I sometimes look back on my life and think about where I've been and how much my life has changed. I grew up in Wyoming but now live in Wisconsin, and sometimes I think about how every single person that filled my life growing up I don't see any of them in my daily life now. Not that I don't keep in touch with anyone. I talk to my mom most days on the phone, and keep in touch with others via phone calls and Facebook. As far as the people that I actually see every day, however, those who are physically in my presence, I didn't know any of them before I was 24. It seems odd to think that if my 20-year-old self traveled in time to my life today, she wouldn't recognize a single person around me.
I also think about all my time spent in school, which I loved for the most part. I was very at home in the world of academia. I loved nothing more than to spend my days involved in deep-thought discussions, and trying to wrap my head around some heady subject. I had no actual life skills then. I couldn't cook. I couldn't even sew on a button. Motherhood came as quite a shock to my system. Instead of spending my days in the abstract, I was called to the practical things that needed to be done here and now. I realize now that I was so much in my head all the time that I was never actually in the present moment. I think I could have lived my whole life without being truly present for any of it if it were not for motherhood. I remember when I was engaged to my husband we planned that I would work when we had kids because I didn't want to be a stay-at-home mom. It just goes to show I guess that sometimes when we think we know ourselves, we really don't. Or perhaps we know who we are in that moment, but we can never know everything we could be.
More recently, after a few weeks where I found myself so busy that I simply worked all day long from the moment I got up to the moment I collapsed into my bed, stopping only to attend to the baby or to throw something together quickly so the children could eat, when my first phase rolled around I found myself reevaluating my priorities. I revisited the fact that being a wife and mother is my vocation and needs to be my first priority.
I realized that I needed to make time for the slow work of building a home, to take time to prepare healthy meals, to mend clothes, patch the sheets, make homemade apple bread, and all those sort of slow things that take time, that often aren't very urgent, but that add to the quality of our lives just the same. I want to model slowness for my children and not to live a life so full that one only has time for the bare essentials. I used to think tasks like cooking and sewing were mundane and boring. It was surprising that when sheer necessity prompted me to learn some of these skills, that I got a great sense of satisfaction in doing them. It made me feel resourceful and independent. Things I used to think were mindless I found were actually mindful. Many such slow-paced tasks require a certain amount of concentration but I would not consider them heady by any means. I feel they give my thoughts space to ponder and reflect on things, which is probably very healthy for a person.
I also remember after first moving to my present city and not knowing anyone here, how I would pray for the ability to do something I was passionate about. I wanted to tell people about the liberation I had found in Natural Family Planning but I didn't have anywhere to go with my passion. I was just a housewife who spent her time taking care of a two-year-old and an infant, and trying to perfect her homemade bread. I often am amazed that today I get to spend about 10 hours a week working on various NFP-related projects. When I go to my office at Elizabeth Ministry International I think of how lucky I am to work there. I typically go into the office one day a week, and plan on working an hour at home on the other weekdays. I love teaching clients NFP; I love writing, speaking, helping with the creation of our Ahaba Marriage Meter app, and all the other tasks involved in coordinating the Healthy Living Department at EMI.
So, although it's not rocket science, I find I am happiest when I can achieve the right balance between my outside interests and projects and my work as a wife and mother. This of course does not mean that everything that needs to get done does in fact get done. Rather, I remind myself that I will have enough time to do everything that God wills me to do. As we speak I have clothes piled on the bedroom floor that have not yet found their way to the washer. There are toys and other miscellaneous items scattered around the house that need to be put away. I realize I haven't yet cleaned the bathroom this week. I figure if it is God's will that I do something then He'll give me the time to do it. If I think the bathroom needs to be cleaned but the baby is crying, then God obviously wants me to attend to my child in that moment and not the bathroom. So I try not to fret about it. Also, I find it helpful if rather than think, "What is everything that needs to be done?" I simply ask myself, "What needs to be done in this moment?" then I can go about my various tasks with more peace.
God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God's hands and leave it with him. Then you will be able to rest in him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life. - St. Edith Stein
What's this First Phase stuff all about? Read here.
Want to join in? I host the First Phase Reflection linkup on the 1st of each month.
Simply add your link below. Remember to link to your First Phase post and not your main blog url, and include a link back here.
If you would like, grab a button on the side bar, and join us on Twitter. The hashtag is #1stPhase.