Tag Archive | patience

Early Autumn: A Meditation on the Love of God

altar candles

…and the Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There is something about the beginning of autumn that brings out the melancholy in me, even though I do like this season for its anticipation of Advent and Christmas. It is a time when nature says “slow down” and we tend to become more introspective, all the while the world says, “Hurry up! Only ___ shopping days until Christmas!” This is usually a busy time for our family; summer is over and we have just canned peaches and chokecherry jam. Now we pick several bushels of apples and take time to make apple sauce, apple pie filling, and spiced apple rings for the coming year. Sometimes there are pears or plums that we can preserve also. We get together with family and make our traditional red tamales to freeze for Christmas Eve. We try to make a lot so that we have some in the freezer for the next 12 months, but they never seem to last past June, if we can keep our hands off them for that long! It is a joyful, busy time.

But this time of year makes me a little sad, especially when it is a cold, cloudy day and I have not gotten enough sleep. I lack the energy I need to do the daily laundry, dishes, and meals: the work that is never ended. But God grants sunshine as well as clouds. He allows us to feel our imperfections and to experience the Ember Days in a more profound way, perhaps, than at other times of the year. We learn, if we are willing, to rely solely on Him. When the sun shines, the day seems to sparkle, with red and gold leaves and sometimes frost: the coming of winter is evident.

The Clouds of Autumn

Winter Approaches

For the first time since I have been a mother, I am not homeschooling my children. Seven of the ten are attending a local charter school, and I am at home with the three youngest, who are not yet old enough to go to school with their brothers and sisters. It would seem that I should feel more free, and have more time to run errands, clean the house, work on projects long overdue, and even start one or two more that I have wanted to do for a few years.

But I am tired.

I do not seem to have more time now, and I need more sleep at night. I am older than I was. The coming winter is evident in the frost-colored hairs that appear little by little, and then less gradually.

But God grants sunshine as well as clouds. I feel the end of my life coming much faster than it seemed when I was young, although I have always, ever since I can remember, seen the end of my life very near. The years and decades are shorter than they were. The clouds of doubt and sorrow and sin and regret close in, and I panic, thinking I have only so many shopping days left and not enough money! The temptation to believe that I have done nothing worthwhile with my life is very strong, and I want to just fall asleep and not think about the hopelessness of it all. But then the clear, warm, saving Sun pierces my melancholy and I am suspended in the Love of God. I have time, but I must begin again now and not give up.

Thank God for good Spiritual Directors. They are sometimes the only light shining in the darkness. Mine told me recently, when I was having a hard time seeing any good in myself, “Love yourself as others love you.” That is possibly the most difficult task I have ever undertaken. He asked me to look at the successes in my life: all of my children are happy and know that their parents and God love them. The teens among them are joyful and outgoing. The little ones are thriving and confident in the love of their family. He asked me to look seriously at the way people see me, and recognize that I have allowed God to work through me my whole life. God has granted me favors that not everyone is granted. He loves me because He made me lovable. Others have always thought of me as a kind and holy person.

I always thought that those successes were all God’s, and they are, but my Spiritual Father reminded me that I had to cooperate with God in order for these things to happen.

God's Love turns weeds into roses

God’s Love turns weeds into roses

And so, on this cloudy autumn day with amber sunshine piercing through the cold, I begin again to do the work He chose for me. That sink-full of dishes and that frozen roast thawing on the counter are my emblems. Some day they will be pictured beside me – grey hairs and all – on a holy card. In the meantime, “Jesus! MY Jesus! I trust in You!”

St. Paula of the Big Ham

St. Paula of the Big Ham

“Sometimes we feel tired and discouraged, just like Jesus’ disciples… ‘We have worked hard all night and have caught nothing!’ (Lk 5:5) However, nothing is lost if, in the hour of darkness, we are able to trust once again in Him, Jesus, in Whom we have placed our joy and hope.” ~Pope St. John Paul II

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

A few months ago, when my son Peter turned 3, Someone asked me why I hadn’t potty trained him (I potty trained most of his 5 older siblings before they turned 3). I said I wasn’t sure I trusted him alone in the bathroom. Someone tried to allay my fears by asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I felt like a wimp to be afraid of a little water spilled on the counter or floor, or maybe even Peter accidentally missing the toilet.

