Yes, it's been a few weeks. And BOY has it been a few weeks! With sick kids and lots of Advent running around (because that's what the season is about, right?), I just haven't felt like writing. Yet, I've had a jumble of thoughts running through my head. So here is an attempt to spit it all out. Excuse the mess. :)
-1- I had other thoughts, but then breaking Facebook news through updates pushed this thought to the upper most priority. Cherish the little moments, because we have no control over when they are over. I, Mama McCormick, am a control FREAK. I want everything just so, and I get a little moody if things upset my plan. Type A? Check. Big ol' J on the Myers Briggs. Yup. Having kids has upset that very nature. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. And yet, as much as the little things upset me, the biggest fear of any parent became reality in the unfathomable elementary school shooting in Connecticut today. Little ones ripped out of their parents life - no control, no explanation, no sense. Complete and utter madness. I look at my littles sleeping here in the room, and I drink them in. God and I have had this conversation from day one. These littles are on loan to me. They are my heart, but they belong to Him. Watching so many little ones succumb to illness and tragedy, when you have one of your own, you naturally worry if that will be their fate. I have to take a moment to have little reality checks along the way that remind me that time is precious, and while planning a lifetime of love for our family is a joyful thing, I need to not get so lost in the planning and dreaming that I forget to drink in the moment right at hand. "For we know not the day nor the hour..."
Every second is precious, even the tears and the drool and the snot running out of their noses. Every second is precious and will make or break me. If they are ripped from me, I want to know that I drank deeply at the well of grace and joy that comes from being their mother, and didn't spend my time obsessing over completely insignificant things. So today I will hold them tighter and kiss them a few extra times, and burn into my brain and my heart every hair on their head and every groove on their fingers lest I forget the pure gift God has given me. Challenges come along, but they don't change the essence of the children that are given me - I am the mother of a son and daughter of God. They are light. They are joy. They are mercy. Through them is grace flowing into me. Now I need to plaster that on every wall in the house for when the tantrums and tears flow.
For as cheesy as Li'l G is, anytime we try to take pictures, she's not the most gracious or cooperative, especially if it involves posing with Baby J. Trying to get a quick picture of the two of them for our Christmas cards (ridiculously quick because I found out about an insane deal that was only for one day) was no easy task. We didn't get the "perfect shot," which bothers me sometimes. What we got was a bunch of PERFECT shots that show the reality of who my babies are. They tell their own story...
-3- I don't dream big. I have no idea how to dream. My friend Lisa always says "be bold with God." While I hear her, I don't really hear her. I pray. I ask for immediate things, nice things for the world and my family, but I don't dream with God. When I was fretting about not getting pregnant right away after getting married, Matthew 19:26 / Luke 1:37 kept popping up everywhere - With God all things are possible/Nothing is impossible for God. Clearly a true story 2 kids in 3 years later. And yet, I dream in band aids. I dream about what I'd like in the nearly immediate future, not about what God's dreams are for me, what his plans are to "prosper me." Stunted dreams lead to aimless wandering. I went on a mom's retreat with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist at the beginning of Advent because I'd been feeling pretty empty and lost, and came out still feeling pretty lost. The grace of the weekend is still flowing, though, as I discover and unwrap slowly the gifts God has given me both within myself and within the people he has placed in my midst.
-4- I went feeling empty and invisible. Through the smallest gestures of some of the women there, I realized that this was not really a true story about my life. I am not invisible - I'm just not everyone's top priority, nor should I be. And...I am not empty - I have plenty to give if I tap into what God has given me to share - I just need to be aware of what that is. So many times I am asked to identify what my strengths and gifts are, and I just can't. I can't see them. Not out of some twisted notion of humility - I just simply am so buried in my own muck that I don't see the light. Well, get behind me Satan, because Jesus is stronger and the Holy Spirit is moving! I'm beginning to recognize my divinely inspired giftedness, and now just need to figure out how God wants me to use them...and muster up the time and energy to give it a whirl!
-5- Holiness comes through the little things. Blessed Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, "We can do no great things. Only small things with great love." We are told that those who are faithful in the little things will be trusted with great things. Those who are not faithful in the little things cannot be trusted to faithful with the big things. And yet, as small as I dream, I want to do big things, and little things get in the way. Well, kick that thought out of my mind. My little ones are a daily exercise in learning to love in little things, in the Little Way as St. Therese fondly shows us. There is great grace in the little things. As we do to the least of these, we do to Jesus. I think that extends into as we do little things with great love, we do them for and to the face of Christ. Those daily opportunities for mortification, for dying to self with love, in the pile of laundry, the dishes, the dirty faces and dripping noses (can you tell the kids are sick right now?), those opportunities lead us down the road of our own salvation. If we do not do well with this, the big things don't really matter. Ahh, sobering realities. But this leads me to my next point...
-6- What we really strive for is perfect love, not holiness. A favorite quote of mine: "A soul of holiness does not strive for that holiness. It strives to love, to love wholeheartedly; there lies the difference. In the desire for sanctity there is still a deviation of motive. The simple soul loves; that is all." (Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J.) Wholehearted love - yeah, couldn't I just have a task list instead? Apparently not. This calls me to live outside of myself a lot more than I currently do. It requires me to figure out the source of my temper and mute it so I can love. It calls me to put on the shelf my agendas and lists and figure out how I'm called to love every day. It may even call me to put away my phone and devices and just be present with people, most especially my family. It calls me to put aside my excesses and remember that while another goes without, I am stealing from them if I live in excess. It's a pretty demanding call to love wholeheartedly, and I know that it is not humanly possible. I cannot do it if I don't empty myself of myself and let Christ live in me more fully. This means strengthening my prayer life and helping my children develop a strong one. This means making different decisions as a family in the little things like how we spend our time and our money. It means making different choices in what I do with my time and being very intentional in how I act and how I respond. It means being intentional at all times to be certain my words and actions bring life and joy, not derision and contempt. It means relying on a power much greater than myself and coffee/chocolate, especially when sleep is less than optimal and demands on my time and emotion are great. The stakes, though, are much too high to not put in my best effort - not only for my joy and salvation, but so that my family can come to know Jesus more intimately through me, and so that others do not see me, but see Christ who is the source of my life. I've got a LOOOONG way to go, and it will likely be one step forward ten steps back, but at least I'm moving? Now to actually follow through on getting that spiritual director and getting my behind to confession! And this leads me to...
-7- The phrase "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," scares the daylights out of me, mostly because I have GREAT intentions, but my follow through is often a little lacking. Lately I become overwhelmed living in my head, thinking about all the things I want to do, need to do, should do, and nothing actuallly comes to fruition. Just as my journey to love wholeheartedly is going to be small steps forward, so to this journey to making sure I'm not paving my road to hell. Instead of thinking about all the things I'd like to do with the family, friends, kids, etc., I'm trying to do at least one thing per day...ok, a few things per week. I'm also trying to keep a journal of things accomplished so I see that perhaps I'm not just living in my head dreaming about lofty aspirations. They may be very small things, like hey - we got a bulk of our Christmas cards out on time for the first time...well, ever...but it's something. So one brick from that downward road is being paved in the other direction, right? Anyway, we won't call it a new year's resolution, but it kind of is an Advent resolution - I want to be better about following through on my intentions, be it sending a card, writing a letter, doing something fun with the littles, or being a better wifey - let's do this and not just dream it, okay me? Okay mama.
- BONUS - My kids are cute. Have I mentioned that? Now look at them and admire their cuteness. Thank you.