Thursday, December 30, 2010

Simpler Expectations

(Guess my Saint for 2011 in the combox and win a door prize---See bottom of post)

At the beginning of this three week vacation, I was exhausted. Didn't know it. Wouldn't admit it. But I was really exhausted.

On the eve of "welcome-to-life-in-2011" I'm realizing that no matter how much life has to offer and no matter how much of it is good and wonderful, there comes a time when you must step back.

I've realized within these three weeks that almost everything I do is done because other people expect it of me. It's not because I want to impress people. I don't. It's usually because if I don't do something, I will be labeled under several tags I don't care to be labeled under such as: lazy, useless, undisciplined, unmotivated, unproductive, etc.

Funny how that has been the motivation for me to "do". By "doing" I mean running in crazy spinning circles. I have fallen victim to the threat of the 21st century that tells me that I must have something planned every second-minute of every day.

Every year I say I will not do it. Every year I do it. I can blame no one else.

And yet, one good thing about keeping a blog is that it shows me that this is my life. After six years of blogging, I now know that this is my life and it isn't going to change...much.

And so, again, on the eve of "welcome-to-life-in-2011" I'm realizing that it isn't the doings that have me exhausted and weary but, rather, the expectations that come with this full life.

As of January 2011, I am giving up those expectations of myself.

Giving up expectations (of ourselves and others) is so hard, isn't it? We're told all our life to be somebody. To do this, we inevitably have to set high expectations of ourselves and those around us. Or we fail.

Why are we always failing?

I've struggled with it. I'm sure others have. For every negative thing I hear someone say about someone else, I am silently thinking, "Goodness, they could say the same thing about me."

That hurts.

We are always comparing ourselves, aren't we? To those around us. To those related to us. To those who work with us. To those we teach. To those kneeling next to us in church.

And we will always see someone as better than ourselves and someone as lesser than ourselves. And who are we to sit and judge?

We see things that God does not see and He sees things that we do not see. We don't need to look further than our own folded hands to know that we need the newborn Christ; neither do we need to look further than our loved ones' eyes to know that we have the Resurrected Christ.

And I've realized that I can never live up to everyone's expectations of me. I have been blessed beyond measure with the amount of family, friends, and associates God has entered into my life. Blessed abundantly! But, with blessings, comes expectations. I have realized that I am not up to the task of expectations.

Expectations drain me. Expectations cripple me. Expectations make me feel a failure.

I have recently heard myself giving out this advice in almost constant dialogue the past two months, "Set high expectations of yourself. Expect nothing from others, but accept graciously whatever they give. And count everything a blessing."

I've got it texted, twittered, and pinged within my brain.

In an awakening, I realized I have been sharing these words (which I'm sure are pieced together from most of my spiritual reading of the saints this past year) with my friends and family in hopes that they will let go of any expectations they have of me. Without knowing it, it has been my silent cry for mercy.

I want to be able to give, to ministry, to care for, to console, to write, to teach, and to retreat without having that presence in the background say, "But you haven't done enough for me." There is always someone there, you know, lurking in the corners, saying you haven't done enough, given enough time to, fed enough, forgiven enough, held enough...

When is our doing simply good enough?

We have to simply drop the expectations we have and that others have of us at the foot of the cross and have faith that He can purify and fulfill what is lacking in our offerings.

I now realize it isn't the activities or the job or the homeschooling or the family life or my writing that burden me. In looking back over six years of blogging, I realize that everything has been a call from God. Nothing is done without His plan, His purpose, His provision.

There were years of homeschooling mightily. There were years of writing intensely. There were years of crafting at the table wth little ones now grown older. There were even years prior to blogging when I was caring for an ailing father-in-law, years I thought would never end; now I see they were but a wink of time given from God to me.

It has not been the activities or the job or the homeschooling or the family life or my writing that burden me but, rather, the expectations that come with those positions.

Some people would disagree with me and say, "Well, you just need to stop doing all that if you don't want people to expect things from you." and my first reaction would be, will be, to give all up.

Because I can never live up to anyone else's expectations. If I am doing what I feel led to do each day of my life simply because I think people expect it of me, I just as well not do any of it.

If they can be thankful for what I do and accept it graciously without higher expectations from me, than I know that they see God, not me, navigating the ship.

