Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Come to Me"

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~The Gospel of Matthew~

Since the arrival of baby Augustine in January, the months have passed quickly but the days of juggling three kids have been long and often full of chaos. About a month ago the dust started to settle, primarily because baby Gus started sleeping through the night. Then the long days of summer hit, and hit hard.

From daily swimming lessons at the pool to summer story time at the library, the past few weeks have had little rest for the weary. Combine all our activities with Mr. Red’s late nights at the office and I have been left feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I have been a bit burned out, often looking ahead at our future and wondering how I can continue this pattern for another 5 years, or 10 or 20!

This past week I had a really rough day with the kids, not the type of day when anyone was seriously ill or injured, but the type of day when every small item you need is somehow lost, the baby is fussy, your babysitting help cancels, the kids are fighting, and nobody has any clean underwear left. I, of course, had forgotten to defrost the chicken, and so dinner was regrettably delayed. Hungry kids whine, and they fight, and they do these things in the kitchen, as I frantically try to get dinner made and served.

In a harsh tone I asked them to leave the kitchen until dinner was ready.

“Why?” Gianna protested.

“Because I need a break.” I answered. “I’m feeling a little burned out,” I thoughtlessly explained.

“What’s burned out?” Gianna asked.

“Burned out is when you are feeling really tired of people and you just need some alone time. Don’t you ever feel this way?”


Of course not, why am I trying to explain this to a 4 year old!

As mothers, burnout is an ever-present threat to the stability of our homes. It is sign that we have started to focus on ourselves, to wallow in self-pity and doubt, and have lost our focus on Christ.

I am thankful to my wonderful pastor, Father Anthony, whose fabulous homily on the above gospel passage worked a small miracle in my heart today. You see, I usually never get the opportunity to really listen to the homily. Even on a good day, reminding my children to sit still, stress about our overall noise level, trips to the bathroom, and diaper changes occupy my time and my mind. But today, my parents graciously agreed to allow our oldest two children to sleep at their home, and Mr. Red and I were free to attend Mass with just our 6 month old baby in tow. And so today, I was able to listen—really listen—to what Father, and the Holy Spirit, had to say.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

When our burdens feel really heavy, we should first ask if they are of God? Does Christ want us to carry the burdens we shoulder? Or are the burdens something we have taken on unnecessarily. For example, stress about my husband’s job situation, or the poor life choices of a family member are likely not burdens Jesus wants me carrying around. Alternatively, maybe our burdens are the result of over commitment. I’m very type-A, and so saying no when someone asks me to volunteer is VERY difficult. At the moment I have committed to a LOT of different outside activities, and something probably has to give. As our family grows, saying “No” to certain outside commitments is what God calls every mother to do. Have I chosen my burdens wisely? Are they of God, or did I create them?

Second, assuming we are called to all of our burdens, we cannot carry them alone. Jesus says, “Come to me.” He doesn’t say talk about me, think about me, fantasize about me, he says “Come to me.” But how do we “Come” to Jesus on a regular basis? Spontaneous Prayer? Daily Mass attendance? Adoration? Frequent confession? A daily Rosary? The particular answer is going to be different for each Mother, but the simple truth is that we all must come to Jesus to find rest.

In my personal case, it’s a matter of time. When things get really busy and I get burned out, I focus on the details, and I forget the whys behind my actions. I become Martha, busy with many things, and while I think I am busy for the sake of Jesus, I’m really just focused on me and my tasks. I tend to do, do, do, rather than just BEING with Jesus. Taking the time to really come to God means slowing down to just be with God.

And that brings me to the miracle of today. Jesus, knowing I am weak, knowing I am busy, came to me. He did so through the gracious help of my parents, and the wonderful wisdom of my Pastor. And for that I say thank you.


Joanne said...

I am amazed at the coincidences in our lives that you write about in this post. I had a baby in January too and if it was a boy we were going to name him Augustine, but we had a baby girl and named her Maria.

This weekend when I was listening to the Gospel that you reference, I was thinking of three years ago when we heard the same gospel. I had an incredibly colicky baby (named Anthony) who never stopped screaming, I was so tired, he was my first baby so I didn't know what was normal and what wasn't and I was in general freaking out. It was such a comfort to me to hear this gospel three years ago and this weekend I was reminded of how far we've come.

