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
- Chapter Thirty-Three
- Chapter Thirty-Two
- Chapter Thirty-One
- Chapter Thirty
- Chapter Twenty-Nine
- Chapter Twenty-Eight
- Chapter Twenty-Seven
- Chapter Twenty-Six
- Chapter Twenty-Five
- Chapter Twenty-Four
- Chapter Twenty-Three
- Chapter Twenty-Two
- Chapter Twenty-One
- Chapter Twenty
- Chapter Nineteen
- Chapter Eighteen
- Chapter Seventeen
- Chapter Sixteen
- Chapter Fifteen
- Chapter Fourteen
- Chapter Thirteen
- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Two
- Chapter One
Glorify the Lord, Jerusalem; Zion, offer praise to your God. Psalm 147:12
Elizabeth pulled her car into the garage. Everyone must have heard the garage door open because as soon as she got her luggage out of the trunk, they were all standing at the storm door, smiling. Luke was closest to the door and was reaching for the handle. He made an attempt to step forward to help Beth with her luggage but she simply said, “I’ve got it.” Luke gave Beth a quick, intimate kiss as she entered the house and she leaned into him for a brief embrace. She could feel his heart pounding and knew hers was also responding to their exchange.
Once she was fully inside, Sammy and Joseph threw their arms around her and said, “Welcome home, mom! We missed you. Did you have a lot of fun?”
“I missed you guys, too! And, yes, I had a whole lot of fun. I have all kinds of stories to share and post-cards for you to look at. I’m hoping you will let me spend the next week sharing them with you and sort of reliving everything. It really was amazing.”
Sophia stood back while her brothers bombarded their mother with hugs and questions. When they finally released her, Sophia moved forward to hug her mother. She was relieved that Beth was home, safe and sound, and told her mother that through tear filled eyes. Beth was overwhelmed by the emotions in the air as that had never really been part of her children’s personalities.
Luke was watching her hug the children. His children. Her children. He couldn’t get over how very much he loved her. She smiled at him and his heart melted. “So,” she began. “How is everyone doing?”
She listened as both of the boys gave her a quick run down on the latest at school and in their respective sports. Joseph was on the junior varsity hockey team and Sammy was on a school football team. “Sounds like you guys kept dad busy driving you here and there and everywhere!”
“They sure did but I didn’t mind. It gave us some time together. But I have to admit I couldn’t do it all the time like you do. You have my admiration.”
Sophia then shared with her mom that she had found, and began working on, the perfect scholarship application. She had also picked up a few extra hours at work and was now preparing for her mid-term exams. Beth watched her daughter talk enthusiastically about things and couldn’t help but hug her. Sophia seemed to understand, for the first time, what instigated the hug and returned it.
Luke continued to watch the exchange between his wife and his children until everyone went their separate ways. Even Beth returning from another country couldn’t stop them from their daily activities. When the boys finished their summary of the last two weeks, they gave Beth another big hug and went to their respective rooms. Each had pressing plans, as kids often do. Sophia, too, had obligations that she wanted to pursue. Beth and Luke stood alone in the mud room.
“Well, would you like to unpack or would you prefer to leave the luggage in the mud room and we’ll go sit and have a cup of coffee?”
“Actually,” Beth admitted, “a cup of coffee sounds perfect.”
Beth washed up, wanting to get the day’s traveling off her hands, and followed Luke into the kitchen. In the middle of the dining room table was a beautiful bouquet of fresh cut flowers, sitting in her favorite crystal vase. “Oh, Luke, these are beautiful,” she said as she leaned in to smell the flowers. There was a card and a small box sitting in front of them. The front of the card read, For My Precious Wife. Beth smiled as she thought of her dream and the Spirit of the Lord pressing upon her heart that she was ‘precious.’ Looking at the words Luke used on the front of the card, Beth knew that the Lord wanted to make sure she received His message. She gave a silent prayer of gratitude.
Luke clicked on the coffee pot and had walked over to where Beth was standing. They were facing each other with no more than a few inches between them. Elizabeth looked up into Luke’s eyes and could see a softening that she had never noticed before. He lifted his hands to hold her face and gave her a long, sweet kiss. She felt her body respond to his and melted into his arms. They clung to each other without saying a word. Beth was finding a newfound appreciation for silence.
After a few minutes they separated and walked to the cupboard to get cups for their coffee. Luke picked the one that used to be his father’s favorite coffee cup. They had a set of four of them and no one used them but Luke. It was his special remembrance of his father, who enjoyed a cup of coffee just as much as Luke did.
Beth took the cup that had been given to her by a friend. She loved how it felt in her hand, the perfect shape and size. It had a few simple flowers on it, nothing elaborate.
Luke filled each cup and they walked into the living room, choosing to sit on the same couch. Beth had taken off her shoes in the mudroom and now tucked her feet up under herself while Luke propped his up on the ottoman in front of the couch. They were each holding their cup, more for comfort than for refreshment. It just felt good.
Luke noticed the card and box still sitting in front of the flowers, “You didn’t take your presents. Let me get them for you.”
He placed his coffee down and walked over to the table. He, too, leaned in to smell the flowers and picked up the card and the box. Walking back to the couch he said to Beth, “I hope you like what I have tried to say. I know you will love what is in the box.”
Beth took the box. It was a small white jewelry box that wasn’t wrapped. Beth was intrigued and looked quizzically at Luke. Upon opening the lid she exclaimed, “You found it! Where did you find it?”
