Friday, July 15, 2011

The Wisdom to Follow Through

This evening I plopped our 9 month old E.G. into the bathtub prior to bedtime in order to get him cleaned up after a very messy dinner. Regardless of the time, bath time is always playtime for him. He crawls toward toys, pulls up on the side of the tub, grabs at the faucet, the usual infant exploration. It is always a new adventure for him and a new adventure for me as I try to keep him as safe as I can.

While I know he doesn't understand everything that I say to him in regards to safety, my hope is that he will begin to learn. I want to impart some of the knowledge that I have with him; share my experiences so that he might learn what to do and what not to do; be prepared to shine God's light in this darkened world that sells false promises and trinkets for your soul. With all of these grand images in mind, the awesomeness and wealth of information that the Lord has charged me to share in order to form my son, I was humbled this evening by a lesson that my son was charged to share with me.

After his bath was completed, I opened the drain to allow the tub to empty. E.G. was splashing away, seemingly oblivious to the slowly depleting water supply. As he was moving his hands down to splash the water, the drain got the better of him and his hands landed on the tub- no more water to sprinkle back on his face. Instead of reacting with a cry or startle or usual response of bewilderment and frustration, he simply moved his hands over and found water to splash. This pattern continued (splash, tub, splash, tub) until the drain finally commanded its victory and there was no more water for E.G.'s game to continue. After one last go for a splash, E.G. looked up at me and was ready to get out of the tub. No cry, no whine, simple satisfaction with the end of his game.

Seeing this got me thinking: How often do I give all of myself to a decision until the very end, even if it appears that there will be no reward for me? I have to admit, I am a pretty self-centered being. If I feel like I have done something wrong, might embarrass myself, or might fail at something, I usually stop dead in my tracks and don't continue on with the project. There have been many things that have been left by the wayside that could easily have been completed if only I'd chosen to do so. Would these completed tasks have changed the world? Probably not, but they would've changed me; even if only a little. For even in the smallest change, character is developed, lessons are learned, and responsibilities are completed.

Why then, do I fear failure? For what is truly ironic is that by not completing the tasks before me, I am failing. If I followed it until the end, even if the ending was not as I anticipated, it is still an ending and thus a win. Why must it be the big, the grandiose, the award winning accomplishment in order for me to complete some things? In truth, I demand more of the situations than is necessary. I have a feeling of entitlement that is undeserved: If I am to do it, it must be amazing and must only bring the utmost satisfaction. I become so laser-visioned on what I will look like, how I will be perceived, that I lose sight of the true meaning behind things. I forget that my actions are not for my glory, but for God's. And then I see my son, the beautiful gift given to Maic and me by God. I see his satisfaction, total, complete; nothing more; nothing less. His task is complete. It is good. When was the last time I had that sense of completeness and true, deep, calming joy and peace after I did something? The answer- when I completed God's task.

While E.G.'s game wasn't a breathtaking event that would transform the lives of millions, it was his dedication, his depth of inquiry/sense of wonder that was so incredible. I can only hope this reminder will stay with me so that I may continue to be humbled, amazed, and sensitive to the world, lessons, and responsibilities that God has placed before me and for the wisdom to follow through.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

During Times of War

Dear Soldier,

I want to start this letter the right way: Thank you. Thank you for your service to your country, to your family, and to my family. Thank you for your selflessness, courageousness, dedication, and perseverance during this time of war. Thank you for your patience and your understanding while your country reacts, at times, most ungraciously. Thank you for placing the most incredible gift, your life, on the line and standing for what you believe in- I cannot say that as a civilian, we can truly understand what that is like and the bravery that sacrifice takes.

I call you soldier because I do not know your name. There are so many soldiers, so many faces, so many persons that are now under the umbrella of military members-soldiers- that are fighting for my freedom. I wish I could get to know you. I wish I could see your face, look you in the eye, shake your hand, thank you in person, and ask you: What thoughts prompted your desire to join the military? What was it that moved your heart, stirred your spirit? Have you found what you were looking for? The sacrifices that you made to go through the programs, be trained for fights, the time away from home, touching war, facing death; how are you adjusting? Are you being fed physically, emotionally, spiritually?

While it may not always seem like it, please know that we care for you. We worry about you; worry about your families- both military and civilian. We want to take care of you. We want to hold your hand. We want to support you because without you, we wouldn't have this freedom, this life, this country. We want to support you because you are our brother, our sister, our husband, our wife, our mother, our father. I hope that you feel our love. I hope that you remember the majority- the random cards, the smiles, the handshakes, the baby wipes, the cookies. I hope you forgive and discard the minority.

Please know that we are praying for you. We ask for God to cover you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet in His precious blood. He understands your sacrifice better than any other. He, too, placed his life on the line for his beloved, for his family, for his church, his bride. He, too, met with an enemy whose lies were great and tricks were many. He, too, faced opposition and hatred from those that were family and countrymen. So have faith, good friend, that you too will be lifted up. You will not be forgotten. You will not be left behind.

