We are limited

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.

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Feminine to the Soul

Sometimes, when I hear spiritual advice that takes a very active approach (work on this, keep at that, practice this) there comes a whisper of worry, longing to do what is required but wondering if my soul will really respond in growth to that or if it will be futile.  Even in the daily aspects of life, I’ve longed for God’s powerful yet gentle intervention and my response in a natural – and perhaps feminine way.  Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of “My Sisters the Saints” hit the nail on the head for me when she relayed some of Edith Stein’s reflections on women.  Here are a ton of those quotes from chapter 4:

The structure of a woman’s body… is designed to be receptive to both a man and a child.  Edith believes this physical receptivity reveals a spiritual openness to the human person imprinted on a woman’s soul.

Women possess a more holistic outlook on life than men, partly because they are bound more closely to their bodies through their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and the physical demands of motherhood, which make them less likely to lose themselves in abstraction.

A woman’s tendency toward openness to others also inclines her toward intense and loving union with God.  Edith sees women as natural contemplatives in the world because they have a knack for blending attentiveness to concrete tasks with a capacity for cultivating silence and peace.

Prayerful surrender to God amid daily life suits a woman’s soul, Edith says, and this surrender “represents the highest fulfillment of all feminine aspirations…Correctly speaking, it is the highest fulfillment of our human vocation.”

What God values above all is receptivity to his will.

(a woman’s) desire to serve others can tempt her to take on too much and fail to meet her primary responsibilities or distinguish her own identify from those she serves.

The natural unity between body and soul that orients her toward a holistic faith and awareness of what’s happening insider her can lapse into a fixation on creature comforts.

(in some cases) a woman’s longing for God’s infinite love has been misdirected to human beings, with disastrous results.

Thoroughly objective work, which consists of anything from sweeping the kitchen floor to balancing a budget or researching a term paper…forces a woman to submit to laws outside herself, helps her escape her obsessive focus on herself and her own emotions, and encourages her to develop self-control, an important discipline for the spiritual life.

Fidelity to Christ and to the demands of one’s vocation requires “intense spiritual stamina,”… (Edith) believes that a woman should tap into that wellspring through frequent sacramental confession, regular reception of Holy Communion and quiet prayer throughout the day, preferably in the presence of the Eucharist.

If possible, attend Mass in the morning and ask Jesus after receiving him in the Eucharist how he wants her to spend her day.

As the day progresses and new worries and problems accumulate, she should take a noontime break to reconnect with God….She should take a moment to “seal herself off inwardly against all other things and take refuge in the Lord.  He is indeed there and can give us in a single moment what we need.”

“And when night comes and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much which one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as it is, lay it in God’s hands, and offer it up to him.  In this way we will be able to rest in him, actually to rest, and to begin the new day like a new life.”

A woman’s craving for God’s love is not a weakness, Edith says.  It is her greatest strength: “The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God’s work in the soul.”

Breathing Underwater

If prayer is like breath for our souls, then in life we need to learn how to breath underwater.  As a mom, it can feel like my duties are overwhelming and a few minutes kneeling after Mass is a respite for my soul.  It can feel like I am swimming underwater and then coming to the surface and gasping for air, getting just enough and then diving into the deep again.  But when I am feeling this way, I know I need to adjust my perspective.  Yes, I need to have certain moments during the day of special kinds of prayer but,… prayer and life are not two separate things. We have to pray our life.  Our duties, our joys, sorrows, experiences all become prayer.  Or rather, we fill them all with the breath of God and they are given as prayer.  We have to learn to breath underwater.  We do not hold our breath in our chaos, our dinners, our work, our driving, our relationships, our maintenance, our shopping.  We find the oxygen underwater.  We find God in all of it.  We breath underwater.

Delight in your Children

Early on I got some advice from a lady who always seems to be full of joy and on the verge of learning something new.  “Delight in your children” and later she added, “and they will be delightful”.  I love this advice.  There are so many things embedded in it.  It says, parenting can be fun, relaxing- delightful!  Children are worthy of awe- of our delight.  Children are full of surprises!  It says, life is good and you are free to enjoy it. It also has resounding principle in the goodness of people.  It says, there is always something wonderful in children – in people.  Find that.  Think about that.  Enjoy that.  Dwell on that. Certainly, however, our kids will not always delight us.  Far from it.  Certainly that needs to be addressed frequently and acknowledged but as a general disposition and practice- delight is the way to go,just as our heavenly father delights in His children.

There is also a positive influence on the child when a parent finds delight,  Don’t you feel better, kinder, more confident, happier, bigger people when you think that others are enjoying your presence?  Same is true for our kids, of course.  And conversely, we are better parents when we are delighting in our children.  This is true in the classroom as well.  The whole atmosphere of the classroom is elevated when the teacher truly is delighted by her students.

It reminds me of St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

What is delightful about your children?

Sleepless Retreat

Jesus often would withdraw to the lonely places to pray to his father in solitude.  This kind of prayer often preceded big moments in his mission – beginning public ministry, the bread of life discourse, his passion…  When people were clamoring for Jesus, the Spirit led him to places like the top of a mountain or by a lake or in the desert.  I don’t know about you but it is not often I can take some time alone in any of those places.  For a busy parent the only place of solitude can seem to be the bathroom and a locked door is necessary even for that.  Surely more is needed!  There are many creative ways to find this needed prayer and retreat with our father but additionally, I have found that the Spirit guides me to a retreat in the middle of the night.  Have you ever been woken by something in the middle of the night only to lie awake for hours?  Usually very irksome but if I participate in this opportunity with love and a joyful expectation of meeting God, the silence of sleeplessness nights is more restorative than sleep itself.  Perhaps this is God’s fatherly conversation before something important, even if that is just the mundane but eternally important mission of loving our children well.

Mobile Monastery

Monks are successful at prayer largely because there are dozens of things through out the day that routinely, habitually call them to prayer.  Like Pavlov’s dog they hear a bell and it produces an immediate prayerful effect without much effort on their part because they have conditioned themselves.  What things are already part of your life that you can begin to associate with prayer?  One for me is the steering wheel.  When I put my hands on the wheel it means pray.  Pray about the journey, for direction, for the people I am guiding, for those whom I pass, for the Holy Spirit to lead, protect and fuel me.  Quickly though because I am actually driving.

Morning Prayer

Wake up with a sense of God on your side.  Whether you kneel, put your arms up, stretch, read the bible, say a memorized prayer or start a discourse, your morning prayer will set you off on the right direction. (more to come)

Trying New Things

Stress, frustration and blindness all seem to be part of trying new things. It is confusing at times to know whether to continue, whether you are making any progress or if you should consider yourself hopeless and give up. But the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow does pay off. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable can help us to get through the rain.

Librivox

This free audio book source has changed my day to day chores into a university lecture hall.  Even when I have no free time, I can cast myself into the classical world of Plato, stroll the countryside with Mr. Darcy, debate with Charlotte Bronte, or discover incredible treasure with the count of Monte Cristo.  With the touch of a button on my Librivox app the stories are read to me-all while I fold laundry, wash the floor or reorganizing a closet.  To all the volunteer readers- thank you!!