Friday, January 25, 2008

Sigh of Relief

I had an impromptu playdate with a friend from church yesterday. I don't get to see her much because she homeschools her four kids and since our parish is undergoing construction on the main church, we're stuck in the gym for Mass without a cry room. Her kids just aren't at a point where they can be quiet during Mass, so she has been going to another parish and thus, I haven't seen her.

She's wonderful. Very kind, open, faithful and understanding. I've talked with her about every matter that concerns my heart and found her at all times completely sympathetic and helpful. Our parenting styles differ, but I consider her an excellent mother and somewhat of a mentor.

Yesterday she helped me through the difficulties I've been having with my search for "peace." She comforted me with an insight I wanted to share:

God has put these feelings in my heart for a reason. The feelings are good, they are prompting me to holiness and devotion. And as they are good, they have a purpose. God is using them to work on my husband's conversion of heart. I don't need to deny, ignore or change my emotions. I need to offer them up to God in a spirit of hope.

*whew* I almost cried while we were talking. It was a beautiful gift to hear confirmation of my own inclinations from someone whose devotion and knowledge I admire so much. It's hard to find the right kind of fellowship. Even more important than listening, a good friend can both uplift you and guide you. I've been considering going to a spiritual counselor for some time, but I just don't know what I'd do with my kids. Anyone know a place that does spiritual counseling email? I'm in desperate need of someone knowledgeable to help me navigate the challenges I'm encountering with this effort. I haven't had much success going at it all alone.

I need to turn to God and arm my heart with His teachings, His comfort, His way. I'm not sure whether to stop talking about this stuff with my family or to try and discuss my point of view in the confidence that I'm sharing the truth, but right now I'm inclined to silence and independence. I certainly don't want to hide what I'm doing, but if last weekend is any indication, there's nothing to be gained from circular arguments with people who don't have any more insight than I do.

Picture credit.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Letting Go of "Peace"

I had a visit from a friend over the weekend. We did a lot of talking, and I shared part of what I'm doing to try and Take the Poor With me. I shared some of my frustrations with her, my feelings of impatience and the frequent sorrow that comes over me whenever I hear about women in the Congo raped to incontinence, or women in India outsourcing their wombs, and remember that right now, I can do next to nothing to help them.

We had a long conversation about peace. Her contention is that in order to feel peace, I have to truly let go of my desires in this matter. I tried to explain that I have already let go, that my whole self is now dedicated to saving money when I can and working towards the goal my husband has set for us rather than fighting for what I believe to be right or underhandedly giving away all my cash to charity and claiming I spent it on donuts.

But according to her, in order to truly let go, I have to stop wanting it entirely. If I hear a news story and still want to help those people in need, I haven't really let go. If I'm still irritated at the restrictions on our budget, I haven't really let go.

I don't think I need to spend much time telling you that this idea really REALLY bothers me. I do my very best to turn my pain and anguish over to God, that He might do what He wills with it. I am trying as hard as I can to bite my tongue whenever the topic of money comes up and let my husband lead our finances. Does that mean the feelings just vanish? NOT IN THE LEAST.

To me, her definition of "letting go" is really "giving up." How can I have hope unless I'm expecting change? And why would I expect change if it's something I don't want anymore? Since when is erasing the desire for something the answer? I think about Hannah, barren for most of her life, praying so fervently in the Temple that God would grant her a son that Eli thought she was drunk or crazy. How could Hannah simply stop wanting a child? That's the secret to achieving peace...telling yourself over and over again "I don't really want this" until it becomes true?

It sounds entirely wrong to me, but could that be because I'm not really letting go? I admit, I'm still irritated every single time I go to Mass, every time I pray, every time I read/hear God's word. Everything in my faith points to caring for the poor, to tithing, to sacrifice and sacrificial love. I'm constantly reminded of what I want to do and what I can't do.

My friend said that I should just be satisfied with my volunteer work and let everything else be, that I should find peace in submitting my will to that of my husband as God commands.

I don't even know what that would feel like. I know I'm doing the right thing by backing off and praying for God to take over. I completely, wholeheartedly believe in Church teaching and am confident that the decision I've made is the right one. So why don't I feel "peace" about it?

