Friday, September 6, 2013

Scriptural Reflection: Eephesians 2:10

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  When I read this verse, I hear the following: God is perfect and all that He does is perfect, and He DOES NOT make mistakes: that God made me.  Through Christ Jesus, I have been made anew, I have been born again, JUST SO THAT I CAN do good works; works that were, like me, prepared by God.  This verse is not talking about some vague service project that I might come across at some point in my life, it is talking about my day-to-day life, the mundane tasks that are always around me. The life that I am living now, This is God's plan for my life, this is my vocation (vocation: a work for which I am specifically trained, called, or qualified).  Am I accepting of this or do I fight it? Am I doing my best or am I just doing "enough"? I need to do This work, God's work, to the best of my ability. He has created me and renewed me so that I can (have the ability to) fulfill the plans that He made for me. Jeremiah 29:11 states, "'For I know the plans that I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  My work, planned by God, can be sanctified and made Holy through Him. I must conform my will to His and focus upon the work that He has given me to do.  Always remember, "If God gives you the burden, God will give you the strength." (The Forge, Josemaria Escriva, 325)

"Ask yourself many times during the day: Am I doing at this moment what I ought to be doing?" (The Way, Josemaria Escriva, 772)

"It only takes a second. Before starting anything ask yourself: What does God want of me in thi? Then, with divine grace, do it!" (ibid.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Treat it Like a Job

We say that homemaking is the hardest job that a person will ever do, and this is true.  However, something a friend of mine said to me the other day got me thinking, do I actually treat it like a job?  What I mean by this is, do I always work as hard/put in as much effort, as I would at a “normal” job?  I am not arguing that homemaking is more tiring than any other job I have ever done, or that I put in more hours; what I am questioning is whether or not I am as efficient as I would be if I my work was being critiqued?

   One of the best/worst parts of being a homemaker is that you are your own boss.  This is a good thing in that no one is judging your work or looking over your shoulder.  At the same time, it is bad because no one is judging your work or looking over your shoulder.  In all jobs we always have a “to do” list, tasks that we have to accomplish.  In a “normal” job, there are consequences for not accomplishing tasks, perhaps eventually being fired.  At home, there are times where only we know what the consequences might be.  For example, I need to mop my floor.  I plan on doing this today but I could leave it until tomorrow because it really doesn’t affect anyone.  So, it is entirely up to me how often I mop that floor because really, what harm is there in waiting? But yet, mopping is still a task of my job just like proofreading books, organizing files, or sending out invitations used to be tasks of my old job. My getting the floor mopped is just as important as it used to be for me to keep track of RSVPs to lectures.  The difference is, here no one is watching to make certain I actually do my work.

    Once I started to think about homemaking this way, I began to ask myself some questions.  Do I get up and dressed by a specific time? (I’m always up, but we all know it might take a little bit for us to get ready for the day.) Do I work hard all day? Do I waste a lot of time? Am I efficient in my work, doing the best job that I can, or, on the days where I am in a funk, am I just downright lazy?  Do I use my time wisely?  So I started to address these questions and here are some changes that I made.

·         Each morning, be up and dressed (a little bit of make-up on, hair at least brushed and pulled back—I’m not talking about getting up and fully doing my face and curling my hair like I would if I were headed out for the day—just look nice enough that I wouldn’t care if someone came to the door and saw me like that.) by a specific time—8:00am, and ready for the day.  Up to this time, I can be in my robe, drinking my coffee, saying prayers, reading a book, being with kids, whatever, but at 8:00, my work day begins and I need to be ready for it.  I also found that once I started doing this, it was easier to get going and do what needs to be done.

·         Make breakfast for everyone and sit down as a family to eat it.  This is also a nice opportunity for us to be together as a family before Patrick goes to work.  By about 8:45, we are done with breakfast, the dishes are done, and we are waving goodbye to Patrick as he heads off to work.  

I don’t have my day scheduled after this, but I do have my “to do” list.  In the mornings I do school with Sebastian (this takes about one hour) and I work on tasks around the house. (i.e. laundry, put dinner in the crock-pot—if necessary—dust, vacuum, etc.)   Interestingly enough, as soon as I started doing these things, I found that I had a lot more time to spend with the kids.

