Sagrada Família

The plane I boarded in May flew over the dark Atlantic while I slept.  My bags contained all the trappings for a romantic trip abroad:  heels, dresses, a new bikini…and plenty of mommy guilt.  I left the kids at home in good hands, flew into Barcelona alone, caught a taxi, took an elevator up to the 8th floor, and knocked on a hotel room door.  The door swung open, and there he was.  “You made it!”

He, my lover, that boy I fell in love with almost 17 years ago, had left days before to tour London and Edinburgh.  And now we were finally together on this much-awaited trip.  I had only slept a bit on the plane that night, but I was still anxious to hit the road and see Barcelona.  We were only in town for a few days before we would leave for the island of Mallorca so we had prioritized what we wanted to see.  I was so excited to experience Antoni Gaudí’s church, La Sagrada Família.

The church remains unfinished, after decades of construction.  Gaudí’s architectural vocabulary is otherworldly, cartoonish, joyful, and modern.  But I wasn’t prepared.

After passing through those massive chiseled doors, I stood transfixed–absolutely arrested.  And then the tears came.

And not just a watery eye but tight mouth, furrowed brow, bury my face crying.

Weeping, because my eyes could not look fast enough.  Turning and turning in one spot with my head uplifted, I could not believe my eyes.  Looking frantically because I knew I would have to eventually leave and continue our day, I desperately tried to file the beauty away.

The beauty, the beauty, the light and beauty.  Then the mommy guilt vanished, and I realized I was meant to be there.

As I stood there among the other tourists and my concerned husband (“Are you okay?”), I reveled in the beauty and yet mourned it.  Actually, I didn’t know what was happening to me.  All I know, it was a moment of man created in the image of God, of God the Creator–of my conception of art and design and beauty and creativity being derivatives of Holy.  Somehow under this stone forest canopy, I felt profound wonder.  And I realized I need more wonder in my life.

I finally regained my composure and resigned myself to the fact that my naked vulnerability would be captured in the background of scores of tourist photos, me crying like a baby.  We made our way to the basement, where I excused myself to a bathroom stall to sob again.  Wonder.  I was reminded of a quote from Donald Miller I had read on my friend Erin’s blog:

I want to tell you something about me that you may see as weakness.  I need wonder.  I know that death is coming.  I smell it in the wind, read it in the paper, watch it on television, and see on the faces of the old.  I need wonder to explain what is going to happen to me, what is going to happen to us when this thing is done, when our shift is over and our kids kids are still on the earth listening to their crazy rap music.  I need something mysterious to happen after I die.  I need to be somewhere else after I die, somewhere with God, somewhere that wouldn’t make any sense if it were explained to me right now.

At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know that chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay.  And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.  I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.   Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz.

We collected ourselves and then ventured to Parc Güell and Casa Batlló.  Yes, of course, I love mosaic.

The day resumed as normal for us–silly jokes, hand holding, and vegetable paella…with my tear-stained makeup as evidence of my brush with wonder.


  1. yes, that place is stunning. I was amazed at all the details and rich beauty of it all. I’m glad you could experience it as well.

  2. Wow. I’ve been in cathedrals; I know that the photos can’t really capture it. I can only imagine what this would be like in person! On the surface, I love this. I appreciate this style. But I think that something is coming through, like Mozart’s music being the closest thing to the music of the angels. In my experience, when we have a feeling that is so deep, that we feel in our hearts, physically and emotionally, it is because someone has tapped into a divine truth and translated it for us.

  3. angela.
    your post is beautiful. it made me cry.
    How is it that raw beauty, made my mere man, can remind us that we are in His image, and that this beauty is only a fraction of what will be?
    Beauty touches me in that place of wonder.

    I have told my hubby that that is one thing I cannot bear to see my children lose: their wonder. May they EVER squeal with joy when they see His handy-work amidst the mundane.

    long ago I wrote a post about when I bawled my eyes out in a church in Mexico, on that poor ol’ neglected blog I told you about:

    I will never forget that day.

    oh, angela. I must see this Sagrada Familia. The utmost for His Highest.

  4. A- May I repost this to Graceroots Movement? The quote about wonder is perfect. Let me know. -A

  5. What gorgeous pictures of a brilliant architectural gem! Gaudi’s work is what sold me on visiting Barcelona one of our trips to Spain. Now, I just have to find the time when I’m over there to do other things than spending time with family.

  6. WOW! i’ve never read blue like jazz, but that quote made me want to. that place is insaaaaanely breathtaking.

  7. So glad to see the pictures again. Especially with your narrating ringing in my ears. Hope I can go see it myself someday. Until then I will feast my eyes here!

  8. you are such a wonderful person. i almost always cry when i’m surrounded by with amazing beauty. and by cry i mean LIKE A BABY.

    enjoy your trip with your sweet hubby and when you have a minute will you in with my blog? i started a new art curriculum with my littles and would love to hear your thoughts, oh wise one. 🙂

  9. Oh, dear Angela, thank you for this!

    What light. What movement. I totally get the crying–I’ve done the *exact* same thing in similar situations.

    This morning, reading your post before I even had my coffee, it brought tears of recognition to my eyes. The crux of it is this: “I realized I need more wonder in my life.” That’s what made me cry–because *hours* before I’d sat on my sofa with my journal, after the household was asleep, puzzling over why I felt so dry and stale. Even my ‘creative’ endeavors had become more a matter of function and duty rather than pleasure and beauty. I was–am–rethinking some things, and your post just drove that nail all the way into the wall. So as I continue this rethinking, this hard prioritizing, it just seemed perfectly timed and delivered.

    And we ditched our (lame) plans for the day and headed into the city to the art museum. Less than an hour there refreshed my soul; we hadn’t been since my baby was a week old. I needed it–the change of scenery, the fresh perspective.

    Thank you so much. What a sweet gift.

  10. Wow, what gorgeous pictures. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see it in person. I’ve never heard of this place and now I’m off to Google it. Thank you for giving me my “something new” today.

  11. Hi Angela, I just found your website through Darlene of Fieldstone Hill. I am weeping tears of joy. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to live vicariously through your photos just now. Our family = Gaudi freaks. I did a post on him not too long ago (our family in NJ hosted an exchange student from Spain and we fell in love with her – especially my youngest son). I don’t know the ages of your children, but your local library most likely has one of our fave books on Gaudi – the title is “Building on Nature ~ The Life of Antoni Gaudi”, and it is sublime. Like your post. My daughter told me she would rather go to Barcelona and see Gaudi’s buildings than DisneyWorld. I will be showing her your photos tomorrow morning before school. Thank you, thank you.

    xoxo michele

  12. I had a long comment written last night but then my computer wigged.

    Anyway this was strong, moving and just beautiful. Your writing made me feel like I was right there. I am happy that you were able to experience all of this.

    I saved this quote and hope to use it soon.

    xx – CB

  13. thank you so much for these photos, your thoughts. Still need to chew on this and ponder. I hadn’t read that Donald Miller quote before – it says something I didn’t know I was trying to say, but YES. thank you.

  14. Renae says:

    I love those moments when the fullness of the God fills our soul and permeates our entire body. The understanding of His creation and of Him. What a wonderful moment, one that will be with you always. Lovely trip.

  15. U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E! Wow. That took me about 4 minutes to spell…

  16. Peggy says:

    Wow! Such awesome talent! It does take your breath away.

  17. Wow…just, wow.

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