Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Our Eyes Should Be Open"

I just haven't had time lately.

I'm not complaining. Life is good and busy, and the busy-ness is all of the good variety. I just feel as if I haven't had time lately to sit down with my friends (you!) and have a cup of coffee and chat about what's going on.

Late June and these first weeks of July simply flew. We got back from a trip to Oklahoma and Arkansas (visits to my side of the family) and soon after that came a speaking engagement at a homeschooling conference in Omaha, and no sooner had we returned home from that than our friends from Florida came to stay for a few days. And whenever I haven't been traveling or asking Atticus what he's cooking our guests for dinner, I've been working on a book that is due to the publisher very soon.

Today is Sunday, right? (I've lost track of days.) Sabbath rest, and we all need it. I'm sitting in my room (which doubles as my office on workdays, but today it's just a haven) with my laptop, and I can hear nothing from the living room. People are reading or napping or scrolling. I just now turned on the air conditioner, because it's been such a lovely day.

I keep meaning to write about the Filled With Joy conference in Omaha because it really was filled with joy, and it felt like such a privilege to be a part of it. We had two of our daughters with us (one of them was at a Steubenville conference), and Friday night was just fun family time and burgers and shakes for dinner. Something happened to all of us, though, on Friday night in the hotel room. We're a family prone to insomnia, but this was ridiculous. This was like some kind of Twilight Zone episode or a "Before" shot in a commercial for Excedrin PM. No one was dropping off, and by Saturday morning, I was running on an "I kinda dozed off a couple of times" level of sleep.

How am I going to get through this conference?

I was so cranky that I was growling at everything, including air, and everyone, including my beloved family. It didn't help that I had just spilled hot coffee on my pajamas and then almost washed my wedding ring down the bathroom sink. Atticus left the room to go jump on a treadmill (no surprise -- I would have run from me, too). I grabbed my iPod and opened my Breviary app.

It was the feast day of St. Benedict, and I read these words:

Second reading
From the Rule of Benedict, abbot
Put Christ before everything

My first talk of the day was to be about a homeschooling mom's prayer life. In that talk, I stress that the reason I do what I do -- everything I do -- is Christ.

Then I read:

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection; 

Oh, this is getting even better, I thought. Maybe I should incorporate this quote into my talk ... maybe I need to share about the sleep deprivation ... about the way the Liturgy of the Hours always speaks to me ... especially when I desperately need it to.

A quiet voice (not a real voice -- I'd love to say that it was a real voice, or that God sounds like Alan Rickman or something, but that wasn't the case. It was just a feeling....) told me, No, you don't need to use that quote. Just hold on to it.

So I did. And I stowed away the idea that if it came up, if I felt truly compelled to share about the rotten night I'd had, I would. I would definitely talk about the way the prayers of the Breviary speak to me, would probably even mention that I had felt spoken to that morning, because I had gone on to read this:

So we should at long last rouse ourselves, prompted by the words of Scripture: Now is the time for us to rise from sleep. Our eyes should be open to the God-given light, 

and this:

Just as there exists an evil fervor, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervor which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. Monks [and wives and mothers, I thought] should put this fervor into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behavior, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another.

and this:

Let them put Christ before all else;

I was ready. Another cup of coffee (unspilled this time), some breakfast. Grace was rescuing me. Conference time.

I was the first speaker, and delivered my prayer talk. I alluded to my more-than-satisfactory conversation with God that morning, but didn't give details. Afterward, during Q &A, a woman asked if I would share what specifically had touched me. I had to laugh, because here was the moment in which I felt compelled to share about the bad night, the insomnia, my crabbiness, and how the words of St. Benedict (minus any specific quotes) had soothed my spirit.

But, remember that St. Benedict quote that I considered adding to my talk? (Of course you do -- it was only a few paragraphs ago.) When Suzie Andres began her talk, immediately following mine, she opened with that same quotation, a quotation she had planned to use all along. (I guess there was a reason I was discouraged from stealing it from her.)

And the whole day went that way -- our talks wove in and out of each other, synchronizing so delightfully that if I hadn't known it, I would have thought we'd coordinated remarks.

Our eyes should be open to the God-given light. 

I loved this conference. Huge kudos and thanks to Regina, Kris, and Maureen, all of whom poured countless hours and endless sacrifices into making it run smoothly and beautifully.

And now, because it's Sunday, I think it's nap time.


Suzie Andres said...

Karen, your reflections on the Omaha "Filled with Joy" conference -- well, they fill me with joy again! It was wonderful the way my guardian angel cooperated with your guardian angel and they both tugged on the Holy Spirit to keep you silent regarding St. Benedict's beautiful words :) But as you said, the way our talks complemented one another -- that was also the work of the Holy Spirit and the angels!

Reading your blog post, this further passage from St. Benedict really struck me:

"Monks [and wives and mothers, I thought] should put this fervor into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behavior, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another."

Like you and your family experiencing insomnia the night before you were "on" - I too felt my weaknesses (of body and behavior!), and yet, acceding to the request to speak at the conference and knowing we had the chance to share our joy with the lovely families there, I also felt God's strength. It was a day truly filled with joy. Who can plan such a thing? Apparently Maureen, Kris, and Regina can :)!

And now, as you mention, it is Sunday, and I have just had my nap (currently in a later time zone than you are...) - the Holy Spirit does seem to inspire us both with the same good ideas!

Thanks for leaving St. Benedict's line for me; now I'm sending up a prayer that the Holy Spirit and the angels give you all the lines you need to help you meet your deadline for the new book!
lots of love,

Karen Edmisten said...

Aw, Suzie, it fills me with joy again to hear from you. :) Yes, the Holy Spirit carried the day! And thanks for your prayer for the book!

Tell Tony we'll see him poolside. ;)

Melvin B. said...

Sure you're tired, but it's a good kind of tired.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks for the input, Melvin. Aren't you late for a run?