My in-laws watched our older son so that my husband and I could take our six month old to Mass and go together, we never go to church together anymore, so it was so nice to be able to listen.

So that's a lot of coincidences right? I am suffering from burn out too but my little girl is NOT sleeping through the night, so that's a coincidence I wish we had! Thanks for this post, it means a lot to me today.

Kat said...

Joanne, my little Maria (8 months) isn't sleeping through the night yet either, so there's something that we have in common! Last night was a better night - she wasn't up until 3:30 for the first time! - but I think it's mostly due to teething and the fact that she still nurses a lot.

Red, thank you for this post, it also hit home with me. As moms we do need to find different ways to "come to Jesus", since the obvious ways - daily Mass, leading a youth group, going to Bible studies, etc. - aren't always possible with our children's schedules. It takes a little bit more creativity to focus on Christ intentionally every day - praying the Rosary might be happen while we're feeding the baby, and it might be broken up into 3 or 5 different parts throughout the day. I'm always encouraged by hearing what other moms do with the time that they have.

Maria said...

Great post - I just wrote a similiar one yesterday morning when I was up at 5:30 am with the baby. I had my third in January as well and have "hit the wall" the past few weeks. I'm with you all in striving to find the right balance in my life that makes me the best wife, mother, and most importantly, child of God.

(My 5 month old is sleeping through the night yet either - though she is out of our bed and in her crib now. Baby step, baby steps...)

Joanne said...

Oh, I'm glad to hear that other January moms are still up in the night. I'll think of you when I'm up and say a prayer that it won't last too long for any of us!

I try and say a rosary when I'm in the car. I keep my rosary beads out there and this way I can say most of a rosary in a trip, and pick up the rest on my next trip if I need to. It also makes me a more Christian driver.

B-Mama said...

What heartwarming thoughts, Red. I just loved reading this reflection of yours... It is so true that mothers need time to breathe and reflect on Christ, the true source of our everything! If our wells run dry, we have nothing left to give, to serve from, to sacrifice. We need to be constantly drinking from the life-giving Water of Christ and His Church!!

I so loved Fr. Anthony's thoughts on the passage--his first question of "Does Christ want us to shoulder all of these burdens/are they of Christ?" is an extremely poignant one for me to consider!! I need to remember this the next time I start feeling like a victim... I've probably gotten myself into the situation, after all!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your timely post. I was feeling at my end, and then I went alone to mass this past Sunday and my pastor said almost the exact same thing that Fr. Anthony did. I need to prioritize taking on cultivating my closeness to Christ over a clean house!

Juris Mater said...

Red, thanks so much for the beautiful reflection. We got a hokey, warm-and-fuzzy homily about the journey we're all on from our priest yesterday.

Do you all find that it's particularly hard to draw close to Christ when you're at that point where you've hit the wall (or when you've already hit the wall and it's collapsing on top of you)? Of course that's the time when we need Him most. But I was seriously struggling for more than a year a couple years ago... my prayer life consisted in begging for help, but it was a really dry period spiritually. When I'm on top of things and fresh, like now, I find it so much easier to offer happy aspirations throughout the day, to joyfully offer Rosary intentions, to give thanks, to pray for others, to reflect on my spiritual life. What do you do to draw close to Christ when you're going through a really rough patch? Just keep asking for help and mercy?

texas mommy said...

Thanks so much, Red, for this timely and humbling reflection.

JM, I think a daily examination of conscience is really important for me not to fall into the self-pity/my burdens are too heavy mode (though I fully recognize that you had a LOT of challenges during the mouse house/postpartum period...I guess I'm talking more about the kind that are self-induced.) It can also help to take a specific time out during the day (after the angelus, or when kids are napping) to reflect on something I being cheerful is always a big one for me, esp. when Mr. Incredible is traveling.

Mary Alice said...

