Health and Holiness Don’t Come Easy

 

” … inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’.”                 – Matthew 25:34

It’s no secret to those who know me that I don’t like to cook.  I never have.  Granted, this a bit of a challenge since for the past almost 20 years my sole job has been a housewife.  If you were to write a job description for the role of housewife, I think most people would include cooking and preparing meals as a significant part of that job description. I should clarify here that’s it’s also not that I can’t cook.  When I prepare food it comes out pretty good most of the time, and sometimes even really good.  It’s that my heart just really isn’t into cooking, so I try to avoid it except on those days when I have nothing better to do.  And sometimes a trip to the dentist is a more appealing thing for me to do than cook, so I think you can appreciate how little I enjoy it.

While it’s rarely my first choice to cook, it is however, a priority of mine to eat!  I love to eat!  Especially junk food.  All the packaged, processed foods that get all the bad publicity these days?  I {heart} them.  Deeply. 

The thing is, as scientists and nutritionists tell us, those foods really aren’t good for us and have no redeeming value.  The vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that are necessary to human health and long life are severely lacking in these foods.  So we are advised to include them in our diets only rarely, if ever.

In Matthew’s Gospel today,  Jesus provides a similar caution about our eternal health.  Just as many of the perfectly legal and totally enjoyable (but often harmful) foods in the American diet are not advised for health and long life, many of the perfectly legal and totally enjoyable things about the American way of life (egocentricity, promiscuity, money-grubbing) are not advised for our eternal health. Today, Jesus warns us that the life we live here on earth –this brief, worldly life– is in many ways a preview of what our eternal life will center around based on the choices we make while here.

So, while I love  Suzy Q’s and Girl Scout cookies (I’m looking at you, Caramel Delights), I must admit that my health suffers from them when they aren’t taken in small doses. (I say this with confidence as I single-handedly stuffed my face with a box of Caramel Delights over the course of an afternoon and evening this past week.  I mean, I had to off-set all that Lenten fasting with something, right?)

The point is this: most of us enjoy things that are not good for us.  Most of us don’t willingly choose a life of healthy eating, nor do we choose a life of holiness and selflessness.  But most of us also desire to live a long, healthy life and I think most of us–regardless of what we believe comes after this earthly life–would like that time to be spent without pain and suffering.  But our choices matter, and we must train ourselves to desire what is right and good for us in order to get the outcomes we desire…in this life, and the next.

Reflect:  What is the one most unhealthy or unholy practice, habit or addiction in my life right now? In what ways do I rationalize spending time doing this thing I love even though I know it isn’t good for me?  What is one change I can make to put more distance between me and that unhealthy or unholy habit in my life?

Pray:  Lord, thank you for loving us so much you only want what is best for us.  You know our human weaknesses. Though you desire for us to be healthy and holy, you never force us to be.  Help strengthen us to stand firm against our weaknesses.  Make your desire for us, our desires, too! Give us the wisdom to begin building the foundations of healthy and holy habits both in this world and the next. Amen.

 

On Choosing Life

“Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19

When I was in ninth grade, I loved animals so much that I was sure I was going to be a veterinarian. I was lucky enough to have my parents steer me to a career exploration program where I got to “shadow” a veterinarian for three or four weeks so I could decide if this was indeed my future career. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.) Mostly what my fellow explorers and I observed were surgeries to neuter or spay dogs and cats.

One day in particular stands out to me from that experience. That day we were going to “spay a pregnant dog.” My ninth grade mind didn’t quite conceptualize what this meant, so I stood and observed the vet as he made an incision into the dog’s belly then reached in and pulled out the dog’s uterus (which was more akin to how I’d always envisioned an intestine would look). His pulling it out of the dog’s belly reminded me a bit of a magician’s scarf trick…it just kept coming and coming out of the dog. As he held it up, we could clearly what I can only describe as a “sausage-tube” of five puppies. You could see their fur, you could see their little paws, you could see their closed eyes. And I thought to myself what exactly are we doing here? What’s he going to do with those puppies? And after holding the sausage-tube of puppies up for us all to see, he wordlessly dropped it into a garbage bag-lined plastic bin. And then he began sewing up the dog, who’s body, I was beginning to realize, had been slowly stretching and shaping in preparation to give birth, but who now was going to awaken from anesthesia with a belly slackened and empty.

