Dry corn stalks stick up–
the skeleton of summer
revealing past warmth.
Dry corn stalks stick up–
the skeleton of summer
revealing past warmth.
Some long days the baby cries
and the toddler screams
and the 5 year old seems to have
ants in his pants
and a megaphone around his neck.
Some long days
the toddler won’t nap
and the phone rings five times
during the quiet-time movie
and it seems nothing can wait
for you to just chill out and relax
for just an hour…even half an hour!
Some long days
the boys fill your kettle with pencil crayons
and draw on the bathroom door
and the baby wakes up
as soon as you begin the math lesson
and everyone moans and groans
and forgets how to round to the nearest ten.
Some long days you hit dinner time
with a sense of desperation…
“How long till bed?!”
and sing along to “The Muppets” soundtrack
in an attempt to feel that you’ve got
“Everything that I need, right in front of me.”
Some long days
the smartest thing you do
is have a glass of wine with dinner
and veto everything but laughter
as you listen to stories from the Vinyl Cafe
with the kids
who delight in the one
when Dave gets trapped in a sewer
after dropping down his keys
and gets mistaken for a monster by a little boy.
Some long days
the greatest relief is the feeling of your toddler
drooling on your shoulder
as you rock him to sleep early, to prevent any more fits.
Success! The little beast is quiet…
and you can actually read the others
“The Never-Ending Story” about Atreyu and Bastian,
the luck dragon Falcor and the childlike Empress,
until their eyes close and their breath gets deep and even.
Despite all the chaos,
all they’ll probably remember about today is
listening to stories with you
and falling asleep on the warmth of your lap.
Some long days
when the hours drag on,
remember you’re not alone
and try to end them with a smile…
Just keep picturing diving into bed
and sinking into the sweet relief of sleep!
Some long days, mamas,
you gotta keep your eye on the prize!
When I’m back home I’ll think of you
walking under the immense dome of the sky
which curves around like giant arms
until it touches the distant edges of the prairie.
You awed by the paradox
of God’s ever-watchful otherliness
and the incarnational intimacy of the earth
supporting your feet–
you tiny amidst the soaring and the solid,
utterly surrounded by God.
There is a flame the cold can’t quench
and so we joy-filled fill
this giant wooden teepee with song
We reach for the hand of one
whose wounded one reaches for ours
Sheltered in this house of God
by a cone of boards bound with nails
like a teepee sewn together
—holes through pierced skin—
protecting us from the winter storms
Like the people of Jerusalem we process with palms
but instead of hot sand the snow swirls around us
a soft spring snow
full of hope of future harvest
as the fire-golden wheat fields lie hidden
under the cold kiss of a blanket of snow
the way you lie hidden
the fire of your divinity
submerged in the wheat coloured wafer
We live in the shelter of his love
the humble king of glory
I get a lot of comments walking about with 7 kids. They’re usually not very original. “Oh, you’ve got your hands full!” “You must be busy!” “How do you do it, aren’t you tired?” “Do you have help?” etc. But one comment that stood out as a pleasant surprise was by a fellow mom who got on the bus after us one day. She had black spiky hair and tattoos and one young toddler in her stroller. I wasn’t sure what she’d think of me, taking up a quarter of the bus with my crew.
You’re a warrior!
I have to say this really made my day. Yeah! A warrior is someone strong and brave, who is willing to make sacrifices for what they believe in. A warrior is to be admired, not pitied. Instead of thinking I was either crazy or some kind of poor victim, she honoured my decision to have children as an intentional life choice, and gave me a verbal thumbs up.
Moms are soldiers for love, fighting the battle against selfishness, affirming that life is worth living, that love is more precious that personal comfort, that heroes exist, that love is unconditional, that life is beautiful.
To pity a mother is disempowering and belittling. It acknowledges only the difficulty of her task while failing to see its sublime importance for society. Motherhood is the make or break place for people’s futures. The world 20 years from now depends on the mothers of today. This isn’t to put more pressure on mom’s who already always worry about doing enough. It’s to cheer them on, and say, “Hey, all these sacrifices are worth it! You truly make the world a better place!” A world without mothers would be cold and empty, literally and figuratively.
But we forget this. Sometimes at the end of a long day of caring for kids, worn out from all the giving, a mom can feel inadequate, and only focus on the things that went wrong, the things that didn’t get done, or how incredibly hard it was to do what was done. But finding a challenging job hard doesn’t mean you’re bad at it. Think of a soldier in the trenches, fighting all day to keep his ground, surrounded by chaotic noise, inching forward through the mud. If at the end of the day he is messy and exhausted, it’s because he has done his duty…and fought bravely without giving up. He should be, if he had the energy, happy and proud. It’s the same with a mom. If at night you’re tired from caring and feeding and cleaning your troops and your shirt is covered in milk the baby spat up, know you’re doing it right.
Perhaps the only medals you’ll receive are stickers the toddler decorated you with but you’re not in it for the glory. You arrive at the end of the day empty, but not because you’re poor or worthless, but because you’ve spent yourself so generously, and have given so much. Someone once said that the only things you truly keep are the ones you give away…so also in this irony of self-giving you find yourself, stronger and braver and more generous than you were before this adventure began.
But hopefully by having a better appreciation for the dignity of your task, you will also realize the importance of taking care of yourself as well. No one would think of telling a firefighter or a police officer to wear a dirty uniform and skip breakfast in order to focus more on saving people, for they need to be alert and properly equipped for their jobs. So do we! So hop in the shower, make your favourite meals, go for sanity dates with your mom buddies, and keep doing an awesome job bringing up the future citizens of the world.
Wherein lies the greatness of man?
Is it in his capacity to make bombs?
