought of Rachel and began looking at her classroom like a universe. Through her own actions as a teacher and co-worker she could make positive contributions to the bigger world.
Friday evening, towards the end of her second week at home, she sat and composed letters to Meir, Miriam, and Rachel. She had no way to contact David and simply enclosed a note to him in Meir’s envelope. She did the same with a note to Sipporah in Rachel’s envelope. In some ways she wanted to ensure that her time in Israel had not been a dream. It seemed so long ago and so far away. She chuckled when she thought it had been in an entirely different universe!
That night Beth and Luke went out to dinner and a movie. They enjoyed one another’s company and talked of their thoughts about the future. Luke shared his dreams and Beth listened. She hesitated to share hers as she realized that Luke was well aware of most of her hopes and dreams as well as her disappointments and regrets.
Nonetheless, he encouraged her and she shared with him her continued interest in teaching at the local community college. Luke helped Beth sketch out a plan for her continued education and together they came up with some ideas of people she could contact and things she could do. Like her trip to Israel, she realized that half the fun was in the planning. She knew that even if she never became a college professor, she would always cherish this particular conversation with her husband.
The next morning Beth heard the mail truck round the corner and pulled on her coat. She picked up the letters from the counter to walk them to the mailbox. She wanted to get them in the day’s mail. To her surprise, the mail carrier was at her door. Beth smiled at her and then felt the flutter of her heart as she saw the box the carrier was holding, neatly packaged and taped, postmarked from Israel. There was also a thick envelope with a return address from Rachel. Taking the box and the envelope, Beth almost forgot about her own letters. “I’m sorry,” Beth called to the carrier as she was half way back down Beth’s driveway. “Could I please give these to you?” Beth ran to catch up with her and she took the letters from Elizabeth.
Back in the house, Beth picked up the package and walked into the mud room, looking for a pair of scissors. Luke was doing a few errands and each of the boys was occupied, one with a social studies paper and the other with a game on the computer. Sophia was at work. For all intents and purposes, Beth had the house to herself.
Cutting through the packing tape, Beth opened the box. It was filled with a myriad of packing materials to ensure the safety of the contents. There was bubble wrap along with rolled up newspaper, squished in between bits of styrofoam. Carefully removing the protection, Beth began to uncover the pieces to the tea set. One by one, she lifted out the cups. Each so beautifully painted and magnificent to behold. She then came across a flat piece of cardboard that had created a bottom section to the box. Lifting it, Beth saw this section was as safely packed as the first. David and Miriam took no chances with the set! Again, gently removing the packing materials, Beth caught a glimpse of the tea pot. Lying there, in all its beauty, Beth gazed upon it and began to weep.
She thought of her own ongoing dream, so vivid in her mind, of gardening and unearthing the diamond. She thought of Ayala, a kindred soul whom she had only known for a matter of days but who had impacted her life as if Beth had known her always. Beth cried for her grandmother, whom she dearly missed, and for the broken relationship with her best friend that had never been resolved. Liz wept in gratitude for her children and her husband and her friends. Finally, Elizabeth cried with the knowledge that God’s graces had never left her life.
Wiping her eyes, Beth gathered a few pieces of the tea service and the envelope which she knew contained the pictures that Rachel had promised to send, and walked into the kitchen. Setting everything down on the counter, she put on water to boil. Beth then went back into the mud room to get the remaining tea set pieces and returned to the kitchen. Rummaging through her cupboards for the perfect tea, she selected a honey almond flavor. Once her tea was made, she picked up her beloved books and settled herself into her favorite chair. She set her tea cup and its saucer on the small end table and clicked on the lamp. She had the envelope tucked under her arm and placed it on the table by her tea. The sun’s rays were making their way through the clouds and into the room. Beth felt that the Lord was reaching out to her. She raised her tea cup in the air and said to her Creator, “Shabbat Shalom.”
The previous chapters are listed below: