Last fall as I scrambled to find a destination for our family to take a vacation this summer, I was running out of options. Finding an Airbnb home that was available for our large family in an area of interest, fit our budget and was within the rather limited timeframe of our summer that would most likely be the most open, was proving to be a dead end disaster. Until I found a sweet remodel on 60 acres just outside of Sturgeon Bay, in the infamous Door County. It was an area I had never traveled to and our family had not either. The only other plan we mentally made at that point was that a return trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse would also be on the itinerary.
The Shrine has had a place in our hearts for many years and if you’ve ever been there to experience the beauty and serenity of those grounds, you certainly understand and feel the same. For me, Our Lady of Guadalupe is probably the Blessed Mother’s title and apparition I have long been drawn to the most, while also astounded by the story and journey of dear Juan Diego. For our family, we made our own journey of faith 10 years ago to the Shrine in its early days (they just celebrated their 11th anniversary last month). We went there for a few days away, again adding the Shrine to other existing plans, with two children and hopeful, expectant hearts. We had a saintly encounter with St. Gianna (read this post I wrote about it, back then) and returned home prayerfully certain some day our intention of breaking through the secondary infertility would be answered. Two summers later, we made a return trip of thanksgiving with both my parents and my in-laws. That time, in addition to our two older children, it was with a six-month-old in a stroller and me carrying a 13-week-old under my heart, due the following February. There, at that amazing Shrine on what I’d consider holy ground, contains a piece of my heart and in that place began my fondness and relationship with my now-friend, St. Gianna.
While our stop this time was just for a few hours of prayer, meandering through the well laid out grounds and daily Mass, it still held some precious memories. This time we came with two teens, two in-betweens, and a toddler. Lest you interpret what I’m writing to convey that our halos were shining and all was bliss, don’t let me lead you astray. Traveling isn’t always easy, even if it’s only to Wisconsin, and a few things contributed to it being less of a pilgrimage and more of a “don’t ask me when we’re leaving, try to be quiet and respectful, no it’s not time for lunch, we’ll get to Sturgeon Bay when we get there, stop complaining, can’t we all just get along because that’s what mom wants” Monday. Yet all of those things will be overlooked and written off as the memory of that day fades out the less than perfect moments. For me to be able to return to that place of surrender, where I laid my intentions and my aching heart out, so many years ago, with my family was a blessing. To again share their story, at the place that we so often talk about, with my now understanding 8 and 7 year old girls, was important to me. To walk with them on the trail to the exquisite church up the hill, pray prayers of thanksgiving and take their photo in front of the St. Gianna mural where we prayed all those years ago, was life in full circle.
Another imprint on my heart. Another memory in our family book.