Tag Archives: spirituality

Not a God Post

toast in toaster

This is not a God post.  I wish it were.  I haven’t written a God post for ages.  I long to write something witty and heartfelt and spiritual and profound.  But you just won’t find that here.  I’m sorry.

I look back at the God posts I used to write, Soul Diet and Mary, Help of Kitchens and Clomp, Clomp, Clomp.  What gives?  I used to be so spiritual, so tuned in to my faith.  And Mrs Monk.  Did you ever read Mrs Monk?  I was so holy when I wrote that.  I wanted to “transform my home from domestic to monastic in eight easy steps”.  I totally wrote that.

I guess I’m just not like that at the moment.  I think that’s why I haven’t written a God post in such a long time.  I don’t feel like I have anything to offer.

It’s not like there’s something very wrong.  I’m not having a crisis of faith (I’m really not that interesting a person).  God and I are still on good terms.  I’ve just lost the sort of rich, fragrant faith that permeates everything I do and everyone I meet.  Instead, I have something a bit stale and cold.  Kind of like the toast you put on for breakfast, but then forget about until the end of the day when you happen to look at the toaster again.

It wasn’t some big, dramatic change either.  Bit by bit, I’ve somehow lost all of my prayer habits.  I used to be in this lovely mum’s prayer group that met every week, but that stopped running.  I used to meditate as I hung out the washing, but when rainy weather came, I had to resort to clothes horses and dryers (and wearing dirty clothes) and sort of fell out of practice.  I used to get up early each morning and read the bible and pray, but – and this one’s really embarrassing – when the house next door was demolished, a mouse moved in downstairs (lured in, no doubt, by the smell of abandoned toast).  I was so terrified of spending alone-time with this small, nocturnal beastie that I stopped getting up before dark and gave up on my morning prayer ritual.  For the record, the mouse’s sojourn was very short-lived, but the damage had been done.  This is why I always maintain that mice and rats are the DEVIL’S CREATURES.  Ugh!

I can sort of see why the Church insists on Sunday Mass attendance, much as it makes her sound like a bossy parent.  It’s like an anchor when all else falls away.  If it wasn’t expected of me, if the deal was “Come along whenever you feel like it” or “whenever you feel up to it ” or “whenever you feel holy enough“, then that would be the end of it, I would keep sliding away until I had nothing.

So what’s the solution?  How do I find butter for my cold-dry-toast faith?

Well, I guess part of it is in what I’ve just done.  I had to overcome my pride to write this awkwardly-worded post.  I say I talk about ‘God in the Mess’, but I would rather avoid the mess.  I would prefer to have it all together all of the time.  To be such an awesome Christian that I don’t even need God at all.  The rest, I suppose has something to do with little things.  In building back gently what has been so gradually eroded.

There might even be a God post in that.

Mrs Monk

forget me nots

I forget about God a lot. You’d think forgetting God would be difficult to do. We’re not talking about the lid of the orange juice here: God is huge and everywhere. Yet I manage to do it on a regular basis.

I don’t hate God.  I don’t run about like some ranting atheist, desperate to convince people that I can’t stand God and, what’s more, he doesn’t exist.  I love God and I think I should put him at the centre of my life.  But, I guess, before I put him there, I kind of … misplace him.  I get distracted.  I forget about God.

I even forget about God when I’m doing God things.  I go to Mass on Sunday and I spend forty minutes saying “shhh!”.  I rattle off grace before meals, but I’m thinking “are the kids going to eat this?”.  I fast-forward through the chore of night prayers, desperate to get to the part where everyone’s asleep and I can have some mental space.

I suppose I could put the blame on the pace of my life.  It’s all school run, laundry, nappies, notices, budget, groceries, Book Week, walkathon, lunches, homework.  But that’s not really an excuse – that’s the reason I need God!

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a monk. To spend my whole life in prayer and peaceful contemplation. All that chanting and the bells and the incense. And all that silence! I wonder if I would have as much trouble remembering to put God in the centre of my life if I were a monk.  Can you imagine?  I’m out in the monastic garden, meditating and tending the monastic herbs.  My mind starts to wander – I start to forget God and then – DONG DONG DONG!  The bells ring and remind me it’s time to pray.  Or I’m walking about the cloisters in a bit of confusion – what was it I wanted to focus my entire life on again?  Then I round a corner and there’s a massive great crucifix on the wall – oh, that’s right: God!  Everything I do, everything I hear, everything I look at, everyone I speak to – my whole life would be structured around my relationship with God.

