30 November 2008

Time Measured in Jammies



Every mom has a story like this.

My almost two year-old is toddling around in some fuzzy footed jammies that are oh-so-familiar to me. There are so many memories zipped up in those jammies. She's the third child to wear them, and I can remember the other two toddling around in them when they were the same age. Now I'm watching her, holding her in my lap and reminiscing about the years that have flown by. My older children now seem so....BIG. I swear it was just a few months ago that they wore these jammies.
Only a mom can get watery-eyed over a pair of pajamas!

Can somebody please tell me where the time goes?
Where's the "pause" button?


But then I started thinking. (A dangerous pastime for me.) I thought about how God sees my children and how He enjoys watching them grow and become. God doesn't have any grandchildren -- only children -- so does He recall my growth as a child and think how much my kids are like or not like me? Probably not. He isn't trapped in our linear time, after all, so I'm just me, as I am now. And my kids are just His children as they are now.


Certainly God knows the human heritage my children come from, and thus what things they are likely to be taught, be they good, bad, or otherwise. And there's the rub: It's my job, my highest obligation as their mother to make sure I'm passing on good things. Right things. Holy things.


So part of my Advent preparation will be to pay more attention
to the things I'm passing on.
The hidden, even unspoken things that are shaping
my children's attitudes and behaviors:

The tone of my voice.
The expressions on my face.
The way I spend my time.
The way I speak to them, even when I'm angry.
The way I treat their father.
The way I talk about other people.
How merciful I am.
How kind I am.
How joyful I am.
How often I laugh and play.

How prayerful I am.
How much I love Jesus.

Years from now when my children are no longer children, if God indeed marks the time somehow, I earnestly pray that He will see how they have grown in all the good, right, and holy things I tried to pass on. It won't be jammies, but hopefully it will be all the things that will keep their souls warm.

26 November 2008

Advent Experiment

I'm gonna try an Advent experiment.



The other night during our prayer time together, my husband and I read a few pages from a little book called The Blessing of Christmas. It's a collection of writings from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Our Holy Father is a brilliant man and gifted writer and so profoundly in love with Jesus. The book begins with his encouragement to those who are sick or confined, and how Advent can be a unique blessing to them. He says, "Just like a great joy, so too illness and suffering can be a very personal Advent of one's own -- a visit by the God who enters my life and wants to encounter me personally. Even when it is difficult for us, we should at least try to understand the days of our illness in this way: The Lord has interrupted my activity for a time in order to let me be still."

"...in order to let me be still." It's a gift He's giving me.

"In my daily living, I have little time for Him and little time for myself. I am completely involved from morning to evening in all the things I have to do, and I even succeed in eluding my own grasp, because I do not know how to be alone with myself. My job possesses me; the society in which I live possesses me; entertainment of various kinds possesses me; but I do not possess myself. And this means that I gradually go to seed like an overgrown garden, first in my external activities and then, in my inner life, too. I am propelled along by my activities, for I am merely a cog in their great machinery."


Any of this sounding familiar? Could it be that at least on occasion, God's remedy for our constant busyness and chaos is a little illness? (Gasp! What are you saying? God doesn't make us sick! No...the fallen world we live in and the sinful nature of our selves takes care of that. But God in His wisdom and mercy wants to make excellent use of our times of illness if we allow Him.)


"But now God has drawn me out of all this. I am obliged to be still. I am obliged to wait. I am obliged to reflect on myself; I am obliged to bear being alone. I am obliged to bear pain, and I am obliged to accept the burden of my own self. All this is hard. But may it not be the case that God is waiting for me in this stillness? May it not be the case that He is doing here what Jesus says in the parable of the vine: "Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (Jn 15:2)?"


"A visit by the Lord -- perhaps illness can present itself in a new light when we see it as a part of Advent...it can be a moment in our life that belongs to God, a time when we are open to Him and thus rediscover our own selves."

