“Lord, my heart is not proud.” Psalm 131
I’ve been trying to master the art of raising a large family this year. You know, figure it all out. Find the secret formula, the right mix of ingredients that will produce content and happy children, an intimate marriage, a relatively clean house, and a delicious, healthy meal on the table at 5 o’clock sharp every evening.
If I just find the right house cleaning method, the right recipes, the right marriage advice, it will all eventually fall into place, right? Life will tick along smoothly, and I’ll actually have answers to the question us mothers of many hear so often, “How do you do it?”
But the truth, I’ve come to realize, is that I don’t do it. I don’t do any of it. I try, but any space of time, any brilliant organizing idea, any “30 minute recipe your kids will love” is all a gift from God. I don’t have to try to receive these things; I don’t have to bend over backwards to receive these things; I don’t have to stress out to receive these things. I simply have to be open. I simply have to be receptive. In fact, the harder I try on my own, the more God usually reminds me of who’s really in control.
I had the housekeeping thing down for awhile. I felt like the house was under control--not perfect, not Better Homes and Gardens spread-worthy, but at a standard that I was willing to accept. Then God gave me a shoe-losing, stuff anything and everything in the toilet, drawer-dumping toddler.
I was going to plant the perfect Mary garden in our backyard this spring. I planted the seeds for all the right flowers. They sprouted beautifully, I put them in the ground--and then we had a week of record-breaking high temperatures, essentially reducing my seedlings to ashes.
I can’t change the nature of a toddler any more than I can change nature itself. God holds the secret to creation in His own hands, and He wants nothing more than to take me by the hand as well. To mysteriously add minutes to my day, to help me fold the laundry in less time than I thought it would take, to entertain my children by inspiring their imaginations so I can cook dinner.
All this year, I’ve subconsciously been thinking I need to get my life in order to follow God’s plan, when in reality it’s following God’s plan that will get my life in order.
So instead of trying so hard to obtain the perfect schedule, the perfect menu, the perfect cleaning tools, I’m going to try to receive the perfect love. The perfect love of God that is present in my husband, my children, my extended family and friends. The perfect love that is present in my letting go and accepting and trusting.
Because when I return to the roots of my vocation, when I live my hidden life in accord with the priorities that God places before me, His love will radiate from me. I will be enabled to preach His infinite mercy and affection without even trying. And all because I have humbled myself enough to accept His help in all that I do. To accept His love by leaving the dishes for awhile and listening intently to my husband. Or by patiently pulling the bath towels out of the toilet yet once again and scooping up my toddler for some snuggles and smiles. Or by accepting my Mary garden as God wishes to grow it and realize that just as a dinner “fail” does not mean I don’t love my family, neither does a wilting marigold directly reflect a lack of devotion to Mary.
We are called to lift our hearts to the things that are not of this world. In order to lift our gaze up, our shield of pride must be brought down. God gives us our struggles as a gift, a reminder that He is there to relieve us, to shower His love upon us and give us rest.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matt 11:30
It is when we share our yokes with the strength of our Lord that they become easy. It is when we measure our burdens by the standards of heaven that they become light.
But in order to do this, we have to stop trying to do everything ourselves. We have to be receptive with a humble spirit that recognizes the genius of the communion of saints. The miracle of a friend who stops by with dinner on a day we need it most. The miracle of a grandma who almost always arrives with a freshly baked plate of cookies for her grandkids during a season of life when I simply don’t have much time to bake. The miracle of a husband who cheerfully takes all the kids out to the park so I can get a much-needed uninterrupted nap.
Because I need help with this raising a large family thing. I need help to be a good wife, a good daughter, a good mother, a good friend.
And when Jesus Himself offers to help me step through those gates of heaven one day, I pray that I will respond out of habit with, “Lord, my heart is not proud,” and accept all the love and assistance He has to offer.
In which area of your life could you work on being more receptive? Ask God for the strength to accept help where you need it most.
Copyright 2014, Charisse Tierney
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist in training. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.