As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Friday, December 31, 2010

Mother's Prayers

I am so grateful for the wisdom of friends in my life.  A good friend of ours, and mother of ten, once shared the following story with me.  She and her husband were away for the week, and left their oldest daughter in charge of the household.  In addition to running their family, they also own and operate some cottages, and that week their daughter was also responsible for making sure the cottages were all cleaned and ready for guests who would be arriving.  She called her parents one day, frantic about how much there was to do, and worried that she could not possibly get everything done in time.  Her mother told her to calm down, get some machines working for her, and take a prayer time.  Her daughter followed her advice, put some clothes in the laundry, filled and ran the dishwasher, then sat in prayer to offer the rest of her day to the Lord.  Calm and focused on God, the rest of her day went smoothly, and by the end of the week she had indeed accomplished everything she needed.

This bit of advice, "Get some machines working for you, and then pray", has so shaped my life ever since I heard it.  Before the baby was born I was in the habit of getting up before everyone else and taking a prayer time before everyone got up.  It was such a peaceful, beautiful time - there's just something about being awake when everyone else is asleep.  Needless to say that a new baby imposes his own schedule, and this luxury has yet to be mine since baby Aaron's arrival five weeks ago.  This did not surprise me, and I resolved to take a prayer time even if I couldn't squeeze it in before the other kids woke up - I decided that I can (and should) pray even when the kids are awake, and even when it isn't perfectly quiet.  What I did not realize however, was the significance of getting some machines working for me first, and the later start to my prayer time inevitably threw off my whole household routine, as I spent the rest of the day catching up on the chores I was so late getting to.

Remembering my friend's advice, I decided to start the day by throwing in a load of laundry, getting breakfast for the kids, tending to baby Aaron's needs, and then, when the opportunity presented itself, taking a prayer time.  Some days it happens at 10:00 am, some days at noon, or even later.  But as long as it happens, it's a good thing.  I'm also realizing that my children are far more ministered to by listening to me pray then they are watching me frantically rush around the house trying to get everything in order.  By doing these things first my heart is at peace, and I can sit with God knowing that my other responsibilities are being taken care of.  And the beautiful thing is that while housework takes me away from the children, prayer draws us together.  This morning the sound of my two-year-old singing "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" and my older boys sweetly playing games together filled the background, and as I turned my heart to the Lord I know it made my prayer that much more grateful and sincere.  God doesn't need me to turn everything off in order to turn to Him.  He just needs me to make Him a part of my day, however that is able to happen.  I am sure He is way more pleased with my noisy fifteen minutes squeezed into a busy day than a quiet hour taken at the expense of my children and household.  This is where my calling is right now.  Someday I will have an opportunity once again to wake before everyone else and sit in the quiet to pray.  But in this season, this is the best I can offer to Him.

Mother's prayers are filled with many wonderful, joyful, crazy and chaotic things.  But they are always received with gratitude for the sacrifice it takes to offer them.  As 2010 draws to a close, my prayer for myself and everyone else is that whatever your stage in life, and whatever prayer looks like for you, that we will all find a way to incorporate God into our everyday lives.

Just don't forget to get some machines working for you first!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Like This

Yesterday I was holding my four-week-old son Aaron, who was asleep on my chest, and I thought to myself, "this is Heaven".  An innocent thought at first, but as I sat with it for a few minutes the depth of what I was feeling began to set in as I realized, Heaven probably is exactly like this.  You know, the feeling of having this really profound moment with someone when everything just disappears, and it's just the two of you.  The way a baby just curls his entire self into you, and you lean forward and kiss his little head, and in that moment there is nothing else, just love.

My mind never stops wandering, especially during prayer.  I'm constantly jumping to the next thought, what to wear tomorrow, what to make for supper, what my friends are up to, what I saw on TV yesterday.  I have often wondered what it is really like to truly focus on God alone.  Because to be honest, I find it difficult.  In fact, I don't think I ever have, though I've often tried.  However, in that tender moment with my son, God gave me a glimpse of what it's like, through one who is so close to him.  This evening my husband and I took our little son to adoration, and as I sat in front of Jesus with my little infant, for the first time I felt as though I was truly entering into the presence of God.  Holding Aaron in my arms made God feel so much more real to me, and as I turned my gaze from the Eucharist to my baby and back again, I could feel God ministering to me through my son, and drawing me in.

