From the Spotlight to the Hidden Life

I used to be a youth minister.  I worked in a church where I was in front of people all the time. Talking, leading, and ministering. I had to be on top of my game, spiritually speaking, if I was going to be effective.  Sometimes it was more about deepening my personal relationship, but sometimes it was that outside pressure that kept me going to the UnknownChapel and waking up for daily Mass.  And so there I was, at the Church all the time because I was the face of the youth in our church. I was in the spotlight.

And then I got married. And immediately the kids started coming and I was now at home. All the time. It was more of a hidden life now – for most of the day it was just me and babies who can’t talk. The way I was used to praying involved daily mass and frequenting the adoration chapel, and I no longer had those luxuries for my prayer time. And so my priorities became eating, dishes, and laundry, and it became difficult to find time to pray. “They don’t even know what prayer is; they wouldn’t notice the difference if I prayed or not.” Or so I thought. I convinced myself that my spiritual life wasn’t as important now that I wasn’t in the spotlight.

But I was incredibly wrong. I remember when it hit me. I was in line for confession examining my conscience. It has been a while, but I hadn’t really done anything that bad. I’m a mom now, so I don’t really have time to sin, right? And then I started to recall every time that my husband and I had fought. Every time I had lost it and yelled at the kids, every time that I had failed to discipline in love. I realized that my spiritual life was more important now than ever before because I was responsible for the souls of these tiny children who do not know any better. That I am accountable to my husband and our vows to be leading him closer to heaven.

So while the hidden life, the “interior house life” of a mom may seem inconsequential, it will impact your family and society for generations to come.

I think of Mary, who we know so little about in the Bible, but yet she was the most important person in Jesus’ life. Her role was so great, and yet so hidden. With every newborn comes an adjustment in routine and schedule. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of prayer; I think it increases it.images-2

So now it’s time to be motivated out of love for God, love for my vocation, and love for my family to be striving for sanctity and to find time to pray. Not just to say grace before meals and bedtime prayers, but to find time to be anchored in prayer and to be more like Mary.

“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:6

 

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Not “just” a mom

(disclaimer: there are so many aspects to being a mom you could fills thousands of books. This short post is to just reflect on one of these aspects and I hope my musings make sense.)

When my first son was born, I had an identity crisis. I went from working around people all day to staying home with this tiny baby. My husband had a job and he had hobbies – from playing guitar to snowboarding to golf, I felt a little envious that he had so much to do and I felt now I had nothing.

So I took up baking.

And I became darn good at it, only I had to scale back if I was ever going to lose any baby weight.

2 more newborns later, and I feel back at that spot of an identity crisis (only I’m trying to do less baking this time around). Sometimes I feel like all I do all day is nurse and make meals. But yesterday I had an enlightening conversation in my moms group about this topic, and I came to the conclusion that no stay at home mother is “just” a mom. How we have hobbies and talents and gifts beyond being feeding machines to need to be shared. And our identities are in being fully a woman, not just in our duties at home.

First, none of our identities are based solely upon what we “do” but rather in who we are. We are women made in the image of God, and being a mother is at the heart of how God made us – with the gifts to love, nurture, inspire, and impart wisdom.

But sometimes we still feel pressure to feel important, to contribute to the family by having a job or making money or being recognized. Sometimes it’s necessary for a mother to work, but the bottom line is that it isn’t about praise or a paycheck that makes you important.

You are important because God made you. You are important because you are raising the future generation. You are important because God gave you gifts and talents to share with the world.

Because it goes beyond laundry and dishes and keeping your children alive to being able to cultivate your strengths and talents as a woman. You aren’t “just” a mom because you gave birth to tiny humans and now stay at home to raise them. Although raising a family is the most important job in the world, this blog post isn’t about that. You are more than a stay at home mom because you have gifts as a woman that you offer to your family and to the world.

I thought about this yesterday. Just because I’m not in the working world doesn’t mean I don’t have talents to share. All my life my jobs have involved working for the Church. So I now share my gifts and time by leading a moms group at the church. Writing is something that has always come easy to me. Something I do well, and something I enjoy. So I write this blog. And every few months I contemplate giving up on it, but then someone tells me how much they enjoy reading it, so I continue on.

I like to keep track of numbers, so I help my husband with his business. I think I can be a pretty good teacher, so I’m “homeschooling” my 3 year old for preschool this year.

None of this I am paid for, or necessarily recognized for. But I am cultivating the talents God has given me and am using them. Even though I’m not in the working world, I’m definitely not “just” a mom. I’m being a mom and sharing my gifts with my family and the world.

