The last chapter of our February book, Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home, The Bedroom. Thomas Howard again emphasizes the constant theme, “My life for yours.”
As a married woman, mother of 7, my thoughts on the bedroom will look differently than Emily’s and I would hope that Miss Emily would please share all her wonderful thoughts with us in the comments or in a post I can link to. (Yeah! Emily took the bait and wrote about the bedroom from a single woman’s perspective.)
This total self giving, or at least the supposed self giving, can take many forms in the bedroom. Howard begins with talk of conception and comes full circle to talk of death. Both are a laying down of life…or a beginning of a new life. And so the bedroom is rightly called a place of beginnings and ends.
This total giving of self, hhmmm…How many times does our gift of self dissipate before the door even shuts behind us? And our husband, well, he’s left with the crumbs…Oh, and we want the lights out even though we’re already covered by an old gym shirt and years of insecurity?
And when we do have the lights on, what do they reveal? Is our bedroom junk drawer of the house? Laundry scattered, toys strewed, papers stacked here and there and a night stand with a tower of dusty books reaching higher and higher as if infused with the same magic Jack and his infamous beanstalk were?
The saying goes the kitchen is the heart of the home. I contend the bedroom is the heart of the family. If there is discord in the bedroom…there will be discord in the family.
Right before Leo was born I started making my bed regularly, turning on some soft Gregorian Chant and using a candle warmer to set the mood for our bedroom. Now, Chris could care less about any of the stuff. But for me, it made my bedroom a sanctuary. Now, since Leo’s birth, my bed is not made regularly, some days I forget the music or candle warmer…and the bedroom loses its oasis like qualities; it has just become another room in the house. It is not set apart as a mysterious sacred space in which the whole family benefits.
And your bedroom is a sacred space. It is in the bedroom we become co-creators with God. (Without being vulgar, I realize there are other rooms in the house in which intimacy can be achieved.) The bedroom most clearly express the reoccurring theme of laying our life for another in two very distinct ways.
And in the rite of conception, we can see, as we have seen in a dozen other exchanges and acts around the house, the whole story in one little act. Here, life is “laid down” quite dramatically, in order that the life of love may be born anew, and that literal new life may come into being. The exactness of the picture is astonishing, not to say amusing: both bodies laid down, like the corn of wheat; both laid open, like the corn of wheat. Vulnerability, defenselessness, giving and receiving–nay, giving and receiving wholly indistinguishable from each other, for who will keep tally in these blissful exchanges to make sure the score is even? My life laid down for you; our two lives laid down, becoming one life, and in this laying down and union, lo, the springing forth of new life. My service to you turning out to be joy. Your life laid down for me turning out to be joy. Your acceptance of me being itself your gift to me.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
And the two distinct ways our life is laid down? One, when we lay down our life, we do so with the least shred of pride. There is not time to think of self, only of the one whom we are willing to sacrifice our very life for. And yet how often do we shun a compliment from our husband? Dress quietly behind the bathroom door or wait until it’s dark? How often do we never fully relax and enjoy the most intimate of moments–two bodies becoming one? And so we have not truly laid our life down…we’ve covered it in thick blankets of wool and darkness. We’ve kept a part of ourselves hidden so as not to be hurt, laughed at or scorned. We assessed the risk and figured it to be of too great a price. The sacrifice of our life has not been made. We kept a part of ourselves back.
We may not be willing to splay ourselves in front of the body we vowed unity, but we push ourselves wide open to bring forth a new life…the second way we lay our life down in the bedroom. Each new soul that enters a family brings its own special set of graces…it also demands its own special set of sacrifices. This pregnancy may demand the physical sacrifice of the very food we eat; nine months permeated with bouts or days or even months of nausea. And yet another pregnancy may seemingly demand very little but the colicky baby more than makes up for the nine months of expectant bliss.
We easily see the need a child has for us to sacrifice all: sleep, comfort, self…in order to care for the defenseless. But what about our husbands? They have the same need of us. They need our complete sacrifice as well. And they are just as defenseless. Just as defenseless as we are when we slip under the sheet in the skin we came into the word. The baby and the grown man, both vulnerable in the skin God gave ‘em. Our men are at their most vulnerable and they cry…only silently. They want to be completely accepted. They want to be totally needed. They want unconditional love. We do not deny these things to a creamy white skinned baby, why deny them to the grown man?
Well, “He can hurt me like a baby can’t,” we may contend. And yet we carry that same power. Our wicked tongues compare them or tear them down as they lay naked next to us. Or our own bodies stiffen as they approach. The “closed” sign slapped in their face.
Each sacrifice, one of laying with our man and one of laying down to bring forth man–none the more sacred than the other. The process of bringing new life into the world emanates from the sacrifice of being totally known. It is no coincidence the Bible says “Adam knew his wife.” And that one little word brings me back to my initial thought…the bedroom is the heart of the family. This “knowledge” must be rightly ordered or the family will suffer various forms of disorder.
