Finding God in Vegas

Welcome To Las Vegas, Las, Vegas, Sign, Las VegasI am almost settling into my new role as mommy. I find myself still uncomfortable, not yet there but joyous at the days that await me. As preparation, God sent me to Las Vegas. Shocking as it may seem, Vegas seems to be the very place that has given me the foretaste of the promised land. Vegas is the place where my sister is, where I left my heart.

It has been nearly a year and a half since I have seen her. I thought all was hopeless until my parents swooped in like God’s angels and announced we were all going to Vegas to be together. I wasn’t sure what to make of God in that moment.

Sometimes God grants the prayers that you never pray.

In a city known for its sinfulness, I was staring at God’s love. I didn’t know what awaited me there, but I knew that He was there already, preparing the way for me. You see, we limit God to people and places when in fact God cannot be limited. We don’t allow Him His fullness, His space, His Holy Spirit to work wherever we are. I knew I wasn’t leaving God behind, I was finding God in Vegas.

It didn’t take long to see why God had me here. My sister, who decided to leave her career behind as a professional dancer, opened up her home to all of us . It was soothing and comfortable to be able to roll my bags and three children into my sister’s home- no elevators or stuffy hotel rooms, no overpriced food or the hustle bustle of a hotel lobby. She had the coffee machine ready, blankets and gifts for the kids, and my kids were reunited with their cousin. And I could breathe.

But it was seeing my sister’s face that changed me. She was relaxed and smiling, hospitable, not worried about messes. The only remnant I saw of her career was the picture of the cast of her last show framed in the garage.

And as I woke up in the morning and looked out to the mountains, I too could breathe. And God’s gentle voice came to me in the stillness of the hot desert air,

“You must learn to change your perspective, change your view”

The words were so quiet, but real. My sister had made a life out here knowing nobody. She left everything at the very height of her career to have my niece, to have a family. And motherhood was looking so very radiant on her.

I knew God had to bring me out here to give me a foretaste in accepting my vocation. I had to see the mountains, had to know there was life outside of lawyering, had to see my sister’s face, had to change my perspective.

Set Limits Around the Mountain to Make it Sacred

Dawn, Sun, Mountain, Landscape

Our lives are moving before us as we fail to catch up. The world is fast, but God is slow. Silence is not found in a place, but deep inside our souls. Silence, speak less. The rule of Saint Benedict #21, “To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” Keeping silence in the light of community. Your home is that community. And it is not silence as in the traditional notion of silence, this silence is a peace. This silence is holy. This silence as young mothers is the inner core of what we hope to achieve and pass onto our children.

I hear from many mothers whose lives are in tumult. They want peace. Life is chaotic, children are chaotic, don’t let anyone fool you. Our expectations are high but are kids are four. Their conscience is barely formed… We are shaping clay, God is the artist through our hands.

And this is hard. It is harder when we look to attain Christ’s holiness. Secular happiness is easy to achieve- a cheap bottle of wine and a night of debauchery. It will make you happy, but it will not sustain you. Why does the world tell us as mothers to run away from our vocations? We don’t need a break from our children, we need a break with God.

The focus of our lives has to be the mountain, we must surround it. From morning until evening, our lives could use some assistance from the likes of Saint Benedict. A focus on God. Rising early to study Him. Spending the day surrounded by Him. Treating our families as the monastery community and not trying to live in spiritual isolation, that is not holiness. 

Place the beautiful boundaries around your time with God. Don’t expect your children to get up late, you get up early. Sacrifice is hard but needed. We grow in beauty and holiness when we set limits around the mountain to make it sacred, just ask Moses.

If we cherish something, we protect it. We stay on guard. We surround it. If we keep our mountain sacred, we keep the center of our life, Jesus sacred. How else will we protect our time with him if we ourselves have no boundaries?

For Mother’s Day, give yourself the gift of discipline. Set yourself a routine. Rise early and protect your space with Him so that you can live in community with your family and not in isolation. Buy yourself a bible if you don’t have one. Head for the mountain.

Exodus 19:23

But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot go up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying: Set limits around the mountain to make it sacred.”

The Grave of the Unknown climber

“Does the master break down doors to enter his own home?” Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe

“The Lord remembered her,” (speaking of Hannah, 1 Samuel 1, Old Testament)

The Matterhorn in all of its splendor

Sometimes, all we want to feel is that we matter. Our work goes unnoticed, our family forgets us and our friends sometimes expect more of us than what we are able to give. Next to happiness and satisfaction, what I have found most in my journey is that people are looking to be acknowledged, and loved. That may actually be a part of happiness and/or satisfaction but generally I find it separates itself somewhere between Italy and Switzerland.

Sometimes as Christians, we are guilty of misinterpreting the “I must decrease and he must increase, “it’s all Him and none of me,” or “I must totally empty myself of myself” way of thinking. Yes these things are all true, even for people who are not Christians but subscribe to a servant’s lifestyle of doing things for others, but sometimes we forget about ourselves in the process. There is a fine line between the two, not so much for the desire of accolades but for the desire to be acknowledged and loved for what and who we are.

I pondered this thought as I stared at a picture on the wall of the Matterhorn, a mountain of the Alps bordering Switzerland and Italy. Oftentimes referred to as “The Mountain of Mountains,” many have tried but miserably failed to climb to its summit. There is in fact a cemetery somewhere near the bottom which serves as a constant reminder of those that have tried the climb and lost their lives. The cemetery features memorial plaques and the graves of approximately fifty climbers that have made the attempt. The “Grave of the Unknown Climber” is also located in the Mountaineers’ Cemetery which serves as a memorial  to the more than 500 deaths which have taken place on the Matterhorn since 1865 as well as the missing and dead, who could not be found or completely removed after their fall. 

I don’t know what makes a man feel the need to risk his live to conquer the summit in a physical sense, but I can imagine that many of us understand it in our spiritual beings. We desire the accomplishment, the journey and hope that someone, anyone may be watching.

In our basic humanness is our need to be loved. Without divine love, we search for that in other places. Most of us operate in the temporal, from this to that. But eventually, like most of the climbers of the Matterhorn, we ourselves aren’t able to sustain the journey on our own. 

It’s ok to feel the need to want to be loved and acknowledged. God is present and real in the human beings he created, and He doesn’t make you climb a mountain to find them. For some, yes the mountain is necessary, the ascension is a tool to grab a hold of something bigger.  But as Teilhard de Chardin says in his book Hymn of the Universe,

“I thank you, my God, for having in a thousand different ways led my eyes to discover the immense simplicity of things.”

You may feel like you’re climbing a mountain in order to gain the love that you need. It may not manifest itself in the physical journey, but it certainly does in the emotional one. We are part of the “look at me!” culture and all get swept away by the need for acknowledgment. But when our souls are truly married to the creator of the universe, we are able to find that acknowledgement in Him alone.

If you’re climbing the mountain, it may be time to find a sherpa. 

Click on the Mountaineer’s Cemetery for more information about the Matterhorn