Luke explained to her how he had dropped some laundry and, upon picking it up, spotted the earring in a far corner. “I guess you’ve been right all along. I should be helping out with chores more often!” They both laughed and then Beth took the card from him.
Luke had only glued down a small area of the envelope so it was easy for her to open. She pulled out the card which had picture of a man and a woman, walking down the beach, holding hands. In the background the sun was setting. The sentiment inside read, You make every day worth living. On the left side of the card Luke had written a Scripture verse and some words in his own hand. Beth needed her glasses and went into the mud room to retrieve them. When she came back to the couch she opened the card and read:
Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, not solid food. Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.
Liz, I took the kids to church during your absence and this was the Scripture verse that was read. I felt it was so appropriate for our marriage that I wanted to share it with you. I needed to share it with you. I love you and believe that, while you are frustrated with how things are, they are really just at a mature place, as St. Paul would have said. Sure, there aren’t many roller coaster ups and downs like there were in the first years of our marriage, but that’s good! Please, let me convince you and help you see how very, very blessed we really are with our lives. Luke.
Beth put the card on the table, picked up her coffee, turned to Luke and said, “Okay. Convince me.” She meant it with every fiber of her being. She wanted to be convinced that her marriage, her life, was all it should and could be. She wanted something to break the shell of fear and anxiety that had already begun a convincing job of making Beth feel as is she had missed out on life.
She wanted Luke to counter that message with the message that life was really right here, right now, with him, with her children. Every adjective that had been thrown her way in the past few years needed to be replaced. Could Luke do that? Could he replace ‘boring’ and ‘failed’ and ‘frustrating’ and ‘unfulfilled’ with any words, any new insights that could appease Elizabeth’s restless spirit?
Luke smiled and said “Okay. I will.”
Their conversation lasted well into the night. At some point they moved from the couch to the table and Luke pulled out some tuna sandwiches that he had already prepared. In croissants, they were professionally placed on a plate of deep green, leafy romaine lettuce. Off to the side were two slices of ripe, juicy tomatoes. Beth looked at the plate and knew that if Luke hadn’t been successful in his computer business, he would have been triumphant as a chef. Exhausted from her trip, she found herself quite relieved at his culinary skills.
They ate and their conversation continued. With every word, Luke conveyed his conviction that their marriage was the very thing that St. Paul chided the early believers about in Hebrews. Luke explained that the early believers were floundering and needed to be bolstered. They were weary. Not from what was happening on the outside of their faith, but from what was happening from within. There were many demands made on them as Christians, followers of Christ. Those demands were taking a toll and St. Paul sent them his encouragement.
As Luke continued he drew the comparisons to their marriage. Marriage, the institution and the daily reality of it, was demanding. It could take its toll, especially with children and jobs and dreams that did not materialize. This was how the early Christians felt. They were waiting for their Messiah to return and were losing hope. But St. Paul wanted them to be reenergized about their calling and that was what Luke wanted of Liz; to be re-energized about their marital vows. Luke shared with Liz his prayers that her trip had given her time to re-energize herself and her faith, to allow their marriage to move forward in a positive way.
There would be no fanfare, there would be no Hollywood ending. Luke laughingly told Liz he would gladly take her to a beach so she could run into his arms, but that wasn’t what marriage was really all about.
As Luke talked, Liz felt her heart pound with understanding and hope. She knew he was right and felt the truth of his words seep into her soul.
“We’ve been together more than two decades Liz! We’ve had four children together, built a home, and built a business. We’ve been through unemployment, health crises, deaths in our extended families. We’ve built snowmen with the kids, nursed them through heart aches and stomach aches, and have been to the principal’s office on more than one occasion! Our Christmas tree is covered with ornaments made with their precious little hands and our walls are covered with their pictures. Liz! That is better than anything anyone could ever dream up. And the best is yet to come. Let’s face the future together.”
Luke had three of the family photo albums out and they leafed through the pictures, amazed at the beauty of their children and how fast they had grown. Liz did not know that she was crying until Luke handed her a tissue. She wiped her eyes and looked at Luke. He was right and she knew he was right. The feelings she had sitting next to him on the couch were more powerful than anything she could read about in a book or see on television. These were real feelings based upon a life they had built together.
Luke continued, “Liz, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to give up on your dreams. I have dreams, too. But I’m saying that the unfulfilled dreams can’t be a catalyst for making changes that you will regret. Think about it, if you could fill some of your most ardent dreams but not have your family, would you be okay?”
Liz shook her head. She was stuck on Luke’s comments that he had dreams. She had never thought of that and was ashamed of herself. Everyone had dreams. She remembered her grandmother sharing her dreams about traveling and dancing and doing different things. Although those things never came true for her grandmother, she knew that her grandmother had no regrets. One dream, one hope, became replaced by another experience, another reality.
Luke could see that Liz was exhausted and suggested that she take a shower and climb in bed. He would do dishes and take care of her luggage. She agreed and made her way to the room. Turning on the lights, she saw that their bedroom, too, had a vase of fresh flowers. Surveying the room, Beth was impressed at its overall order. Luke had made sure she came home to a clean, inviting room. She smiled and opened her dresser to retrieve a clean set of pajamas. She walked into her bathroom and closed the door. A sense of peace enveloped her as she took her shower and then dressed. Her head wasn’t on the pillow more than a few seconds before Beth was sound asleep.