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.
We were all so looking forward to summer, weren’t we, mamas? Long, uninterrupted days of nothing that we had to do! Now a week later, there is nothing to do! Ah summer..you are wrecking our homes with your flip flops at the front door and your wet towels on the back deck. Summer, you also eat from morning until midnight and never put anything back in the fridge. Why are you so messy when we were so looking forward to you coming?
What we need is just a little bit of order, in order to survive your 14 hour days with all your friends, food, bathing suits, coolers, and mess. Moms everywhere just need a little order to go on.
How to Survive Summer 101~
*Make your kids do chores first thing in the morning. I am so popular with kids! I have my little lists ready for them when they emerge from their messy caves every morning. Oh, how they love that! But, if you wait, they will be out the door, friends will be over, the moment will be lost. No privileges until chores are done. I love it.
*Post kitchen hours. I can’t stand the kitchen a mess all day. It drives me batty. I started posting kitchen hours when my oldest was 14. They loved it. Kids like stuff like that. Weird.
If you post your hours with what you will be serving at that hour, you will be just as popular as me!
*Keep a bag with all the sunscreen, chapstick, water wings, mosquito repellent, etc. packed in the car. Don’t even take it out. Have everyone check the car when they get out and make sure that the stuff is in the bag and not rolling around in your clean (haha) car.
*Even though it is summer, have a schedule for the little people. Toddlers and preschoolers melt down in disorder and chaos. Give them regular intervals to regroup. Afternoon reading time is good for all ages. Regular meal times, sleep times, and down times will help everyone stay cheerful in the midst of the other times.
*Make some fun traditions. Monday Library Day. Tuesday Ice Cream Day. Wednesday Picnic Day. Whatever seems fun to you. Kids love a schedule and the love to know what is happening next.
*Eat healthy and spend time outside. Make it a goal for your family to get outside this summer. Endorphins are good for everyone. Eat fresh food and get a lot of exercise. Everyone sleeps good when they have been outside.
*Do fun stuff. Go to the lake, go hiking, do daytrips. Get out of your comfort zone and just go. It doesn’t have to be big to be memorable.
*In between fun stuff, let your kids be bored. They will create and imagine. Boredom is a good thing.
*Don’t sweat the small stuff. Invite people over even when it is not perfect. Your friends love you for you. If they don’t, they are not your friends!
I have no advice for the flip flop, swimsuit, wet towels situations. That is just my little circle of insanity. You are welcome to join.
I feel like maybe I’ve fallen off the face of the world. I’m positive my friends feel the same. The deal is, my world has suddenly had to get very small. And that’s ok right now.
I am almost finished with 9th grade and let me tell you, the first time around it was not this hard helping Berndette finish her 9th grade year. Helping my other children finish up 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th grade. Leo has decided he’s only happy when he’s outside. I’m crocheting a blanket for Chris. (My first blanket and it needs to cover a six foot tall man.) I am working to help prepare three of my children to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Soccer season for six children is wrapping up. First Communion is Sunday. Maximilian turns five the end of the month and is needing some extra attention and Lucy the dog is chewing up everything…including library books, the outside of the house, anything she can sneak in the garage to quickly grab, gardening twine for the vegetables to vine up, the garden…We got the bill in from when I had to rush Maximilian into the ER for a breathing treatment when he was struggling with croup. Bernadette got a summer job as a nanny and my three oldest leave for a one week summer camp (we have never gone to camp…or anywhere apart from each other for so long all at once) in one month. Veronica and our friend-neighbor are sewing Bridget’s First Communion dress and then Anna’s Confirmation dress. I need to buy Luke a suit for Confirmation.
There are times I don’t know which way to turn right now. But there’s grace in all these moments of mayhem. And part of the grace is being able to find it, you know. There are a couple of things that are trying to keep me grace-full: daily reading of the Scriptures, intense prayer, and reading 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 48 Principle, backing away from the computer for this season.
A moment of grace is how you decide to view your present circumstances.
