Man makes plans. God laughs.
I am habitually late when I do not have an iron clad deadline to meet. I suppose you could therefore say that I am never late when I don't have a specific time to be somewhere. To be fair, though, I can usually be counted on leaving an hour later than I say I will if there is any wiggle room available at all.
Last weekend, I told my husband I would leave Nashville from the BlissDom conference by 10 a.m. I hit the interstate at 1 p.m. No one was surprised. My goal was simply to make it home from the eight hour drive before our boys went to bed.
My new-to-me car has one of those fandangled dashboard features where you can watch exactly how many miles you have to go until your gas tank hits empty. My husband insists that the feature displaying your real-time MPG is far more interesting, but I am obsessed with that "miles til empty" feature. This is, to be sure, a result of years of pushing my old Mustang to the last drop, one time literally coasting into the gas station on fumes.
I am an old hat at the "oh, we have a good 18 miles from the point that the gas light comes on."
With this in mind, I have developed a habit of refusing to even consider getting gas on road trips before the "miles til you are flat out of luck" feature hits 40. My logic is that gives me at least two or three exits to consider before I have to start walking. This rule applies regardless of whether or not I'm hungry or about to pee my pants. Ain't no stopping this train til the chugging is palpable.
But it was Sunday. And these rules can't be allowed on Sunday... because imagine what could be missed?
This Sunday road trip, on my way back from BlissDom, with little boys and one big boy waiting at home for me, with a voice that was shot from a weekend of chatting up friends, and with eyes that were begging for rest... I found myself with a need to take a break long before that 40 miles-to-empty point.
Totally engrossed in the audio version of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (which pales in comparison to the book , but still utterly fabulous), I hit pause to consider a particularly complex point and looked up briefly at a passing billboard.
Nondescript, little more than just a handful of words to tempt me, I felt a door opening somewhere beyond that billboard and an invitation pulling me toward the exit.
And just look at what I found:
(subscribers click through for video; note: it's long, so feel free to skip around in the middle)
I was running hours behind when I saw the billboard that said little more than "Ave Maria Grotto." My stop delivered me home long after my boys had gone to bed. Yet, something pulled me to that grotto.
Next week I'll tell you about the people I met there and the stories they shared about their own bits of serendipity.
Open your eyes. Slow down and trust your gut. Beautiful stories are waiting for you if you would only take a moment to listen.
So tell me, how did you spend your Sunday?
(and ps- hi, what year is it? not 2008. I'm no movie director.)
Ave Maria Grotto is a bit of serendipity from Brother Joseph Zoettl, a monk from the Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. A spacious and calming four-acres featuring the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary, surrounded by 125 miniature reproductions of biblically-significant and historic structures around the world.
A labor of love, indeed, Brother Joseph began his work on what would be dedicated as the Ave Maria Grotto in 1934. He built his last miniature, the Basilica in Lourdes, in 1958 at the age of 80. Brother Joseph died in 1961.
Renovations were under way during my visit and are expected to be completed in time for the 75th Anniversary Celebration of Ave Maria Grotto. The celebration is to be held on Sunday, May 17, 2009. For information on Ave Maria Grotto, visit them at www.avemariagrotto.com