This may be an unfamiliar word to most of you busy moms. But we also need to take a step back and realize how important it is to our spiritual lives to take time for silence…to listen. It is possible for us…God is ready with the graces…we have only to ask. He is not asking for hours of silence as practiced in the monasteries, but only silent moments that we can offer Him during the course of our day. God sees our intentions and our efforts, and that is very pleasing to Him.
The question is “When?” Now I have to guiltily admit that I may have more opportunity for silence that many of you since my three older children are college and high school age and I only have my daughter at home with me. And although she is quite demanding of my attention, it’s not the same as 2, 3, or 4 children demanding my attention all at the same time! So, I will keep this in mind for I believe it is possible for everyone and I believe in the absolute necessity of it.
For me personally, I take time for silence when my youngest is falling asleep (in our room or her room) to light a candle, to talk to God about my day, to do some spiritual reading to initiate meditation, and then taking the time to listen. It’s not always easy to tame the thoughts that are racing through my mind…like what’s still left to accomplish, did I pay that bill yet, what I am wearing tomorrow, what am I cooking this week…you know…really deep spiritual matters! I at least try to calm my mind by doing some deep breathing and repeating the “Jesus Prayer”. Spiritual or scriptural reading is a must for me to refocus my attention on the Lord.
If it is at all possible, I find it a wonderful practice to get up maybe 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the household and sit by the window with a cup of coffee and thank God for the new day He has blessed me with. I decided to try this during a past Lent and since my husband was on a later shift at the time, it worked well. Instead of getting up and going right to the computer, I would take that time to spend in silence with God. I love that time…those sacred moments just as dawn is approaching and the house is silent. The anxious thoughts of the day haven’t quite woken up yet! Unfortunately, I lacked the discipline to continue since an extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning seemed more heavenly to me than prayer itself! Now that my husband’s shift has changed to early morning, it’s even more difficult to put it into practice. But despite the difficulties, if you can get into this practice, you will be truly spiritually enriched.
If either of the above are not an option at all, think of all those scattered moments throughout the day (or night!) when you can grab a few moments of silence. How about those precious moments of nursing a baby in the middle of the night? Despite our grogginess, we can still offer that time of silence to God and open our hearts to what He wants to tell us. If you ever get the opportunity to drive alone or with a quiet one, don’t turn on the radio. If you get a rare chance to soak in a tub, or shower, don’t let the thoughts and anxieties of the day clutter your mind…instead practice some deep breathing and place yourself in the Presence of God. Do you get some free moments in the laundry room? I find the repetition of folding laundry can induce a quiet state of listening. Nature also gives us wonderful opportunities for reflecting on God’s beauty in creation, so take advantage of those moments during your nature walks or looking out your window.
Exteriorly, we can also maintain a “spirit of silence” by keeping the radio or TV to a minimum or decreasing the time we spend on the phone or emailing (if extended for too long, it can lead to idle chatter).
One of the wonderful and blessed consequences of making an effort to embrace being alone in quiet to become aware of God’s Presence is that we might just discover the One thing that can fill the emptiness of our hearts.
?How do you find time for silence in your day?
Theresa lives out her vocation as wife, mother to four (and two in Heaven), homeschooler, Secular Carmelite, and part-time ultrasonographer in Pennsylvania. Every so often, the Spirit nudges her to share her thoughts and words with others here and at My Desert Heart.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God…Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
–1 Peter 4:1-2, 12-13 (RSV)
One of my favorite places in Columbus (where I live) is the local conservatory, especially in winter. It can be five degrees outside, and snowing, but inside I can visit a Pacific Island and see koi fish swimming in a pond and rich, tropical plants blooming. It’s summer in the midst of winter, which is most welcome here in the Midwest.
But there’s another draw for the eye. The conservatory houses a large collection of glassblower Dale Chihuly’s works. He manipulates that most delicate thing—glass—into fantastic, extravagant creations. His works are set amidst the plants, both kinds of beauty playing off each other.
To make his beautiful glass sculptures, heat is involved. A lot of it. The raw materials used to make the glass are thrust into a furnace that’s heated to around 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a lot of heat. But out of it comes the glass that forms the base for the glorious creations.