Having said this, I don’t think I was called to be a monk.  Even when you take gender restrictions into account, I know I’m not built that way.  I’m far too extroverted for monk life.  But I wonder – is there something I can learn from the monastery?  Can I take stock of what I’m doing and somehow structure my life so that it can be more prayerful?  There’s an article I’d love to see in Better Homes and Gardens: “Transform Your Home into a Monastery: From Domestic to Monastic in Eight Easy Steps”.  But, seeing as though Tonia Todman isn’t onto it yet, I’ll see what I can do with some vague ideas in bullet points (ain’t nothing like vague ideas in bullet points!).

  • Monks complete repetitive, menial tasks and use them as an opportunity to meditate.  When you’re in my line of work, there is an abundance of these meditation opportunities to choose from.
  • I would like to be more mindful of what I’m filling my mind with.  What do I watch, read and listen to?  Do I find it life-enriching or vaguely depressing?  I could write reams on this, but the short version is that TV as background noise, nasty commercial breakfast radio and any magazine with articles about celebrities losing their baby weight should go. Out.  Not worth my time.
  • Monks get up very early.  I resist this a bit, especially on freezing cold mornings, but I know on the days that I make an effort to get up at least fifteen minutes before the rest of the house, I can find a little pocket of peace in my day.  It would be good if I could find a book of one-minute meditations to work through as well.
  • Monks make it their business to show God’s love to all they meet.  I need to work on this.  Especially when my children are making me want to stick pins in my eyes.
  • Maybe I could get a phone app that rings out with a bell sound for nones and matins and the angelus (I don’t know – when do monks pray again? Lauds?  I think that’s one of them…).  Does such an app exist?  That would be cool.

The other thought I had was to do with my car.  Many years ago, I used to work for a Catholic charity.   My boss was a deeply religious young man, quietly holy, but not in an annoying way.  Sometimes, I would get to use his car when I drove out to give talks at schools.  There was something special about this little red car.  It was such a peaceful haven.  Rosary beads hung from the rearview mirror, sacred music played from the CD player and there was a car air freshener with “incense” fragrance.  OK, so maybe I made up that last one, but my point is, driving my boss’s car was like stepping into a church.  I would arrive at my destination feeling all calm and centred.

So I need to ask myself: now that I spend half my life driving children places (and they spend half their life driving me up the wall), what can I do to make my car a prayerful place?

I’m sure there are many more ideas that should go here.  I hope you share any you think of in the comments (it would really make my day!).

After that, all I’ll have to do is gather these ideas together and, well, do them.  And then one day you’ll see this woman standing at the school gate, all calm and loving and prayerful.  Radiating God’s love to all she encounters.  And it will be me.  Mrs Monk.  The contemplative who cooks casseroles.

It could happen…

Clomp, Clomp, Clomp.

These boots are made for walkin'

Time for another God post. I went away on retreat last weekend and felt all peaceful and inspired. But, now, regular life is back again and I’ve just about forgotten it all and settled back into my usual habit of ignoring God until I need him for something important (like a car space at Chadstone). So I thought I’d better write this down quick before it all falls out of my head.

We were talking about one of St Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 12: 12-31)  in which he writes about the church being like a body with many parts. Everyone has a different role to play and all the roles are important, no matter how humble.