I am trying choosing to see the grace in that ridiculuosly comical list above. I am trying choosing to find grace in God’s will, Chris’ will, seven other people’s will. Because if I focused on my will right now, I’d be a walking-talking-whining-complaining-frustrated-unhappy chocolate mess. And that’s not grace-full.
Share your Moments of Grace ladies. I’d love to see how you see God working in your life.
This total self giving, or at least the supposed self giving, can take many forms in the bedroom. Howard begins with talk of conception and comes full circle to talk of death. Both are a laying down of life…or a beginning of a new life. And so the bedroom is rightly called a place of beginnings and ends.
This total giving of self, hhmmm…How many times does our gift of self dissipate before the door even shuts behind us? And our husband, well, he’s left with the crumbs…Oh, and we want the lights out even though we’re already covered by an old gym shirt and years of insecurity?
And when we do have the lights on, what do they reveal? Is our bedroom junk drawer of the house? Laundry scattered, toys strewed, papers stacked here and there and a night stand with a tower of dusty books reaching higher and higher as if infused with the same magic Jack and his infamous beanstalk were?
The saying goes the kitchen is the heart of the home. I contend the bedroom is the heart of the family. If there is discord in the bedroom…there will be discord in the family.
Right before Leo was born I started making my bed regularly, turning on some soft Gregorian Chant and using a candle warmer to set the mood for our bedroom. Now, Chris could care less about any of the stuff. But for me, it made my bedroom a sanctuary. Now, since Leo’s birth, my bed is not made regularly, some days I forget the music or candle warmer…and the bedroom loses its oasis like qualities; it has just become another room in the house. It is not set apart as a mysterious sacred space in which the whole family benefits.
And your bedroom is a sacred space. It is in the bedroom we become co-creators with God. (Without being vulgar, I realize there are other rooms in the house in which intimacy can be achieved.) The bedroom most clearly express the reoccurring theme of laying our life for another in two very distinct ways.
And in the rite of conception, we can see, as we have seen in a dozen other exchanges and acts around the house, the whole story in one little act. Here, life is “laid down” quite dramatically, in order that the life of love may be born anew, and that literal new life may come into being. The exactness of the picture is astonishing, not to say amusing: both bodies laid down, like the corn of wheat; both laid open, like the corn of wheat. Vulnerability, defenselessness, giving and receiving–nay, giving and receiving wholly indistinguishable from each other, for who will keep tally in these blissful exchanges to make sure the score is even? My life laid down for you; our two lives laid down, becoming one life, and in this laying down and union, lo, the springing forth of new life. My service to you turning out to be joy. Your life laid down for me turning out to be joy. Your acceptance of me being itself your gift to me. Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
And the two distinct ways our life is laid down? One, when we lay down our life, we do so with the least shred of pride. There is not time to think of self, only of the one whom we are willing to sacrifice our very life for. And yet how often do we shun a compliment from our husband? Dress quietly behind the bathroom door or wait until it’s dark? How often do we never fully relax and enjoy the most intimate of moments–two bodies becoming one? And so we have not truly laid our life down…we’ve covered it in thick blankets of wool and darkness. We’ve kept a part of ourselves hidden so as not to be hurt, laughed at or scorned. We assessed the risk and figured it to be of too great a price. The sacrifice of our life has not been made. We kept a part of ourselves back.
We may not be willing to splay ourselves in front of the body we vowed unity, but we push ourselves wide open to bring forth a new life…the second way we lay our life down in the bedroom. Each new soul that enters a family brings its own special set of graces…it also demands its own special set of sacrifices. This pregnancy may demand the physical sacrifice of the very food we eat; nine months permeated with bouts or days or even months of nausea. And yet another pregnancy may seemingly demand very little but the colicky baby more than makes up for the nine months of expectant bliss.
