Friday, May 20, 2016

For when I doubt...

We spent a month getting our house ready to sell. The uncertainty of the crazy market had us doubting we could come out with any kind of profit on selling our four-year-old home. So we scoured and staged from top to bottom. If there was something we could do with minimal expense to increase the likelihood of a sale, we did it. Half of my garage was filled floor to ceiling with "excess." My house was immaculate, appealing, and spacious, and I dreaded keeping it that way as long as would be necessary with four children and no husband to help. My anxiety was tangible.

You see, amidst that hard work, we also prepared to send my husband off for training and deployment. He's a reservist, and he's been activated. We bought what he needed and wanted, and he packed his gear three separate times (no kidding). He managed one-on-one dates with each of our children and took me out every Saturday night for a month. We rewrote our wills and prepared powers of attorney and sold his car. I took fresh pictures of each of the kids with their dad and bought frames that could record his voice. There were tears.

And then, the next time I doubt the Lord's generosity, I want to remember this particular week...

Day 0 - After a day of last things, we stuck the for-sale sign in the front yard and fell into bed exhausted. The house was officially listed for sale that evening. We were packed to leave the next morning to drop off my husband for pre-deployment training.

Day 1 - Having vacuumed our pretty carpet lines and set out the fancy towels, we left home and drove four hours to deliver things to the armory, his new civilian office, and ultimately my parents' house while the first house showing occurred. I received an email with feedback that night from that first showing that said, "Clients liked it and are submitting offer." Boom.

Day 2 - I dropped my husband off at the armory at sunrise. More on that goodbye another time. Around lunch we received an offer from the first showing; it was low and unacceptable. Meanwhile another showing was scheduled. Feedback from that one asked if we would accept a much higher cash offer to close in two weeks. (I will not write about my mental response to having to get out of my house in two weeks, because it involved cursing.) We were glad people like our house; we like it, too.

Day 3 - Realizing we may be moving sooner than expected, my daughter and I toured the only two apartment complexes within 15 miles of my parents' home that have four-bedroom units available in the next two months. (I had planned to get a more affordable three-bedroom, but my generous parents are upgrading our temporary accommodations.) We learned the second showing guy was a realtor who wanted to flip the house, so we told him to submit an official offer if he wanted us to consider it. Meanwhile, our realtor discussed a more appropriate offer with the first showing family of five (yes, I googled them).

Day 4 - By the end of day four, we had a signed contract for our full asking price with a bit of closing cost assistance and had decided to apply for the gorgeous first apartment we visited, partly because my daughter loved the pool. It would be ready the week of our closing date, the same week my brother had already planned to fly to our house for a visit. As one friend said when I told her about these dates all aligning, "God is just showing off, now." For a moment that night, we had second thoughts about the expense of the apartment. Maybe we could get a house for that much?

Day 5 - I spent a few hours researching rental houses in the area and nearby on-base housing. I even visited a rental house with a landlord willing to do a short-term lease, but none were in an area I felt safe alone with the kids. So that afternoon I completed the online application for that first apartment.

Day 6 - We were approved for the apartment, and spent most of the day visiting and playing with dear friends who live only a couple of miles away from our soon-to-be apartment home. My kindred-spirit friend listened and loved on me while our children played; we even had margaritas with our Taco Tuesday lunch! Afterwards, I took all the kids to see the apartment complex, and my oldest son, of course, noticed the stock of candy at the coffee bar in the clubhouse!

Day 7 - The children and I drove home to our "under contract" house without the stress of keeping it pristine at every moment. It was odd to walk in the door, knowing my husband wouldn't set foot in the house again. At the end of day seven, I fell into bed exhausted.

Yes, because God can move mountains when he wants, we are selling our house to the first buyers to view it on the first day it was available and moving into the first apartment we viewed. Throughout all of this, my husband and I were able to text regularly (which was a pleasant surprise), so he could weigh in on each decision. But in the end, it's absolutely clear that God is in control, and we are not.

Friends, family, and readers, feel free to direct me to this post the next time I freak out!

