Today, we are happy to share the next chapter in our online novel, Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage by Cheryl Dickow.
Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage was a true labor of love for author Cheryl Dickow whose own passions for the Holy Land and the Jewish roots of the Catholic faith are almost unquenchable. Elizabeth is the first work published by Bezalel Books which Cheryl established in late 2006; it centers on a woman whose life is at a crossroads and her realization that the only way to get back on track is to get to the roots of her faith—in the Holy Land—if it isn’t too late. Since the release of Elizabeth, Bezalel Books has published 40 additional titles that are perfect for the Catholic home, school or parish. Elizabeth is available in paperback or in Kindle format. Cheryl is also the author of the recent non-fiction book Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past
I stretch out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.
Beth boarded the plane and made her way directly to her row. She tucked her bag under the seat in front of her and closing her eyes, put her head back. She was next to a window and felt it was providential as she would, undoubtedly, spend a good amount of time looking out at the skies. Beth had spent most of her car ride to the airport staring out the window as well and figured this had become the theme of the day!
Beth kept her eyes closed through the remainder of the embarking, the pilot’s information about flight time and weather conditions, and the flight attendants’ emergency instructions. She didn’t have the energy to open her eyes and give respectful attention to their required announcement of exit locations and emergency procedures. She hoped that the flight attendants weren’t offended, but this was just one of those times when Beth wanted to nurture Beth, and opening her eyes seemed almost impossible.
Beth had no appetite and was convinced it was because her stomach was half the size it was two weeks ago. Her eating habits had changed drastically and she wanted to keep her new, slimmer waist. She liked the improvement.
Soon Elizabeth was sound asleep. It was a beautiful spring day. The weather was warm, the wind blowing gently through the newly sprouted leaves. The sun warmed her skin and she took off her lightweight jacket. She didn’t need it as she bent down to begin work on her garden. She was inspecting last year’s growth on a few bushes while deciding where to plant the early blooming larkspur plants. She loved their tall spikes and the gorgeous rose, pink, and lavender colors that she had selected. She knew what magnificent arrangments these made when cut and brought indoors and was already anticipating the centerpieces she would be able to create. She finally decided to place the Larkspur behind her dwarf Morning Glories. She thought the contrast of heights and colors would be perfect.
As she began digging, her spade hit something hard. She bent forward to get a closer look as she used her fingers to gently pull the dirt away from the hard substance. She seemed to know that the spade would scratch or ruin whatever it was that she had discovered. Like an expert archeologist uncovering the find of the century, she brushed back the dirt to find an oval shaped rock. She picked it up and was stunned to catch a glimpse of the sun’s rays reflecting off the tiniest of spots that was free from dirt. She brushed at that small spot and almost dropped the treasure when she realized that it appeared to be a diamond. She looked around to see if anyone was watching and then ran to her home.
She rushed into the small mudroom adjacent to the garage where there was a sink and ran the water over the rock. It was a diamond! As it caught the light from the ceiling, it sparkled unlike anything she had ever seen. Beth looked at the diamond and could feel the Lord speaking to her spirit, You, my beloved Elizabeth, are like that diamond to me. You may feel that your life has covered you in mud and dirt but inside you are that precious diamond! Continue excavating Elizabeth. Let us work together to uncover your true, inner light.
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Are you alright?” Beth’s seatmate was shaking her shoulder. Beth grudgingly woke herself up and looked at the woman who seemed so concerned. “I’m sorry but you were crying. Sobbing, really. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Beth stared blankly at the woman. On the one hand she felt more than a bit embarrassed to have been crying in her sleep, but on the other hand she was a bit perturbed to have been woken from the dream. This dream had been haunting her for more than a year and she finally understood its meaning! She wanted to go back to sleep and feel God speak to her spirit once more! She smiled at the woman and said, “It’s been an emotional day. I guess even my subconscious is exhausted. Please forgive me.”
“Oh my, don’t worry! We’ve all been there.”
For the first time Beth took in the woman’s warm grayish-blue eyes and saw the sincere kindness in them. Beth smiled back and turned her head towards the window. She just knew the woman would understand.
As Beth relived her dream she also thought of her grandmother’s diamond earring that she had lost over a month ago. It saddened her heart but she knew she had to let go of that ache.
Beth continued thinking of the Lord’s spirit pressing upon her heart, I am valuable! she said to herself. She had been struggling since childhood to make that statement. With parents who had their own difficulties and needs, Beth had never been told, in words or in deeds, that she was a valuable and loved little girl. Then, as an adult, as she tried to bring these messages to her own children, they shunned her. They seemed to put little stock in what she had to offer them. Beth was finding that her life had unfolded in ways that were neither rewarding nor happy. She just didn’t have any more fight left in her for her husband or her children.
