Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Something Great

On my road to recovery, which I've written about here, here, and here, I have come across a realization: I lost something.  I lost something big.  I was once told by my mother that the Holy Spirit told her through various friends to not worry so much about her children's futures; that He was going to do great things through each of us. That story is a really neat one; maybe I'll share it another time. I was told this early in my life and as I grew older, I really believed it.  I knew God had something planned, but of course I didn't know what.  As life goes, my path meandered toward and then far away from Him and His plan, and back again.  A few times.  But I always had that spark in the back of my mind, the one that would eventually light the flame under my desire to actually do something great.

I can remember, and have actual evidence, in notes and other things people have written to and about me over the years, that I have always had a heart to serve other people. I've always had compassion and sympathy for their plight, and maybe for the human condition in general.  I've always wanted to help.  Not because it made me something, but because I could see it helped to make them something.  Whether it was more focused, more curious, more peaceful, more courageous, I could tell that often-times whatever I did or said or wrote helped soothe their souls.  And I knew it was not from my mind or abilities, but from the Holy Spirit.  This was His something great for me.  And I knew it.  My heart yearned to be directed by Him in helping people, even if in the smallest of ways, and leaving them with a better sense of who they were in Him.  What path they could take.  Which adventure to travel.  What piece of themselves they could challenge or nurture or renew.  And also, I longed to help them to know what love truly is.

When I got married, I was super excited to be part of a brand new family.  To bring into it all the love I experienced from my parents and siblings growing up, and to help draw new people into the boundless Love of Christ.  I didn't feel as though it was my job to "save" anyone, but I knew that as all Christians, I, too, was called to bring others to Him.  I didn't realize how much of a mountain I was climbing with that.  And I know I failed miserably in it.  I know it because part of the way up, I lost my path.  I lost who I was and my purpose.  I lost my sense of understanding what I was meant to do.  I became confused.  I became frightened.  And I started my descent back down.  I gave up.  And I knew I had failed.

Getting to a place of being able to look at the journey I walked away from was difficult. There are still days in which the sting from what I endured keeps me from being able to move forward in my recovery.  But other days, days when I am granted a certain peace or strength by my heavenly Father, I can look.  I can put it all under a microscope and dissect each piece.  I can sort out the good times (and yes, there were some good times), and I can cherish them and tuck them away for another time.  And I can pick through the many shards of hurt:  The miscommunication.  The tearing down of my identity.  And I see it- that something great.  I see it quickly fading as time and time again I am told I am not worth the effort or time, I am not worthy of love, I am not considered family, my kids don't matter, I am useless, I am not able to help anyone, I should stop wanting to "save" people.  I flip through the slides of these moments like a time-lapse photo album, and I see the frays around my mind appear, and snag, and then begin to furiously unravel.

I've notice lately that I am fearful when I talk to others.  They ask me questions.."what do you think about X, what would you do in Y situation....how do I do this like you?"   They ask these things of me, and the old me- the one who was confident in my something great- would easily have launched into an answer.  Mind you, it would not be earth-shattering, eloquent or even awe-inspiring, but it would be something.  To them, it might be one small piece of their puzzle, some small direction or aide.  Or, it might not even be exactly what they need at that moment.  And quite possibly it might not be anything they want to hear.  But it would be something.  And I would say it or write it, and I would feel confident that I did the best I could and I would pray that the Lord would take that opportunity to either shine through me or shine in spite of me.  But regardless, I was working on fulfilling that utterance of the something great He said He would do with me. 

But now..now I am afraid.  I hesitate.  I don't articulate well.  I don't trust myself.  I worry that I'm saying too much.  Pushing too much.  Helping too much.  I am worried that they'll reject me, that they'll stop talking to me.

I am broken.  Much more broken than I ever was when I was battling myself on the path back to the Lord for good.  I am afraid to do something great.  I am afraid to try.

The truth is, we should ALL want to make some mark on the world.  We should ALL want to do something great.  That could simply look like volunteering at a soup kitchen.  Or it could be solving the clean-energy crisis.  It could take the form of counseling a wayward teen, or dropping $5 in the cup of a homeless beggar. Or finding a natural cure for cancer. It could very well just mean focusing on your family and ensuring that they know how much they are loved and cherished, spending time with your children and guiding them with your love.  As one whole body of Christ, everything we each do ripples out and affects everyone. We're not just mindless, selfish sheep wandering around through life with no direction and no purpose.  Our life's very breath is dependent on a Creator who loves us so much that He created us to share in this amazing and beautiful world, to take part in being a living vessel in which He can show others His love and invite them to His table, to His strong embrace.  We CAN make our mark, make a difference, do something great.  And we should never allow anyone to cause us to lose that knowledge and push us off our path.  I know this.  And yet, I allowed that very thing to happen.

I'm slowly working on figuring out how to smooth my way back onto that particular path; of wanting to help people without being afraid.  I want to once again feel confident in the knowledge that this is the Lord's something great, His something great for me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I'm Not Better Than You

My husband and I were having a conversation last night about people.  It began with a discussion about a neighbor making a comment on something on Facebook in which I tagged my husband, a comment that was totally inappropriate to make in the context of what I posted, especially because it didn't even have anything to do with what I was posting about, and one which made me feel like he secretly has some issue with me.  Which would be funny because he doesn't know me at at all... but I digress.

