As I mentioned last week, I am determined, determined, determined that Thursday will be nature walk day. Well, this week was definitely a test of that determination.
Multiple things came up, pulling me in multiple directions. We also couldn't find where we were going, which didn't help. I was trying to get to the end of a 2.5 mile trail that runs from the lake area we visited last week. There was supposed to be another wetland preserve at the end of the trail, stuck in the middle of urban/suburban traffic mess. Finally, we found it. We were right on track to get my little carefully crafted plan fulfilled two weeks in a row.
We didn't take the walk then, though. And that event, not taking the walk, represents everything that is wrong with my ability to order my life.
I'm a worker bee. I'm in charge of a long list of things. I'm over children and family activities at church. And the teen group. And the crochet group. And the group that sends cards when people are sick. I'm a reader. I sing in the choir. I bake prosphora. I coordinate our monthly free community meal. Outside of church, I represent our parish on the board of our community's social service program. I run the weekly food pantry for them. That also requires checking the phone messages every day and returning calls. Processing new applicants. Writing checks for utility assistance. Coordinating volunteers. Packing food for the weekly food distribution. I also bake prosphora for one of the monasteries in town. It's a men's monastery, but it's also a homeless shelter. I clean for them and serve food. I also recently became involved with another monastery in town. This one is just one female monastic, serving the inner city with food and other assistance. She needs a lot of help, too.
I don't say that to brag about what I do for other people. To make myself sound so perfect. I say that to point out just how screwed up my priorities are! You see, I will drop everything to help the above people. Anytime, anywhere anyplace. I will do those things whenever and however they ask.
And my own home and family? What does that mean for them? Often I can balance things, but far too often, I can't. My sink is full of dirty dishes. The laundry is sky high. I tell Hilary to wait "just one more minute" a hundred times a day. I leave Jared on his own to plow through his school work so I can make yet another phone call. I'm so exhausted and spent by the end of the day, I have no attention left to devote to my hardworking husband.
As I sat there yesterday in my car, finally at the nature preserve parking lot, the entire weight of all these things crashed down on me. The nun called and needed me to come over immediately to help with a crisis with the monastery newsletter. A newsletter that every member of my family had already devoted a week of our lives to as we assembled and stuffed the mailing. She was literally crying. Have you ever heard a nun cry? Trust me...it's terrible. Do I leave and not take the walk? I knew it would be tough to come back later. I had a meeting to scout out a possible new location for the food pantry. To top it off, the other monastery also called and said they realized they had no prosphora for the next day's Liturgy. Oh, and there was still more school to do with Jared, Hilary's nap, dinner to cook, Lonna to drive to her activities, and another phone call to be made to a woman who is offering me a part-time job...because I have so much free time. It was 2:00 p.m., but it felt like high noon. The moment of decision. Who do I serve? The world or my family? Who do I pick? Strangers and acquaintances or the faces of the ones I gave birth to?
Everything got fuzzy for a minute, as my brain went into official overload. Then, I stared at the dashboard of the car. I have two icons shoved around the gas gauge and the speedometer. St. Mary of Egypt, my patron, and Christ. Christ's eyes pulsed deep into my own. I thought of His words. I thought of His example. I thought of all those things I talked about in my last post. Resolving to love God more. In every way, just to love God more. I thought of Mary, how she fled from the world to the desert. How she sacrificed it all to save her own soul.
Everything slowly began to become clear. Loving God more means I need to get my life in order. God first. Family commitments first. Yes, I can still serve. I'm commanded to do so. But I can't be Martha all the time. I have to be Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus. I have to just...sit...peacefully...and listen.
I snapped into action. I pulled out of the parking lot with a new focus and a new commitment. I dropped Jared and Hilary off at the house so he could finish his schoolwork and she could take her nap. I went to the monastery. Handled the crisis. Called the school and had them send Lonna home on the bus so I didn't need to pick her up. Called the other monastery and told them they would just have to get the prosphora for the next day somewhere else (which turned out not to be a problem for them at all). Made all my phone calls while I was on the road. Came home, cooked dinner and drove Lonna to swim practice. That left me one hour. Just one hour before that meeting about the food pantry. One hour I could have definitely spent on the couch or something else brainless and meaningless. But I didn't. I put Jared and Hilary back in the car and retraced our steps to the nature preserve.
We got out of the car and walked down a short path from the parking lot. And as we rounded the bend, this is what we saw:
Oh, I wish I could have captured it in pictures! They just don't come anywhere near what this is. Acres and acres and acres of cattails!!! Does anyone else love cattails like me? I can't even explain what it is about them. I remember playing with the soft, brown tops as a child. Pushing through bunches of them by the creek. Back when I was shorter than they were. That must be what it is. A childhood memory. Always the strongest and sweetest.
The boardwalk snakes through the field. See that tree in the above picture? Maybe that shows how tall and dense the cattails are as they swallow up the tree. The boardwalk was elevated, so we were above the level of the plants, looking down. This is an ocean of tall, dense plants as far as the eye can see. I've never seen anything like it.
The sounds. The insects singing. And the swishing! Music. The rolling swirls of the breeze through the field. You could see the pattern of the wind, funneling from one end of the field to another. Clockwise. Then counterclockwise. Twisting the cattails one direction. Then another. An orchestrated harmony of simplicity. Cattails in the breeze. No obligations. No complications. Just bending with the breeze.
I managed to do it all (almost!) yesterday. I juggled and maneuvered and made everything work for one more day. But I'm not proud of it. I shouldn't have been in that predicament to start with. I have to stop being so rigid. I have to stop "doing" for others, rather than just "being" for God. I have to blow in the breeze like the cattails. Sometimes one way, and sometimes another, but never at my own design. Letting God pick the direction. Adding things to my life when He wants, and taking things away when He wants.
I learned a lot yesterday. About time. About priorities. About love. All from a field of cattails that I almost missed seeing.
Before the things. Before the tasks. Before it all. I'm obligated---to love. I don't fully know yet what exactly will change in my life, but I know there are changes to be made. Lord have mercy on me for not loving you with purity of heart! I believe...forgive my unbelief! Show me, Lord. Show me how to love.