Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Left out

    There is a little scene that keeps repeating itself at my house lately.  Or rather a few different scenes, all with the same feel….  My little one, now 19 ½ months, standing by the front door crying after it has slammed in her face because her siblings are in a hurry to go out and play with their friends…. leaving her behind.    My little one, standing with her little face pressed against the window of our back door watching her siblings playing happily outside with their friends while she is stuck inside….left behind… again.  My little one with her shoes in her hand following me around the house saying “ish, ish”  (her word for shoes) and trying desperately to convince me to let her go outside to play with her siblings and their friends…. because she has been left out… once again.  Though, I still see her as my baby and want very much to keep her little as long as possible, she is so ready to be one of the big kids and a part of all their big kid fun. 
    I, too, was the little sister.  My sisters and I were much closer in age than my own girls are, but my sisters were still older than I was and I spent a lot of my childhood feeling left out…. just like my baby does.  I grew up just wanting to be let in on the big kid fun and never feeling like I quite made it to full inclusion.  Even today, my sisters are very, very close both emotionally and in proximity.  They live just a few miles apart and I live about 1000 miles away.  They see each other everyday and I see them each about once a year. 
    Being so far apart has made it okay.  I do not desire to be included all the time anymore.  I am very happy living where I do and living the life I lead, one that is different in many ways than my older sisters, but it is amazing how those old left out feelings can still show up from time to time.  How envy can creep in when I least expect it and drive out the gratitude I have for the life God has blessed me with.  My envy is no longer centered around my relationships with my sisters but I still experience it.  And, though, I rarely see my sisters I still walk around, at times, feeling like the left out little sister. 
    As I watch my baby, heart broken over being excluded, I remember those feelings.  I remember the hurt I felt.  What perspective parenting can give us though!  I see now that, though she wants to do all that the big kids do, my baby just isn’t as ready as she thinks she is.  She really cannot keep up with her siblings and would be better off enjoying the toddler stage she is in.   The world is new to her and she has the opportunity to delight in the littlest discoveries, things that no longer impress her siblings.  She would do well to focus her energies on scribbling with crayons and markers, playing with her “Little People” toys and with her baby dolls, or looking at her lift-the-flap picture books.  These are the things she loves to do, when she is not too busy feeling left out.  These are the things that bring her joy, when she is not focused on what she is missing. 
    God gives each of us our own lives.  No two people are given the same blessings, the same opportunities, or the same gifts, no two lives are the same.  When we spend our time standing at the window watching others have fun we miss out on so much of the fun awaiting us in our own lives.  I hope I can show my youngest daughter the blessings in her life, the gifts God has prepared for her.  They are not the same gifts as her siblings necessarily, but they are wonderful gifts just the same.  I hope I can teach her to appreciate all she has and not to worry about what she doesn’t.   I hope she will learn early, what I am really just beginning to learn…..a life filled with gratitude is so much more worthwhile than one filled with envy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A letter of apology...sort of...

Dear Blogging World,
It has been awhile, hasn't it?  Have you missed me like I have missed you? Yes, I miss you terribly and I long for time to spend together sharing our thoughts, but life has been busy lately and when I look at all I have to do and all I want to do and all I should be doing- you have come out pretty low on the priority list.  There are the children, of course.  They demand so much from me.  They want my time, my attention, and my help seemingly every moment.  There is their school work to plan and prepare and to teach. Then it must all be graded and the scores recorded and averaged.  There are life lessons to impart and good habits to nurture.  I have all their laundry to keep up with, their dishes to wash.  Messes to clean up after them.  And, little disagreements to referee.  Once in a while there is time for fun- time to read them stories, color pictures with them, and play games with them.  But, often, the days are just spent keeping up with all the demands.   Besides the kids and the house which I must care for, a never-ending job in and of itself, there is my husband who deserves a little attention, too.  It is a rare moment that Tim and I get to spend together without distraction but when the opportunity arises I can simply not justify letting you get in the way, no matter how much I may enjoy the time with you, my dear blog.
I was so excited when I first met you and it seemed so important to nurture our relationship, at first.  I loved getting to know you and seeing where our journey might lead us but then I found you interfering a little with other things.  More important things.  Would you believe my laundry was neglected more then once in favor of a half hour alone with you?  I even missed chances to talk with my children and hear all about their Lego creations and their latest drawing masterpieces because you had captured my attention and refused to let it go for a time.  So, my friend, though I miss you when we are apart, it is time to find a balance.  I will not neglect you forever.  I will not forget you but my family must come first.  My time must be carefully weighed and when there just isn't enough for everything you will have to get used to coming in last.  Someday the children will grow up and leave my little nest but for now they are here and I don't want to miss a minute of their youth sitting in front of my computer pouring my heart into a relationship that will never give back like my family will.  So, little blog, I will visit when I can and give you what I have but for the time being, during this busy chapter in my life, you must resign yourself to being last and getting the leftovers.  It's better than nothing.
With grateful affection, K.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lenten preparation