This is how God loves me.  This is how He wants me to be before him - the way a newborn baby is with his mother.  Babies are not distracted, and they don't overthink things.  They just are.  They ask for what they need, and they receive what is given.  And when you give yourself to them, they hang on to you like you are the only person in the world, because for them you are.  This is what God is offering me every time I turn to Him - the very gift of Himself. 

There are so many things parenthood teaches me about who I am before God, and the other day I was thinking about how our sin can cause us to distance ourselves from God because we feel so wretched before Him.  And I thought about babies and the way they call on their parents.  Aaron doesn't worry about waking me for the fifth time in the night, he just calls me when he needs me.  And he is confident I will come for him - and I always do.  And when I get there, he is not turning away from me in shame, he reaches for me because he expects that I will be there to help him with whatever he requires.  And I never begrudge him for needing me so much.  In fact, I take great joy in it.  How much more then does God rejoice in giving me what I need?  If in my humanity I can love my children so deeply, how much greater is God's perfect love for His children?

I heard a song tonight, I can't remember the specific words, but it spoke of humility before God, and as I looked into baby Aaron's face, I realized that's what it is.  Babies are born humble.  They know who they are before their parents, and before God.  As we grow we lose that, and at a certain point it becomes scary to face God knowing that you are not perfect.  But as with babies, that doesn't matter, because the love God has for us is so much greater than any wrong we could do.  All He wants is to take you in His arms, rub your back, kiss your forehead, and have you fall asleep on His chest.

This is how God loves.  With the tenderest, simplest and most profound love.  Perfect, Fatherly love.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


All the great parenting experts will tell you that kids long for routine, that it gives them a sense of balance, predictability, security, and therefore happiness.  What I discovered this week is that grownups are the same.  Or at least I am.  When I brought my fifth child home from the hospital twelve days ago, I found great reassurance in the fact that I could still keep up with the old routines I had established to keep my home and family in order while caring for a newborn and his four older siblings.  Far from wanting to put up my feet and relax, I was eager to get back into the groove of things.  And I found joy in it.

I was trying to articulate to Jeff how I was feeling about maintaining this routine.  In the past, it's always been something that I had to do, or else things would accumulate to an unsurmountable amount of work.  I have to do at least one full load of laundry a day (wash, dry and put away) in order to keep on top of things.  I have to wash the dishes and vacuum the floors at least once a day so that they don't get out of hand.  But eventually these things became mundane, and I felt as though I was always working in vain.  The house is always clean at bed time, and completely upside-down within an hour of everyone getting up the next morning.  I would often wonder, "why do I spend so much time cleaning in order to see everything messed up again and again?"

I don't know when the shift happened, or how long I will feel this way, but for the moment I am content to do the same thing day after day.  I realized this week that it is in the repitition of my life, doing these same tasks every day, that I find my joy.  This is what I am happiest doing.  I think part of it is that ever since my first child was born six years ago I have longed to be a stay-at-home mother, and now I am.  I have spent so long wishing for this life that I rejoice at finally being able to be here. And it makes sense to me, because when I think of what a typical day at work was for me, it involved a lot of routine.  I did the same tasks every day, but never wondered whether I was doing this in vain.  The sense of fulfillment came from getting it done, regardless of the fact that I know I'll have to do it again tomorrow.  This is how I feel now.

A friend of mine sent me a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I completely relate to.  It starts off, "It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork," but goes on to say that, "the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire."  It is a fullness of life that causes us to do the same things over and over again.  He further says, "The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony."

For the moment, I am exulting in the monotony of my life.  Perhaps this is what God means when he calls us to be like little children.  My life is constant and repetitive, and all I want is to do it again and again.  I don't know if I will always feel like this (I suspect I won't), but for now I am cherishing it.  Life with my new little family is amazing, and I don't want it to ever change!