Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Part IV: Charity of Heart

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
                And extends her arms to the needy.  Proverbs 31:20
                During the holiday season, many opportunities exist to help the poor.  Food drives abound for holiday meals for families struggling.  Giving trees can be found at local malls and churches.  Many stores have people ringing bells, so as we rush around in Christmas frenzy, we can drop money into the bucket.  All of these are wonderful to help our fellow citizens of the world. 
                Charity has been a topic I have discussed quite a few times before.  To be an Ideal Wife, we have to “reach out her [our] hands to the poor.”  None of this is a new concept.  As I looked at this section of Proverbs 31, I struggled with bringing in a new idea to the thoughts of charity.  Driving to my Bible study group, I realized a past event in my life was the key.
                All of my life, I have struggled with female relationships.  I am more comfortable with men: talking sports, outdoors, military, and vehicles.  Though I am far from an expert in these fields, I enjoy the topics.  To make matters tougher, I joined the military being with a majority of male colleagues.  Around a lot of women, I feel like an elephant around ants.  One wrong step and I have crushed people.  Yes, this is a bit dramatic, but how I feel.
                Many years ago, I specifically struggled with a couple female relationships.  They were women I wanted to have a close relationship with but I really felt they didn’t like me.  While they went shopping, I tried to tag along, but I was miserable.  I hate shopping most of the time.  So I started watching the game with the guys instead of walking from store to store bored to death.  My thoughts were very dark because though I tried to join their activities, they didn’t join me in mine.  I felt like a complete outcast.
                At this time, I was sponsoring one of my military guy friends in his process of becoming confirmed into the Catholic Church.  During the Reconciliation service, I went to Monsignor to confess my sins.  My negative thoughts towards these women weighed heavily on my heart.  He spoke to me about charity of heart towards both me and the other women.  You see, I kept thinking I was such a bad person that they didn’t want to do things with me.  Then I would get angry at them for what felt like being shunned.  After many prayers and more tears, by having charity in my heart, I no longer mind that we have little in common.  I no longer hold resentment in my heart.
                This charity can continue to other areas especially in our hectic lives.  To “extend her [our] arms to the needy” can go beyond the material items people require.  Our society is in great need of love, understanding, empathy, and support.  Consider the clerk at the local Wal-Mart who has to deal with nasty customers all day.  Instead of growling at her slow process or perceived grumpiness, smile at her and PRAY for her.  Expect nothing in return.  There is a lady I have to interact with from time to time.  In her field of work, she is too grumpy and really seems to be incompetent.  My charity has struggled with her.  To be charitable, I pray, smile, and greet her in cheerfulness.  I expect absolutely nothing in return.  I doubt her and I will ever be friends; yet, I pray I may make her day a bit brighter.
                Charity of heart needs to be prayed for and practiced.  I definitely don’t come by it naturally.  I trip up a LOT.  In fact, I don’t go to the deli at one of the stores in town because of one employee.  Hum, I haven’t prayed about it either.  I might need to work in this area.  And there are others….
                My challenge to all of us during the out of control holiday shuffle is to smile to those needy drained souls in the world.  Try to brighten their day with an ounce of joyfulness.  When someone is annoying, pray for them to have a better day.  Embrace your charitable heart.
Blessings to you all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Part III: Long Hours

                The next part of Proverbs caused me to pause.  I really feel that I fail in this area.  I watch some people and they do this so much better than I could even dream.  Of course, when discussing the topic with fellow Ideal Wife strivers, they help me look at the topic through different eyes.  These lovely ladies are very charitable to me.
She rises while it is still night,
                And distributes food to her household.  Proverbs 31:15
                Each morning, my husband rises at five in the morning to get ready for work.  He also cooks his own breakfast.  I am not distributing food to him.  Instead, I am sleeping in for another hour.  He says he doesn’t mind.  He likes to cook while I really don’t.  But I can’t help think I would be a better wife if I did cook for him.  When I first retired, I was determined to cook beautiful dinners for him.  Within three months, he fired me.  Cooking has no appeal to me, so I do the quick route of Crockpot cooking.  He hates that type, so he said he would take over the cooking again.  I do distribute food to the kids….  They would have to say whether it is edible or not. 