To build rockets and race cars?
To speed through life and destroy?
Or is it rather in his ability
Despite these other abilities
And give meaning to the smallest gesture
To caress the silken cheek of a flower
And see reflected in it
The face of his beloved
And the twinkling of God’s eyes?
The bulbs we planted last year for Josephine’s birthday are bravely peeking up their tiny heads to kiss the spring sunshine!
The other day I was reading a little book of Lenten meditations by Pope emeritus Benedict about the true meaning of fasting. He describes how Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fighting the temptations he was offered…to the world’s power, to enslavement to the physical world (bread), and to spiritual pride. It made me think…what temptations do I need to fight to be more free? And I don’t just mean the temptations to scarf boxes of chocolates…but deeper things.
Are we tempted by discouragement? By anger? By sulking and blame? These are the kinds of demons we can fight off during Lent, so as to become more happy and free. So how about instead of giving up something we like, or maybe as well as that, taking up arms to fight harder against what we don’t like…what drags us down and brings misery and isolation.
It is amazing how these demons of discouragement prey on our weakness. We recently watched the excellent movie “A Man For All Seasons” as a family. What struck me most this time, because I have seen it before, was what great destruction came through a weak man. Richie Rich, poor and soft man, is corrupted by bribery and the lure of wealth and power. He becomes a powerful man externally, but inside is still incredibly weak and can no longer follow his conscience when tempted, and ends up perjuring himself. St. Thomas Moore is killed because of Rich’s lies in court. It is very sad to see how Rich destroys himself and others…perhaps after certain point he no longer believed it would be possible to reform. It is so important to be both humble enough to receive mercy and forgiveness and strong enough to persevere in the truth when times are tough.
So why do we fail, make mistakes, commit sins? Many times out of weakness. Why do we yell when tired? Weakness. Why do we slam drawers when too hungry? Weakness. Why do we fall into discouragement when the house is exploding with mess and the floor seems a distant memory? Weakness. But if there is one thing we must always hang onto despite our weakness, it is hope, and the knowledge that we are loved. Discouragement comes when we look only at ourselves and all our failures, all at once. Then the amount we need to change and then improve becomes utterly overwhelming.
Can you imagine a baby looking ahead and envisioning all the things they would have to do and learn as one giant, looming to do list? Learn to walk, run, jump, speak thousands of words, dress themselves, read, write, learn sports, to cook, get a job, change careers, etc. It’s exhausting to think about all at once. But why aren’t babies stressed like the rest of us? Because they live in the moment and in trust: “Mommy and Daddy are here and they will teach me.”
What we adults have to do is spend less time looking at ourselves and more time looking at God, who is perfect love, who is infinite mercy, who is glorious king and wise and loving Father. It is he who will give us the strength and grace to improve. It is he who will teach us. Of course it won’t be all at once, but a little bit at a time, each day hanging on to hope despite our failures. Babies are so delighted with life…it would serve us well as adults to spend more time marvelling at the beauty of life as well, practising gratitude and making a point of savouring the good little memories each day provides.
Ultimately, Lent is about learning to love better, and we have opportunities to do so every moment of each day. St Josemaria said to be a true friend is to honour the image of God in others…”as you do to the least one of my brothers so you do unto me.” No matter how long our to-do list, we can always afford time for a smile. May God give us all the strength to love well, and the hope to grow each day, seeing self-knowledge as an opportunity to improve, rather than a cause for discouragement.
Lent is here. It’s a time when many people choose to spend more time in reflection and prayer. It’s a time to come to grow on the inside. Like a bulb planted underground in the winter struggling through the cold dirt, we can struggle through the reality of our mistakes and imperfections, without losing hope. We can persevere like that little green shoot peeking out through the snow into the frosty air to find the sun. But all this requires patience, something our immediate-gratification-loving world is sorely lacking.
I got to thinking about patience this evening when I was trying to teach my daughter to draw a cube. She was trying again and again to make it look right, but it kept looking lopsided, like a tent.
“It’s all about getting the lines parallel,” I said. “You can’t draw it too fast, you have to go one line at a time focussing only on making it parallel to the one across from it. Then it looks straight.”
So she kept trying and filled pages with these 3-D boxes.
“Why can’t I get it right?” she asked. “I’ve done so many and they’re still not perfect!”
“It’s not about getting it perfect; it’s about practicing–building your drawing muscles so you can get better and better. And that’s why we do it with a pencil, so we can erase our mistakes, and readjust things to make it better.”
Isn’t it the same with our spiritual lives? We get easily frustrated with the time it takes to get things looking straight. We don’t want to be lopsided boxes, we just want to be that perfect cube right now! But that’s not how it works. We need to have the patience to make little strokes with our pencils, realizing we can erase our mistakes and readjust things every day. We can say sorry and begin again with new hope, that’s what Lent is all about.
Our lives are not written in stone, or even permanent ink, so we only need to humbly keep trying, while paying attention to the little things. Ultimately our lives are a picture made up of many tiny images. Every little line adds to this picture. So the only way to improve ourselves is by paying attention to the little things, readjusting day by day to try to make the picture that we want. Shaping our lives a little bit at a time, and trying to do so with patience, humour and love.
Of course, it helps if we know ahead of time what we want that picture to look like. This is where life goals come in, and knowing what kind of person we want to be helps us to take steps to get there. So having an ideal image to strive for—that perfect box, that amazing hero, that inspiring saint—can help us to break down that image into concrete pieces, and discover little positive habits that we can acquire to become not them, but the best version of ourselves.
There are certain things in spring
that make my heart sing
and certain things
that tear at strings
like a silver birch
or a solitary snowdrop
and the memories they bring