That’s when I realized that I had just witnessed a dog abortion.

And while my heart broke for those puppies quietly dying in the bin, it also broke for the dog on the table who I was certain would feel some sense of loss or confusion when she woke up. I wanted to both save the puppies and comfort the mother. I wanted to find a home for her and for those cute little pups. But I couldn’t do that myself, and that wasn’t why I was there, so I did neither. But I went home deeply bothered and realized in that moment that I was not cut out to be a veterinarian.

I didn’t know it then, but this concern I had over the dog and her pups is what Pro-Life ministries do for human families. While the terms “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” have become trigger words in our culture that are pitted at opposite ends of a spectrum, I truly believe that most people on both sides of the abortion issue act out of deep concern for the woman expecting a child. I also believe that most people on both sides agree that men and women should be able to have a say in (or choose) medical procedures that affect their bodies. The problem with pregnancy is that there are actually two bodies involved: the woman’s body, yes of course, but also a separate hidden body that is her unborn child. And even if he isn’t present, somewhere there is a third body: that of the man who helped create that unborn child. This is what my exposure to Pro-Life work has helped me see, because I didn’t always see it: that we must act with love out of concern for ALL of them.

Yes, we help and love and pray for the destitute and overwhelmed mothers, yes we help and love and pray for the distraught or absent fathers, and yes… we also do all of these things for the unborn.

The words from Deuteronomy are clear today, “Choose life then, that you and your descendants might live….” It is an inarguable fact that through abortion, not all of our descendants get the chance to live. We are cherry-picking our descendants before we even know them. And while the gateway for that may have been a law that gave us the option, the law is not even the issue. Abortion could be legal forever, but that doesn’t mean that any of us must choose it.

If our hearts change, the law will hardly matter. Blessed Mother, pray for us!
Reflect: Do you believe your life and body are your own or that they are gifts from God? If you believe they are your own have you ever thought about why you exist? What do you believe is the purpose for your life? For your body? If you believe your life and body are from God, what are some changes you need to make to better align with what God desires for your life? For your body? (Hint: Try reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West or These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson if you are unsure of God’s desires for your life and body.)
Pray: Loving Father, you have created us out of love for relationship with one another. Help us break down the barriers that prevent us from having real communication with one another about difficult and complex issues. Open our ears to hear what those whom we view as our opposition are truly saying, and help us unite the many divisions of our government, our country, our economy, our world, and most especially your Body the Church. Amen.

NOTE:  Some people (men or women) experience traumatic loss, sadness or even suicidal thoughts after choosing to terminate a pregnancy.  If you experience any of these thoughts or emotions after an abortion, please know there is help for you!  Consider reaching out to  Hope After Abortion  or  Rachel’s Vineyard .

My Father’s Voice

“And your Father, who sees in secret will repay you.” – Matthew 6:4,6

It was the smallest of comments really.

If I weren’t in such desperate need of hearing it, I may not even have heard it.

But as I lay resting in the hospital recovering from my second c-section (and rather enjoying the fact that if I needed anything all I had to do was push the “call” button and it would be done for me–yay, nurses!), I had a roomful of visitors with me.  Between my in-laws, my parents, my husband, our toddler son, and our new infant son the room was near maximum capacity.  Babies really are such a blessing!  But motherhood doesn’t come without its trials, of course, and I was already beginning to worry about how I would handle an active toddler, a newborn baby and a husband who worked long hours once I returned home and our families returned to theirs.  My heart grew weary just thinking of it. Then, there it was, all I needed to hear floated above the chatter of the varying conversations in the room.  I heard my dad’s voice rise above the others saying, “The three of us have only had to watch [the two-year-old] since yesterday and he’s already completely worn us out.”  Then he turned and grinned at me.  “Yep.  He wore out all three of us, and all we had to do was half of what Lisa does every day.”

And there it was.  Everything and nothing in those few sentences.

Every part of validation, affirmation, encouragement, reassurance, admiration, appreciation, confidence, trust.  One big giant Atta girl! You got this!