She enjoys the success of her dealings;
                At night her lamp is undimmed.  Proverbs 31:18
The note in my Bible states, “Her lamp is undimmed: indicates abundance of productive work and its accompanying prosperity.”  Again, I go to bed before my husband most of the time.  I need a lot of rest.  A friend talked about how I am still up before the sun rises and I go to bed well after the sun goes down.  This is true enough this time of year, but not even close during the summer.  I have an aunt and cousin who I really think never sleep.  I admire their work ethic very much.  The reality for me is I need to rest so my medical conditions don’t start giving me more problems.  When it comes to work hours, I won’t be the Ideal Wife.  I have to settle for a good wife.
Blessings to you all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mass Reflection

                On Sunday, I didn’t go to my church for Mass.  Instead, I attended serves with about forty women at Cursillo.  We were blessed to be celebrating with Father Stu.  He touches my heart so very much.  The gospel reading for the day came from Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-30 entitled “The Parable of the Talents.”  What Father asked us really hit home.
                Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer like Laura Ingalls Wilder.  One rejection of a story sent me on a ten year writer’s block.  About four years ago, I started writing again.  My retirement opened the door to be able to write with all my new free time.  Another writer’s block hit.  This summer I contemplated not writing anymore.  In September, I forced myself to sit back down at the computer.  I floundered.
                A number of spiritual nudges happened over the weekend while working the Cursillo.  While sitting at Mass on Friday, Saint Francis de Sales came into my thoughts.  This writers’ block of fiction hit when I started asking for his intersession.  (For any Protestants out there, I know the saints are a tough topic.  I believe talking to the saints is just like talking to a loved one who has passed away.)  I do need to note, the writers’ block hasn’t affected writing about my faith.  Well, Saint Francis and I haven’t bonded like I have with Saint Daniel of Padua and Mother Mary.  I have been pretty grumpy with him.  As I thought of my writing, yes during Mass, I realized fiction isn’t where I need to be at the moment.  I have suspected this for a little while.  A topic finally popped into my mind, suffering.
                On Saturday during a social time of the weekend, I chatted with a dear fellow Christian writer.  We both follow each others’ blogs.  I did most of the talking and she listened with a lot of love and patience.  Being the dear she is, she told me that she really enjoys my writing.  Maybe I am to write more academic then fiction?
                As Father Stu gave the homily, he compared the servant placing the talent (a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal and its place of origin) into the ground as us burying our talents and not using them as God intends us to use them.  Ouch!  So, what talents are we burying Father Stu asked all of us?  This is a very good question.  I believe many of us bury our talent to serve.  We get so busy with life that we forget to use our talents for our faith, for God.  We also bury them because we are afraid we are going to fail.  We are afraid to put ourselves out there.  I think the reason I have been tempted to bury mine is that it is becoming hard work and I feel lost in this writer’s world.  I realized I have to keep writing even if nothing of mine gets published or even if I can’t figure out how to get published.  I also have to continue to serve Eucharist and work on the Cursillo weekend where God needs me.  I can’t bury my talents.  I might need to revamp them from time to time, but I can’t quit.
                So what talents has God given you?  Have you buried them?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mass Reflection

                This week has been very hectic with all the activities for our community to participate in for the men’s retreat and now panicking for all the jobs I need to accomplish for the women’s weekend.  Of course this is also when both my daughter and I have medical appointments to throw into an already packed schedule.  Luckily, God gives us humor to place a smile on our face as well conquer the tasks put before us.
