For many months, (okay, well over a year) I’ve had some things on my mind, things I’ve wanted to write/blog about, but I struggle with writing it because I often feel completely unqualified to undertake such writings. Not only because I have mediocre writing skills, but also because the very things that I want to write about I struggle with myself (sometimes more, sometimes less). I finally realized that I do not need to be an expert (in the sense of having everything together 100% of the time) to write this, but rather that is enough to know it and to strive toward it and to see *some* level of success.
Some time ago, I thought to tackle this “writing project” with weekly (or biweekly) entries here under the heading of “Titus Two-sdays” ~ inspired by Titus 2: 3 – 5. And then I stopped. And I made the entries already written “private” so they could not be seen by others. The reason I did this is simply because I feel so completely unworthy to even begin to discuss it publicly. I know my failures better than anyone (yes, even better than my family, believe it or not, though still not as well as I ought, I’m sure) and they pain me deeply.
The thought that occurs to me now (and has from time to time over this past year+) is that my failures are only part of my story. That I do not live my vocation perfectly, that I struggle with things is not the whole picture. When I am honest with myself, I see the whole picture and do not succumb to only seeing weakness. I see also the gifts that God has given me. I see a more balanced picture. In focusing exclusively on my failures, I was embracing a lie.
I would be guilty of the sin of pride if I suggested that I have it all together all the time. It is equally wrong to not recognize the successes I have achieved by the grace of God. Humility, true humility, is a recognition of the truth. Including the good there is to see. It is not true humility to simply judge ourselves harshly – it is to judge ourselves honestly. To do so is to do nothing less than give credit to God where he is due as well as placing blame on self when it is deserved.
Starting next week, I will begin to undertake this work again because I believe I should do it. For over a year I have set this aside, but my thoughts were never far from it. I have had a consistent, gentle, nudging, prodding and pushing going on since I backed out a year ago. It just won’t rest!!! Either God is urging me to write on these things or I have real, deep need to put these thoughts down somewhere! As I initially posted, I will try to do this either weekly or bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Pray for me that I will be consistent and prayerful in this task.
The vocation of woman is the most beautiful vocation – if we have eyes to see it as God sees it, to see it as it truly is. Discussing it, sharing it, doing my best to live it is where my heart is and now it will be where my fingers and blog (sometimes) are, too.
What follows is a republishing of the initial introduction to this idea, originally posted in May 2008, with a little bit of editing:
(First published May 2008)
Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the authority of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Titus 2: 3-5
As a mother, I hope that by my experience and my life that I can be a sort of mentor to other moms. I mean that I hope that they can see the things that I have learned that are good and come away either confirmed in what they’re trying to do or with an idea or two for something different to try. It is my hope that I can inspire hope in younger wives and mothers that “this too shall pass” ~ REALLY! 😛
Even with all of my warts, I hope that there are things worthy of inspiring others ~ for in spite of those warts, those struggles, I keep moving forward in faith that the Lord will supply where I lack and will continue to form me in my vocation. I hope, too, that by the way I try to live, I confirm or inspire in others the idea that the vocation to marriage and motherhood is a worthy vocation. Something, that to be done well and as God desires, requires full commitment, a single heart, deliberate action and loads of prayer.
I have always told my children, you ARE an example, you choose whether you’re a good one or a bad one. I truly hope that I am a good example more than a bad one ~ first because it means I am faithful to God’s call on my life and am truly loving my family, and second for the good that may be passed on to other women and their families. This is not usually conscious or deliberate, but occasionally it is.
A few times I have been asked by a woman to take her by the hand and help her to learn, to know how to live the vocation that is hers and how to love her husband and children. This has not happened often, but it has happened. When it does happen, it is usually women who’ve had difficult pasts and did not have a good role model who are asking for help finding their way. It is women who are in difficult marriages or who are seriously struggling with raising their kids (don’t get me wrong, raising kids is hard work and it is almost always done by the trial and error method! I don’t mean that type of thing, I mean real, true struggles for a variety of reasons.) I think I have been approached this way a few times because the women have seen the positives in our family and want to do something to get a bit closer to the things they see in us being incorporated into their own lives. The times I’ve been directly asked to do this really gets me reflecting on what it means to be a Catholic wife and mother.