We easily see the need a child has for us to sacrifice all: sleep, comfort, self…in order to care for the defenseless. But what about our husbands? They have the same need of us. They need our complete sacrifice as well. And they are just as defenseless. Just as defenseless as we are when we slip under the sheet in the skin we came into the word. The baby and the grown man, both vulnerable in the skin God gave ‘em. Our men are at their most vulnerable and they cry…only silently. They want to be completely accepted. They want to be totally needed. They want unconditional love. We do not deny these things to a creamy white skinned baby, why deny them to the grown man?
Well, “He can hurt me like a baby can’t,” we may contend. And yet we carry that same power. Our wicked tongues compare them or tear them down as they lay naked next to us. Or our own bodies stiffen as they approach. The “closed” sign slapped in their face.
Each sacrifice, one of laying with our man and one of laying down to bring forth man–none the more sacred than the other. The process of bringing new life into the world emanates from the sacrifice of being totally known. It is no coincidence the Bible says “Adam knew his wife.” And that one little word brings me back to my initial thought…the bedroom is the heart of the family. This “knowledge” must be rightly ordered or the family will suffer various forms of disorder.
I almost hate to bring this up…Years ago when I would watch Dr Phil, he said something one time that made so much sense. I will paraphrase to make it less crude. Basically, if things are going fine in the bedroom, that part of your marriage equals about 10%. If things are going poorly, it’s about 90%.
The bedroom is the heart of the family.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, this chapter on the bedroom. I’m sorry this post was so late in coming up, I couldn’t quite get the words together. Hopefully I did now.
Good Morning Sisters! Happy Saint Valentine’s Day to you and yours. Just a short and simple post today. I had one terrific headache yesterday so the house was very well managed by my older girls, but today, it needs me. So do our 10 new laying chickens…busy, busy, busy.
I am always dumbfounded by the declarations of love proclaimed and demonstrated on this day. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a scrooge or unromantic, but if you are putting all your romantic dreams in the heart shaped tin of chocolate candy or the small jewelry box, you are going to lead a very unhappy life constantly looking for more love than can fit into a box. Those boxes can only hold so much. And you were made for so much more love.
And speaking of looking for love, remember the song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,” well, I’m pretty sure it should be the anthem of aisle 2 in the grocery store. No one–and in this case I mean…no one–is going to “find love” on this day. It was there yesterday, February 13th, or it wasn’t. And if it did just magically appear today…be afraid, be very afraid.
Yesterday, Chris rushed around trying to load up his trailer and tools so we could go look at a dinning room table we found on Craigslist. That’s love. Of course seconds before we walked out the door, trailer loaded with blankets and van loaded with kids, we got the message the table was gone…Hmh! You know what love did? Backed the van into the barn and unloaded the trailer and his tools.
The day before, love spent the evening working on the van in the cold barn while it rained. I appreciate that much more than a box of chocolates. Which he did buy (we exchanged chocolate on February 13th), but if I based my opinion of his love for me on a box of chocolates, what happens February 15th…when the chocolate is gone? (What, chocolate lasts longer than a day in your house?)
If love were based on the events that happen, or don’t happen on February 14th, it will be a fleeting and most likely disappointing love.
What about love that gets up at night and runs to the pharmacy to get a prescription? How about love that thanks us for making dinner…even though it was a new recipe that was as flop. Or love that picks up his socks…maybe not everyday, but at least every once in while. Love that let’s us pick out the movie or the flavor ice cream at the store. Love that builds garden beds and fixes cars and plunges the toilet. How about love that spends holidays with in-laws or birthday parties with the joyful screechings of two-year-olds.
Just like looking for God’s gifts in the ordinary, look for love in the common. You will find so much more love in the day to day sacrifices you make for each other, than any box of chocolate can hold. Guaranteed. But sometimes you have to look.
Just leave a comment telling us a really ordinary way someone showed you love. I mean it, we want to hear the unsung declarations of love! Whether it’s your mom, husband, brother, co-worker, anyone…Make this comment box the Olympic stand for common, ordinary love.
Winner drawn randomly and announced Monday in the Catholic Woman’s Almanac post.