      In general, from 8 till 7:30 (when kids are in bed) I try to work hard throughout the day, the same as I would if I were being paid for my time.  I take one hour during naps as my “lunch break” and I relax and get some energy back for the rest of the afternoon.  After kids naps we go outside for a walk or to play, and when we come back I finish/start dinner.  After dinner, I do the dishes while Patrick plays with the kids and gets them ready for bed (we have the deal that he takes care of the kids while I do dishes as it is the only time all day that he gets to spend with them.) and once they are in bed, I relax.  

    I am not saying that to treat this like a job I should work, work, work all of the time.  I just mean that I need to use my time wisely and not waste it.  If I were sitting in my old office, I wouldn’t be checking my email, browsing the internet, or looking at facebook when I should be working. Just because we don’t have a boss watching over us or because we don’t receive a paycheck, doesn’t mean we should give this job less time and attention than we would a job outside of the home.  In fact, we should give it more because this is our own business and our efforts are the ones that determine whether or not it thrives. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

“Make the lives of others more pleasant.”

For as long as you are convinced that others should always live as if they depended on you, and for as long as you delay the decision to serve (to hide yourself and disappear from view), your dealings with your brothers, colleagues and friends will be a constant source of disappointment, ill-humour and pride. (Furrow, 712)

When you find it difficult to do a favor or a service for someone, remember that he or she is a child of God, and that the Lord has asked us to love one another. Furthermore, go deeper into that evangelical precept every day; do not remain on the surface. Draw the right conclusions from it -- it is quite easy to do so. Then adapt your conduct, on every occasion, to those requirements. (Furrow, 727)

May you know how to put yourself out cheerfully, discreetly and generously each day, serving others and making their lives more pleasant. To act in this way is to practice the true charity of Jesus Christ. (The Forge, 150)

If we let Christ reign in our soul, we will not become authoritarian. Rather we will serve everyone. How I like that word: service! To serve my king and, through him, all those who have been redeemed by his blood. I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved.

And how will we show him to souls? By our example. Through our voluntary service of Jesus Christ, we should be witnesses to him in all our activities, for he is the Lord of our entire lives, the only and ultimate reason for our existence. Then, once we have given this witness of service, we will be able to give instruction by our word. That was how Christ acted. “He began to do and to teach” [1]; he first taught by his action, and then by his divine preaching. (Christ is passing by, 182) 
                                                            (Opus Dei daily message from January 18, 2013)

    When I first read this I felt that it was speaking to me as a homemaker.  The majority of my work is centered upon serving others.  Yet, it is very easy to often forget that fact.  As I go about my daily life, doing the tasks that need to be accomplished, I need to think of those whom I am doing the things for.  As I clean that dreaded toilet, it isn’t just another job that Has to get done.  Rather, I need to remember that I am cleaning it for my husband, for my children, for any person that comes into my home.  Within all of our daily tasks and all of the problems that arise, it is easy to forget that we are serving others.  But we need to remember that we iron those shirts for them, and rather than getting frustrated that we have more shirts to iron, iron them joyfully and well, for we are ironing in service of someone we love. 
     It is important to look outside of ourselves.  Instead of thinking about how much we hate to do something, think about the joy that someone else feels at seeing the thing done.  Early each evening, before Patrick gets home, I try to make everything nice and cozy.  I clean up any mess, light a nice smelly candle, turn on some music, and make dinner so that when he walks into the house after a long day at work, it is peaceful and comfortable.  I want him to always be happy to be home and to feel a sense of relief when he walks in the door.  When I think about my tasks this way, then I am much more joyful about cleaning up that mess or making that dinner because by doing so, I am making life more pleasant for my husband. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tips from a Naturally Untidy Person on How to Keep a Clean House

    I am not a naturally tidy person, though, I do like to have things clean/tidy.  This has always been a bit of a struggle for me since I am not able to fully relax until the house is in order, but I am not the best at keeping it that way.  Thus, I can do one of three things, spend all of my time cleaning, live with it messy, or keep the house clean.  Numbers one and two are not an option, so that means I am stuck with three.  The problem? I am Terrible at keeping things clean/tidy. Have we noticed the problem here?
    As I have mentioned before, I am married to a naturally tidy individual.  A man who likes the home to well-ordered, otherwise it stresses him out and he is not able to relax. 
As the way he feels is not something he can control, I have tried to become cleaner/tidier.  Here are some things that I have learned over the years to help me with this.

