Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Beautiful Life

When I think of a saintly mother, I picture a sweetly smiling, perfectly patient, neatly dressed lady in a well kept house with cooperative children. The family's days surely flow seamlessly from work to play, from meals to bedtime with little complaint and lots of love. For this saintly mother, with her skilled parenting and virtuous demeanor, would cultivate peaceful surroundings, well behaved, smiling children, and a beautiful life. Shouldn't this be my goal too, this beautiful life?

Surely our primary goals involve loving God and bringing this love to our families, and teaching our children to know and serve God and others. If we do these things, won't we achieve this beautiful life we imagine? How can it be then, that in our pursuit of the beautiful life, we compromise our true goals, to know, love and serve God?

We begin to serve the image; we begin to strive for the beautiful life; we begin to insist our families and our homes appear beautiful and well ordered, at least on the outside. We define our selves by our parenting style, by our educational philosophy, by the way we eat or dress, by the choices we make for our children. We decide that we do things a certain way, that we know best, that this is God's will for us, and for everyone. The image is being served.

Can it be that God permits messes and disorder? Can it be that sometimes God calls us to compromise our worthy ideals? Could it be that God may call us to sacrifice some of our well intentioned good deeds, some of our vision of beauty, some of our well crafted ideology?

The answer is yes, and it is painful and confusing. However, it is best to keep in mind that this pain and confusion stems from our disordered service of the vision, our vision of the beautiful life we believe we were called to, the vision that we have put before doing God's will.

For doing God's will may actually lead us to places, to ideas and understandings we never could imagine. God's infiniteness clashes with our finiteness. We arrange our little worlds a certain way to make sense for us, but God calls us to grow.

For it is in the messes and disorder that we demonstrate our patience and virtue, it is with pain and sickness that we reveal love and forgiveness, it is when we encounter frustrations, disappointments, conflict and embarrassments that our true character is revealed. It is during the trials of life, when we fall on our knees, that we gain wisdom and grow. This is where we meet grace. Let us turn our attentions then, away from the beautiful vision, and fix our eyes on God, wherever that may lead.

Peace, Hope

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why Me?

One thing I hear regularly from others when commenting on the number of children I have is, "Oh, you must be so patient." My usual response is, "I'm working on it!" If they only knew how much I have to work on it. I am not a natually patient person. Sometimes I wonder why God would give eight children to an impatient, perfectionist, introvert like me, surely my children do not benefit from this bent I have. Wouldn't a gregarious, messy, fun, creative type provide better mothering to this brood? Daily I have to work to overcome my personality type, while pasting a smile to my face and confronting another mess, something broken, a child screaming and pounding down the steps, or a pile of kids jumping on me each time I sit down for some peace. I know loud, chaotic situations are a challenge to the average adult, but one would think dealing with childish noises and mishaps should come naturally to me.

In the much prayer I have done over this something comes to mind. God loves my children, yes, but he also loves me. This mothering thing, it is not supposed to be easy. My vocation is designed to lead me to Christ. God uses all these challenges to lead me to holiness and virtue, and instead of fighting it or thwarting his plan, I must cooperate. Perhaps an impatient, perfectionist, introvert is just the person to have a large family, perhaps it is the only way for me to be molded and changed into a saint. God loves me, yes he does.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Be All You Can Be

Here is what my husband's day looks like. He get up at 5:30 and leaves the house to catch the 7:00 am train. He commutes to work a total of four hours a day, four days a week. During his train commute he works on his lap top computer. He has a high pressure job, and all day long I know he works very hard. One day a week he is able to forgo his commute and work in his home office, but even these days he barely has time for lunch. He likes his work and enjoys his vocation, but he definitely has a challenging life. I know many others live challenging, productive lives as well. Many men and women have demanding careers that require much skill and responsibility.

I think about this sometimes when I read various parenting magazines in waiting rooms of doctors' offices or while getting the kids' haircuts. It always amazes me how the articles describe the work of a mother as almost unbearably demanding or suggest it is the most difficult of jobs. The articles sometimes suggest that putting dinner on the table, getting the laundry done, or even getting showered and dressed in anything beyond sweats is almost beyond reach of accomplishing with any regularity.

Now I certainly have had some bad days and even weeks when life seemed overwhelming, times when getting the basics done was a real struggle. Of course, we all have, it is part of learning and growing, and just managing the challenges of life. However, when I read the magazines it is no wonder that the employed women and men of the world, who are not home raising a family or keeping a home wonder what we do all day.

The popular notion is that our husbands come home to a messy house, no dinner, and their wives wearing sweats, which begs the question, just what do we do all day anyway? I am sorry to say that even some of my favorite parenting resources, especially regarding attachment parenting and breastfeeding, fall into this mindset as well.

Although we will never escape having "one of those days" now and then, there really is no excuse for not living out our vocations admirably. Being up and dressed and ready for work is not a unique idea, and there is no reason at home mothers are exempt from this task. Having some degree of organization to our home and to our day should be a minimum expectation we have for ourselves. Keeping up with the laundry and preparing dinner for our families should naturally fall to the parent at home, and distractions like attending play groups, cruising the internet, or attending field trips may be keeping us from these important tasks, that when left undone, leave us feeling discouraged and unprepared.

Our vocations, as Catholic mothers, are noble and worth giving our best too. We need to see it as real work and rise to meet the challenges of each day. We need to prioritize and do the first things first, and learn how to better manage our obligations as any professional in the workplace does. God calls us to give our best to every task, every day, no matter where we do our work.

Peace, Hope