With cheers and tears, I have begun thinking about the back-to-school essentials for my children who are, by the way, returning next week. Likewise, as with any good Jesuit student, it has been a cue for me to reflect on my own much needed necessities at this time in my life as well. While there are of course countless others that could be included in this list, these chosen three are the ones that leapt to the forefront of my mind!
1. Coffee- (Substitute tea, juice or a smoothie for those that find those more preferable.)
Strong, and certainly caffeinated, the inviting aroma beckons me to take seriously the day’s events ahead. This is my time for morning reflection, and perhaps one of the few times during the day that I will sit still without a project, paper, or errand to complete. It is quite literally the reminder for me to re-fill my cup- to empty myself and the events of the day prior so that I can be able to accept and embrace God’s gift of self in my every moment. Not the least of which are the many requests upon my own time.
Father, you ask us to be still and know that You are God, that you are always with us at the break of each new day, and that with you we will not be shaken. (Ps.46:6-11)Fill me with your love, grace, and compassion for those who might need you most today.
2. Communion (daily if at all possible!)
Several years ago, after having made my Cusillo retreat, I consciously resolved to attend daily mass whenever the time allowed. Yet, initially, this commitment was but a new curiosity, filled with an unknowing of whether I could continue, or how I would be affected in my own spiritual growth. One morning in particular, in that first week, I noticed a woman about my own age, and felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to speak with her after mass. Having seen her before on Sunday mornings with her family, I remarked how happy I was to have another mom with small children there that day. Smiling, and with all earnestness she said something that moved me profoundly.
“I’m here because this is where I need to be as a mom, it is my time to regroup, talk to God, and gain the strength to be the mom that God wants me to be”.
Her words were meant for me, and found a dwelling place deep within my heart. God wants to do something great for me in giving me the tools and the space to break into my ordinary with the extraordinary experience of this intimate closeness with Christ. I think of this moment often these days as I slide into the pew, kneel before Christ, and let out the biggest sigh, a breath of relief that I actually made it there. No matter how I arrive- rushed, anxious, or frustrated, I leave transformed in heart, mind and spirit. As I think about the future after graduate school, I have already begun thinking about daily mass times in the area that might allow me to continue this now essential time with God in my day.
As you may have noticed my precursor to this one, conversation just for conversations sake isn’t essential at all. In fact, the wrong conversations are draining, disruptive, and detrimental to both you and all those in your life. We have all, at some point found ourselves in these instances, whereby the conversation turns gossipy, argumentative, or judgmental towards others. Yet, as a mom of school aged children whose time is limited anyway, I can honestly say I leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied. The question I keep returning to is whether this is healthy for me even if I am not participating.
Conversely, the right conversations lead us and others nearer to where God wants us to be, and leave us knowing our time was well spent. They inspire, nourish, enlighten, support, and buoy us up when we need to feel God’s love most. They remind us to listen deeply and speak when needed. These are moments of awareness to the Holy Spirit’s presence guiding and filling us with peace and joy.
One of the best assignments I have been given in my graduate ministry work, in lieu of reading, was to take time to pursue that which uplifts us. Here, I was given a week set aside to reconnect, to decompress, and renew. Not surprisingly, I made sure that I met with those also in ministry to give them that much needed break as well. So essential is this for me, that I do this now on a regular basis!
With much gratitude to my advisor, friend (and creator of the above assignment), Eileen Daily for helping me to see that self-care is not selfish but vital if I am to be of help to myself much less anyone else!