I do what I do in service to my family, to my church, and to God.

He reaps what I sow. With Him, any little thing I do is good enough. Anything else I do becomes too burdensome, too wearisome. The expectations are too heavy to bear.

Probably my own expectations of myself have been the most burdensome.

I see now that Scripture is so right on...and, in it, I have found my Scripture for 2011:

Ecclesiastes (Chapter 3):

"There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
"A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
"A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
"A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
"A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.  
"A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
"A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.  
"A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
"What advantage has the worker from his toil?  

"I have considered the task which God has appointed for men to be busied about.
"He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. 
"I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.
"For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.

"I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered.
"What now is has already been; what is to be, already is; and God restores what would otherwise be displaced.
"And still under the sun in the judgment place I saw wickedness, and in the seat of justice, iniquity.

"And I said to myself, both the just and the wicked God will judge, since there is a time for every affair and on every work a judgment.  
"I said to myself: As for the children of men, it is God's way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts.

"For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity.
"Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.

"Who knows if the life-breath of the children of men goes upward and the life-breath of beasts goes earthward?
"And I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice in his work; for this is his lot. Who will let him see what is to come after him?"

* * * * *
I have looked over my 2011 planner and, even though I don't see where I can delete, I have promised myself not to add. I have promised myself that I will not be compulsive in attending every meeting, every gathering, and every other thing that is planned and considered good and worthwhile. If the girls and I feel up to going, we will go. Otherwise, I will stop in my tracks and let it go by without going on a major guilt-trip over it.

Because now I know, more than ever, that nothing happens outside of God's plan. More than ever I see the changing seasons in my life and how they revolve outside of my control but never outside of God's. Yes, God has given us free will and many choices. Yes, He has given us the brains and wisdom to discern and make decisions. And, yes, most the time, He gives us control over these decisions and choices. Sometimes, though---such as the illness of a parent or child---we are at God's mercy and everyone else's it seems.

These are tests of faith.
Other times---the times we are in control (seemingly or otherwise)---are gifts of faith.

In 2011, I will give up having so many expectations of myself. I ask my families and friends to do the same; not to have any expectations of me, just to kindly accept what I can give. And to pray for me and my family.

To kick off 2011, I am also reading:

My friend Marcie alerted me to this: My Simpler Life 2011 Organze and Declutter Calendar
I like it, especially the "My Simpler Life" part. I've had to realize that my life is not simple and never has been. That I cannot change. What I can change is whether I make it simpler or harder.

Over and over I have debated what my Word for 2011 will be. Over and over again the word Patience has sprung to mind...not joy, not silence, not prayer, not expectance or acceptance, not even simplify...just the word Patience, more with myself than with others...even to have Patience in knowing that most people (especially those closest to me) will continue to expect things from me when I am most weary and most discouraged.

Another novel little presence I think will be most helpful this new year will be to have a Patron Saint for 2011! What a nifty idea! This Saint's Name Generator is making its presence spun around in cyberspace so I thought, "Sounds fun! Good time to stay focused on a good role model and guide!" Guess what saint I got!?

Tell you all guess the saint I got for 2011 and we'll have a door prize. I think that's a great way to bring in the New Year. Don't you?

Just leave a comment in the combox guessing which saint you think I got for 2011 and the first person to guess it right wins! :-)

I'm putting a considerable amount of thought into what the door prize will be.

No expectations...right? :-)

Monday, December 27, 2010

End-of-December Daybook

This is my own Cajun Cottage version of the Simple Woman's Daybook (how neat to see that, as of this posting, we share the same cheerful Christmas-y template)

Outside my Window...crisp winter day with sunlight cascading over blue skies.
I am thinking. . . how fitting it is for the liturgical Christmas to follow the commercial Christmas.
And how long it has been since I wrote a "simple" daybook. Any daybook! Goodness! And, just think, it's one of my favorite blogging pasttimes.That must mean I've been really too busy. :-)

I am thankful for. . .a number of things.

From the schoolroom. . .one more free week and we start again. One of the topics my husband and I are discussing tonight.

From the kitchen. . . the Christmas leftovers (sans the sweet table) are almost gone, wonder of wonders. Tonight is a Mexican dinner date with my husband. I need a major slow-cooker game plan come January.