When I was reading about glassblowing, I was interested to discover that the second furnace is called the “glory hole.” It’s used to reheat the glass in between steps, to keep it pliable. And I think we all have our own furnaces, our own “glory holes.” St. Peter talks about the “fiery ordeal”. Other places in the Bible talk about gold being tested in fire.
We’re just like that glass, or that gold. We go into the fire, first as raw materials, but come out something beautiful; all impurities are burned away in the intense heat.
Is it fun? No. It’s probably not fun for the glass or the gold, either, or the piece of coal that is only transformed into a diamond under extraordinary pressure. But unlike the coal or the glass or the gold, we have a choice. We can say no to God and try to back away from the heat. We can try to avoid the fire. But then, we avoid all the beauty, too.
In my own life, there have been a lot of fires. I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system, when I was 11. I received a double lung transplant when I was 23, as the result of the havoc CF had wreaked on my body. Before transplant, I weighed 83 pounds, and brushing my teeth was an adventure in stamina. But all those years in between, all the hospital admits and drug regiments and pain and uncertainty have made me what I am today. They have shaped me. And God is still shaping me, still plunging me into the fire of His love. He loves us too much to leave us as unrefined materials. He wants to bring out the beauty that is inherent in each of us.
It’s not easy. It takes a lot of trust and faith, and some days I do not have nearly enough of those. Some days my “yes” to God is yanked out of me, or given grudgingly. Some days I am barely hanging on to Him. But I’m hanging on, and that’s what counts.
The Book of Daniel recounts the story of three young men who were thrown into a fiery furnace (Dn 3), because they would not worship the golden idol erected by the king—they would only worship God. Within the fiery furnace, the men constantly sang God’s praises. The king and his councilors were amazed that God had preserved these young men from death, and, in turn, released them and declared that their God, and not the golden idol, was the one God the people should worship.
If we trust—no matter how thin that trust may be some days—God will bring us out of the furnace. But we can’t avoid the fire, because that is where our glory is revealed. So let’s, in the words of St. Augustine, “sing, [and] keep going.”
Emily has been scribbling down words since she was old enough to hold a pen, but now does most of her scribbling at A Year of Living Adventurously. A lifelong Catholic, she received her BA in English Literature and Political Science from Capital University, in her hometown of Columbus, in 2004. She has one godson and is the oldest of three kids.
We’re sitting there, both of us with wiggly babies under warm blankets nursing the night away and I begin to realize I’m no longer the young mom. Really, this is not the first time I’ve had this graceful insight. This is not the first time I’ve realized time marches on. It happens here and there and each time I pause and thank God for His amazing grace to have brought me to this place. This place where I am older and hopefully a little bit wiser–to myself mind you, not others. I praise God that He sees fit to ask me to share Him and His divine plan for marriage and motherhood, for friendship, and quiet rest with Him.
I’m totally ok with this new lot in life opening up to me. I’m forty-one nursing my seventh baby and my friend, she’s in her 20′s nursing her second. And as we talk, laugh and share baby stories, I feel God the Father water the seedlings of these verses He has planted in my heart;
Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good,
so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
†Titus 2:3-5 Revised Standard Version
In the same way, teach the older women to lead a holy life. They must not tell lies about others. They must not let wine control them. Instead, they must teach what is good.
Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children.
The younger women must control themselves. They must be pure. They must take good care of their homes. They must be kind. They must follow the lead of their husbands. Then no one will be able to speak evil things against God’s word.
†Titus 2:3-5 New International Readers Version
I don’t have to be old and gray, or a grandma to live the Titus life; there will always be someone younger than me to encourage and instruct. And in turn, thanks be to God, there will always be someone older than me to encourage and instruct me.
Here are 4 things I have learned–am still learning–as time marches on and I go through my daily life, loving my husband and children, caring for my home and living the life God has blessed me with.
Shouldn’t every list about anything begin with “Pray”–Yes, I think so too. Pray and then pray some more and then pray differently but always pray. Pray with your husband and children before bed, pray with your sleep deprived head on your pillow one long restless night, pray when the baby gets you up in the middles of the night, pray when the baby let’s you sleep, pray when the toddler wants cereal and milk at the crack of dawn and when the teen wants it at the stroke of midnight. Pray when your husband is so stressed with the world he barely notices you and pray when he can’t keep his hands off you. Pray when your friends hurt your feelings and pray when you hurt theirs. Pray when you feel all alone and pray when you wish you were. Pray on your knees, in the shower, on your face, in the car, getting dressed, cleaning a mess, making dinner, sitting down, lying down, standing up, up all night, when it’s loud and when it’s too quiet and you’re not sure where the toddler is.
