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

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

This is a time of year that naturally lends itself to reflection.  It occurred to me just the other day that this time last year we were mourning the loss of the baby we miscarried, and this year we have a beautiful two-month-old to share our Christmas with.  We never forget that little one, or the first baby we miscarried in 2005, both of whom we invoke prayers during our nightly family rosary, and who each hold a special place in our family.  God is so good and continues to bless us through these many trials.  Life, in all its forms, is beautiful!

 I find the topic of resolutions an encouraging one, and am grateful that if nothing else, New Year's Eve gives people a reason to evaluate their lives and make changes for the better.  The Lord has been chipping away at SO MUCH in my everyday life that it is too much to even put into words.  Suffice it to say that I find it so startling and humbling that after fifteen years of following the Lord seriously, ten years (almost!) of marriage, and eight years of parenting, I still have so very much to learn in all of these important relationships.  Every time I think I have this loving thing down, I realize (through the many mistakes I continue to make) how very far I have to go.  If you don't believe me, ask my kids - I'm sure they'd be happy to fill you in :)

Possibly the single biggest challenge has come in my personal relationship with the Lord.  Through reading that I've been doing everywhere for the past several months now (most notably this book and readings from this group) I'm slowly discovering that God is in every moment - that every moment is an invitation to find Christ present in my life, and respond as He is calling me.  And it's so tough!  Because while I'm eating up everything I read (you know how sometimes you can read something and it totally goes over your head, and then other times it's as though the Lord has prepared you to hear all of it because it's the right moment in your life?), I'm finding it so difficult to put into practice.  It's like a curtain has been opened, and a new and deeper world has been revealed to me - bringing along with it the revelation that I have not come as far as I thought I had, and that I still have a lot of work to do. But that's okay, because I'm a firm believer in the goodness that comes through work.  And so, it begins!

The other thing I am working through particularly since the Christmas season began in this feeling of uselessness.  Of course I know that many beautiful and generous people would be very kind in saying that the work I do is not useless, which of course I know it's not.  But I think the Lord is allowing me to feel this way so that I can seek my consolation from Him, and not from what I perceive to be doing a good job at.  So please don't feel the need to affirm me - in fact, I think it would be the opposite of what God wants.  It's been difficult, and in moments of despair I have looked desperately for some kind of affirmation from different people, all the while finding nothing.  But once I get past feeling sorry for myself I am always quick to find the Lord gently tugging at my heart, and I can see that it is His mercy that allows me to feel this way.  I'm not very good yet at translating that into something my heart knows however, but I feel like it's a good starting poing to begin a New Year.

So I guess these would be a few of my general resolutions, though I expect to find many moments ahead to change or add to them.  I guess my number one priority this year will be to keep working on finding Christ in each moment, and changing the things I need to change as the Lord reveals them to me.  New Year's Eve is a good reason to start thinking about these things, but to wait around until next year to re-evaluate would be a shame.  May the Lord be ever present in my life and yours, as we each continue to listen to His gentle voice in each moment of our lives.

May the grace of the newborn saviour fill our lives with peace as we enter this new year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Joyful Waiting

My infant daughter is discovering faces.  She finds a feature she enjoys and then locks on, super intent, before finding your eyes and exploding into a smile of pure delight.  She will continue to repeat the whole thing for as long as you have patience to sit with her.  As a result, we're spending a lot of time like this:

Contrary to what you might expect, babies have a way of slowing the pace of family life, and helping you focus on what's important - what's right in front of you.  I encounter many people in the run of the day who think I am a martyr for doing what I do, and I'm sure they assume I live my life in a buzz of neverending and thankless activity.  And while it's true that some days can be like that for me as much as for any other person, it's these little guys who help me keep life in perspective. 

I hate to sit still, and I always feel like there's something else I should be doing.  But yesterday afternoon I sat in my chair like this for at least a half hour, while each of my children took turns snuggling up next to me, eager to see for themselves just what it was their sister was doing that had their mother so delighted.  And she rewarded their patience with a smile all their own, which made them feel that they were the most special kids on the planet!  How much joy she brings to us.  In those precious moments, I wasn't concerned with the million other things I "should" be doing - I knew they could wait.  There was someone more important to attend to.  Not to change, or feed, or clothe - just to be with.  To be present to her, and in so doing be present to the other kids as well, and to allow my heart to be filled.