Monday, April 11, 2016

One Plate at a Time

I'm juggling a few too many plates these days. Usually, I do that by choice, but currently it's all just being thrust upon me. The books on my nightstand are a testimony to the chaos of life these days. For a while I was stuck like a deer in headlights again, not knowing where to turn or which task to tackle next.

I'm trying to pass off all of my volunteer roles as quickly as possible, since we will be moving as soon as our house sells. I am preparing to list our house for sale as soon as my husband leaves for his pre-deployment training in about a month. And of course, I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole concept of deployment on a practical and emotional level, so I can be present to my children who will need me more than ever this coming year. Those children also need to eat and do chores and continue their homeschool studies, and ideally have a mom who finds some joy and not just sorrow in our coming year. It's a lot.

In fact, all of my friends keep asking me how I'm doing, and I really don't know. I'm keeping my head above water. I'm crying at least once a day. I know that God is with me, and I feel the comfort of His love. I'm definitely not sleeping well. The kids are enjoying that I'm saying "yes" to a lot of their requests for Easter candy and screen time. I'm pouring every ounce of energy into my husband when he is home. My to-do lists are pages and pages long, so there are many moments of recognizing my inadequacy to do it all.

But I have settled upon a daily goal that seems to be working, for now, to keep myself moving forward and not melting in a puddle of irrational emotions like a teenage girl (It probably helps that I witness this regularly to understand how ridiculous it can be!).

My goal: Each day I try to spend time with each of my plates. Some days I spend more time on one than another, but if I at least do one thing from each area, I feel like I am doing more than just surviving.

I might email about a Moms' Night Out, pre-pack one room, listen to a podcast about deployment, check that my name is on all financial accounts, read aloud to my kids, order a Walmart grocery pick up for the next day, make clean up more fun by bribing kids with jellybeans, write out lesson plans for the next month, get on the treadmill while watching an episode of The Good Wife (hooked, I admit it) or Lark Rise to Candleford (finally back on Amazon Prime!), and spend some time reading a novel before bed. And it's a full day.

There is one key element that I think is making this work. I'm anchoring my days in prayer. In the morning, even though I'm back to my old pre-Lenten habit of waking up when my little ones wake up, after feeding them breakfast I sit on the couch with my tea for morning prayers. Because I'm so exhausted, I find myself lying down in the middle of the afternoon, the perfect time to pick up my nightstand rosary and pray a Chaplet. And I'm often falling asleep with my rosary in my hands, usually not completing an entire rosary, but finding peace in the prayers.

What do you do when your plates are spinning out of control? If you don't have a strategy that works for you, try to choose one task from each plate, big or small, each day. I'd love to hear if this works for you or not! (Disclaimer: it might not; God made us all different!)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Profound Act of Mercy

My friends and I have been talking a lot this Lenten season about this Year of Mercy, thanks to the 2016 Faces of Mercy Catholic Conference 4 Moms. We began by understanding that mercy is twofold. It is both forgiveness and relieving the misery of others.

Tonight in Catholic churches all around the world, priests will wash others' feet during Mass. It seems an odd thing to do, to wash someone's feet. It's very intimate and kind of stinky. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did at the Last Supper. The Gospel of John describes it:

1Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,
3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,
4rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.
5Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
6He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?"
7Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand."
8Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."
9Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"
10Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you."
11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean."
12When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?
13You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.
14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
15For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

I have been pondering how Jesus' act of washing the feet of his disciples was an act of mercy. They wore sandals, all the time, in the hot, dry desert. History tells us their feet were caked in sweat and dirt, and they walked many miles in a single day. So I imagine that washing their feet in cool, clean water was a relief from the sticky, smelly, achy feeling of unclean feet. Jesus relieved their misery when he washed their feet.

And He insisted upon it. Jesus did not allow Peter to excuse himself from receiving this mercy and still be in His good favor. It was through this act of relieving their misery that He taught them about humility. He needed the disciples to see that true Christians extend mercy to others, even when it's dirty and stinky and requires us to stoop below our position.

