Advent Humility

I glared at a box of Christmas decorations today. Actually, I glared at several cluttering my front room and general living space. I’m not feeling it. Advent is upon me and I feel put upon.

I know. These are ugly feelings for sure. Advent is a time of preparation and spiritual maintenance for the celebration of the Incarnation!   However, all I can see is a laundry list of things I have to do for everyone else to have a special Christmas. Shopping, cleaning, party planning, Christmas cards, baking, decorating and don’t forget the craft projects! If Dante were writing today, one of his levels of purgatory would no doubt be Pinterest World where the craft-challenged have to spend their time repeatedly failing at the domestic arts.

Please God save me from another Facebook post where my far more talented friends pair a perfect Catholic Children’s book with a craft and afternoon snack to honor the theme from today’s liturgical calendar. I am so terribly jealous. I want to be that perfect Catholic mom, but instead I sent my kids outside to play for about three hours with a bag of popcorn. I just couldn’t parent another moment.

During Advent, the Church celebrates the Feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. We recall that she was conceived without original sin. If ever there was a mom standard, Mary is that person! I wonder what she was like as a mom – perfect I’m sure. What made her mothering perfect? I’m sure little Jesus didn’t write on the walls or cry non-stop because his socks itched (while also not wearing any socks). Neither did Mary have to bother with Pinterest Guilt or Social Media Shame.

Clearly, I need to take drastic measures to salvage my Advent! Holy Mary help me to open my heart to the coming of God made man! Help me to set aside my “mom envy” and focus on the spirit of the season of Advent.

I imagine Mother Mary answering in a small humble voice that God is not asking big things of me. He is asking for fidelity in small things. Small but true acts of devotion showing authentic love.

Forget the perfectly placed ornaments and mouthwatering holiday spreads! Reject the pressure and expectation to please four children with the hottest gifts this season. Once again this year the family Christmas card will likely arrive in time for Valentines Day, and it is ok. It really is ok.

So, this Advent our family rosary will be more prayerful and focused. Our prayers before the meal will not be rushed. The advent candles will be front and center at every dinner. We will raise our voices louder when singing at Mass, and we will keep the confessional occupied. Daily Mass will be a priority.

To all the moms out there feeling overwhelmed and inadequate this Advent, I hear you. Let’s reclaim this time of spiritual preparation. Focus on the small humble acts of devotion and let the concerns of the ego and the world go. Let Mary help you find the humility needed this time of year.

I offer my love to Jesus through Mary. May God Bless you all this Advent season!

Controlling God

It was a white-knuckle kind of day. Nothing went as I planned that day. Nothing. I was just trying to get through the mess of a day I was having.

A nagging pain in my left side (cancer side) had been ignored for over a month. Rather – I ignored it. That morning, I had finally confessed the issue to my doctor while there on a separate concern. A PET scan was ordered. I left the office with a blank face having dried my tears in the exam room before anyone else could see. Driving home, I contemplated the possible outcomes and whether the ticking time bomb of cancer within me was due to explode – again.

Oh how quickly a traumatized brain can sink to those dark and scary places.

That day was a Holy Day of Obligation. Having missed the earlier Mass while at the doctor’s office, I hurried to the late Liturgy. The weight of my cross made it hard to breathe and focus during the Homily. I tightened my grip and pushed through.

As the priest lifted the concentrated Host, I lifted my eyes to adore my Lord. Simultaneously, several rows in front of me a woman appeared to collapse her head on her folded hands before her. Her position was one of anguish and total surrender.

What was her sorrow? What was her cross? I imagined at the moment of consecration hearing the thud as she laid down her cross at the foot of Our Lord’s Cross. I could see the dust fly up as her burden hit the ground.

I was jealous . . . not of her sorrow, but in her total trust and surrender to God. She brought her pain to the Mass and made it an offering, uniting it to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. I kneeled stoically a few pews behind her gripping my cross with fear and resentment. I was clinging to a cross I couldn’t carry alone. I stubbornly hoisted this beast upon my shoulder day after day and in my pride I shielded it from God. I was consumed by this false confidence. I would control this burden. The illusion of control and power over this cross was intoxicating to my ego and like poison to my soul.

The great “Amen” rang out among the congregation and the familiar motions of Mass focused my attention back on the altar. Then I saw her. She lifted her head once again having made her offering and she stood straight and strong. I could see her as the Mass ended pick up her cross once more. Now renewed in communion, she filed out of the church with a peaceful countenance.

I kneeled. The Mass was over and the church empty. Wanting to remain in the intimate embrace of the Eucharist within me, I prayed for the ability to trust, to surrender, to give God the freedom He wanted to live and move and work in me. He had given me the grace to see the thickness of my pride even in suffering. In my pride, I gripped my cross until my knuckles were white. I never laid it down. I never surrendered to His providence and I never trusted. I controlled.

Now on my knees I begged to be a little child with total confidence in my Heavenly Father. As a child I am powerless.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to be a little child with total confidence in your love. Amen.

Terrified of spinning out of control, I repeated this prayer over and over again and slowly, very slowly, released my hold.