As we journey in these last days to Christmas, I have to stop and wonder, which nativity scene am I participating in? Am I standing at a distance? Am I getting in as close as possible?
There is something sacred about your bedroom. I don’t think I consciously realized this until I noticed how fiercely my children guard their individual beds and bedtime things. Our kids each have a few (ok, total honesty? Clare, our 7 year old, has about 30 bedtime friends and multiple blankets in a friend fortress, or castle, or something it changes weekly) bedtime stuffed animals. These are special, sacred things to them. When we travel, they come with (no, not all 30 of Clare’s. We put the limit on 2. I can only handle keeping tabs on so many stuffed animals in a hotel room). For Gabe, our 2 year old, they are necessary for sleeping. He wakes up in the middle of the night and if he can’t find one of them, he cries for us to help him. You don’t mess with bedtime friends.
This isn’t to say that adults don’t have their own bedtime quirks, because they do. Ben feels pretty strongly about his pillow. If I were to switch our pillows he would immediately notice and insist on switching back. We all have a bedtime routine of some kind, even if it isn’t one we intentionally crafted. How many times have you gotten into bed and realized you accidentally forgot to do a part of your routine? I would bet you ultimately got up and completed whatever it was before you could sleep soundly.
As humans, we need rest. It is part of who we are and how our bodies function. Everyone knows what it feels like to be sleep deprived and most do what they can to avoid it. Our bodies have a whole series of functions and tasks that occur only during sleep. On the whole, we will not be able to perform our day to day tasks well if we do not sleep well.
Sleep scientists have compiled whole lists of things we can do to help us sleep better. Parents already know quite a few from their days of struggling to teach their children to sleep. A routine helps tell your body it is time to sleep. Engaging in stretching or other gentle exercises help to relax your body and rest your mind. Journaling is a great way to let go of the day’s work and worries. Environmental factors such as a lighting, temperature and breathing ability (sleep apnea is no joke) will affect the quality of your sleep.
As you spend time in your and the other members of your family’s bedrooms, consider the following questions:
- Does this space encourage rest?
- Can the person sleeping here access what they need in an environment that is conducive to sleep?
- Does this room have unnecessary items that do not promote sleep?
- This could range from an overflowing closet, too many toys, electronics, general clutter
- All bedrooms inevitably end up with some kind of storage space, usually under a bed or in a closet. If you are up for a challenge, empty those storage spaces and see what needs to stay, what can be donated and what needs to go.
Spiritually speaking, God is a big promoter of rest. Part of God’s great actions of creation was to rest on the 7th day. We wouldn’t talk about it if it wasn’t significant. God modeled for us the goodness of rest and we should take note. In our modern culture, most jobs provide for time off during the week. It may not be on the traditional weekend (Saturday and Sunday), but the days are there. We recognize that it is not good for people to work non-stop. There has to be time for hobbies, for entertainment and for rest.
As Christians and Catholics, we also recognize that there needs to be time set aside for God. The Church offers us Sunday as our day of rest, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. We attend Mass, joining together with our community to worship God and keep holy the Sabbath as instructed in the 10 Commandments. But we know that to have a healthy relationship with God, we need to give Him more than 60 minutes on Sundays. Each day there needs to be time to connect with God, to talk with Him, to be with Him. Just as we need to sleep everyday to be physically healthy, we need to rest with God everyday to be spiritually healthy.
Take time this week to assess how much time you spend at rest. How do you use that time? Could you try to spend a few more moments resting with God, rather than Instagram? Could you read a Scripture passage instead of a Tweet? Challenge yourself to rest more with God and less with the things of this world.
One final week! I wonder what last space we will be in. I’m looking forward to talking with you about it then!
Ah, the humble bathroom. Restroom. Loo. Porcelain throne. My husband’s particular favorite, “The last bastion of freedom!” We have many names for the place where we take care of, shall we say, necessities. Or, if you’re a parent of littles and are no longer put off by potty talk, it’s the place where you go potty and poop and everybody does it so please, please, just go on the toilet!
Yes, no conversation about cleaning our homes, the ones we live in or our spiritual ones, would be complete without a trip to the place where we clean ourselves. In our physical bathroom, we are cleaned both internally and externally. We shower, shave, put on lotion or beauty products. We do our hair, clean our nails, brush our teeth. There is quite a lot happening in this room, ironically usually one of the smallest in our homes.
Though the smallest, this little room is one that we cannot live without. A quick story. We had just (and I mean less than 48 hours just, no furniture or household goods just) moved into our home in Kansas. One of the toilets was clogged and no amount of plunging was fixing it. We had to call a plumber who regretted to inform us that the sewer line had literally disintegrated between the toilet and the clean out in the back yard. Oh by the way, it was buried under a concrete floor that would need to be cut, the pipe completely replaced, and new concrete poured. Every time we flushed we made it worse. We had to leave. Immediately.
