Monday, June 23, 2008

Truly Present

As I write this, I have just come home from the chapel where I have a holy hour: a time devoted to adoration of Christ in the Eucharist. I have the opportunity to reflect on how truly present he is there: body and blood, soul and divinity, the invisible and eternal made visible. And then I wonder: the Lord of heaven and earth has made himself truly present here for my sake. Do I have the courage to be truly present for His? Am I truly there, opening myself to Him to be drawn deeper into the mystery of salvation? What a challenge! For to be truly present in this mystery requires a sacrifice. Just as in ancient times, when blood sacrifice was required to enter into the presence of God, truly entering into this presence requires a sacrifice of self. It is not enough to pray for wisdom; I have to sacrifice my will to walk in the way of truth. It is not enough to ask for strength; I have to sacrifice my pride and allow his strength to be made perfect in me. It is not enough to ask for courage; I have to sacrifice my anxiety and allow the peace beyond understanding to take hold. It is not enough to acknowledge Him in joy; I have to bring forth a sacrifice of praise in all things.

And so I ask for courage and strength and wisdom to acknowledge Him wherever he is truly present. Tonight, it was in the Eucharist, but tomorrow I will have opportunity to recognize His presence in other places. Lord, grant me the grace to see! In the eyes of my family, in the work of my hands, in the words of my mouth, in the meditations of my heart -- He is there! He will be truly present, for to be otherwise would be to deny His very nature. I pray simply that I may be truly present there as well, and honor Him with the gifts He has given me.

Friday, June 13, 2008


It may seem such a simple thing, but it is something I have always had to work at. The Birthday Elf almost took back my third birthday because I wouldn't tell my Aunt Joy "thank you" for the present she brought. Stubborn little turkey, I was.

And so it remains! "Thank you" is common enough to my lips now-- it is common courtesy. But in the deeper places, I forget to be grateful for the imperfect. I forget the abiding truth that I know in quiet moments: gratitude can completely reshape frustration. And since life is rarely perfect (and often frustrating), I have to consciously remind myself of all the beautiful blessings in my world.

Life with a busy family sometimes feels like an exercise in futility. Do to be undone, speak to be unheard, remain steadfast and calm in the face of unrest and distraction. It goes to the heart of my greatest weaknesses. Some days I work myself ragged, some days I am guilty of being less than diligent, and somehow it always comes out the same: imperfect. I see "imperfect," equate it to "unworthy," and fall prey to discouragement. But in His mercy, the word of God bubbles to the surface of my mind: "For the creation was subjected to frustration (NAB uses "futility"), not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who created it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8:20-21) His hand is here! The question is, what do I do with the frustration?

Frustration is to be stewarded, just like any other gift. It can break me or purify me. In it is opportunity to either bless or curse, to be driven by anger or driven by reason, to be paralyzed in fear or to move forward in faith, to wait in the darkness or light a torch (see Isaiah 50:10-11). Whether I chose God's way or my own, the difference is often gratitude. Gratitude allows me to submit my efforts to all-sufficient grace, and see not imperfect fruit, but fruit not yet perfected.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In the moment

(May 31, 2008)

I don't generally consider myself unaware. Some people around me may disagree, but what can be perceived as a lack of awareness is more correctly divided awareness. Five children, a home music studio, and a husband constantly on the go often take me in more directions than I can begin to process efficiently. But in the midst of a bustling household, there are rare moments -- usually away from the routine and demands of home, when my awareness comes together. All of the energy that is usually directed to the most immediately pressing issues comes together with the various other trains of thought that I might be sustaining at any given moment, and they simply resolve into a single, undiverted moment of acute awareness that is marked by its complete effortlessness.