1.) Recognize the importance of what you are doing. If we are trying to keep a house clean, we usually have a good reason for doing so—in order to be more hospitable (people feel free to drop by when they want); it makes your husband more comfortable and relaxed when he gets home from work; or you feel less anxious and stressed when the house is neat. All of these are good reasons to keep things in order and reminding yourself” why” you do something can help you actually do it.

2) Set up a routine. You are more likely to accomplish tasks of if do them on the same day each week versus just “at some point.” For example, I know that I vacuum the house every Monday. Some Mondays are busier than others and I may have unexpected tasks pop up. But, no matter what occurs, I will vacuum the house on Monday because that is the one thing (or two or more things as the case may be) that I know I Have to accomplish.

3) Group what you do together into larger jobs rather than separating them into lots of individual tasks. I never knew that I did not do this until my husband pointed out the difference between how he and I do things.  This is what I mean:
     When it comes to the morning routine of preparing breakfast, feeding the kids, doing the dishes, and straightening up the kitchen, I see this as four separate tasks that all have to be completed at some point. This of course means that I might do something else, like making the bed, between getting breakfast and cleaning the kitchen up from breakfast.  Patrick, on the other hand, views it like this: Get the kids breakfast, this means do the following:
             1 – Fix food for the kids
            2 – clean up the mess from fixing the food
            3 – wash the kids dishes. 

Nothing gets left for later because it is all one job.  This way is actually a Whole Lot More efficient, and it also means that tasks are not left half done.

4) Put things away that the time rather than leaving them for later. It took me a while to realize the benefits of doing this.  In my stubborn mind I argued that I was often “too busy” to take the time to put that dish away, or hang up that purse, or put those shoes in the closet. (This is of course extremely ridiculous as it would take me less then thirty seconds to do any one of these things.) But finally, I have it down and I see how much time this actually saves in the long run.  Now, rather than vacuuming taking 40 minutes, 20 minutes for cleaning up mess, and 20 minutes for actually vacuuming, I am able to get right to vacuuming. 

5) Don’t be too hard on yourself.  If you start to keep a clean/tidy house, it is easy to start to obsess about keeping things that way.  When we do this, we can begin to hold ourselves to a really, high standards and then just get frustrated and dejected when we are unable to them. We all fail at times, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Just try to do better next time.  When we lose the motivation to do our job, it doesn’t matter how many “tricks” we know, we still won’t want to do it, which sometimes means that we won’t.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Not My Will But Thine

A few months back the New Testament reading in Mass was Ephesians 5:22:-25:
            Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be subject to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.

