Friday, March 27, 2015

Lent is Hard

My daughter came home from a half day and looked at lunch with disgust.  She normally loves tuna salad. I gave her a look and asked,  "What's up?"

"Lent is hard." she declared.  She'd done the water project where you pay a quarter if you drink something other than water every time.  I'm guessing now that we're a week from Easter, the project's appeal had grown old, and I'm guessing, she'd run out of quarters.  

No one likes going into the desert, finding their flaws dotting the landscape of the soul like painful cacti.  We' much rather float in an ocean and skim along the surface, but the goal as C.S. Lewis said, is to go "deeper and deeper in."

Maybe it was the fasting that led me to think of how we like syrup on pancakes, icing on frosting, the crispy skin of chicken, but these things alone, tasty as they may be, lack substance without the food they coat.  We need to get to the meat of things, to the marrow, and for that, we must cease staying where everything is sweet and easy.  

She began making brownies.  No one in the family gave up sweets so I let her go about the business of making them.  It's a fun project and it allowed me to just be with her as she became less irritated about drinking water, and more focused on creating something good.  That's what Lent is for, the sacrifice of meat or milk, money or caffeine isn't so we'll spend all our energies noting we gave that up, we miss it, we can't have it, but so we stop going through our spiritual life mindlessly, and get on with the work of creating something better with our time and our selves.  

By the time we cleaned up, her mood changed.  She plinked a quarter in the box and poured a glass of milk to have with her brownies.  The other children came in and pounced on the treat, and when it was finished, she felt the satisfaction of their praise and her own cooking.   The discomfort of not having what she wanted, turned into something better when she stopped focusing on it, and instead, turned outward.  

After helping her clean up, I looked at the pan of brownies, still half of them remained. Today is Friday, a fasting and abstinence day.  They were tasty walnut brownies with a touch of cherry to the batter.  Delicious.  I want more.  Walking away to the computer, I've come full circle as my brain begs for another brownie with the phrase echoing in my head, "Lent is hard."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lemonade Rocks!

There is a certain satisfaction in knowing how much you ate, how much you walked, how much you spent, and how far you went today.  You can check off the boxes, that tell the world, if not you, today we didn't just seize the day, we throttled it to the ground and showed those 24 hours who was boss.  

Except real life isn't measured in how far you walked, how little you spent, or what you ate or even how much time you allocate.  Real life requires recognizing, we're called to be more like Mary, to chose the better portion and not be anxious about many things.

This past weekend,  I found myself eating breakfast with my seven year old.  I'd been working on being more present to all of my children, but it's still an act of the will.  Sitting down across from her with my cereal, I saw why it shouldn't be hard. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree and she chirped on about school, summer, breakfast, the book she read, the book she would read, and what we should do today.  I honestly think I said three words, but sitting in the sunshine of her smile, I felt full, this was being Mary, not Martha.  For a moment, I knew it.

Then I promptly forgot it in the hassle of trying to fold laundry, clean up, run errands, nag the teen to take a practice S.A.T and the other teen to study for a science test, stop the tween from sassing the younger ones for playing on the Wii and potty training the six year old who decided today to begin showing progress.   

I need constant reminders to only do one thing.  I didn't know how bad I'd become until I went to get cleaned up. I want to read while I bathe, I want to listen to a podcast while I clean. I'm never doing one thing.  I'm always doing more than three or trying to, which means at least two if not three of the tasks I merge, aren't being done well.  Listening involves not trying to formulate your response while someone else is talking.  I'd had a teen tell me I don't hear her.  "Listen." she begged.  Even my reaction indicated, here was a stumbling block.  I wasn't interested in her opinion, only in giving my own.  "Read us a story."  All of their requests were for time, for presence, for stopping trying to do other things, and only do one thing.   Be present.  

The ultimate comeuppance came when my husband asked for a foot rub after a long day. I found myself beginning the Divine Mercy Chaplet to mark the time, to make sure I did a long enough rub. I've done this before but this time, the Holy Spirit pushed back.  "Are you ever just present?" It wasn't that prayer was bad or that I was even doing wrong, it was a push to be more fully in the moment, to not try to be so efficient in all things.  

Waste time. Enjoy giving the gift rather than trying to multi-task.  The mark of those who loved Jesus was presence.   I stopped the prayer and concentrated on crunching his ankles.  He immediately signed in contentment. He didn't know what had gone on internally until I told him, but he felt the mindful difference in my fingers.   See.  This yoke is easy, this burden light.  All you have to do, is be present.  

So today, I sat at the table with my youngest five.  We ate breakfast together.  The oldest two fantasized about building a lemonade stand this summer, Lemonade Rocks! They planned to put out flyers with painted yellow rocks to hold down them at the doorsteps of neighbors. I'd have missed all of it if I'd gone about the business of what?  Anything else!  What could be more important? The laundry?  I had to wonder, what other else would I want to be doing?  Why would I want to ever not be present?  

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