Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Lovely, Gracious, Excellent

I was raised to loathe material things.  The spiritual world is spiritual, the material world is material.  We are not at all our bodies.  The body is just a cage that our soul is trapped inside of.  I am no more this person than I was my previous body from my previous life.  A strict dichotomy between things of this world (bad) and things of the beyond (good).  This is what I was not.

Really it was the reincarnation thing that allowed that entire philosophy to fall apart.  I wrote about it more a couple of years ago right here if you're in the mood.

But that's not what I want to talk about today.  Today I want to talk about learning to appreciate beauty.  Not just the God-created beauty of a child's smile or a gorgeous sunrise, but the beauty I can create myself.  The beauty you can create.  The beauty that can lift our spirits, give a foretaste of heaven, and make the drudgery that is inescapable in this fallen world more manageable.

Did you hear that reading on Sunday?

"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Let me confess that until three days ago I would hear "true, honorable, just, pure...." and then basically tune the rest out.  But this time it was different.  This time it was as if there was complete silence- in my mind, from my children, amidst the congregation- and what I heard was "lovely, gracious, any excellence...."

Behavior and my words can be lovely and gracious, to be sure.  But our surroundings can be so as well.  And we are to think about these things.  Not just imagine how nice it will be to have some loveliness somewhere at some point, but to really think about all of these.  Try to make them a part of our lives, a part of our children's lives.

 Remember when I talked about putting on concealer and getting dressed even if I'll "only be at home" so that my children will see that I value the time I spend with them at least as much as I value the time spent at the post office?  Well, I feel like I'm ready to stop feeling guilty about wanting our house to be lovely too.

Soon I'd like to write an entire post on this book, but until I can, I want to mention a tiny part of A Mother's Rule of Life in which she talks about trying to figure out what God expected of her as a mother.  She realized that if she was supposed to love and care for her children in the same way that God loves and cares for us, then she needed to try to do the things He did.  When he created Adam and Eve, he didn't put them in a dank prison cell.  No, he put them in Eden.  He gave them a literal paradise.

Of course there are seasons of life.  Times of turmoil.  Times of upheaval.  We do still live in a fallen world after all.  But I have to ask myself this - am I striving to be gracious and to create loveliness to the best of my ability given our state in life?  If excellence is possible, do I welcome that possibility?  Do I balance gracious in speech with lovely in presentation?  Often I scrap one for the other, but I know that both are good and worthy of my energy.

I can tell you that I should do all of these because the mood in our home and the energy of our kids is markedly more pleasant when I do.  But until now I hadn't defined it.  I hadn't said "here is a goal of my vocation."  But now I have, and it feels right.

p.s. God-incidentally, Bonnie of A Knotted Life is hosting a sort of blog post carnival called Autumn in the Home right this very second.  If you're looking for some inspiration in this regard, go see.  Her post and all the other participants are such a joy.  And that's something the world definitely needs more of.

p.p.s. I am not one of the featured blogs.  I'm just telling you about it because I'm so digging the idea of actually making a home.  Home MAKING.  Homemaking.

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  1. I love this. Can I admit something? Sometimes I feel guilty or like I'm *supposed* to feel guilty because I really enjoy decorating my home and making it beautiful (to me). There are so. many. things written that subtly put down people who take the time to do that because obviously they are neglecting their children or they value their home more than people or clearly they are far too shallow and materialistic. Yes, sometimes that is true. Sometimes I fall prey to that myself. But that doesn't mean that the idea isn't good, it just means that like every good thing, it isn't immune from concupiscence. I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say thanks for writing this and that finding real visible beauty and aiming for that in our homes is a very Catholic thing indeed and I'm grateful for a Faith that embraces the physical world and uses it for His glory.

  2. Thank you! These are some words that I really needed to hear today. I've been pondering that reading in my head since Sunday. And I've stumbled across several amazing perspectives on it. This one has really touched my heart.

  3. I enjoyed this post today. As a momma/woman who enjoys decorating and warming my home for our existence in it, I felt encouraged by your insight. As I often tell my husband when I get an itch for new paint,a change of decor scene, etc : I am here virtually every day, all day. This is my workplace. I like to add little things, a seasonal item, flowers or other inspiration, periodically. I am here in this space many hours and I like to keep it warm, inviting and yet, as is prone to happen, very "lived in".
    Well done tying this in with Sunday's readings. It gives me something more to think about.

