How has Lent blessed you this year?
How have you prepared your interior self for the coming of Our Lord?
Are you satisfied? More importantly, is God satisfied with your little offerings?
What would you do differently?
The past several days have been a soul-searching experience for all of us as we walk with Christ in our daily lives and joys and sufferings.
Next Friday Christ's body will be taken down from the cross and laid in his mother's arms.
Our mother too...Christ gave her to all of us:
"After recalling the presence of Mary and the other women at the Lord's cross, St. John relates: 'When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!'. Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!’' (Jn 19:26-27). "These particularly moving words are a 'revelation scene': they reveal the deep sentiments of the dying Christ and contain a great wealth of meaning for Christian faith and spirituality. At the end of his earthly life, as he addressed his Mother and the disciple he loved, the crucified Messiah establishes a new relationship of love between Mary and Christians." ~ The Universal Motherhood of Mary
Such a simple gift. Such a loving gift from Our Savoir. At the very end he thought of His children and knew they would need a mother to console them. Christ not only sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to guide us, He also gave us someone to take our hand and lead us back to him. Someone he loved very much...His own mother...and committed her to all of us.
Have you lost your mother? Are you feeling the grief of not having a parent home for this beautiful feast day? Turn to Mary. Turn to the mother whom Christ turned to as a little boy, whom Christ turned to as a grown man.
Turn to the mother Christ has given us and rest in her arms. She knows your sufferings, your trials, your weariness. She does not want glory. She asks for nothing. Only that her son be praised and worshipped and loved. She will lead you to Christ.
Now rest and breath anew. The sacrificial lamb has given His all.
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek the answers that cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
As much as I try to memorialize each holiday and each birthday around this house with thoughtful feeling, I found myself sighing and whispering "Yes! Yes! Yes!" on so many points the author made.
As we silenced our St. Joseph Altar last night at CCD (after a weekend of kicking myself for still not initiating one in my own home), I noticed the dryness absorb the marrow in my bones. My mind was furiously clicking ahead to all the upcoming ceremonies and events which are all good and beautiful, but still...
They never end.
Nor should they. Those ceremonies and events are part of life and it's joyful news that we are in good health and well-being to celebrate them. I don't want them to end. Still...
I do want my children to remember each and every one of them. Still...
When ceremonies and events are combined between home and school and church...we end up with a torrential overflow.
I remember Easter and Christmas as being mega celebrations from my youth and our Elf-on-the-Shelf only sat on the tree. He didn't fly, he didn't go to the North Pole and report to Santa every night, he didn't write on mirrors with toothpaste, he didn't poop peppermint drops, he didn't bake fudge. He just sat.
But he was special in his own way. And he still just sits on the annual Christmas tree. And he's still special today.
Like the author, I recall St. Patrick's Day as being a day to remember my brother's patron saint and to make sure your green was noticeably showing. Adding green dye to the toilet water is simple enough and maybe having a green shake or smoothie is ok.
But the overload of it all. Whew!
Kristen Howerton is absolutely correct and I think I know what has happened.
It's called the Internet.
Nowadays there are too many ideas out there in this land of Too-Much-of-Too-Much. Just toooooo much! Everyone leaps onto the holiday wagon and, before we know it, we've forgotten to feed the horse in favor of decorating the wagon.
I guess the early years of parenting are a time to give traditions trial runs and learn from the overload. By the time the grandchildren begin arriving we realize how superficial it all is and we learn to scale back and re-evaluate the meaning of what we're doing and why we do it. Not to mention, we're able to unload the guilt-factor from our shoulders and release it onto the shoulders of the new parents. Maybe that's all it is.
But, no, I still insist the Internet is the culprit.
When I was a new mother I had only my family's past traditions to pull from as I tried to implement my husband's family traditions. Maybe a book or magazine column hinted at something more but I did not feel pressured or overwhelmed. I could choose it or not. Weaving family traditions together was all that was important and all that we needed. Those traditions had memories and history which mod-podged our families celebrations.
Today is different. Through technology and social media, we find ourselves caught up in everyone else's plans, everyone else's ideas, everyone else's better-than-my-own life, everyone else's family traditions which have no meaning, no history, and no storyline in our own families.
And we add their good to our good and end up with holiday overload.
I've played dress-up with holiday ideas and expectations as well and found it exhausting.
My oldest daughter was in a car accident.
A minor one, I assure you, but still it was a cross thrown across our family's path.
