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Finding ‘Me Time’ in quiet chapel

My friend’s little girl, Lucy, 12, was doing homework in my living room, while Fuzzy the cat meowed loudly for attention.

“Let’s go to the grocery store,” I suggested, “and get your family some fixings for supper.”

Her mom’s in the hospital prior to heart surgery, and I’d signed up to provide the family a meal that evening.

We hurried into the car, only to discover traffic was backed up on Scott Boulevard, so we couldn’t turn left.

I quickly recalculated and headed into downtown Decatur, where traffic was light, but as we approached the grocery store, we saw fire trucks, police cars with lights flashing — and road blocks.

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Later, I discovered there’d been a gas leak and the streets were closed for hours.

By the time we returned home — without groceries — I was frazzled. After consulting an online menu, I ordered restaurant meals for delivery to the family that evening.

Then I answered clusters of texts and emails that had accumulated during our short, fruitless journey.

Suddenly, the words from a hymn popped into my mind: “I came to Jesus as I was, all weary, worn and sad.”

Yearning for a respite from traffic and technology, I asked Lucy, “You want to go to Mass?”

She nodded eagerly, and soon we were back in the car, taking a route that led us easily to church.

So much is written about “me time,” especially for people who juggle jobs and family.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Parents’ Secret Ways to Get Alone Time,” the mother of a 4-year-old daughter admitted savoring a three-hour daily, round-trip commute because “this is the only ‘me time’ I get.”

Another mother finds solace in daydreaming while she washes dishes after her toddlers go to bed. And one busy father schedules three dental cleanings yearly, because no one interrupts him when he’s hunkered down in the dentist’s chair.

I’m glad these tactics work for them, although I can’t imagine finding peace on the highway or at the dentist’s. For me, nothing is more calming than Mass and silent prayer, which I try to schedule daily.

I admit it’s hard to get off the hamster wheel of life and sit in the chapel, doing nothing that’s outwardly productive. But so much happens beneath the surface, when we spend some “me time” in prayer.

And I was surprised at how smoothly Lucy settled into the silence without fidgeting.

“Our house is so noisy,” she confided later — which makes sense, given that she has two teenage brothers.

I sank into the silence like a swimmer dipping into a circle of smooth water. Here there is no texting, no tweeting, no Facebook posts, no emails — and no roadblocks.

I recalled the time, years ago, when two houses were being torn down on my block — and the noise seemed unbearable.

Then came the moment during silent prayer when I realized this suffering was a glimpse of Christ’s cross — and complaining was futile.

In this chapel, months after my husband Jef’s death, I heard him ask, “Can you be happy for me?”

Because he was, after all, at peace, and it was time I rejoiced for him.

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks,” said Mother Teresa, who spent at least an hour daily in quiet, meditative prayer.

Lucy sat silently, chin cupped in hands, drinking in the crucifix, the candles, the flowers. She knelt down to pray and closed her eyes, and I knew she was talking to God about her mom’s operation.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

This promise is fulfilled in this peaceful place of prayer, where the only tweets come from birds and the Bible is our text.

And here, people who are weary, worn and sad can enjoy “me time” that truly refreshes the soul.

Lorraine has written eight books, most recently a church mystery, “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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