Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Softening My Heart: An Anniversary Lesson during Lent

I’m participating in the Keeping LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of link-up entries.

I had planned to write about something else today – about some of the things the children and I are DOing this Lent.  However, upon reflection about my day, I felt moved to share something I am (re)LEARNING: to soften my heart and savor relationships.

The candle says it all: love, cherish...

Please, step back about 18 hours with me to the ridiculous scenario that was my morning:

Three children, at different times between 12 and 6 a.m. padded into my husband and my bedroom and crawled into our bed. Eventually, their little bodies ejected my husband’s off our queen-sized mattress.  Thus, by 6:45, when I got up, Mike was well into moving himself through getting himself ready work while I was chastising myself for breaking my personal intention of getting up by 5:30/6 to pray and then do chores.

With a sigh, I looked at the clock and groaned a bit.  I knew that my earliest risers would be up within a half hour and that I had more chores to get done this morning than I had minutes to do them in.   We had guests expected in but a few hours and the kids would be up, needing breakfast and ready for their lessons.  So, I forewent my usual morning routine (including focused prayer time – gasp!) in order to get right into the chores.

After a quick hello in my head to God, I barely said good morning to the man that he has gifted me with to share in the call of marriage before I began to collect trash, put away dishes, sort laundry...  I was only a few minutes into these mundane tasks when Jack woke up, followed by Nina.

Instead of greeting my God-given blessings as I usually do in the morning and stopping to attend to their needs, I pushed on, set on my own “needs”.  My narrow-minded focus and corollary monologue to the kids about why I could not attend to their requests “until I finished (x-y-z),” did nothing for the kids', nor Mike’s, morning mooda.  Yet, me of hard-heart and harder head, persisted.

Then, just as Mike was ready to leave, Luke woke up.  Within a minute, after Mike received big bye-bye hugs and kisses from all three of our children, but only the most cursory one from me, Mike departed for work.

Why only a cursory hug and kiss? Because he was trying to get out the door and I was trying to do some extra chores.  I thought little of it.

Instead, I paused from my to-do list to ensure that the children were set up with fruit (which is what I encourage them to eat before they attend to their Five Before Breakfast chores and, then, eat breakfast with me.)  I figured, if they had plenty of fruit, they’d stay busy munching and I could continue chores.

My plan worked.  They chewed on produce power while I powered on to empty yet another trashcan.  It was then, a thought randomly occurred to me: It was February 19th, Mike and my 8th anniversary and Mike had just left for work without either of us even remembering (or at least neither of us recognizing) the day. 

Eight years ago...
Eight years ago, our focus was a joy-filled celebration of love among family and friends at the church I grew up in and the reception hall afterward.  This morning, the focus was scattered and mundane.  That struck me.  HARD. 

So, I broke my Lenten promise to Luke (which is to fast from the computer for three hours or more a morning once all three children are awake) in order to email Mike to say, “Happy Anniversary.” 

I am weak. When I got online to do so, I fell to temptation:  Facebook.  While I waited for my “slow” email account to load, I popped onto FB and posted about the morning.  No sooner did I do that than did one dear friend post encouragement telling me not to worry because the day wasn’t over yet.

Indeed, it was not.  And, neither was my reckoning.

As soon as my email account was up, I saw a message from my dad.  I almost did not open it because it seemed that opening it would bring me even further into my failure to stick to the Lenten fast I had promised Luke last week I would adhere to.  But, something told me to open the email anyway.  (Hmm, the Spirit, perhaps?  Funny how God can work through all our failures to get His message across.)

Luckily, I listened to that something.

I opened the email.

I learned that a long-time family friend, who I love, but have not made time to reach out to in months, perhaps, years, has just entered hospice.   

It seemed the score for the morning was: Poor Priorities and Choices of How to Use Time 2, Importance of Relationships Focused On 0.  

My heart began to soften.  Tears began to fall.  I got the message: Love. Relationships. People.  Friendship. FIRST.

God sent his only Son for us.  Jesus died for us.  Our Lord wants a relationship with us.  He builds relationships through us... when we are not too hard.

Wow.  I certainly was called up short.

So, I paused life to fast from my own hard-heart and equally hard-head.  I prayed with every letter of the A-C-T-S acronym that I sometimes help my kids to pray with (Adoration, Confessions, Thanksgiving and Supplication.)  Then, I made time to send a note to our family friend and his wife, offering a long overdue and heartfelt message of love and prayers.  After that, I emailed Mike at work to share anniversary wishes.  Then, I hugged my children and dug out Mike and my wedding candle and a photo to put in the front room as a reminder of our special day eight years ago. 

I gave the children full focus during their school lessons and then found the proofs album from Mike and my wedding (since we never had a real wedding album made due to a mishap with the photographer).  With that, I snuggled onto the couch with the kids to share the story of Mommy and Daddy’s wedding day with them – complete with a recollection of how, when I sat outside the church alone in the car waiting for Grampy to come take me into the church to give me away, I looked up at the steeple of the church framed by a bright-blue sky, thought about the heavens and prayed with utmost gratitude and hope, thanking God for Daddy as an answer to my prayers and imagining the family He might give me.  The very family I was snuggled with on the couch...  The children smiled, asked questions, laughed and learned more about the legacy of love and faith that Mummy and Daddy’s marriage is a part of...

Then, as we flipped another page in my wedding album, our friends pulled up outside the window.  So, we put the album away until later in the day.  We went out to enjoy sledding with our friends and, then, warmed up together with cocoa, lunch and indoor play.

