It’s February. Oh me gersh. It’s so February. It’s the kind of February where I’d like to stay in bed, pull the covers over my head and escape the real world and loose myself in another Gene Stratton Porter novel. The skies have been gray for days on end here in mid-Michigan and the weather has been all sorts of weird, with more rain than snow. This basically means it is cold and rainy, an impossible combination to run or hike off your crankiness. Add to this the gazillion rounds of illnesses we’ve all experienced since The Sickness of 2016 hit last July and the usual February-ness that inevitably happens for homeschooling moms, and I’m kind of feeling like there isn’t enough chocolate or re-runs of Fixer Upper to overcome my funky attitude.
I declared today an, “I need to get out of the house sans kids” day. I had work to do for school and some writing I needed to get done, but a change in environment would suit me well. No one to interrupt my thoughts. No one to touch me. No one to talk to me. No one to explain math to. No one. Please and thank you.
I headed to a local coffee shop, one that has books and good tea and is always quiet. Except for the extremely rare time when it is not. Like today. No, today the place was packed with families. There was one seat open, sandwiched between 20 different families. Apparently, there was a dinosaur exhibit just down the road and it was attracting people from all over the state. Apparently, the lines to get in were over two hours long and the lines to see the different exhibits were all over an hour. Apparently, I was not going to get that quiet afternoon after all.
I popped in my ear buds and logged on to Pandora, hoping to replace the screams of children with soothing classical music. But, apparently, the store’s internet was down. Of course it was. “I can do this,” I told myself, “I’ll just keep these ear buds in and pretend they are ultra absorbent ear plugs.” (For the record, it didn’t work.)
“God has foreseen from all eternity the help we need. He has also foreseen the assistance we will require and the graces that will lead us to make our requests.” – In Conversation with God, Volume 3, p. 262
I sat there humming a song in my head, trying to do everything in my power to channel my thoughts and attention on the work before me, all the while fighting the grumpies in a serious way. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder, only to look up and find an angel sent in the form of a barista worker who apparently saw me sandwiched between all the people. Quietly she whispered, “We have a private room upstairs that we use for parties, do you want to sit up there?” “Is it quiet?” I asked. “Definitely. Follow me.” People, I am not a hugger, but I just about broke out an epic hug for this little savior to my Saturday afternoon. I grabbed my goods in road-runner speed and followed her up the creaky steps to the quaintest and quietest place a poor, tired INFJ could ever want. I plopped my tired self down next to a big window. This would do just fine. No, it would be perfect!
“God has foreseen from all eternity the help we need” even if it is just a little thing like a quiet room in a little country coffee shop. But sometimes, especially in February, I just don’t see these little gifts from God as easily as I did today. Let’s be honest, I’m usually too grumbly about my never-ending-often-self-inflicted-to-do list to notice.
“In prayer today we should examine whether we often complain about our work—in the office, in the workshop about the house or when we study. We should consider in God’s presence whether we offer, for ends that are nobly ambitious, the tiredness brought about by our hard work. We should check whether in those less attractive aspects that belong to any type of work, we discover that opportunity for offering up the Christian mortification that purifies us, and which we can offer up for others.” –In Conversation with God, Volume 3, p 255-256.
Complain about my work? Perhaps. Do I take the opportunities that come my way (over and over) each day to “offer up” these mortifications, these things I would rather not be doing, for love of God? Yeah, probably not as often as I should. Admittedly, my eyes are often too tired and my heart too weary to embrace this calling from God whether it be in the washing of the dishes that were discovered days after use and are crusted over with unknown food remains, or the prepping of school lessons and the pre-reading of chapters on end, or the wiping up of puke and washing of linens, or better yet, trying and failing to persevere through another math lesson gone awry. Instead of thanking God that I have children who need me, a husband who loves me fiercely, and the incredible gift to homeschool them, I can find myself lost in the details of it all, bogged down and grumpy. There is so much busyness and messiness in this balancing act of being a homeschooling mom. It is certainly easy to allow myself to feel like what I am doing every single day is overlooked, underappreciated, and taken for granted. It is easier to complain about the work than to embrace it as part of my vocation, especially when it feels like no one ever sees the work, no one knows the tiresome hours spent doing the daily mundane. But God does, right? He sees it all, the successes and joys over a lesson in school that touched a heart, the act of love gone unnoticed by the kids, the grumblings under my breath, my bad attitude when life becomes more challenging than I’d like. He sees it all.
