Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Jean Luc Picard, Kathleen Norris, and Carey Landry bopped me on the head.

I've been reading Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk for what seems like 74 years now. I even had to extend it at the library. It is a difficult book for me. Norris is a poet by trade, and well, it's obvious. But underneath the difficult prose are really meaty ideas. And underneath those meaty ideas is something that's been nagging at me, making me pick up the book again and again. Her stories about monks past and present keep drawing me in. The section on celibacy broke something free - a little something that's been sitting right on the tip of my tongue for a week now waiting for me to figure out what the heck it is and spit it out already (it's a hairy little something and it tastes a little funky).

A few days ago, my mother-in-law came over to babysit. She brought a book of songs with her. I thumbed through the book, singing songs that I remembered learning in elementary school. The book had quite a large section of vacation bible school songs. I recalled my favorite ever VBS song "Bloom Where You're Planted" and I sang it for my amused and befuddled audience. I guess you had to live through the "Hi, God!" phase of the 70s to really appreciate Carey Landry's lyrics. Singing that song with my friends accompanied by the gentle strumming of guitars is a happy memory for me, though. I can remember thinking that I would bloom where I was planted! I would be a beautiful daisy no matter what my surroundings!

A few weeks before the little blast from the past, I had a chat with a good friend. I don't remember the whole conversation, but I do remember that Mother Theresa came up. "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

These three topics have been knocking around in my head a good bit. I couldn't figure out why they kept coming to the front of my mind all the time, much less why one triggered the others. I'd be telling the kids to stop bickering, cooking dinner, and making to do lists in my head when, seemingly out of nowhere, I'd start humming that little song. So last night, when Jean Luc Picard popped into my head while I was mopping, it was a welcome reprieve. I dunked and wrung and pushed and then Jean-Luc-in-my-head said "ENGAGE!" I'd like to pretend it was an "aha" moment, but it was really more of a "well, duh" moment.

I believe that family life is my vocation. I have been called to marriage and motherhood by God - I have no doubt of that. But I sort of forgot that a calling is not an event so much as a way of life. I haven't fulfilled my vocation because I had a wedding or a childbirth (or two). I live my vocation by loving my husband and children. To be honest, that's been a half-assed effort of late. I've been disengaged. Now that I've had a little head bopping, though, I'm ready to really throw myself into my life again, to fully engage in all the little acts of great love that will fulfill my calling. And I can finally put down that book and start something else!


Katie Alender said...

It's amazing how easy it is to disconnect from really living our lives. I think a lot of us can blame it on the internet, but the truth is that before there was internet, people found other ways to disengage.

You're really a great writer, Christy... maybe you should try for a column or something!

Christy said...

Well, thanks!

Yeah, I'm not feeling the whole blame the internet argument either. I think it boils down to focus - to being present in the moment. If I'm contemplating knitting patterns or making to do lists or daydreaming, then I'm not really being present for my family. It's like the whole Mary and Martha thing - you can fulfill your duties like Martha and miss the whole point, or you can be attentive like Mary and really live your life.

Mary Witzl said...

Personally, I like to think of myself as a fusion of Mary and Martha. As a child, I remember feeling so pissed off for Martha, endlessly toiling and being of service to others while Mary got to do all of the fun stuff, the thinking and philosophizing. No fair! As a mother, I've got plenty of Martha moments -- and I try to cherish them, and do my best. But when I sit down to write, I am a Mary through and through.

I like the idea of a song triggering an epiphany, no matter how small. And I believe that all human beings who manage to love and put up with their fellow humans on a regular basis, have a vocation.