Making Room

The other day, I was pretty annoyed with the family at large for not doing their share, or any share, really, of the housework. I’d spent the whole day working, and the whole lot of them were gone. Disappeared. Two of them cp-henry-play-blockshad an acceptable reason: they were at work! But the rest of them? Not so much. And they heard about it.  Later that evening, as we went about our Advent devotions, I suggested the song “People Look East”.  The older children got the message right away, but the younger ones were cheerfully oblivious.

Actually, I really like that song, don’t you?  It’s hopefully expectant.  We make time to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, and why not?  I would tidy up the house for any other expected guest!  Maybe we shouldn’t go quite so far as Old Befana, who is so focused on cleaning that she misses the Lord entirely, but a little prudent cleaning, I think, will not go amiss.cp-tommy-play-living-room Our hearts are very much influenced by our environments. It’s a challenge to feel at peace when the home is cluttered and messy. It’s easier to be calm and recollected when one’s spaces are well-ordered and attractive.  At least, I think so.

It’s a constant battle for me to keep things neat, partly because I have a very large family, and partly because I have a bit of my father’s propensity to collect and save things.  I go through cycles of accumulating and purging, and my desk is almost always covered with books and papers and the detritus of my daily life.  If you want to know what’s going on with me, just glance at my desk! img_4945

This Advent, I’m looking for breathing room. I’m trying to work around the challenges and find space to be the me that doesn’t just spend her days taking care of an active family. There’s a me who loves to write, to photograph, to make art, useful and otherwise. There’s a me who makes home nice and enjoys it as a creative activity. There’s a me who reads and takes bubble baths, sometimes simultaneously. And there’s a me who has time to spend in quiet prayer with my Lord.  I’ve been missing this version of me.

Today, my desk is tidy and stocked with art supplies. My camera battery is charged. The main areas of the house are actually pretty neat.  There’s room to think and create and be.  And this is just where I want to be.  Today and always.

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Choosing God

The other day, I mentioned that just because something happens, it doesn’t mean that God wills it.  It isn’t God’s will, for instance, that children get sick and die.  It isn’t God’s will that we commit violent crimes against each other.  It isn’t God’s will that some among us suffer hunger, homelessness, or loneliness.  It isn’t God’s will that we treat our most vulnerable, the unborn and the elderly, with callous indignity.

None of this is God’s will.

He envisioned something much better and more beautiful for us: peace, joy, love, and intimate friendship with the King of all.

But God is a gentleman, and he never forces Himself upon us.  He asks us to choose Him, to want Him above all other things.  He longs for that, and it is why He so cherishes the sinner who returns to Him, but He never demands it.

This is the great problem of free will: we are equally free to choose or reject God, to choose evil or to choose love.

Advent begins today, four short weeks to prepare our hearts to receive the infant Christ, to turn away from sin and worldliness and choose He who is Love itself.  This is a time for penance, for renewed acts of charity and mercy, and for refocusing on what matters most to us.

I’m grateful for these times, because it’s so easy to be distracted.  But God is always calling, always seeking, and always waiting for us to turn back to Him, too.

Motherhood and Marriage (Part 2)

“Why would she give up everything and mold her life to a man?” The words fell into the void, and we each of us exchanged quick glances.  “She needs to at least finish her masters before she gets married.  That way, she’ll have something to fall back on.” And just like that, her marriage was ended before it had even begun.

Women can be so hard on one another.

The reality is that marriage might be one of the most difficult adventures we undertake.  Yes, a woman, when she marries, will make sacrifices for her husband.  But he will sacrifice for her, too.  That is the nature of marriage.  The two become one and the marriage itself becomes a living thing which both husband and wife must nurture and grow into full maturity.  Discord arises only when we demand that the marriage meet our own self-serving desires, and it is most difficult to continually turn our hearts away from our own wants in order to meet the needs of our spouse, in order to nurture the marriage relationship.  And children are the inevitable fruit of marriage, tender and sweet, given by God to nurture and love within the protective embrace of the marital bond.

There is great value in doing your work inside your own home, in raising children and dusting bookshelves and cooking meals.  Should you choose home education, as well, you’ll join an elite group of women who take sacrificial love to the next level.  But there will be no one to tell you that you’re doing a good job.  You will have to live for years entirely on faith.

Faith.

In the end, it all comes down to faith.  Faith in the God who says we can move mountains.  Faith in the constancy of the sheltering love of our husbands.  Faith that our children, under our diligent and watchful eyes, will become loving, generous, faithful adults themselves.

Don’t worry.

What you are doing is of inestimable value to the world.

Even if I’m the only one who ever tells you so.