A year ago I was waiting to be introduced at a conference and homeschoolers were still coming in, walking down the aisles, coming in the door, and the lady introducing me turned to me and said, “Why can’t homeschoolers ever be on time?”
And I thought, “I’m such a homeschooler!!!” I’m usually always late.
And I’m not saying it’s a good trait. It’s not!
I need to discipline myself more. But I usually get into a rush and start running late for things because I have too much to do, because I have too many commitments going on. At least, I think I do.
Is this of God? Is this what God wants of me?
I don’t think so. Not for me anyway.
When I rush, I stress. When I rush, I become short-tempered with my kids. When I rush, I do a sloppy job. When I rush, I get irritable. When I rush, I don’t have time for those I love the most.
And I’ll be the first to say that I rush everyday. And my children either think I’m funny...
like “Mom, you look like a chicken running around without its head.”
Have any of you ever seen what that looks like? Not many of us live on farms anymore.
A chicken that has its head on the chopping block is a goner but they say it still flops around the yard aimlessly going here and there and not going anywhere at all.
Or, if my children aren’t laughing at me, they’re irritated with me.
“Calm down, Mom. Calm down.”
And I still haven’t learned how to slow down. I don’t know why, but everything has to be in a rush. But we need to slow down. For our health if nothing else.
Christ slowed down. He slowed down by going off alone in a boat, up on the hillside, in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Pope Benedict the XVI has told us this.
Recently on June 10th he said: “In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this…”
In 2006 at his summer residence, he quoted St. Bernard of Clairvaux that Christians must guard against the dangers of excessive activity and busyness, regardless of their state of life or occupation, in order to protect themselves from developing “hardness of heart.”
The saint wrote in Pope Eugene III and I’m going to quote the article I was reading from Catholic News Agency:
“Excessive busyness leads to spiritual suffering, loss of intelligence and the loss of grace.”
So I want you to relax and take a quiet spell from all the frantic searching to find the perfect curriculum…because it’s not making you any smarter…and be still. Try to put your mind at ease.
I get to be the instrument---the megaphone if you will---between you and Venerable Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese the Little Flower.
First I want you to take the handout sheet (see link) and we’re going to take a moment to do a self-check. Just check off in the box or in your head the things that you have experienced as I read it off.
Did you check them all off?
Half of them?
At least one of them?
If you checked off at least one of these, then Venerable Zelie Martin is a good saint for you to turn to.
So who was Zelie Martin?
- Zelie-Marie Guerin was the mother of St. Therese of Lisieux…the Little Flower.
- She also was a wife, sister, daughter, who had many of the same concerns, tribulations, joys and expectations that women have in today’s society.
- She was a daughter with the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.
- She was a business woman worried by the cares of overseeing a flourishing lacemaking business out of her home in hopes of insuring her daughters a secure future.
- She was a mother overcome by the duties of caring for her small children while nursing their various childhood ills, balancing a household, a business, and aging parents.
- She was a woman concerned over her children’s education (having to resort to homeschooling them at various times) and the problem of finding a wet nurse to take in her babies (a past form of daycare) when she could not nurse them due to health problems.
- She had the added challenge of having a difficult and mentally-challenged middle child who disrupted her happy home and peace of mind.
- Having borne nine children in a span of thirteen years, she knew the vexations of managing all these household tasks while pregnant. She also stressed over her own health, which was a constant concern to her family, until dying of breast cancer while still having young children to raise (a nightmare for all mothers).
- She was a housewife determined to shuffle housework, family, business and health issues without the conveniences we have today such as fast food suppers, daycare, baby formula, advanced medical care, and health insurance.
- Yet she was a loyal daughter, a devoted wife, a loving mother, a successful business woman, and---most important of all---a saintly woman doing all her tasks for the greater glory of God.
- Like Mary, our Blessed Mother, she lived a quiet, hidden life within her home. Unlike Mary, her name is also hidden.
People know the daughter, St. Therese the Little Flower. Most people do not know the mother.
And this is what I really want to address today. I think most of us want to leave something behind; if for no other reason then to leave a legacy to our children.
But what happens when we realize that we haven’t a legacy to leave? What happens when you find yourself sitting in front of the kiddie pool on your front lawn.
You don’t have a beautiful flower garden or a healthy summer garden or even nice plants on your patio because your thumb isn’t green. That definitely fits me.
Well, don’t worry. Zelie Martin always wanted a nice large yard for her girls to play in and garden in. She never got it. Her yards were handkerchief size.
The house behind you is a mess because it has taken all morning just to get breakfast, clean the dishes, change the diaper, mop the floor (which immediately afterwards had kool-aid spilt upon it), and then to fix lunch. It’s obvious. There are more of them than there are of you.
