January 8, 2024
As a mother and wife, I have heard the words, “Not now” or “I’ll do it later” far too often. It drives me crazy because when I ask someone to do something, that is when I want it done, not at a future time (or more likely, never). I have a note jotted in frustration from 2012 while in the thick of raising four children. It says: ‘Not now’ is the answer to a lot of things around here! “Do your homework”. Not now. “Try on these pants I bought you.” Not now. To the husband, “Let’s just relax for a while.” Not now. Well if not now, WHEN??
I am reminded of Bartleby’s famous words “I would prefer not to” from the book Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville. Bartleby remains expressionless as he responds, “I would prefer not to” to basically everything he is asked to do at work. This is about the only thing I remember from college English and literature classes. It struck a nerve.
I can’t help but wonder what God thinks when we don’t do what He asks. I’ve heard it said He will find somebody else. I think of that when I see many of my ideas taken flight by other people. It took me 40 years, like the Israelites wandering around in the desert, to finally get around to doing some more writing. I always felt a nagging sense that is what I needed to be doing. Saying “I would prefer not to” to the master of the universe isn’t a good idea. The ramifications are a lot worse than not taking out the garbage when asked, or not trying on those pants!
When I was younger, I would get so bent out of shape trying to discern God’s will for my life. As if it were a one-time decision. I couldn’t come up with anything that felt right (except maybe writing) and many doors were slammed shut in my face. I still think I may have made the wrong decision when I was offered a newspaper writing job after high school and didn’t accept it. I have always wondered what direction my life would have taken if I had. I feel like I am living my “Plan B” because I missed that particular opportunity. But who knows, I only have the present. The past is gone and the future is not guaranteed.
Now being able to look back over the years, I think we have many purposes throughout our lives. God’s will is a continuous journey with many twists and turns along the way. Many times I think I didn’t even realize a lot of the things I was doing were actually God’s will for that time or at the very least, laying the groundwork for the future.
For instance, I worked as a preschool teacher for a time, but only looking back realized it was part of the path God had for me because I ended up raising triplets plus a fourth child. That time spent working with preschoolers prepared me for my vocation of motherhood. I was able to use the skills I had developed to run my household. Triplet babies needed a schedule, if for no other reason than my sanity. We had meals, craft time, nap time, outside time, music time, story time. I had an entire repertoire of crafts and activities at my fingertips. I was ready for the challenge!
So what is it you have been putting off? Don’t put it off for 40 years like I did. Whether it’s pursuing a career, improving your health, learning how to play an instrument, re-uniting with someone you are estranged from, whatever it is, there is no time like the present and that is why it’s fittingly called the “present”. The present is a gift, to ourselves and those around us, if we accept it and not let it sit idle. We should treasure and celebrate the present. If not NOW, when??
Book: The Present: The Gift that Makes you Happier and More Successful at Work and in Life, Today! by Spencer Johnson
It’s Ordinary Time. If you are Catholic, you know what that means. The Christmas season is officially over, (sigh of relief!) but don’t get too excited, it’s almost Lent. “Always something” as we like to say. And so it is in the Church, and in life. As I get older, I appreciate the ordinary much more. I even prefer it. Just an ordinary day, what is more blessed than that? A day where nothing extraordinarily good, or bad, happens. I’ll take it!
Years ago, someone told me to be thankful for an ordinary day because she had just gotten word that a friend’s child was helicoptered to the hospital and it was no ordinary day for them. It was a reminder that we must count our blessings each day for we don’t know what tomorrow, or even the next minute, will bring. (This awareness riddles me with constant anxiety but that is another article.)
We do God’s will in the midst of ordinary. It is our earthly calling. Many saints of old and monks in monasteries today live simple lives offering their mundane tasks, such as routine cooking and cleaning, up to God. We need to learn to welcome the ordinary and seek God there because most of our moments really are quite ordinary. If we can’t find the meaning and magic in the mundane, we will miss so much of what life and God has for us.
So don’t curse the boring and the ordinary, it is often a good place to be! Don’t get wrapped up in always looking for something better or greater, because it is in the simple, regular moments of our lives that we can find meaning and God. So go embrace the ordinary! You will be richer for it.
