The Gift of Perspective

j0438992As weeks go, it was not exactly the stuff memories are made of — not good ones anyway. In our extended family, one was diagnosed with prostate cancer, another had a gall bladder removed, a third was hospitalized a second time for serious mental health issues. The school called, reporting an incident with one of the kids. On Valentine’s Day, my husband went to have a suspicious growth removed. Plus there was the whole matter of the relentless white stuff that God kept pelting down from heaven like some cosmic snowball fight he was determined to win. Oh, and our ceiling is leaking from our (second floor) bedroom to our (first floor) kitchen. If I’d lit a candle for every intention, I would have set the church ablaze. Yes, one of those weeks.

But as I sat down to lunch with a friend yesterday, she looked at me and said, “I can tell life is good for you right now. You are glowing with happiness.”

The funny thing is … I feel happy. My life is infinitely better than it was this time last year. Sure, we have to move (again) in two months … but it’s to a job I love, to work with people who give me freedom to do my best work, and trust me to do it well. Yes, my child had a problem at school … but both my kids are HOME, and I get to tuck them into bed at night. Yes, our heating bills have been more than $800/month for the past two months … but we have been able to put food on the table, even so.

The sick relatives are a bit tougher. It’s always hard when a family member is hurting at a distance. It’s natural to want to lift their burden, or at least carry part of it for them. More than anything, you want to do more than pray.

But sometimes … sometimes trusting God is the only thing to do. When we open our hands and offer our burden back to God, we become conduits of grace to bring about God’s will in this world. And that is no small thing.

So, go ahead. Light that candle. Pick up that rosary. Breathe deeply, and speak aloud your intention not to let worry and fear prevent you from trusting the Creator of all things good. Ask God for the gift of perspective, that knows our heavenly Father does not leave his children burdened by life to their own devices. Rather, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “He shouts to us in our pain,” making us stronger and more compassionate, better able to recognize and respond to the hurting world around us.

At some moment of our lives, each of us is called to live in the Pascal Mystery. Is God calling you to carry your own cross, in the footsteps of Christ? Or is he asking you to follow at a distance, like the Blessed Mother? Both are needed, but you will only have grace enough for one.

31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 16: Live and Let Live

monster momOver at “4 Moms,” Beth-Anne Jones writes about “discretionary burdens,” the self-imposed expectations we put on ourselves that result in our running a round the house screeching like a fishwife, eyes bugged out and children running scared. “All right, you sneaky little rug rats. WHO ate the M&Ms I left on the counter to make the eyes on the triple-decker reindeer cookies I was making for your class party tomorrow?!??!”

Sure, I could have whipped out the Pillsbury version in a snap, but Noooooo. I have to do my own personal version of “Cupcake Wars.” But with seasonal cookies. (And the fact that I don’t have a picture here should tell you something about how they turned out.)gingerbread-village

Today’s de-stress tip acknowledges that there are two kinds of stress: The kind we receive from the universe (“MOM! I need 27 cupcakes for our class party tomorrow.”), and the kind we impose on ourselves and others. (“Oh, my goodness. I have to come up with something that will top the gingerbread village I made for Sarah’s teacher last year, or this teacher will think I’m a slacker.”)

No, she won’t. Get out the Pillsbury dough, and she’ll be thankful she won’t have to deal with the Supersized sugar buzz like last year’s teacher.

Recently, thanks to Christopher’s current teacher, it also struck me that I need to lighten up on the expectations I put on my kids sometimes, too. For example, when your eighth-grader curls up in the fetal position when you log on to “Study Island,” that might be a sign that he needs to go outside and romp with the dog for a few minutes instead of logging on yet another hour of math fact fun. Yes, he needs to catch up to his peers. But does he have to do it today? Of course not.

Live . . . and let live. Discipline, tempered with mercy. For yourself. For your kids. For life.

What “discretionary burdens” give you trouble?

Are you still listening? (Sorry for the silence….)

Okay, it’s been nearly two weeks now since I’ve posted something. By all the blogging rules in the universe, no one will ever read this, since EVERYONE knows you have to post fresh content at least several times a week, or your readers will go in search of something fresher/better/more current.

But hopefully my “regulars” won’t give up quite that easily.

The first two weeks of Advent have been busier than usual, due to the fact that (a) Boosters has taken over 80% of my life and (b) various health issues (doctor’s appointments or actual sickness) have taken over the lion’s share of the other 20%. Well, maybe 10%. Whine. Whine. Whine.

Today was especially fun. Took Chris and Sarah to the doctor’s for their H1N1 booster (second dose), and found that Chris would have to get the injection because they’d run out of mist. Sarah heard the word “shot” and asked me point blank if she was getting one, too.

Not even the promise of McDonalds could stop the emotional tsunami that followed… After squirreling herself behind a storage cabinet as her brother bravely took his turn, Sarah nearly kicked a hole in the Venetian blind as we pulled her from her hiding place. It took three of us (two nurses and one red-faced mom) to restrain her legs long enough for the poke. From the screams (before, during, and after the actual poke) you’d have thought we were skinning her alive.

Later, when she was feeling more philosophical, Sarah asked me why the shot didn’t seem to hurt Chris as much as it had hurt her. I tried to explain to her that her muscles were all tense from her screaming and kicking, so it made the shot hurt more. “Next time, you might try taking deep breaths or singing a song, and not pay attention to the shot. I bet it won’t hurt as much.” (My nurse friend later suggested that we do Sarah first to avoid a similar scenario…)

Driving home, I thought about that. How often do we brace ourselves, worrying about some painful event until it turns our lives inside out? Just last week, I nearly made myself sick waiting for a particular confrontation that I had been warned was coming my way. When the moment finally came … nothing happened. No fireworks. No accusations. Nothing.

Most parents, I think, can relate to this sense of foreboding, the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging overhead. So much of the stuff that worries us, never comes to pass. No wonder the Lord urges us to brush worry from our lives (from Matthew 6:25-33):

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, 19 and all these things will be given you besides.”