Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Season for Reflection




 I love Advent. Growing up attending a Baptist church, I didn’t know much about Advent other than the fact that we put little ornaments on a little Advent tree.  Now that I actually know about the liturgical year, I find Advent to be an extremely beautiful time. What is Advent really? To put it simply: As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming, His birth, we take time to contemplate His second coming; to reflect upon our own spiritual lives and ask the Lord for forgiveness for our sins as we strive be more holy. During Advent we take the time, like the ten maidens in scripture, to trim our lamps and fill them with oil as we wait for the bridegroom to arrive. (Matthew 25) We are preparing our hearts to receive Jesus when He is born on Christmas day. We think about our own sin. We think about—and ask for—our need for forgiveness, our need for a Christ. 

  It is okay when we make mistakes because it is another opportunity to turn to God, to recognize our need for Him and our inability to do anything Without Him. Recognizing our own sin (and being sorry for it) is not an occasion for sadness, but for great joy because we can then more fully contemplate the goodness and mercy of God. Do not give in to sadness but rather, recognize it for what it is, a tool of the enemy. Over two thousand years ago those angels brought “tidings of Great Joy,” and that is the season that we are about to celebrate. 
    In Advent we think of Mary in her last stages of pregnancy, uncomfortable, RIDING ON A DONKEY!!!, anxiously awaiting the birth of this child that was promised to her by the angel. I know what it is like to wait, and wait, and wait for that baby to be born. This is the sort of anticipation that we want to have as we await Christmas morning. We wait with patience and with excitement as we anticipate the birth of our Lord. 
   I was recently reading about Advent and how to “live Advent” with one’s family. I am not a very crafty person, so I don’t tend to do a lot of that with my kids. Also, with school, life, and family in town, doing too much “extra” usually means that I do it for a week, and then it all sort of falls apart.  Thus, I want to establish family traditions that I might actually keep. What I read that I thought was just so genius, was, “live the church year.” Read the scripture readings for the day to your children.  Involve the children in the waiting and anticipation.  It is good for them to learn to wait for things.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I've Got This



The queen of, "I've Got This"

 Sometimes I think, “I’m never going to figure this all out.” There are days where everything goes smoothly, the house is clean, I am Patient on a Monument when it comes to parenting, dinner is on time and delicious, and we finished our schooling on time and without tears. But notice, I said there are days, not months, not weeks, just days here and there.  Lately I have been thinking about things that I do that help or hinder those good days. Here are a few things that, if I do them, my day goes better. If, however, I start to skip things on this list, then everything starts to fall apart. 

Pray: Start my day in quiet and in prayers. This means that I have to set my alarm and make certain to get up before the kids do. I take this opportunity to drink a cup of coffee (any coffee that I try to drink After the kids are up, usually ends up as a half-a-cup of cold coffee) and ask the Lord to grant me strength, patience, and grace for the day. If I don’t start my day with prayer, everything seems to fall apart very quickly. 

 
Eat:  Take the time to sit down and eat some food. It isn’t always possible to sit and eat, but I still need to get, healthy, food in my body. Eating a kid’s leftover sandwich as you do the dishes does not count—it is also rather disgusting.  This takes planning. I have the least time at breakfast as I am trying to get things done early so we can get school started. Therefore, I usually have a smoothie.  I can eat it on the go, so it is fast, but I am putting something healthy into my body.

Drink water: Water gives me energy. Nuff said.

Get some exercise: My favorite form of exercise is running—not because I actually like running—because I find it to be the most efficient way for me to get in a good workout. But, go for a walk, rake leaves, chase after kids on their bikes, play tag, do Something that gets you moving and your heart rate up.  When you exercise your body releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy?
Well, she isn't happy.

Take a break!: Even if it is only for five minutes, sit down, take some deep breaths. Pray! Drink Water! Relax! Then get back to work. 

Go to bed at a decent time: Try for 8 hours of sleep and figure out what this looks like. For me, if I want to get up at 6, and I want 8 hours of sleep, and I know I will be up twice in the night with a baby, then I need to be in bed, lights out, at 9:30pm.  For some this may seem impractical, but I know that when I am not sleeping enough, everyone else suffers. I’m impatient, easily frustrated, I have no motivation to work, I lose my temper easily, I’m unorganized, you get the picture. Basically, I don’t sleep enough, I’m not a nice person. 


Do something for someone else, not because you have to, but because you want to: As a stay-at-home-mom, I am constantly doing something for someone else, and it gets rather exhausting. But, when I take the time to do something extra that I know will make someone else happy, it brings a sense of joy and purpose to what I do. For example, mowing the lawn is not my job, but I love to do it because I know my husband will come home from work, see it, and be really happy that he doesn’t have to mow the lawn. 

Pray some more! Always pray some more!
This one requires lots of prayer.

 There are many things that happen in life that are outside of my control and there are times where it can seem like everything around me is falling apart. Fortunately, all of these things are under my control. “I can’t get the baby to sleep, but I can drink a glass of water.”  Silly, I know, but any little bit helps.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Don't Settle for Less, Strive for More

This is a post that I wrote in November of 2012. I am re-posting it because, for the past few days, this is something that I have really needed to be reminded of. Whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I start trying to blame the external circumstances of my life, rather than turn and look at my own actions.


