Sunday, February 21, 2010


I know I have blogged on this subject before, but it's one of the main issues I struggle with and which keeps me from both joy and trust in God. Logically I know we are all imperfect and that God loves us regardless. I love my children and my husband, and they are not perfect. I do not need to be perfect in order to be a child of God and do His will.

But I don't want to do anything unless I can do it well. I know that's a big part of why my book is languishing, 6 years into the writing of it, at about 2/3 complete. I fear that it won't be successful, that it won't be my best work, that people won't find it interesting or worth the read. In my mind I know all of these things are not only probable, but certain. Of course my first novel will not be my best! What a sad situation if I cannot improve on my first work for the rest of my life! And of course many people won't like it. In fact, I bet most of the people I know won't like it because those who share my love for speculative fiction will find it quaint and moralistic, while those who would appreciate its religious message probably won't get past the kings and magic element. As for success...what is that? Many bad books are published, many good books are not. Besides, I'm not going to reach heaven simply by writing a novel that receives wide public acclaim. I know all this. But knowing and accepting are two different things.

I know, for instance, that I will probably never be able to save 10% of my husband's income simply by reducing my spending. With the major purchases already accounted for (mortgage, insurance, savings, etc.) my impact on the budget is simply too limited to achieve a full tithe. Which is as it should be. A sacrifice like that is something a family must do together because it makes such an enormous impact on quality-of-life. I'm just starting to accept that perhaps my ideals cannot co-exist with reality, and that I am not able to accomplish things through desire alone.

I have similar angst about my decision to homeschool. As deeply as I desire to mimic a Charlotte Mason education with its emphasis on living books, nature studies and active discipline, the reality of my and my childrens' personalities have not made it easy. After five months of effort with my son, we are still fighting over every single assignment (though he is as proud and enthusiastic about his work as he can be once we finish.)

The sin of pride keeps me focused on perfection. I want so badly to look back on my day and think, "Yes, I have done well. I am worthy of God's love because I am a good person who does God's will." That thinking is sinful and dangerous. It puts up a barrier to keep God in a particular role and doesn't allow for grace or trust or the childlike attitude God wants from me. So I must look hard at my plans for the future and ask myself: When it becomes clear I cannot reach my ideals, where does the path lead from there?

The answer, of course, is still "To do God's will." Do I believe it is His will that I homeschool? Emphatically, yes. He has led me here deliberately, through decisions that I weren't even mine, and through contact with faithful, inspiring Catholics whose words I recognize as wisdom. I believe I am called to homeschool even if I can't do it in a perfect manner. So with that as my base, it seems obvious that I need to re-examine the TYPE of homeschooling that I'm doing.

If I can't maintain a calm and encouraging environment while trying to teach my son narration, then perhaps he's more of a workbook and textbook kid. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. If I can't celebrate the Church calendar and have a Saints Tea every week, then at least I can mention to the kids what the feast day is and read them stories about the Saints on occasion. I need to be open to lowering the bar without removing it entirely. So often I get discouraged and think, "Oh, forget it! It's not worth it! It's too hard!" I need to keep fighting. Even if my tactics change, my mission doesn't. So I can't save 1/3rd of my monthly budget. Okay. I'll work on saving 1/10th instead. I need to be firm in my convictions and respond to well-meaning concerns about my kids' socialization and the quality of their education with statements like, "I believe this is best for them at this time." And I have to believe in my heart that it is true, that God has called me in all my imperfections. He wants me to reduce spending and set aside money for the poor. He wants me to homeschool. He wants me to be the mother of my children because I am the best mother for them at this time, even if I could still be better.

And then I need to pray: God, help me be better!

Picture credit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A little more Person, please

I am doing better. Thank you, everyone, for your beautiful words of encouragement. I've found that my physical and mental healing are progressing together. I can't remember on whose blog I read it, but a woman who had recently suffered a miscarriage spoke of her "shoulds" turning to "woulds." Instead of feeling, "I should be 22 weeks pregnant now," she had begun to think, "I would be 22 weeks." The difference encapsulates what I'm feeling, too. While I'm still sad, I don't feel the aching emptiness anymore. I don't feel that I'm "off" because I'm not pregnant.

At the moment, I'm reflecting on Lent and discerning my Lenten sacrifice. Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project had a post last December with tips on refraining from holiday indulgences. In it, she describes two personality types: abstainers or moderators. After careful thought, I have discovered I am a moderator. I like an occasional treat and can stop after a little bit, whereas when I am totally deprived of something, I grow crabby and whiny and obsess over it.

In fact, it's led me to a realization that I hope will help me better order my time. I think I've been neglecting one of the five Ps (as illustrated in A Mother's Rule of Life): I'm not taking time to feed myself as a Person. This is not to say that I am work, work, work 100% of the day. Far from it, unfortunately. I spend more time than a person should vegging out in front of the TV, and I frequently bake myself any kind of treat I feel like. In fact, do you know what I had for lunch today? Scones with blackberry jam and cream. They were awesome, BTW. I highly recommend that recipe.

The point, though, is that indulging my immediate desires does not grow me as a person. In the serious parts of my life -- prayer, parenting, providing, partnering -- I am growing. But in terms of my self, my professional core, I am doing the equivalent of living on fast food and cupcakes. Those things I do to entertain myself, like watching Star Trek or dancing to salsa music, while thoroughly enjoyable, do not grow me.

So I think what I need to do is give up those little indulgences that make me feel good in the moment, but don't do anything concrete to grow me as a person. Instead, I need to spend that time on something productive, say, finishing my book or writing a short story or critiquing a friend's novel. Out with the mindless, in with the fruitful. Giving up the internet for Lent seems a good place to start, though I think I will follow the example of some other faithful Catholics I know who have done this and allow Sundays for checking email and catching up on blogs. Otherwise, the amount of backlog come Easter is overwhelming.

Jen had an awesome post on this a couple days ago, and I know Anna gave up the internet for Lent last year. Several of the families in my homeschooling network don't own televisions at all (!!!) so I know this is not only an achievable goal, but a laudable one that can bear significant fruit. I'm excited to embark on this journey!

Picture credit.