Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Grace abounds: Just see it!
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Feb. 23, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
When Lynn answered my knock, she smiled ruefully. “Oh, you don’t want to come in,” she said.
“I’ll just stay a second,” I told her.
“All three of them have the flu,” she said of her boys as she led me into the living room. It was a makeshift sick ward with sheets and blankets covering the couches where she’d been hunkered down for days. Pillows, books and toys spread out around the room. Samuel lay mournfully watching TV, Eli yelled from his highchair in the kitchen. But Isaac, the oldest, was jumping up and down with excitement.
For in the midst of the mess Lynn’s first book arrived fresh from the publisher. Even a writer struggles for words to describe how it feels to hold that first book in your hands. For Lynn, this was the culmination of countless days and nights juggling her writing with caring for her young children, loving her husband, and running her household.
With Isaac flipping the pages, I admired her beautiful book. “I should have brought champagne,” I said with regret.
Lynn laughed. It was obvious that kind of celebration would have to wait, but she was appreciating the moment anyway. “I don’t think my house and family has ever looked worse,” she said. “Receiving my book in the midst of such intense parenting helps to keep things in perspective.”
Later the image of Lynn’s success amid chaos kept coming back to me. I wanted to remember the wisdom it contained and apply it to my own life. The juxtaposition of vulnerability and achievement struck me. As parents we constantly walk the fine line between what we can control and what we cannot.
Life is a mix of challenge and ease, pain and joy, trouble and fun. But I find myself concentrating so much on what I want to change for the better, that I don’t appreciate the grace of what is. Where did I get the idea that if I worked at it hard enough my family would live happily-ever-after?
Joy and contentment come from accepting things as they are right now, knowing that only through God’s grace do we come to perfection, not though our own efforts. Grace abounds, even in a messy house, when the children behave badly, parents are cranky and work isn’t progressing on schedule.
The challenge is to have eyes to see this grace. It seems to come naturally to some people. Others determine to look on the bright side and are able to follow through finding the positive in most every circumstance. Neither of these is true for me. I struggle to get past the negatives and become aware of grace. How does one clear away the fog of everyday trials and stress in order to appreciate what is precious in the present moment?
One thing that helps is to try to put aside my lists of chores, my “ought-to-dos,” and instead, ask myself questions. For instance, I’m compulsive about trying to do all my laundry on one day of the week. When I succeed, I have a brief space of time when the laundry is finished. If I’m honest with myself, I admit this is an illusion. But I go on week after week trying to accomplish this. The question to ask myself is: Why is it so important for me to have the laundry all done?
A question like this asked in an easy non-judging manner opens up possibilities for self-exploration. Such journeying into our inner-workings and motives leads to awareness. With growing awareness the fog begins to lift and grace appears.
Lent begins soon, a time ripe with opportunity for soul-searching. The church sets aside this season for us to draw nearer to God through practices of fasting, prayer, sharing and service. Perhaps we would do well to begin, not with a list of things to do, but with a few questions to ponder. And with the knowledge that God is with us – even when our efforts fall short, even when life is in disarray – grace abounds.
© 2006, Mary Cronk Farrell
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and
children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been
published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at www.marycronkfarrell.com)
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