It’s a quiet early September morning. Very early. In just a few moments it will not be quiet at all. A flurry of activity will begin to encircle me and I will be needed in all sorts of ways. Right now, I focus on the wisdom of the saints and try to gather my thoughts and offer my prayers; this is a habit that has blessed me abundantly, a habit I know is the very sustenance of my soul.
St. Jane de Chantal, who writes so directly to the heart of mothers, of women, reminds me without reservation or exception: “First, upon awakening in the morning, turn your thoughts to God present everywhere; place your heart and your entire being in His hands. Then think briefly of the good you will be able to accomplish that day and the evil you can avoid, especially by controlling your predominant fault. Resolve, by the grace of God, to do good and avoid evil. Then, kneel down, adore God from the bottom of your heart and thank Him for all the benefits and graces he has given you.”
What is the good that I can accomplish today? Surely there is the omnipresent to-do list. And the crazy, ridiculous, drive-children-everywhere schedule. Those are good things I can do. They benefit my family and contribute to the well-being of the people I love. I am an efficient listmaker. I’m quite sure I’ve earned an honorary degree in iCal. I’ve got driving to soccer down to such a science that I can be certain dinner is cooking while I’m driving. Check. Check. Check. All good.
But blessed Mother Teresa warns those of us who are queens of efficiency: There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in — that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.
Work for the sake of work? I do have days where I barrel through. I go from one item to another, forgetting that the list serves the people and not the other way around. I fall victim to “just a minute” and small faces crumple as I achieve. They don’t want “just a minute”; they don’t want a tower of efficiency. They want a warm lap. They want me to look them in the eyes when they recount the latest teenage drama. They want my undivided attention. They want me. And, truthfully, it is my job to bring warmth and beauty into their lives just as much — or more — as it is my job to be chauffeur and cook.
Therein lies the challenge of my September morning. Dear God, please show me all the good I can do and show me how to do it as beautifully as possible. The answer rings forth readily — a very simple thing really. All He wants from me today is the gift of my smile. Nothing is more beautiful to a child than his mother’s smile. With every task, at every chore, He wants me to smile. And every time I address a child’s needs or answer the call of my husband, I am called do it with a warm and genuine smile. Upon smiling, I will feel my shoulders relax and my countenance soften. I will generate unique beauty. Good things will follow.
The warmth of a September smile: It sets the tone for a busy, productive, beautiful new season.
--reviving this one from the archives at the Catholic Herald today (they've reformatted the site there:-) as we work at home. It's Boot Camp week before our autumn rhythm moves into full swing. I'm posting this as a genuine reminder to myself. We're working hard to prepare the environment for our studies and to establish excellent habits so that each member of this family can serve the others well in the coming term.