Coincidence or?

Coincidence or?

mountains-november-2016-2I used to think it was merely random coincidence – happenstance.

As it occured with more frequency, I found it rather interesting – intriguing, even.

Yet, as time marched forward and it didn’t seem to be relenting, I began to find it pretty frustrating.

Most recently, I chose to brush it off as amusing – entertainment, even – because, as we all know, God likes to laugh at me. Why not guffaw along?

Nowadays, I am generally able to accept it as something that’s just part of the process. Sometimes, though, since I’m still human, after all, it can, at times, be extraordinarily exasperating.

And – what is it, exactly? Well, I’m talking about how God (yes, that God) attempts to teach me stuff through my own writing, as crazy as that sounds. And, more specifically, how He especially likes to send me messages through writing that isn’t published for days, weeks, and sometimes months after I’ve written it.

Probably nine out of ten times, when I’ve turned in an assignment ahead of schedule, I forget exactly what I’ve written until it’s actually published, and then – boom – there it is, words from my own hand, invariably coming back to smack me up side my thick, thick head.

Case in point: my latest Mea Maxima Cuppa column over at the Catholic Sentinel. I wrote about acknowledging all of God’s gifts, regardless whether we perceive them to be good, bad, desireable, or abhorrent, since as St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Everything is grace.” Everything.

Things were going pretty well when I wrote those words. Naturally.

And now? Now that the words are published and out there and staring me down? Well. Let’s just say it’s been a rough month. In truth, thinking of the toughest moments as gifts from God has been the last thing on my mind.

So, therein lies the rub: Am I able to take my own medicine, heed my own words – to wade through the muck and mire of hurt feelings and disappointments, betrayals and exhaustion and all the rest of it – and lay it all down at the foot of the Cross?

Am I able to see the gifts He gives even if I don’t like the wrapping paper?

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Images (c) 2016 Heather Anderson Renshaw. All rights reserved. 
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The day I cried, “Mercy”

The day I cried, “Mercy”

stressed

My “to do” list is longer than it has probably ever been in my entire life, so why don’t I just write a blog post about it rather than actually tackling my tasks? Ha, ha. You think I’m joking.

So, you may remember a game from your school playground days called, “Mercy,” or maybe it went by the name, “Uncle.” Pretty much the same game, just different names. You don’t remember it? Well, God bless your socks off – you are one blessed individual. Seriously.

Whatever it’s called, “Mercy” was basically a test of feats of physical strength or pain tolerance or cruelty or lying to one’s self about what was actually going on. Or something. Anyway, two (usually) boys would just go at it, forcing each other’s fingers, arms, legs, etc. into unnatural and contorted positions until one of them just couldn’t handle the pain any longer and cried out, “mercy,” and the game would be over.

The first person who admitted he couldn’t take it any more was the loser.

Now, there’s no way a teacher in today’s schools would allow something like this to go down. And, honestly, I think the only times I saw it as a kid was when a teacher was otherwise occupied on the far other other side of the playground. But still.

What does this cruel school-aged activity have to do with me? Great question.

Well, right now, I sort of feel like I have put myself into a situation where I’m playing a game of “Mercy” with myself. Specifically, my desire for a strong home life and a strong “outside-the-home” life are battling it out over here, and it’s slowly but surely crushing the life out of me.

Things are shifting over here, and I think – no, I know – that I need to make some wholesale changes and take things in a radically different direction. But here’s the problem – I don’ t really know how. And yet, I don’t want to cry, “mercy,” because I don’t want to lose – and I don’t want anyone around me to lose, either.

Especially my family.

See, here’s the truth: I want to be a good mother. And a good wife. I really, really do. But I am struggling with how to actually, practically be a good wife and mom given my current life circumstances and commitments. Some days, man – I just feel like I am not cut out for this mothering gig. I know my husband and my children are a gift. I know they are.

But the truth is also that I have this radical zeal – this desire – to serve God in His Church in so many other ways. He put desires on my heart and talents in my toolbelt. And I just feel completely ill-equipped many days to be the sort of mother they need and deserve while spinning all the other plates that are currently in the air.

And sometimes I wonder what sort of mother I’d be if I put down some of the “other” plates that I find so personally fulfilling. Would I have enough? Be enough? And sometimes I sort of wish all the plates would crash so I could just start over. True story.

My youngest son’s godmother posted this article on my BFF’s FB timeline today and I just read it and cried.

I have read many books, many blog posts, said many prayers (including the Divine Mercy Chaplet novena that just ended yesterday), and talked with many people about finding that ever-elusive work/ministry/home “balance.” I’ve also sought guidance via spiritual direction, a counselor, and even asked around for a Mom mentor (a position that has yet to be filled!!). And some good has come from all this praying, reading, talking, and searching. But I still haven’t been able to figure it all out. Yet.