I almost hate to bring this up…Years ago when I would watch Dr Phil, he said something one time that made so much sense. I will paraphrase to make it less crude. Basically, if things are going fine in the bedroom, that part of your marriage equals about 10%. If things are going poorly, it’s about 90%.
The bedroom is the heart of the family.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, this chapter on the bedroom. I’m sorry this post was so late in coming up, I couldn’t quite get the words together. Hopefully I did now.
Good Morning Sisters! Happy Saint Valentine’s Day to you and yours. Just a short and simple post today. I had one terrific headache yesterday so the house was very well managed by my older girls, but today, it needs me. So do our 10 new laying chickens…busy, busy, busy.
I am always dumbfounded by the declarations of love proclaimed and demonstrated on this day. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a scrooge or unromantic, but if you are putting all your romantic dreams in the heart shaped tin of chocolate candy or the small jewelry box, you are going to lead a very unhappy life constantly looking for more love than can fit into a box. Those boxes can only hold so much. And you were made for so much more love.
And speaking of looking for love, remember the song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,” well, I’m pretty sure it should be the anthem of aisle 2 in the grocery store. No one–and in this case I mean…no one–is going to “find love” on this day. It was there yesterday, February 13th, or it wasn’t. And if it did just magically appear today…be afraid, be very afraid.
Yesterday, Chris rushed around trying to load up his trailer and tools so we could go look at a dinning room table we found on Craigslist. That’s love. Of course seconds before we walked out the door, trailer loaded with blankets and van loaded with kids, we got the message the table was gone…Hmh! You know what love did? Backed the van into the barn and unloaded the trailer and his tools.
The day before, love spent the evening working on the van in the cold barn while it rained. I appreciate that much more than a box of chocolates. Which he did buy (we exchanged chocolate on February 13th), but if I based my opinion of his love for me on a box of chocolates, what happens February 15th…when the chocolate is gone? (What, chocolate lasts longer than a day in your house?)
If love were based on the events that happen, or don’t happen on February 14th, it will be a fleeting and most likely disappointing love.
What about love that gets up at night and runs to the pharmacy to get a prescription? How about love that thanks us for making dinner…even though it was a new recipe that was as flop. Or love that picks up his socks…maybe not everyday, but at least every once in while. Love that let’s us pick out the movie or the flavor ice cream at the store. Love that builds garden beds and fixes cars and plunges the toilet. How about love that spends holidays with in-laws or birthday parties with the joyful screechings of two-year-olds.
Just like looking for God’s gifts in the ordinary, look for love in the common. You will find so much more love in the day to day sacrifices you make for each other, than any box of chocolate can hold. Guaranteed. But sometimes you have to look.
Today, in honor of St Valentine, I am going to giveaway two books. The first is For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men and the Second is The Power of a Praying Wife.
Just leave a comment telling us a really ordinary way someone showed you love. I mean it, we want to hear the unsung declarations of love! Whether it’s your mom, husband, brother, co-worker, anyone…Make this comment box the Olympic stand for common, ordinary love.
Winner drawn randomly and announced Monday in the Catholic Woman’s Almanac post.
Hello Ladies. Today I want to discuss the dinning room as read in Hallowed Be This House or its alternate title, Splendor in the Ordinary.
A certain theme struck me as I reread this late last night, after figuring out what our Mass plan was for Ash Wednesday. This chapter on the dinning room spoke about the room itself and the happenings there more formally than I would have expected, and yet it made sense–even in my somewhat chaotic feeling life at the dinning table with small children.
Many years ago, my husband had the opportunity to dine with some cloistered monks. After the meal, I asked how it was. I was so excited to hear him say he really enjoyed it. I of course asked for more details, hoping for some supernatural stirrings. He replied it was so nice…no one fell out of their chair, no one spilled the salad dressing or their milk or their brothers water. No one needed their meat cut up or cried because the meat was cut up and they wanted it whole. No one complained or had to be coaxed into eating.
Perhaps for all our zeal in the pursuit of spontaneity and innovation, we are missing the stark truth about what we are: highly ceremonial, even ritual, creatures who move at the tag end of a millennial-long procession of humanity who have all ceremonialized things.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
This idea of “ceremonialized” and “ritualized” seem a bit stuffy and cumbersome to me, a mother of many young children. But this is a necessary in their development–spiritually, physically and emotionally.
We were created from the Author of order…not confusion or fly by the seat of your pants or let’s just mix a pinch of this with a smidge of that and see what we come up with. He is a God of order. We are made in His image and likeness so we are a people of order.
I was thinking the other night about some of the memorable moments from 2012. Of course Leo is at the top of the list. But as I thought harder, or maybe deeper would be the word, I thought of a memorable experience related to his birth, or rather his arrival home.
My best friend had come and stayed with the children while I was in the hospital that day, and then my sister came and stayed the night while I was in the hospital and for almost a week later. I can still vividly remember the day we brought him home. The last day at the hospital always leaves me a bit stressed and antsy…ready to get home, but not ready to leave the care available at the press of a button.
