Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lent may as well be here...

For me, it is here. My Spirit is already hearing the call to surrender. There are so many things we can give up each year, so many things we can add, so many things we can surrender. I still feel so firm in the case that Fr. Baker made a few years back when I heard him speak at a Lent by Candlelight. The many things God asks of us are so much better than anything we could ever choose for ourself. A hard thing to swallow, but I am finding very true in my day to day life in this moment. I would prefer a thousand fasts over some of the things God is asking of me. The question remains, when next week comes, how will I really give in with my whole heart and joyfully accept these crosses. I just don't know.

We had a good friend, who is consecrated (taking promises of chastity, poverty and obedience), for dinner last week and as we told her about the new lake house Patrick's parents built, we joked about the state of shock Uncle Fr. Eddie is always in when he goes from living in the house of priests to spending a week with his two brothers, sister, their spouses and 11 children combined! He jokes about how he thinks maybe his vocation is "easier" in a sense. I know there are many similarities, but I am not sure easier is the right word when it comes to differences. Anyway, our friend, Lucy, listened and then exclaimed, "OH, absolutely, you have things tougher. You have absolutely no control over anything with these little ones!" (Now, I am still not sure I agree on our vocation being "tougher") but I have been reflecting on the part where we have no control. This is because this is where I struggle most.

Control. Isn't this part of the sin of pride? I'm no theologian, but I think that when we just can't have it all our way, right now, how we want it... and we are totally hating being out of control, that would be our pride?

Here is where I am. I do not want someone to spill their food on the floor after I just swept. I do not want Adam to empty the toilet water with a cup that he found in the bathroom after I just cleaned the toilet. I do not want someone to ask me three times in a row for a snack when I clearly have gloves on and am washing dishes. I do not want to change the 4th poop diaper in 3 hours, especially when I can not easily get down and up off the floor to do it because I am so big. I do not want this crazy heartburn or aching legs or numb back. I certainly don't like getting up to potty 5 times a night. And in the middle of waking and falling back asleep, I certainly do not prefer to be awoken by the child who wets the bed or needs a drink of water. I don't want Adam to pull the bags of snacks out of the drawer and dump them on the ground or bite Anthony and make him cry, so I have to punish him. I just don't want to. I just want the control. It is all so overwhelming and exhausting. All of it.

It is a day in and day out process of learning how to be patient, how to not yell, how to continue to do so many jobs that no one will ever see, and pick up so many messes for the 1st, 2nd, 5th time and still feel I have gotten no where. It is a process of begging for the grace of God to make it through. It is every stay at home mom's cross. When they are so little, we have very little control and hard as we try and as orderly as we push to make it. They are very unpredictable in their moods, their needs and their ages.

It is at this point as I pray that I remember doing something very difficult many years ago. It was a long journey of taking all the sentiment out and just continue with the doing because it was good and right and the grace and or the presence of God may have just not been there in obvious ways to me. My spiritual guide told me, "You wake up, you do these things you're called to (fill in the blank for yourself), and every time, with every small thing, you whisper, 'Lord, I do this because I love you.'"

It is looking at the face of Jesus as He hangs on the cross and knowing that He knows what it feels like to be out of control. He knows what it's like to hand His whole self over to the Lord and trust that He will do what is right with the little we feel we have to offer.... although Jesus loved to the very end.. and we are still so imperfect in ours. So, this is where I find myself. Trying to remember that it has nothing to do with me, but has everything to do with Him.

So, now I start practicing my whisper... "Lord, I do this and everything because I love you." And I remember that He first loved me.

Lent, we are starting to be ready for you. Bring on the Confessional graces.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What does is take?!

I hasn't mattered how hard the pregnancy has been or the trials involved or the pains and sickness that have come; each life has really been so exciting and such an adventure to welcome into this family. It really never gets old. And after being the mom of this particular family for the time I have been, and after being the wife of this particular man for the time I have been, I am even more thrilled to introduce this sweet baby girl to 3 amazing boys and one amazing man. I feel as if I am the luckiest girl in the world already, so I can only imagine how one day she will feel to have these guys in her life.

On that note, I have been reflecting a lot lately on how lucky she will be to have Patrick as a dad. The world has lost focus on training up good men, holy men, and men who are present in the life of their family. I can't explain the peace a mother has to know her child's father is going to be there. I have not experienced the "loss" of a father through neglect or infidelity, or even death, but I have closely seen the way it affects a daughter... and for those daughters, I pray every day.

So, what does it take? A lot of people say that you will marry someone like your father. I certainly did not think that this was the case the day I got married, but I assure you, it is. Let me tell you the qualities and virtues I have experienced that I think are neccesary and priceless... and ones that I had, and my daughter will also have in a father.

One: fidelity. Just recently my mother in law actually said to me, "Your dad just really really loves your mom." And it's true. He does. He has been there, he has been faithful and he has done everything, in my eyes, to please her. From small trips to the grocery store, to taking care of cars, to buying her flowers, to being by her side as she suffered through her OCD. I see it and I hear it in his voice and I always have. He will never leave her. I know for certain there were times when they contemplated how they would be married another day... but, they persevered, side by side. Just as Patrick's promise to me stands true day in and day out, through tired eyes, and endless chores... he always places me first. It is a grace I am learning to never take for granted.