I bought a sign for my laundry area at the dollar store recently that reads, “Laundry, sorting out life one load at a time.” It just spoke to me so I didn’t think twice about grabbing it. Words of wisdom found at the dollar store! Hooray! Laundry truly is a lot like life, isn’t it?
Don’t we all have many loads at a time to deal with, whether it be laundry or life’s burdens? Don’t we sometimes feel like “throwing in the towel”? (Which would just create more laundry.)
Perhaps sometimes we feel like we are on the spin cycle. Everything is too much. We feel like we are getting tossed about, everything moving too fast. Our lives and minds spinning out of control. Where is the stop button?? Pull out the plug!
We have all had times like that. I feel dizzy just thinking about it.
In life, as with laundry, we have to sort things out. There are decisions to be made. Big things like where to work, where to live, how to treat an illness, as well as all the little things on our to-do list, such as what to make for dinner. So it is with laundry, we must sort the colors or they bleed and we end up with a big, ugly mess, a heap of ruin. Not looking at all like what we had wanted or hoped.
We wash one load at a time and then it is clean (and maybe put away) but there will always be another load to take its place. One thing you can be sure of, laundry is certain to pile up again, a healthy sign of life lived. Laundry doesn’t disappoint, it always returns, like a dear and loyal friend.
My son played baseball for many years. I would dread washing his baseball uniform as there were always grass stains to deal with. I had to find the right stain remover and scrub and scrub and hope for the best. Life, too, will stain us. We need to try to scrub away our bad habits and failings. As humans, we all carry the stain of sin. But Jesus, our Savior, has bled for us and will wash us clean if we ask. “If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong-doing.” (I John 1:9)
Picture the laundry rinse cycle or standing in a refreshing downpour, drenching us and cleansing us. I have a Precious Moments picture I stitched in my bathroom that says, “He cleansed my soul”. O how sweet it is. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2) Also words the priest prays during Catholic mass.
Laundry also has to get hung up or dried. Life often hangs us up. Time passes, clothes become out of style or worn and so do we. We get wrinkled, physically and figuratively. We may have to iron out the wrinkles now and then. Hopefully we won’t get put away like the clothes, or left in a forgotten heap.
Personally, I don’t mind doing laundry. Menial tasks are the stuff of ordinary life with their own rhythm and flow. Plus they are great procrastination tools. Nothing like vacuuming when I am putting off something else. But I must admit I was glad when all of my kids were away at college doing their own laundry. Sorting out the fabric and colors of their own lives. It is no longer my job.
In doing a bit of research on laundry, I came across a business called “Life Without Laundry”. At the top of the website they ask, “Can you imagine a Life Without Laundry?” and then they list services for pick up, delivery, etc. so that you don’t ever have to do your own laundry.
My answer to that is “no thank you”! I can’t imagine a life without laundry.
I prefer not to hand over my dirty laundry to someone else. I will deal with my own loads and relish every minute. The dirty and the clean. The wet and the wrinkled. It is part of my cleansing journey. It is my load to carry and mine alone. No one else knows how to sort out the fabric of my life.
So my advice is to appreciate those loads of laundry piling up, for you never know what treasures you may find. People have been known to find money in their pockets they have forgotten about. My son once got a new phone because I washed and ruined the one he left in his pants pocket!
I think I will go hunt down some laundry now! What about you?
Here’s a snippet of inspo I found along the way:
Wait! There’s more! Here are some tips for your laundry day pleasure!
I’m not a Jolly Jane when I wake up in the morning. All my problems and worries immediately come flooding into my brain. Or, I am angrily awakened by neighborhood noise such as garbage trucks, landscapers, or birds chirping in the nest they decided to build right outside my bedroom window. My sentiment is frequently something like: Ugh, another depressing day on planet earth. I didn’t ask to be here.
I tend to lean negative so I doubt I will ever be one of those people who excitedly jumps out of bed ready to greet a new day. I guess I can’t help but see reality. A teacher I would share my woes with in high school would tell me, “Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, sometimes it’s the pits!” Exactly. I don’t like to sugar-coat things.
Growing up, I was influenced, albeit a little too much, by my grandmother who repeatedly warned in German, “After laughing comes crying!” (Nach dem Lachen kommt das Weinen.) In other words, don’t get too happy because something bad is right around the corner to steal your joy. As if being a punishment for daring to be happy. I suppose this is understandable from someone who had a difficult life and survived World War I and II.