As the story illustrates, we cannot live in safety and good hygiene without good plumbing. Maintaining a clean bathroom may sound obvious, but it is worth saying. Depending on the layout of your bathrooms, they can become places of hidden clutter. Drawers and cabinets that have all manner of hair ties, half used bottles of soap, old wash cloths of questionable cleanliness, and who knows what else. We will come back to this idea when we talk about our spiritual restrooms.
When it comes to spring cleaning your bathroom this week, don’t gloss over those places you know work is lurking. Perhaps empty one drawer each day and sort the contents. If you haven’t used the item in the last year, it’s probably time to let it go. You can enlist your family members to help you as well. Maybe it’s time for some bathroom reorganization. We have found this true as our children have started to grow and mature. They need their own space just as much as Ben and I. This week is also an excellent time to pull out the bleach and really give your bathrooms a deep clean. Put on some good music and get it done well!
Have you ever thought about a spiritual bathroom? Probably not. But believe it or not, even the bathroom can have spiritual significance. All of us is a sinner. Plain and simple. We are in need of saving, we are in need of healing, we are in need of cleansing. God knew this which is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to come and save us. While our salvation was won once and for all by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we still need to turn back towards God when we break away from Him and follow our sinful inclinations. We all fall short and are in need of continual cleansing. Enter the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is such a powerful sacrament that most neglect to take full advantage of. Jesus is waiting to restore us into right relationship with Himself, to cleanse us of our sins and make us clean and pure once again. The word “cleanse” is even in the words of Absolution the priest says over us after we have confessed our sins.
This week, go to Confession. Make it a priority in your schedule. Most parishes have regular confession times on Saturdays and before daily Masses. If none of the times at your parish genuinely will not work for your already established schedule, call the parish office. Your priest will make time for you in his schedule whenever you are able to get to him. It’s in their job description, they are in the business of bringing people closer to God. If you are feeling uncomfortable about confessing to your familiar priest, go one town over. But go. This week. Today, even, if you need to rip the bandaid off.
Here are a few tools for making a good confession:
Next week, we lean into rest. These have been a busy 4 weeks and it’s time to remember that we are made for both work and play. For active participation and for restful reflection.
Most homes have some kind of “hang out” space. This could be a living room around a fire place, a family room where the TV is, perhaps a sunken den with an oversized comfy couch. It is somewhere were people in the home enjoy gathering. They choose to spend time there. Perhaps in yours there is a bookshelf or game cabinet. This space is not a place for isolation. You can’t expect perfect silence for constructing that card pyramid on the coffee table. If you are video chatting with someone, expect others to join your call.
As we talked about last week, the dining table is a relational place. Families come together to share their day, to talk about what’s going on in their lives. The living room is also a relational space. But instead of a space for talking about what’s going on, it is the space where the going on is happening.
Take a look at your living space this week. What is the focal point of the room? Is everyone able to access their favorite space in the room? Slow down this week and be intentional in observing how your family uses the space. Consider the following ideas to make this space inviting, clean and functional:
- Vacuum under the couch and tables.
- Vacuum or deep clean the furniture
- Untangle and organize any wires, cords or other electronic elements that have become untidy
- If you have bookshelves or other organizers, take everything off, deep clean and then reorganize the materials in a thoughtful way
- Consider adding a plant or flowers to bring greenery and life to the space (artificial is ok!)
- Clean windows, inside and out
- Launder drapes or curtains
- Invite your family to a game night. Make it fun with popcorn or other treat
- Begin a read aloud with the whole family. If you need ideas, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is a great place to start. Even of some have read them before, there is something unique and special about these books which makes them worthwhile at all stages of life. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is particularly appropriate for Lent. If you would like other ideas, check out The Read Aloud Revival and take their short quiz on the homepage. We have loved all the recommendations we have taken so far.
What about your spiritual living room? This is where the rubber meets the road. You’ve been fed at the Eucharistic table and been brought into closer unity with Christ. Now you have to go home, go back to work, go out into your community, and interact with people. You have relationships with a great many people. Some relationships are presently flourishing. Others, perhaps in need of tending. Part of being in a relationship is being open to that other person. We listen to their needs and share our own. How well have you been sharing your needs? Are you willing to ask for and accept help from others? How well have you listened to the needs of others and been willing to be generous with your time and effort?
We are also in relationship with God. In the mystery that is the Trinity, we might be interested to discover that there is the opportunity for 3 relationships with God, while still being one relationship overall. We can spend time with God, our Heavenly Father. We talk intimately with Jesus, our Savior and our Brother. We feel the movement of the Holy Spirit deep in our souls. Lest this isn’t enough to contemplate, you also have a spiritual mother in Mary waiting to assist you on your journey to holiness.
Don’t be overwhelmed! This one week will not be sufficient time to cultivate all of these relationships. Spend some time in prayer and ask God for the wisdom to see where He wants you to spend your time and with whom.
Next week, we will travel to a more humble space. It is one of privacy, but is shared by all. There is always an opportunity for cleaning in this room, both physically and spiritually. See you then!