I am wearing. . . a pink top w/ embrodiered trim over another pink tank top (it's cold outside, windy and 25 degrees this morning), gray slacks, pink socks

I am creating...a liturgical year plan to teach to our Religious Ed program
I am going. . .on a Mexican dinner date with my husband in a few hours.

I am reading. . .Stillmeadow books by Gladys Taber and Amish Cook books by Elizabeth Coblentz & her daughter Lovina.

I am hoping. . .2011 is as calm and uneventful as 2010.
I am hearing. . .the clothes dryer whirring
I am praying...for all the children who were too sick this Christmas to enjoy the tree and the lights and the songs and the parties. Those children who, all too soon, are given a cross too heavy for little shoulders to bear.

Observing the Liturgical Calendar...I really want to do a better job this year and am using Pope Pius XI's Quas Primas (On the Feast of Christ the King) as my home and at church.

"For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year—in fact, forever. The church's teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man's nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God's teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life." (Pope Pius XI)
Around the house. . . (This is dated back to May 2009 and it has not all)

May 2009
I'm too tired to look. One day it's clean. Another day it's cluttered. Let me just say...'tis lived in.*
* This has not changed since last week's daybook or the week before that or the week before that.
I really thought after April things would slow down. They haven't. If anything life has gotten busier. Yesterday I added five more things in my planner. I have to remember what a good friend told me one day at co-op:
"We pick our own stresses in life." I have to look at each "stress" I write in my planner (no one is forcing my hand) and count them all as blessings. It's a life full of planning and preparing, giving and receiving, loving and living, pruning and growing, learning and embracing. It's all good! It's a marvelous thing called life!

UPDATE Dec. 2010: Really the house isn't that bad. Our oldest daughter cleans floors and bathrooms weekly. The youngest daughter is in charge of folding towels, caring for the living room area, and does a great dusting job. Middle daughter takes care of the dishes and kitchen area. Older four tend to their own laundry. They all have a "pet" to feed and water and they are all responsible for keeping their own bedrooms picked-up and cleaned. Well, "responsible" might not be the best choice of words. Most of their bedrooms I choose to turn the other cheek. Afterall, the second reading this past Sunday did say, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged."  I'm sure it means the same for children provoking their parents but one must know when and where to tread lightly.

Yet, even with all these tidy little organizational jobs, the paper piles and clutter threaten my innermost peace.

One of my favorite things. . . Christmas-time

A few plans for the rest of the week. . .husband is going deer hunting. His first time in, like forever! Household and college expenses have always prevented this manly outing. This year he was blessed by a good friend and an offer of time away in the wild woods. Weather predictions are for constant rain. The girls and I are staying home. My God-son and Kayleigh's God-daughter are coming to play tomorrow. I've invited some friends to join us. I'll cook. We'll all cook! It's our last official week "off" until Mardi Gras. Deep breath!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

The girls and I love going to our local Books-A-Million and selecting the books to send to St. Jude's Hospital. It's a pleasure to sit in the aisles and think of the children who will receive our humble offerings and try to fill their personal needs of beauty and color and light and hope. This year, Annie added the gift of a tea set in hopes that a little girl will enjoy it on a day she's feeling well. I'm thinking that in 2011, I will keep my eyes open throughout the year for some older reading material for older children. And possibly some new books for the mothers and fathers of the children. Heaven knows they need up-lifting as well. If anyone has any recommendations, please email them to me.

Thank you and God Bless!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Family is a Necessary Good

"The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love...The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place... The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents... The family is also a school which enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity... 'O God, who in the Holy Family left us a perfect model of family life lived in faith and obedience to your will, help us to be examples of faith and love for your commandments.' " (Pope Benedict XVI)

* * * * *

"Each of us has a desire in his heart to become a family, because only within the family can our greatest needs be expressed: a dialogue not only with words but with our feelings, our affections, our gaze, in a reciprocal gift of self and in concrete gestures of love. The family flows from a Trinitarian reality, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is an essential and fundamental need, natural to us, which each one of us has inside, a need to see ourselves in the gaze, smile, and reception of another person."
(Mother Elvira Petrozzi)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here's Hoping...