Well, don’t worry. Zelie Martin had servants and, even so, had to do most of the work herself to make sure it was done.
You look down at yourself. Last year’s wardrobe. For that matter, it might have survived five years or more of wardrobes. Your feet aren’t pedicured. Your nails aren’t manicured.
Well, don’t worry. Neither was Madame Martin’s. Neither are mine.
You realize you can’t draw worth a lick. You haven’t written a book. You don’t even journal. You can’t bake a proper loaf of bread. You aren’t a good speaker. You’re shy so you don’t converse well with others.
You don’t do coupons and you don’t sew. Well, that makes two of us.
You can never remember the punch line in a joke. Me either.
You’re not even sure you’re teaching your child all he needs to know for school.
Your family calls you Lucy (ie: Lucille Ball) because you can’t seem to get anything done the way it’s supposed to be done. My family calls me Lucy.
The summer sun is shining. The kids are splashing and laughing in the pool. Yet you feel like a failure.
The summer sun is shining. The kids are splashing and laughing in the pool. And you are right where God wants you to be at that exact moment and time. You are not a failure.
Of all the things I mentioned, I’m sure you didn’t nod your head on every one of them. I’m sure there is something you can do.
God made cooks. He made mechanics and seamstresses. He made teachers and writers and accountants. He made piano teachers and tutors. He made dentists and artists and plumbers. He made babysitters and He made priests. He made winemakers and farmers and fry cooks.
We are way too hard on ourselves. We cannot do everything. We cannot be everything to everybody.
If you think you can, the devil is out to deceive you.
That’s why God made all of us so different and versatile. So we would need each other. So we would take care of one another. So that we would all serve as parts of the larger body, the Church. And, in that way, we can be something to someone. It's really an easier job than trying to be everything to everybody.
You might just be a pinky finger.
But that pinky finger comes in awfully handy when you have hold of a toddler’s fist in your hand and you need an extra extension of yourself to hold onto that dangling purse strap. If it weren’t for the pinky, your purse and all that it contains would bite the dust. Literally.
Why do I mention all this?
I have a friend who said one day she realized why God had made her.
She said she figured it was to make other people feel good about themselves.
She didn’t think she did anything good enough. She didn’t even feel as though she was home educating her children good enough. But, if her inadequacies made another mom feel better about herself, than she was doing God's will.
Now, my initial reaction, and probably that of lots of psychologists and the like, is to say, “Oh, now. She can’t go through life feeling that way. We must pump her up. We have to fill her up with good self-esteem. We need to motivate her to make more of herself. To be more.”
Why are Americans so consumed with being someone to everyone…instead of simply being with God? Instead of being with our families? Instead of being with our children?
What does God tell us to do? What does He want us to do? Who does He want us to be?
Zelie Martin was a simple French lacemaker. She laced and tatted many, many yards of lace.
Where is that beautiful lace she made? Probably some of it is in the museum in Alencon, France. Perhaps someone has an antique piece of lace or an old dress passed down from a great-great grandmother which they aren’t even aware has a piece of lace done by Madame Martin.
But does it matter? That lace will one day rot and fall into dust.
The lacing Madame Martin did to financially care for and support her family was her duty at the time. And she did it beautifully. She did it faithfully. She did it in servitude.
But it was only a very small part of the greater lace work that she did in bringing up her daughters and in serving her husband.
The job she did of lacing Catholic spirituality into her home life is of greater value and lasting worth. It lives on. First through her five daughters, notably through St. Theresa who explained the Little Way shown to her by her mother and on to all of us. Look how far the threads of her lacing reach out!
Madame Martin might have been sitting in her chair lacing away that hours, but more than this she was always simply there for her family. There to lace countless hours of Catholic spirituality into their lives. There to profess her faith, not in words but in her actions. There to simple share her faith to those who mattered most to her.
St. Theresa explains this wonderfully:
"Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be."
And I can’t help but think that she gained this wonderful insight from the hands of her mother, Venerable Zelie Martin, as she presented her mother with the wild flowers of the field, the lilies of the valley, and perhaps a couple of roses she plucked while wandering around the handkerchief size yard at home or at her father’s pavilion which was the family’s Sunday retreat.
Most of us go our whole lives wondering why God made us.
Why did God make me?
What is my purpose here on earth?
Your threads might not be the whole piece. They may only be a small part of the whole picture. They might only serve to tutor someone else in the art of lacemaking. They may only be the wristbands for the wedding dress created by someone else.
Your lace work may serve only to make someone else’s lace work look good.
Whatever the case, God will finish the work you have begun and it will be more long-lasting, more perfect than you could ever hope to make it.
Keep lacing. God is not finished with you yet.
(Copyright (c) 2007 The Lacemaker's Shop by Cay Gibson)