Holy Housework

I had been wondering where the burst of cleaning and ordering energy that I’ve had for the last couple of weeks had come from, and I now have a couple of theories.  (For two pregnancies I looked forward to the “nesting” phase when I would actually want to clean – it never came.  Maybe this is what it feels like!)  Freedom from the requirements of a job has certainly helped, since I have hours back in my days with no commute, no papers to grade or lessons to plan, not to mention the time I actually spent teaching.

But I have also been doing some “mommy” reading, some of which has dealt with home schooling, and some of which has been more in the homemaking-without-losing-your-mind-or-your-soul mold.  The later has been most edifying.

Essentially, I have bought into the idea that if God is calling me to be at home and raise my children (which hopefully I believe, since that is what I plan to do with myself for the foreseeable future), then He must expect my experiences in this realm of life to be my ticket to sanctification.  And as Holly Pierlot argues, and I think rightly, it is up to us to take our vocations by the horns, so to speak, and direct our efforts at doing our very best at our calling.  If this means homemaking, then I am called to be sanctified by doing the dishes, laundry, diapers, and more generally creating an environment in which my family can live as God calls us.  That means (I think) an environment without excess clutter and dirt, with order and calm, and with beauty, for starters.  So boxes are making their way to St. Vincent de Paul, shelves are getting dusted and reordered, and the real trick is going to be making the habits I’m trying to form – for prayer and housekeeping – stick.  And doing it joyfully, because it is what God wants me to do.  (Lots on this in Merton – also worth checking out.)  Pierlot talks about offering up each little task, and about following some sort of prayer rule, to help all this happen.  So far, this change in mindset has really, really helped.

In the midst of all this reflecting and reordering, I read the first reading for today:

“Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.  As it is written:

‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.’

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.”

-2 Cor. 9:6-11

Simplicity and Sincerity

Some friends and I were discussing the heated discussions that tend to happen on the Catholic blogosphere (how do you spell that??), and today I came across this reading, which I thought worth noting.

“False sencerity has much to say, because it is afraid.  True candor can afford to be silent.  It does not need to face an anticipated attack.  Anything it may have to defend can be defended with perfect simplicity.

“The arguments of religious men are so often insincere, and their insincerity is proportionate to their anger.  Why do we get angry about what we believe?  Because we do not really believe it.  Or else what we pretend to be defending as the “truth” is really our own self-esteem.  A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself. …

“In the end, the problem of sincerity is a problem of love.  A sincere man is not so much one who sees the truth and manifests it as he sees it, but one who loves the truth with a pure love.  But truth is more than an abstraction.  It lives and is embodied in men and things that are real. And  the secret of sincerity is, therefore, not to be sought in a philosophical love for abstract truth but in a love for real people and real things – a love for God apprehended in the reality around us.

“The saint must see the truth as something to serve, not as something to own and manipulate according to his own good pleasure.  The selfishness of an age that has devoted itself to the mere cult of pleasure has tainted the whole human race with an error that makes all our acts more or less lies against God.  An age like ours cannot be sincere.”

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, excerpted in A Thomas Merton Reader, pp. 123-125

Wow, that is harsh.  And hard.  Merton does not mince words.  I have certainly found much in his writing (thus far) that is inspiring, and even more that is challenging.


“Those who love God should attempt to preserve or create an atmosphere in which He can be found.  Christians should have quiet homes.  Throw out television, if necessary — not everybody, but those who take this sort of thing seriously.  Radios useless.  Stay away from the movies — I was going to say ‘as a penance’ but it would seem to me to be rather a pleasure than a penance, to stay away from the movies.  Maybe even form small agrarian communities in the country where there would be no radios, etc.

“Let those who can stand a little silence find other people who like silence, and create silence and peace for one another.  Bring up their kids not to yell so much.  Children are naturally quiet — if they are left alone and not given the needle from the cradle upward, in order that they may develop into citizens of a state in which everybody yells and is yelled at.  (pp. 301-302)

“…When you gain this interior silence you can carry it around with you in the world, and pray everywhere.  But just as interior asceticism cannot be acquired without concrete and exterior mortification, so it is absurd to talk about interior silence where there is no exterior silence. (p. 302)”

-Thomas Merton The Sign of Jonas, excerpted in Henri Nouwen’s Pray to Live, pp. 118-119.