I looked at the cross. There were no bloody markings, no death, no bruisings. There was only an indention on the back passenger door with some red paint smeared across it. My daughter and the other girl were fine. They both had insurance. And, counting my blessings down to the last measure, it wasn't my daughter's fault.
I asked her if she needed me to come home. She told me to go on to the Spring Picnic at the park. She was already headed home and would stop at the insurance company to turn in the other driver's information and by the dealership to get an estimate on the repairs to her car. After assuring me several times she was okay and after I had assured her that the insurance company would take care of everything, I hung up and allowed my thoughts and concerns to shatter into a thousand twinkling little slivers of broken glass.
I sighed with relief that this cross was so tiny and continued on with my day.
Then, after our St. Joseph Altar presentation, my youngest daughter began feeling sick. Thinking it had been too long of a day for her, combined with spinning in circles as little girls love to do, eating too much cantaloupe and Easter candy, we didn't leave right away. I ended up rushing her to the bathroom facilities three times. Her tummy hurt and ached and she was almost doubled over but nothing would come up. She sat on my lap, uncomfortably twisting and turning. I decided to take down the altar and head home. After another bathroom visit, her tummy began to feel a bit better. I got her home, gave her a bath and a hair washing. She rested comfortably in the recliner.
Another minor cross, but one that had to be carried and accepted until Christ lifted it off our shoulders.
Suffering is never pleasant. Never.
But suffering is also unavoidable. Suffering will exist.
Yet, without meaning or reason, it is even worse. In fact, it can be unbearable.
Even the beautiful little flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, said during her suffering from tuberculosis that it is unwise for caretakers to leave medicine bottles on the table near the sickbed. The temptation for a suffering soul to take the medicine to extreme in order to vanquish the pain and, thus, relieve themselves of their earthly suffering is too great a risk. For a saint to admit this helps us to realize that it is not sinful to be human and weak; it is sinful to not trust in a greater good.
By trusting in a greater good, we follow the example of Christ. It might not make the suffering more bearable but it makes it more productive and, certainly, more redemptive.
Follow the example of Christ and He will be with you every step of the way.
God knows you are weak. He walked in your body. He talked and ate and lived on this earth for over thirty years. He even said, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." ~ Mark 14:38 So he knows...He truly knows.
But, despite this weakness, Christ asked us to rise up, take up our cross, and follow Him. And the cross is as heavy. We do not have the nail marks in our hands because Christ took the hammering and nails for us, but the cross is awfully heavy. But it is there. Before us. For the next three days the cross is blatantly and painfully before us.
We might be fighting the flu, cancer, a toothache, depression, injuries, bankruptcy, job loss, divorce, death, any multitude of sufferings.
Do we reach out and embrace the cross Christ is offering us? Or do we look at it and quake in fear and uncertainty? Do we take it upon our shoulders and say, "If my suffering will help another's suffering then I will do this. I don't like it and I don't necessarily want it, but I will do this. With Christ's help I will do this."
The suffering is there. What will you do with it? How will you handle these crosses in life?
Ask for God's mercy. Ask for His graces. Ask for His blessings. And go forward in faith.
It's okay to ask God to take away our suffering and our pain. Didn't He tell us: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." ~ Matthew 7:7-8
It's completely okay! It's alright to beg and plead if you have to.
Didn't Christ, on His knees with droplets of blood and sweat dripping off His flawless brow plead to His Father in Heaven: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will." ~ Mark: 14:36
See! The Son of God begged God the Father to "Take this cup away from me..." He was God, but He was also Man. He knew it had to be done but His human self was reeling from the prospect of such a horrible death. Still, he resigned himself to his Father's holy will and asked for strength in accepting it. That is what we must do. The suffering is before us. What will we do with it?
Things that make suffering bearable are:
knowing it is good, right and holy to walk in the footsteps of our Lord,
the reality that we are the Body of Christ and we can participate more fully with Him in His agony,
the understanding that, as the Body of Christ, our suffering can be of redemptive worth to other Christians,
knowing that we are obeying Christ,
knowing we are following Christ.
Knowing that our sufferings are not wasted and all for naught is of great importance.
Christ has asked us to follow him.
Christ has told us to pick up our cross.
Christ has told us this cross will not be easy.
Catholics take Christ's Walk to Calvary very seriously because without the cross there would be no Resurrection. We rejoice in the Ressurection because we know the price of that day, and that day is priceless. Being sick in bed with the flu makes us more thankful than ever to have good health. Walking with Christ in the desert and on the road to Calvary makes us that much more appreciative and aware of the open, empty tomb and the glorified body of Christ. We should never forget the price that Christ paid and, if He asks us to take up our cross and be a part of the Body of Christ, we should do it willingly and in faith.
