The Vacuum Hymn

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Diaper Day

Whenever I take out the vacuum – which is often in these days of little hands, small pieces of food, and lesser fine motor skills – Christopher crawls behind me and shouts at the same cadence as the hum of our little handvac. It’s the same shout he made one morning at daily Mass when he figured out his voice echoed against the church’s classical style marble. “He’s singing to the Lord” one of the older daily communicants said, assuaging my guilt that the short 7:30am Mass had suddenly become a choral one thanks to my ten-month-old.

Despite my aversion to true squalor, I am a terrible housekeeper. I would say I’m still learning – after all, I’ve only been married for less than two years – but I think it gives me too much credit. This Lenten time of eliminating distraction has shown me that it’s not a matter of not having enough time or that cleaning our tiny one bedroom apartment is too much to handle. Laundry, mopping, the bathroom, laundry again: like Bartleby, I simply would prefer not to.

At the first women’s retreat I attended weeks after our entrance into the Church, the priest leading the reflections mentioned a story about one of Mother Teresa’s visits to a community of the Missionaries of Charity. She toured the whole place and when she got to the bathrooms, they were immaculate. Mother Teresa turned to the people around her and said, “The Sister who cleaned these toilets must love Jesus very much.” It’s a sentimental little story, I know, but I think of it often.

I want to love Christ and He has provided the way for me, not only through my time in prayer or spiritual reading or doing special “Christian” things, but through the responsibilities entrusted to me in my vocation. The hum of the vacuum is a song to the Lord. Putting dinner on the table is an image of the supper of the Lamb. I miss out on these opportunities when I neglect this aspect of my vocation.

I don’t think our apartment has to be museum-quality every minute of every day, especially since a twister named Christopher comes through daily, and I truly don’t think Martha-like busy-ness is a virtue. But I hope with a mingling of duty and grace, I can make our home a less chaotic place where we can be like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet in peace. My singing shadow reminds me of this as he sings to the Lord for me while I vacuum up the crushed Cheerios under his high chair. I hope that in forming these habits, I, too, can learn to love Jesus very much.

Sous Vide, Cold Birds, and Humility

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter for this week’s Lenten pretty, happy, funny, real. Sorry about the formatting of this post, but WordPress was driving me bonkers so I gave up.
Chris has won Valentines Day every year we have been together and he continues to win. This year he cooked perfectly medium rare steak in a homespun sous vide using our Crock-Pot, roasted potatoes, and baked his famously decadent flourless chocolate cake for us and we had a romantic dinner after Christopher went to sleep. He illuminated dinner with the dozens of votive candles we still have in our closet from our wedding strategically placed around the apartment.
The picture doesn’t quite capture the atmosphere, but what picture could?

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Mystics from cheeses and other daily miracles

I cashed in a birthday gift from Chris – one of eight intervals of baby-less half hours – recently and sat at Starbucks with my free birthday Peppermint Mocha to read Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal. It was delightful and moving and now I want to initiate her cause for canonization.

I related deeply to her desire for holiness, not out of fear of Hell but with a desire to love virtue. The theme throughout her short prayers was a fear of mediocrity, both in her writing and in her spiritual life. “I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ,” she writes. “I want to feel. I want to love. Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go.” I loved this part from one of the final entries in her journal:

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“What I am asking for is really very ridiculous. Oh Lord, I am saying, at present I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately. But then God can do that – make mystics out of cheeses. But why should he do it for an ingrate slothful & dirty creature like me.”

“Make me a mystic, immediately.” Oh, how I resonate with that desire.

“Lord, make me a saint/better mother/more loving wife/stop watching The Bachelor immediately and preferably without any inordinate effort on my part.”

When I get frustrated with my lack of holiness, I tend to make huge spiritual resolutions and disappoint myself when I do not attain them. But recently I’ve realized it is usually because I neglect the small yeses to grace that come with daily faithfulness. And Blythe’s post about the heroic minute really encouraged with me as I continue to muddle through the sloth and selfishness that hold me back from being a better homemaker and a better Christian. The path to holiness is not about big life-changing encounters – although, those do happen and are very real – but choices as normal as choosing a reaction of love instead of frustration with the baby when I find he has pulled all the books off the shelf again or choosing to put the phone down and bring the laundry to the basement.

I’m slowly realizing grace is not an esoteric theological concept but a minute-by-minute both supernatural and earthy – incarnational, really – reality. Participating in the sacraments have made this very real to me and has made holiness actually seem possible through Christ’s gift of Himself. Though I still groan with creation waiting for all things to be made new, failure no longer seems inevitable. It is incredibly freeing. We have oodles of small opportunities for a heroic minute during the day that help us leave the life of cheddar and move closer to St. Teresa of Avila territory. But hey, even St. Teresa thought there were seven mansions to move through in our interior castle.

A word of encouragement to my fellow cheeses desiring to become mystics (immediately) from another Teresa:
“God leads each of us on an individual way; one reaches the goal more easily and more quickly than another. We can do very little ourselves, compared to what is done to us. But that little bit we must do. Primarily, this consists before all else of persevering in prayer to find the right way, and of following without resistance the attraction of grace when we feel it. Whoever acts in this way and perseveres patiently will not be able to say that his efforts were in vain. But one may not set a deadline for the Lord.” (Edith Stein in a letter to a struggling student before she became St. Teresa Benedicta)