No part of criticism, judgment, unsolicited advice, doubt or skepticism.  No You really need to step up your game, or else!

I sometimes forget that God wants to encourage me, not condemn me.   I get so busy focusing on my own self-critical voice pointing out all the ways in which I fall short that I forget to listen for Him telling me that He sees my efforts…and they are good!

Enter Jesus, the Living Word.

Jesus tells us not once, but three times today (I think that means it’s important!) in His sermon on the mount that our “Father, who sees in secret” and “sees what is hidden” will repay us.  He says this in the context of the unseen, unnoticed things we do for or give to others (almsgiving);  the unspoken desires and longings churning deep in our hearts (prayer), and the self-serving things we give up or let go of in the interest of a greater good (fasting)…all within the context of doing these things without gaining acclaim from anyone.

And to each of these things, Jesus assures us, “God sees you.  God will repay you.  God sees you.  God will repay you. God sees you. God will repay you.”

And just how will God repay us?  Why, with Himself of course!  The more we do for God, the more we become like Him:  loving, kind, patient, caring, joyful, generous and peaceful.

And the more we become like Him, the more we can share Him with others.  That is the good news!

So, as we venture out into this desert of Lent, let’s remember to keep our hearts open for  the Living Word of our Father.   Much as my dad’s words have carried me over the years as I’ve journeyed through motherhood, so, too, will our Father’s Word carry us as we journey through this season.

Pray:  Lord, thank you for your generous love and your encouraging Word.  I thank you for all the blessings in my life, and for helping me shoulder the burdens that come my way.  I am grateful I can always count on you to be there for me.  Help me to give generously, love deeply and walk humbly with You.  Amen.

Seeing God’s Smile in the New Year

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT)

I still remember the first time my first-born child smiled at me.  I had worked sooooo hard for that smile.  Trying to coo and coax it out of him.  Worrying that perhaps he was missing that all-important milestone all the parenting books insisted he was fully capable of reaching by now.

And then, one day as I sat there with him on my lap gazing up at me, and me exhausting myself by making faces working so hard to get a smile out of him,  I remember I took a break and glanced up to catch whatever was on TV at the time.  When I glanced back down ready to get back to this business of making-my-son-smile, there he was gazing up at me and, just like that, a big smile broke out on his face.

What a beautiful moment, right?  Mother and infant child gazing with total love into each other’s eyes?  Well, unfortunately my reaction was much different, and doesn’t exactly get me Mother of the Year.

I screamed.

Not like, “Yay for you!  What a good boy!”  But instead– I guess because it was so unexpected– I scooped him up and held him away from me suddenly (like I would have if he had just filled his pants)… and I screamed.  (In my defense, it wasn’t a long horror-movie scream.  Just a quick, “Agh!”)  Not surprisingly, my holding him away from me and the loud noise I made were enough to completely ruin the moment.

He started crying.

Yep. Good feeling gone.

I was reminded of that moment with my son as I read today’s readings and wondered how I would feel if I were able to see God and make him smile.

At first, the thought of this inspired me.  I enjoy laughing and being with people who make me laugh and smile. I often consider it a great gift and one I like to pass on to others when I can.  But God?  To make God smile?  How much greater would that be?

And then I remembered how all that hard work I put into trying to make my son smile caught me completely off guard when he offered his first smile up to me without any work at all.  And how the shock of that made me react less like the loving mother I long to be and more like one of the Three Stooges.

And yet the lesson is still there, isn’t it?  That we don’t need to work so hard at it.  We only need to bask in it.  Turn our faces towards it.  Return the smile.

Because God does smile upon us, and he is smiling upon us, and always has.  As he created us into being.  As he brought us his only Son.  As he sacrificed himself on the cross.  As he rose from the dead.  As his poured out his Spirit that lives and moves within us today.  And though the thought of that may be a little intimidating (go ahead and scream about it…I won’t judge you!), the truth is that as hard as we try to make him smile, we will miss it unless we take the time to bask in the light of it.  To hold it up before us and give it back in turn.  To carry it in our hearts and wear it on our faces as we go about our day.

My son is now a teenager and some days I find myself working just as hard as I did those first few weeks and months of his life trying to get a smile out of him.  But then, often when I least expect it, there it is…his big, toothy grin.  And the thought of it even now makes me smile.  No less a gift today than it was sixteen years ago.