We love you, soldier.

God bless you.

Love always,

a U.S. Citizen

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happiness or Holiness?

I have joined a Christian book club of sorts- we are reading Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas. While I didn't think that I would enjoy the book (I am more of a dominating, demanding, stubborn sort versus the mild and meek), our discussion on a reading today really blew me away. The question posed was "What if your husband's faults are God's tools to shape you?". Wow. The things that, at times, frustrate or hurt me are actually God's hands, God's power offering me an opportunity to change.

In our culture, the media is supersaturated with the idea that marriage is for your happiness alone. If you are not happy then you are free to leave. If you are not happy then you are free to bad-mouth your spouse, weep and bemoan your trials and suffering- for truly it is you right and appropriate course of action. While I agree that a critical eye is crucial in marriage, the criticism is not to be aimed at the husband or wife alone- it should be directed in a manner that searches and seeks the weakness or breakdown in the marriage (the communication, the time, etc) in order to strengthen it.

The criticism, however, should be constructed toward the action, not the person. Name calling, bad-mouthing, silent treatment, withholding relations or loving words are painful and not techniques to build a marriage that will last. There are two people in the marriage, and if you want change, you must start it yourself. For as Christ offered his life on behalf of his bride (the church, his children, you, me), he calls us to offer the same type of sacrifice- to die to our selfish desires in order to help strengthen and lift up our spouse.

I am going to be honest here- death to self hurts. It hurts my pride, especially when I feel that I am right. It stings my sense of justice to think that I am letting Maic 'get away' with certain actions or behaviors (not doing the laundry, dishes, honey-do lists, etc) that would be an act of sacrifice on his behalf for me. Why do I have to change- especially since it always feels like I am the one changing? Well, there are several responses to that loaded question:
1) I am not the one who is always changing, even though it can feel that way. Maic has sacrificed a lot on behalf of our family, and he does so with incredible grace, patience, fortitude, and charity. I see this every day as he gets up early to go to work so he can provide for our family and so I can stay at home with our son. That is only one example of his incredible actions of sacrifice.
2) Because of concupiscence (a lower desire that is contrary to reason), I know that I have chosen pathways that have lead me further from God. I am a sinner, I am not perfect, and I need to draw closer to God. To draw closer to God, I must change.
3) Another thought is that I can't expect Maic to change, to serve me, to do as I desire, if I don't desire to serve him. (Note: My doing something shouldn't be done in the hopes of his doing something in return. The action should be done simply for the desire of it's completion, not for the potential of repayment.)
4) Christ demands it of me. By choosing to be His disciple, I must imitate and emulate him. I must take up my cross. "38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10: 38-39) But what does that mean, exactly? That if I just pick up my cross (the laundry, dishes, etc) and do it, that I will be nailed and then quickly set free, that I will be happy and quickly holy? Don't I wish- that would be a fast track to sainthood. Christ may have ended on the cross, but he began in the garden of Gethsemane. He began on his knees, in sorrow and agony, asking for God to let the cup pass from him. But, he also acknowledged and prayed for God's will to be done. So, too, we must follow suit and pray to God. Sometimes He will take away the cup, but more often than not, it will still come and we must carry on, glorifying Him.
There will be times when we are whipped, and scourged; when we must take the crown of pride off of our heads, and wear a crown of humility, a crown of thorns. We will be charged to carry our cross. We will stumble and fall and God will help us back on our feet. He will send us a helper if the cross becomes too heavy; he will send our Mother along the path so we might remember we are not alone; he will send us Veronica to wipe the sweat and blood from our face to remind us of his love and compassion for us. Yet still, we will be nailed to the cross. It is not easy following and emulating Jesus. Jesus is perfect and he struggled. But with these struggles, holiness will come, and with holiness will come happiness. With each step forward, we draw closer to God and true happiness is achieved. If we seek only happiness, we will be filled only for a moment and sink back into sorrow. But, if we seek holiness, then true happiness will be found because the hole in our hearts will be filled with God.

Please don't think that my marriage is always a trial. Most days are wonderful and beautiful and it is so because we seek and do our best to keep God first and center in our marriage. It is through God that we are married, and through Him that we remain thus. We pray together, bless and pray over each other, and praise God together. The days that are difficult usually are the product of placing myself and my desires first and over the desires and designs that God has for our marriage. Marriage is built from two persons that become one flesh- so we must begin to think and dream in 'we' and not 'I' terms.

And, at the end of the day, we must remember to sing God's praise: For "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us" (Romans 5:3-5).

So, thank you Maic, for helping me become a more godly woman each day; for loving God first and then loving me; and for allowing me to influence you to become a more godly man each day. I am truly blessed.