Most days it feels plain ludicrous that I have the audacity to blog and blab about motherhood, faith, life and love.
Days when I get so frustrated with Gus that I’m a red-faced screaming banshee by 9am. Days when we are 10 minutes late…and only 3 of the 4 kids have shoes on. Days when my sink is full of dirty dishes and floors are filthy.
And let’s be real, every day is one of these days.
I don’t blog because I have all of the answers. I don’t create planners and share about my life because I’m over here killing it day in and out.
I’m here because I believe that despite the struggles and failures, we are called to greatness through the humility and smallness of motherhood.
But greatness is not what we imagined it to be. Greatness is not a row of clean, perfectly behaved children kneeling relevantly at daily mass. Greatness is not an immaculate home with healthy made-from-scratch meals each night. Greatness is not fitting into those pre-baby jeans again or making it in and out of the shower each morning.
These things are good–but not great. And for most of us, many of these things are simply outside the realm of possible…but greatness continues to call for us.
You see, greatness comes from somewhere completely unexpected: HONESTY.
Greatness comes from a brutal, rare, complete kind of honesty that leaves us vulnerable, seen, heard…and in all things great.
Let me explain. My greatest successes on-line have not come when I shared some contrived 10 Tips or manufactured Top 5. No, my greatest successes have taken place behind the scenes–in emails. After you sign up for my list I email you back a simple question: what is your greatest struggle as a mother? Not everyone responds, but many do–and over the past year women have generously poured their hearts out to me. They have spoken about failures and trials and frustrations and faith and hard-fought victories. And each word they write me is an honor. Those words written privately over email, the relationships I have forged in the secret with women just like me–that is the greatest thing I have accomplished on-line. That is what I take the most pride in.
But my on-line life is a pretty small piece of what I am.
The greatest moments in my marriage are those rare times I have let the deep truth of what I am out. The moments I stood up, tall and proud, and let my husband see me fully. The moments I have trusted him enough to be honest in the deepest way.
The greatest moments in my vocation as a mother have also been defined by honesty. Life with Gus is often a battle of wills. We’ve tried everything: timeouts, bribes, charts, reasoning, spanking, and yet, some days, he just refuses to comply. A few days ago, after a week of working on these things with him, I was just DONE. It was 4:30, we’d walked to the mailbox and I sat on our front steps holding the baby, flipping through the new issue of Real Simple. Bernadette was sitting beside me holding her baby doll examining the junk mail.
Gus walked up, saw the apparent closeness between me and Bernadette, and promptly smacked her across the face. Then he tried to push in between us.
I snapped. I pushed him away with a stiff arm and told him, quite plainly, that I didn’t want to be near someone so mean. Our eyes met, mine fierce, he’s melting into sadness. He understood. And without another word he disappeared into the house and was gone for 10 minutes. When he emerged his face was tear stained and he clutched an assortment of nickles and dimes. He faced Bernadette and me.
“I’m sorry I did that, Berna. I bought you some money from my piggybank,” and he dropped the coins onto her lap. Then he looked at me. “When you talk to me like that,” he said, “it makes me feel like you don’t love me. Like I’m not part of this family.”
And I teared up myself. I pulled him to me and told him how much I loved him and how nothing would ever change that and that I was sorry. And he cried too. And we smiled and hugged and laughed. And in that moment we were both looking honestly at our own flaws and sins, and loving each other more deeply an ever before. It was a rare moment, brought about by my own short temper, but even now I marvel at the beauty of what we shared.
More powerful than anything, however, I see greatness when I am honest with myself.
The easy choice each day is to fall into feelings of failure and disappointment when things don’t get done and kids don’t listen and our abilities fall short. It’s easy to get pulled into a moment or detail and stay there.
It’s harder, MUCH harder, to open our eyes wider, to see more and to embrace the greatness of it all. The greatness of this call and gift of motherhood. The great strength of family. The great love we have for our husbands and kids–so great that no amount of mistakes, failures or human weakness could ever undo it.
Being honest with ourselves is the refusal to fall into the lie of “ordinary”. The lie that just because so many other women are mothers and wives too, that what we do is unremarkable. Reject that your story is common and therefore without meaning. Because it isn’t.
Instead, embrace the truth! The miracle of life and love and self-sacrifice are the absolute definition of greatness. And we, ladies, sit at the center of all of this. And the days we spend doing even the smallest most basic tasks–the days we succeed in just keeping everyone alive–we are participating in something so big and so great.
I wish I could reach through this computer and shake each one of you, take you by the back of the head and force you to look up and stop focusing on what is undone, imperfect and incomplete and instead look at all the greatness around you. Because we are not defined by what we accomplish.
No, God stepped in long ago and defined us, and by His definition we are not only enough, we are great.
While on this path to greatness we all need a few powerful tools to keep us focused and moving in the right direction. I created my planner for this end, and I made these simple bookmarks to be used with the planner–but they will be powerful aid no matter what book they are marking. Download them HERE.
The two bookmarks are meant to be used at the beginning and end of the day. The “Good Day Checklist” is meant to be used in the morning. Take a hold of your day and really determine what is important. The “Examination of Conscience” is meant to be used at the end of the day to review what happened, what you need to ask to be forgiven for and how God is working in your life.
The bookmarks are simple, as most good things are. But they do something very important: they work to keep us focused on our relationship with God. How often do we spend all day REACTING and being hit in the face by life? Won’t it be better to live deliberately? To live with a plan, and to examine our life, in God’s Terms, at the end of each day?
We are called to live better. We are called to greatness. And it is my sincere hope that what I have created here brings you one small step closer to that.
You sister in Christ,
PS–the price of The Catholic Woman’s Companion will be increased at 12:01am November 4th…so if you were considering grabbing it, now is the time!
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