Friday, October 13, 2006

A Mother's Rule of Life

A friend of mine at church lent me a book a few weeks ago: A Mother's Rule of Life, by Holly Pierlot. It is written by a Catholic mother of five children who, six years ago, felt something like how I've been feeling (only more so, I'm guessing!) She was trying to homeschool and care for a toddler and a baby, keep the house nice, stay on a budget, make meals for the family, stay on top of the laundry, and convince herself that it was all a worthwhile endeavor. And she was miserable, until she stepped back and re-evaluated what she was doing and why. The result is this book, which walks you through the development and implementation of a Rule of Life for Mothers. The idea is based on the concept of monastic vocations...all of which have a rule of life. If Motherhood is our vocation, Holly says, and it is, then we should have a rule of life as well.

I think it may have changed my life. My husband certainly thinks that it has - today he wanted to know what in the world had changed since I started reading it.

I'm not sure I can answer that question. Because in one sense, not much has changed. I don't have any more hours in my day than I used to have. I don't have any more sleep each night (actually, I've gotten less sleep this week than I normally do). Jonathan hasn't suddenly turned into Angel-Toddler, and I still have laundry and dishes and mopping and meal preparation and church work to do.

But something is different now. A few weeks ago I felt out of control and discouraged and tired and sure that I would never ever catch up. This week has been peaceful...the chores are done, Jonathan has had lots of quality time (and so has Gabe, for that matter), my desk is clear and church work, while still a lot, doesn't feel so overwhelming.

The best explanation I can give for this is sort of multi-faceted. I'm still trying to figure it all out (hence the fact that I'm writing about it!) :)

1) Holly reminded me that this is a vocation that God gave me. The commands to care for the garden (their home), and to be fruitful and multiply, are the first works that God gave to Adam and Eve...this work wasn't the result of the fall, it was the way life was meant to be. The fall just made it harder.

2) God is not an optional part of my day. My entire life should, ideally, be an offering to God, and I can't do that if I never think about him except on Sunday morning. Prayer isn't an optional occupation for those moments when I can't think of anything else to do. (Ha, when does that ever happen??) Prayer needs to be both scheduled into my day at regular times, as well as sprinkled here and there in the midst of my daily chores.

3) Sloth is not the same thing as being tired. Sloth is "a sluggishness of the soul or boredom of the exertion necessary for the performance of any good work." Sloth ties me to the couch and makes me feel badly about life. Tiredness, on the other hand, can be offered to God as a sacrifice of love. "Jesus, I'm going to wash these dishes and take Jonathan for a walk because I love you."

4) I'm not keeping house because I need to do so to stay sane. I think this was part of the catch-22 that I'd fallen into recently (ok, for most of my life): doing my work in order to feel good about myself but being too tired to feel like things were ok and then needing to do more work to make myself feel better but not ever actually feeling better...this kind of circular trap just results in discouragement and depression, which is exactly where I often found myself. Holly's book reminded me that I am keeping house because keeping a home running smoothly means that I can be a better parent and be a better wife and most importantly, pay more attention to God.

These are very scattered thoughts right now - I'm very much just starting the thought process and the implementation of this idea of a Rule of Life. Perhaps the best explanation can be found in this quote:
There's a deeper and more fundamental level to a Rule of Life that distinguishes it from a mere schedule: the intent and aim of following the Rule. A Rule followed for the practical benefits alone is not a Rule of Life; it is a schedule. Duties attended to grudgingly or with reluctance do not make a Rule, for a Rule of Life must be lived as a response to the call of God.
In a Mother's Rule, all that we do is done because God asks it of us. It is to accept and embrace my vocation because God wants me to, whether out of an initial sense of obedience to him or, later, simply because I love him, and to suffer the possibily ongoing struggle to adjust my attitudes and outlook toward his vision for my life, is the very heart of the Rule. It is to do all that he asks, because he asks it, out of love for him.
So that is what I'm trying to do. Do all that God has asked of me, because he asks it, because I love him.

The strange thing is that when I stopped trying to do it all by myself and for myself, God seems to have stepped in and multiplied my efforts. How else to explain that I suddenly seem to have more hours in my day? Then again, I guess that isn't so very strange. It is like tithing - when we give to God even out of our lack, he always seems to give back to us more than we ever thought to ask for. So perhaps now as I'm choosing to give time to God in prayer, and choosing to obey his call for my life, he is simply giving me an abundance of blessings in return.


kelly t said...

Thanks for that post, Emily. I'll need to read that book.

Ashley said...

Your new outlook sounds wonderfully peaceful. My God continue to bless your efforts.

sara said...

i LOVE this book. glad others are finding it beneficial :) it has helped me so much in aiming to fulfill my "vocation" as wife and mother. let me stress that "aiming"!

Amber said...

I've read some great things about this book and I bought it earlier this year. I haven't gotten to it yet, but I was getting close to doing so when I read a pretty negative review of it over the summer. That made me not quite so interested in it, but now that I've read yours I'm eager to read it!

I feel like I could use some refocusing and rededication at this point - with all our traveling and house planning I've let my patterns and schedules slip. I've really noticed how much that has affected my ability to get the non-essentials (and even some of the essentials!) done as I'd like them to be done, or even done at all. (Like, um, blogging... *grin*)

Which reminds me - perhaps I should go write a quick post on my blog rather than sit here yammering on yours. :-)

Emily said...

But Amber, I *like* it when you yammer on my blog! :)

Dy said...

Ouch. An excellent and well-timed post. Thank you so much. We're hitting the library tomorrow and I will look for this book.