So I took a day and sent the other kids to Mom’s house so I could concentrate on training Peter for the WHOLE DAY if need be. I removed the rugs from the bathroom floor and got some nice, clean new underpants for Peter to wear. For the first hour he listened attentively as I described the heavenly bliss he would excite in friends and relatives, and indeed, experience himself, if he were to keep his pants dry. To every point in my carefully crafted speech he nodded and said, “Yes, Mommy! Can I have a treat now?” Things were going along very smoothly! I mentally congratulated myself thinking I would be done in no time.

At the beginning of the second hour his attention waned. He did not want to sit in the bathroom with me one more minute, even to teach “Baby Emily” (his oldest sister’s potty-training doll borrowed for the occasion) how to keep her pants dry or to get Froot Loops as treats whenever
I discovered Peter’s pants to be dry!!! He kept saying things like “I want to go play with my toys” to which I responded by bringing his farm set complete with barn, horse stable, farmer Jed, 3 or 4 farm hands and about 20 farm animals. He said he wanted to play with “ALL my toys – in the OTHER room.”

For the rest of this hour he threw himself on the floor, kicked, screamed, and had 3 or 4 “accidents” in different parts of the bathroom. I wanted to give up, but I knew that if I stuck to my guns he’d be trained today. Or at least before his 21st birthday. I could have meals brought to us. Maybe Fr. Jeremy would bring the Sacraments to us.

Well, after that hour was up, Peter suddenly discovered that it wasn’t too bad to just sit on the toilet to do his duty. “Wow! A breakthrough! He can do it!” I thought out loud. I gave him more water to encourage him to practice his new-found skill. He expertly kept his pants dry for the rest of the afternoon, even while I accidentally passed out from exhaustion on the couch for an hour.

For the next few days he was pretty good at getting to the toilet in time, even at other people’s houses, and I was really feeling proud. But as the saying goes, “Pride goeth before a fall.”

Today he went outside to play. I gave each of the kids a plastic observation jar with instructions to catch a bug and find an interesting flower so they could draw them in their nature journals. I paired an older kid with a younger so that I wouldn’t hear “Mommy!!! Maria is in the neighbors’ horse yard pulling the Clydesdale’s tail!!!”

Some kids trickled in with their spiders and ladybugs, wild roses and clover blossoms. I supervised their drawings and was quite pleased with my plan when I realized not everyone was inside. “Where’s Peter?’ I nonchalantly asked. “Oh, I told him it was time to come in and he didn’t want to,” said a child who shall remain unnamed.

I looked out the window and there was Peter, hiding in the play house. After much hollering on my part, he came in reeking!!! I asked him if he had kept his pants dry and he sheepishly admitted that he hadn’t. I sent him into the bathroom to start cleaning himself up while I attended to his youngest brother Thomas’s exploding diaper.

Gentle reader, if you are disturbed easily, please avert your eyes from the rest of this paragraph. I was not prepared for what I found when I walked into that bathroom. Peter had found a bottle of apricot baby oil and emptied it into the sink, which he had first filled with water and “fixed” so that I could not drain it. Then he emptied the poop out of his pants with his hands and smeared it all over the toilet seat. Gentle reader, do not think less of me if I say I hit the roof. I screamed. I moved to pick up Peter to put him in the tub, but then saw that the kids had left their muddy shoes in there to dry from the day before when they discovered – and explored (one might even say settled) mud puddles. I moved to take Peter’s underpants off to put them in the sink and discovered the Exxon-Valdez oil spill experiment I told you about. I moved to rinse the underwear in the toilet and discovered it was clogged with too much toilet paper.

Then the phone rang. My poor husband was calling to pray the Angelus with me as he does every day at noon. He got an earful instead. He suggested we pray and I calmed down a little. He told me where to find a tool to unplug the sink.

After hanging up I wiped Peter and the toilet down and unplugged the sink. I put his underwear in there to wait while I finished serving lunch.

Lunch is over now and the youngest children are taking naps. I have not yet gone to deal with the underwear in the sink, but I am in a better frame of mind. The older children are helping out with other chores. The worst is over, and no one was murdered.

When I started writing this, I thought that the worst thing that could happen did. But in retrospect, it wasn’t so bad. The worst would have been if I didn’t care and left the mess for the kids or my husband to deal with. It would have been BETTER if I had not screamed and panicked, but it would have been WORSE if Social Services had knocked on my door at that moment.

Pray for us sinners!