Two: availability. They are always available, even when they are not really. No matter how inconvenient, no matter how tired, no matter how out of the way it is, they are there. Presence when you need it. I still remember when I was teaching and living at home and I had left a huge pile of graded papers next to my bed. I called home in a panic because I needed them... without flinching, my dad said, "I will be right there with them." To have a man be free to help you... and willing without complaint. That's what it takes.

Three: generosity. A heart that gives. Where time is not counted. Where eyes are not rolled. My dad has always tried to help people find jobs. I have seen it more times than I can count. My dad has always had a job... thankfully, but I have really never seen him exhausted from helping another look for work. It is a gift of his because he is SO social and so let's say "well known" that he is able to help people with this often. Patrick is the same way, in that, he sees a need and doesn't hesitate. A generous heart is contagious and to me, the first sign of love.

Four: a sense of humor. My dad is one of the funniest people you will ever meet... obnoxious, yes; loud, yes, but so hilarious. My life has been different because laughter and light heartedness has been a part of it. Although I am not like him in the volume, I know that I am good at telling stories because of him and I know that I like to entertain people because he has always been so good at it. In the same way, Patrick loves to laugh, loves to make me laugh, loves to dance and really, just likes to have a good time... all the time. I also love that he thinks I am hilarious... no really, he does. He thinks I am so funny... so whether it is true or not, I love that someone else lets me make them laugh ;)

Certainly these four characteristics do not make a perfect man, but I think certainly make a man who has what it takes to be a good father. And I think the attentiveness every woman and young girl needs could be found through each of them. There are not many men I have met with all of these, so I find myself in a unique and blessed situation... that I feel has formed me and continues to allow me to be a woman with the dignity I deserve.

On that note, I will end by saying I am thrilled to bring my baby girl home to Patrick... and a lavender room. And Dad, thanks for painting my baby room lavender before mom and you even knew I was a girl!

Praying for daughters and dads everywhere today.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A grateful heart

Something else I would like to teach my kids. I know I have not been perfect in this area and I remember clearly all the times I have not... and if I haven't, I wish I had. I hope that I can teach them the importance of saying thank you... and not just saying it, but meaning it, and having a sincere grateful heart.

The more I get to know Jesus, the more I understand that I deserve nothing. Really. Truly. All I have is a gift. A real true gift. None of it is owed to me. And certainly none of it is deserved. But, a free gift of love and gratitude is priceless, since this is the case.

I was taught to always say thank you. And to always mean it. My parents would wait until I bashfully walked up to both parents who hosted a friend's birthday party to say "thank you" and they made sure I looked any person in the eye who was checking us out at a store and say "thank you" and if I received a gift, we would sit and write out cards to say "thank you."

I am reminded now in my vocation as wife and mother that the people I need to show gratitude the most is my husband, because that in return teaches my children. We are always vocally thanking one another to show them how. I have a close friend who has a great habit of teaching her daughter to thank her daddy for working so hard at work for them. I think it makes a huge impact on those little hearts.

I still could cry because I lost the last page of my wedding gift list and around 20 of the 350 people who gave me wedding gifts did not receive a thank you. It will bother me for a lifetime...beside the point, really, but the nature of me has issue with it.

All this being said, I want to make sure my children know the importance of gratitude. Of sincere gratitude.

Recently we have had a few students withdraw from our school. I have to admit that I am deeply affected when they leave, although I know it is God's will and plan for each family to decide a way of education that is best for them... I still have put so much energy, so many hours of phone calls, so much time away from my family... and I desire so badly for a phone call, a personal thank you from them when they leave. I don't deserve it. It is a selfish desire on my part to think I deserve such a thank you because I have put so much effort into the school. But, then I remember the pure and simple and human side of us... gratitude effects others. It is a sign of love. It is a free gift given. And the human heart appreciates and experiences the love of God through it. Through my personal experience, I see how important it is from the other side.

I am sorry today for the times I have failed in this. In not taking the time to make that personal call, or write that much deserved letter. I feel as if another lost out of the chance to experience the love of God. So, today I am reminded to be a teacher of this by being a doer of this.

I hope this can be a reminder for you as well. Come, Holy Spirit, and remind us when a thank you is due so people can see the face of Christ in us.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

First the man

As I grow older... because, you know, I am so old... I am beginning to realize something of great value and importance. I have run into so many people who are so highly esteemed as "holy" or "very religious" or "very conservative" or something along those lines... but it has occurred to me that they are many times missing something very essential, which is just the bare bones of being a human being, knowing how to react, how to deal, and how to speak with and treat others.

It has been said, "First the man, then the saint" and I am finding this more and more true. You must first work so hard on your human character before really achieving the many virtues you would like. (although, yes they are tied together in many ways). I am looking first to myself for this... where am I lacking? I cannot in fact teach my children how to be patient, humble, loving or kind without some basic qualities sewn in them. They need to know how to have tact, how to use the right words to respond, how to react to when they are angry, how to avoid being rude, how to shake someone's hand or look someone in the eye when speaking to them.

Deeper virtue comes later. It is first simple and very human. Being a saint, yes, a goal, but being able to attract people to yourself so they may find Christ there... very human.