This passage tends to bother some people, primarily women.  I have even heard some go so far as to say that it is only based on a certain historical time period and therefore, like covering their heads in church, it is obsolete to women in this modern age.  (Of course, some would argue that women should still cover their heads in church, but I’m not getting into that.)  This is of course ridiculous.  These verses are in the same chapter as “[t]herefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Unless that we claim that this verse too is merely historical and not didactic, then we must take both verses as still being true today.
   Today, in this modern day and age, wives are told be subject to their husbands, and this is the best part, AS THEY WOULD BE SUBJECT TO GOD.  When I started to really think about this, I was slightly bothered by it.  One of the reasons being that, I Do Not always submit to my husband.  I do when it comes to the big stuff, and we always discuss things and, usually, agree, but not always.  And when I don’t agree, I don’t like to be subject to him.  But, God commands us in Scripture, “be subject to your husbands in EVERYTHING.”  This is not easy.  So, I talked to my husband about it, and he pointed something out to me.  The verse goes on to give a command to husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH and gave Himself up for her.” If the husband is loving the wife, like he Should, then it will not be hard for her to be subject to him.  But, man is fallen, and husbands don’t always love their wives as they are commanded.  Does this mean that we women are off the hook?  No.  Just because someone else sins does not mean that we have permission to sin as well.  This is where the hard part comes in, continuing to obey, even when they are not. The Bible doesn’t tell us that we only need to follow its commands in certain situations, or as long as A, B, and C are true.  We must always obey, whether we feel like it or not. 
   One reason that people have so much trouble with this passage is that the world thinks, and teaches, that it is a bad thing to be subservient to someone else. But, on the contrary, I would argue that this is a gift and a blessing given especially to women.  As women, by submitting to our own husbands—note that it says wives to their own husbands, not all women to all men—we are granted an opportunity to be more like Christ.
    When I was a sophomore in college, I remember being at the home of my English professor with some fellow students.  I don’t remember why I was there, but I know that it was some solemnity or feast day—I was not Catholic at the time so I didn’t know anything about the liturgical calendar. But, I have a vague memory of it being something important that had to do with Holy Mother Mary.  What I do remember clearly, is my professor reading two passages from the gospel of Luke.
  Luke 1:38, “And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; May it be done to me according to your word.’”
  And Luke 22:42, when Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, before the crucifixion, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me; yet no my will, but Yours be done.”
My professor then said something that I shall never forget.  “Jesus was Truly Mary’s son.” Mary, by her own actions and words, taught her son how to submit to the Father. In order for God to redeem mankind, two people had to submit.  They had to say, “Not my will, but Thine.” Why then should we do any less? 
  Rather than thinking that we Have to submit, we should think that we Get to do so.  We are given the opportunity to be more like Christ by putting others before ourselves.  Thomas Howard in On Being Catholic states it thus:

               What word better catches the true relation between the Most High and the whole of his creation than the word subordination? Ordered under; arranged, destines, appointed under. Therein lies the dignity of the creature. The mightiest powers in creation, the seraphim, hide their faces and cover their feet as they incessabili voe proclamant Holy! before the Most High. For us mortals, the word subordination often seems stained with the tincture of slavery, obsequiousness, and sycophancy. We hear only with great difficulty how it rings in the heavens with joy and honor. Subordination down here in this vale of tears is freighted with the sad freight of the curse: toil; burdens; bondage. But heaven unfurls the reality of which our worldly notion is a poor travesty. It knows that there is no dignity so inestimable as the dignity of the creature—angel, man, or woman—who can bow and offer his particular dignity at the footstool of the Living One from whom all dignity flows.
               One creature demurred on the point and fell like lighting from heaven. Lucifer, the Light-bearer himself, despised this august subordination and ruined the universe. We, in thrall here on earth, in the realm of this Prince of Darkness, find ourselves inclined to demur. Non serviam: I will not serve. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. So say we in our folly. (182-83)

  It is not always easy to do any of these things. Mary and Christ’s decisions to submit themselves was no small thing; it was probably the hardest thing they ever did. (Though, it could be argued that it was much harder for Mary to watch her son be crucified. But yet again she had to say, “Not my will but Thine.”) Sin is easy; doing what is right, is not, but we need to do it anyway.

Friday, January 4, 2013

They Understand So Much

One of the things that I am continually surprised about when parenting, is how much young children (specifically babies and toddlers) understand.  Patrick and I have tried to parent in a way that takes advantage of this. Though, due to the large age gap between our children, it took us a little bit to remember with our second that she knew what we were saying, she was just choosing to disobey us.  Here are a couple examples to show what I am talking about.  My daughter is almost 18 months old. 

Example #1
This evening after dinner the following exchange took place.

Evelyn: (Upon getting out of her high chair she ran towards the refrigerator, arms outstretched and communicated her usual...) "eh eh eh" (By the way, one of the most annoying noises in the world is the demanding and loud, "eh eh eh".)

Me: Evelyn, would you like a bottle of milk? (This is the only reason she ever goes to the fridge.)

Evelyn: "eese" (please, without the "p")

Me: "If you would like to have a bottle of milk, you first need to get ready for bed."

Evelyn: "eese"

Me: (I repeat the above and add) "you need to sit down and take off your pants, take off your shirt, get your pajamas, and your diaper, and after you are ready for bed you may have your milk."