                I must confess that I really don’t remember much of the homily that Father spoke to us at Mass.  I liked that he reminded us we must always be prepared for when Jesus comes to take us to heaven when our time on Earth is through.  I am still smiling at our congregation trying to adopt the new changes that are occurring throughout the Catholic community.  It is like trying to teach a person who has only worked on a typewriter to figure out how to use the computer.  This however is not the humor that has stayed with me since Mass.
                The reading for the weekend talked about the ten bridesmaids preparing for the wedding or lack of preparing depending on the bridesmaid.  Father always talks to the children before they go to Children’s Liturgy of the Word.  My daughter stood with all the others enjoying special time with him.  He talked about the excessive amount of bridesmaids and turned to Madelle.  “What do you think of ten bridesmaids?”  She didn’t even hesitate.  “I think it works.”  Hum, I hope she plans to pay for some of this on her own.  Of course, everyone in the congregation laughed heartily at this.  I am still chuckling about this.  Especially when I think of my husband trying to talk her out of ten bridesmaids in about fifteen or so years from now.  Go out and find humor in your day.  It will help you through the chaos of life.
                Blessing to you all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Ideal Wife Part II: Characteristics

Part II:  Characteristics
                Proverbs 31 provides for us a very good list of characteristics to live by in our lives not only at home and at church but also in our communities which throws worldly attitudes and actions in our face.  I know I struggle with the outside world.  The negativity can bear down on me until I succumb to the same approach to life.  Now that I am a stay-at-home housewife, I don’t feel the crushing world around me as much.  Unfortunately, when I go out and am with the right people, I fall into my old habits.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
                And she laughs at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25
                The visual with the first line brings to mind that of a lady.  I see nice manicured nails, hair in the right place, and clothing that looks classy.  Hum, my nails are never done, my hair is pretty good, and I tend to like wearing jeans and football shirts supporting my son’s team or my favorite NFL team.  With the help of my Bible study sisters, they aided me to see more of myself in the line by redefining strength and dignity.  Instead of looking at the superficial outside of ourselves, we need to study our inside.  Do we have the strength to stand by our conviction even in the face of adversity with family/friends?  Do we display the self-respect of ourselves and others through our bearing, conduct, and speech?  Most of the time, I do pretty well.  Not always though.  I still need to be conscious of the traps that are set for me.
                The second line of the entire chapter of Proverbs 31 is my favorite.  “And she laughs at the days to come.”  The note in my Bible states, “Laughs at the days to come: anticipates the future with gladness free from anxiety.”  Isn’t that simply beautiful?  I do worry sometimes about the future until I remind myself that everything in my life is in God’s capable hands.  About a month ago, my husband applied for a temporary job.  The two main problems I saw about the job was a significant loss in pay and the potential of him traveling a lot.  With a teenage son in the house, I like having instant backup from my husband.  Yet, the fun he would have doing the job would be unprecedented.  I could have worried, but I gave it to God as did my husband.  I am so free to laugh at the future, wrinkles and all.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
                And on her tongue is kindly counsel.  Proverbs 31:26
                Wisdom and kindness seem to be lacking in our world.  Granted, I think I have many wise and kind friends out there; most of them are the ones that will be reading this.  And there are many others too.  Unfortunately, it is so much easier to listen to the frankly stupid, hurtful people.  We need to rise above this way of living and still be kind.  For the most part, I display wisdom and kindness.  Unfortunately, there are people out there who push my proverbial buttons.  I carry a cross of burden each time I have to work with a specific school secretary.  She never smiles either with her face or with her voice.  She never seems to know the answer to any of my questions or seems to care.  I have been so fortunate to know many amazing secretaries who are helpful, cordial, and personable.  This one is not.  So, every time I know I have to talk with this person, I pray for charity of spirit with a kind tongue.
