Friday, September 28, 2012

Innumerable Actions of Very Little Importance

I haven't written in a while, because I haven't encountered anything that could inspire more than a sentence or two.  That hasn't really changed, but enough time has passed that a many "sentence or two" can turn out to be something worth reading. 

I read my favorite book ever, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade a year ago on my Kindle.  I highlighted the book in its entirety (practically).  Normally, when I read a paper book, I handwrite the things I want to remember in another book for easier reference.  However, I used the lazy Kindle highlighting function, so I am just now going back and writing all of the quotes I loved, basically the whole thing.

"Review your life.  Is it not composed of innumerable actions of very little importance?  Well, God is quite satisfied with these.  They are the share that the soul must take in the work of its perfection."

Lately, my share in the work of my soul's perfection has consisted of cancelling my gym membership, cleaning the house, and facilitating a class for women at my Church.

I cancelled my gym membership because I would have to drag my 3-year-old out of the house 5 days a week to get 3 workouts in.  I'm already committed the other two.  It's not fair to him and it frees us up, alot.  I can work out while he's playing on the jungle gym or "walk the street" in front of my house while he's napping.  So far so good.

As for housecleaning, I dusted off a cleaning chart I made some years ago and am putting it back to work!  My husband helped me arrive at this resolution by reminding me (after several weeks of stewing on it) that he goes to work everyday; That's his job.  My "job" is to care for the kiddos that are home and take care of the house.  That's the deal.

Before I could admit that he was right, I had to remind him that he works for a paycheck.  I work to please him (Lord knows the kids don't care about whether the blinds are dusted!!).  For a while, it seemed like there wasn't much I could do to please him, so it was killing my motivation a little (read: a lot).  I told him that even though he likes his job, if he stopped getting paid, he might be inclined to quit showing up.  Same here.

To make a short story long, He was right and I had to spend a few days figuring out how to work cleaning back in the schedule, but we're back to good and the house is happy. 

By the way, one of my most invaluable tools for planning my time, is my Miranous planner.  Miranda Walichowski designed it and illustrates on every page what our priorities should be.  All you have to do is fill in the space to put in the specifics from your life:  God, Family, S.E.L.F. (Social, Emotional, Leisure, Fitness), Home, and Work.  You can check out her stuff at  I stopped using my planner over the summer and could have avoided the "housecleaning issue" with my husband if I would not have done that!

Lastly, a word about the power of the spoken word...

I talked to an old friend from KS a couple of weeks ago.  After a little catching up, he asked me how my family was doing.  I said, "Great."  He said, "I heard you were getting a divorce.  It really upset me to hear that."  I asked who he heard that from and he said "Oh, I think it went through just about everybody (all of the people we used to work with)".I said, "Frank, that's not true.  Everything is fine.  There isn't a bit of truth to that."  He was relieved and so was I! 

I didn't expect that weird conversation to hang with me, but it did.  I texted my husband about the conversation and my phone rang as soon as I hit "Send".  "What?  Who said that?  Who told him that?"  and so on...  I was amused at first that someone still cared enough about me to start a rumor 10 years after working with me, but then it just unsettled me.  Thoughts like, "Is everything okay in my marriage?  Is there something I don't know? After all, I live with my husband and he seemed just as shocked as I was, so surely there's nothing to it."  It sounds ridiculous even to write this, but that is the power of the word!  A great reminder to only speak truth and life!     

Dear Creator and Redeemer, Thank you for giving us the Word made flesh.  Thank you for teaching us about the power of our words, through your Son.  Thank you for planners (and the people who make them) that begin and end the day with You.  Thank you for marriage and the way it makes us better people.  Thank you for housecleaning charts and all of the other ways we can be held accountable.  Thank you for giving us Your grace when we ask for it, as we continue each day with innumberable actions of very little importance.  I hope You really are satisfied with those.  I love you.  Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Loving Myself For Your Benefit

Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking to a beautiful group of wives and mothers who gather to pray and fellowship.  The time I spent with them clarified and deepened a conviction about our need to love ourselves.  I am embracing an "I love me for your benefit" philosophy.  However, it needs to be understood in the context of the proper "love order" (as reviewed by Fr. Michael Sullivan). We should love:
          1. God (above all else)
          2. Our soul (Love your neighbor as yourself)
          3. Our neighbor (yes, this includes our kids)
          4. Our body

I want to share this with you because our culture screams "Love yourself!  Love yourself!  Love yourself!"  Our culture says it's okay if your love begins and ends with yourself. 

As a person who would like to be "in the world, but not of the world", a.k.a. "counter-cultural", it would be easy to dismiss this "Love yourself" concept altogether, throw on the penances, don the hairshirt, and work on loving everyone but myself.  Meanwhile, making sure to feel very selfish for the smallest indulgence.  (Are you nodding your head in agreement?)  I think Christian women may lean a little too far in this direction (myself included).  Not for the sake of martyrdom, but because we fail to see the line between ordered and disordered love.

The truth (as usual) is not to be found in either extreme.  We cannot love our neighbor as ourself, if we do not love ourself in the first place.

