Twelve hours

My wonderful husband gave me a gift, but I was a little afraid to use it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make the most of it. Could I trust myself not to squander it?
I made a request. And he granted it. “Could I have just one day alone?”
Of course, he said, “yes.” But then the thought of it started making me nervous. What would I do? Where would I go? How would I use my time?
It’s really been a long time since I have had 12 hours to myself. I’ve gone out for the afternoon to run errands. Or gone to coffee or dinner with friends. I’ve even gone away for long weekends on retreats. But this was different.
I had a whole day. by myself. to do what I wanted to do.
But what DID I want to do?
Sleep? Read a book? Watch a movie? Go to a spa? Shop? Talk to a friend? Those would all be refreshing ways to spend 12 hours.
When you are almost always surrounded by other people, it can be a little bit scary to think of being alone. My gut instinct was to fill the time by spending it with a friend or letting my mind go blank by watching a movie. But I knew this desperate feeling that I needed to be alone would not be quenched if I filled it with other people. I didn’t want to fill my mind with something. I wanted to empty it. I needed to clear my head. I needed some space to dream and plan. I needed quiet. I needed to be able to listen to what God was saying. I needed to sit still and let my thoughts flow.
I was feeling dried up and worn out. I needed some inspiration.
And one thing is for sure. I needed some chocolate.
First I wanted to soak in some beauty. I went to a forest preserve that I’ve wanted to visit all summer.
It was so quiet there.

And as much as I would have loved to line up my children in a neat row and force them to smile in front of the beautiful scenery, I enjoyed unrushed moments to sit and stare at a row of trees. Or the contrast of a black door on a yellow building.

Or a stone wall that looked like it had been sitting there for 100 years.

There was something about a cemetery for horses and dogs that stirred my heart.

Next, I went to a butterfly house. Why? I just needed to be in a room full of flowers and fluttering butterfly wings. It felt good to sit on a bench and look at a butterfly sitting on my shoulder. My peace was jolted by two moms and their three children. They were continually yelling at their little ones to watch their step so they didn’t accidentally stomp on a butterfly. I appreciated their concern, but after a while, I had to get out of that big butterfly room with the freaked out moms. There must be some rule against scolding your children in the butterfly house. For the first time, in a long time, my role had been reversed. I wasn’t the mom.

After a few stops for coffee and lunch, shopping was next on my agenda. I started at a nice outdoor mall with lots of my favorite stores. From there, I made my way to an adorable downtown where beautiful old homes have been converted into unique shops and restaurants.

I sat in a big chair eating chocolate peanut butter cookie dough ice cream in a waffle cone, reading books and sorting through all that was swirling around in my head. It took me until late in the afternoon before I could finally start to think. Really think. I needed to fill in my yearly staff review. I have been dreading it for weeks because the questions are just so hard.
How are things in my spiritual life? My family life? My personal life? Did I accomplish my goals from last year? What are my goals for this year?
To answer those questions honestly took some time. Prayer. And some deep reflection.
When time was up, I simultaneously wanted it to last another day and wanted it to be over. I was ready to go home. To get back to a world where people needed me. And at the same time, I was already starting to plan my next 12 hours.
Click the thumbnails to view some of the stops on my day alone. And then tell me… What would you do if you had 12 hours to yourself?


  1. 12 hours sounds fabulous through your eyes. I am glad the day was just what you needed. And btw- you and that camera!! Fabulous photos, well done!

  2. Great photos! I am about three years overdue in getting a day alone to get my kids’ transcript together…
    Where are the lovely photos from? Cantigny?

  3. Dear Loved One,
    At first I thought your husband gave you a yellow bike and you were not sure how to use it!
    Great photos.

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