I know we've moved to a new month and so I'm supposed to move to a new small step, but the last couple of weeks of May moved too quickly to suit me and far too quickly to blog all that was in my head, so I'm going to squeak just a few little thoughts on grace into the first June Small Steps Together. That makes sense, doesn't it? We all rely on His grace to have the strength and the calm and the self-composure to be gentle. So let's look at some grace notes and then talk about being gentle.
From May 24th:
With light from You, I now see that I could not accomplish by myself the things that I wanted to do most. I said to myself: ‘I shall do this, I shall finish that,’ and I did not do either the one or the other. The will was there but not the power, and if the power was there, my will was not; this because I had trusted in my own strength. Sustain me then, O Lord, for alone I can do nothing. However, when You are my stability, then it is true stability; but when I am my own stability, then it is weakness. — St Augustine
My list lately is ridiculously long. All the things I want to do. I the things I have to do. All the obstacles in the path of both want-to and have-to. I love, love, love this quote. This really is the "all" of how to be a good wife and good mother of many. Only under God's strength. Only with God's grace. And it's a constant weighing and measuring. The list itself has to be in God's will. What would He have me do with the time He has given me in any given day? And what would He have me do with the nights? So often, I push the margins of day and night, blend the boundaries beyond recognition and so defeat myself and defeat His purpose for me. Jen has some good thoughts on that this week. The important thing for me to remember is that God gives me sufficient grace for each day, every day. As long as what I'm endeavoring to do is in His will. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). So, if I'm straining under the burden of my daily life, it's time to stop and pray about it–pray as long and as hard as necessary before the Holy Spirit shows me where I'm out of step, what I've taken on that isn't what He intended for me. When I do that–when I live each day intentionally, giving it back to God as my gift of grace–the list is still long but it is entirely do-able.
May 26 (Feast of St. Philip Neri)
Think: Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits." (If "God Be With Us: The Maxims of St. Philip Neri)
God, I am not always naturally in good spirits. Grant me the grace to be cheerful; remind me every moment that I live for you and no matter how dark the day appears, you can and do cheer me. With your grace, I can be in good spirits and I can persevere despite the trials that inevitably will come my way.
Are you grumpy? Ask for grace. Are you tired? Ask for grace. Are you discouraged? Ask for grace. Are you angry? Ask for grace. Be open and yielding and genuinely happy to embrace His plan. Notice that your shoulders loosen and your brow smooths. Smile. Let cheerfulness lighten you. If necessary, fake it until it's real.
We've talked previously about the concept of faking it until it's real. And it was perhaps misunderstood by some. Sometimes, I don't feel virtuous. I don't feel cheerful or courageous or gentle. I don't feel like doing what I know God wants done. But I beg His grace and ask for His light to do virtuously anyway. And I can. By the grace of God. And then, after faking it, it does indeed become a part of me, a virtue practiced often enough that I feel it, breathe it, live it. Only by His grace.
That brings me to gentleness. Almost every woman I know struggles with gentleness. They find it doesn't come naturally. They find that fatigue, in particular, is the near occasion of sin when it comes to sinning against gentleness. They want to go gently into the good night. Mostly, though, they just want good nights.
Can I awaken, even after the restless nights, the sleepless nights, the nights filled with nursing and nebulizers and take to heart the counsel of St. Francis de Sales?
Put your soul every morning in a posture of humility, tranquility, and sweetness, and notice from time to time through the day if it has become entangled in affection for anything; and if it be not quiet, disengaged and tranquil, set it at rest. – St. Francis De Sales quoted in Small Steps entry for today, June 2
A gentle-quiet heart, at peace with the Lord because I've committed my to-do list to His Will and endeavored, through His Grace, to do only what He wants me to do, to be only the person He wants me to be. With every step, through every day, remaining detached from the affection of anything that turns me away from God and His goodness. God and His gentleness.
St. Francis de Sales expects that after the morning offering, there will be times during the day when the world rocks and peace is elusive. He reminds us, with gentleness, to stop and set our souls at rest. Where and how can we do that? Shall we throw our aprons over heads the way Susanna Wesley did? Shall we lock ourselves in the bathroom, turn on the water, and pour our hearts out to God? Will it do us good to put the baby in a front pack and the toddler in the stroller and go for a brisk, prayerful walk? Whatever it is that we need to bring tranquility and sweetness to our souls, that's what God wants for us in that moment. Because He does, indeed, want us to be gentle.
All the time.
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