So back to my experiment... I have rheumatoid arthritis. It has begun eroding the bones and joints in my fingers and toes, so my hands and feet are in steady, constant pain. Simple, daily tasks can be difficult and I often ask my husband for help with things. But for the most part, I do what I need to do and life goes on. But sometimes on a bad day, when the pain is intense and my hands feel stiff as wood, my tolerance for enduring this illness goes out the window.


But after reading the Holy Father's wisdom, I want to spend Advent differently. When the pain flares to a new intensity, when I'm too exhausted to tend to my chores, when it hurts just to pick up my toddler, I will remember those words: "God has interrupted my activity for a time in order to let me be still." And I will stop, and be still, and thank Him. I will thank Him for the gift of this illness. And I'll pray that He will make excellent use of it in my soul.

25 November 2008

Wasting Advent...Not This Year

Advent is almost here...a season set aside to prepare and make room for the arrival of a king. This year I have a deep desire not to waste it simply ticking off the days as they go by, looking only toward the "big day" on the 25th. How can I truly welcome Him if I haven't done any preparation? When relatives come for a visit, I spend days cleaning and baking and making sure the house is tidy and welcoming. Yet year after year I let Advent blow by me like a winter wind I try to dodge by running inside.

I miss the blessing of Advent because I'm only thinking about Christmas.


Not this year, Lord. This time, let me stop and be still. I want to savor the nourishment Advent brings to my soul and my home. I want my thoughts to dwell on Jesus and the unspeakable gift of His coming. I want to ponder how amazing, how truly awesome it is that the God whom the universe cannot contain placed Himself in Mary's womb, then in her arms as a newborn baby. Mighty God became a helpless child.
Mother Teresa said, "Pray...that our hearts may be the crib Our Lady chooses for her baby." Oh, choose mine! Help me prepare my heart and make room for You and only You. There is much busyness and many chores to tend to, Lord, but none are more important than getting my home and my heart ready for you.

Today it's not Christmas I'm eager for, but Advent. Help me, Emmanuel, not to waste a moment of it.

11 November 2008

Autumn ballet

This is a perfect day. If I could create my own world, the year would be loaded with days like today. There's a bright blue sky above me, crisp, cold air on my cheeks, and the gorgeous colors of fall swirling around my head, compliments of the breeze.

The leaves are performing their autumn ballet, and I am a delighted admirer.


For me, there's never enough autumn in the year...I could never tire of this beautiful spectacle God creates. It's so rich with color and texture and flavor. Suddenly I crave hot chocolate and pumpkin spice...apple cinnamon...I'm under the spell of coziness. May the spell never be broken! My spirit comes alive in autumn, and the prelude to winter compels me to sing the glory of God!

07 November 2008

Suffering

I have struggled greatly with the reality of suffering as it relates to God. How can He allow it, why doesn't He help, why doesn't He protect, etc. This is a big hurdle for me in my faith life, but recently I've been able to make some small steps toward understanding...toward God rather than away from Him. This is only by grace, and I'm thankful for it.
I owe much to author Peter Kreeft and his book on the subject. Absolutely wonderful, and the best I've ever read. (Thanks, Beth.)

Today I also read a snippet of C.S. Lewis on the topic and he had something very revealing and provocative to say. "Indignation at others' sufferings, though a generous passion, needs to be well managed lest it steal away patience and humanity from those who suffer and plant anger and cynicism in their stead." Wow...


Truth is, I don't know what real suffering is. My life at this moment is practically perfect. My children are all healthy and whole, my husband is alive and home (no small thing for an Army wife to say these days), we have a home, food to eat, people who love us, and we are free.

I have friends who know real suffering... a seriously ill or disabled child, becoming a widow at 34 raising two young kids thanks to terrorists in Iraq...

these women live with suffering each day. I think the greatest show of respect I can offer them is to humbly acknowledge that I haven't a clue what real suffering is. If my day should ever come, I will have to ask them how it's done. And in the meantime, I'll take a hint from Lewis and try not to rob them of the grace and blessing God wants to accomplish in their lives through their suffering. Yes, God uses every moment of our suffering and pain for glory...for holiness...for reconciliation...for peace. I believe that now. Nothing is wasted by our awesome God. And death does not have the last word.

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