"I love me for your benefit." - A person operating at this level says:  "I love me, work on me, and build myself up so that I can come to you from a position of wholeness, a position of fullness.  I take care of me so that you don't have to.  From fullness I can then empty myself, my gifts, my love, my actions, for your ultimate benefit.  I am the only one in charge of me, and I am the one ultimately responsible for me and my well-being.  Therefore, as a steward of my greatest gift, my life, I need to take steps to ensure my health, my calmness of mind, my sanity, and my own validation as a person in the world.  Thus, I can free you from having to provide those things for me.  Thus, I can truly serve you without needing you to serve me."

Hal Runkel, author of Scream-Free Parenting

Dear Lover of Body and Soul, Creator and Redeemer,  Thank you for loving us.  Thank you for summarizing the ten commandments in only two.  "Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."  "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Please help us to know what this looks like.  The world's voice is so loud, please help us to hear You.  I don't want to love myself more than I should, but I don't want to burden others for my part, either.  Please show me where the balance is in all things.  I love you and I trust You to reveal to me what I need to know.  I love you.  Amen. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fake It 'Til You Make It

What a super night!  A great combination of hilarity and pride (not the kind that says you're better than everybody else, but the kind you feel for your kids when they exceed your expectations).

My husband and I decided to let the 6 and 7-year-old boys try out for the local swim club.  They love to swim.  Their Daddy loves to swim.  I love to swim.  Their 3-year-old brother loves to swim.  And our 17-year-old-neighbor-idol-superhero-rockstar loves to swim.  If being surrounded by awesome swimmers makes them awesome swimmers, they are in!

We showed up with 25 other first-timers, grabbed the necessary form on the way in and took our seat at the end of the bleachers to await instruction.  I returned the form and reclaimed my seat.  "Where are the boys?" I ask my husband.  He says, "I thought they were with you."  We quickly scan the bleachers and then the pool, where the current team members are practicing on the far end.

I say, "That looks like B-Man!" (in a lane with a bunch of other swimmers with kickboards).  He says, "There's Walker right behind him!"  Sure enough.  They came to swim, so they just grabbed a kickboard and jumped in!  I guess they figured the only reason to ever wait to get in the water at the swimming pool was for sunscreen, and since we were indoors, there was no reason to wait!  The coach didn't even seem to notice a couple of extra swimmers, except when they were going the wrong way.  Hopefully, this isn't a "You had to be there" kind of story, because it was hilarious.

I think "Fake It Til You Make It" really is a more legitimate approach than it sounds.  Tonight was a great illustration of "If it looks like an Aggie Club swimmer, acts like an Aggie Club swimmer, and smells like an Aggie Club Swimmer, it must be an Aggie Club Swimmer!" The coach who evaluated them when their turn finally came loved their enthusiasm and he didn't even know about their unauthorized warm-up.  We loved their enthusiasm, too, and hope it continues, especially when they realize there is way more to learn than what they already know!

Dear God, Thank you for tonight.  Amen.

Do-It-Yourself, Answering Your Own Prayer

Have you ever had the same thing/idea/theme come up repeatedly over a short period of time in your life?  And the repetition gets you thinking, "Lord, are you trying to tell me something?!" 

In the past couple of weeks, I keep coming across similar references to prayer in different sources.  So, as a continual effort to share what I've been given, I wanted to share these overlapping sentiments with you. The statements are simple and straightforward, but the implications are far-reaching.

I don't want to be the reason God can't answer my prayer!  I'm sure you don't either, so here's the gist, according to William Barclay* in A Book of Everyday Prayers:

1.  Be honest in prayer.  "Don't lie to God." (Luther) "We cannot pray for that which we do not desire with our whole hearts.  If there is something which we know we ought to desire, and we do not desire it, then our first step must not be to pray for it; that would be dishonest; but to confess that the holy desire is not there, and to ask God by His Spirit to put it there."

2.  We must be very definite in prayer and there can be no real prayer without self-examination.

3.  God cannot grant a selfish request.  Anything that we do necessarily affects other people.

4.  God will not do for us that which we can do for ourselves.  Prayer is the cooperation of our effort with the grace of God. 

~"There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then in flirting with that temptation, in playing with fire, and in putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination." 

~"There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been." 

~"There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and the neglected in our own sphere."

~"Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing, if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do."

Prayer is not primarily a means of escape, it is a means of conquest.  "Prayer does not normally promise or achieve release from some situation; it brings power and endurance to meet and to overcome that situation."

In a brief Wikipedia search on William Barclay, I learned that he was a minister, skeptical concerning the Trinity, a universalist, and a pacifist. I don't know much else about him, nor generally align my beliefs with his, but I believe what he says here regarding prayer.

Several days after reading William Barclay's thoughts on prayer, I read this in a daily Magnificat meditation:

"You say, 'he hasn't worked the miracle.' 'he hasn't given me the courage I need.'  Well the answer usually is: 'you  have not given him anything to work the miracle with.'  Of course, he can do some miracles without, but usually he asks us to give something, and if the miracle you ask is personal transubstantiation - that you may be changed into him - then clearly, unless you offer yourself - all of yourself - he can't do it, for what has he got to change?" - Caryll Houselander

Dear Creator and Redeemer,  Thank you for people who teach us how to talk to and relate to You.  Thank you for gentle reminders that get us back on track with a broader perspective of prayer and our role in it.  Lord, help me to "show up", but get out of the way, too.  I give you the desires of my heart.  For the things that You will for my life that I do not yet desire, please give me the desire.  For the things that I desire that have no place in my life, please remove them.  Lord, I am too short-sighted to even know what I am asking, but You know, and I trust in You.  Amen.