What are we supposed to be doing?

Today’s homily was inspiring. For the past couple of years, we’ve been discussing extra-curricular activities. Should we have our kids in them? Which ones? How many? Should we let it take time away from our family time? Isn’t it kind of insular, isolating and anti-social not to be going out and participating? And isn’t it a great gift to be able to do certain things? Like play piano, survive in the woods without complaining, be physically fit, competitive and victorious… All these are good things. Can we live without them? What happens if we do? We might become like that family down the street whose kids are all alike, quiet, friendless, incompetent, and still living at home at age 25. We want our kids to have accomplishments for their college applications too. What if they get to college anyway and can’t play baseball with the other boys? What if they could have played the piano and roused a group of companions to joyous memories, but can’t because we never gave them lessons? What if the state of music in the church continues in a state of horrible decrepit decline because we didn’t train our children to be musicians? What if they miss out on friendships because they weren’t in scouts or youth group or team sports? Ah, all these things are good things. So we must do as much as we can! SO one year, when our oldest was in 4th grade, we had him in baseball 3 times a week, choir at church once a week, scouts once a week and occasional weekends, piano lessons once a week, and CCD once a week. All of these were good things. He never had a break. He had homework every afternoon too. His piano teacher said he was “the most talented, most intelligent, and most interested student” he had ever had. SO that was wonderful, we had to continue that. It was the most beneficial thing we were doing. Baseball was getting him outside and doing something together with other boys and being challenged physically, choir was getting him involved at church. What could be more important than that? And scouts was making him a strong, competent male, and not a pansy, not afraid of the great outdoors. CCD got dropped. After all, faith is just a natural part of our lives anyway, and it’s not good to stress kids out with too much activity.

Then Benjamin was put in Gifted English at school, and then gifted Math. Awesome. So obviously he was doing great. Everyone else had to wait around a lot and we were never home and had reduced the number of meals we ate together as a family. But these are the kind of sacrifices one must make for one’s children.

Benjamin complained a lot and always wanted to stay at home.  He was exhausted after school, didn’t want  to practice piano, or play baseball, or go to scouts, or choir. He wanted to stay home. It was stressful for all of us really. We all wanted to stay home. We missed quiet evenings at home with just the family. We missed dinners together around the table. We couldn’t figure ut what to do, but take something out of our schedule. It was too much. Plus no one else got to do anything. Well, Peter played tennis once a week, and Gabriel went along to scouts. But the week was full. There wasn’t any time left for anything else. We were just trying to survive the schedule we’d gotten ourselves into.

So we talked about what had to go. Then we talked abut what we could allow the other kids to to do. By this age, Benjamin had gotten to do all these activities, plus he’d tried soccer and taekwondo, he’d gone to  kindermusik class, and he’d been in numerous playgroups. He’d never made any lasting friends in any of it though. We were still praying for that. All Gabriel had ever gotten to try was baseball once, and soccer once, and piano once, and he liked to fish. And all Audrey had gotten to do was try gymnastics once.

So we needed to clear Benjamin’s schedule to make room for everyone else to put things on the schedule. It just wasn’t fair to everyone else to never get to do anything. We wondered what amazing talents we might uncover. What interests lay hidden in each of these our unfurling gifts of children?

So the next year, we did less. Peter got to play tennis. Audrey took a few horseback riding lessons, and a girl across the street taught her tumbling lessons once a week, Gabriel went back to cub scouts, and went fishing as much as he could. Benjamin went to guitar lessons, scouts, and that was it. He went on camping trips and a week of scout camp in the summer.

Benjamin was invited to the honors Club in school, joined 4H and got himself elected secretary of the club, won some honors in 4H, was named Student of the Year, was still in gifted, and had a lot of homework.

Pretty impressive huh?

We’d had another baby, and were now really really missing evenings of quiet at home as a family. This new plan hadn’t resulted in much improvement. A little, but we still hadn’t reached peace.