JM, I have to admit that I am know (through flylady) seeing the wisom of what my friends in Opus Dei have been trying gently to teach me for years - routines really help! I find that when things are going smoothly emotionally for me I have no problem staying on top of the laundry, but when there is a stressor in my life, even if it isn't time consuming, I fall behind. Solution? Do laundry Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights no matter what else is going on. The same is true of prayer life, not to belittle it or kill the spontanaety, but I think if you can develop a habit of offering a Rosary, examination, etc at a specific time each day whether you feel like it or not, you will find that it is there for you when you need it most and feel it least. I know that Mother Theresa and other saints had long dry periods, I think one of the benefits of a religious life is the routine and discipline of prayer. At home, we don't have bells ringing but we still need to have regular times when we stop to pray. Also, important to remember that our prayers are fruitful whether we "feel" something or not -- one hard thing about depression can be a feeling of praying into a void. God is working in your life, though and you will be able to see it more clearly when you are looking back on things.

As for the aspirations, some people really like to have little cues -- my favorite is called SOAP -- sending out a prayer -- everytime you wash your hands. Come to think of it, I need to teach this to my kids. I love to give a nice handsoap as a gift and explain this habit of prayer.

When I was struggling recently, Kat made a really good suggestion that sometimes, too, you need to rely on the prayers of others. Sometimes, in our humanity, we are too worn or too worried to pray. Asking your friends to pray for you can really get you over the hump, hopefully back to a place where you can pray yourself. I know that my peace was restored to me this week because you ladies were asking for it, I was so fed up with myself that I had stopped asking.

In addition to the prayers of friends, if you are struggling to get back into a routine it can be helpful to have a friend pray with you. As Catholics, we are sometimes more private in our prayer, but why not make a rosary date with a friend instead of a play date? When you are really low, having someone else say the words is helpful, and I do think sometimes you are more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit when "two or more are gathered."

Juris Mater said...

I should clarify my definition of "rough patch"... when objectively things really aren't bad (because things have never been that bad for me!) but subjectively--whether it's from unrelenting sleep deprivation, hormones, external circumstances, all or none of the above--you can't pick yourself up even when there's an enormous desire to do so. I don't think it's self-pity, in fact there's not a lot of clearheaded self-awareness involved at all. It's clearly irrational but very hard to get out of. Maybe I'm the only one who's had a period of feeling this way : )

Juris Mater said...

MaryAlice, we were posting simultaneously! Thanks for the suggestions, ladies!!

Mary Alice said...

JM, never think that you are alone in feeling this way, I am right there with you, and one of the things that I have found most disturbing following the big post partum loss of inner peace was how easily now I lose my peace and slip into a really distracted state -- not just for a few hours, but for several days or weeks if i don't get a handle on it. It is always triggered by some frustrating real but not life shattering emotional upset that combines with sleep deprivation, hormones and my apparent tendency towards depression to put me on an ugly spiral. Also, my "mood disorder" of choice, rathe then the melancholy that I would naturally associate with depression, is anger.

Self awareness is huge and I am getting better and better at shortening these things, progress from months, to weeks, to days, though I still get hijacked by my emotions more easily then I would like to admit.

I am hoping that I will get it under control before my kids are teens -- parents of teens, God help them, have some intense emotional stuff to go through and it is so crucial to be intentionally parenting at that point that I really don't want to be sidetracked by my own garbage when my kids start dating, etc.

Right Said Red said...


I'm amazed by the coincidences as well! I will pray for one more coincidence--a baby that sleep through the night for you ;-)

Juris Mater,

Yes, I do think it's hard to draw close to Christ when you feel like you've hit a wall. I think in these situations it is important to just keep praying, even if that means just telling God that you are angry, sad, or don't know what to say. In addition, I also think this is when our Catholic pre-packaged prayers come in REALLY handy. You might not feel all warm and fuzzy towards God, but you can still pray the Rosary. After all, love is often doing things when we just don't feel like it! As MaryAlice said, routine really helps here, and I need to work on that bigtime.

I remember after my daughter Therese died, a real low point in my life, I would just go to adoration or Mass, sit there, and say, I'm pretty ticked off God, do you have anything good to help me through today? His response, usually silence. I think the important thing for me was to keep going back, day after day, even when I "felt" nothing.

I really struggle with spiritual dryness and I often times think when the dryness is at it's worst, that's actually when God is doing the most in my life. I just don't feel it!

texas mommy said...

Sorry if I misunderstood what you were talking about, JM.

As a side question...has anyone read "Mother Teresa: Come be my Light"?