I came upon my old Bible the other day, the one I read through from cover to cover twice, a TEV Protestant Bible, now incomplete to me, but still generating a holiness from within even when I touch its cover. I looked at the many scotch tape fixes, the numerous margin notes, the multiple dog ears, and I remembered a corny saying -- "She whose Bible is falling apart probably won't." Well my Bible did fall apart many years ago, and as it turned out, several years after that I did too, so I don't know how much stock to put in that old chestnut, but it is true at its root and in its intention, to be sure. If we spend time with Jesus, we will not completely lose it. He will always provide enough grace so that we can do the work He has in mind for us.
Around that same day, I was feeling absurd. I laughed out loud at myself in the afternoon, thinking how my time was allocated -- what percentage of my day was spent cleaning up crumbs with the hand vac, how much of my day was dedicated to serving food and drinks, washing, folding, putting away laundry, or looking through unfolded piles of laundry for an outfit for one of my kids. I thought of how I'm not a very good cook. How much money I spend on my kids. How my skin is breaking out. It was one of those "pile on Nicole" days.
Then came the kids' bedtime. This is the time when I'm supposed to put them in their rooms and start using my alone time wisely and productively to maintain and perfect my home, give myself a facial, ped-egg my heels, and of course do my spiritual reading and prayers. Instead, on this night, I felt like crawling under the covers and crying. I missed my mother badly, and I didn't feel well in several ways. I got my son down and then was working on my ten year old, who was not at all tired. She asked me if we could do a role play. This is something I have done with both my kids in order to prepare them for any situations that might arise where they would have to answer on the fly questions about important things like my son's allergies, our faith, what is appropriate and what is inappropriate, etc. Well, my daughter was in the mood to talk and she wanted to do a role play. Since she is starting a new school in late August, I assumed it would be about that. But instead, she asked me to act out with her a scene where she was in college and she met a friend who was not a Christian. She wanted to know what to say to that person to get her to Mass and then to RCIA to join the Catholic Church.
At this point I enter Shame-Ville. All day I had been picking on myself for stupid little things, and here I have a kid who many consider in the "tween" years, who is asking to use her time and mine to rehearse how to evangelize! What? What kind of running over cup has the Lord given me anyway?
I went through the role play with her, making alterations here and there, letting her play both sides, working on pronunciations and tone. I told her that evangelizing is a matter of three things: opportunity, love, and example. You have to see and seize the opportunity, and that can't be forced or contrived. You have to speak with a REAL, not fake love for the other person, *and* you have to be an unimpeachable example of an adherent Catholic or you have no credibility. She made me laugh when she threw in a bribe of coffee and donuts to her hypothetical friend.
I think too many times, we look at ourselves as just slogging through our days, hearing bad news, praying, barely treading spiritual water, and letting our physical world fall apart at the seams in the process. But the truth is that if we keep Jesus at the forefront, even in our exhaustion, He will remain there and He will take the lead. The truth is I can't control anything. My life is about crumbs and pee accidents and bad haircuts and stained furniture. My life is about dry elbows and overpriced prescription medications for old woman ailments, desperate prayers for a world going to hell in a hand basket, and laundry. Always laundry. And dust. And to dust you shall return. I smile to myself wryly, a face that my mother would make when a gallows-humor would take her over uncharacteristically. I still miss her, and always will, but again, with Jesus' face before me, it's going to be alright. It simply can't turn out any other way. He promised that and I believe it. If it weren't so, He wouldn't say it. He was saying it to me all those years ago, as I searched through that Bible for my answers, and He repeats it now, at every Mass. He's telling me, "Nicole, you're mine."
I remember when I told my daughter for the first time, and my son for the first time, (two separate occasions), that as much as I loved them and as much as they loved me, Jesus loved them more and loved me more. Both of them were saucer-eyed. But they have to know, so they can live a life that is properly ordered. Jesus first. Jesus in front of you, always. Like your true North. So don't keep your eyes on the road, or the scenery. Keep your eyes only on Jesus. Follow Him, and you will never be lost, even if you feel like you've dropped every single thing you were supposed to be carrying for the journey, He looks back and says, "Don't worry; I've got it."