Also a gift is the ability to sit –even for only a moment– in prayer and think of God’s smile.  Him as creator.  You and me as his creation.  Being smiled upon.  Returning the smile.

As we start a new year, perhaps hopeful (or perhaps not), of what this new year holds, let us take a moment today to remember that regardless of whether or not we feel it, God IS smiling on us.  He is smiling at you.  He loved YOU into being. His love is radiating in and through us–you and me.  His peace, which my Bible footnotes (NAB translation) tell me are from the Hebrew word Shalom meaning an all-encompassing hope of happiness, good health, prosperity, friendship, and general well-being, is a free gift he offers us, if only we are willing to turn to him.

You need not work so hard for it like a first-time mom might.

Simply trust in it.  Soak it up.

And let the Spirit of it guide you.

Birth Stories

 

 

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

– Luke 2:19, NAB

Every once in a while, I gaze upon my children in wonder.

I wonder at the people they are becoming.  Their kind and gentle ways.  Their warm and giving hearts.  Their open and receptive minds.  His strong, quiet leadership. Her grace and beauty and laughter.  His creative mind while he works.

And I wonder where did you come from?  How did you get here?

But, of course, I know.

I was there for every bit of it.

I was there when the idea of them began forming in my mind even when I was only a very small girl, playing dolls, playing house.  Mimicking and practicing the role of mother, long before I knew how a girl even became one.

I was there dreaming and wishing as a young woman about my Mr. Right.  Scribbling his name and mine together over and over again.  Trying them on for size.  Spending every free moment  with each other, but never getting our fill.  Waiting and hoping and dreaming until finally two became one.

I was there as the thread of my old life was picked up and sown into the fabric of a new one.   In this new life together, strengths and weaknesses could be measured and balanced.  Neither had to bear all the weight of any burden alone, and joys and blessings were multiplied because not only one felt it, but two.

I was there when this love for our life together could not contain itself.  When he and I gave of ourselves so much to each other that our love grew, right within me, into a life all its own.

I was there when that love spilled out of me and gazed right back at us with its own two eyes, not once, not twice but three times.  Him and him and her.   Lives of love themselves, born into love, and creating love anew.

All of this I know as I gaze at my three children, each one of them a miracle of our life and love—my husband’s and mine.

I was there for every bit of it, and still I look at them and wonder where did you come from?

While my children are my most profound and miraculous birth stories, they are not, however, my only birth stories.

In my life I have also given birth to other ideas and dreams that have manifested themselves in other ways:  faith formation programs and presentations, this blog, handmade gifts and goodies for family and friends just to name a few.  Simpler, sure, but nonetheless ideas of love birthed into being.

Even if only to a few people.

Even if only for a short time.

Yesterday, as I sat in church I listened as our deacon reminded us that Mary is not “just” the mother of Jesus.  She is the Mother of God.  She is The God-Bearer, fully human.

And, like the old song, I wondered did she know?  I like to think she didn’t know–at least not fully–what the miracle of her child meant for the world.  I like to think she only had a hunch sometimes, or caught a glimpse here and there, limited, in her own humanness because it makes her more relatable.  I like to think she doesn’t mind my doing so.

And I wondered how else I might be like her.  How we all might be.  And I thought about all of these things as I’ve told you.

And I’ve ended up with this:  Mary allowed God to enter into her and create in her so that she could bear God into the world for all to know Him and see Him anew.

As we start a new year, may we all take some time to gaze back upon the miracles in our lives–big and small–that God has created in us over the past year or years.   Like Mary, may we “keep all these things, reflecting on them” in our hearts, staying open to the possibility that God is still working in us creating life anew—even long after our child-bearing years– so that we may continue to bring Him forth to others.

Reflect:  What do I consider the biggest miracles in my life?  How/when have I been the face or hands of God to others?  What is the one big miracle growing within me right now?  How might that miracle be made manifest to others?

Pray:  God, thank you for the miracles in my life.  Thank you for making me part of your divine plan.  Help me see and celebrate the ways you’ve created things through me.  Help me stay open to your plans for me.  Take me.  Enter me.  Create in me.  Bear yourself to others through me.  I am yours.

