I miss Lent. I don’t miss a dearth of chocolate. C’mon, people. I’m not a saint. But I miss the daily Lenten resolutions I randomly picked each morning. I miss spiritual direction. I miss having a daily goal to focus on that helps buoy up my sometimes sinking faith life. Thus, I’m going to start an exercise here, hopefully every Wednesday (I just can’t commit to a daily resolution), that includes an anecdote and some Kate-induced ramblings and then a spiritual goal or action to make my faith be more than a static facet of my life that I only write about. I’ll call it “Working Wednesday” since it requires a little more out of me than just perusing a blog. I invite you to join me in these little resolutions. If you don’t have a lot of time to endure my logorrhea, then scroll to the bottom of the post for a Bible passage and your weekly spiritual resolution. Then visit a blog that’s participating in Wordless Wednesday and release a sigh of relief. Oh, and if you’re struggling with something in particular or have an idea for a weekly goal, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a line at kmwicker[at]gmail.com. God bless!
I remember birthdays. It’s just something I do. I used to always send cards in the snail mail and I still do most of the time. Occasionally these days I’ll call instead, but if I know the date of your birthday, I’ll remember it.
One of the reasons I like to make people feel special on their birthday is because my mom always made a big fuss over birthdays (and all holidays for that matter). It wasn’t that she threw elaborate birthday parties and to this day, I’m against the idea of that little ones need a dog-and-pony-show to be happy on their birthdays, but she always made us feel like the most important person in the world on that one day of the year. This wasn’t always an easy feat, considering one of my brothers and I share the same birthday, but somehow she did it. I’d usually wake up to discover a birthday card on my nightstand. That was the first of many birthday greetings she sprinkled throughout my day.
So my mom gave me a good reason to remember birthdays – I want to make others feel as special as she’s made me feel all these years. Of course, there’s also a very human part of me that remembers others’ birthdays in hopes that when mine rolls around, I’ll have a heap of birthday well-wishes and an email inbox full of singing e-cards.
But I also know that sending a card to a friend just so I’ll get one from them in return on my birthday – I’ll scratch your back, then you scratch mine – should never be my motive behind stocking up on greeting cards at Hallmark or the Dollar Store.
During his days on earth, Jesus never kept score. (I hope he still doesn’t. Otherwise, the scoreboard is looking grim. It’s maybe 1 point for Kate and a gazillion for the Big Guy). I shouldn’t either. When I choose to do something nice for a friend or anyone, I shouldn’t look for something in return. I can take this a step further and recognize that it’s the giving that’s important, not the tax write-off or the kudos for our generosity that matters. It’s human nature for us to want others to be aware of the kind deeds we do or the money we give to those who are less fortunate. I mean, I just let the whole blogoshere know that I’m good at remembering birthdays (sorry about that and for the record straight, I realized that I did, in fact, recently forget a friend of the family’s b-day.).
What God really wants out of us is to give out of love, not obligation, not because we want to be recognized or we want to rack up birthday greetings, not even because we want to earn a spot in heaven. Yes, this life is all about looking heavenward, but I still say that the easiest path to holiness is to do things out of love, not fear or duty or wanting anything in exchange for our acts other than God’s friendship. Funny thing is, we’ve got that even when we act like selfish goofs.
This kind of giving, doing and living – the kind that is not conditional on anything – is a lot like parenting. As parents, we may not see a paycheck for all of our hard work. We may not “earn” tangible benefits for every single hour at the job. There are some who argue that children are ruthless, little takers. (Don’t believe me? Read this post, which has shares some similar themes with these musings.)
Just the other day I saw children described as a “quality of life impediment” in a mainstream parenting mag. It was meant to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing and I’ve got a pretty good sense of humor. We don’t ever need to demean children like that.
Now don’t get me wrong. Kids, especially the 5 and under lot, are frequently takers. As their parents, we’re constant givers. They are bottomless pits of needs and all day we have to keep filling them with one more drink of water, a dry diaper, a hug, a story, a spontaneous dance session in the living room, a middle-of-the-night nursing session. Sometimes the giving is tough. Sometimes I want to say, “Get your own drink of water!” But just when I feel completely zapped of all my parental charity, my children give me more that anything I could offer them. Maybe the baby lifts her arms into the air and says, “Mama” or begins to giggle when I sing “Little Bunny Foo-Foo.” Or maybe, like happened today, I’m feeling grumpy after diffusing a fierce tantrum at the playground and ignoring the person – a nanny, I think; it couldn’t have been a fellow mom – who eyed my sobbing 3-year-old and said, “Looks like someone missed her nap” until Madeline, who has completely recovered from her intense but short-lived fit, plucks the most perfect purple blossom and says, “For you, Mommy” and my grumpiness completely vanishes. Or she says something that makes my throat catch. “What makes you happy?” I asked one night after we read a wonderful bedtime story called Tell Me Something Happy Before You Go to Sleep.
“Loving God,” she said. Wow! Who’s the giver now?
The point is, we’d drive ourselves crazy if we were constantly keeping score, wondering how our kids or our spouses will repay us for all that we do for them or if we’ll get a gift if we give a friend a gift, or even if God will reward us. But if we do all things – from tithing to sending birthday cards, from making PB sandwiches for hungry kiddos to overlooking the fact that our husbands forgot to take out the garbage – as nothing more than an expression of our love for God and our neighbor, then we’ll get a taste of what it means to be holy and an opportunity to grow closer to Christ. And let’s face it, that’s worth far more than any Hallmark greeting.
Scripture: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. And your father who sees you in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:3-4
Spiritual Resolution: Send someone a handwritten note or donate to a favorite charity, anonymously if possible.
***Keep Pope John Paul II in your prayers. Today marks the third anniversary of his death.