I still like baking, so I’ll just have to share my cookies with you next time.

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Actual photo of my actual cookies, taken from this recipe. Only I use all butter and 1/4 cup flour instead of the corn starch. And they look kind of like this every time. Not easy to do in the mile high, ya’ll.

My home: the good, the bad, and the beautiful

Recently this post on Momastery called “Give me Gratitude or Give Me Debt” was floating around. After several people had shared it, I decided to read it.  On the one hand, I’m glad I did.  After recently buying a house, I was looking with a critical eye at every crack and piece of dirt, lamenting about what poor shape our new purchase is in.  I still believe parts of it, in its current shape, are a potential health hazard. But I have a house. Not a condo or an apartment, but a house. It has running water, a gas stove, and a huge fridge. It has 4 bedrooms and multiple living areas. It has a deck and a yard for the kids to run around and a shop in the back so my husband can still work yet be close to his family.  When I look at what I can be grateful for, my house is amazing.

So on the one hand I see the importance of needing to be grateful for what I have. But on the other hand, I find nothing wrong with wanting to update your house and make it a place of beauty. My husband remodels homes for a living and he is the best at it. Yet for him it’s more than a job; it’s a work of art. My husband is truly an artist and people’s houses are his canvas. He makes homes beautiful, and beauty is a reflection of God. Whether you have resources to hire someone,  or to put a little DIY effort into it yourself, you are making your house into a home and a place where you want to raise your family.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Because I am a stay at home mother, 90% of my life is spent in my house. The whole point of starting this blog was to find holiness at home in my vocation as a mother. And since the family is the “domestic church,” then our family is raised in our domestic church building of a home. Many riches and some of the greatest talent on the earth has been spent building the most beautiful cathedrals to raise our eyes to heaven. To point us to God and cause us to pause and reflect on the good, true, and beautiful.  So my house is like the cathedral that my domestic church is being raised in. And I should be able to wake up and spend my day with my thoughts pointing to the good, the true, and the beautiful. If my home is a place that I’m proud of, a place of beauty that I can fulfill my vocation in, then I see nothing wrong with a little updating.

Granted, fashions and fads change. Things become outdated. Possessions fade away. And the most important thing is to be grateful for what we do have and to not be envious of the things others have that we don’t.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired by Houzz or Pinterest and put a little work into making our house beautiful and something we can feel proud of.  Something that can lift our eyes and our spirits to the heavens.

But of course, if you love the 70’s look in your kitchen, roll with it! You never know when laminate and linoleum will make a comeback:-)

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To Share, or not To Share?

A few months ago this story was a popular thing to share amongst moms on Facebook (and I am only now getting around to writing about it). The article is about why this mom isn’t teaching her kid to share. The first time I read it, I got swept up in her argument and at the end thought, “you’re right, we don’t want our kids to feel ‘entitled’ and not be able to cope with disappointment.”

rule10_final-Conflict-1024x810Then later in the day after I had asked my 3 year old and 1 year old to share for the twentieth time, I realized a few important things that have compelled me to write this blog in defense of sharing.

My first realization is that sharing is practical. I realized that the author’s son is at the current time an only child. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t want more children, can’t have any, or will have more in the future. She only has one child right now. I have two of the playing age.  If they do not share, they will steal toys from each other and scream until I lose my mind. It brings so much joy and peace to me and to our home when they are playing together and taking turns sharing.

I guarantee, if you DO NOT teach your kids to share, you kids will have NO friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who only thinks about themselves all the time? Who wants to play with someone who wont invite others to play along? This is not entitlement as the author suggests. What IS entitlement is hogging the toy all day long simply because you got there first. A swing or a car on the playground is not yours any more than the next kids. You just got there first.

My second realization is that sharing teaches virtue. They learn to be generous; to think of others; to be selfless and sacrificial. These virtues will go a long way when they are older- when they fall in love, get married, and have kids of their own. When they donate time and money to charities and people in need. This is my goal as a parent: to raise my kids to be virtuous, and so I need to teach them to share.

Certainly there are not hard and fast rules that make sharing work every time. There are different cases and sometimes a child is allowed to play with a toy without sharing. But if Lily has two balls and shares one with Timothy, everyone wins. When there is only one toy involved that they both want, we usually set a timer, and in the words of Daniel tiger, “I can take a turn, and then you get it back. You can take a turn, and then I get it back.” And it seems to work. And sometimes after 5 minutes they forget they even wanted the toy and learn to find something else to occupy them. This, my friends, is teaching them to cope with disappointment. Not teaching them to share at all is the real disappointment here.