by Jill Thorne
In the busyness of my family and professional life, the LOUDEST demands frequently get my attention. A yelling toddler, a barking dog, and urgent phone calls from friends or clients pull my mind to them as I tend to the many needs. I can quickly change the roll on the toilet paper, throw another load of laundry in the wash, gas the car, pay bills, and then notice — I haven’t sat down for what feels like an entire day.
Amidst the hectic pace, beautiful spiritual practices such as attending Mass, reading Scripture, and praying can feel like another item on the to-do list, akin to exercise and dusting high on the bookshelf. I used to have leisurely moments of prayer journaling and reflective retreats. I could attend a Bible study or meet with friends regularly to support each other in prayer. These things still feed me, but with much less frequency. During this season of life, a few regular tangible ways of acknowledging God have been vital to nurturing my relationship with Christ. I can’t often pause for a full “meal” of spiritual food, but I can sprinkle reminders of God’s presence all over my environment.
Starting with an awareness of spiritual realities sets a peaceful tone. I have found that I am more mindful of God’s presence if I wear religious symbols, such as cross or crucifix, a saint medal, or a spiritually meaningful word or picture. If I need to strive towards a more tender attitude towards my husband, I might reach for a personal representation of this goal such as the word “love” combined with a crucifix and hung on a string around my neck. Each time I adjust it or look in the mirror, I’m reminded of the prompting I felt by the Holy Spirit when I chose it. If I know I need to be less judgmental, I might write the word “grace” on my thigh, reminding me to think with grace towards others each time I use the restroom or change clothes! It has helped me to surround the home with images of Christ – pictures, statues, verses, and crosses adorn walls and surfaces. My 4-year-old sometimes stares at the wild representation of Michael the Archangel, initiating a lesson through his questions. Blessing the children before we leave the front door (a time of extra busyness often, when I am calmed by this tender act) and praying out loud when beginning to leave for the day (with eyes open) serve as cues as soon as we are at the door or in the car. When my mind it not on God, the children chime in to remind me. Throughout the rest of the day and at the day’s end, more common ways of remembering take place.
And do you know what? The practices help, but they don’t always “work”.
Sometimes, an intention is met with resistance (“I don’t WANT a blessing today, Mom!”) or an emotional crisis (“I want to say somethin and Daddy already PRAY! Wahhh!”…crying ensues, see attached picture). In these moments, we need to step back and try to let the ritual go for the moment, but we never need give up the goal of our family lives – a mindful focus on His beauty and perfect love, which helps us to love, even in tiny moments all around us, covering us all.
Jill Thorne, PsyD
Dr. Thorne is a wife, stepmother to a 19-year-old, mother to a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old, and psychologist. Raised to know Christ in the evangelical Christian tradition and now a practicing Catholic, she has experienced a broad expression of Christian practice. You can contact her or read more at http://www.drjillthorne.com.