A Lesson in Solitude

“Today I went into my laundry room, shut the door, filled three buckets of water, and lined them up against the door to keep it shut,” my friend said as soon as she picked up the phone, knowing it was me.  “What in the world happened?” I asked with some alarm.  “Oh, nothing really,” my friend replied, “it’s just that sometimes Mommy really needs a Time Out and there are never enough locks on the door.”

No doubt, few people can know the desperation and longing for solitude like mothers of young children. We go from being our own people, on our own schedules, doing our own thing and dreaming about the joys and beauty of motherhood, only to find that day after day, hour after hour, year after year without any time to ourselves, the reality of raising children can leave us feeling ragged, weary, and sometimes forgotten.  What we fail to realize is that very often, the first one who neglected to take care of us, was ourselves!

There are valuable lessons for everyone, though, found in the spirituality of motherhood.  For us onlookers, it is obvious that in order to be effective in what she does, the mother must always be sure to take some time away—in whatever form she can find it.  Jesus demonstrates this so well throughout his ministry.  In order to heal others he must separate himself from the crowds and pray.  Matthew tells us that Jesus withdrew “in a boat to a deserted place by himself” after hearing of the murder of John the Baptist, but the crowds follow him and gather on the shore.  After taking his time away, he returns to shore and is able to perform a miracle—the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-23).  And Luke tells us after Jesus cleansed a leper “many crowds would gather” to hear him and be cured of their diseases, “but he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

What is going on here?  We may wonder.  Why doesn’t he just heal them all at once?  While that is a question best answered by God in your own quiet time of solitude, I can share that, for me, it has become obvious that silence and solitude are the food and fuel for my soul.  The more I let my soul rest in silence “away from the crowds” with God, the more I am filled with patience and compassion for others.  For years, I was mistaken in my thinking that as a young mother my life of sacrifice and service to my children and family was, while a wonderful blessing, also my “cross to bear.”  I neglected to see that making time (because it is up to us to create the schedule, after all) to be alone in silence with God was not, in fact, my “cross to bear” but rather, the God-given “daily bread” of my human journey.  Many of us mistakenly view our service to others in this same way, in whatever way we serve.  We think the service itself is the “cross,” but I think that’s because we neglect to fuel up for the journey!  In its proper order, we soon come to realize that our service to others is not the cross we bear, but rather, the fruit we share that ripens through our time spent “laboring” in silence and solitude. What kind of labor is that?  You may wonder.  Sitting around and doing nothing?  I’d love to do that if I had the time!  (I invite you again to take that very question to God.  I would love to hear what you discover!)

Perhaps, like me, you have avoided silence and solitude for such a long time because somewhere in your depths you already know what you will discover.  It is the same thing that Jacob discovered when he was left alone and “a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (Gen 32:24)  But, there is hope for all of us in Jacob’s story, too.  For at the end of the struggle we realize it was never God’s demand for Jacob to hold on, but rather Jacob’s refusing to let go of God, that resulted in his being blessed. (Gen 32: 26-28)

Something’s Gotta Give

May day!  May day!

Yes, it is the first of May.  And my introductory shout is both a celebration of that long-lost holiday of putting out flowers on doorsteps for others, and also that call of desperation we hear from captains of the air and sea when they are in trouble, and their ship or their plane is out of control.

Today I feel both a reason to celebrate, and a need to get my “ship” back in control.

The most obvious celebration in our household today is for my middle son, who turns 11.  Eleven!  As usual, my mind screams where did the time go?  It seems like only a few years at most that my husband and I were celebrating both the blessing and the bewilderment of having a second  healthy boy (11 pounds and 6 ounces of healthiness to be exact!) Still, celebrating him and the young man he’s rapidly growing up to be is so much to celebrate!

Then, there’s my call for help.  It’s to get me out of my own mess.  I keep reminding myself these are really and truly only problems faced by people privileged enough to live in First World countries like the good ol’ US of A.  So, please know that as I complain, I am also grateful.

