Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Everyday Grace: Cultivate fruitfulness this summer
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the July 4, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
I counted the days until school let out. Now just a week into summer vacation, Iím ready to send my kids back. With the lack of routine and constant interruptions, I canít seem to get anything accomplished.
Finishing breakfast at 10 a.m., I finally settle down to work and the interruptions begin. ďCan I go play at Roryís house? When is it my turn on the computer? I canít find my bicycle helmet. The ice cream man is coming, please Ė please Ė can we have ice cream?Ē
Not that I donít love my children, but it is an adjustment having them home all day. They can really foul up my to-do list.
Yesterday my whole afternoon schedule was thrown off when my eight-year-old suffered a concussion. He and the neighbor boys were playing a game where they got inside sleeping bags and stumbled around tackling each other. My son fell, hit his head, and was out cold. I spent the rest of the day sitting with him offering aid and comfort and keeping him awake in order to monitor his mental state.
It gave me plenty of time to think. And I realized my own mental state could use some monitoring. Somehow Iíd latched onto unrealistic expectations for the summer.
Iíd pictured myself working away at my writing six hours a day, keeping up with my exercise regimen and daily prayer practice, tending my vegetable garden, visiting the library, taking family hikes and bike rides, picnicking with friends, and going camping. All that on top of the usual cooking and laundry and spending time with my husband and children. Then in my spare time, Iíd relax on the porch with a friend and a pitcher of lemonade.
Even barring Dylanís unexpected knock on the head, it would be impossible to expand summer days to fit such a schedule. I should have remembered that from last summer.
What had begun to feel like chaos and overwhelming frustration this first week the kids were out of school became manageable, a source of grace even, when I revised my expectations. That revision came about through a change in focus, a seeking of fruitfulness rather than achievement.
Jesuit Father Peter G. van Breeman makes a distinction between achievement and fruitfulness in his book Let All Godís Glory Through (Paulist Press).
The two words may conjure up various images, but in the sense meant here achievement is most often measured in dollars and cents, control and power or recognition and results. Fruitfulness, on the other hand, is not so easily gauged. Its measure may be intangible, the outcome invisible.
Achievement for me might be five pages written, kitchen cleaned, children neither bored nor bickering, and dinner in the oven. Fruitfulness, however, would more likely stem from spending the afternoon being present to a sick and scared child.
But the difference between the two is not always apparent on the surface. Most of us have work to do, tasks to accomplish. The question is how to bear fruit, rather than just crossing off another item from our list of things to do.
Perhaps it is the spirit with which we approach our work that becomes important. A good clue for me, is how I feel.
Achievement feels tense to me, a clinging to control, or a drive for perfection. Itís like I have this motor running inside, revving up, and not about to stop for anything until the goal is reached.
Fruitfulness feels flowing, like letting go. Itís writing the same five pages, but with no need to count them. Success is less important than faithfulness, acceptance of flaws, trust and surrender. Jesus models fruitfulness for us.
With this is mind Iím ready for the rest of the summer. If I get off track again, please God, no more injured children. A little nudge should be enough.
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a freelance and childrenís writer living in Spokane with her husband and three children.)
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