Something out of Nothing

My mom was here for a visit. Yay!! We reorganize all my decorations – it was a big job. I had bins, boxes, more boxes and random bags of decorations, ornaments, window clings and Easter eggs for days. Many hands make the work light, and it is so true. While she was here we were talking about memories, of course.

One morning, my mom was asking the kids what I did during the day. Rosie, my sweet Rosie, said that during the day I do “nothing.” My mom reminisced about how her mom would be cleaning the floor, or dusting, or anything and the phone would ring. My mom or one of her siblings would answer the phone and say “Sure my mom can talk. She’s doing nothing.”

We started talking about how, as a mom and honestly, as any person, we are very rarely actually doing “nothing.” Just right now, though you may be sitting down, you are reading. Or you could be stirring a pot of tomato sauce for pasta or flipping bacon for breakfast. You might be exercising, watching TV or rocking a baby to sleep. We are always moving, always working, always playing. Even when you are sleeping, you aren’t doing “nothing.” You’re sleeping!

In this sense, we are always working. Our bodies are always working, our heart is pumping blood, our lungs are expanding and contracting, we are smelling, seeing and hearing. Our minds remain active and more often than not so are our hands and feet. Pope John Paul II’s Laborem exercens (1981) is about our relationship with work and how it is through work we come to know ourselves and our Creator. When God created Adam and Eve, he commanded them in no uncertain terms to work. They were to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill and subdue the earth. Notice how the work our first parents were called to is creative work. As images of a creative God, we are capable of participating in the continued creation and renewal of the earth.

If we are called to work, and the work we are given has been directed by God, then the work we do in our fulfillment of our vocation is holy work. Our work, whatever it may be, has the potential to bring us closer to God and to one another. We might scrub floors, change diapers, balance accounts, engineer electrical systems or direct traffic. When we do our work with our best effort and with love for God and neighbor, it is sanctified and so are we.

This might sound sweet and naive. After all, work is more often than not hard! We have to go back to Genesis for the reason, and then look ahead to the Gospels for the reward. Our first parents, though called to be creative, also sinned. The command to work was not taken away, but toil was added to it. Now they were to be fruitful and multiply, but they also had to toil or struggle to make the ground produce food. Work became hard. Death entered the equation. If this was the end of the story, work would amount to a whole lot of nothing.

Now look ahead to Christ. Jesus did not simply pronounce us saved. He did not creatively leave us His Body and Blood and call it good. Jesus, the Incarnation, suffered, he toiled for us through His death on the Cross. The Paschal Mystery is where our salvation lies – Jesus death and resurrection. You cannot have one without the other. And so when we toil, when we work hard to do the will of the Father, we can unite ourselves to Christ crucified. Our work is purified through His work and we collaborate with Christ for the building of the Kingdom of God. All that nothing just turned into a whole lot of something.

  • To learn more about these ideas you should read Laborem exercens, especially the first and last chapters.

The will of our Father is different for each of us and therefore we each have our own unique work. Right now, my work is finding a cheerful, dedicated attitude toward keeping up with my house cleaning. I am also embarking on a new consulting/contractor position as a facilitator for online classes to help form and train catechists and adults in the faith. In August I’ll be lesson planning for our next homeschooling year. Each of these has their own elements of the Cross, of toil and struggle. But thanks be to God I can also see how each of them is bringing me closer to Jesus, closer to holiness.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

Measuring Our Work

You never know when God is going to inspire you. That is one of the things I love about this blog. Each time I write about a moment I encountered God in our daily living it inspires me to seek Him in more places. I hope the same is for you.

A few weeks ago, I found God in my air conditioning grate. Yep, not a typical place but let me tell you, there’s lots of time to think and seek while wiping down each individual dusty, dirty slot (probably was a faster way to do it, but it didn’t occur to me until after I was done. I think God wanted to make sure I heard this lesson loud and clear).

We moved into a new house just a few short months ago and I have been trying to create and maintain a workable cleaning schedule. Thanks to my pen and paper planner, it’s actually working and I am not only up to date on laundry, but I’m doing crazy things like cleaning the air conditioning grates and baseboards! Full disclosure, I was an awful cleaner in our California house, perhaps you may have guessed, and I have made a huge life-change in this area. I truly believe this is God inspired, which is why my journey is still on-going.

I’m finally doing the work. Step 1 complete. Now, God is working on my attitude and expectations. While I was cleaning, a dangerous thought flitted through my mind.

“You know, I’m doing all this work and Ben probably won’t notice.”

Yikes, where did that come from?! Not a good place, trust me.

This little thought is ripe with temptation and very quickly leads to unrealistic expectations placed unfairly on both my husband and myself. I started writing this post the day it happened, but then life happened and I’m just finishing it now. During the time between then and now another blogger posted a very thought-provoking and timely article. She offered a look at what Uncle Screwtape, from C.S. Lewis’ famous work The Screwtape Letters, might advise young Wormtail to do to a tired mother that would lead her astray. Guess what is in the first paragraph?

Attack her marriage. Make her feel that her efforts are not noticed, not praiseworthy and not worth even mentioning.

