Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trust, Confidence and Peace

I have been a bad blogger, a bad volunteer and a bad mom lately. All I can manage at this moment is to gestate this baby and try to keep my family in some semblance of order. It's not pretty around here. The house is a complete disaster, I am eating pre-made, processed stuff that I would normally go hungry rather than consume, and my kids haven't done a Saint of the Day or a Devotions in weeks. I'm no longer doing my St. Vincent de Paul work, and I've cut down on the number of times I drive into Denver to see my Catholic Charities families as well. I'm not even attending Mass every single Sunday, let alone during the week, and have totally abandoned the children's Rosary group I started in 2009. Others have been picking up my slack for me, bless them.

I'm honestly okay with this. It's not a choice for me to cut back on the things I like to do. I am physically, emotionally and mentally incapable of living my normal life right now. Things will work out and hopefully I can get back on track by summertime.

For the past seven months I've been trying (mostly without success) to get a handle on my parenting method. This is my version of nesting for a third child! We have all the equipment and I'm well practiced at attachment parenting, so the real question I'm struggling with is: What comes after toddlerhood?

There are SO MANY models, methods, books, and theories that it makes my head swim. Since I don't live on a desert island with my kids, I also have to factor in wildly divergent grandparents and, of course, my spouse. At its core, though, parenting is about what's comfortable for me and my kids, and this is where the biggest problem lies. I simply do not have any confidence at all in my parenting.

My word for the year is ABANDONMENT, and it's come to me precisely because I am struggling so desperately with parenting issues. It's not enough for me to love my children and do my best. I have to know that the method I'm using is approved by this that or the other expert, that it has been proven not to have any long-term psychological downsides, and that it creates harmony in my home. Needless to say, I'm still searching!

There's no perfect method because there are no perfect people -- parents or kids. No matter how many books I read, I'm never going to hit upon the ideal method that works every time and results in adult children who are self-sufficient, holy, and an asset to their communities. The best I can hope for is a method that allows flexibility, focuses on character rather than behavior, and preserves the inherent dignity of each family member.

I have to be okay with the idea that I'm not really in control, that I'm going to make mistakes, and that, despite all my efforts, the chances are that my kids are going to have to struggle to find their place amid the chaos that is this world. They're going to make mistakes, too, and I can't blame myself for how they turn out (even if they blame me!) just as I can't take all the credit if they end up actually being holy, productive members of society.

I think the link between trust and confidence is much closer than the link between experience and confidence. I could let myself by stymied by the magnitude of my responsibility (this person's ENTIRE FUTURE is in my hands!) or I can trust that God is in charge and that my contribution, while important, is by no means absolute.

That thought is bringing peace to this harried, hormonal mom right now. Just thought I'd share it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

It was a year ago today that I started bleeding with Elizabeth, and a day later that I went to the ER for a panic attack. It's nice to be pregnant again at this time, to know that we've been blessed with new life and to be looking forward to a baby in a few months.

I wanted to share today's Regnum Christi meditation with you, as it's particularly powerful and timely. The emphases added are mine.

The Power of My Nothingness

January 4, 2011

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious

Mark 6:34-44
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat." He said to them in reply, "Give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Are we to buy two hundred days' wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?" He asked them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they had found out they said, "Five loaves and two fish." So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up 12 wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were 5,000 men.

Introductory Prayer: Lord I am nothing without you in my mission. I believe that there is no difficulty in deepening my union with you that cannot be overcome. I want to know and see with greater clarity that your hand moves mine. You make possible what would otherwise be impossible.

Petition: Lord increase my confidence and dependence on you.

1. “His Heart Was Moved with Pity for Them, for They Were like Sheep Without a Shepherd.” A heart that loves expands to meet the needs of those it loves. None could love as perfectly as Christ. Will I let Christ move me in this prayer to see what he sees, suffer what he suffers, and love what he loves? Who will teach the vast numbers of those who are lost, especially the young? Who will console the sorrowing who fight the pervasive darkness of despair, and guide with fidelity the hungry souls ready for the fullness of God’s truth? Who can make present the power of the Shepherd to heal and stay the force of evil in so many dark corners of the world? If I open my heart to see what Christ sees, I will follow everyday what he asks of me to remedy a broken world that needs salvation.

