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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To see Your face

These past few months have been some of the most challenging in my journey as a parent.  I have struggled with feeling completely worn out, and lived through some of the worst personal days I have ever had.  Struggling between knowing the Lord is present in every moment and really seeing Him there - between the knowledge in my head and the conviction in my heart.  And it felt like while the former was there, the latter most certainly was lacking.

These past few days have been such a blessing.  I feel like the Holy Spirit has breathed new life into me.  Thanks to my wonderful husband we made a family trip for confession last weekend, and it was a turning point for me.  The priest I went to asked questions, the first time that's ever happened to me in confession.  As I poured out my heart he picked up on the things I was struggling with, and I really felt the Lord working through His servant.  My penance was Psalm 62:

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved. How long will you set upon a man to shatter him, all of you, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his eminence. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. [Selah] For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. [Selah] Men of low estate are but a breath, men of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no confidence in extortion, set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God; and that to thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For thou dost requite a man according to his work.    

Last night Jeff was sharing with me how a reading he had done recently has caused him to think about what it really means to see the face of Jesus.  How do we even know what that means?  How do we come to a place where we truly desire that?  It really stuck with me.

If I look at the way I'm living now, especially these last few months, it's very evident that I don't see His face before mine.  And I think that I want to - I know that I do.   But I don't live that way.  My trials, they break me.  They cause me to despair.  That's not how someone deeply focused on the Lord lives.  That's how someone deeply focused on their trials lives.

This morning as I continued to mull this over in my head, a thought occurred to me - it must be through our relationships that we see the face of Jesus.  The people around us, how we treat them, affects how (and whether) we are able to see Him.  How we love them.  Too often lately I have not been loving with my kids. Being spread so thin I have been short-tempered, and snappy, thinking about how this little struggle or that little struggle is affecting me, rather than approaching them with love and compassion, and objectivity.  I snap, I send them off, and I sulk. "Where are you God?  I'm trying!"  But I'm not.  And the evidence is the unhappy children, and the lack of peace in my heart.

Today I tried instead to be compassionate with the kids. I tried to understand that two-year-olds throw tantrums and get into everything at the most inopportune times.  I tried to understand that four-year-old girls can be very (very) emotional.  I tried to understand that five-, seven- and nine-year-old boys don't always do things the first time you ask (or the second, or third).  And I tried to remind myself that in each of them, Jesus is there.  Not off in the distance, a spectator to my daily trials.  In them, in these children who so desperately need a mother who is patient, who teaches instead of reprimands, who shows the face of Jesus to them.  And today, I felt more like myself than I have in a long time.  I felt connected with them, even when they were misbehaving (which, to be honest, is not nearly as often as I tend to think when I am feeling down).  To love when they are being good, that's easy.  But to love when they are needy, and desperate for direction, so vulnerable - wow, that brings it to a whole new level.

I read something this evening that talked about the scripture where Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people, and still felt the tug of the hemorrhaging woman.  When we feel like we're spread thin, pulled in a million different direction with so many people needing us at once - He knows how we're feeling.  He's been there.  We can turn to Him.  And by sacrificing ourselves and looking instead to love those in need, we find the strength and the grace to rise about our own selfishness (which is really the only obstacle to the peace we so desire).  We see His face, that face we so desperately look for.


O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
    in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
    let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
    and your face is comely.

(Song of Solomon 2:14)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day Off

Jeff and I have just wrapped up a crazy two months in our household that was a delightful mix of crazy, exciting, fun times (day trips, concerts, birthdays, first communions, showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and WEDDINGS!) and extremely trying times (a stomach flu, colds, some other weird bug that resulted in severe stomach cramps, and a month straight of plugged milk ducts and milk blisters - ouch!)  Ballet and piano have both finished, Cubs and Beavers are winding down, and we are basking in the glow of a very full, very busy, very fun, very exhausting time in our life. A life busting at the seams with goodness.

Today, we have nothing else to do but catch our breath.  And so, I have deemed it a day off.  I told the kids that it's my day off from crying and tantrums, and that if they want to do either they must do so away from me (because it's my day off). In return I've given them the day off from shouting, and so no matter how angry, frustrated or exasperated I feel, I may not yell at them (because it's their day off).

I can hear the chuckles now, but I assure you, things are going exceptionally well.  Tantrums are not a problem with the bigger kids but the little ones - phew - let's just say they're feeling the effects of the past couple of months as much as I am.  So as soon as they start into one of those behaviors, I calmly remind them that it's my day off.  I tell them I'm not going to yell at them (too often my default reaction under these circumstances) and calmly place them somewhere until they are done.  And we are all reaping the benefits.

A day off energizes you, helps you take a breath and refocus.  For me, just having some way to acknowledge the situation before it escalates out of control, some small intervention to keep me away from that ledge, works wonders.  I think God is like this in our lives.  Too often we are so wound up, too far gone to notice that gentle, firm coaxing - I'm here. God is never far away, we just have to train ourselves to look for Him before we've lost control.  This is my biggest challenge these days, and I think, the biggest blessing of a life bursting at the seams. Only when I am so spread thin am I completely aware of my inability to make it through this life on my own merits.  Trying only furthers the point of how completely incapable I am on my own, because I'm not meant to do this alone.  God is always there, in plain sight, offering the day off I so desperately desire to get my bearings about me once more.  Not the day off from the kids, or from family life.  Just those things that make things infinitely more trying - the crying, the nagging, the incessant whining.  Things I'm finding, all too often I create in my children.

Let it begin and end with me Lord.  In searching for you, may I transfer the burden of my happiness from their little shoulders to Your loving arms, that are so ready and waiting to meet my every desire.