She watches the conduct of her household,
And eats not her food in idleness.  Proverbs 31:27
                The one thing I am very stringent on is watching the conduct of my household which drives my family crazy I am sure.  Both of my sons have accused my husband and me of being overprotective because we set an age of when they could date and we expect to know their plans when they go out and about.  (Now that the oldest is in college, we don’t expect any of this, but I still like to know some of what is going on in his life.)  I will not apologize for any of what we have done with the kids.  Coaches, youth ministers, teachers, and adult friends comment on the maturity of my children.  They like my kids.  That is the best compliment a parent can receive.  Besides, we are raising them to strive to be the ideal Christians.  We are not settling for less.  We also don’t settle for less in my or my husband’s conduct.  We live what we discuss.
                I so don’t like the line of eating in idleness.  As we discussed this line in Bible study, the other women didn’t know exactly what was meant by it.  Unfortunately, I know it all too well.   My comment, “It is eating bonbons while watching soap operas.”  First, we shouldn’t be idle.  There is a time to rest when we are weary.  Some people have health issues and can’t do the same amount of work as others, but resting is different than being idle.  The definition I like the most from dictionary.com is “habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.”  Though I hate it, I have to rest more than the average person due to health issues.  However, my first year of retirement, I rested and carelessly overate at the same time.  To rest, I watch television or read.  Not bad things, unless adding food to that.  Now I am trying to cut the food and when I watch television, I crochet.  I am resting, but not being idle. 
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
                The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors,
                And let her works praise her at the city gate.  Proverbs 31:30-31
The Bible note for this first verse is worth mentioning.  “The true charm of the ideal wife is her religious spirit, for she fears (loves) the Lord.”  We don’t need to be flirty, alluring, appealing, or the like.  As we grow older, this will slowly start to fade.  Our love for God will outshine all of the worldly aspects of other women.  What a contradiction to what the media sells all of us.  Now, I do dress nicely for my husband and yes, I flirt with him.  Okay, I confess.  I try to be alluring and appealing, but only for him.  I do believe this is part of being a wife.  However, I don’t do any of this for others.  Oh, and I don’t do it like the media does it.  I try to be a lady and not a lady of the night.  But, how do we juggle this?  It begins by picking the right spouse.  If we have a worldly spouse, he is going to want a worldly wife.  I was blessed by God in the husband God choose for me.  He is a faith filled husband who believes in Proverbs’ ideal wife. 
I want to go just a little deeper with this.  We need to teach our children this way of thinking.  I want my boys to marry women (unless they become priests) who want to strive to be the ideal wife.  I want my daughter to marry a husband who will reward her labors as she strives to be the ideal wife.  One day a young lady made the comment, “you are going to expect a lot out of your daughter-in-laws.”  We were talking about the expectation I have of my boys in taking leadership roles in the church while they live at home.  “No, I won’t expect anything of my daughter-in-laws.  I do expect my sons to pick good wives though.”  If they fail to do this, they will have to work even harder at their marriages. 
The media lambasts us with many antichristian viewpoints in all areas.  By their perspective, I should be 115 pounds, wearing heals and low cut tops, and doing everything in my power to look 25.  I am suppose to let my children have free reign of their lives with their own cell phones, televisions, new cars, and a million other material items.  Come to think of it, I should have a ton of material items as well to go along with a McMansion.   I don’t want to give the wrong impression of myself.  I don’t think there is evil in really nice homes or other material items.  I have a cool pickup that I love and love to drive.  We probably have too many televisions in our house.  I am also going to work on a new bedroom décor that isn’t necessary, but I want it.  But it is evil to make this a priority in our lives.  First and foremost comes our faith, without that, we are nothing.
We can change our world.  Instead of listening to the media, we need to reward women for their labors.  We need to praise them at the city gates.  So kudos to Holly, Diane, Heather, Diane, Beth, Pam, Cindy, Becky, Deidre, Patty, Amy, Pam, Michelle, and all the wives and mother’s out there striving to be Ideal in their roles as Christian Women, I commend you and pray for you.
Blessings to you all.