Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Titus 2 coffee date for young moms

Young mothers have been on my heart lately. Certainly not all young wives are mothers, and not all mothers of little ones are young wives. But in general the first few years of marriage and motherhood, wherever you are, can be incredibly difficult.

For me, many times a cup of coffee and a good conversation with a Titus 2 mom friend has been much-needed moment of encouragement. 

If you happen to be in desperate need of a coffee date like that...would you allow me to treat you to an e-date of sorts? I'm no expert at walking with God through the Little Years, but my heart wants so much to share some of what I've learned so far.

So, let's pretend that we're at your favorite coffee shop. Just you and me. We have a cozy, private booth in the back corner of the store. Our children are all at home bonding with their fathers and eating nutritious snacks. We have both just purchased the delicious coffee drink of our choice, and there is a large, warm chocolate chunk cookie on the little table in front of us, already cut in half to share (calorie/gluten/soy/dairy/peanut-free if needed:).

You have just asked me, "Erin, how do we do this all?! It seems impossible. I'm trying so hard, but I'm drowning most of the time."

Either that or I have simply picked up on the exhaustion, disenchantment and discouragement on your face. 

First, can I just tell you that I'm right there with you some days? 

Now, let's take a bite of that cookie. Because Rule #1 is that Chocolate Always Helps. (Just kidding. Sort of. Have you made this yet?!)

Life has so many seasons. It's a constant ebb and flow and stretching and coasting and then doing it all over again. We get into a good routine and then...growth spurt...job change...out-of-state move...NFP woes...flu...new baby. We just can't do it all, all the time, or all at once, or all well.

And of course we're inadequate to the task. It comes with having a God-given mission. But we mothers join the ranks of Peter, and Moses, and Joshua, and Gideon, and Mary, and a host of other Biblical heroes (and the saints!). God always gives us more than we can handle, because giving us a mission that is more than we can handle is so often the only way that He can get us to fall into His arms so that He can then do some amazing things through us. 

The life of faith is a never-ending re-centering of our lives on God: discerning His will and depending on his providence and trusting his timing and blooming where we're planted. Something that helps so much in any vocation we're in is to constantly examine ourselvesEvery day is great. Every month is helpful. With our spouse is wonderful. 

Michael and me
Sometimes Christian marriage and parenting books directed to moms can all seem to say the same thing: "Give, give, give. Be selfless. Die to self." I won't tell you that's bad advice. But maybe it's incomplete. Because we all need rest that renews sometimes. And we have to fight for that kind of rest in our busy lives. Whether it's making Sundays a consistent day for rest, a monthly holy hour, a weekly mom's night out for coffee and a good book, a whole weekend away, or something restful and life-giving unique to you, go for it and toss out those feelings of guilt with the trash. Because a mother with an empty tank and a heart who hasn't connected with God lately isn't her best self. And our families need us to be our best selves. And if your husband isn't on board at first with more regular R&R for you, be patient but sweetly firm, and let the fruit of a refreshed wife speak for itself. 

Remember that the mission always goes back to your marriage. Fight for your marriage, and the graces of the sacrament will flow. Let your spouse point you to God, every day, whether its by his holiness or because you're on your knees in prayer about him. And when you fail and fight and hurt one another over and over and you don't know how to stop, remember what God wants for you. Something will change, eventually. A phone call, a new acquaintance, a change of heart, a powerful homily, a book...there are so many ways God reaches us. Things will get better, even if the "better" is only that our hearts gain peace by becoming more rooted in God. Work on your own heart, first and always, and let God work everything out in time.

Remember, too, that the vocation to marriage is not all about the children. The best gift you can give to any children you have are holy, happy parents. Sometimes fighting for your marriage looks like calling eight people to find a babysitter. Sometimes it means getting counseling. Sometimes it means sending your husband to work out for an hour a few days a week after work. And sometimes--maybe a lot of times--fighting for your marriage means being on your knees in prayer for a thousand nights in a row. 

Speaking of children, the joys and sorrows of discerning them and making them and accepting them can be incredibly, breathtakingly...hard. For those of you in the trenches with things like intimacyinfertility, or NFP, there are some excellent blogs and great books out there these days. Read them. Know, sister, that there are many, many "you, too?!'s" out there. You're not alone. God has great plans for your marriage, and that includes your intimate relationship with your husband. Be patient with yourself and your spouse, find time to talk over things often with a calm and right heart, find big and small ways to be selfless, and don't let go of a good sense of humor. Oh, and if you don't do it already--pray.