After our friends left, it was onto snuggles and stories with the kids – both read alouds and more perusing of our wedding album and sharing stories of that day – as we got Jack to nap.  Then, and only then, it was back to to-do’s – household chores and work prep for tonight – but with a much softer heart and greater sense of authentic purpose.

Later, before Mike got home and before I left for work, the children and I set the table for a quick celebration of Mike and my anniversary.  We even set up a CD player with some special wedding songs that tend to make Daddy good-teary. 

When Daddy got home, we lit the candle from our wedding day, took a self-timer shot in the hall, danced as a family to the songs as happy tears brimmed in Daddy’s, Nina’s and my eyes and felt true gratitude for the blessing of love that God has given each of us in one another.

Eight years in...
After that, it was off to honor work commitments, before coming home to do more work stuff.  Finally, soon I will be off to bed – quite late, but with a full and thankful heart.

Before sleeping, however, I wanted to record the facts of this day as a reminder to myself and others:  Life IS good.  To-do’s are important sometimes, but not as important as relationships – relationships gifted to us from our Lord, ones that should be savored and celebrated, just as our relationship with Him should be.

I am so glad that I failed in my Lenten fast this morning so that God could break through my hard-headed-and-heartedness.  For fasting means little if it does not soften our hearts to our Lord and to love – HIS love, our love for Him and for one another. 

Just like the good old Baltimore Catechism professes, “God made (us) to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.”
Oh, that none of us forget to live that truth throughout these 40 days, and all the days we are gifted with after that.

Have you already failed at a personal fast?  Did love win anyway? Or has your unfaltering fast softened your heart?  Do share your reflections of Lenten Love.

Discover new Catholic Blogs to follow!
 Check out the Lent reflections participating in the Keep LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013! We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE.


Unknown said...

How quickly we can lose sight of what's truly important and only focus on our to do lists. I struggle with this also, needing to remind myself to step away and enjoy my family. They are only with me for so long.

Amy @ This Cross I Embrace said...

This reminds me of the Mary-Martha struggle, which I think all women are prone to.
Happy Anniversary!

Heidi@Journey to Wisdom said...

Very encouraging, failing at a fast (which I have scads of experience in - this Lent included) is often such an opening for His grace!
Thank you!

Unknown said...

If you read my blog, you'll know that I have already failed in so many of the things I planned to do this Lent! :) Thank God, though, for second chances. :D

Thank you SO much for reminding me about what should come FIRST! "Love, relationships, people, friendship." :)

Thank you, too, for joining the link-up! God bless you and yours always! :)

Regina said...

Nothing recharges my spirit like letting go of my struggles (which always seem so important in the moment) and refocusing on my family. Your post is a good reminder to do so more often! Good Lent to you, and Happy Anniversary! :)

noreen said...

Hi Martianne,

Yes, it does feel like the Martha/Mary dilemma. What to do? What's more important? Jesus was clear on this so why do we tend to be like Martha? Because we are women who are used to taking care of others needs and we need Lent to tell us to slow down and focus on Jesus.

Your wedding picture is beautiful! I think the ending of your day made up for the hurried morning! Your hubby will remember the precious moments of the candle, the dancing and the songs. You've made a meaningful display of love for your hubby and made a profound impact on your children, to cherish those they love. Well done, Martianne!

May God bless you and fill your home with his abundant blessings and love! May Our Blessed Mother wrap your family tightly and lovingly in her mantle!

Sole Searching Mama said...

Martianne, what a beautiful post! This is my first time visiting you (through the KLIL link up), and I am now following!! Sometimes when we are working to follow the letter of the law, it's easy to forget about the spirit of the law. I appreciate your message so much - let LOVE lead! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

Elisa said...

Martianne, Happy Belated Anniversary! I too, tend to get wrapped up it "to do"s instead of focusing on relationships sometimes. This year, my husband and I celebrate our 10th anniversary, and I hope we can celebrate our day with special family time. And, I have also broken my Lenten fast this year, but I am giving myself the chance to do better and to listen to God's message for me during this season. Thank you for your candid and hopeful post.

Michelle said...

Great post! It is so easy to get distracted by the todo list and follow our own plans of the day! Great job redirecting so early on! Happy belated anniversary, too!

Kim said...

A belated happy anniversary! This post gave me goosebumps and *so much* to think about. May the Lord bless you!

Anonymous said...

So similar to my article- We are learning simolar lessons. Lent is not about us and how well WE fast etc. but it is all about Jesus. We surrender to His love, make room for Him as well as our kids and family. Love flows from God to us, through us to our family naturally and simply in the power of His Spirit

Kendra Tierney said...

Well said Martianne, and I agree with Amy, I think all mothers need to struggle to find that balance between Martha and Mary. I know *I* do. Happy anniversary and happy Lent!

Anabelle Hazard said...

I am taking one thing away from your post: relationships first. Thank you!

Cheryl said...

Stopping over from the Keep Love in Lent link-up...

Very touching post; it brought tears to my eyes because I am so guilty, guilty, guilty of letting everything else become more important than what really matters--the people in my life. Thank you for reminding me to slow down and really enjoy those moments, rather than rush to just another task.

Lenten blessings to you and your family.


Unknown said...

What a beautiful post. I love how you turned it around and how you recognize God's Grace in it all. Thanks for sharing!


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