2. Give Them Some Food Yourselves Our Lord insists that we be active protagonists in tackling the most difficult problems in the world. Many only sigh at the world’s miseries as if to say, “Lord, you have a problem. I will pray for them.” Christ looks back and says to us, “This is your mission now. I put it in your hands.” Will we panic? Will we wonder where we will get the time, the resources, the wisdom? Will we imagine ourselves making it all happen? Our Lord asks us to take responsibility, but he does not want us taking control. There is a difference: One is the steward in the mission—us; the other the owner—God. Taking responsibility means making the needs of souls and the Church our own. Not taking control means we never lose sight of the one who controls the plan. I want to do it his way, and not mine.

3. How Many Loaves Do You Have? When Christ chooses us for a mission, he does not select us because he thinks we have what it takes, but rather because he knows he will give us all that we need. Sometimes we are faced with goals that are real, yet beyond our power to accomplish. Anxiety––thinking we need to be superhuman before a superhuman endeavor––inserts all sorts of complexes into the human spirit: shutting down, feeling overwhelmed, uncontrolled anger, unjustly limiting our field of action. What does Christ ask when we face the impossible? Just give what we have––give it all and don’t hold back. Put all our loaves and fishes on the table, and then Christ will work. Believe in the power of our poor nothingness united to Christ.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I believe in the power of my nothingness united to your power and grace. Today I accept the challenge of the mission before me, but only if I take each step depending on you. With you every burden is sweet, and every impossible task is a new encounter with the power of your hand.

Resolution: I will stop sometime in the middle of the day to spiritually place what I am doing into Christ’s hands.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

While I don't go in for New Year's Resolutions, I did think this Saint Finder by Jen is a fabulous thing. I got St. Ignatius of Antioch and since I've been wanting to read more of the early Church Fathers, I think he's a great place to start. I really love the idea of dedicating the year to the intercession of a Saint, and will absolutely be doing that today. Thanks Jen!

I do like developing a Word for the Year. Last year my word was "discipline" but honestly, I don't feel like I did much to work on it. Part of the problem is that I didn't have a plan, I just wanted to keep the word in mind and try to make better choices based on it. A couple weeks/months in, though, I lost sight of the word and bam, it was gone.

I did something new this year: I ordered new pages for my desk planner. They came with goals, values, and mission worksheets as well as weekly goal reminder pages that focus on the multiple "roles" we serve and ways in which we can improve each of them. I LOVE THIS. During the Christmas break, I've been reading through the instructions and thinking about each of my "roles", as well as pondering what our family mission statement might be.

What has me most excited is that this planner allows me a central repository to keep track of notes and progress, write down a monthly or weekly or even daily plan, and provide checks and measures for my goals. I need stuff like this. I have the tendency to overthink and get easily frustrated, which probably means I give up on things much earlier than I should. Planning out ahead of time and building in occasional progress checks should help keep me on track.

I know what my word ought to be this year (and maybe every year): ABANDONMENT. Abandon the self, abandon my illusion of control, abandon my plans and my needs. Allow those around me the freedom to be themselves, and put all my trust and hopes in the Lord.

I will soon have a newborn, which gives me ample opportunity for abandonment! My body is not my own, and likely won't be for another year. My time won't be my own, either. It may seem that my word for this year is the opposite of last year's (discipline), although I personally think it takes discipline to practice abandonment. When I want to rant on and on about my feelings and troubles to my husband, it takes discipline to abandon that want and instead ask, "Did you find a way to get those documents you needed for your case?" or even to allow my husband some silence. It takes discipline to fight the irritation I feel when I discover the kids have not put their toys away, and to abandon my schedule for vacuuming in order to wait for them to come home from school so they can participate in the housecleaning. It takes discipline to decide I must behave differently instead of following the same old patterns of the years before.

The hope of a New Year is such a beautiful thing, isn't it? So much promise and possibility. I love looking back at the Old Year, as well, and remembering where I was, where my children were, and the amazing changes everyone has undergone in that time. God is good, and all things good come from the Lord. May your New Year bring you closer to Him who is, and was, and ever shall be, AMEN!

Photo credit.