This kind of thinking does paralyze a person and sometimes prevents them from getting things done. It also makes for stressful vacations.
“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Many years ago, someone suggested I flip the words in my grandmother’s saying to “After crying comes laughing”. I was stunned. I never thought of that! Yet at the same time, I was also kind of angry. That’s not how the saying goes!
Maybe I wasn’t ready to hear that back then. That one phrase was so ingrained in me and had taken over my life for so long. It takes a lot of concerted effort to change thoughts and habits we have had for years. I think I only recently made the connection that there is a Bible verse that is the exact opposite of my grandmother’s words! “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5) It’s amazing! Can it actually work the other way around?
I am further reminded of the man in the Bible that was healed at the pool of Bethesda. He had been sick for 38 years. He sure was stuck in his situation. Jesus approached him and asked him, “Do you want to be healed”? The man replied by saying he couldn’t get his mat into the healing waters and that there was no one to help him, but he did want to be healed. (John 5:1-15)
Maybe you are stuck in a bad job, a bad relationship, or have a chronic illness. Whatever it is, there are many reasons that can keep us “sick” or stuck. We must ask ourselves: Do we want to get well? Do we want things to change? At what cost? It may not just be due to a lack of courage or laziness. Is our “sickness” serving some purpose or benefit?
If we do want to be healed, we must “pick up our mat” as Jesus instructed the man at the pool of Bethesda. Getting up and walking, is the first step on the journey to recovery or change. It’s not always easy or instant, but it is possible.
Ironically, I wrote much of this article before I got out of bed one morning and when I went downstairs my husband greeted me in a jollier than usual mood with “Life is good. You will be having a fantastic breakfast I am going to make for you.” Seemed like one of those God coincidences to me. Something horrible doesn’t always have to be around the corner. Maybe we can just enjoy life.
Jesus offers us healing for our bodies and our souls. Do we want to laugh again after crying? Do we want to reap joy after sorrow? Jesus asks all of us, “Do you want to be healed?
On a recent trip out of town we had three great choices of where to go out for breakfast. We ended up at the place I rarely get a chance to visit that has a country shop I love, yet I was still thinking maybe we were missing something better at the other possibilities. One place was highly recommended by my daughter’s boyfriend who eats there weekly, and the free hotel breakfast was also better than usual that day, so I was feeling rather tormented.
Normally, I would be ranting endlessly about how we should have chosen one of the other places because I am always seeking perfection, which is not possible this side of heaven. However, this time I actually made the conscious, mindful choice of just trying to be satisfied where I was. Satisfied that I was at this particular place in time, even though the menu choices weren’t overflowing with things I would have preferred. I decided to just enjoy the unseasonably warm day on the road and the time with my husband and the blessing that we were there, together. Not to mention it also spared my husband a lot of grief to not have to listen to my typical indecisive rant, setting a better tone for the rest of the day.
As it turned out, the pancakes I ordered were probably the best I ever ate! They were SO delicious! Crunchy, yet fluffy and moist!! I thought, wow, we ended up at the right place after all, and it was as if I was rewarded for my efforts to be content (which believe me, is no easy task!) My husband had tasted the pancakes off my plate and he loved them too and kept stealing bites! I even saved the leftovers and ate them later in the car. Turns out he bought a box of their special pancake mix to bring home but I bet they won’t taste as good as the ones we ate that warm, fall day.
And so it goes…….how to be mindful in the moment and satisfied that no matter what life brings we are supposed to be in that time and place, appreciating the little blessings in each day or accepting whatever difficulties come our way. I will see if I can keep this up and turn over a new leaf, as I write this while the autumn leaves are turning colors and falling.
Phillipians 2:14 “Do everything without grumbling or questioning,..”
Nov. 18, 2022
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians: 16-18)
‘Tis the season for Thanksgiving. A holiday most everyone in America seems to celebrate, no matter their religious beliefs. The time to think about what we are grateful for. It sounds so cliché. A gratitude journal? Been there, done that.
Probably a better way to cultivate gratitude is to make it a habit so that it becomes second nature. This is, of course, easier said than done. Perhaps we should have a gratitude buddy, like an exercise buddy, to keep us accountable all year long.