The last month or two for me has been a ton of ridiculousness of volunteer activities and the like.  Not to mention anything that can go wrong seemed to go wrong for my husband at work, which meant later than usual nights for him as well.  It all ended last weekend in a big hurrah when I decided (only about a week beforehand) that being part of our neighborhood garage sale was also something I should do.

That makes perfect sense when you’re already exhausted from too much chauffeuring of kids to lessons and activities, volunteer commitments at their schools, and not disappointing the tens of people who look forward to my thrice-a-week blog.

Yes, when better to do a garage sale?  Oh, and a lemonade and bake sale put on by the neighborhood kids, along with my kids.  At my house.

Of course, I should do that, too!

So, Friday was a flurry of activity here trying to set up and price items for Saturday’s sale.  (No time for blogging that day).  Saturday morning the doorbell rang at ten to eight with the neighborhood kids raring to go. (Not entirely unrelated to my whole theme of the post today, their sale was *mostly* for charity–they each kept $5–and they ended up raising over $50 for Autism Speaks, so their story, too had a great ending!)

Anyhoo, then there was me, bleary-eyed and staring through the steam on my mug of hot green tea as I opened the garage door and the car loads of bargain shoppers swooped in.  And,  while most of the whole sale is a blur, I do remember this:  I remember having to use the calculator for a woman who was buying $6.70 worth of clothes and miscellany because she gave me a $10 bill.

I know.

(I know.)

As I slowly punched the numbers in she blurted out, “$3.30My change is $3.30!”

Yes, I know monkeys can do math better than I do.  But, my question is, can they do it on about four hours of sleep and with so many distractions going on around them?  My garage was full of people milling about and every other second one of the kids was asking me a question!   Anyway, luckily for me,  at the moment she told me what her change should be, my calculator simultaneously concurred.

And that’s when I realized I had no dimes or nickels for change.  (I’d planned on only pricing things in quarters, but obviously changed my plan without consulting my brain).

Lovely.

Anyway, it all worked out.  I told the lady to take the two 10 cent items for free.  She quietly thanked me and then, very kindly went to her car and returned with a dollar and 20 cents worth of dimes to not only pay for the two 10 cent items, but to also provide me with future dimes for change.

What is my point, you wonder?

I have no idea.  (I’m still really tired and it’s now Wednesday).

Which kind of is my point.  I had reached a point where nothing much was making sense at all anymore.  Why was I doing all this volunteering?  Why was I adding more things to do to an already overworked brain and body?  Why was I continuing to say yes to things, even though the most obvious answer should have been to say no?

I’m still not entirely certain, but I do know this:  no matter how hard we try to do everything and then some, we all have a breaking point. And at that point something’s gotta give. And, unfortunately, in my life, that usually means my husband and my kids have to put up with a tired, cranky wife and mother.

Sound familiar?

I wish I had a better answer.  All I know for sure is that along with my kids and husband, I suffered for taking on so much.  I didn’t want to be grumpy.  I didn’t want to be so tired.  And I didn’t want to be doing anything on the weekend besides enjoying my family (which I was not at all able to do because of all my “yeses” to other things).

So, when Monday came, I worked all day on some of the other volunteer things I’d committed to doing, and as I was able to cross more and more off my list,  I started to feel a sense of peace.  (Even though I had to sacrifice the blog again to get them done).  I started prioritizing and making a punch list.  Tackling one thing at a time.  And bit by bit my load has lightened.  And I have found stillness and peace and quiet again.

And yesterday, there in the stillness at the bottom of all of it, was God.  Waiting.  Holding it all up with me (or for me).  Reminding me that every decision I make impacts others.

Every decision.

It’s how I’ve come to understand what Catholics call “original sin.”  Our decisions have a ripple effect: on ourselves, on God, and on others, even  through the generations.

It’s a tough row to hoe, knowing this.

Still.

There is hope!  And my hope comes from knowing this:  that the ripple effect is also true of our good deeds, when we follow the promptings of the Spirit.  I remember having a conversation with my priest at my last parish in Wisconsin, and he told me that following the Spirit is like throwing stones into a pond.  We let the Spirit carry out our work like ripples on the water…and sometimes?  Sometimes, they touch something and bounce back to us!

