This time last year, my “professional” life was slammed. I was in the middle of traveling to Boston to tape the show, had on my calendar several retreats I was speaking at, had a weekly column and a daily paying blogging gig. All of it was good, all opportunities to share my faith and talk about Jesus. If I had to be away from my family or have my attention diverted from them, I could think of no better reason.
This year, things are quieter. We don’t tape The Gist again until March, which means this will be the longest break from traveling to Boston all year. No retreats on my books. And I don’t know that I ever formally addressed the Faith and Family Live situation, which was my other blogging gig. It’s a long story, but basically the site couldn’t be maintained with the money available and now if you go there you are redirected to Catholic Digest’s homepage. All of it is fine and good, just a big difference in the demands on my time.
Truth be told, it is good timing. Because like many mothers before me, I’m finding that the older my kids get, the busier we are. Busy in a different way. Busy is a way that I really enjoy. But so far I’ve not stumbled upon those quiet mornings of thumb-twiddling I long ago imagined.
The difference, however, is being in a place where you are trucking along living your life, doing what you are supposed to do without it necessarily feeling like you clearly, oh-so-clearly understand how God is “using” you. I know God loves me, I know I am in the center of his will. It just feels a bit less, well, fast paced.
Anyway, that’s life these days. Good but quieter, but then again not really, not at all.
Early this afternoon, I grabbed a CD to bring with me in the van as I drove up the way to get Isabel from preschool. As I was pulling out of the neighborhood, something caught my eye that I’m sad to report reminded me of something I struggle with just a little (oh heck, just a LOT). Something that if not on my radar is no problem at all but when on my radar really stirs something in my spirit, not in a good way. I can’t help but think the devil enjoys nothing more than pointing my face in the direction of these things that get me churned up. That in turn leads to me becoming frustrated with myself for having something like this, these circumstances, that rob me of my peace. I wish it weren’t so.
I sort of pushed through the negative feelings, tried to give it back to Jesus (Lord! I don’t want to go down that path of negative thinking!) as I popped in the CD. I clicked forward to a sweet little song that I loved this Christmas season. It’s called “The Friendly Beasts.” Augie sang it with his elementary school at the Christmas concert a few weeks ago (with Henry making a special appearance as The Cow). I even convinced Augie to perform a duet with me (and Ethan on guitar) for our Swenson family talent show on Christmas Eve. Have you heard the song before? Take a listen here:
What struck me today, as I ambled down the road, was the simplicity and generosity and beauty of what these animals gave Jesus. Oh I know, it’s a made up song, but it’s true actually. There was most certainly a dove that cooed the sweet babe to sleep. There had to be a lamb that shared his wool to make a blanket for Jesus. The donkey carried the baby’s mother. The cow shared his manger. Each gave something. Each gift was unique, each was exactly what Jesus needed in that moment. Something no one else could give, something essential that only that animal could offer.
There I sat thinking about these animal and Jesus showed me that right now — maybe just in this moment, maybe in this season — what I could give him was my heart filled with love for him. And particularly, as I struggled with my unique (frustrating) shortcomings, that my gift to Jesus was that situation, the one I dislike so much. Maybe we call my potential reaction “learning to love” or “the chance to grow in heroic virtue” or perhaps it’s simply “giving my opinions, hopes and fears back to Jesus.”
Whatever I want to call my reaction to my feelings (which are, I must remember, nothing more than feelings), in this moment it is my opportunity to love Jesus more, to give him the gift of my heart. My reaction, my opportunity to grow by choosing kindness and love and an attitude of humility (Lord willing) is the gift I give Emmanuel. It’s what Jesus wants from me right now. It’s such a small offering, but it’s the gift I give.