10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Value and Practice Faith

{{Sixth in a series discussing The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity.}}

This week, I'm looking to the Toolkit to get our conversation of the 10 Habits started and I'm counting on you to chat it up in the comments. I'm still recovering from what can only be described as epic mastitis. Sarah may never be allowed to wean--I'm afraid to ever "skip" a nursing again.

So, let's look at four ways to value and practice faith. 

#1 Think Before You Leap. Dr. Meeker writes,  "When we choose to pursue faith, we must keep our eyes and minds wide open, but we must keep our hearts open as well. We must find the balance between learning, reading, and seeking answers on the one hand and following answers that we feel God is giving us on the other. We should seek and then when God answers, find what He gives us."

I think she speaks here to the balance between a completely emotional, "feeling" approach to God and one that draws upon reason to enlighten faith. Perhaps it's just the communities to which I've been exposed in my adult life, but I've met far more people who intellectualize faith (I actually think that in this context "religion" is the right word) than those who "simply feel." Your experience may differ. I know that growing up, the context of faith was almost entirely "simply feeling," and I was hungry for something with some "teeth." Perhaps I gravitiated towards a an extreme interpretation of codified "religion" in order to compensate for that sense of twisting in the wind and looking for firm ground. This chapter is about balance. Balance is a good thing, I think.

Dr. Meeker urges us to look towards those we respect in our faith communities and ask for reading suggestions, so as to gain a better grasp of the tenets of our faith. The idea is to come to an understanding of God that is solid--that stands the tests of our incessant questioning and thoughtful doubts. 

What have you read that has nurtured your intellectual understanding of God and so fed your faith?

#2 Make it Personal. Many of us come from a faith tradition with a wealth of intellectual treasure to read and a very complete catechism. Putting the first tool to work isn't challenging. In our lifetimes, we'd never have enough time to read all there is out there. But the second tool is perhaps more challenging. The second tool requires that we allow ourselves intimacy with God. For many of us, intimacy with anyone--genuine, soul-baring intense closeness--is very difficult. And so, prayer is difficult also.

Dr. Meeker writes,that "we must also allow a certain openness and availability to God if faith is to be personal. Herein is where the exchange begins. Prayer begins this communication. In the quiet of our rooms, the car or in bed at 3 A.M., the conversation begins. It is God and us. We begin by asking questions or simply by saying “hello.” Sometimes we scream or cry; other times we simply ask if He is real or if, perhaps, we are sharing our innermost hopes with nothing but the cosmic void. Then we wait. Over time, we pray again and again and tell God that we need to know if He is there or not. Then we wait again. What we learn through the prayer and the waiting is the beginning of faith. If we have cultivated a prayer of meditation life with God we can instinctively slide into a conversation in prayer for comfort and help when the real tough stuff  happens."

How have you found fruitful prayer?

What are some ways to overcome spiritual dry spells?

#3 Find Community. Ah. Community. All the introverts run;-) In all seriousness, community is for some us the greatest struggle. And, sadly, it is in faith communities where a great deal of hurt and sorrow can happen. There is unique pain that comes with being wounded in a community of believers and when we are hurt, there is an instinct to run and to isolate our faith, walling off just one woman and her God, in order to avoid the possiblity of further hurt or disillusionment in a community of Christians. Just knowing that pain is possible causes women to refrain from intimate relationships with other believers. 

Still, we are created to worship in community and to find Him in community. Where two or more gather in His name, He is truly there in the midst of them. It helps, I think, to be humble as we seek community, to genuinely understand that, as Dr. Meeker puts it, "others in a faith community teach us about the character of God. As believers who long to adopt His character and follow His directives, they reflect who He is. The love that God feels for them will move into them and then we who sit in the pews next to them or who pray beside them will mysteriously soak in some of His love. In a faith community, each of us learns more about God, people, humanity, and acceptance than anywhere else on the planet."

That scenario is, of course, the ideal. {Our faith communities often offer us opportunities to learn about forgiveness and the need for a savior as well.} I think it's important to bear in mind that the body of Christ is large and it's universal. Good, faithful, holy people who can teach us about the character of Christ can look very different from one another. There are different charisms in a universal Church and there is a place--a good fit, a good community, a close family of brothers and sisters-- for each of us.

Dr. Meeker asks,  "Think about your faith community. Who does it include?  How does it help to continually reinforce and solidify your faith?  How does it benefit and influence your family life?"

#4 Serve. "Over our lifetime, the only way each of us will come to understand the value of another human being is by serving him. Giving brings about humility and humility draws us closer to God."

There are so many ways to serve! The reality is that when our children are young, our concentrated efforts at service will be feeding the hungry and clothing the naked in our own homes. Sometimes, the only service you can muster for a three month stretch of time is consuming essential nutrients and keeping them down long enough to nourish the baby growing in your belly. Those are genuine acts of service. They count. And they bring you closer to God in a way almost no other experience can. 

It is vital to our souls that we bring to God our desire to serve and ask Him where He would have us work. Then, we beg the grace to all He wants.

Where can you best be of service? Can you share some ways you've served with your family? Do you and your husband share an apostolate outside your home?

The rest of our discussions of  The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity can be found here. The first two conversations are 

Part 1(discussing Habit 1)

Part 2 (still discussing Habit 1)

Part 3 (still more on Habit 1)

Part 4 (Habit 2: key friendships)

Part 5 (Habit 2: your thoughts on friendship_