I should be getting the boys inside and starting school. I should be sweeping up the floors. I should probably be emailing people back and returning calls instead of sitting here at the kitchen island, drinking coffee (it's HOT! Woot!) and blogging.
I'm not too good at doing what I should, I guess.
Instead, I'm sitting here, enjoying the sunshine that's pouring in through the windows. I'm laughing while listening to the sounds of the rascals playing "house" outside with the poor chickens as their pets. (My gosh, those birds are patient!) I'm savouring the taste of my hot coffee.
And I'm not doing what I should be doing......but I think I am doing the RIGHT thing.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately (warning, Heidi's getting all contemplative on you): about how what we think we "should" be doing or achieving isn't always what is the "right" thing to be doing. It was a big component of my talk this past weekend at the youth convention. (Thanks for the prayers, by the way - it went well! No one threw anything at me, so I took that to mean it was a success, haha). My talk was on a topic that often time devolves into a screaming match where no one is really listening to each other, much less teaching each other anything: marriage in today's culture. My goal was to reach these teens with the beauty of marriage as a vocation (what the Church teaches) and explain to them a little bit of what the Church teaches marriage is and is not - my task was to compare the Church's understanding of marriage with our culture's. It was a huge topic....and I was nervous that it wouldn't be received well. I would guess that for the vast majority of us, the last time we had a conversation about marriage with a friend or family member - or even a completely stranger - it ended up turning into a debate filled with anger and hate and name-calling. I didn't want this talk to turn into that - I really wanted to show them the GOODNESS of marriage as a vocation.
In preparing for the workshop, I realized that I needed to start from the very beginning (yes, pun intended, all you Theology of the Body-loving Catholics out there, haha) - how could they learn about marriage as a vocation if they didn't know what a vocation even was? We Catholics are pretty guilty of associating the word "vocation" ONLY with the priesthood. As I thought about it more and more in the weeks leading up to Convention, I realized that unless I talked about our purpose in life.....they wouldn't understand the idea of a vocation (in terms of meaning more than the priesthood).
So what IS our purpose in life? Whoa, big question, huh? How many different attempts have been made to answer that question? I sat there, staring at my notes for this talk, terrified. How the heck was I going to answer that question in a 45 minute talk - one that was supposed to be a workshop, not a lecture? Then, how was I supposed to tie that into marriage?!?! Scary stuff for this "just a mom."
As I thought more and more about it, I realized that the big conflict between our culture and our vocation (including marriage), really came down to a case of the "shoulds." Maybe it was because we're using the Baltimore Catechism in our homeschooling lessons, I don't know, but I realized that if I looked completely at the question of our purpose in life.......all of the rest of the workshop fell into place.
The world (I'm using this to mean "our culture" because it's not just the American culture that says this) tells us all these things that we "should" do with our lives. Usually it includes things like fancy degrees, lots of money and/or power, picture-perfect holidays and houses (yes, Pinterest, I'm looking at you!), beautiful, youthful bodies, and in the US, 2 children. Our purpose in life, honestly, seems to be found in every HGTV show and glossy magazine. Everything we do - all of the "shoulds" - are expected to be working towards achieving this goal of an air-brushed life.
I looked around my own life - how much do I do purely because it's something that I "should" do? How many times have I gone to confession and confessed laziness or even sloth because I'm not doing what I "should" be doing? (I'll give you a clue - it's pretty much every month). Last month, my priest (God bless him) asked me a point-blank question (after asking me to clarify - I think because this is the same guy I see every month and well, like I said, it's a regular for me): "Who's telling you what you "should" be doing? Is it God's will for you?"
I'm not going to lie. That simple question caused me A LOT of reflection, some of it painful, this past month. It had A LOT to do with the direction my workshop talk went for these teens.
Who was telling me what I should be doing? Was it God's will for me?
I pulled out Rascal #1's copy of the Baltimore Catechism. We started at the beginning last year, and have been plugging away for the past year and a half. I vaguely remembered one of the questions/answers having to do with our purpose in life - and I thought it might help me understand what I "should" be doing in our daily life. I wasn't disappointed. I present to you questions/answers number 3 and 4:
3. Why did God make us?
God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in Heaven.
4. What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?
To gain the happiness of heaven, we must know, love, and serve God in this world.
That's it, y'all. That's our purpose in life, according to the Catholic Church: To know, love, and serve God in this world and enjoy happiness with Him in heaven.
That's all of the "shoulds" I need to focus on. That's what our vocation is - a calling to a way of life that will help us achieve our purpose in life. As soon as I went back to the basics......it all fell into place. What should we be doing? Living to know, love, and serve God and enjoy happiness in heaven. That's it. Everything we do or say should be ordered toward this goal. And our vocation? It's how we do that. God is calling us to a way of life (whether it be married or single or religious life) that is our personalized way of living that purpose. Once I laid the basic foundation of purpose and vocation....it was natural to move into marriage as a vocation. (And again, no one threw anything at me, so I'm calling it a success).
But I wanted to see what this meant in my own, personal life, not just in a 45 minute workshop for a couple hundred teenagers. So, I did an experiment in the weeks leading up to Convention. Every time I felt that "I should be doing x, y, and z instead of a, b, and c" anxiety coming on, I forced myself to stop whatever I was doing, and say a quick prayer to know God's will in that moment. I stole a phrase from a friend, and thought:
"Heidi, how is this helping you get to heaven and bring your brother? What will help you to know, love, and serve God in this moment?"
It was kind of amazing. I cannot even begin to document the times that I thought I "should" be doing something and I realized that it had absolutely no reflection on my ultimate purpose in life. Whether or not the kitchen sink was perfectly clean and sparking had no reflection on my knowing, loving, and serving God in that moment. Going outside with my boys and reading a story to them did help me to show them God (and therefore, serve Him) in that moment. Calling a friend who I knew to be hurting helped me to know, love, and serve God.......making sure our playroom looked magazine-perfect did not.
Over the past few weeks, again and again, I sat back and thought about all of the "shoulds" that were pressing down on me every day and discerning if they came from the world or from God........ and it was quite eye-opening. I wasn't living for Him.....I was living for the world. I realized just how much I worried about being a "doctor's wife"... and how little I prioritized being "Mike's wife."
I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to weeding out the "shoulds" in my life. It's a delicate line to walk - discerning what is God's will for me in each moment without allowing my laziness to creep back in. It's tiring - requiring constant prayer and evaluation. I think this will be a battle that I will fight for the rest of my life - pride and sensuality are my bitter enemies on this battlefield.
There is some relief in realizing that I have a purpose in life, and that God has called me into a path that will help me along the way. He's calling me home, as long as I keep listening for Him.
St Gianna Beretta Molla's feast day was the other day - one of the days we were at the youth convention - and I stumbled upon this quote of hers while preparing for my workshop. I think it's perfect, and I am reminded of it daily as I try to figure out what I really should be doing. I think I need to have it framed and posted in every room of my house, it's that perfect for my struggle.
"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness."
Maybe I'm over-reading it, but I don't think she meant the fleeting emotional happiness here on earth. I think she meant eternal happiness - and the secret to that is living moment-by-moment while talking to God. Thanking Him for the gift of that moment and listening to His call.
That was my take-home from this weekend. That was what I tried to teach the teens - it's all about our purpose in life.
Some pictures from this weekend - it was a beautiful, glorious weekend and I am grateful that we were able to attend, especially as a family.