Whose trip of a lifetime?

What steps do you take to reach a big decision? Please share in the comments. If you don’t mind, I’m going to ramble on about a huge decision I must make. I guess we could call this live journaling. You might be able to sway me with your insights…

My current dilemma is whether or not to go on a trip to Palestine and Israel this Fall. Expensive, I know. But cost is not the point of my quandary because I was given free passage. It will cost me a tip to the (Palestinian Christian) tour bus driver and a few lunches. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s a no-brainer. Go!”

All through my younger adult life I wanted to see the entire world. I’m now on the older side of adult life and have seen little of the world. My go-to list is dramatically shorter. In fact, the last 10 years or so, my complete list to visit is:

  • All 50 U.S. States
  • Italy – all of it
  • Ireland (while in Ireland, I’d be happy to tack on Scotland, Wales and England if it can work into the timing)

To say I’m excited to have a plan in the works for my first trip to Italy in June 2015, is a gross understatement. Possibly I’ll be able to enjoy a month in Avila, Spain, directly from Italy. Spain is not on my list, of course, but since I will have already paid my airfare, if I can afford the college course offered, I will love it, I’m sure.

The Holy Land trip popped up after the Italy plans were underway. I needed to reply quickly to the free passage offer. My family and friends found it hard to believe I said I’d think about it overnight.

Every person I talked to said, in one way or another, I’d be a fool not to go. After all, I’m a Christian. Why wouldn’t I want to walk the land where Jesus walked, renew my wedding vows at Cana where he turned water into wine, and step into the sea where he was baptized? Besides that, my soon-to-be-released book, Who is Jesus? Eyewitnesses Tell their Stories, is set in that region. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see for myself what I’ve researched the last four years? And didn’t I spend every weekend of the last three years spreading word of the plight of Palestinian Christians to Catholic Churches in the United States? Wouldn’t I want to meet more of the people I represented?

I caved and said, yes. Everyone smiled. Except me.

The dilemma is not because of the recently renewed violence in the Mid East. It is because during these last four to six weeks since acceptance of the gift, I have waved back and forth on the idea. Most often my thoughts are, “I haven’t actually ever really wanted to go there in the first place.” If I’m more honest with myself, I might see that my hesitation is related to being an introvert. Or maybe it’s not that I’m such an introvert, but more that I’m a homebody. I like to leave home occasionally to do things with friends. But I’d often just as soon stay home. I don’t desire a lot of alone time, as much as home time. In fact, I love to open my home to all kinds of folks. If this adds to my inability to settle on this, so be it.

From the standpoint of seeing some of the world that may or may not have been on my travel list decades ago, it makes sense. What fun it would be to see those stamps on my passport. But, honestly, that doesn’t matter to me anymore.

People have told me the trip is life-changing. That when you step off the plane, your spirit senses that you are in a place of holy beginnings. That you feel Jesus in an unimaginable way. I’m sure it can be just that.

But the reality is, I don’t need to go there to “feel” Jesus. Whenever I choose, I can close my eyes, breathe deeply, and enter into His presence in the innermost room of my soul. I can be in my prayer room, on a mountain path or by a lake, at Adoration or receiving His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. I enter into Him; nothing can be more real than that.

I’m in Colorado now as I write. I’ve never been depressed while here but since I arrived three days ago, the dark night has taken me down. I know I am supposed to be living here by now and I am pretty darned certain I never will. Both realities are part of that “knowing” thing. Many people don’t understand what I’m talking about. That’s okay. For the first time ever, each time I looked at the Rockies since Thursday, I cried tears not just of longing, but also those of real grief.

I’m relieved now that at this time, I am no longer in the throes of depression. I’m sad, but not overwhelmed with darkness. I went to mass at ‘my’ church, 18 miles from where I’m staying. The ride is north along the Front Range. It was a painful trip. I began to remember His message to me, “I am your mountain.” The words repeated over and over all the way through mass, and into the drive home. And as I gazed at the mountains (glanced, actually, I was driving), and repeated His words, the pit opened and I was lifted out.

I don’t need to live in my Rockies, in order to be where I am supposed to be. I am where I belong every moment, because I am with Him and He is with me, and that’s all that matters. And I don’t need to visit the Holy Land to know Jesus better or even to know the region better to fulfill my vocation to write.

I still don’t have an answer regarding the trip. But I am keeping in mind a rule of thumb I’ve learned when making key decisions:

When in doubt, wait. When in doubt, do nothing.

That platitude has kept me out of all kinds of danger – physical, spiritual, financial – more times than I remember. I will apply the rule now.

August 6 will be three months before the flight leaves U.S. soil. If I don’t have perfect peace by then I still may not know why. That answer is not for me to know. But if that lack of peace continues, I will give up my seat so that someone on the waiting list has time to prepare for their trip of a lifetime.

In the meantime, I would appreciate your thoughts. God bless.

If you would like to leave a comment, please click on the actual name of this post. You will be taken to the comments page. Thank you!!


An olivewood carving by a Palestinian Catholic

An olivewood carving by a Palestinian Catholic



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  1. Thank you, Sharon, my dear friend and cousin for your thoughts and understanding. You, as well, Jan (missing you, by the way!).
    Jeff remember that we met at the Ignatian Prayer Workshop and learned imaginative prayer. My book is not a group of stories about people who live today in the Holy Land. Each story is a result of much prayer on a Gospel account. The genre is called Creative Non Fiction. I can see your concern that I would consider writing a book of stories about a people I had never visited in their home land!

    • Sharon on July 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    My Dear Cheryl,
    As children our parents showed us through their actions the love of the Trinity. I remember my dad saying that you don’t have to be in church to feel the love of God or to be a believer. That being said my believe is that it’s important we pray and give all our thoughts, feelings, and the need for direction to God. I do understand your feelings about being a home body. Let’s face it we both did a lot of out of home stuff when the kids where younger and I feel it’s time to relax. Now about this wonderful opportunity that has been placed in front of you. We all can give our thoughts, ideas and feelings, but the bottom line is you and only you can make the final decision to go or not to go, along with Gods guidance/advice. You will find peace because God is good. I love you! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. For me, when I make a major decision…and sometimes a minor one, God’s Peace is essential. I have traveled extensively. I just finished setting foot in all 50 states, and have traveled abroad through many countries & continents. Each trip has changed me and made me more sensitive to both God and His creations. Personally I would not give up a trip to the Holy Land unless I felt God expressly asked me not to go.That said…I understand your need to feel this is right and unease makes you question. Just a few thoughts as you struggle with this life-changing decision.

    • Jeff on July 20, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I do not know that I can challenge anything you’ve said. But I will challenge you about something left entirely unsaid. I see nothing at all about learning the stories of those who inhabit the region. It strikes me that a writer would want those stories that can only be discovered through personal conversations. Its not about Jesus, its not about Cheryl. Its about those who live there and must endure the enmity of their neighbors over their personal religious faith and the religious institutions that bastardize faith.

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