Never would I have believed it if someone had told me 10 years ago that a two-day, 638-mile road trip with my family of six could be peaceful. Truly, that sounds horrible to me! Yet, here I am with day two well underway. Rain is falling and the Smokey Mountains are at their very smokiest. And surprisingly, this shortest week of Advent, this week made up of only 3 days, is truly shaping up to be an Advent of Peace.
To Grandma’s House We Go?
I’ll be honest and tell you that, for brief moments this Advent, I wasn’t sure this trip would happen. Our two boys suffered nasty stomach bugs. Our 6th grader’s class was attacked by influenza. And our 3rd grader’s class got hit with some mystery illness. Certainly, I thought, someone is going to get sick and this whole trip we’ve been waiting two years for is going to not happen.
Meanwhile, we found out that our van needed four new tires and new brakes. And I found myself tied to a to-do list that I simply couldn’t manage to get done. Surely, I thought, something is going to happen and we won’t be able to make it.
Too Stressed to be Blessed?
As is my usual M-O, I fretted and worried myself to near distraction. In fact, last Friday, I decided I was just too busy and I wouldn’t go to my weekly holy hour. Someone would surely be there; Jesus wouldn’t be left all alone. Friends, I was so caught in the clutches of craziness that I almost ghosted Jesus. WHAT? Who does that?
However, my dear husband, truly my better half, would have none of that. He practically shooed me out the door and told me that he would take care of things at the house. I should just go, already! And while I was out, I could do whatever last-minute running around I was sure to think of.
Fine, I said. I’ll go.
Little did I know what was waiting for me upon my arrival.
As I pulled into the church that morning, the usually empty parking lot was full to overflowing. Cars and minivans were even pulled up into the grass and lining the drive to the cemetery.
Fantastic, I thought as I got closer to the building. There is no way in the world I’m going to find a parking space. I just shouldn’t have come.
Then, “what to my wondering eyes did appear” but a parking space! Not just any parking space, but one right up front. Right by the entrance to the chapel. A lone empty space surrounded by chaos like it was meant just for me.
I got out of my van and headed to the door when this saintly looking old couple rounded the corner and walked toward me. We recognized each other as our holy hours overlap on Fridays, but we weren’t actually acquainted.
“It’s you!” the woman said. “I didn’t think we’d see you today.” (That’s what I get for being late…again, I thought.)
“Hello and Merry Christmas!” I said, mustering up a cheery smile for such a sweet couple.
Then, the most unexpected thing happened. The woman pulled me in for a hug, make the Sign of the Cross on my forehead and said with a smile, “I’m so happy to see you. Merry Christmas.”
I continued on inside to the chapel. Now, like I said, I’m almost always late which means I almost always end up sitting on the outskirts of the room. Rarely do I have a clear view of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s OK, I’ve gotten used to it. It makes me feel better about making any noise as I scribble in my journals.
But you can guess, though, what happened next. What do you think Jesus had waiting for me? A seat, right in the middle…a whole 3-chair row, actually! Not only would I be able to see Him, but I wouldn’t bother anyone with my chicken scratching.
And Then Came Peace
Friends, I couldn’t believe it! The Lord gave me so much in just a matter of minutes. Three gifts, back to back. They were nothing that I asked for, but they were meant just for me.
A place – two places! – were prepared just for me. A loving welcome was extended through the actions and words of a stranger. He wanted me there. And what’s more, He knew I wanted (and needed) to be there, too.
And when I knelt down in that chapel, having accepted these precious gifts, the ultimate gift settled over me.
The gift of peace.
Which brings me back to the present moment. Here I am, in a van, with my husband and 4 kids. And contrary to almost every road trip experience in my whole entire life, I am at peace.
It’s an Advent miracle!
Traffic is crazy, but I trust my husband the driver. Similarly, life is crazy, but I trust my Lord to drive.
Rain is falling and we haven’t seen the sun in days, but we know it’s still shining. Just like life will have rainy seasons of its own and God will be hard to find at times. But still we know the Son is coming.
And so, dear ones, we drive on.
An Advent Prayer for Peace
Dearest Jesus, Word made flesh and giver of all the best gifts, grant us peace. When chaos and confusion seem to reign in our hearts, remind us that you alone are King. Grant us peace. When our hearts are grieving and we feel alone, bring us comfort. Grant us peace. Through times of sorrow, stress, and sanctification, be our Comforter. Grant us peace. At the close of one year and the beginning of a brand new one, be our Way, our Truth, and our Life. And always, O Lord, grant us peace. Amen.
Want to read more?
1st week: An Advent of Hope
2nd week: An Advent of Love
3rd week: An Advent of Joy