Monday, March 28, 2011

I have a confession to make. I am very satisfied with my life and can count my blessings but have problems in one area: I want a home of my own. I know, I know. People all over the world live in hovels and can't care for their beloved children because of poverty/natural disaster/wars/general upheaval. I should feel very, very lucky. But at the moment I don't. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. It doesn't help that the neighbors wake up my children, either.

So what do I do? I say a novena to St. Joseph. (For those whose lore of saints is as weak as mine, St. Joseph is Mary's spouse, stepdad to Jesus, and patron of fathers, families, homes, and carpenters among his many roles.)

Now, I'm thinking that this is great! I want a home. My husband wants meaningful employment. We need peace in the extended family. And what do I get for praying the novena? Do I get sleeping babies? Quiet neighbors? A change in circumstances? No. I was the one who was called to change.

What does St. Joseph have to do with us moms? I'm glad you asked. St. Joseph did whatever God asked of him. St. Joseph followed Judaic law with all his heart but loved God more. When Mary was found to be with child he was going to divorce her quietly out of compassion for her. He could have been cruel and exposed her. He didn't. He loved Mary more than his own manly pride. Then God told St. Joseph to take Mary for his wife. He did. Then move to Egypt and back again. And, oh yes, raise a child who is not his own. He did all of this lovingly and without question.

It's very tricky to tell a woman, a mother, to humble herself and give of herself without question. So many times it is used as an excuse to subjugate her. But humility to the will of God is different than subjugation to religious or societal norms which are man-made and often unjust. Remember that we are also God's beloved daughters. 

If we are to follow St. Joseph's example we should first look to our faith. What does Catholic teaching tell us? This can help us get through many difficult situations or avoid them entirely. Think of it this way: we are transformed by prayer. When we ask God what His will is for us we admit that we cannot see the universe in its entirety and maybe we are not asking for the right things. If we are stubborn, we are so busy being 'right' that we are willfully blind to the graces and beauty around us. We should persevere instead. In this way we work towards our dreams while being open to achieving them in a different, often better, way. When we are tempted to pray "God, help me get through this", maybe we should pray "God, help me transcend this". The difference is subtle but important. Do we want to just make it through or do we want to become closer to God?  Because, Ladies, we have a tough job. God demands our bodies, our sleep, our time, our ambitions for the future, and even our ambitions for our children. We are strong. We have to be. We are unsung. We are under constant scrutiny.  We are nothing to the world but we are the world to those who rely on us. Imagine the comfort and guidance we can give to our children. Imagine the damage we can do to them. 

I never thought I would feel such devotion to a male saint. I never thought that one could teach me how to be a better mother. But St. Joseph is a beautiful example of someone who allows God to meet him where he is. God called St. Joseph to protect and raise Jesus in much the same way we are called to protect and raise our own babies. He did this quietly and humbly. St. Joseph doesn't have one spoken word in the bible but his life is a beacon two thousand years later. 

I learned all of this because I wanted a home of my own. 

St. Joseph, Ora Pro Nobis

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Disclaimer - My daughter has been teething, my son has just gotten over croup, and I'm on pain medication due to a recent dental surgery. This is probably a very bad combination for writing a blog. My apologies in advance.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. This past Sunday I took both my children to church on my own and I swore that I would not do it again until my daughter was older. So along comes Ash Wednesday. It's the beginning of Lent. It's an important day. But important enough to take two children to church on my own when it's not even a holy day of obligation? Surely God would understand if I didn't make it. But then I wavered. What is one hour of misery and mommy humiliation compared to Jesus dying on the cross for us... So I had to wake my daughter up early from a nap to be in time to pick up my son from pre-school to make it to 12 noon mass without having time to feed the kids first. I was literally praying that God give me ANY excuse to change my plan. (Sometimes I think God finds our prayers highly amusing. But then if I could turn water into wine I would probably find life a bit more amusing too.)