To me, that sounds a lot like motherhood. We do dirty, stinky work. We change diapers and wipe noses. We listen to the anger pour out of our teenagers. But that work relieves the misery of our children. Mothers humble themselves to do the menial tasks of daily life to keep our children healthy in mind, body, and soul.

When I go to Mass this evening and observe the merciful act of feet washing, I will try to reflect on how I extend mercy to others, in my family and in my community, by doing the dirty work and bowing down. And I will pray that we will all, like Peter, openly accept the way God's mercy comes to us in our hearts and through the acts of others.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Judas' and Our Betrayals

Lent is coming to a close, and we now enter into the most sacred days of the Church year! Most of us cannot stop our daily lives and focus entirely on the great Triduum celebrations. The laundry, diapers, cooking, and cleaning does not simply pause for the next several days.

But that is the beauty of praying as we work, and I have found that turning my thoughts repeatedly back to the last events in the life of Christ help me to still my heart. When I center my mind on the most beautiful sacrifice of the Holy Cross and the Glorious Resurrection, the daily events of bombings in Brussels abroad and preparations for deployment and moving at home are put into perspective.

With me, consider seeing yourself in today's Gospel from Matthew chapter 26:

14Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests
15and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?"
18He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'"
19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.
20When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples;
21and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
22And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?"
23He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me.
24The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."
25Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."

When do we betray Christ? I betray Him when I don't look at my children as precious gifts but as irritating inconveniences. When I choose losing myself in Facebook and Amazon Prime videos instead of turning to Him in prayer. When I neglect to trust in His will and try to control too much, clutching the illusion of to-do lists and schedules. We don't necessarily seek to betray Him, but each of us has the sin of Judas on our hearts when we trade the challenge of His love (the cross) for the easier, earthly way.

Jesus provides for us, just as He provided a place for the disciples to celebrate passover. And yet. Our trust in Him is so fragile, so fleeting. Some worry how all the bills will get paid this month. Some wonder if the timing is right for a new job or a new baby. Rather than accept what the Lord puts in our path, in anxiety we doubt and question. We lack faith.

Then, even knowing the betrayal that Judas has chosen, the Lord accepts the fulfillment of the prophecies. He is sorrowful for Judas! He loves Him, loves us, so much that he is sad when we even think of betraying Him or refuse to believe in His providence. The love of the cross is for everyone, and when that love is rejected, Christ is sorrowful.

Today I will not be perfect. I will betray Jesus and I will doubt God. But I will keep turning back to Him, and I will accept His perfect love. Join me?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who Moved My Cheese?

I read this short book (affiliate links) years ago when it came across my radar during the years of our used book business. Aside: yes, we had a home business selling used books online through Amazon for about five years, so it was my "job" to shop book sales and garage sales - heaven! And, "Who Moved My Cheese?" were the first words that popped into my husband's head two days ago when he finally got the phone call that yes, indeed, after years of hoping, praying, and searching for a way to move back to where my parents and brother live, once he gets back from his deployment, he will have a position awaiting him there thanks to a lateral job transfer!

The book is a quick, dare I say cute, parable about two mice and two humans who live in a maze and how they face the change in their lives, mostly written with a work environment in mind, but certainly applicable to personal change. In the end, (spoiler alert!) the characters learn that you cannot ignore or avoid change, you can only alter your attitude regarding the inevitable change in your life.

We half expected Tuesday's call, but it still came as a shock to both of us. My husband claims not to like change. He is definitely a creature of habit! But the fact that we have moved 8 times in our 16 years of marriage, all due to choices we made about his career, kind of makes me doubt that claim just a wee bit! As for me, because I moved 6 times before I got to high school, I kind of like the excitement of moving and starting over. So I have been ready and wanting to move for a while, but I really didn't imagine it would happen during this deployment year. Yikes! Stress!

So today I put Who Moved My Cheese? on hold at our local library, along with the teen version, which I didn't know existed until now! I plan to read one (both?) aloud to my kids and spend some time talking through what's coming. This year will be full of change for us, and I need all the resources I can get to help my family navigate this road. Please continue to pray for us! And check out the book if you need a new perspective on coping with change.