Seeing Beyond the Gate


Last week I guest posted over at “Women in the New Evangelization” (WINE) about the mother of the sons of Zebedee in a post called “Can You Drink the Cup?” That particular Gospel narrative is one I need to hear frequently — about a mother who tried to guarantee a rosy future for her sons, and a Savior wise enough not to give her what she asked.

Two weeks ago I started another blog series over at Father Ubald’s blog, writing weekly posts about this summer’s writing expedition to Rwanda, where I helped Fr. Ubald put the finishing touches on his upcoming book with Ave Maria Press, Forgiveness Makes You Free (April 2019). His testimony of survival and healing is a powerful reminder to place every part of our lives — past, present, and future — into the hands of the God who created time itself.

The image above has particular significance in Fr. Ubald’s story — it is the gate of his former parish, destroyed in the genocide, where he was driven out by his own parishioners so that they might slaughter the 5000+ Christians inside who had come to the church for sanctuary. “For ten years I had been their pastor, and attended to their needs. And suddenly, I was out. It was a great burden for me, knowing that despite all I had done there, so many lives were lost.” The blue gate was the last sight he had of the parish — as he walked through those doors, the Hutu militia were walking in to do their dirty work.

Each time I see this image, I am reminded of another gate — the gates of Auschwitz, which I saw in 1992 during my summer in Poland. “Arbeit macht frei” the message read. “Work makes freedom.” It was an ignoble lie, of course — the only work going on behind those gates, with rare exceptions, were works of evil. And in that moment back in 1994, it must have seemed the same to Fr. Ubald — for a brief moment, the gates of hell had seemed to prevail.

But just as he entrusted his people to God in that moment, back in 1994, Fr. Ubald continued to trust his own life into the hands of Divine Mercy. And in sparing Fr. Ubald’s life, God set him up to do tremendous works of healing and mercy that would have been unimaginable while he was running for his life.

“I am the gate,” Jesus declared to his followers (John 10:28). “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

God knows we are weak and frail. He knows that we can handle only so much knowledge about what the future holds. What is he asking you to entrust to him today?


Fun Fridays: Going to Detroit? How about Ann Arbor?

handsonHaving lived in Michigan so long (near Ann Arbor), Detroit was bound to come up as a “Fun Friday.”

Fortunately, someone already did the legwork for me! Thanks, Delicious Day!

To be perfectly honest, we didn’t make it to Detroit very often apart from multiple trips to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. greenfield village We owned a membership, and always did our best to make the most of it!

Instead, we usually spent the day close to home. Here are our “Five Favorite Ways to Spend the Day (Cheap) in Ann Arbor.”

1. In summertime, we like to hit the Sprayscape sprinkler park (46640 Ann Arbor Trail, east of Beck Rd). It’s free — bring a picnic!

2. The Hands-On Museum is a fascinating day trip for kids under 10. On Thursday evenings after 5 you can get in for just $5. They have other deal days (like MLK $4 day) as well.

3. Blueberry, strawberry, or raspberry picking. (We had our “secret stash” for blubs, but always went to Makielski’s for the other berries!)

4. Rolling Hills Water Park was fun for a treat (they have late-day rates), but we the hiking trails were great fun anytime!

5. Buhr Park is an all-season fun zone, with swimming in summer and skating in winter.

BONUS: Craig and I had our first date at Gallup Park, picnicking with Missy by the riverside. Miles of nature trails, canoe and paddle boat livery, and play areas.

That doesn’t even begin to touch the many other events and activities you can find through the Ann Arbor Observer. What are your favorite ways to visit Ann Arbor?

The Lost Sea — Vacation is ALMOST Over!

I’m writing this from the road, sitting in a motel in Lexington, Kentucky with my two little cherubs snoring softly in the double bed beside my writing table. I think the 200th lap in the hotel pool tonight really did them in!

This afternoon on our way back from Cartersville we stumbled on this wonderful family excursion, and I wanted to mention a few details before they slipped away.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine are constitutionally incapable of riding seven hours in the car without duct tape and rope. (Yes, I am kidding. But only because, being the VERY wise parent I am, I don’t ask them to sit seven hours so the tape and rope are unnecessary.) So about an hour north of Chattanooga, I spotted a billboard and decided it was time for a Family Adventure! (Yeah!!!)

The Lost Sea Adventure is an underwater lake — at 4-1/2 acres, it is the largest underwater lake in the U.S., and the second largest in the world (the largest is Lake Vostok in Antartica). The cavern was alternately a site for Cherokee Indian ceremonies, Confederate soldiers (who gathered bat droppings to make salt peter/gunpowder), a speakeasy (in business for only two months because overly inebriated customers kept injuring themselves trying to get out of the place). It was also a bomb shelter (Federal Government provided the people of Sweetwater enough food to feed 3,000 people for three months; remants of these boxes containing 50-year-old Saltines are still visible.)

The cave contains a large, off-limits room (due to the 90-foot hole in the middle of it, which made insurance adjusters so nervous they closed it to the public) where of an Ice Age jaguar was discovered (think Diego on Ice Age). At 130 feet below the surface, the “Lost Sea” itself was discovered in the 1905 by a 13 year old boy named Ben Sands (no one believed him until a team of scientists “discovered” his find decades later); the site was declared a Registered Natural Landmark in 1976.

The hike down to the lake is about a mile; tickets are about $15.95 adults, $7.45 kids. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout (whose colors and eye sight have both been damaged from being in the dark for so long), who feed on liver pellets and come right up to the glass-bottom boat to say hello.

The Sweetwater Village (across the driveway from the Lost Sea) contains a glass-blowing site as well as other period artisan shops. Admission to the village is free — nice area for picnics, etc.

Adventures with Friends

Sarah at “Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering” has done her usual outstanding job with this week’s “Catholic Carnival.” Be sure to check it out!

When Sarah missed her friend Lauren’s birthday, we decided to take the girls to Sarah’s favorite lunch place … “Sweet Aftons” Tea Room in Plymouth, Michigan.

Sarah has caught my “tea bug.” About once a week we’ll have a special time with my best tea pot and pretty china cups … and c a k e. Cake is not optional, where tea is concerned.

When I arrived at the school to pick up the girls and head for the tea room, another friend was standing there looking sad. So in the end, it was the four of us: Arianna, and Lauren, and Sarah and me. All off for tea.

Then, there was one more wrinkle: It seems that Sweet Afton’s is closed on Mondays. So we headed for my next favorite place, Cafe Marie’s. The teapots were of stonewear instead of china, with mugs instead of delicate tea cups for the apple juice. But it was fun!

Watching Sarah with her friends, I was struck by how much more … active … she is than her little friends. While they sat quietly in their seats and ate French fries, or carried on conversations about earth worms and fairy princesses (with equal seriousness), Sarah was hopping up and down, turning her fuzzy purple hat (her favorite) around and around and inside out. She is a wash of kinetic energy … screeching and singing and blasting her flute. Twirling and spinning and twinkling like an imp. Oh, how I love that little girl.

I’m sure the mothers of those other little girls are proud of them. They can read whole books, and sit quietly for more than two minutes at a time. They put on one outfit and it stays on their bodies all day. My daughter doesn’t do any of these things … at least not yet.

But I wouldn’t trade her for a library of books. Her brother, either.

In a few weeks, I’m going on my own adventure with a friend and her children. Sarah and I are driving to Atlanta, then back through South and North Carolina before winding our way home. Both of us are a bit nervous about how the rhythms or our respective families are going to affect each other … and ultimately our friendship.

Yesterday’s outing reminds me that adventures with friends can be a great way to rediscover ourselves.