On the running-a-home-front, let's just say that feeding people and doing laundry and keeping the bathrooms sort-decent is messy. Learning how to improve the running of your household is usually a very helpful thing. There are lots of great places to get advice on this, thankfully! Again, don't try to do it all at once, but do try to do something if you're feeling overwhelmed. Learning how to meal plan, or organize your bills, or lay out a beginning mother's rule of life can be...life-changing is the word that comes to mind. I am so, so not "there" yet with running my home perfectly. I have found that necessity has been the mother of order in my home, to be honest. 

Running a household also means running a house full of schedules. Work on a rule of life for your family that doesn't say "yes" to every good thing. Really discern "good" and "better" for your family regarding activities, employment, ministry, and the need for family time. Simplify, simplify, simplify whenever and wherever possible. 

Young marriage and motherhood can feel like being helplessly pulled along by a strong current. I am not a master swimmer yet. And at those times when I feel like I'm drowning, it seems like it's always then that somebody hands me the baby! My Aunt Roberta always says, "Yes, ____ is hard... but God." But God works all things together for our good. But God is faithful. But God has plans for our good and not for woe, plans to give us a hope and a future. 

We mothers have a mission that requires us to climb a great spiritual mountain in these early years especially: A daily, active surrender that says I chose this, I choose this, and I will continue to choose Him. 
"Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ." -Colossians 3:23
I know, I know...I'm a talker (but I'm not as talkative in person, I promise!.:) That aside, though, how about the next cookie is on me? 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Join me in a week of praying for your husband

Sometimes, others have just the right words

My friend Marianne sent out a beautiful email on the Feast of St. Joseph this week. She shared something her spiritual director had given her some time ago: two short, rich prayers to pray for your husband--your own "St. Joseph"--each day of the week. 

If you're like me, as you read through the prayers she has for each day you'll find some specific ways to pray for your husband that are exactly what he needs right now. 

Please join me this coming week, starting Sunday, March 21st, in praying for your husband. As the week goes on, I'd love you to share with us any fruits that come of this spiritual bouquet of prayer for your spouse. Send me an email, leave a comment on this post, or leave one on the Facebook page:). 

May God bless your sacrament this week! 


* * * 

SUNDAY

  • That he would become a holy man, a man of prayer, mature in the Lord, growing in his knowledge of God
  • That he would daily seek God with all his heart, walking in the Spirit moment by moment, growing in his dependence on Him

MONDAY

  • That he would learn to take every thought captive, to not be conformed to the world's thinking and to think Scripturally
  • That he would learn not to depend on his circumstances for happiness but on God alone

TUESDAY

  • That he would have new strength in the midst of his busy schedule and that the Lord might infuse him with His strength
  • That his self-image would be a reflection of the Lord's thoughts toward him

WEDNESDAY

  • That he would become a called man, not driven, with well thought-through and prayed-through goals in life
  • That the Lord would give him wisdom to lead his family physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually

THURSDAY

  • That he would stand firm against the schemes of the devil and resist Satan in all circumstances
  • That he would not be deceived into unbelief or sin

FRIDAY

  • That the fruit of the Holy Spirit would be more and more exhibited in his life
  • That he would learn to love as God has commanded

SATURDAY

  • That the Lord would protect him, guarding his course
  • That he would learn to manage his time well

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is being busy a bad thing?

For some reason, I have developed this idea in my head that if I'm "busy," then I am doing something wrong. 

And you know what? I think this little idea is a new favorite tactic of the Enemy. He has twisted the genuine need we have to prayerfully discern our schedules into another way to discourage us in the spiritual life.

I think the truth is that being busy is not a sin. It doesn't necessarily mean that we're doing something wrong. Sometimes a busy life is exactly what God wants for us.

I think of Jesus, and how he preached and healed people so constantly that his disciples tried to turn people away out of concern for him. 

I think of the lives of the saints. Whether they were mothers or preachers, missionaries or maidservants, they worked hard. Many of them founded dozens of monasteries, hospitals, orphanages, or schools. Their lives are filled to the brim with service--but above even that, constant prayer.

Busyness is not necessarily a bad thing for our souls. We are not all called to a busy life, and not in all seasons of our lives, but most of us will be busy at some point with things the Lord wants us to be doing. The Lord may permit us to have a busy life while running a business, a parish, or a household--or taking care of an infant, or an aging parent, whose needs consume our time and energy beyond explanation.
If we feel that we are doing what God is asking of us at this time, I think there is much to be learned in being busy. The practice of the presence of God. Self-discipline. Prioritizing our faith. Honest, sincere discernment of God's will. Surrender. Humility. Letting God sanctify the work of our everyday lives.

"Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one." (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
"But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God's grace." (Acts 20:24)