Not that we shouldn't ask for relief and seek medical help and take care of these bodies which are indeed temples of the Holy Spirit, but we live in a sinful world and we know we will suffer. Knowing that suffering can be redemptive can be as gut-wrenching a revelation as the cross was when it slid into the hole and jarred the body of Christ. We cannot escape the suffering, even though we have faith in the promise and reality of the Resurrection.
But we can suffer like Christ did, in our own small ways. Our sufferings, compared to Christ's, might be very small and insignificant. It might look like only a drop in that great ocean of souls whose sufferings wash the wounds of Christ. But each drop makes the ocean. The suffering is not easy but giving suffering a purpose and a name is so simple and so worthy and so holy.
Do we merely lie there suffering without a clue as to what we're suffering for? Or do we lie there and simply say, "Christ, I offer my suffering up for the conversion of sinners."
We simply and lovingly offer it up for the salvation of all mankind and, in doing so, we suffer for something bigger and nobler than ourselves
If you must, seek medical help for your depression...
If you must, seek tutoring help for your child...
If you must, seek a better paying job...
If you must, seek a job that does not pay as well but is more self-fulfilling...
If you must, seek a second opinion for a medical condition...
If you are facing a trial in life, pray the words of Christ: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." ~ Luke 22:42
If you are not carrying a heavy cross at this time, pray "that you may not undergo the test." ~ Luke 22:40.
Because you must, pray this prayer for your enemies: "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." ~ Luke 23:34
Because you must, pray for non-Christians: "I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth." ~ John 17:15-17
But whatever you do, Rise! Rise with Christ in faith.
* "I want to catch-up and
do even better and fulfill my promise to Annie by doing more of those
studieswe planned at the
beginning of the school year."
Here was our ticket!
Co-op classes were replaced with a nature walk at our local retreat center, a random-ish science study, scavenger hunt, fresh air, physical ed, and a whimsical photography class. (ie: goofing off and playing hookie)
Sheets of Gray
A Widow's Weeds
Blue skies beckoned. Picnic blanket lured.
(I was told today that iphones are simply not cool to have on picnic blankets. (My bad!)
That blanket gave me a chance to show the girls this book and ask if they felt it was appropriate for their 6th grade year or was it too elementary-ish. They voted that "Yes! they would enjoy using it next year."
"There is a way of living and thinking that I would name negative, another that I would name active.
"The first consists in seeing always what is defective in people and institutions, not so much to remedy them as to dominate them, in always looking back, and in looking for whatever separates and disunites.
"The second consists in joyfully looking life and its responsibilities in the face, in looking for the good in everyone in order to develop and cultivate it, in never despairing of the future, the fruit of our will, and in understanding human faults and miseries, expressing that strong compassion which results in action and no longer allows us to live a useless life.
"Whoever searches for the truth will find God.
"As we go along, let us spread ideas, words, and desires, without looking back to see who gathers them up."
I seldom get to write meaningful blog posts any more. I seldom get to write magazine articles. I barely keep up with my online columns. There are days my life looks blurry and smeary and unclear.
Thus begins my pity party.
But I don't stress over it nor feel guilty. There was a time I wrote lots and lots. And was published lots and lots. I used to delight in taking, downloading, logging, updating, sharing photos on my blog. Today the very thought exhausts me.
God has led me into a desert. And I'm good with that because I know it is His will. Even in this desert I see an oasis and, during a random discussion with one of my daughters today, I was given a pair of binoculars to see it better. It was a refreshing view.
I remain ever hopeful.
If I'm honest with myself, this is me in a nutshell.
I so do like comfort. Gosh, I really do. :-)
But my parents raised me with a dutiful work ethic and an accountability to God. So I press forward. Then I am weakened when I see others doing so much more, accomplishing so much more, writing so well and fruitfully.
It's all God's accomplishments. Not ours.
If I'm honest with myself, I'm perfectly content to gaze upon this and collect his smiles. And do nothing more. Wish for nothing more.
I pretty much go day by day.