Evelyn proceeds to take off her pants and shirt (with a little help, the mechanical skills aren't there yet), take me to her room to help find the pajamas, and diaper, and then she brought them to her father to change her (I told her to).  She and Patrick played for a bit, and fifteen minutes later, she was already for bed and she came back to me, pointed to the bottle and repeated her please.  I told her that if she wanted her bottle she would have to stop playing and go to bed.  She hugged and kissed me, took her bottle, grabbed Patrick's hand, and led him to her room. 

Example #2
Ever since Evelyn was about six months old, we have not been able to sit through the entirety of a Mass.  At one point or other, usually after about only 20 minutes, she starts making lots of noise and we have to spend the rest of the Mass either standing behind some glass doors on the side, or in the back.  Three weeks ago we decided that she is old enough to sit through Mass.  So, before Mass the next Sunday, we said to her, "Evelyn, we are going to Mass and you need to sit quietly while we are in Church.  You can't be crying and fussing and making lots of noise.  It is not a time to play, it is a time to listen and  worship God.  If we have to take you outside because you are being too noisy, we will give you a spanking, and then bring you back to our pew."  Throughout the service if she started getting a little bit noisy or especially wiggly, we would whisper a reminder to her, and she would stop. We have now sat through two Sundays with Evelyn  in the pew for the entire service. Patrick had to take her outside once, and then the next time he got up to take her out, she said, "shhhh, shhhh" and put her finger over her lips, and was quiet. 

Now, I am not discussing this in order to just tell little anecdotes about my child, I am merely stating what I believe to be true based upon personal experiences.  We often think that just because they can't really talk and they throw little baby tantrums by stomping their feet that they are too young to understand the word "no" or anything else that we are saying.  We seem to think that it is okay for a child to kick and scream, as long as they are young enough, because they don't know better.  It is amazing how quickly children learn how to disobey.  Children are masters of selective hearing. We are the parents and they need to obey us, no matter how much, at times, they don't want to.  Do not let a toddler rule your home with their tantrums.  One of the things that I am always working on, and sometimes failing with, is to remember to just speak calmly and explain clearly.  Sometimes kids just like to know "why" they are doing something, and if we tell them, they might be a bit more willing to obey. Because they understand so much, it also means that they are constantly watching and seeing the example that we are setting for them. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Good and the Bad: Quotes About Homemaking

Quotes like these are why I started this blog.

"Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — "Is this all?" " ~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

"Strange new problems are being reported in the growing generations of children whose mothers were always there, driving them around, helping them with their homework - an inability to endure pain or discipline or pursue any self-sustained goal of any sort, a devastating boredom with life." ~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
From The Big Bang Theory.  Bernadette states that she doesn’t like kids, and Howard replies…
“Don’t you think it will be different when the child is ours?” – Howard
“Right; when its our kid that’s ruined my body, and kept me up and night and I’ve got no career and no future and nothing to be happy about for the for the next twenty years; sure that will be completely different.” – Bernadette

"I know I should be accepting, but I cringe whenever I hear someone say that a smart/educated woman is a "happy homemaker." I can't get over what a waste it is." (unknown author, found on Quora)

And then there are quotes like these. . .

“No occupation in this world is more trying to soul and body than the care of young children. What patience and wisdom, skill and unlimited love it calls for. God gave the work to mothers and furnished them for it, and they cannot shirk it and be guiltless.”
            Isabella Macdonald Alden

“I'm only a housewife, I'm afraid." How often do we hear this shocking admission. I'm afraid when I hear it I feel very angry indeed. Only a housewife: only a practitioner of one of the two most noble professions (the other one is that of a farmer); only the mistress of a huge battery of high and varied skills and custodian of civilization itself. Only a typist, perhaps! Only a company director, or a nuclear physicist; only a barrister; only the President! When a woman says she is a housewife she should say it with the utmost pride, for there is nothing higher on this planet to which she could aspire.”
            John Seymour, Forgotten Household Crafts

“I believe that a godly home is a foretaste of heaven. Our homes, imperfect as they are, must be a haven from the chaos outside. They should be a reflection of our eternal home, where troubled souls find peace, weary hearts find rest, hungry bodies find refreshment, lonely pilgrims find communion, and wounded spirits find compassion.”
            Jani Ortlund

“The career of motherhood and homemaking is beyond value and needs no justification. Its importance is incalculable.”
            ― Katherine Short