So, maybe this quickly-typed blog post that no one will ever read is my cry for help – my shout of, “Mercy!” – as difficult and humiliating as it may be, before my fingers … or my toes … or my soul … gets crushed.

Hi. My name is Heather, and I have way too many things going on. Mercy.

P.S. Don’t worry, dear friends and readers – I am not suicidal, chronically depressed, or even remotely in despair. Just going through a rough patch of yet more transition that is tougher to navigate than I expected. I would greatly appreciate your prayers, words of wisdom and encouragement, but especially your prayers. I am one of those crazy souls who is very much helped just by knowing that I am not alone. Peace! <3

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These children will be the death of me.

These children will be the death of me.

We’ve been having a difficult time getting going in the morning. It seems like, no matter what I do, somebody (and by somebody, I mean the 3-year-old and/or the 11-year-old) throws a wrench into the flow, everything gets all jacked up, and we’re late for school. Uh-gain.

Anyone who has tried to get more than two people ready and out the door by a certain time each morning knows just how crazy-making it can be. This particular cross is a legit reason, in and of itself, to homsechool, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, in an effort to retain what thread of sanity I have left and to hopefully improve my blood pressure, I’ve been working on streamlining our routine for the past couple of months. Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Clothes are selected, backpacks are packed, lunches are mostly made, and shoes and jackets are located THE NIGHT BEFORE.
  • Breakfast is over at 7 o’clock sharp, unless you’re age 3 and under and just woke up.
  • The three away-from-home school kids each rotate through dressing, teeth-brushing, hair-fixing, and last-minute lunch prep after breakfast. We have a rule that no two kids may be doing the same thing at the same time, because that’s just asking for trouble.
  • I help the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old get breakfast and get dressed, unless, by some miraculous occurrence, I can get one of the older kids to help.

The above plan has been working-ish, but we had a major problem this past Friday morning resulting in me falling on the garage steps and sniffling all the way to school and texting my husband that, yet againSOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!!!!!

After talking it over with my other half, the new routine was implemented today: all schoolkids must be dressed and have their lunches completely made before they eat breakfast. And Mommy is in charge of the babies, as usual. Sounds promising, right?

Except … today our schedule was hijacked because … wait for it … I had to go to the bathroom.

What was I thinking??!

Mere moments after I put the 11-year-old in charge, the 3-year-old was running full tilt up the stairs into my bathroom with her eldest sister in hot pursuit.

Man. Someday I will be able to toilet in peace.

Anyway, I will spare you the gory details, but the end result was me, blood boiling, fake-smiling my way through buckling car seats, and pretty much yelling at the older kids regarding listening and caring and helping. Yeah. I get the irony.

I think I might have asked them if they wanted me to suffer from a heart attack and die. Not my finest moment.

Once the kids were safely off to school (five minutes late, but who’s counting?), I texted my BFF and said, “I never knew how far from holiness I really was ’til I started having kids.”

There’s just nothing like having to wake up early after a restless night’s sleep to feed, clothe, corral, nurse, transport, educate, negotiate, soothe, bathe, train, love, discipline, and nurture five sweet, demanding, unbelievably loud and infinitely beautiful little souls to show you just how doggone self-centered you really still are. Especially when the kid who just had a rough time at the doctor’s office wants your snack. After he’s already eaten his.

But I digress.

Having children is like turning on a ginormous spotlight and putting a big, fat mirror in front of your face while hearing a voice sneer, “Neener-neener! You thought you were getting it all together, but this [insert crazy stressed Mom behavior] is how you really are!!”

Reflecting on the tumult of the morning and my response to it, I thought, “These children will be the death of me.”

I sat with that thought for a moment ” … the death of me …” It sounds simply horrible, doesn’t it? Perfectly wretched! But, upon further reflection, I considered what those words really meant and figured, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.

Anything within me that isn’t love needs to die: the despair; the pride; the selfishness; the anger; the need to control; the fear of failure; the ego-centrism; the entitlement; the lack of gentleness, generosity, and compassion. Just like a really good clearance sale, everything must go.

The Bible tells us that God prunes those whom He loves. And to get to the essence of who I am as His child, to be more a more perfect reflection of Him, I must be pruned. A lot. Which means He must love me an AWFUL lot. Because the pruning? It often feels terribly awful and horrifically painful. Because those who bear the pruning sheers aren’t always gentle, and I’m not always (okay – hardly ever) predisposed to receiving the trimming I need.

But my Heavenly Father knows me well enough to know, as I like to joke, that it would take these five little people to get loud and crazy me to crave silence with Him in Adoration, and to really and truly lean on Him as I’d never leaned before – almost so far that I thought I’d fall over. He knows. Because He knows me. And He loves me. And He’s patiently waiting to see the good fruits that will be borne from this time of pruning as I remain in Him.

I think it’s time to go get some gardening gloves.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in Me, and you will bear much fruit.” -John 15:5

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