Now she was seeing, through eyes of faith, what it meant to be valuable, to be a diamond! Rachel and Miriam, and even David and Meir, seemed to sincerely love having met Beth. She was warmly embraced for the woman she had become and had been validated in ways that she would never have thought possible.
Beth raised her arm to click on her reading light. She rummaged through her bag to find her reading glasses and opened her book about the Jewish matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. Beth felt that these women had something very special to share and she couldn’t wait to know them more completely.
Engrossed in her book, Beth was startled by the announcement that they were close to landing in New York. Where had the time gone? She leafed through the remainder of the book and was surprised that she was almost finished. She put it away and placed her reading glasses into their case before putting them away, too. Beth gazed at her seat companion, who was sound asleep, and felt grateful that she hadn’t been sitting next to a ‘talker.’ Most of the day, Beth reflected, had been spent in silence and it was exactly what Beth had needed.
Soon they were at the terminal in New York and Beth was standing in the aisle, a bit of her old habits surfacing. In a rush to get nowhere.
Once off the plane Beth meandered through the terminal to her pre-assigned gate. Getting into her fifth line of the day, Beth began feeling agitated. She truly did not know what to expect when she saw Luke and that uncertainty was bothering her.
She felt as if she was a different person than when she left two weeks ago. Was that a real possibility? she asked herself. She had to believe it was.
Beth heard her stomach rumble and decided to get out of line to purchase a salad that she could bring on the plane. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a small café that had a large refrigerated case filled with containers that no doubt had salads and sandwiches. She made a quick beeline to the café and looked over the contents of some of the containers. There were a variety of salads and she decided on the one with mandarin oranges and slivers of chicken. She grabbed an extra package of dressing and walked to the cashier.
“That will be five dollars and seventy two cents, please.”
Beth pulled out a twenty and paid the gal. Pushing her change deep into the pocket of her pants and gathering up her salad, dressing, and tote bag, Beth returned to the line. Only a few people had been checked in and Beth wasn’t that far behind the first spot she had occupied, prior to getting her salad.
Boarded, Beth once again put her tote under the seat in front and placed her salad container in her lap. She knew better than to dig in before take off and then be asked to put her tray up. She decided to just wait until they were in the air before she began eating.
Very soon a young man took the seat next to Beth and eyed her salad, “Smart move.”
“Yes, I slept through the meal on my last flight.”
“Wow, a meal on a flight? Where were you flying from?”
“Israel,” Beth said quietly.
“I’ve never been,” he admitted, as if most people had.
“Well, I highly recommend it, if you are ever able to. It is a magnificent country filled with people from all walks of life. It is like the epicenter of the world!” Beth admitted enthusiastically.
They continued talking with Beth answering most of the young man’s questions. They were well on their way before Beth finally opened her salad. The young man turned his attention to a book that looked to Beth like a college required reading. If she hadn’t been so hungry she would have inquired.
Soon they were on the ground and Beth was measuring her emotions, trying to keep them in check and understand them at the same time.
Walking through the airport, she was at luggage claim in no time. People often complained about airports but Beth looked around and thought that, taking into consideration the enormity of traffic and luggage and sheer commotion, airports were actually quite impressive. The bags were on the conveyor belts within ten minutes of her arriving and she spotted hers immediately. She had tied purple ribbons on the handles because, unlike her tapestry tote bag, her luggage was very nondescript. The ribbons had been a good idea and she fielded more than a compliment or two on it.
Lifting the luggage off the belt had always cracked Beth up. It was like a comedy of errors as she did her best not to let her tote bag swing into her way while she used all her strength to hoist the bag up and over the metal edge of the conveyor, and onto the floor. More than once she had been seen running along the belt for a dozen or more feet, her laughter zapping her strength, making it impossible for her to lift her bag.
Once she had her luggage she pulled out the handle and began her walk towards the shuttle. She had never had to wait more than five minutes for her ride and today was no different. Fishing through her tote she found her parking lot ticket as well as a couple of dollar bills with which to tip the shuttle driver. About fifteen minutes later Beth was at her car.
Home sweet home, she thought. America. Land of the free. It was a beautiful country and she was grateful to be an American citizen but her eyes were now open to the world ‘out there.’ Was this a good or bad thing? Only time would tell. Closing the trunk, Beth walked to the driver’s side of the car and got in. Ready or not, here I come, was all she could think.
Join us next week for the next chapter of Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage by Cheryl Dickow. Can’t wait for more? Check out Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage at Amazon!