God’s Delight

Sweet baby Gabriel is 4 months old now. He is in that wonderful stage of alertness, awareness, wiggles and giggles, all beautifully packaged in an immobile ball of chub. He is so generous with his smiles and laughs. He loves to watch his brother and sisters make faces, sing songs and share all sorts of funny noises to elicit one of his fits of laughter.

It’s impossible not to smile when Gabe, or any baby, smiles at you. There is something infectious about their simple joy. Gabe doesn’t seem to tire of smiling. Anything and everything delights him, even if it is the 20th round of “Wheels on the Bus” or his toes being constantly tickled. Without fail, Gabe will light up the room with his sweetness.

As I was playing with Gabe the other day, something hit me. My face, smiling in love and affection, was all Gabe needed to burst into a smile. Over and over again, he continued to find joy in simply seeing my face. It made me wonder if this is a taste of what it’s like to be in God’s presence.

A baby doesn’t need a reason to smile. Out of sheer delight and simplicity they burst into laughter. Over and over again without fail, Gabe’s smiles are guaranteed to brighten my day. How much more so will I find God, He who is Love itself?

God’s love for us is boundless. We delight Him in every way when we seek His presence in our lives. That smile from a baby which so easily fills our soul with joy? It’s microscopic compared to the joy we will feel when we stand in God’s loving, glorious presence.

I’ve shared a Chesterton quote before here. For those not familiar, GK Chesterton was a prolific and highly important writer in the early 20th Century. In his breathtaking book, Orthodoxy, he explores the idea of delight in repetition.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Gabriel’s “Do it again!” smiles bring us all delight and joy. I’ve heard it said that babies are the most perfect people because they have most recently been in God’s presence. Perhaps this is why one of a baby’s first milestones is to smile. They only knew joy and love while with God, isn’t it miraculous that one of the first things they are able to share with us is a piece of that joy.

Somebody’s Got a Name

“Would somebody cut my meat?”

“I want somebody do my buttons!”

“Why won’t somebody help me!?”

My sweet little 4 year old, Clare, seems to have discovered a new way to ask for help. Instead of addressing the person she wants to help her directly, we’ve all collectively been renamed. Somebody.

Reflecting back, I think this peculiar manner of addressing us really hit its stride after Gabriel was born. Our time and attention have undergone pretty major adjustments and every child handles a new baby differently. We’ve had both of our mothers come to stay with us, plus we delivered Gabriel in a city near some family. There have been lots of extra hands and a rotation of helpful faces. Which don’t get me wrong, is a HUGE blessing! But somewhere in the beautiful chaos Clare has forgotten how to ask politely for help. “Somebody” was always around so obviously “somebody” should be able to help her.

My new response in all this is, “My name isn’t ‘somebody.’ When you remember my name I’d be happy to help you.” I’m happy to help once she respectfully asks for it.”

While this might be a good response for a child in need of some retraining, how wonderful our God doesn’t have a similar response for us! Human history is riddled with examples of complaining, mistakes, anger, pride and ungrateful behavior. Just check out the wandering in the desert in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Or the Babylonian Exile in Lamentations. Let’s not even get started with what the prophets had to go through!

Humans (Aka me) are notorious for being rude, impolite, snarky and plain old difficult when things aren’t going our way. This happens especially when the circumstances are beyond our/my control. “If only somebody would let me have my way/listen to my idea/help me achieve my goal/etc.”

Did you notice all the me’s and my’s in that? The more I focus inward the less I look at who is actually helping me.

Did you know that in these moments of testing and trial there is a very simple prayer which could be said? Conveniently, it even gives “somebody” a name – Jesus. The prayer is called ” The Jesus Prayer.”

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

You probably already have it memorized, right? Or could in just a few minutes of effort. This little prayer can revolutionize your daily life. Whole books have been written about how, but here are a few highlights:

  • This prayer clearly identifies who is in charge here and to whom we ought to be speaking to
  • We are reminded of Jesus’ divinity as God and His ability to extend mercy and love
  • We recognize that we are not in charge, that we are sinners and that we are always in need of Jesus’ merciful love
  • This prayer can instantly center us by pulling our focus back from whatever trouble we are having in order to see the bigger picture. God is God, we are not, and whatever joys or sorrows we have today will be better understood from a place of peace and prayer.