I think that Advent is to Christmas what a new baby is to an already large family - not just one more thing to tack onto an already busy life, but a centering, grounding force, meant to point you to your real purpose.  Advent is not about finding something else to do, more crafts to make, more readings to do, to take away from our Christmas is meant to ground us, to draw us deeper into the mystery of Christmas - the Christ child born to us as one of us, so that when our Saviour arrives we encounter Him not with heads swirling amid too many things to do, but in a quiet moment of peace and joy, gazing deep into His eyes and being present to Him.  And in so doing He gazes upon us, into our souls and - if we are patient - rewards us with His smile so deep that His pure delight radiates our very being, and we cannot help but be filled with Joy.

May this Christmas season find each one of us ready and waiting, prepared to welcome our Lord into lives here and now, in every moment.  And may we never forget the joy that comes from gazing into the eyes of a baby.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Running the race with laces tied

Through all the great pearls of wisdom I have been reading lately, God has been saying one thing to me - live in the moment.  Every moment carries with it the opportunity to surrender to God's will.  Every moment is positive, because regardless of the circumstances Jesus is there.  He created me for this moment.  He is in THIS moment.  This is my reality, and I will only be happy if I can meet Jesus right here and now, and respond the way He is asking me to.

This of course is nothing new.  Every person who thinks about there life and what it means will tell you one thing - you only have control over what you are living right now.  And yet for me, I spend so much time just trying to survive the now, always looking back at the mistakes I've made in shame, or looking ahead to what I hope to be - a holier wife, a better Mom, a person who always acts with love and patience, and brings Jesus into every decision I make.  For the past few months I have been struggling with how to make this happen in my life.  How do I transition from this genius (and yet so simple) knowledge that Christ is in each moment, and if I slow down and seek Him instead of trying to survive while it passes me by - to actually living that way?

Thankfully my life is not devoid of opportunities.  Actually, nobody's is.  Because regardless of what your station in life happens to be, every day contains something to distract us, and Someone gently pulling our hearts back towards Him - the mystery that is the purpose of our life, the reason for our existence.  Mine takes the shape of a busy household of little ones who need to be taught how to live, how to respond to this very question themselves - and therein lies the brilliance of family life.  The lesson I need to learn most in my own life is the one I need to teach them.

Yesterday morning I was putting a load of laundry into the dryer.  My infant daughter, overdue for a nap, was strapped to my front in her carrier.  My three oldest boys, having been given their school work and instructed on what to do, were upstairs distracting each other from their work instead of doing it (something that makes my blood boil).  My preschool daughter, such an eager student and very fond of repeating things over, and over, and over, was at the kitchen sweetly calling, "I'm-done-my-page-mommy-I'm-done-my-page-mommy-I'm-done-my-page-mommy-I'm-done...." And my toddler, who was under the weather, was crying nonstop, lamenting the fact that he can't be carried by me constantly which he rarely wants to do, except when he is not feeling well.  And as I listened to the chaos upstairs, finishing the job I had set out to do so I could respond to each one of these children as I needed to, the day full of promise (as the early-morning blessedly is), I breathed deeply and prayed, "Lord, help me to find You in this moment."

Too often I feel my efforts are heroic or sacrificial - like I am being holy by uttering a prayer in times like this, and like God, to reward my holy efforts, will respond with an outpouring of saintly grace to carry me through.  But yesterday I was instantly struck with the fact that this is not heroic or sacrificial, that it is just smart.  That looking for God in each moment is no different than tying your shoe before setting out on a journey.  Sure, you can walk without doing that.  But you reduce the likelihood of falling on your face if you prepare first.  Nobody is writing about the genious runner that tied his shoes, it is barely worth mentioning.  And yet, it is key to his success.  His greatness a an athlete comes from being prepared first.  All the hard work effort and effort that makes his accomplishments worthwhile didn't just magically happen because he, in a heroic effort, put one lace over the other and tied them tight. Neither does the work I need to do just happen simply because I, to avoid a moment of desperation, uttered a simple prayer.  Smart, I will give you.  Much better than freaking out and losing it.  But no more heroic than a runner who ties his shoes and sits down.  Prepared for my journey I must put one foot in front of the other.

I listened to my two-year-old screaming in frustration, and it hit me - this is the call on everyone's life, in every moment.  Two-year-olds of course, don't know that.  It is my job to teach him, all of my children.  Not because it's smart, or holy, or pious, but because it is directly related to their happiness.  How often do I react the way my two-year-old does?  How often am I like a screaming toddler, unfulfilled and frustrated, crying in despair?  They will learn through my example, and I, in being a good model, will find ultimate peace and happiness.  Because God created each of us, young and old, with the same promise - a promise of peace.  This is why we can be joyful no matter what chaos surrounds us - because Jesus is present in every moment.  And finding Him makes all the difference between surviving, and thriving.  Like tying your shoes before the big race.

Brilliant in its simplicity.  Small, yet everything. May my life's journey always begin with finding You.