Our conversation then turned to my drawing inward and coming back out with "am I a really terrible person and I am just in complete denial about it?"  Because we know someone a little like this.  His reply, "no, people just think you're opinionated, like you're better than them and they take it the wrong way."  "What am I opinionated about?" I asked in complete innocence.  "Not really opinionated, but just that we homeschool and go to church and all that... and you're vocal about it...people think you think you're better than they are." 

Um...what?

Since when did MY decisions about MY family equate to "I'm better than you." ?

I am the type of person that wants to be told when there's an aspect of myself that can be improved.  Even if it hurts.  Even if at first, I don't like it!  I want to be a better person in general.  So I welcome the truth.  But I don't want YOUR truth. I don't want you to tell me something about myself based on your whacked out version of observance because you don't know anything about me at all and haven't taken the time to get to know me.  I'm a whole human being.  Your experience of but one or two or even three aspects of the millions of parts of my identity will not tell you enough about me to warrant such a harsh and generalized judgment. 

There is something about this song that seems familiar.  Oh yes, it's the soundtrack of the last ten years of my life as a Mack, which I spent warding off my husband's family who accused me of all these things, including that I thought I was better than them, that my family was better than theirs.  Accusations based on the fact that they don't even know me at all, that they make assumptions about me based on one or two aspects of my life that they have witnessed, or based on their witness of someone else's behavior which they project onto me.

I'm changing the station.  I'm done with all that.

The truth is, I don't think I'm better than ANYONE.  I'm no better than the beggar on the street at the stoplight on the way to the store, the person in the ghetto, my one neighbor who hates me because I have six children. I'm no better than my husband's "family," no better than the mailman.  No better than anyone.  I know this.  I believe it.  I am constantly aware of it.

I'm just different.

I follow a set of moral standards that most of the world does not.  I do this because I'm called to, as a Catholic Christian.  It's hard.  If I really wanted to do what my flesh wants, my life would look completely different.  But I was asked to do and be what I am striving toward, and though I fail CONSTANTLY at it, I'm TRYING.  This doesn't make me better than anyone. It just means my convictions are different than some people's.

I homeschool my children in a world where there is still a huge- unwarranted - stigma related to homeschooling, and where most people are still largely unaware of the consistent (but not exclusive) failure of the school system to actually produce healthy members of society.  I homeschool because the public school system presents a constant resistance to- and often override of- the morals I want to teach my children, and the atmosphere of a brick-and-mortar school setting is not conducive to allowing a child to really explore all that they are interested in or all of their capabilities.  These two ideas barely scratch the surface of all the reasons I homeschool, but neither these two nor the rest of my reasons are because I think I'm better than anyone.   You want to send your child to public school, that's great.  Good for you!  I have no opinion about your choice at all.  It's not my business.  Just like where my kids go to school isn't your business.

I have a large family.  Yes.  I do.  It's not because I really absolutely adore children.  It's not because I am getting some government benefit from having lots of children.  I'm not.  It's not because I think I'm better than anyone who has less.  I have a big family because God asked me to be open to life.  And while that doesn't always equate to having a big family (I know many many people who are open to life AND want a big family, but have been able to have only one or two kids), for me, it does.  And while this is a HUGE challenge for me on a consistent basis, I'm ok with it.  I'm ok with any number of little souls which God entrusts to me to create saints for heaven's glory.  I fail at my duty.  A lot.  I sometimes wonder why He trusts me so much.  I scream at my kids sometimes.  I get upset.  I cuss sometimes.  I don't say nice things to my kids every moment of the day.  I'm a sinner.  I'm not perfect.  I could name many many women I know who could be doing a much, MUCH better job than I am.  But for some reason, I was the one chosen for the monumental feat of baring and raising these children and I'm told by women much wiser than me that God did not make any mistakes; I am the one for the task.  This doesn't make me better than anyone.  Not one bit.

I really wanted to be snarky and cynical about this whole thing.  I guess I am a little sensitive.  But really, I'm just sad. I'm sad that people don't take the time to actually get to know a person before making assumptions about them.  I mean, my in-laws spent TEN years wasting their energy on tearing me down and rejecting me instead of spending that time getting to know me.  My neighbor has never spent more than three seconds in conversation with me and yet has some idea of me that isn't true.  People are quick to make a judgement on someone else's character or personality or whathaveyou, instead of actually taking the time to get to know them, to love them.

So you don't have time to get to know me?  Who's the one acting better than who now?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Enough?

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the many little bodies wandering around our home- the noise, the movement, the sometimes-bad behavior. I get overwhelmed by the idea that I am just one person with but two arms and there are so many kids. So many needs. So many voices. So many little souls in my care. And I worry. Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? When they act up and are so insane, I am convinced I am not enough. That I am failing. But then there are days.... Days like today. Mornings when the sun peeks out from behind gray clouds, through my window, illuminating small feet and chubby fingers, wispy hair and cherub faces, little bodies curled around us. And then....when there's movement and giggles and stretching and padding on tiny toes to the bathroom.. When there's fresh coffee suddenly appearing before us in bed and smiling toothy grins behind the cup. When they are working together to make pancakes and set the table for breakfast. With out help. With out complaint or even being asked. Without fighting. And the excitement over a task completed. The proud song of praise for each other's accomplishment as they flipped the pancakes just so, and worked together to take on a new feat without me. And I realize....maybe I am enough after all. Maybe God really is blessing my efforts and filling in where I lack. Because He doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rosary Beads

Can't find your rosary?

No problem!  Babies have teeny tiny toes which are perfect in lieu of those lost rosary beads. 

Hail Mary.....