Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Curvy Road

Who am I?  This is the age-old question that all people have asked since the time of creation.  It is a question that motivates quests up the tallest mountains and into the depths of the sea, while causing many to fall into despair when the image in the mirror doesn’t match the soul that lies hidden.  It is such a simple question consisting of three short, simple words.  The answer for each person is not ever so simple as the question itself, but my goal is to simplify my answer to those three simple words as much as possible before I complete this earthly existence.  I know, I know -- this is getting a little too deep.  Hang in here, don’t leave just yet.  I will not get too philosophical, but I’ll try to stick to the straight and not too curvy road.  Curvy roads are, however, much more entertaining than the mesmerizing, straight ones, so hold on and let me know if you feel a little queasy when we reach our destination.
Most of my life, I have spent my efforts fighting against my natural abilities and inclinations in search for a more glamorous existence.  The grass has always been greener in that other pasture across the street or on the other side of town.  This has distracted me from being fully present to the joy that is right here in my own pasture, the pasture that has been gifted to me to water and trim and provide nourishment for my flock.  I grew up with the wise encouragement of my mother who would remind me, “It doesn’t matter how much we have, there will always be others who have much more than we have and more importantly there will always be others who have much less.”  These words were intended to take my focus off of the negative view of what was out of reach and turn my attitude to one of gratitude for what I have in my grasp.  I am a person who has been blessed with wise parents who have always given me the tools that I needed to grow into the person that God created me to be.
With these tools, I share the workload with my husband, who is a talented artist -- sculptor and painter.  There will be much more about him and his fascinating life-story later, but for now it is important to mention that as a wife for over 20 years, I have been Wendy Ayala longer than my pre-marital identity.  When I professed my marriage vows, I made a commitment to my husband that I would do my part to help make “the two become one”.  Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows that this is much easier said than done for both consenting individuals, but there is no other more worthwhile venture to learn of the value of self-giving and humility than to bring two unique personalities and mold them into one inseparable covenant.  I am a person who has been blessed with a husband who daily gives everything he can to his wife and family and apologizes with a sincere heart in the event that he falls short.
As the two have become one, six sons have been the fruitful result of a commitment to unconditional love.  How often have I heard, “You must be the most patient person in the world.”  I say that I am definitely not the most patient, but I have realized that any virtue practiced becomes stronger and patience is no exception.  Life has taught me not to sweat the small stuff, but the trick to that is to know what to include in the category of “Small” vs. “Big”.  I have learned that my house can be dirtier than the house across the street and the sheets only need to be changed when the laundry pile shrinks to a manageable size.  (This can be 3 weeks or a couple of months -- give or take a few.)  We have all survived just fine, I just hope my sons learn how to pick up their own socks when I am not there to collect them off the family room floor.  I am a person who has priorities of family, friends and food that leaves me little time for mundane household cleaning and chores.
Most of all, my goal in living is to be open to God’s will for my unique purpose.  This takes the pressure off of me to define who I am.  I know that I only need to keep the car on the road and trust that the road will someday lead me home.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Giving from the Top

Living life by ideals does not always look like the picture of perfection. My heroes are people in the world who serve when it does not benefit themselves and stand for truth even in the face of great adversity. Beauty is not only a superficial exterior feature, but is most inspiring when revealed through unexpected encounters. It is the simple things in life that I appreciate the most: life itself, running water, tea in the afternoons, and a book read aloud with my children. My husband inspires me through his ability to create beautiful artwork while balancing life as a busy father of six boys. My life is rich with a healthy family, great friends, and a love-filled home. Ideals do not just happen. Goals and vision must be consistent with a life based on the things that matter most: God, love, and humility.

How does a person make God a priority in life? Life is busy these days -- too busy in fact. As a wife who works a job outside of the home and attempts to stay involved in my six sons’ lives, I have little time or energy to devote to much of a prayer life or practice of faith. Mass as a family always happens on Sundays -- that is my foundation. I am trying to get to Mass at least one other day during the week. This is what I call the mid-week checkpoint to help me drive over the speed bump to stay focused on finishing the week’s race. It’s my spiritual vitamin shot that gives me the added dose of grace that I need to stay strong. There are many things I would like to be doing to add to my spiritual health and strength. My spiritual “To Do” list includes, but is not limited to:

* A weekly holy hour in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
* Reading of the daily mass readings
* Participating in a weekly Bible study
* Praying the rosary daily

Most of all I long for moments with God to sit at his feet the way that Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and “took it all in”. There is no doubt about it that Mary chose the better part and Martha’s anxiety over the whole thing was really envy over what she was missing. I have often wondered what would have happened if Martha had joined Mary and sat at the feet of Jesus. Would everyone have helped the host to feed the crowd that had gathered at the home of Lazarus and his sisters? I imagine that everyone would have gotten hungry at some point in the discussion and there would have been a natural transition to getting the guests fed with everyone doing his or her part. I know that in my life I am too much like Martha and not enough like Mary. What am I doing to change it? I am going to give God from the top instead of giving Him the leftovers. I will schedule my time with Him at the beginning of my day instead of hoping to get it accomplished sometime before I go to sleep. I never have the energy at the end of the day to do anything other than thank Him for the blessings of the day and ask for His forgiveness for my failings. A working mom with six children is no excuse for forgetting my precious Jesus. He is knocking on the door of my heart and I only need to open the door and invite Him to come in and stay a while.