The scout leader was/is a truly wonderful, devout Catholic who went on pilgrimages to Europe from time to time and was always highly complimentary of our son. This was flattering. We wanted to drop scouts because we were exhausted and longed for family time, but we didn’t because we thought it would be good for Benjamin to go through scout camp. Then the big decision came down from the top of Scouting that made it seem like a hundred year old bastion of morality and goodness safe for boys and men would come crumbling down, and we didn’t want our son caught in the rubble. But he’d made friends, become more capable, and learned so much as a scout.

We dropped guitar, because Benjamin wasn’t practicing and Granny stopped bringing him. Easy enough. But now there was no one learning music in our home.

We started homeschooling for a million reasons, but one of them was to try to get all this extracurricular stuff out of our family time and into the afternoon during the school day. Scouts is still in the evening, and CCD is back in the evening. But everyone definitely gets more time at home and feels less rushed and panicked.

We have 3 evenings a week that are peaceful. But sometimes overflow gets stuffed into them. Social visits, errands, housework, appointments. Life.

But we do have most of our evening meals around the dining table together as a family. We are at least not a part of that sad statistic that means the family is falling apart and therefore society’s building blocks.

But life is busy. It needs careful planning structure. Even leisure time must be carefully planned and guarded. That is fine and orderly. But are we there yet? What are we supposed to be doing?

Last week, I was under so much stress, not from our schedule but from a huge drift of ordinary little crises that all happened in one week, that I had a migraine headache for 2 days as I went one foot in front of the other through all the duties I had set up for myself. I smiled as I conversed with so many lovely people at CCD, at Speech and Debate, with a friend at her home over coffee, meeting new friends at another home during a special class for the middle schoolers, talking to eye doctors and optometrists, the water company and the bank, the garbage company…. It took me a while to realize that it was a migraine because I am not accustomed to them. Stress. Every last nerve in my body felt like it had been run over a cheese grater. I was frayed, shredded, completely shot, and had to keep going. I took medicine and slept Friday night.

What is it that God asks of us? I am Catholic. I believe in the fullness of God’s teachings. Who am I to disbelieve the truth which was in existence before I was even a thought? I have 6 children as proof.  I homeschool them to protect the passing on of that truth. I believe in something bigger than me and my understanding and abilities. And I bow down and say, Do with my life as You Will. I am your humble servant. Not my will but thine be done. Not by my own understanding, direct my paths. I trust in you King of Kings.

      5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

8 It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3: 5-8

What have I been doing? What are my priorities, my goals? Heaven of course. Becoming a Saint. For my children to become Saints, for my husband to become a Saint.

What do I think about? What do I worry about? Money. A clean house. Presentable (read:nice) clothes, a hospitable (read:beautiful) home. Money. Time. What my kids minds are filling up with. Books, music, friends, TV, and video games. Whether my kids know history , religion, Latin, logic, philosophy and where they’re placed in math. Money. Whether I got all the bills plugged in right. Our future and dreams of living on land. Being accomplished in homemaking, sewing, cooking, decorating, oil painting. Many things. I am busy with many things.

41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

But what does God ask of us? To love him, know him, serve him. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. He asks us to come to him first. To seek him first. To seek to please Him, and take His burden on ourselves. Because if we do, all these things will be added unto us, and because his yoke is easy and his burden light.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.  Micah 6:8

37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:29-32

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

How important are all these worries? How important are these good things we think our kids must have?

Our family history can become a conglomeration of vignettes of rushing around and activities which isolate us from that which makes us what and who we are: the family out of which God formed us, and in which God nurtures our souls, teaches us love and a sense of belonging and gives us rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 6: 31-34

If we place God first, if we come to Him and listen and turn our eyes, our ears and our hearts toward Him, then everything else will fall into place. As Mother Theresa said: “Pray First, and you’ll have time for everything else.”

You can’t serve 2 masters. You can’t serve the world and God. You can’t seek to be pleasing to your friends and neighbors and even family members and God at the same time. It doesn’t work. You can’t do both because they are different lives. You don’t want to love the one and hate the other.  You have to choose. And then if you choose to serve God, you have to fight a lot of pulling and pushing and voices and urgings to question yourself and to look at how good these other things are. It’s a battle we’re in.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13



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