    Lent is such a beautiful time in our Church year.  A time of penitence.  A time to simplify and focus more on Christ.  A time to prepare for the greatest miracle ever, Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross and His glorious resurrection three days later.  The past few years I have looked forward to my Lenten journey and have easily discerned what would be best to offer up for the 40 days.
    This year I have found myself dreading the season of Lent and stressing over what I should do to serve God better and grow closer to Him during the 6 weeks leading up to Easter.  There were so many things that came to mind as I contemplated a worthy sacrifice.  I could give up my Facebook time, like last year.  I could give up sweets or second helpings at dinner, or my unnecessary but much loved (gluttonous?!?!?!?) habit of snacking after lunch and dinner.  I could give up a little of my sleep and get up earlier each day.  I could not decide- it all sounded worthwhile but I feared if I attempted too much I would fail in all of it and would have a Lent marked by weakness and feelings of guilt.  It really has been causing me anxiety over the last week as I kept changing my mind and thinking of more things to add to the list of possibilities.  The more I worried, the more unsettled I became, and the more I dreaded the upcoming season. 
    I finally realized my stress was coming more from my perfectionist tendencies than from a true desire to serve God.  Finally, I resorted to what I should have started with and sat down to pray.  “Holy Spirit, guide me.  Help me to know how I may grow closer to God, how I may serve Him better, and how I may prepare my heart to truly receive Him on Easter and always....”  
    We are taught that Lent is a time for penitence (thankfully, not perfection).  We are encouraged to practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  So my plan for Lent is to:
  1. Start my day with prayer.  Not a quick prayer as I ready myself for the day but a more focused prayer time, on my knees, focusing only on prayer.  I will include a morning offering, the litany of humility, and a time of quiet to listen for God’s voice. 
  2. To give up sweets and to get on my computer only twice a day, rather than checking it every few hours throughout the day.
  3. To look for at least one opportunity each day to offer a random act of kindness or charity to others.  I will share my act of charity with my family during our evening prayer time, and will encourage each member of my family to do the same.  We will write our kind acts on paper hearts and hang them in our kitchen.
Now, feeling more settled and at peace, I look forward to a joyful and peaceful Lenten season.  I am excited to see how God will work in my life and I anticipate with hope a true time of preparation and growth….. and, maybe, just maybe, I will even learn to let go of some of my perfectionism along the way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Convictions- for and against

     Last night, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with some friends of mine.  It was just me and three of my dearest friends with our Starbucks in hand, enjoying the rare opportunity to converse without the interruption of any of the 17 children we have between the 4 of us.  The lovely women I shared the treat of my “night out” with are all beautiful, strong Catholic women.  And together we discussed our faith, our Church and the struggles of raising our children to be good strong Catholics in this world that threatens to distract and mislead them at every twist and turn.  We shared the struggles of our own tendencies to be distracted and misled, our own weaknesses and the challenges they present when constantly on display for our impressionable children, and our attempts to focus always on the goal of raising our children to know, love, and serve God above all else.  We covered a lot of ground in the few hours we had and though we certainly did not solve any of the problems of the world, I felt so renewed as I headed for home in the chill of the night knowing I am not alone.  For in contrast, I had encountered a woman just the night before who was ranting and raving about all the problems within the Catholic Church and her disappointment in its inability to cater to her beliefs.  She was going on and on about how she felt the need to protest against the Church, which she was obviously a member of, by purposefully living in defiance of its teachings.  I listened from afar to her strong convictions but said nothing.  I wondered why she continued to consider herself a Catholic when she seemed to have nothing but problems with the Church.  I wondered why she was so passionate in her distaste and so vocal about it yet was still willing to identify herself as Catholic, at least in name.  I wondered, too, about whether or not she really understood the teachings of the Church.  But, despite my wonderings, despite my equally passionate beliefs in supporting the Church and its views, I was not sure how to approach the woman or what to say in response to what I had overheard and so I remained silent. 
    But, if I had spoken up here is what I would’ve, perhaps, should’ve said…..   Our Church is beautiful in its traditions.  It is strong and unwavering in standing for the Truth.  It is unbending and I love that.  It is the Church’s strength of conviction in standing up for what is right that reassures me that it does possess the Truth and the fullness of faith.  Our Church is not fickle, flighty, or changeable based on what is popular.  Our Church does not strive to be trendy or fashionable.  It does not exist to please the people or to win popularity contests.  Sort of like Jesus- our Church strives to always reveal and uphold the truth.  Jesus did not win any popularity contests.  He did not gain the approval of the general public in His times.  He refused to agree with sinful values and selfish motivations.  Our Catholic teachings, likewise, denounce sinfulness and selfishness. 
    It is not surprising we, as Catholic Christians, are persecuted.  Jesus told us we would be.  I suppose it is not surprising that some of the persecutions come from within, Jesus was not accepted or supported by those from His own home town.  Yet, like Jesus Himself, the Church remains strong and focused on its mission.  The Church, in her beauty and strength, does not bend because it cannot bend.   We are led, through the direction of the Holy Father, by the Holy Spirit.  God is unchanging.  Truth is not elastic or malleable, and so neither is our Church.   The wonder of it all though is that the Church exists, not to control us or enslave us, but to aid us in our journey to Heaven.  We are so blessed to have its wisdom and clarity in a world that is lost and confused.  And if we are willing to trust in the Church, to accept and follow its teachings- all its teachings, we will be led to Christ.  That is the hope that infuses the lives of the beautiful women I spent last evening with.  The peace and holiness they possess is so encouraging and is a whole lot more inviting than the anger which I encountered the night before.  I think I’ll stick with my Catholic faith.  I will continue to try, as best I can, to follow all the teachings of the Church and I am grateful to know that there are others in the pews that feel the same and are willing to support me on my journey.


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