Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Christmas Season

My mother used to say that she had to make a big deal about certain things or nobody would know that they were important. Christmas was her favorite time of year and she made a HUGE deal over it. It would really drive us crazy. I remember once as a girl crying after gifts and dinner. I remember thinking that I had everything my little heart could have desired and more. And still I felt empty. I remember asking God, through sobs and tears, if this meant that I was a selfish little girl who only wanted more. Christmas was over and I was disappointed. Weeks of hard work and anticipation were used up in mere hours and the only thing to show for them were scraps of wrapping paper on the floor and cold leftovers. Disheartening indeed.

Was I selfish? No. I would have given up any number of toys (though not the bike or the books "Heidi" and "Little Women" to have had a less 'perfect' Christmas and a more prayerful one.

So what do I think of Christmas now? How do I try to celebrate it with my children?I think it should be magical. I want to provide them with a joyous season filled with advent wreaths, cookie baking, and yes, gifts. I want to dance with them while listening to (and singing) Christmas carols in a flour-coated kitchen. I want to see the sheer anticipation in their eyes as they tear open a gift and play with the bow instead of the toy.

Am I going for a 'picture perfect' Christmas like my mother did? I don't even have the energy to try. But I do make a big deal about it. Because it's important.

I don't mind the hard work. I don't mind cleaning the kitchen several times in one day because of a baking frenzy. (I love baking!) I don't mind working alone in a kitchen for hours to provide a feast for my extended family. Do I care that some people do nothing and just show up for the food? Ladies, I don't even care if they show up late. It's not about me. They'll just have to eat cold food. But I DO care when people start complaining.

My husband asked if, with all of the hard work I did, I ever had the chance to think of the 'true meaning' of Christmas. I told him YES! I thanked God for the gifts of my children while I was wrapping their gifts. I praised God as I was preparing a huge meal because not only was the family together but we had plenty of food to eat. I did not take up a labor that I could not do joyously. Would I work so hard for so little recognition normally? Absolutely not. But for our Lord's birthday? How could I not celebrate?

Some things are important. We have to make a big deal about them. The wise men left their homes and followed a star. The shepherds left their sheep defenseless because they heard the angels rejoicing. We are the late-comers. We have had everything revealed to us. We know that Jesus was born for our redemption. Do you honestly think that I am going to let something so trivial as 'propriety' or a 'picture perfect Christmas' get in the way of my celebrating? Were I to hear angels proclaiming the coming of our Lord I would grab my children and dance in the streets. Until then I will continue to celebrate Christmas as if it were the dress rehearsal for the heavenly banquet.

Have a blessed Christmas season!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mary's Song of Praise

Luke 1:46-55 NRSV

And Mary said,
'My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, 
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'

Ladies, I love this passage of the bible. How are we, as women, wives, mothers, to emulate Mary? Many times Mary is shown as the perfection of humility. And she is. But what does this mean, practically speaking, to us? I am finding that every time I read (or sing) this passage that I learn something new. Each time I find something new about myself that keeps me from God.

So what does it mean to be humble and why is it so important? According to the Oxford English Dictionary 'humility' means:


[mass noun]
  • the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance:he needs the humility to accept that their way may be better

Ouch!  No wonder humility is not a virtue in our society. Don't we, as women, continue to be told that we are worthless or lesser because of our gender? So what gives? What makes Mary's humility different than the suppression of self-worth?

God found Mary worthy. Mary did not look to others to bolster her self-esteem. Neither did she go through life hard-headed and stubborn, confident in her own capabilities. She knew that she was small in comparison to the greatness of God. She knew that she was small in comparison to the greatness of her nation or the Roman empire. Yet God found her worthy. And she believed Him.

Mary had dreams and ambitions for herself. I'm sure she did. And her dream were probably small and humble, just as her life would have been had not God intervened. Yet she gave up even those to follow God's call in her life. Was it easy for her? Well, she was born without the taint of original sin so that must have helped. But I'm glad to have her as a model and guide. Because, Ladies, at times, I don't want to give things up - even for the greater glory of God. Sometimes (like now), I just want to be right and vindicated in my dislike of certain other people who, I assure you, deserve it.

But then there is that humility thing again. And, like Mary, I am challenged to admit that God's way is better than mine. To admit it, to have faith in it, to believe it, to live it. Ouch.

Unlike Mary, I am not called to greatness. But through the grace of God I can be called to something greater than myself. And who wouldn't jump at the chance to say "I was there! I was there and it was glorious!" Who wouldn't want to transcend one's own fears and weaknesses, secure in the knowledge that one is deemed worthy? What would it be like to not to have to prove one's inherent worth to one's self or to others? Not to have to argue or be right? What would it be like to be able to love, to be loved, all the time?  This is what it must be like for the saints in heaven.

Ladies, I will never be great. My name will never resound through the ages. I doubt I will ever be called 'blessed'. Well, not by anybody who knows me. (In fact, my son has taken to calling me "you mean old thing".) But I can choose, in the small mundanity that is my life, to say 'yes' to God. I can choose to be loving instead of being right. And through the grace of God, I may even transcend my own limitations. Isn't it worth the effort?

Sit Deus Nobis (May God Be With Us)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Living A Dream (Advent)

Hello Ladies,

Have you ever been in a situation when you didn't know that you needed help? You're just chugging merrily along and then somebody gives you a word of encouragement or affirmation and then, Boom! Somehow something deep inside of you changes.

Something like that happened to me the other night. (The first night of advent come to think of it. I wonder if it's significant?) I was sleeping when I started dreaming of Our Lady. She came to me, took me by the hand, and told me that she wanted me to see her son. In my dream I was extremely nervous. I tried to imagine what Jesus would look like and if I was wearing the appropriate clothes to meet my Lord. (Yeah, I know. Clothes. Pathetic.)

Mary let me to a garden. I stood nervously when I heard a cry of sheer joy and delight. I looked up in time to see a small child running to me with arms wide open. I sat down in time to catch Him in my arms. He snuggled comfortably in my arms just as my own children had done countless times. Once again I felt awkward. What was I supposed to do? Then He smiled up at me, wrinkled up His nose, and shook His head. I leaned over and rubbed noses with Him and He squealed with sheer joy. Ah, now this was something I recognized! So I tickled Him and kissed Him and He put His fingers in my hair. We continued like this for a few moments more. When it was time He got up from my lap. Now He appeared older, perhaps around six years of age. He turned to me and said "you do this for the least of my people. You give them joy. When you kiss them you're kissing Me. Thank you. Tell the others." He then skipped off.

Ladies, I woke up with a profound need to share this because I know that the 'others' are you - simple mothers like me. We cannot do everything. We shouldn't even try. But perhaps what we manage to do we can do with great love.

This advent season, let's keep in mind whose birthday we are celebrating. There is nothing wrong with Christmas gifts and decorations. But make sure that Jesus would feel comfortable at His own birthday party.

Sit Deus Nobis - May God Be With Us.