Entering into this type of mentoring relationship helps me to check how I am living and it tests my own attitudes and views. Truly, I receive as much from this (-probably more-) as I hope I can give. I admit I feel unqualified when I look at my failures, but the scriptures clearly instruct those of us who are “older women” to train the younger women and it is not true humility to not acknowledge what God has done in my life and my family, in spite of me and my weakness. If He has worked in me and in spite of me, who am I to not share what He has done with those who ask? So, even though I want to (and could and do) convict myself of multitudes of failures, I offer what He has taught me, the successes He has brought about in me, just as others have done for me with their own lives and example.
I always start (and continue on) with a lot of prayer. Prayer, first, that the Lord show me where I am weak, where I sin, where my heart is divided. I need to know where I’m failing most at the moment and I need to beg God for the grace to overcome whatever it is (again.) The old adage that I try to live by here is: If it isn’t working at home, don’t export it! So, it is with prayer that I begin and end. I pray for wisdom, discernment, gentleness and courage and humility. I pray to be faithful so that I may show true integrity… that what is on the outside matches what is on the inside. In other words, “what you see is what you get.” Okay, mostly. I know you’d never “know” from reading here that I annoy my husband, but I assume that you assume that is true. By not saying, “I ticked him off by ____,” does not mean I deny it or that I pretend that there is never any level of conflict or disagreement here. It simply means that those are the road bumps, not the road. It means that here on my blog and in my relationships I try to live by this scripture:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
There are really just a half dozen or so things that I would want try to impart to any woman who wants to learn more about living our vocation. Within these principles are many details and practical tips. When I share about how raising godly, well-rounded children is to be our primary focus, I will necessarily speak about *how* to mother. I do understand that there are many ways to do things. I don’t claim that all should do things precisely as I do (I can even offer plenty of ways to NOT imitate me!) but I am convicted that the principles and the ideas that motivate me to mother in particular ways are for everyone, even if the details look a bit different.
If we are to have our head and our heart in our vocation as it truly is and is meant to be, there are but a few things that need to be “mastered” and all of the details will fall within those areas.
When I think of the basic principles of authentic Catholic marriage and motherhood, I think of these things:
God first. Always first. Know him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Do what He tells you. Practice the faith, receive the sacraments. And for goodness sake, remember that HE is the author of our vocation! He has established it, He sets great value on it, He gives it the priorities it has. The world and the flesh do not dictate its worth. He does!
Motherhood is a fruit of marriage, so protecting and nurturing the marriage relationship is essential. In order to bear fruit, marriage must be open to life.
Give your vocation your full time and attention. I know there are difficult situations, but I believe the best way to be the wife and mother you are called to be is to give it your full time and focus on it completely. Give marriage and motherhood a quantity of quality time.
Love, love, love! Let all you do be fueled by love. The most mundane task can be totally transformed by love ~ love of God and love for husband and children.
Realize that while it is so much more than a job, it is work. There are duties that are inherent in marriage and motherhood that we can’t just ignore. It will require a quantity of time.
Understand that you are asked to live a life of SACRIFICE. Matthew 16: 24, 25: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
I may come to recognize another larger heading or two, but for now, I think the list above will cover most things.
I really want to write down my own thoughts, ideas, opinions and meditations on these things. If you read these entries, remember that is what they are. My own. My hope is that there will be things shared here that are good and helpful, but I make no claim of authority. I claim only my experience and conviction and the fruit of my own prayer. I surely can’t write about all of this all at once, so I’ll try to hammer it out bit by bit.
There will be those who don’t like what I have to say at all. There will those who disagree. I’m okay with that. I’m not out to convince everyone ~ or even anyone. If there is something to be embraced here, it will be the job of the Holy Spirit to do the convincing. If there is not, so be it.
I’ve decided I’m going to label these writings, which I will publish on Tuesdays (weekly or biweekly) “Titus Two-sday.” I think that writing a little bit on this topic once a week or every other week is manageable for me and it gives me time to ponder and pray about all of it between writings.
I hope that there will be something useful here for someone ~ even if it’s only me.