I am not afraid, although I am a little ashamed, to admit that I am not always as proud as I should be to tell people what I do. I am convinced wholeheartedly that the work I do is noble and necessary, that it makes good use of my talents, and that in doing it I am an asset to my family. I do not believe that to be valuable, a person must be employed outside the home. I know that power and status and fiscal usefulness do not equal value, and I am proud (if being proud of such a thing is not a logical contradiction) to have such a humble vocation.
Unfortunately, in moments of weakness I sometimes forget my convictions, and blush a little as I mumble that I am a stay-at-home mother, mentally adding an "only" before the words. This is in spite of the fact that I would be devastated if a force outside my control ever forced that circumstance to change. I'm not proud of it, of course not, but in honesty I must admit that I am sometimes affected by the ideas that saturate the society around me, and wish that I had something more impressive to offer when, inevitably, a person asks me what I do.
I didn't realize it until afterward, but one of the gifts that our 30-month wait for Camilla gave me was a previously unparalleled fruitfulness in my spiritual life. Reflected in my prayer journal from that period is a long, deep conversation with God, in which I learned much about Him and about myself. I did my share of railing, certainly, but as I read my journal from that time I can remember the way I heard His voice so clearly, how close I felt to Him, how much grace I received from that years-long conversation between us.
The advent of Camilla changed that. It wasn't so much that I didn't have time for prayer - I've learned prayer is something for which I must make time, since the right time for it never presents itself easily - as that I didn't have the emotional energy to throw myself into my meditations the way I had. Besides which, I didn't have any struggles through which to fight. I still needed a steady stream of grace to guide me in my day-to-day life, but I was no longer dealing with the fear and despair which had dogged me pre-motherhood, and didn't need to ask anymore for the extra jolts of grace which had saved me from them so many times.
In the early months of Camilla's life I sometimes felt disappointed in myself. Motherhood was a beautiful thing; I was so happy; shouldn't my spiritual life be feeling more vibrant than ever? I still loved my Lord the same as ever, still felt the assurance of His hand guiding me every day, but the tears of fervency that had previously been my regular companion during Mass visited me only infrequently, and I felt that something was missing. Or rather, in the absence of the level of passion I'd sustained pre-Milla, I felt like I should feel that something was missing.
I did, slowly, rededicate myself to my spiritual life. Some of it came naturally: I sang praise songs in the rocking chair, I said Memorares as I nursed Camilla to sleep. Some of it was harder: it took some serious self-discipline to establish near-daily Morning Prayer as a part of my routine, and Bryan and I had to make Evening Prayer a part of the family bedtime ritual in order to assure we'd say it every day.
And even after all that was incorporated, I still felt like I should feel something was missing. Shouldn't a spiritual life be serious, cerebral, full of passion and discovery? Shouldn't it be dramatic? And I knew that I was not praying nearly as much - nor as attentively, prayer with a baby in the room being what it is - as I had been before I became a mother. It just seemed... not enough, somehow.
The funny thing was that even as I continued to be dissatisfied with my spiritual life, I was seeing the grace of God at every turn. He had never been clearer to me, and never more clearly good. I was not troubled, not afraid, not doubting. I had never been so sure of His presence.
I also continued to move forward in my understanding of God's will for me. Before Milla, the revelatory peace I talked about in my last post would have been hard-won, achieved only after spending hours in the chapel and writing pages and pages in my prayer journal. Not so this time: it came easily, settling into my mind and heart during a period of days that were bustling as usual, full of meal prep and dishes and laundry and diaper-changing and Go, Dog. Go! It seemed a mystery to me, that the kind of grace I had found previously only in the discipline of quiet could find me in the distracted busy-ness of my daily life.
About a month ago, my sister and I were preparing food for a cook-out our husbands would be hosting for a friend's bachelor party. We love to cook together, and enjoyed doing it, which was good, because with our toddlers encumbering us the preparation took two full days. When Rosie came over on the second morning, she remarked that she'd been feeling overwhelmed at the thought of another long day, but then realized: that in cooking out of love for our husbands, we were exactly fulfilling our vocations. And therefore, though the cooking seemed like such a little thing, it was really something far greater.
I nodded and was indeed glad in that moment to be doing the work, but the implications of her words have taken me weeks to process. The truth of what she said has turned out to be the key to my bewilderment over the state of my spiritual life.
I'd forgotten something I knew: that humble work can be holy. That God calls most of us to spend the majority of our hours not in front of the tabernacle but out in the world, completing the tasks to which he calls us, our vocations.
And therein is the answer to the mystery, strange as it may seem: my tussle with the laundry, if I approach it in grace, has the power to sanctify me just as sitting down with my Bible and prayer journal does. Prayer and meditation are vitally important, of course, but just as important for the state of my soul is the proper discharge of the duties of my vocation. This is why my spiritual revelation of a few weeks ago could find me in the bustle of my daily life: even if the external environment is not quiet, serving as He intends me to serve can create a quietness and openness of the soul, where God can reach me just as He did in my more frequent, more focused quiet times of old.
In the future when I am tempted to be ashamed of what I do, I hope I can remember that living well does not mean impressing others, but doing exactly what God has called me to do, to the best of my ability. Knowing where He has called me and doing the job well, with His grace, takes me further along the path to sanctity, which is happiness, which is the only true goal of life itself. Remembering that, how can I think of my vocation as anything but enormously, vitally, eternally important?