Your Christmas Day was as cheery as the Christmas punch...
As warm and toasty as the stuffed goose and cooked pork roast...
As spicy as the cornbread dressing...
As fanciful and lovely as the layered salad...
as sweet as the snack table...
As bubbling over with gratitude as Rum Cake & Honeybun Cake...
 As full as a living room when it is truly lived in...
 And as thankful for the Life God has given You as I am for Mine!

~ Merry Christmas from the Gibson's ~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Mother Always Told Me...

...that she had close and personal connections to Santa Claus.
Now I know.

Advent Learning Centers: Advent Wreath & Christ Candle

Candles represent: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love
"The Advent Wreath is round signifying the Lord who had no beginning and has no end. It is green signifying hope in the winter. The four candles signify the four weeks of Advent and the dark ages before the light of Christ coming. Purple = penance. Pink = joy. On the third week our joy burst forth before returning to the sober preparation of penance and prayer, to welcome Our Lord on HIS BIRTHDAY." (~ Courtesy of my friend Patricia)

O God, by whose word all things are sanctified,
pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath
and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts
for the Coming of Christ,
and may receive from thee abundant graces.
Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Christ Candle: a simple white candle w/ a "room" hollowed out at the base and covered by a curtain of satin, silk, or tulle revealing (on Christmas morning) the Christ Child.

Christ Candles can be made like this:
empty tiolet paper roll or empty paper towel roll
white wrapping tissue paper
miniature baby
any other trinkets you wish to include
* place miniature baby, candy, and trinkets inside of roll
* wrap in tissue paper which sticks out beyond both ends of roll
*stuff tissue ends into roll
*add yellow tissue wrapping paper to top as candle flame
* Print this prayer and tape on your "Christ candle" with a note that it cannot be opened until Christmas morning:

God of love, Father of all,
the darkness that covered the earth
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make us a people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word
that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(From The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Co.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Quotes

Such great spiritual quotes are being shared on Facebook this month. I've been sharing them on Facebook too but want a place to save them and ponder them this week. Hope they bless your week as we await the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ:

"Every mother, when she picks up the young life that has been born to her, looks up to the heavens to thank God for the gift which made the world young again. But here was a mother, a madonna, who did not look up. She looked down to Heaven, for this was Heaven in her arms." Archbishop Fulton Sheen

"Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and the angels know of us..." Paine

‎"God creates out of nothing. Wonderful, you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners." --Soren Kierkegaard

The message of Christmas “is profoundly human,” the Spain Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach said, as “the vocation of every human being is above all love—love received and love given.”

"Loving God, you choose to claim my heart as sacred space. Assist me this season in making my heart worthy to be your sanctuary . Amen."--Anonymous

"Remember...all saints have a past and all sinners have a future."---Anonymous

"Listen....can you hear it? It is the sound of silence, a spiritual sound, because the whole Church, the whole mystical Body of Christ, in the holy season of Advent is in the womb of Mary with Christ. All you can hear is Mary's heart beating for her Baby saying, 'Come Emmanuel.' <\i>---Fr. Samuel Medley Solt

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Good Is It?

“What good is it if Mary was full of grace unless I am full of grace? And what good is it if Christ was born 2000 years ago, if he is not born in me, in my time, and in my culture?” ---German mystic, Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Learning Centers: Straw Manger

Find a picture of Baby Jesus lying in the manger.
Color brightly everything except the hay.
Cut strips of yellow construction paper.
The child writes something he/she wishes to do for Jesus or give up for Jesus during the Advent season.
These strips are taped onto the manger to "soften" Jesus's bed.
By Christmas Eve, His bed should be nice and soft and full of bright yellow straw.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ah, Little Man...

We have missed you!
My youngest told me today that she knows the truth about the Tooth Fairy. Said she figured it out herself.
And Santa, well she figured out his magic on her own after last Christmas. She's smart that way.
But you, Little Elf, are something else.
There's something magical about you that she just can't let go of.
And you still had the bell wrapped round your neck that she left out for you along with Santa's cookies and milk. She plans to listen for you as you move through the house at night this year. ;-)
The smile when she saw you and the bubble of anticipation that escaped her makes me believe!
You, little man, are the last friend of her childhood. And it's been a magical one. Thank you for the memories.
~ Welcome Back, Jingles! ~

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