I think I’ve spoken before about how I tend to struggle sometimes with the many invisible and menial tasks involved in my vocation.  Pegging out a load of washing does not really make me feel like I’m building the Kingdom of God.  It’s not like I’m a missionary in a developing country building wells or giving soup to the homeless or tutoring refugee kids.  But according to St Paul, my job is still important.  I think, as part of the Body of Christ, we mothers are a bit like the feet.  Not the most glamourous feature and often taken for granted, the feet just keep plodding on, supporting the rest of the body and helping it do what it does so well.  I think I’d find it easier to be a nice, loud mouth – shouting about my accomplishments and eating up all the recognition.  But God doesn’t call us to do what is easy, he calls us to do what we need to be whole.  So I’m a foot.   I could even take the metaphor further and suggest that it’s important to take care of our feet and have the occasional pedicure, because corns and ingrown toenails affect the whole body.  It’s easy to mistake playing the part of a martyr (which helps nobody, even though it comes with a bonus sense of smug self-satisfaction) with true selflessness (which is not too proud to ask for help).  I’m not so good at this – I need to give myself permission to put my feet up more (OK, I’ll stop with the overworked metaphors now, I promise!)

I love-love-love an article written by Rachel Jankovic called “Motherhood as a Mission Field”, in it she writes:

“At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel. Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Motherhood provides you with an opportunity to lay down the things that you cannot keep on behalf of the people that you cannot lose. They are eternal souls, they are your children, they are your mission field.”

So perhaps, like Mother Teresa would say, instead of getting pre-occupied with the great things I am not doing, I should focus instead on doing small things with great love.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to peg out a load of whites for Jesus.

Mary, Help of Kitchens

Mary Statue

I have a Mary in my kitchen.

Mary Statue

Isn’t she lovely?

I didn’t mean to make my first “God in the Mess” post about Mary.  I can’t imagine many of the people out there who read this are Catholic (well, Mum is) and I figure I’m pushing the boundaries enough, writing a ‘God’ post without coming out of the closet as a full-blown Catholic.  But here we are.  I have a Mary in my kitchen.

I know we’re talking about a piece of ceramic, here.   I don’t get all superstitious about it and bring her cups of tea or rub her head for good luck or anything.  But she’s there as a reminder.

Contrary to popular belief, we Catholics don’t worship Mary as a god.  We just really, really admire her.  She’s a good role model, I guess.  I had some vague idea that when I was in the kitchen at five o’clock, about to whack some one or other of my offspring with a saucepan (possibly because they burnt the roastdestroyed the laundry or were considering vegetarianism), I would stop, look at Mary, take a deep breath and put the saucepan down.

I was so excited when I first bought my Kitchen Mary.  It was exactly what I was looking for: simple yet special, traditional yet different.  Even so, when I first got home, I didn’t rush to the kitchen straight away.  Mary spent a lot of time in the plastic bag from the piety stall, wrapped in old parish bulletins.  You see, I wanted to wait until the kitchen was sparkling clean before I put Mary in it.  But setting to and cleaning the kitchen isn’t a straightforward task when you have little ones.  There are nappies and spills and bandaids and bath time and the kitchen mess remains.  Then it hit me (the profound thought, I mean, not the kitchen mess – though it WAS piled precariously high…): the thing I was doing with the Mary statue in my kitchen was exactly what I was doing with God in my life.

You see, I do want God in my life.  I’m sold on that point.  I’m a much better person, much more myself and I make much better decisions when I feel close to God.  But I’ve been keeping God out, just the same.  I guess, in the back of my mind I figured I’d become all spiritual when I “had it all together” or when I “had time to pray”.  It was like it was on my to-do list right next to “clear out the linen cupboard” or “tidy the random drawer”: we both know these things are never going to happen.

But God doesn’t want the perfect versions of ourselves.  God embraces our broken-ness and meets us in the mess.  So, with this in mind, I put Mary in the kitchen, mess and all.  The woman gave birth in a cattle shed, I’m sure she can cope.  You might be asking “Why Mary?  Why not a picture of God?”, well that brings me back to that thing I was saying about Mary being a role model.  I need to let God meet me in the mess and Mary was really good at doing that.  She changed baby Jesus’ nappies as a refugee in Egypt, and had to watch him die, naked and nailed to a tree, when he was an adult.   These situations weren’t tidy.  And she didn’t always have it all together (losing child in temple, anyone?) but she always let God in.

Plus, I don’t really like pictures of God.  They make him look all strange and beard-y.  Like Santa Claus on steroids.

So here’s my Kitchen-Mary in a candid shot (taken before I cleaned up the kitchen for the glamour shots above).

Mary in the Mess

Our Lady of the Sausages, pray for us in our hour of need.