I laid in bed last night, writing this blog in my head. Then I laughed at myself, because I rarely remember what I want to say. Sometimes it feels like there is just this empty void where certain memories used to reside, and then I think about that and pray it is just because I am trying too hard to remember them. The old saying, “Just do other things and it will come to you,” sort of kicks in. I think I am becoming less and less able to multi-task these days! I did, however, surprise myself this morning and remembered the gist of what I wanted to write about today.
Elder Thaddeus has been such a tremendous help to me this Lent. I am really working on emptying my mind when negativity creeps, or tries to creep, inside my head. I envision one of my favorite Icons of Christ and then I just relax. It is pretty amazing. I found myself a little angry at my husband yesterday for a supposed embarrassment to me, and I just focused on the Icon of Christ (Pantocrator – Greek for “The Almighty” or “Lord of Hosts”) and my anger sort of evaporated. And what it allowed me to do was give my husband feedback without my anger, and let him know my predicament of mind, and we could discuss it more calmly. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the changes available to each of us, and to me, if we delve more deeply into our hearts and souls during these 40 days of Lent.
Sometimes it seems to me that we worry overmuch of what others think about us. I know I have always been concerned that others would not be interested enough in me to want to get to know me. And because I have grave doubts about my appearance (as being pretty, etc) I developed a very outgoing personality. I have this insatiable curiosity and am constantly adding trivial facts to my head, which I get such a kick out of doing, and love sharing them with others. My dad and I had a chat about this yesterday, because when you do share things you learn with others, they can often take it as braggadocio, when it is, in fact, not. (Something he struggles with, even at 86 years of age). Another blogger I admire (thehomeschoolmom) wrote recently that her children are often said to be too chatty. Their friends are not interested in all that her children wish to share. I find that homeschooled children are far more comfortable in conversing with all age groups, because they are not segregated by age in their learning environment, and they must engage in conversation so we mothers know if they are grasping the concepts we are teaching them. We engage our children in what they are learning and they, in turn, want to share their enthusiasm with others. When our children mix with public- or even private-school children, those children usually have no desire to talk about what they are learning in school. Which is sad! For me, I am a homeschooling mom and we are a unique breed. Most of us love learning and we love sharing information – and if we have lots of children, we are sharing that same information over and over again; but for us, it never becomes dull. Seeing the light in a child’s eye when they grasp something never gets old. Our enthusiasm sort of spills over into our lives. Most homeschooling moms are very comfortable chatting with other people and we love sharing. Partially because it is so nice to converse with people our own age after having schooled a passel of children all day, but mostly because we enjoy sharing. And we have so much more to talk about than what laundry soap we use!
All this brings me back to my embarrassing moment. My husband was trying to let me know, within a conversation, that I was sharing too much information. Sometimes he just does not understand our need to share with each other (among homeschooling moms) and as he is out in public all day long, he thinks I sometimes talk too much. Granted, I do love a good chat! (Which is probably why blogging wordily comes easy for me). And although I was embarrassed by his methodology in correcting me, and the fact that I do believe he misunderstood my motivation, I do believe he was right in many ways (gee, I hope he was sitting down as he read this!!!) and I bow to that correction on this page. Elder Thaddeus cautions us that we need to listen more and speak less, which many, many philosophers have cautioned for countless generations. Think of the many adages we have concerning keeping silent: “Silence is golden;” “God gave us two eyes, two ears, and one mouth; we should use our mouths much less than our eyes and ears;” and on and on they go. And perhaps we women, even though science now says we have this extra hormone causing us to talk more, should practice less speaking and more listening, as a general rule of thumb!
Occasionally God sends His Will to us through those who love us the most – our spouses. As Elder Amphilocios Makris says above, “Let Your will be done.” And boy oh boy, when you have a lifetime of chatting behind you, and the years stretch before you, it is hard to be quiet and submit to the Will of God. I do believe, however, that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God called my husband to be my spouse, and for me to be his spouse; and I know that it is for my good and it is God’s purpose for us both. And I love learning new things about myself and applying them in my life. I would not have been as accepting of my husband’s words, nor would I have continued to ponder the moment, had I not dedicated my Lent to really working on improving the person I am. I like to think my efforts are reaping results, in that I feel them around me. Elder Thaddeus says that when we emote the joy, peace, and love that will fill our hearts when we practice control of our thoughts, it will affect those around us, without us having to speak. I think perhaps that is one of the fruits of this effort…the peace that fills my heart and hopefully emanates from me.
It is said that you have to do something several times in a row for it to become habit. Some psychologists say it requires 16-21 times, for something to be done repeatedly, to create a habit. And I find that “fun fact” so interesting in light of Lent and trying to improve myself. I knew a priest a few years ago who told me, “Never pray for patience, because that’s when all Hell breaks loose.” And he went on to explain that when we pray for patience, God does not just zap us with that spiritual gift; we must learn how to practice it. So He gives us opportunities to practice patience (or whatever it is we are praying to acquire as a habit). I believe God is giving me multiple opportunities to practice what I am learning about silence; and trust me, it is a challenge sometimes! That being stated, I believe that we are given multiple opportunities to become better people. We learn more about what God wants for us, and we often become more in tune with His Whispers in our lives. Lent is a time the Church wisely set aside for me to focus on those attributes I would like to see more present in myself, and those I would like to do away with. Forty days does not seem like a long time but when I realized how important the number 40 is in Scripture, and in the life of Christ, it made me wish to use each of those days more fully. Here are some of the many times “40 days” appears in Scripture:
*It rained 40 days and nights when God cleansed the earth; Noah waited another 40 days before opening a window on the Ark.
*Moses spent 40 days (twice) on the Holy Mountain and his face shone with the Light of God.
*The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the desert, living off the Manna from Heaven.
*Jonah warned the people of Nineveh that they had 40 days to fast and repent and they did, and God did not destroy them.
*Jesus spent 40 days in the desert being tempted by the devil, and Jesus was seen 40 days after his Crucifixion, walking the earth.
Those are pretty momentous moments in the history of Christianity and I believe our forty days of Lent can also be spent equally as momentously, should we so desire it. If I choose to make a momentous change in myself, I will have ample time to practice it the 16-21 times it requires to become habit, well before Lent is over, and in time for celebration at the Resurrection of Our Lord on Easter. And hopefully my new habit will become the fabric, the character, of the Christian woman I choose to be, which will in turn, become my destiny.