Finally, the weather began to lighten up. People grabbed their picnic baskets and opted to eat within the chapel, as opposed to sitting at the tables outside. My (rather bold) relatives opted to bring a picnic table inside.
We set the table and shared with those around us. My husband talked with a woman inquiring about Orthodoxy. My sister and cousins talked to their friends. I talked with my aunt and mother as my son scarfed down schnitzel.
It turned out to be a lovely time.
As we made our way back to the car, I felt that something was off. We had come all this way, and for what?
Sadly, I realized I had almost forgotten what we had been celebrating: the life and death of the Theotokos.
The Theotokos, who had been in the temple since she was a young girl.
The Theotokos, who had to be betrothed to St. Joseph, as she could no longer stay in the temple as she became a young woman.
The Theotokos, who faced ridicule and scrutiny, even from her own husband at first, for carrying our Lord within her womb.
The Theotokos, who gave birth in a cave, surrounded by animals.
The Theotokos, who watched her son die on the cross for the sins of the world.
The Theotokos, who had a life much harder than most of us could conceive of, yet still maintained her holiness, and was assumed into heaven.
She, better than any of us, knew how God can take struggle and turn it into something beautiful. Throughout this whole trip, my tired eyes could not see the glorious gifts God has presented us in giving us such a taxing day.
Our early-rising son allowed us to make it to the monastery in time for Hours.
In taking my son out of Hours to walk around, I not only allowed my husband to enjoy his first time at a monastery, but I was also able to spend time with my family.
By standing outside the chapel, we were able to get a glimpse of the world through our sons eyes. Not only that, but we got to witness the patience of other parents, as we all struggled together in caring for our kids in the inclement weather. We were also graced with the kindness of strangers who offered us umbrellas and places to sit.
At the end of it all, the storm passed, and the sun returned. We were blessed with the opportunity to enjoy the feast as a community, and revel in God's glory together.
And I almost missed it.
Like my stone-loving son, I kept looking at the hard patches we were trudging through, instead of the beauty all around me. Thankfully, both God and my husband served as guiding hands, leading me away from thoughts of quitting early and going home.
Think of how many wonderful things we miss simply because we choose to focus on rocks…
We do not know what we are capable of until we are tested and tried. We never realize how unprepared we are until we are caught in the rain without an umbrella. We cannot see the beauty of God around us unless we open our eyes and see that everything is good, no matter how we feel about it in the moment.
This trip was not what I expected. It was not terrible, but it was not as amazing as I wanted it to be for my family. But such is life. A life lived in obedience to God. We are called to take the good and the bad, and give glory to God for all of it. And in doing so, our eyes grow more accustomed to the beauty of this life as we grow closer to Him.
So, please, look up from the rocks every once in a while. There is much beauty to be found.