Saint Jose Maria Escriva is noted for sharing a story in which he would often walk to the cathedral in his town in order to be able to take time to view the, “ornamentation at the top, a veritable lace work of stone that must have been the result of very patient and laborious craftsmanship.” He goes on to share, “As I chatted with the young men who accompanied me I used to point out that none of the beauty of this work could be seen from below….I would say: ‘This is God’s work, this is working for God!—to finish your personal work perfectly, with all the beauty and exquisite refinement of this tracery stonework.’ Seeing it, my companions would understand that all the work we had seen was part of a prayer, a loving dialogue with God. The men who spent their energies up there were quite aware that no one at street level could appreciate their efforts. Their work was for God alone.”
The work was for God alone.
Can I get an amen, sisters? St. Jose has a way of packing a powerful punch, doesn’t he? I know that in the doldrums of February, when I am at my lowest with energy and burn out is just around the corner, I need this reminder to keep my eyes on Christ and the gift that this vocation is. I need a kick in the rear to remind me that my work is not being done to get a thank you from my husband, a pat on the back from my in-laws, or for my kids to come back one day and thank me for the tireless hours I spent raising, schooling, and generally caring for them. No, my work is being done because God asks me to do it. This is my vocation. It really is as simple as that. I accepted the invitation (yes, with no idea what in the heck I was really getting into), but God is equipping me every day to do this homeschooling gig and to do it well. He doesn’t call us to do the things He asks of us without pouring on the graces to do them. If only I have the eyes to see and a heart properly disposed to receive His graces.
In Mark 7: 31-37, we hear how Jesus performed yet another miracle, this time healing a deaf man with a speech impediment. As scripture tells us, the crowd was “exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well.’”
He has done all things well.
Every Christian would tell you that if ever you are in doubt about how you are to behave, think or act, all you need to do is open up Scripture and read for yourself—we have a perfect role model in Christ. And he never let his bad attitude get in the way. Jesus never took the short-cut. He never put off doing what the Father asked Him to do because He was tired and just not up for the tasks before Him that day. He never whined and complained and threw handfuls of chocolate chips into his mouth in order to motivate Himself to begin the work He was asked to do. No, He just did the work, and He did it well. Aren’t I to do the same?
I suppose I am.
“In our lives too we have to offer the best we have to God…We are to give God the best of our time, our goods, our life. We cannot give him the worst, what is surplus to our requirements, what makes no real demand on us or what is left over and we don’t need. The whole of our life is for God…” –In Conversation with God, Volume 3, p 299
So in these dull and dreary days, when Spring feels like it is an eternity away (as it probably still is in Michigan), I need to continue to remind myself that God is with me in this enormous task of homeschooling, and He is asking me to give my best efforts each and every day. God sees my work with all its successes and the abundance of failures. He sees me tired, burnt out and falling into bed each night wondering if I am screwing this all up. And he gives me the motivation found in scripture and the graces of the Sacraments to keep me on track to faithfully show up, just as He did over and over again. These opportunities for the small and big mortifications are my chances to be Christ to those in my life, and, gosh, what a shame if I miss them because I am too busy hiding in the closet with bags of chocolate and a good book in an effort to escape the tasks before me (not that I have any experience with this).
In offering the tiredness of this job of homeschooling to God as an act of love, as a “yes” to doing my best for Him, I can cooperate with Him to build that intricate cathedral that is my children’s hearts, minds, bodies and souls. And because He is a good and loving Father, He sends reinforcements (like the barista who saved my afternoon.) Trust that. And pray to have eyes that can see it and a heart attuned to receiving His graces.