(Seriously, click the link. Even if you aren’t an exhausted mom, you probably are a tired somebody at least a few days a week).

Time and again we all find ourselves in this situation. We work hard on a project only to find it doesn’t receive the praise we believe it deserves. We struggle to attain a new skill, but no one notices. We fight to lose a few pounds, but no one compliments our new look.

These moments of vulnerability are where Satan quietly slips into our ear. “You didn’t work hard enough, you’re not good enough, no one notices you anyway.” Why do I listen to this insidious, deceitful voice? I did work hard enough. I am good enough. And there is someone who is always with me, who observes with love each thing I do.

It is completely unfair to place my self-worth on my husband’s shoulders, or anyone else’s for that matter. Yes, of course he should and does appreciate my work at home. However, if he doesn’t notice the air conditioning grates, will my efforts become less worthwhile? They shouldn’t. Knowing that I did the best job I could do for my family and our home is sufficient. Realizing that I am fulfilling my vocation as a wife and mother each time I put my best effort into taking care of our home is fulfilling and affirming. Even if my best isn’t perfect, when it is done from a place of love and not expectation, it is a blessing for our family.

 

 

 

Embracing a Plan

In my last post I alluded to a new system I’ve been working with that has been helping my organization and general well being. It’s not super complicated and didn’t cost a bunch of money. A simple planner has completely (maybe not completely completely, but a whole lot) changed the way I am operating.

This decision to embrace a planner was not random. Upon reflection I can see God guiding me toward one for a while. I’ve actually tried to use planners before with limited success. I would forget to bring them with me or leave them in my purse for days. I wouldn’t have a pen or some other excuse. This time is different.

The first step toward the new planner-me was re-discovering the Fly Lady and her methods for keeping your house clean. This new method inspired my whole series of Advent posts. I’ve been tweaking the Fly Lady’s ideas to fit my needs and family’s needs fairly successfully since November. I am a whole new cleaner.

The second step was reading a blog post (I wish I remember whose so I could give credit! Thank you whoever you are) that was about a blogger’s Christmas gift, a new planner. At first I thought, well whatever floats your boat. She had some pictures of the planner and I admit it was very pretty. I decided to click on the link to check it out more since this blogger was so passionate about how wonderful this planner was and how she utilized it in a number of ways – daily tasks, appointments, homeschooling, blogging, cleaning, meal planning – basically all the things I have been trying to keep straight in my head. (I’ll give you a hint – my head isn’t big enough)

Oh how I wanted this planner! It looked beautiful and seemed to be the answer to so many problems. I was so eager as I went through the website, choosing all the extras I thought I would want. Then I saw the prices. Yikes! Beautiful as it was, I knew I had failed with planners before. Until I knew this was something I could stick with, I couldn’t justify spending so much just because it looked nice.

However, my overly positive reaction to using a planner was surprising to me, so I decided to try it out on more of a DIY scale. $10 planner from Target, some washi tape and colorful pens was a much better route. I took some time and invested in “beautifying” my simple planner with the tape and pens. I also made some inserts to hold post-its and a meal planning pad of paper – thank you Pintrest.

Embracing a Plan by Kate Taliaferro at DailyGraces.net
My planner with Pintrest additions. I love having these tabs handy!
Embracing a Plan by Kate Taliaferro at DailyGraces.net
I love the owl tape! And now I will remember when Daylight Savings is thanks to some scraps of the blue-green tape.

I’ve been using this planner since mid-January. It’s only been a month but it has made a huge difference in my life pre and post-Eliza. Here are just some of the ways:

  • I am keeping a cleaning schedule – and actually accomplishing all the cleaning tasks I set out for the day (and if I don’t I am rolling the task over to the next day). Thanks to the Fly Lady these tasks are realistic, evenly distributed through the house and I try not to put more than 4 a day so I don’t get overwhelmed
  • I am meal planning in advance, which means I have much more complete grocery lists, which means less trips to the grocery store
  • I am remembering to write thank-you notes because I have a post-it for that
  • I am remembering all the things we need to accomplish in these last few weeks before we move because I have a post-it for that too
  • I will *hopefully* get most of the birthday cards out on time this year because I took the time to write down 2 weeks before each person’s birthday a reminder to buy a card and a few days before their birthday to mail it
  • Using the planner has also introduced me to bullet journalling which I’m also giving a go. It’s only been a little over two weeks with that though so the jury is still out. So far though I’m loving it

I never, ever thought that a simple planner could hold so much grace for my family. I am more calm, collected and less stressed. Plus, our home is cleaner than it has ever been. I look around (most of the time) with joy at how much more smoothly our family is operating because I am operating more smoothly. So much of our family dynamic is influenced by how well Ben and I are coping with whatever our current life situation is. As we continue in our transitions – moving again plus a new baby while Ben is in training – having one place for me to put basically everything has been game changing.

I wish I had done this sooner. I wish I had dedicated more time in my previous attempts at planners so that it wouldn’t have taken me this long to see how much I needed one. But I am so thankful that I finally got the message and am able to receive all the graces God has waiting for me in its pages.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com