And that’s why I have hope.  Because, while I know that my crabbiness and crankiness has a ripple effect, I believe that my good deeds do, too.  Otherwise, why would the lady who was only minutes earlier yelling at me about her change (and hinting–not so subtly– at my idiocy) return with not only payment for items I’d offered her for free, but also with change to spare?

It’s the miracle of mercy.

And it is why I have hope that when my earthly life is over, those who have known me will  remember me not for the stained and blotted effects of my thoughtless,  hurried and sometimes cruel choices, but rather that they will feel their hearts flooded by the loving and heartfelt goodness that comes from the light of the Spirit within me.

Because it shines in us all!

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John 1:5

On Being Supermom

And then what? is a question I like to keep in mind, especially when it comes to striving for perfection.

I’ve found that asking myself that question usually helps me get to the root of what I’m trying to accomplish.

For instance, sometimes I imagine that day after day I will wake up, the house will be in order, the kids will be well-behaved, obedient, and sparkling clean from head to toe.  Our whole family will be loving and patient with our words to each other and we will exhibit nothing but absolute kindness and love.

 Ha!  You may think.  Impossible!  (And please.  Like I don’t know this?)  But, still, I like to imagine it.  Day after day me being a picture-perfect Supermom.  An Uberwife. My life as the picture of perfection.  Everything I do, I do perfectly, and with a happy heart, and without complaint.  (And then I would “pin” my life all over Pinterest for others to see!)  There they would see what I already know…that I am the quintessential wife of Proverbs 31, whose

” children rise up and bless her;  Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:  “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”  (Proverbs 31: 28,29)

Uh-huh.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Isn’t that what I really think a Supermom is?  One whose children and husband (and though the verse doesn’t say it, other moms) “praise” her?  Wouldn’t it be nice to be THAT mom?  Even if only for a day?

But when I let my imagination go there, that’s when I find it most critical to ask myself:

And then what?

 Because that’s when I realize what my answer is, (though I’m a bit ashamed to admit it):

And then I wouldn’t need God.

 You know, it’s a real downer when you  realize that the very Being you claim to adore is also the one you’re trying to erase from your life.

But it all falls back into its proper place again when I realize that attaining the “perfect” life for myself would accomplish just that–the elimination of God.

Then, I simply ask myself again:

And then what? 

And then I see the monumental tasks before me.  And the pressure of it all.  And the weakness of my abilities to carry out any of it.

And I fall to my knees.

And I thank God for His being Him,

and for His making me me.

Down and Out

I just wanted to let you know, I’ll be taking a break from blogging this week.  My daughter is down and out with Rotavirus.  So I’m busy with my fair share of dumping buckets and doing laundry and such.

She’s better today, but still needs to rest.

And she likes me to be right there with her when she does.

And I may not be too smart in a 1000 different ways, but I’m smart enough to know that sitting with her is my most important job right now.

So, thank you all for waiting until I can get back you next week.  In the mean time, you can always check out my friend Anne’s blog here.

And until then, stay healthy!

Little Rays of Light

Every once in a while we moms have a moment where we are caught off-guard and realize that maybe we’ve not done EVERYTHING wrong.

This morning I had one such moment.

Between bustling one kid off to the dentist and dragging another along who woke up with a fever, I felt like this was going to be one of those mornings where I just couldn’t win.  But then, after dropping the Middle One at school after his appointment, there I was with my Little Bean in the van when I noticed off in the distance, through our overcast, cloudy, sky a hole in the clouds where a bright ray of sun shone down.

“Look over there, Bean, isn’t that pretty?” I asked.

She looked up.  “Wow!,” she said, “It looks like Heaven!”

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She read my mind, I thought.

There was a pause.

And then, “I bet it’s Baxter looking down on us from Heaven,” she said with a smile.

“Hmmm.  That’s a beautiful thought,” I said, “I bet you’re right.  He probably dug a hole through the clouds to peak at us.”

She giggled.  “Hi, Baxter!  Hi, Jesus!”  she shouted from the back seat.  She was so happy and matter-of-fact about her greeting–so sure of herself and her faith–that for a moment, I wondered if she might actually see something I didn’t.

But then.

Then,  God pressed down on my heart real hard, and said, “Or maybe she just remembers everything you’ve taught her.”

Amen.

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Mark 10:14