“Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind.” Charlotte Mason
I have been thinking about this issue of renewing ourselves this week, as a succession of small things have wearyingly presented themselves over and over again. It is all very well, to tell the children to go out of doors and blow the cobwebs out of their brains and to quote Kipling to them but what is a mother to do?
We bear not only the burden of the daily tasks but also the burden of the emotional load of each person in the household- the teen who is anxious about his friend’s little brother’s possible exposure to illness, the proto teen who desperately misses her friends and yet refuses to make contact in the ways that she can, and the younger children who are enough effected by all of this that they are more quarrelsome and fractious than is their norm. Not to mention husbands who are trying to work from home and stressing about that and a mother’s own load of anxiety and concern. Each of us bears so much responsibility and it is hard to find out where we could and should lay that down and where we can find food for our own souls that will strengthen us for this journey.
There are many who will say , “Establish a prayer life and lay those burdens at the foot of the Cross.” or ” Offer up this suffering.” This is good advice and when one is able to lay these things down and to hold to a strong prayer life there is great grace there. Often however we have no strength to stop and pray, or our attempts to do so seem to reach no higher than the ceiling. What then? We cannot feed our families from an empty cup.
I think first of all we must acknowledge the struggle. We must say in our spirit and aloud, “This is hard and I am ___ about it.” or similar words. And I think we must acknowledge that there is a grieving process here. Not just ” I am angry over these circumstances” but also ” I am grieving my lost plans, my lost time to be alone and quiet, my children’s lost opportunities at school or camps.” Grief is real in these days and when we add it to the uncertainty of wondering what will happen next, of being unable to plan beyond the next few weeks, of wondering if those vulnerable and dear to us will succumb, of wondering whether anything we are being told is as true as we are being told it is, then grief tends to produce anxiety and unsettledness in us! It can and does overwhelm us and we are only able to do the things that we must in order to live.
Dear mamas! How shall we live like this? From whence shall we get the strength and perspective to do “the next thing?” Who will feed us?
I think this is where habit is such a strength. It is the habit of feeding our families, and teaching lessons, and seeing that chores are done that protects us from complete inertia. We can go through the motions of life and in going through the motions we can begin to find a place for the Spirit to speak life back into our dried up places. Do we recognize these habits as the small things that point to the great ideals by which we live?
How often do we say to ourselves, ” Making meals daily is a work of mercy.” ” Helping the children to settle their differences is the work of a peacemaker.” ” Snuggling the anxious teen is feeding his soul.”? Do we see ourselves as virtuous? Do we name our acts as virtues or do we just drudge on through our days doing what must be done?
When I look at my social media feeds I see so many who are practicing great virtue in the small things that they do each day. I see creativity, practicality, beauty, and great love in a time of great stress. Yet I know that many of these mothers would say that they are not creative, that they are struggling, that their anxiety overwhelms them. So I think that we must all speak these words of life to one another and to ourselves until we hear them.
And I think that it is so necessary to carve out little acts of kindness to ourselves. Small oasis of time in which we can pause and hold those times and spaces as necessary as meals or sleep.
In this time of isolation we may not be able to take an afternoon and go to a library or coffee shop to think and plan, but can we manage 10 minutes here or there? And having taken that bit of time for a cup of tea (my usual break) do we have a notebook sitting nearby to sketch or write in? Or a book to read even for a just a couple of pages? Can we put a quote on the kitchen whiteboard to catch our eye for a moment? This is Mother Culture.
We may think that we must have a swath of time in order to feed ourselves, and that is wonderful and fills us quickly, but when we are starving can we not feed ourselves in bits?
Someday (hopefully soon) we will be able to graze again like sheep instead of browsing like goats, but browsing produces good milk too and should not be rejected!
So Mama, what acts of kindness can you offer yourself today? Make a list of small things that you can do. What is your “large room” of the mind and heart?
How can we feed each other’s souls or help each other to feed our souls in this time of isolation so that each in turn can feed the souls entrusted to her?
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