The only way, my sisters, to make it through each and every day, is with prayer. Some days that prayer may seem long, dry and formal and others–sweet, short and to the point. Maybe now would be a good time to quickly define prayer just in case you don’t think you can or have the time to. St Teresa of Avila said, “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation ladies. Some days I may have time for a long conversation with my girlfriend. And other times, a quick “Hi” is all that’s needed. Same with God.
Do not bog yourself down in what your prayer should be or could be. Pray and let it be what it is.
2. Set Your Own Beat
I cannot make it to daily mass like an older woman at my church. I cannot make it to daily mass like a younger woman at my church. I cannot…I cannot and I cannot…There are many things it seems like I cannot do right now in this stage of my life. So not only do I not do them, I don’t even try right now. Trying and failing to do something I just cannot do, is self defeating. I go to bed feeling lousy and usually so do my children. So I focus on what I can do and do it well–or at least sort of good.
I cannot make it to daily mass, but I can pray family rosary at night with my husband and children. I cannot drag my children to art classes, but I can discuss beautiful art with them at “Family School” everyday at the table and attempt to draw with them once a week.
I’m not silly or hyper but I can smile at them when they walk into a room. I’m not chic or trendy but I can look nice for them during the day.
Discouragement is straight from hell my sisters. And if the enemy can lead me down that path, guess who follows or who I drag along—yep, my kids. Keep yourself from discouragement at all costs. If you get off Facebook feeling fat or frumpy–delete your account. If you shut off the television feeling discontent with your track house, builder grade cabinets and cheap carpet–do not watch television. If you leave the soccer field feeling like a bad momma because you don’t wear a blinged out “Soccer Mom” tee shirt, sit somewhere else. The point here ladies, do not compare yourself to others. You are you–work on being the best you you can be, not the second best someone else.
3. Read Things that Encourage You
If you are not taking in good words, I can assure you, you are not producing good words. The first place to start reading–The Bible. Read one Psalm a day or read one chapter of Proverbs a day. The Word of God is living and active–it will make you the same.
You know the saying, “There’s an app for that.” Well, “There’s a saint for that.” Read about the saints. Even if all you can manage each day is a brief biography, it will draw your heart and mind to people and ideas that are righteous and noble. It will show you people who were once great sinners but fell in love with and were redeemed by an even greater God. Did you know St Augustine once said, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Doesn’t that give you hope? To know that an immoral man uttered those words and then by God’s glorious grace went on to become a great saint gives me tremendous hope!
Encourage yourself because the world will try its hardest to discourage you.
I mean it, literally rest. Take a nap, go to bed early, lay on a blanket, relax in a hammock, snuggle up to a sleeping baby, say “No” to Sunday activities, say “No” to Tuesday activities…say “No” to any activity for a season if that’s what you need. Burn out is real and really bad for you and those you love.
Eat off paper plates for a week, stay in your pajammies one day a week. When the toddler wakes you up early, make yourself a pallet on the living room floor to doze off and on while watching cartoons. Buy a roll of cookie dough instead of mixing it up homemade, a loaf of store bought bread instead of grinding and soaking and kneading and baking your own. This is not a forever, this is an “until.” Buy frozen pizza, a frozen dinner, shoot, buy a frozen margarita if you need it. Take some of the pressure off yourself and just rest. Rest and catch your breath and then tackle the world one homemade loaf of bread at a time.
Elizabeth Foss has been so generous in opening her archives to Suscipio. If you are not familiar with Elizabeth, please stop by for a visit. She embodies the true Titus spirit .
Don’t Blink is a repost from March 2010.
For the first time in a very long time, I am neither pregnant nor mothering a baby. My “baby” is now two years old. And with a certainty that takes my breath away, I suddenly understand why wise women always told me that the time would go so quickly. To be sure, I’ve had more “baby time” than most women. My first baby will be 16 in a few days. I still think it’s over much too soon.
This column is for mothers of infants and toddlers. I am going to attempt to do something I never thought I’d do: I’m going to empathize while not in your situation. My hope is that it is all so fresh in my memory that I can have both perspective and relevance.
