Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Encouragement On THOSE Days

No matter our age, our vocation, our sex, we are all called to sainthood.  
"We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, 'I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.' And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord."  - Blessed Mother Teresa

When we respond to our station in life joyfully, especially in difficult times, it gives glory to God.  Imagine the great joy Mother Teresa gave God by embracing her vocation to the religious life, serving the poor and rejected, and treating all those that she met as though they were Christ in a "distressing disguise."  

I don't know about you, but I, uh, well, struggle a bit with that most days.   

When the babies wake up at 5:30, they don't take a nap, refuse to eat, have 8 timeouts in the pasta aisle at Walmart, Monty (our dog) has his fifth accident of the day by the door, someone hits the mailbox, a speeding driver nearly hits us and flips us off, or Philip has to work all weekend, I don't always feel like offering it up.  

Instead, I am really good at throwing myself a grand ol' pity party.  Population: 1 scary mama!  Look out, world!  I'm having a pity party, and you're only invited if you tell me, "Wow!  That does suck!"  

Once I realize for the millionth time that doing that only makes me (and the people around me) feel worse, I end up turning skyward.  When I pray for it, I'm able to will myself to stop the pity party and "offer it up."  

As a stay-at-home mom, it's so easy and tempting to listen to the devil on the bad days.  He usually tells me something along the lines of, "What you do doesn't matter.  You're wasting your life here.  All you accomplished today was changing some diapers, some cooking, and changing a few loads of laundry.  Zip-a-dee-doo-dah-day!  You didn't even shower before 5!  What kind of a life is that?!"  

On the days when I haven't spent time in prayer, I'm more likely to listen to that voice. What's worse is that sometimes I even start to believe that voice.  Sooner or later, I inevitably end up brought to my knees in frustration.  I'm convinced it's God's way of saying, "Remember Me?  You need Me.  I'm always here, just waiting for you.  Stop trying to shoulder it all on your own.  Come to Me.  I'll give you rest." 

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:30
So, here's the good news:  it turns out holier and wiser people than me (understatement of the century!) are human and experience their share of those days.  Fortunately for me, some of them have written about their struggles, and their words are so encouraging.  

I came across a beautiful prayer written by Mother Angelica called "A Prayer at Day's End."  I think about this prayer on those days. 
A Prayer at Day's End by Mother Angelica
Good night, Lord.  Thank You for Your Grace and Strength today.  I didn't do all the things I wanted to.  I wasn't like Jesus all the times I could have been and I didn't think of You as much as my soul needed to.  All in all, it wasn't the day I planned when I saw the light this morning.  I have acquired more self-knowledge and I do realize I need to put forth more effort.  I am the recipient of Your Merciful Love for once again You put up with my many frailties.  It seems the only thing I have left tonight is my desire to know You better and love You more.  I end the day a little more humbled by the realization of my weakness but exulting in Your Holiness and Goodness.  I shall find my joy in You and not in myself.  If I have grown in seeking You alone then it has been a good day indeed.  Good night, dear Lord; let Your Angels protect me and intercede for me while I sleep.  Let Your Son's Mother make ready many graces for tomorrow, that I may love You more and be more like Jesus.  Amen.
Image from divinewordradio.com
If a woman as holy as Mother Angelica has those days, I'm surely guaranteed them.  

Now, I'm not saying the bad things go away when my prayer life is strong.  Sometimes the opposite is true.  I'm saying a strong prayer life makes it easier to "offer it up" and roll with the punches when the bad things come.  When my prayer life is strong, the bad things become opportunities to unite my sufferings to Christ on the cross--even the little inconveniences.  When my prayer life isn't happening, the prayers turn into, "Lord, WHY ME?!"  When my prayer life is strong, I'm able to will myself to say quick prayers like, "Lord, I offer up Jane's temper tantrum in the grocery store to You.  Thank You for this very public exercise in humility."  Yup, I've learned to pray even when I'm making this face--especially when I'm making this face! 

Jane likes to run over and hug my leg throughout the day.  Just like Jane needs those little moments to know that she's loved, I need to have the same little "check-ins" with God.  My prayers, especially the little ones throughout the day, may not be as beautiful or eloquent as Mother Angelica's, but I think God loves them just the same.  I'm just His little girl, checking in to make sure that I'm still loved and that I'm not as wretched as the devil tries to tell me I am.  

After my little check-in with God, He gives me a grace-filled pat on the head, and sends me along to "be a good girl" - to try my darnedest to become a saint.

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