My ever fluid, ever flexible weekly schedule looks like this (for the most part):
Monday: Homeschool Co-op (8:30-3:00) Dance (3:45-4:30) Home and Supper
Tuesday: Office Work (8:00-10:00) Watch Hudson/Homeschool Annie (10:30-12:30) 4-H/ Girls' Club/Outside Activities/ Playdates/ Appointments made (ie: Dental, etc.) (1:00-3:00) Home and Supper
Wednesday: Homeschool (8:00-10:00) Work Day (10:00-1:00) Lunch and Sanity Time (1:00-3:00)---have I mentioned what a low-impact person I am? My sanity time is absolutely necessary. CCD (3:30-8:30)
Thursday: Office Work or Monthly Meeting (8:00-10:00) Watch Hudson/Homeschool Annie/ Home Activities/ Annie's Dance Lessons/ A little writing? (10:30-6:00)
Friday: Home all day to watch godson and grandson. A little writing? It's a play day for all of us and I'm learning to embrace it and make MayMay's memories a reality. In the end, all I need is my family.
It's a day by changing day flux. But...because there is always a 'but'...God calls me to something more.
There's a great quote by one of my favorite writers, Erma Bombeck:
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.”
That's pretty much where I want to be. God has already given me all the tools, setting, and opportunities towards accomplishing my goals. I'd be foolish to waste them.
I have a husband who supports me in every way. He encourages me and believes in me. He is also my benefactor. Artistic people usually don't survive without a benefactor. History proves it.
I've got my ownlittle creative cave to retreat to. I have resources and the support and the means. God has gifted that.
The rest is up to me.
And that's where I fall.
I'm overwhelmed by all I want to do, by what all I want to accomplish.
I need uninterrupted time to accomplish it all.
And my life. is. filled. with. interruptions. unbelievably. blessedly. filled. with. interruptions.
The interruptions are both a blessing...
... and a curse.
Right now (look back at Friday's schedule) my 2 year old godson Seth is driving cars and trucks all over my living room floor. He is under Annie's eye as she works on her school work. Hudson is sound asleep in his swing with a dry diaper and a full belly and a quiet melody playing overhead.
I can do this. God has given me this time, this space.
What I don't get done will be my own damn fault and I'll have to answer to God if I didn't use the time and talent he gave me.
It's still a hard call because when I do have these "time zones", I find myself overwhelmed with all I have to do, with all I want to do, with all I need to do, with all I'm expected to do, with all I desire to do that I find myself almost incapable of movement. I tell myself I need only choose one project; but I keep pressing the pause button.
I have several writing projects I want to finish. Several. (I want even begin to list them because it would blow your mind...lol)
I want to be a very good MayMay.
I want to read so many books I don't even know where to start.
I have my paying part-time job that is extra nice because I can work from my home office when I must and the hours are outrageously flexible but it still taps me on the shoulder with reminders of all the creative things I want to do there and certain duties that I cannot allow to overwhelm me but must move forward.
I am committed to our homeschool co-op as long as we are homeschooling. That community forms my lifeline of kindred spirits that I need to nourish my spiritual self.
I would like to keep up with all the conclave activity and pope election stuff and do a pope lapbook with Annie but it'll be over in a blink of an eye and we'll have missed it.
I want to watch EWTN more and yet I hardly watch TV. Even when we're all in the living area watching it, I'm either talking, jumping up to do something, or thinking of all the things I'm not doing because I'm sitting there.
I want toWalk with Christ devotedly, intentionally, meditatively and, yet, I'm lucky to barely glimpse it here.
I want to take courses towards spiritual direction courses but God will have to oversee that because I don't have the money or time for such extravagance.
I want to catch-up and do even better and fulfill my promise to Annie by doing more of those amazingnature walks/ studies we planned at the beginning of the school year.
I would like to study things I've never gotten around to studying and immerse myself in great literature that I've never been able to do any more than skim through it.
I want to take a month-long Ignatian retreat. Not. gonna. happen. any. time. soon.
I have a webinar to do Thursday after a root canal. How. did. I. schedule. that. mess-up? How does one do a webinar anyway????
I need to organize my office. Again.
I want to reread Gone with the Wind and finish reading Les Miserables.
I want to set-up my outside area for springtime planting and bbq and enjoyment.
I want to read all the Popes' encyclicals.
I want to redo all the FIAR books with Annie because I didn't do as thorough a job as when I did it with Chelsea.
I need to clean up our bedroom. Desperately.
I need to Easter basket shop.
And there's the ever weekly necessities such as: shopping, paying bills, doing laundry loads, transporting kids, cooking, making appointments, picking up the slack....and having to a have a root canal. Blah!
What I don't get done will be my own fault.
What I do get done will be because God wills it.
And that is my total, random, unadulterated brain dump. I'm hopeful that spitting it all down here will give me the freedom to pick-up my work bag and move on.