Hollison Journey

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” – Don Williams Jr


on October 7, 2008

Friday afternoon I left work and headed down I-35 to Austin for my cousin’s wedding. It was a simple, relaxed wedding, which perfectly fit my cousin’s calm, laid-back demeanor. I don’t think the wedding could have been more “Aileen,” other than if everyone had been on horses. It was held in the back of a barbecue place and it was really nice. The musician was ridiculously talented, which always helps, the food was fantastic, and my mother’s side of the family was delightful company as always. We’ve been spoiled the last several years with at least one wedding every summer, guaranteeing that we will all see each other. As of right now, the next one is scheduled for March 2010, and while it’s possible, I doubt any of the remaining single cousins (i think there are 8 left in marriage-age-range) will tie the knot before then. I hope we are able to figure out something for all of us to do together next year – I don’t think I will be able to go a year and a half without seeing all of them.

Saturday morning I woke up early and got back on the road, this time headed to Glen Rose. The fall retreat had started Friday night, and I planned to join them all at lunch on Saturday through the remainder of the retreat. My drive was traffic-less and peaceful, even if I was rehearsing my talk every 30 minutes or so! I arrived at the camp exactly 3 hours after leaving Austin and was greeted at the dining hall by our teens, screaming my name and running up to give me hugs and tell me how they had missed me. Moments like that are why I help with youth ministry.

The retreat was fantastic. So many excellent words from speakers and so many laughs. An old friend of mine led the music and it was good to visit with him again. Watching the teens strengthen their community was exhilarating. They are so accepting and supportive of each other – it’s inspiring. I went to bed Sunday night feeling that my spirit was renewed. But I had no idea that my retreat experience was not over.

I had decided several weeks ago to take off Monday from work to recover from the weekend. I have learned from the past that the emotional and physical toll a retreat weekend takes on me leaves me worthless on Monday morning, no matter how great the weekend was. I had nothing special planned for my day off. I woke up, did some laundry and dishes and watched some online shows. All the while, my brain was processing and recharging. I went to mass and dinner with two friends that I had not seen in awhile, since we now live in three separate cities. We had a good evening of catching up and discussion. On my way home, the thought popped in my head, “It’s still pretty early – I should stop by adoration.” Since I live near a church with perpetual adoration that I don’t visit near enough, I decided to do it. It was raining hard and I could hear myself making excuses: “It’s too wet, just go home” or “I have to stop by the store too, maybe I should skip” or “it may be early but it would be nice to go to bed early, just pray before sleep.” But I fought off the excuses and drove to the church. Eerily enough, the rain was much lighter in the block around the church, as if God was clearing the path.

I went in the chapel armed with a notebook and pen. I planned to sit down and write a letter to a friend of mine. Sometimes when something is bothering me and I can’t tell what, I write a letter. The letter doesn’t always get sent to the person, but it helps me form my thoughts. Sometimes the words flow through me and I write something down that I never realized was in my head.

My mind was racing and I couldn’t focus, so I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Then I pulled out my pen and paper and began my letter. At the top of the page I started the salutation, but when I looked down, I had written “Dear Jesus,” not my friend’s name. I was a little startled, and almost crossed it out, thinking “that’s not who I was supposed to be writing to!” And then I changed my mind and decided to write that letter that I was going to write my friend, to Jesus instead. I realized while I was writing just often I do that – turn to someone for counsel, advice, sounding board, whatever, without turning first to God. I rely on people as the source and not the vessel. While I believe that God uses many of the people in my life to speak to me, I blur the lines, which leads to me being disappointed or frustrated when someone doesn’t provide what I think I need. I forget that the people I am relying on rely on God themselves and they can’t give me what they don’t have.

Reflecting on the weekend, I also (re)recognized my tendency to be so concerned and focused on the details, I miss the simple joys. Plans are good and necessary, but all of the careful planning in the world couldn’t have planned the delight of watching the teens overturn each other in the pond/lake or being silly with the girls Saturday night and laughing till we cried.

At the end of the retreat we had the teens set out goals (we called them prescriptions since the retreat had a medical theme). They had to set goals for spiritual challenge, or goals to find an accountability partner, etc. I hadn’t written any. After my letter was done, I flipped to a new page and wrote some of my own:

Look to God first, friends second. In an effort to accomplish this, I am making it my goal to go to adoration once a week. Adoration has always been a place where I felt I communicated well with God.

Don’t focus on the details so much that I miss the joy.

This morning when I woke up, I read the readings for today. What a lovely surprise to find that today’s readings included the story of Martha and Mary – a great reflection of my own struggle. I felt as if the readings had been picked especially for me. I read a reflection of the readings and this stood out to me:

“I remember hearing this as a child and feeling sympathy for Martha. Wasn’t she doing what she was supposed to be doing? But I can see now that Martha’s harrumphing and pointed looks are keeping her closed off. You have to open yourself to God. It’s more important than the daily to-do list that only seems to get longer. By being Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him speak, I can really hear without the static of the worries. By opening myself to God, I can focus on what’s important. And that focus will remain with me throughout the rest of the day. I can still get most of those things on the to-do list done and I can do them with a light heart.” – Carol Zuegner

I am such a Martha, but I have such Mary potential. I just have to balance the two. Something I read with the girls last week stuck out in my head too:

“I’m learning that there are no refills to be found in “me” time, from which I come away fretful and selfish. However, if I spend time with Him away from the clamoring demands of myself, I come away rested and able to be more clearly aware of the needs of others.” – Elisabeth Adams

I am guilty of taking a “Holly” day to recharge and refresh. And while they are usually good, they aren’t as good as they could be, because as Elisabeth puts it, it needs to be time spent with God. Yesterday was nice, but the recovery and recharging only happened when I spent some time with God in mass and in adoration – not in doing laundry and dishes.


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