  4. Posts like these actually make me feel more guilty - I feel like I'm having a hard enough time keeping up with the kids and homeschooling and cleaning etc etc. Now I'm supposed to make sure I put on make-up and not just keep the table clean but decorated. I'm not saying that's how you meant it; I just feel like it's one more thing on my plate that I *should* be doing (the *should* being self-imposed).

    1. Oh Karyn, it was certainly not my intent to make you feel "not enough." I have definitely not always felt in a place for this sort of thinking, nor will I always be able to have something lovely. Heck, we're in the middle of getting ready to move. No decorations here today! I guess what I meant is that I used to think it was WRONG to care about the mood of the home, and WRONG to be concerned with my appearance, you know? As if the *only* things I should spend time on are the bare minimums and any more than that is a waste and I should be on my knees praying. Now I realize that caring for myself and my home can itself be a form of prayer, you know? I hope that lessens the burden a bit. (((hugs)))

    2. Hi Karyn, I know what you mean! We are often thrilled to just keep up with the dishes--no seasonal decorating here, other than a pumpkin on the porch. But, give yourself credit: there are plenty of people who don't keep up with the cleaning, or even care.

      I like to think of our priorities this way: 1.) be kind to each other--skip the stuff that will get in the way of that today. 2.) feed ourselves and clean up after it. 3.) education. 4.) clean up all the other stuff. 5.) enrichment. Many days we only hit some of the first few. It is a rare and great day when we hit all 5. But, you are getting better at what you do and your kids are getting older. One day stuff that seemed so hard to juggle now won't even be a problem.

      I like to look at Leila at LikeMotherLikeDaughter as an example of the peace and spiritual fruits that may be awaiting those of us that just try to make home the best we can, even if that just means keeping up with the food and dishes while being sweet to our kids. This is a season of hard plowing for mothers and fathers; the harvest isn't for years yet.

    3. Oh, I know you didn't mean it that way at all, Dwija, I was just saying how I feel when I see posts in different places -- can you tell I already feel overwhelmed, lol. Acerbica - I like your numbered to-do list -- makes it seem more doable.

  5. I read your article (from the link) and am still trying to wrap my head around that definition of soul! I've always been a little hazy on it, but as far as I can explain:

    In Christianity, your soul is what goes to heaven, yes?
    And people talk about reconnecting with loved ones in heaven.
    So, YOU, as in, your personality, relationships, etc, is part of your soul? I think? But if we're talking reincarnation, it's not?

    I guess I've always sort of seen personality as belonging to your soul, not your physical body. (I don't *really* have a theological basis for that, though.)

    1. Your soul does go to heaven, but isn't complete until the resurrection when your body and soul will be united eternally. Aquinas even said that, until the resurrection my "soul may be in heaven, but 'I' am not." The person is a unity of body and soul, rather than the "real" person being a soul and the body being a trap to be shed. hth! :-)

  6. Thank you for this. I have also struggled with wanting my house to look lovely, like it was not spiritual and I was being too focused on "things of this world". I have read this verse I don't know, a million times, and never put it in this context. God bless you for sharing your heart, He used you to bring me some freedom!

  7. I love this!
    Beauty reflects God. Order is a reflection of Him as well.
    I often ask my children if they find our home comfortable and lovely, because I agree, those things lift our hearts.
    This is why we clean our rooms and get dressed every day - exactly! And it is exactly why "staying in our PJ's all day!" was never a selling point for me when I was discerning homeschool.
    This is why I have zero guilt about skipping local parishes and driving 40 minutes to a parish I love that is beautiful visually, liturgically, and musically.
    Lead with beauty! (that's what von Balthasar says!)

  8. That reading really hit me on Sunday, too. This is a beautiful reflection. Thank you!

  9. Im sinto turmoil. I can do thevminimum. It will last weeks, evento months. Until im ready, enough is simply enough!!! Tks for sharing!!!

  10. Back again--I keep thinking about your line about how God didn't give Adam and Eve a dank prison cell--he gave them a literal paradise.

    What a lens through which to look at the sort of home we're making.

  11. Enjoyed this post as I do all of yours!


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