Interested in learning more about this prayer? Check out these writings:

The Way of the Pilgrim

Peter Kreeft on the Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer in the Orthodox Tradition which has a very rich history of study and use.

The next time you wish somebody would come to your aid, slow down and take a breath. Inhale the first words of the prayer. Fill yourself with Jesus’ name. As you exhale, breathe out the second half. Release whatever your struggling with and place it at Jesus’ feet. Continue allowing yourself to be filled and emptying what you do not need to carry. With practice, you will find a peace within yourself you may not have had before.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Paralyzed by Choice

We are so happy to share that we have a new son! Gabriel was born last month and is doing wonderfully. We enjoyed our family time while Ben was home and everyone seems to be acclimating well to our newest source of joy and astonishment.

It’s always amazing how much a new baby changes the family dynamic. We are moving at a slower pace again, keeping some new hours and discovering new problems and solutions. There are some baby routines that I’m right back in step with, like diapers, oh the diapers! At the same time, I’m racking my brain to remember how often a 1 month old should be nursing at night. Don’t get me started on how on earth we will ever homeschool in the fall. I know we will do it, I’m just still at a loss for how. More on that later this summer I’m sure.

One of the overwhelming parts of having a new baby, at least for me, is the amount of choices presented to new parents. Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable diapers? Circumcision or not? Sleep training? Elimination Communication? Baby TV shows or strict no screens? Pacifier? When to start solids? Catch my drift? It’s no wonder so many new parents have the deer in the headlights look when asked anything about anything! Choices are good, but they can often be paralyzing if there are too many or you don’t have an informed opinion.

Even now, with Gabe being our 5th, there has been an element of this paralysis. Should we try cloth diapers again? We have SO many, is it a waste to let them sit unused? I have always nursed the kids, that’s not a question. However for whatever reason this time I felt compelled to have Gabe be familiar with bottles on the off chance we needed to use them. So now we are working through the whole bottle/breastfeeding combo deal even though I will still be home 24/7. I’m sure we will come to others.

Fortunately, God is always looking out for me. I’ve recently started receiving The Morning Offering email from The Catholic Company. It was quite by accident. I had ordered a crucifix for John for his First Communion through them and ended up on a mailing list. And I’m so thankful! This email has provided much food for thought and encouragement for me the past two months. A few weeks ago, this passage came my way and cause me to pause:

“If we do not die to ourselves, and if our holiest devotions do not incline us to this necessary and useful death, we shall bring forth no fruit worth anything, and our devotions will become useless. All our good works will be stained by self-love and our own will . . . We must choose therefore, among all the devotions to the Blessed Virgin, the one which draws us most toward this death to ourselves, inasmuch as it will be the best and the most sanctifying. For we must not think that all that shines is gold, that all that tastes sweet is honey, or that all that is easy to do and is done by the greatest number is the most sanctifying.”

— St. Louis De Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, pg 40

This resonated with me on so many levels. It’s easy, both religiously and as parents, to get caught up in all the “stuff.” “If I just add cloth diapers, then I’m really doing well.” Or “I’m saying this rosary because I know that it’s a big deal, and I’ll probably get some grace out of it, but I’m not exactly paying attention.”

As parents, we cannot give our kids everything. Simply impossible. There will always be another family who chose a different sport, discipline method or clothing brand. Sometimes the choice that is right isn’t easy, but we know will bring about a greater good for our family.

As Christians and Catholics living in the world today, it is unlikely we are able to engage in every spiritual practice of the Church every single day. Just as we make choices for and about our kids, we do concerning our religious practices. I am humbled by St. Louis de Montfort’s advice to dig deeper into the religious practices I’m engaging in. What is easy may not be the most sanctifying practice. This will look different for each person and will change over time.

We are called to be holy. Part of growing in holiness is making the choices that keep us on the path toward that end.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com