Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas from the less-than-holy mother



The Holy Family at Table - Jan Mostaert
Merry Christmas! It is still Christmas, after all – the sixth day…and while I’m glad to report there are no geese a laying in my living room, I’m not sure the mess would be substantially bigger if there were. I’m still totally overwhelmed and wondering how I will ever get things in order. At least if there were geese, we could have had eggs for breakfast.

It’s the Feast of the Holy Family today, honoring Jesus, his mother Mary, and his earthly father, Joseph. Falling as it almost always does on the Sunday after Christmas, it seems to be a feast celebrating the ordinary right smack in the middle of the extraordinary – a recognition that Jesus became who He was in the context of an ordinary family, just like we do. He had people…parents, cousins, extended family…a context, roots, a center from which to grow and develop.

Looking around at my (unholy) family, I appreciate this feast. Jesus’ holiness grew up in the middle of the mundane...the same kind of domestic everyday that surrounds me. Dishes are stacked in the sink and bags are still packed with dirty clothes from our recent return from my parents’ house. Old and new toys cover every surface – they refuse to be contained – and both bathrooms need cleaning, even though we were gone all week. My eyes search for some space to rest, but I see piles of stuff every place I look. My entire family is suffering with the same stuffy nose and are slightly feverish, achy, and out of sorts. I’m tired and more than a little grumpy today despite two cups of coffee. Tomorrow’s the last day of the year, and it looks like might go out like it came in- as an ordinary, everyday mess.

I can’t remember another year of my life that seemed so much the same at the beginning and the end. Much of this year has passed in the doing of very ordinary things: washing and folding clothes, wiping little faces, sweeping, changing diapers, shopping for groceries, vacuuming floors, cooking and baking. My primary work has been tending to the needs of my family.

Have I grown at all? Is my attitude toward this vocation of mine any better? Am I any kinder, any fuller-of-grace?

I’m not sure. 

Growth often happens despite our best efforts, and I’m sure I’ve grown some. I confess, though, that my attitude is often crummy and that I grumble about the simple things that need to be done even as I’m doing them.

Fortunately, God is with me whether or not I’m particularly full of grace on any given day. And God can use what I have to offer, even if it’s not worth much on its own.

A year ago, I started this blog as a way to practice gratitude, as a way to share some of the struggles and the joys and the humor and the grace of living an everyday life. I’m grateful for each of you that has shared in any part of this last year with our family.

Along the way, I’ve encountered some amazing writers who have become company for me on the journey. One of them is Dwija Borobia, who writes at House Unseen about her own ordinary life (and cracks me up with laughter when I’m in danger of taking things too seriously). A couple of weeks ago, she described motherhood as her path to sanctification.

I think I’m on that path, too.

Motherhood seems to be made of little stuff…a string of ordinary tasks, words, and actions that add up to something much larger. The day-to-day seems insignificant, but the end result is extremely important. And I think it’s possible that God is using the littleness of motherhood to teach me big things. It is possible that making things clean, caring for little people and meeting basic needs, wiping noses and bottoms and faces is making me holy, little by little, whether I like it or not.

I am far from holy. But sacrificing little parts of myself every day in a series of small, seemingly insignificant acts of service to my family is moving me toward God…and every now and then, I’m even aware of becoming more beautiful in the process.

...God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work...Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!        
2 Corinthians 9:8-15