Last night was one of those moments. We were at a concert. There had been threats of severe weather all day, but it had held off to that point. I was standing on the lawn at the ampitheater, listening to the haunting blues floating out over the crowd. The sky was gray, and there were white thunderclouds silhouetted against it in the fading light. There was lightening all around us providing a spectacular light show, and the winds were whipping around us. As I stood there, eyes closed against the monitors at the top of the pavilion, I was suddenly startled at just how many things I was immediately aware of, but my attention was not on anything but the music. I was aware of the wind, of the lightening penetrating my eyelids, my hair on my bare shoulders, the vague notion of people around me talking, laughing, dancing. I was aware of the sweet, smoky aroma of clove cigarettes, the drier, ashier odor of tobacco, and the occasional earthy whisper of marijuana. It was all there, all at the forefront of my awareness, but my participation was effortless -- almost ethereal.

I was almost immediately struck by a pang of guilt. When was the last time I felt so free, so relaxed, and so completely present in the reality around me? Was it with my family? At prayer? In Mass or adoration? I froze. But then a peaceful whisper rose to my consciousness. Is God not in the grass beneath my feet? Is He not in the winds tossing my hair against my shoulders? Is He not in the lightening streaking above me, and in the looming clouds ignited by it? Is not every person around me sustained by His love alone, just as surely as I am? Am I not bobbing my head in response to the steady heartbeat of a bass drum -- a heartbeat that mimics my own?

The day will come when my children will no longer be with me at Mass every week. My waking hours will no longer be filled with their immediate needs. The day will come, I hope, when I no longer have to spend so much time and energy on the basic daily functions of our home, and perhaps I will have learned, at least a little better, to be anxious for nothing. Then perhaps I will be able to slip into effortless awareness of the perfect reality I enter at Mass. Perhaps I will be able to to immediately contemplate and realize the presence of Christ when I enter the chapel for adoration, without the time it takes to shed the distractions I bring with me now. Then, maybe, those perfect, eternal realities will be at the forefront of my awareness. Perhaps a rosary in my hand, the pages of a prayer book under my fingers, the the kiss of a lace veil against my cheek as I bow my head -- perhaps these will me what draws my senses into an effortless awareness in which I simply am. But for now, I will give thanks. He met me in the reality of that moment, and provided me grace to acknowledge him in the wind, in the lightening, in the crowd, and in the lull of a heartbeat sustained by love alone.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Holding out for 31

We rate so many things numerically -- "on a scale of 1 - 10," "100% sure," "We're #1!," and we all want to achieve perfection -- to be a 10.

But I am challenged -- and resolved -- to hold out for a perfect 31.

A noble 31.
A frugal 31.
A diligent 31.
A generous 31.
A charitable 31.
A well-clothed (in strength and dignity) 31.
A wise and faithful 31.

A crown of honor to the husband I love, and a faithful steward of our children, raising them in the discipline and fear of the Lord.

This is the desire of my heart: To be a perfect 31!
But I will pray for grace to strive, and courage to accept and be at peace when I fail.

Lord give me courage to be afraid, strength to be weak, and humility to be bold before the throne of grace.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

And then the red sock...

Well, actually it was red sleeves on an otherwise light blue baby shirt. But the result was the same. In the 20 years or so since laundry became "my job," I have never turned a load of lights pink. Until that day. And that day, it was the final straw. And so I cried. I didn't tear up. I didn't sniff and dab at the corners of my eyes. I sobbed. I sobbed until I was almost sick. I sobbed until my throat muscles ached from exertion. I sobbed until my eyes swelled and stung from tears. I sobbed until I was utterly wrung out -- exhausted.

And then I stopped, and (in my accustomed fashion) began to hyper-analyze what exactly about a load of pink laundry (which, by the way, came clean on a second wash) could send me spiraling into hysteria. So now, almost six months later, I'm looking back -- and forward. I'm seeking God for the order so desperately lacking in my life. And maybe, as I sit here reflecting in these ridiculous hours of the morning, I can share the journey. Why was I there? Why am I here?

The sun will rise and I will face a new day. I pray I will steward it well, but also to submit my shortfall to perfectly sufficient grace.