At Mass this morning, the children from the school sang the song adapted from Psalm 118—“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It reminded us of the conversation we had as we drove to Florida last week. So often when we are going somewhere, especially now that many of us fly, we forget to rejoice and be glad in the day and instead focus on getting to where we are going. When our children were small and we did car trips I always found things along the way for them to do, to see and to experience. We saw a lot of the little out of the way places and they all still have fond memories of the Dairy Queen in Plymouth, Indiana. As we began to travel on our own as empty nesters we always tried to welcome each day for what it can bring. As we drive we try to start the day with prayer, talk about and visit historical sites along the way. We listen to a variety of music and sing along where appropriate. We sometimes create stories about those traveling in cars and trucks along the way with us and imagine what it would be like to live in various towns and cities that we pass through. We try not to eat at fast food restaurants, but on occasion, when we do, we are reminded that we need to be grateful for all that we have.
When traveling in Europe, we usually have a plan for the day, but have learned from my niece to make sure all of our senses are touched each day. That means looking up as we walk, listening to sounds beyond traffic, letting our sense of smell experience the delights of foods and flowers, even foods that we no longer would want to eat. Smell and taste get bound together as we taste new foods. For me, a non-alcohol consumer, even beer in Germany and Switzerland is enjoyable. Sometimes we’ve eaten things that have enticed me to be a vegetarian and others fill our palates with delights. We touch things along the way as well- whether it is the grass between our toes, the sand beneath our feet, the hands of people who serve us or as we hold hands along the way. We have wonderful conversations at the end of the day about how our senses have been touched. It is something I do with our grandchildren now when we spend vacation time with them. They have begun to enter into the spirit of it as well, and I can see that they have been thinking about unique things to talk about at the end of the day.
Rejoicing and being glad in the day is easy to forget in the busyness of our lives. There is always something in the future that we are planning, waiting to experience, or fondly remember from the past, that we lose the present. All of this happens in our relationship as well. It is what brought me to think and talk about this with Bob. As part of my New Year’s resolves I have decided to more fully experience the day. While I knew we were going to Florida in mid-January and I would need to think about and organize packing, I let each day unfold on its own. We took time to have lunch or dinner with old friends, we spent a little extra time with our son and daughter and their children. We even let them go to lunch together while we babysat. I actually enjoyed putting away the Christmas decorations. Bob helped more than he has in the past and we thought about the kids and grandchildren and friends who spent the holidays with us. While Bob was concerned about making sure all the financial things were taken care of before we left, neither of us was overly concerned about getting ready. I knew it would all unfold in due time. A friend kept asking me as the days passed whether I had packed yet. I’m not sure she quite understood my time schedule. It was actually a little fun to figure out what we needed and wanted to take with us and trying to pack the car. I found it interesting that we could laugh about how much stuff we were taking. At one point as we were packing the car the day before we left I apologized to Bob for taking so much stuff and offered to repack my clothes and leave some things at home. He just gathered me in his arms for a hug and said “to keep you, I’ll find the way to put everything you want into the car and besides I have a lot of stuff as well. The day we planned to leave, Chicago was predicted to get its first snow storm of the season. We had planned to leave after rush hour but decided to get up early. We were on the road by 6:15 and laughed about how easy it was to get on the road. As the sun rose and we were in northern Indiana we were amazed at how quickly the time and miles passed.
Our current travel adventure brings us to St. Pete Beach, Florida for six weeks and is the fulfillment of another dream. For many years we anticipated a time when we could escape the cold weather of the upper Midwest and enjoy balmy breezes and walks on the beach. This year is the first time we have been able to make that happen.
Last week we arose early to get on the road before a snowstorm arrived in the Chicago area. We did manage to beat the storm until the middle of Indiana. From there we had mostly snow of varying intensity, or rain, all the way to Georgia. While conditions were often not great, we were fortunate to escape any slippery conditions. As the day went on we took turns driving, allowing each of us time to relax. The miles rolled by as we talked for a while and fell silent at times. We prayed the prayers to accompany the Breviary. The non-driver had the opportunity to doze, text with the kids or work a crossword puzzle. We enjoyed and commented on the scenery going by. Since we started so early, we were in Chattanooga, TN when we stopped for dinner. It wasn’t the highlight of our day (we thought nobody could ruin an omelet), but we didn’t let that dim our spirits. When we finally stopped after 14 hours, we found ourselves south of Atlanta, feeling no rush to get up early the next morning, since we only had 7 hours left to finish the trip. We had planned to take three days for the drive and were pleased when we called the owner of our rented condo and he allowed us to move in a day early.
I think the drive went so smoothly for me because I focused on my gratitude that we have this opportunity, on the joy of being with Rita in what I found to be a relaxed situation, even while it was snowing, and with a commitment before we left home to take the weather and the trip as it played out, including being ready to stop anywhere along the way if conditions warranted it.
One reason we came to Florida was, of course, the weather, but we also find that it is easier to write when we are away from home and all of its distractions and demands. We are working on a couple of projects, but there is a little more to it.
We periodically discuss the possibility of moving to a smaller house and this will allow us to experience extended time in a much smaller living space. We also want to find out how we (especially me) experience being away from home for longer period than we ever have.
So far we are enjoying the experience. There is Catholic Church a short distance down the street and we walk to Mass each morning. We walk to a supermarket a little further down to buy groceries every couple of days. (We are trying the European model – buying small amount, frequently.) I am learning to cook with limited equipment and am pressed to be creative. Walks on the beach are pleasant and good exercise. Writing is moving along and we are setting up visits with friends and family. Most importantly, we find ourselves enjoying each other. So, each day we can say:
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps 118:24
What are your thoughts about “rejoicing in the that day the Lord has made”?
Leave a comment below.
Bob & Rita Boeke are:
Authors: Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime
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