In January, frustrated with the chaos I was encountering, I decided to seek to thrive in all that I did. I set goals for various aspects of my life: relationships, health, prayer, etc. (I hope to share them with you sometime soon, to help keep me accountable to them.)
While I have been progressing in my goals, and life is becoming more ordered and running smoother, this progress didn’t bring me as much satisfaction as I had hoped. In my mind, thriving was still eluding me.
As I pictured it, thriving meant managing all of the duties and responsibilities of my life with perfect competence. I figured that, if I tried hard enough, I really could have it all together. You know, a perfectly clean house, with delicious all-organic paleo meals on the table promptly at 6pm, children whose days are spent engaging in a variety of stimulating learning activities (definitely not with any television), picture perfect health, and extensive periods in the day for prayer and recollection.
While all of these things are good and desirable, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I had missed the point. In my naivete, I had thought that sanctity- which is what true thriving is all about- necessitated having it all together.
With relief I recalled the lives of saints who share my vocation as mother. If I held them to the same standards that I had proposed for myself, then Sts. Monica, Gianna and Frances hadn’t really thrived. St. Monica had difficulties in her relationship with her son and husband; St. Gianna suffered from cancer; and St. Frances was constantly interrupted at prayer by her children.
When it comes to thriving, only one thing is needful: to draw closer to our Lord through the circumstances of our daily life. I may not be able to control the chaos and trials in my life, but I can control whether these trials bring me closer to God, or lead me further away.
Thriving doesn’t just happen when everything is going right; it happens when you are being tested in the furnace of adversity and are molded into what you are supposed to be.
Is it even possible to thrive without trials?
The challenges and chaos aren’t distractions from my goal for a life well lived; they are a means of pushing me closer to it. It is up to me to use them wisely. Maybe then I will experience what it looks like to thrive.
How about you? Have you ever experienced a trial that helped you become a better person? I would love to hear about it in the comments!
While I do try to succeed at all the details of life (housework, healthy meals, and so forth), thriving for me I think is defined as providing a certain kind of emotional support to everyone in my family. When I feel I am being kind to my husband, filling my kids’ emotional cups, and making myself happy with things I enjoy, I feel like a success — even if the house is a mess and dinner is late. Sometimes if I focus too much on perfection in the little things, I find myself yelling at the kids because they’re hindering my chores or resenting my husband because he isn’t appreciative of the fancy meal I made. So long as a few big things are managed, I feel okay fitting in the other stuff wherever I can.
Well said. Its so easy for me to lose track of the big picture and get bogged down in the details. Constantly having to return my focus to what really matters, my relationships with God, family, and friends.
I’m so happy you’ve written about this topic, as your conclusions are similar to that which I’ve arrive these past few months. I’ve been going through A LOT of adjusting recently; Our move in February form a one-bedroom upstairs apartment to 1500 square-foot house, being pregnant with two little ones that don’t recognize my change in energy as anything other than getting “mean” more often, and resigning my management position at the theatre and suddenly having a lot more time at home.
My (now 4-year-old) daughter has always had a love for St. Therese (must be the flowers) and I’ve always liked the saint as well, but only recently have I really started to develop a devotion to her. Like you, I have always put a lot of emphasis on prayer life, figuring that if I can’t devote one full hour out of my 24 to uninterrupted prayer, then I’m doing something wrong. But recently, I’ve found that there are so many ways to pray as a mother! Using the Little Way in my seemingly less spiritual routines and responsibilities most often feels more sanctifying than that hour of alone time every morning to set the tone of the day. I still get in that hour of alone time in prayer when I can, but I’m learning put away my scrupulous definitions of “slacking off” and find opportunities for prayer constantly throughout the day in all that I do.
I’ve never considered comparing my life those great saints that actually share my vocation (which is NOT that of a consecrated religious, with lots of regimented times for silent prayer!) , such as Monica, Gianna, and Frances… Duh! So glad I have a smart friend like Katharine.
I can so relate to identifying more with St. Therese, now that I am a mother! (I have been wanting to post on that soon). I used to not think very highly of her “little way” (sorry Therese), but now that I am a mother, I am seeing that that is going to be the best route to sanctity for me.
I am glad you are not being as hard on yourself now. You have alot on your plate! I just wanted to say, if I haven’t already, how much I admire the dedication you show to your family, it is a very beautiful thing to see! It takes a lot of love to scale things back in the way that you did.
I know in my case, it helped me when I went to spiritual direction, in tears saying how I was trying to get all the hours of the divine office in, but it just wasn’t happening, and that I was growing to resent it. The priest turned to me and said, he didn’t think that is appropriate for my vocation as wife and mother at this time, and that he wanted me to stop and focus more on serving my family with patience and love and being present to my children in the moment. Game changer.
My favorite way of prayer right now is singing hymns. The kids love it when I do, and I can do it while doing the dishes or sweeping. Too often we think we have to pray in ways that are really meant for religious. I read a book called The Celtic Way of Prayer which was full of tiny short prayers these Irish mothers would pray when kneading dough, banking down the fire, even washing their face in the morning. It was a beautiful concept and has given me more of a notion of praying more *often,* since I can’t pray longer or with more focus right now.
That sounds like an awesome book, Shelia! I will have to see if I can find a copy, basically that is how I am trying to pray these days, by tying little prayers to the everyday, ordinary tasks that I have to do frequently. Thanks!
Thank you, I really needed to read this! I by no means ever keep everything in order, but often find myself frustrated by my inability. Recently, I’ve been trying to focus more on just loving my little one in the moment and enjoying every little second I have with her. The dishes can wait 😉
Amen to that!
I concur with the timeliness comments! Thank you!
Pingback: Goals I am Aiming for This Year | Half Kindled