We survived mass only because my husband was able to join us (a miracle) and take our tired, underfed, teething daughter outside. And so it goes. So why did I do it? Because, Ladies, sometimes things aren't about me. It slightly surprising for me to say this because I'm all about taking care of mom. But this was one of those times for me to go beyond my wants and comforts and kneel before our Lord in gratitude in wonder.

Lent is a time that reminds us of our mortality and our utter dependence on God. Growing up I was told that I had to "give up" something for God during Lent. We moms give up so much that, like going to mass on Ash Wednesday, it seems easy to feel that we are exempt. (Somebody asked me if I was going to give up coffee. I might as well try to give up breathing.) But this doesn't mean that we should let the wonderful opportunity to contemplate our relationship with the Lord to go to waste. Here are some suggestions that might make more sense:

Take a few minutes in prayer to imagine that you are meeting Jesus at the end of your life. Are you meeting Him like an old friend or are you hiding like Adam and Eve? Ask Jesus what you can do to change this Lenten season. Do you do something that keeps you from having a fuller relationship with Him? Are you negative towards someone (even if they deserve it)? Pray for that person. Work towards forgiveness. 

 Personally I am not worried about my actions but my sins of omission. It doesn't make any sense to me just to 'give up coffee' but I could be persuaded to take the money I would pay for my coffee and give it to the poor. 

Take time to be more grateful to Jesus for his sacrifice which allows us to spend eternity in heaven with our babies. (Or if you're having a really rough day think of heaven as a place of peace with free babysitting.) Just be grateful that God loves us enough to help us transcend our limitations. Not just get through or cope: transcend.

Offer up your daily activities. You are not just doing the dishes. You are doing God's work by taking care of your family and children. Make your daily chores holy. 

Use your prayer time to sit with Jesus in His suffering. How can You help Him? He loves you and wants your company. 

Make more of an effort to pray, go to church and receive the sacraments. Prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord. It might not be easy but it will be worth it. 

These are only a few suggestions. I'm sure that you ladies have more and better ideas. Me? I'm currently praying that my daughter sleeps well. She's been teething and in pain for a while.  Then I will try to practice what I preach.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Family Drama and Sleep Deprivation

I warn you that this will not be a coherent post. My two children are not sleeping well. Or at all. It seems like a cruel trick of nature that children who are up sick half the night should have energy the next day to be miserable. My son is now well and now it's my daughter who is not sleeping. Ok, she's sleeping now when I have to be awake. I have noticed with sleep deprivation that my moods are either like black storm clouds ready to break or like looking at the world through a pink kaleidoscope; everything seems pink and strange.

Today is a pink day. I'm just trying to get through till bed time. 

Lately I have been trying to plan my daughter's first birthday. This is a HUGE deal in my family and must be treated accordingly. I don't mean that we need to invite a lot of people or have a a huge meal. But my daughter MUST be stripped to her diaper and allowed to plunge into the cake. And the right people must be there (just the elder of the family who has trouble getting around). 

If you think about it it doesn't seem too complicated but if you've read my earlier post entitled 'Feast of the Holy Family' you know that there is another elder of the family who is rather poisonous. I was determined to pray for her (which I do) and go on my merry way but as time goes on I realize just how far her poison has reached. This continues to make me angry. Why do people make children into pawns? The strange thing is that she hasn't tried to contact us since her meltdown on Christmas day. My husband thinks it's because she has 'come to her senses' but I disagree. I have heard that she doesn't even remember her trip and I find the fact that she has not tried to contact us ominous. I am almost sure that her addiction has taken over. 

And where does this leave us? We are strangely prohibited from even mentioning my daughter's birthday to the extended family. But typing this last sentence I'm realizing the ridiculousness of it all. We are not even asking for gifts. I am much too tired to make excuses for our existence. The thing is that the extended family misses receiving messages and pictures. I haven't been sending them out because 'I must not offend the elder'. This woman deserves my compassion and pity and a certain amount of respect but I will no longer allow fear of her inner drama to dictate my actions. She doesn't seem to remember them anyway.

My daughter is still sleeping so I'm going to take a nap. So much for the blog!