A good place to start, is by being thankful in the everyday mundane stuff of life. Many years ago, when I was on bed rest, pregnant with triplets, I wasn’t allowed to do much of anything. I was thankfully(!) allowed to take a daily shower. But that was it. It got to the point where I was longing to do even the simplest task, like washing dishes. That would have been sheer bliss!
It was then that I vowed to always remember what a blessing it is to be able to do something as simple as washing dishes. This challenge was put to the test soon after, when I found myself endlessly washing baby bottles because we had no dishwasher. I think a person could go to heaven just for that! I am happy to report that I still frequently remember to be thankful when I wash those dirty dishes. A trick that can also help is putting a picture of Jesus by the kitchen sink.
St. Therese of Lisieux
I really enjoy the following video by Fr. Mark Goring, which is about praying while grocery shopping. Maybe it will inspire you and be something to keep in mind while shopping for our Thanksgiving feasts. It is a reminder that every occasion in life is an opportunity to practice gratitude and that our prayers can have far-reaching effects.
May we, then, humbly make this our prayer:
“O Jesus, eternal God, thank You for Your countless graces and blessings. Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to You, O God.”
From the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, entry 1794
“My soul, wait in stillness, only for God—from Him comes my salvation.”
Ps. 62:2 (TLV-Tree of Life Version)
In preparing our hearts for celebrating the birth of our Savior, it is difficult to obtain peace in the midst of worldly Christmas preparations like shopping, meal prep, relatives and adult children descending upon us….perhaps pets and grandchildren as well. These can be happy times, but also stressful and certainly not the picture that comes to mind when we think of “stillness”.
Often, when I have experienced stillness, it has come as a welcome surprise in the least likely places. Once, believe it or not, a sense of stillness came over me in the midst of IKEA (a gigantic, bustling four-story home emporium). Maybe it was necessary for survival in that place (!) but I still recall the time I was sitting in a snack area with my four young children and it was extremely crowded and noisy. It seemed like over-consumption and greed was everywhere. I started thinking about how the quietness of God was in stark contrast to the frenzy I was experiencing at that moment. It was then that I started to feel God’s presence and a deep sense of stillness in the midst of the madness. No one around me could see the stillness I had found in my soul, but oddly enough, it was there.
Other times I’ve experienced a profound sense of stillness in more expected places, for instance after a heavy, night-time snowfall. The snow covers the earth like a thick white blanket, absorbing the sounds of the world, and it feels so cozy and still, compared to a typical night. I just love the “sound” of it!
Another time, I was in Yellowstone National Park and our group decided to hike to the top of Mt. Washburn for the sunrise, starting out in the dark of night. This was way out of my comfort zone but once we got past the timber line, there were no cars roaring in the distance, no birds chirping or any of the myriad of daily sounds we have grown accustomed to. There was complete and utter silence hanging heavy in the air. I will never forget this ultimate experience of stillness and have never experienced anything quite like it since.
Stillness, however, isn’t necessarily complete silence. The goal is to find it in the midst of the madness of daily life. It is a state of being. It comes from deep within us, from the very core of our being. We must wear stillness like a favorite sweater or pair of snuggly pj’s. We must know it, befriend it, and embrace it, so that we can call upon it like a dear and familiar friend. It is a place of peace, rest, and tranquility no matter what is going on around us. And in the stillness, we will find God.
So as we prepare for Christmas, let us try to wait in stillness. Waiting not only to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but for whatever may be birthed within us from this sacred stillness in our soul.
“Be still and know that I am God!”(Psalm 46:11)
” Let the children come to me and do not hinder them. It is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”Mark 10:14
I was reading that Bible passage one day as my children were noisily playing in the room below. I thought about how the adults wanted to hinder the children from going to Jesus; how sad. How many times do we hinder ourselves from going to Him? We are too busy, too afraid, too embarrassed or too proud to need Him, whatever the reason.
But the kingdom of God belongs to children because they are naturally receptive, loving, unburdened by the world’s cares. When children play, they enter all kinds of worlds we adults no longer know. We get stuck in our busyness, stress, affluenza, and the kingdom isn’t about any of that. Interestingly, the next section in the Bible is about the danger of riches!
I mentioned this Bible story to my children and my youngest blurted out, “Me want mama!” Precisely! To desire Jesus as much as a child desires mama, because to a child mama is life, just as Jesus is life to all of us.