Let’s presume that, my husband and I are in a “conversation” trying to figure out the softball, soccer, dance drop off, pick up, carpool schedule when I hear a little voice in my head saying, “smile at him.” I really don’t feel like it so I cock my head to the side and raise my eyebrow up a little further. Or imagine that my kids are fighting downstairs and something urges me to go sit with them and figure it out but I’m busy with an e-mail so I ignore it. I have not cracked open the bible yet today and my heart pounds a bit when I see my book next to an empty chair but I eat a handful of chocolate covered almonds and scribble out my grocery list while doing 5 other things at the same time. How long will I continue to hear that voice and ignore it? Continue reading “The Nudge of God – do I listen?”
I get a lot of eye rolling my direction at Mass. I think the word today is, “cringey”. That’s my singing. I don’t mean to embarrass my kids but, in a way, I can’t help it. Not to sing and praise God would be for the best part of me to die and the shell of a woman to live. But its not just Mass. Its anytime that you and I feel like we have something to contribute, something of value to say, to encourage. I’m not talking about life without a filter. Of course timing, sensitivity, appropriateness and likely impact are all incredibly important. But a lot of us have things inside about life, caution, beauty and love that are just bursting to come out. Should we be quiet?
For me, its easy to feel that my voice is not important or my words are empty or that they mean little to others. Other people can say things much better so I’ll just keep quiet. I was praying about this the other morning while I was outside. It was a beautiful morning. The birds were singing, wind blowing gently and the air was fragrant. As I paused to enjoy, I noticed a small bird repeating the same thing again and again – cauu, cauu, cauu, cauu. It barely was a song at all. But she was singing. All of creation was. I listened more closely. The orchestra of birds and bugs which made the magnanimous sound almost entirely seemed to be composed of simple tunes repeated over and over. Every bird and bug speaking made it better, humble as each one’s abilities were. Your voice too is part of the beauty. So, let’s tell our teenage daughters again that they are beautiful. Let’s talk again with our little ones about responsibility and eye contact. Let’s muse out loud about the sunset on walks with our friends. Let’s sing at Mass.
The little neon green chairs and the 1940’s white leather bench were like magic in my house. The kids actually sat down to do their homework; their shoes were neatly stowed. Chores were cheerfully being fulfilled, somehow the laundry was already folded and the living room was tidy! With my new furniture acquired from my husband’s grandmother and my organized crew, I felt very Pinterest-y on this sunny morning. My house would never be chaotic again. This was going to be It for good! But then I looked again at the bench, the chairs and an end table with a little hole for writer’s ink. This time I saw not Pinterest but Grandma. The reason for this windfall- she died. Grandma “had it all” – an organized house, neon chairs, a good routine, children who co-operated. But that was not her crowning moment nor the goal. Her last breath was. Frail and empty handed, she surrendered the last bit of her life to Jesus and let go of this world. That was it for good. And that is it for me too. I aim not for beauty, systems and success but for the Cross. You too, if you are a Christian (a little Christ) are headed for the Cross. Total surrender, total abandonment, total brokenness, total service. And then we shall see what it will be like for Good. Try putting that on Pinterest.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain.” – John 12:24
While many of us are planting seeds, preparing soil for saplings, feeding established plants, pruning to create new growth and fighting weeds, we can take a tip from the natural world to more clearly understand what is happening in our souls and how to care for those of our children. Perhaps you could sit outside for 5 minutes this weekend, visually considering horticulture (urban as it is) as analogy for your interior growth.
All throughout their lives, we are helping our kids to make good decisions: crossing the street, what sports or activities to do, gifts to give, how to deal with a little sibling, what to wear to a party etc. As the decisions get weightier the decision process can get a little longer. Take heart that in the same way you are with our little kids as they cross the street, the Holy Spirit is with our children as they face the cross roads in life. Here are some articles and summaries on making decisions. Hopefully this can help our families in many stages of life.
Pray. Recognize God’s presence in all that you do. When you pray regularly, you will more easily be able to approach God for help in making a difficult choice, even when you must do so at the spur of the moment. If you haven’t been seeking God regularly, now is a great time to start. He is with you.
Look. What are the options? What would people you respect say about this decision? What does Scripture say? What does the church teach about this? What is logical?
Imagine. Think about the consequences if you choose the way you think you will. How will your life be impacted? How will others be impacted? What would a little child think about it? How would a parent or grandparent think about your choice? How do you feel imagining you decide a particular way? How do you feel imagining you decide a different way?
Choose. If you have done the previous three steps, trust that God is helping you make the right choice. Act on what you have decided.
Evaluate. Ask yourself if your relationship with God and others has improved or worsened because of the choice you made. Do you feel a sense of peace and satisfaction about your choice? If so, thank God. If not, pray for light to know what is the best next step.
Adapted from this good article addressed to teachers at a Jesuit high school:
There is only so much you have the capacity to do. No matter how much planning, creativity, staying up late or amazing effort, you can only be in one place at a time, doing one thing.
Kids naturally know this limitation. They whine. They call, “Mooommmm”. They expect their things will be taken care of even though they don’t pick up, put away, clean etc… They say they are hungry and expect to be fed. They don’t plan. They don’t understand all the work a parent needs to do, they just want to play with that parent. They cry and expect to be picked up. They trust.
Here are some life centering quotes about the will of God. Taken slowly and with prayer, it can bring a lot of peace and sense to life. Otherwise, it might seem like nonsense.
Uniformity with God’s Will by St. Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787)
It would be the greatest delight of the seraphs to pile up sand on the seashore or to pull weeds in a garden for all eternity, if they found out such was God’s will. p.6
A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint. p.6
There is nothing more pleasing we can offer God than to say to him: ’Possess thy self of us”. -St. Augustine p.7
Alphonsus the Great, King of Aragon, being asked one day whom he considered the happiest person in the world, answered: ”He who abandons himself to the will of God and accepts all things, prosperous and adverse, as coming from his hands.” p.11
To those that love God, all things work together unto good. Rom 8:28
By uniting themselves to the divine will, the saints have enjoyed paradise by anticipation in this life. p.12
“Little man,” says St. Augustine, “grow up. What are you seeking in your search for happiness? Seek the on good that embraces all others.”
God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. p.15 Continue reading “Uniformity with God’s Will”
I’ve found myself feeling pulled in a million directions and failing people at every turn. People who have a legitimate right to my love and attention- friends, parents, children, spouse, neighbors, school administrators… are often cut short and do not get what they deserve from me. This is true also of the orphan, the widow, the poor, the sick, the friendless – people who I read about, who I pass on the street, who I know are out there. Like everyone else in this world, I need to learn that I am limited. Yet, my own smallness enables me to humbly tap into God’s eternal love. Continue reading “Give from God’s Strength”
As the seasons tick by I am amazed that some of the things that previously seemed invaluable to our family’s learning don’t seem to be present any more. Or the favorite conversations that used to take place no longer do. When the old ways are forced on again, sometimes it “works” and sometimes what was beautiful and spontaneous has become a chore. Upon reflection, it is easy to see the new growth that is taking place instead. While there are some things that are stable (like Mass every Sunday, prayer before meals, helping out and using a kind tone with each other) for many other things, “surfing” seems to be the best way to bring just the right thing at a high point or paddle people along at a low point. I find this to be true in the classroom as well as the family. If I keep the end goal in mind, I can grab hold of whatever is appropriate at the time to help us successfully ride the waves of life, emotion and development. Interestingly, St. Teresa of Avila indicates that this also seems to be true of our own souls. That in the spiritual life, listening to the waves and tide of the Holy Spirit and the growth of our inner being is as important if not more than holding to this practice or to that.