This was first posted on March 2, 2015. It some ways it surprises me that this is still so applicable to my life, and in other ways, it does not surprise me at all. Life is funny that way. Our struggle—our cross—may take a lifetime of carrying, and yet how often do I just wait for it to disappear? Sure, our cross might look differently from year to year, decade to decade, but often it is the one way God has invited us to trust Him, to serve Him, and to love Him. This Lent, I am trying to be more receptive of my cross. To empty myself of what gets in the way of truly embracing all that God has given me. NOTE: I have updated the photos in this post to reflect what my home looks like today.
When my children were quite young, in fact when I only had half of the children I have today, I started feeling compelled to find ways to make the Catholic faith come alive for them. More than simply attending Mass with them each Sunday, I wanted to teach them to pray, introduce them to the saints, and celebrate the liturgical seasons within our domestic church. I didn’t want church and home to be separate. Rather, I desired family life and faith life to be integrated and intertwined with each other. My hope was (and continues to be) that living out the Catholic faith would be a natural and central part of their lives … for the rest of their lives.
It started with a little gem-of-a-book called Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler. I found such valuable information in it, especially when I had a whole crew of toddlers and preschoolers at home. Then, when I started blogging, a whole new wealth of information opened up to me! Blogs and blogs of Catholic moms sharing ideas about how they honored feast days, decorated their Catholic home, and utilized recipes to celebrate the Faith with their children. The Catholic blogging world was a well-spring of ideas from simple to extravagant and everything in-between. (And now other avenues of social media, like Pinterest, make that well-spring even deeper!)
I found such joy in decorating our home for the liturgical seasons, planning crafts and activities, and organizing feast day tea parties. I am not overly crafty or exceptional in the kitchen, but the spirit with which I did these things as well as the experience my children had were what mattered most to me. When I look back, these are some of the most cherished memories that I have with my young children.
But then I went through a season of burn out and being overwhelmed to the point of depression, and I lost my ability to keep up with it all. I could barely keep the house clean and groceries in the pantry, let alone remember to plan a feast day dessert. It was a hard and difficult time for me. One of the saddest parts of barely being able to do the bare minimum to survive is that you lose a lot of what brings you joy.
And that was it; I lost my joy. Doing the basics only to survive took everything out of me. It’s what was needed to survive, but it wasn’t what brought joy to my life. And I was sucked dry.
I didn’t really know what to do to get my joy back. I was at a stand-still for a long, long time. Even when I came out of the deeper part of my depression and felt ready to reclaim joy in motherhood again, I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I was rather paralyzed.
Once I lost the joy of doing the special things I did as a mom, it was almost like I forgot how to do them altogether. I felt like I was behind on so much, that I really didn’t know where to begin again. And I certainly couldn’t begin with what I loved, could I? I mean, what about the room that needed deep cleaning or the papers that needed sorting? Weren’t those tasks more important?
In the meantime, my children were growing up quickly, and I no longer had a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers. I had a gang of six school-aged children, my youngest already four. How do I do what I did but for older children?
A few weeks ago, I was blessed to hear a very motivating talk by Catholic speaker and author Patty Schneier at the WINE: Catholic Women’s Conference. At the end of her talk, she gave some very practical tips for living out the Faith on a daily basis. Two tips that Patty gave were things I used to do in those “glory years” of my young motherhood but that fell by the wayside during my rough patch.
- Know and celebrate the feast days of our children, not only the saints they are named after but also the feast days that fall on their birthdays.
- Decorate our homes in ways that exemplify our Catholic faith, so that no matter who comes into our home, they will know we’re Catholic. One specific detail Patty talked about was decorating for the different liturgical seasons, such as Lent. She told us how much she enjoyed this, and she especially liked decorating for Lent, with her purple cloth draped on the mantle and images displayed from a calendar of The Passion of the Christ movie.
Patty’s talk was so convicting, I truly believe God used her to speak directly to me about what to do to get out of my rut. I resolved to return to my former ways of honoring the liturgical seasons, starting with this Lent. I looked to see what I had on hand, I searched Pinterest for new ideas, I made a trip to Hobby Lobby, and I made a plan.
I cannot tell you how therapeutic it has been for me to decorate little corners of our home this Lent. I found joy that I have not experienced in quite some time. I rediscovered that I enjoy beautifying our home with little touches here and there. I have thought a lot about Our Blessed Mother and how nicely she must have kept their home in Nazareth. She must have cared so much about making things warm and cozy for Jesus and Joseph. As I thought about Mary, I determined that I want to have that same care for my own home, to take pride in my work around the house, rather than thinking of it as drudgery and almost pointless because it gets undone before my very eyes. I am nowhere near a good homemaker. I do the tasks of a homemaker, but I don’t take much ownership in my work. Maybe, God willing, my little Lenten decorating projects will be a good step toward embracing my work and my vocation just a little bit more. Maybe, just maybe, that joy I had lost will continue to emerge through rediscovering the tasks that used to bring me such life, peace and contentment. And all the while, reintroducing my children to our traditions of celebrating the Catholic Faith in our domestic church.