What you are doing, what you are living, is very difficult. It is physically exhausting. It is emotionally and spiritually challenging. An infant is dependent on you for everything. It doesn’t get much more daunting: there is another human being who needs you for his very life. Your life is not your own at all. You must answer the call (the cry) of that baby, regardless of what you have planned. This is dying to self in a very pure sense of the phrase. And you want to be with him. You ache for him. When he is not with you, a certain sense of restlessness edges its way into your consciousness, and you are not at complete peace.
If you are so blessed that you have a toddler at the same time, you wrestle with your emotions. Your former baby seems so big and, as you settle to nurse your baby and enjoy some quiet gazing time, you try desperately to push away the feeling that the great, lumbering toddler barreling her way toward you is an intruder. Your gaze shifts to her eyes, and there you see the baby she was and still is, and you know that you are being stretched in ways you never could have imagined.
This all might be challenge enough if you could just hunker down in your own home and take care of your children for the next three years; but society requires that you go out — at least into the marketplace. So you juggle nap schedules and feeding schedules and snowsuits and carseats. Just an aside about carseats: I have literally had nightmares about installing carseats. These were not dreams that I had done it wrong or that there had been some tragedy. In my dreams I am simply exhausted, struggling with getting the thing latched into the seat of the car and then getting my baby latched into the carseat. I’m fairly certain anyone else who has ever had four of these mechanical challenges lined up in her van has had similar dreams. It’s the details that overwhelm you, drain you, distract you from the nobility of it all. The devil is in the details.
You will survive. And here is the promise: if you pray your way through this time, if you implore the Lord at every turn, if you ask Him to take this day and this time and help you to give Him something beautiful, you will grow in ways unimagined.
And the day will come when no one is under two years old. You will — with no one on your lap — look at your children playing contentedly together without you. And you will sigh. Maybe, like me, you will feel your arms are uncomfortably empty, and you will pray that you can hold a baby just once more. Or maybe, you will sense that you are ready to pass with your children to the next stage.
This is the place where nearly two decades of mothering babies grants me the indulgence of sharing what I would have done differently.
1. I would have had far fewer obligations outside my home. Now, I see that there is plenty of time for those. I wish I’d spent a little more time just sitting with that baby instead of trying to “do it all.”
2. I wish I’d quieted the voices telling me that my house had to look a certain way. I look around now and I recognize that those houses that have “that look” don’t have these children. Rarely are there a perfectly-kept house and a baby and a toddler under one roof. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you that it can be done. It should not be done. I wish I hadn’t spent 16 years apologizing for the mess. Just shoot for “good enough.” Cling to lower standards and higher goals.
3. I wish I’d taken more pictures, shot more video and kept better journals. I console myself with the knowledge that my children have these columns to read. They’ll know at least as much about their childhoods as you do.
4. I wish I could have recognized that I would not be so tired forever, that I would not be standing in the shallow end of the pool every summer for the rest of my life, that I would not always have a baby in my bed (or my bath or my lap). If I could have seen how short this season is (even if mine was relatively long), I would have savored it all the more.
5. And I wish I had thanked Him more. I prayed so hard. I asked for help. But I didn’t thank Him nearly enough. I didn’t thank Him often enough for the sweet smell of a newborn, for the dimples around pudgy elbows and wrists, for the softening of my heart, for the stretching of my patience, for the paradoxical simplicity of it all. A baby is a pure, innocent, beautiful embodiment of love. And his mother has the distinct privilege, the unparalleled joy, of watching love grow.
So often we talk of the rhythm of our day, I thought I would share a bit of mine.
Nice isn’t it? Veronica is practicing the piano while I sort laundry. But, and this is a BIG but, this is a small, teeny, tiny snippet of ONE day. Shoot, not even one day, more like six minutes of one day! Some of my days may sound more like a war zone or a zoo…a really loud one full of screeching Chimpanzees and Parrots that repeat everything–all the time and Hyenas that fight, or…you get the picture right.
The point is, these are my days, my minutes, given to me as a gift from God to help me grow in virtue. Some of these opportunities are sweet and pleasing to the ear and some of them…not so much, but God is still in them, calling me to Himself. Sometimes I just have to listen closer.
I love this quote by Thomas Merton so I made a printable!