Either her and my definitions of "peace" are at odds, or I'm doing something wrong.

I would appreciate any insights anyone has to offer.

Picture credit.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Unintentional Hiatus

Gingerbread HouseI haven't posted in ages due to a combination of computer issues and Christmas-brain (you know, where everything is gingerbread and baby Jesus and celebrations and the idea of coming up with a post is just more work than you feel up to during a feast!)

But it's also because I haven't had any burning statements to make. I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the go-ahead to move forward. Or maybe it's more like I'm under the tutelage of a very exacting ballet master who wants me to perfect the basic positions before I can move on to pointe. This is the boring, humdrum, repetitive part of obedience and it's leaving me a bit flat.

I'd like to say that I'm making good use of this time to read up on stewardship and research the Church's position on giving, tithing, obedience within a marriage and care for the poor, but I'm not. I'd love to say that I'm using it to perfect my skills as a mother so I can more easily adjust to having three (or four) when we finally do adopt, but that's not true either.

Mostly, I feel "meh." Like I'm going through the motions. I don't want to read about stewardship because it just frustrates me to see so clearly what I should be doing when I so obviously can't do it. I don't want to reflect on the sacrifices I'm making because I start to get resentful and wonder if they're ever going to end. I'm always working on motherhood and parenting, but now every failure, every setback, every lost temper and raised voice just illustrates how ill-equipped I am for the challenge of adoption.

It's strange that at the times when I most need to pray, I feel the least desire to. I know that focusing my energies on God, reading His word, and praying for the intercession of Mary and the Saints makes an amazing difference not only in the way I feel, but in what I am capable of achieving. The other day I spent some time nursing the baby and reading "The Art of Catholic Motherhood." I came out of that experience feeling uplifted. So why don't I do more of that? Why is my first inclination whenever I have a moment to do something meaningless and escapist like watch a reality show or surf the blogosphere?

Even planning my weekly menu annoys me. It shouldn't be so difficult for me to keep the weekly bill under $100. People live well on much, much less. So I feel like an idiot when I have to put back the block of cheddar cheese or serve my pasta primavera without sun-dried tomatoes because we can't afford them. I simultaneously resent the sacrifice and mock myself for the resentment. Sun dried tomatoes? Could there be a less essential ingredient to do without? What's worse, part of me feels that it's a pointless torture to even bother with it all. So I save $25 a would take twenty years to match our debt at that rate. The simple fact is that my efforts to save and sacrifice aren't going to get us anywhere close to our goal. We have fixed expenses that comprise the bulk of our spending (mortgage, car payments, insurance, etc.) and outside those expenses we have very little wiggle room to actually save money toward our debt. We'll only achieve our goal through the generosity of others: my husband's bonuses at work, gifts from our parents, etc.

I don't mind being dependent upon others. We've been blessed with loving, giving parents on both sides. Their support does not chafe me. But then I wonder why I bother with anything. If I have no control over our finances, if my husband doesn't care about solidarity with the poor, and if the money I save goes no where, why not just get whatever I want at the grocery store?

More to the point: if these sacrifices don't help me and they don't help the poor, what good are they?

Well, they ARE good, inherently. It is right to sacrifice. Even if it doesn't feel good, even if I find it frustrating and difficult, it's still a good exercise for my soul. That's, to me, the most compelling reason to continue. It's only by action that we can train our minds and bodies to desire what's good for them. As far as helping the poor, well, that's relative. Does my going without sun-dried tomatoes physically feed the poor? No. But if it forces me to think about those who struggle to live within limited means, and if it increases my understanding of others' experiences, then that's better than blithely grabbing the jar off the shelf and tossing it in my basket without a second thought.

I've always tried to live under the axiom "Do what you can." Right now, I can make small sacrifices. I can say my prayers even when I don't feel like it. I can think about the poor. I can be silent when I want to scream "What is wrong with you! This is all total BS!" I can be patient. I can be hopeful. I can trust.

Even if that's all I can do, it's still something.