Quiet children.  Now there’s an idea…   Not just shut up, but naturally peaceful and quiet.   But how to go about it?

On that note, Samantha is now crawling!  It’s not perfect crawling, she uses on knee and one foot, but it gets her across the room, and she can now crawl up to me and pull herself up a little on my pant leg and express that she wants something.  Along with crawling has come a banshee baby sound, which tends to mean, “Lucy took my toy from me again!”  But for the moment they are actually sleeping, and I can think about silence.

Month of Merton

I have officially declared June the “Month of Merton” for the sake of my spiritual reading.  I was looking for something new to start on when Craig showed up with a pile of free spirituality books, including Pray to Live, which is Henri Nouwen explaining the life and thought of Thomas Merton.  I’ve tried a couple of Merton’s works unsuccessfully, so this struck me as a perfect starting place.  If this goes well, the Month of Merton may become the Summer of Merton.  : )  Quotes and reflections should be forth coming soon, provided I am able to make my way to the computer for any extended period of time.  Anyone more experienced with his work, feel free to suggest which book I should pick up next!

As for other prayer plans, I am working through A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot and trying to add a little more structure to my day.  The FlyLady thing has been a good start, but I’m more drawn to Pierlot’s overhaul method (although I realize I will still have to take it somewhat slowly) and focus on prayer.  She suggests planning your prayer into your day, so I am starting with morning and evening prayer from Liturgy of the Hours with Craig, and reading the daily readings while the girls nap.  This is way more than I had been doing, but the first two days have gone well.  My goal for this week is just to keep up with the schedule, revise it so it works well, and start making these routines of praying, cleaning, and creating a way of life.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ahh, kids

Lucy woke up last night (after she had come to our bed) saying, “I need my coffee!”  I told her to go back to sleep, but she got up, went to the living room (where Craig was still on the computer) and got her sippy-cup of chocolate milk with a splash of coffee and brought it back to the bedroom.  The she got up again and announced that she wanted water.  Before Craig could get it, she was saying very loudly, “No, I going to sleep!” but she had closed the bedroom door on her way out and couldn’t open it again.  All this woke up Samantha, and thus ended my half-hour or so of comfortable sleeping.

In other news, I am officially and thankfully unemployed.  (But, also thankfully, my paycheck doesn’t stop coming in until August!)  On Friday, Craig helped me clean out my classroom, we went out to lunch to celebrate, and then Craig went up to Shaw to do some of his own work.  Everyone at school gave me hugs and told me how sorry they were to see me go.  When I got home, Samantha was angry because she was still suffering from the cold she caught earlier in the week, and Lucy was angry because, well, she’s two.  And it was naptime, and she had already had a busy day.  And I thought, “Why am I leaving the company of kind adults for that of screaming children?”  Certain Roman bird-watchers might have something to say about this.

And yesterday I read several posts pointing out how wonderful motherhood is.  And today we tried (unsuccessfully – it rained) to take the girls to the zoo.  We got ice cream instead.  Lucy threw no fits until after 8 PM.  We napped well.  We ate well.  We played well.  We ate tomato and basil from our own garden.  This is why I’m staying home – so Lucy can paint in the back yard, and Samantha can sit on a blanket under a tree while I hang out the laundry.  So we can go to the zoo on a Tuesday.  So I can put band-aids on cuts, snuggle sleepy infants, and spend half the day with a child on my hip.

I think it will be a good life.  I am really, sincerely, looking forward to it, however much I may fear the responsibility.  Because now if something goes wrong, I have only myself to blame.  Two little souls have been entrusted to me so that I can help them find their way to their eternal home.  All those blogs I’ve been reading are right, what a privilege!  What faith God has in me to entrust two of his most prized possessions into my hands!  It is all making me very aware of all my own shortcomings and all the work I have to do to set even a decent, let alone a good, example for these little ones.  So I’m working on my prayer, and I’m asking for your prayers, because the enormity of this task feels overwhelming sometimes.  But what joy comes with this work!  I now work every day, all day, for joy incarnate.