On Friday, we packed up the family and headed north on the PCH to Malibu. Doug had a group of DMin students at a retreat center there, and he needed to meet with them one last time before they left. In spite of a lot of traffic it was a beautiful drive, and it was a delight to meet this group of students. They had of course known of the events in our family these past weeks, and they were generous with prayers and kindnesses.
It was also my first real taste of life with three: we came into the classroom with Aaron and Elijah in the stroller and Mercy on foot. Within minutes of Doug standing up front and starting to speak, Elijah demanded a feeding, Mercy spilled most of a large bag of pretzels on the floor and Aaron started throwing his body forward as hard as he could demanding to be let out of the double stroller. I realized how challenging any public outing or appearance really will be from this point on.
After Doug was done, we had a chance to walk around a bit at the retreat center. Perched above the Malibu coastline, the property boasts exquisite views. The monastery is surrounded by luxury homes scattered across the hillsides below. We parked our van in a spot looking down on Mel Gibson’s house. His home seemed almost modest compared to some of the other compounds visible from the property, and it felt a bit ironic to be surrounded by statues of St. Francis (it is a Franciscan monastery), one who renounced material possessions.
The other thing that struck me was the people we saw on the grounds of the retreat center. Every person I saw was hip and beautiful. Lots of black, big sunglasses, jewelry, expensive shoes and handbags, and tattoos. Now, I have done spiritual retreats before. When I lived in Chicago there was this little Catholic retreat center I used to visit, and while I wouldn’t say that the people I would see there were homely, it was a far cry from this. L.A. is such an image place, and I sometimes forget that living where I live. So it was striking for me to see the beautiful people engaging God in this place.