Homemaking is very hard.  It is exhausting, both mentally and physically, and sometimes it is boring.  However, it seems to me that upon occasion we homemakers tend to make excuses, if not to the world, then at least to ourselves.  We use the difficulties of the task as a crutch rather than as an obstacle to overcome.  I for one have had the days where I find myself making some sort of excuse as to why I didn’t get much of anything done that day.  “The kids were really difficult” or “things just came up” are two of the excuses that might come out of my mouth when my husband asks the question, “How was your day?” The children may have been more difficult than usual, but that probably isn’t the reason that I hardly accomplished anything and we ate pancakes for dinner. Why can't I just say to him, "I'm sorry about the house and the meal, I'm off my game today." Instead I get defensive at an innocent question and attempt to pass blame off to other things or people rather than owning up to my own weaknesses.

There are days where I am just off, where I don’t want to do anything, and it is a struggle to make myself wash those dishes or fold that laundry.  (Things like folding the laundry are especially hard because we really don’t HAVE to do it.  Where I have to wash the dishes in order to make the next meal, I can keep the laundry in a basket, in the corner, for a long time without it really being a problem.)   While the day may have been “more difficult”---and some days TRULY are---I should also ask myself, “How much time did I waste?” “How much time was spent on the computer or talking on the phone?” “Did I turn on the television, ‘just for a minute’?” We need to honestly examine our days and ask ourselves, “Did I really try my best or did I do as little as I could get away with?” 

Another thing that people (not just homemakers, but EVERYONE) tends to do is overemphasize the difficulty of our situations.  We convince ourselves that something is harder than it really is and therefore, we forgive ourselves a lack of effort in the face of these challenges. Instead, we need to recognize that the harder the situation the more organized and orderly we need to be.  Is my house messy because I had too much to do or because I just didn’t care enough to clean?  Did I not have time to fold the laundry because I was too busy taking care of a sick child or because I was reading a magazine?

I, as a mother of two four and a naturally-tidy husband have it easier than the woman who works part time, has five children, a set of twins, and an untidy husband. While things may be even more difficult for the woman with seven children, a large house, and a part-time job, it pales in comparison to the woman with ten kids, who homeschools them all, keeps a tidy home, volunteers at the church, and attends daily mass.  My point is that it is difficult for everyone, we just need to have a realistic understanding of exactly how hard things really are.  At the same time we need to not settle for a certain status quo. The fact that life is busy is not an excuse.  We shouldn’t settle for the way things are now, but rather should strive to do more (and I don't mean more activities), to be better, more organized, more ordered, more faithful, kind, and loving.  Will I always accomplish this? Will I make mistakes and have bad days? Of course. I just need to own up to them and try to do better tomorrow.   As humans we are not perfect, but Matthew 5:48 states “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  We are called to try to be perfect, not to settle for less because the task is hard.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Vocation of Humility



“We face an impossible task, if it means that everything has to be finished every night. I do not think we can complete every task every day; God does not ask us to, because He does not ask us to do the impossible. That means that this vocation is an opportunity to embrace humility in knowing that we cannot do it all. So we gauge what is possible for that day and ask Him for the strength to do it and the wisdom to adjust our goals.” 
(Kimberly Hahn, Graced and Gifted)


This job is an opportunity for humility. There are days when I feel great about what I have accomplished. (I said my prayers, I exercised, the house is clean, dinner was well-planned and well-executed.) I feel like I did a pretty good job. But then I think, “I didn’t spend very much time with the kids.  I should have taken fifteen minutes and played a game with them.” Or, “I am pretty tired out by my busy day, so rather than spending some time with my husband, I will just read a book and go to bed early.” I can’t do it all. I can’t be the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, teacher, person, and child of God. Every day, something, has to give. Something doesn’t get done. Someone doesn’t get enough of my time.  Should I rant about this or spend all of my time feeling guilty or ashamed of myself? Should I give up and not even try because it is impossible? By no means.  Recognizing and admitting ones limitations takes a great deal of strength.  We need to know when we need to ask for help, when to say “no” to a request, when to stop and say, “good enough.” 

 

Being a “task person”, it is often really hard for me to stop trying to check items off my “to do” list.  To focus on the people and the relationships rather than the “stuff” that has to get done. Sometimes that humility comes in allowing the laundry to not get folded in order to cuddle the child, relax with the stressed husband, or hold the crying baby. Perhaps it comes in asking myself why the house isn’t clean?  Is it because “life” interfered or because I was unorganized and lazy for the day? I need to accept my limitations but strive to overcome my weaknesses—such as my desire to sit and watch a TV show or read a book rather than clean the bathroom. I also need to be careful, when things do go well, not to pat myself on the back and think, “it is because I’m so amazing,” because I’m not. 



  We need to strive to do our best.  Strive to do what we do, well.  But we also need to recognize that on our own, we cannot do anything. Perhaps things will run smoothly for a day or two, or even a week, but eventually we will get burnt out. We will have the days where we don’t want to do anything, things will fall apart, and we will feel like complete failures.  The reason for this is that we are human, not machines.  It is important to recognize our limitations and failings and to ask God for the strength to continue our tasks, day by day.  Saint Augustine once said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” God grants us the strength to accomplish what we can, we just need to ask Him for it.  Ask Him for the wisdom, the peace, and the joy to go about our work. Recognizing that all that we do is in His hands, not our own.



 It is so easy to lie in bed at night, reflecting on the day, and feeling guilty for every mistake or poor choice. I can let those feelings eat away at me and disturb my peace of mind, or, I can offer them up to God and strive to be better the next day. Father Francis Ferdinand, author of In Conversation with God once wrote,  “Do your duty ‘now’, without looking back on ‘yesterday’, which has already passed, or worry over ‘tomorrow’, which may never come for you . . . what we must sanctify is the present day.” I cannot change yesterday, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I can only do my best today; turning to God in all that I do, and asking Him for the strength to accomplish it. 


“In your hand [O Lord] are power and might; and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” 1 Chronicles 29:12b