"Raw broken eggs... is there anything grosser? Maybe Karo syrup... shudder," tweets my daughter, Cecelia, and I am reminded of the time I sent her to elementary school with what I thought was a hardboiled egg in her lunchbox. Gasp! I hate thinking about the things I put my kids through, because I was inattentive and not fully present.
I dare not begin a litany of all those things, or I won't be able to breathe tonight, much less attempt to sleep peacefully. I bet I'm not alone in my memories of things I did through inattentiveness and things I didn't do, but should have done, because I wasn't fully present to the people in my life at specific moments in the past. My victims were mostly my kids and my mother. They were the closest at hand and the safest, because they would still love me even as I did my dastardly deeds to them. Thank God that our children and our parents love us even when we don't deserve their love.
I don't know about you, but I struggle with trying to be present everyday. There are so many distractions, from email and Facebook to television and paying bills, from commitments to volunteer boards and committees to time spent working on paying projects. It's not just being present that's a struggle. There's also trying to keep up with the chores in life like cooking, cleaning and laundry that tend to suffer as I surrender my time to other attentions that do not benefit myself or my family directly.
I recognize that thinking the volunteer work that I do is more important than my family is a false value, and yet, I am part of a generation of women who have succumbed to that myth. Part of the seduction is the reward of accolades and genuinely making a difference in other people's lives. I remember a line from the theater production "Funny Girl" in which Fanny Brice's mother tells her that she now belongs to the ages. Sometimes my sense of self-importance sends that same message to me, and I erroneously believe it.
I often think about the examples of people like Henri Nouwen and Mother Teresa who lived among the developmentally disabled and the poor, rolling up their proverbial sleeves and doing physical work. I am deeply aware of my need to live in and with my faith community at home, sharing in the everyday chores of maintaining our worship and ministry home, in order to be strengthened and renewed to go forth and do ministry away from home. It hits me every time I get a chance to land at St. Stephen's in Longmont as I did this past Sunday and worship with my parish congregation and hug and receive hugs from old and new friends.
I suspect that part of an answer lies in the ability to rest in the Lord no matter where we are or how busy with life's activities we become. The image that arises for me is a home away from home, a home wherever I find myself, if I can just rest in the Lord wherever I am. So much easier said than done. So much easier to talk about than to find one's way towards, but a goal worth seeking.