The day we brought Leo home, Chris pulled the car into the garage and I slowly climbed out of the back seat of the car holding my new baby son. I opened the familiar creaky laundry room door. The laundry room which had laundry piled ready to be washed when I had left, was now neat and tidy…no trace of dirty laundry waiting. The late afternoon sun was streaming through the back door and windows and it smelled fresh and clean. I continued into the kitchen/dinning room. The kitchen was bright and sparkly and the dinning room orderly. The living room was freshly scrubbed; the sun did not have to fight its way through sticky finger prints left on the back door. My bedroom was clean and neat as well. The blinds were opened to let the sun in and the bed was smartly made.
I walked into a house of order.
And that homecoming felt almost ceremonial as I walked from room to room, christening each room with the presence of a new little soul meant to grow in wisdom and in grace in its confines. My children proudly showed us what they had accomplished under their aunt’s watchful eye. An eye for order that had been sorely missing the last long months of pregnancy.
The recollection of that day a couple of nights ago, pricked my conscience. ”Chris should have that same experience each and every day he walks through the creaky laundry room door.” The world he moves and breathes in is a disordered place. He should come home to harmony and peace.
There are preparations needed for a ceremony or a ritual. These do not have to be harsh or formal. They do need to be consistent. They do need to have for their ultimate good, the message of sacrifice.
The ritual of the Holy Mass, is a ceremony of sacrifice.
The ritual of welcoming guests or more importantly daddy, should be a ceremony of sacrifice.
This idea of sacrifice is clearly established at the dinning room table. Father gave of himself to provide the furnishings and the food. Mother and children gave of themselves to provide the atmosphere of the room and the preparation of the food. This mutual exchange is a reflection of the the sacrifice on the altar. Jesus’ life for ours…our life sacrificed for life with Him. There is an economy at work here, the economy of supernatural sacrifice built upon a heavenly order.
One of my broader goals this Lent is the proper economy of order, not only in my home, but more importantly in my soul.
My life for theirs. A continual recognition of Christ’s life for me. An appreciation of Chris’ life for me. A greater awareness each time my children make an offering of themselves.
**Please go read one of my all time favorite Elizabeth Foss posts on keeping a home, Why Bother?
Christ as Rex Gentium (King of All Nations)
Isaiah 9:7 Isaiah 2:4
Three more days. Are you ready? Does it seem like Christmas is so close or does it seem like it’s still a ways out? How about 80 miles away? 80 miles is the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin’i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Do we have somewhere–maybe closer than 80 miles or maybe farther–that we need to travel this Christmas?
Do we need to walk down the hall, take a left in the first open door and spend some quiet time with a little one who has been hustled and bustled until their little heart almost broke and their temper did?
How about the distance between grown siblings? Hurt feeling, harsh words and plain old misunderstandings can create a chasm greater than 80 miles wide and 80 miles deep. Is the crevasse filled with sour memories and more time than we know how to make up for? One step…one call…one generic Christmas card could make all the difference in the world.
When we crawl in bed at night, what’s the mathematical equation to find the area between us and our husband? Him hanging off the right side + me hanging off the left = a span of separation not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. What would happen if we just reached out yonder, across crumpled sheets and through flannel pajamas and touched his arm as we fell asleep? Would that be the first step to help fill that void?
Does God the Father seem so far out there, way past the tiniest of stars we stare up at each night, wondering where He is and not really caring what the answer may be because we don’t feel like he’s near us. As the animated character Buzz Light-Year would say, “To infinity and beyond!” Is that where God seems right now? Beyond.
Do you know how much you are wanted and loved? God loves you and wants you sweet sister in Christ. He longs, LONGS, to be near you. So much so, He makes Himself available all the time, 24/7, 365, on too many altars to count and way more churches to name and number.
That noisy child following you around, he longs to be near you. That’s why he sticks so close. If he were a toddler, he cold be unrolling the toilet paper roll. If he were a young boy, he could be hidden in some secret fort out back. If he were a teen, he could be gone…just gone…period. Instead he’s around, maybe bugging you, but around none the less.
Those families ties stretched to the breaking point and beyond. There may be hope. And if there is no hope, and in some families there is not, there is prayer. Whether you see them or not, you must pray for them. Fill that hole with prayer and all will be well someday, maybe not until heaven, but all will be well.
The man you share that expanse of bed with, if he does not long for you…ache for him. Yes, ache.
verb (used without object)
to have or suffer a continuous, dull pain: His whole body ached.
to feel great sympathy, pity, or the like: Her heart ached for the starving animals.
to feel eager; yearn; long: She ached to be the champion. He’s just aching to get even.
Ache for your man, ache for your marriage. God promises to make all things new and let Him start with you.
The baby Jesus is coming to be the King of all nations and everyone knows a good king restores and unifies…families, marriages, hearts…all things.
You know how Sesame Street has a number and letter of the day, well our number for Wednesday was the number 20. On Wednesday, September 19th, Chris and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. And that my friends is my Moment of Grace.
Elizabeth Foss::In the Heart of My Home
Posted May 24, 2010…From February 1998
In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes, “It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. And yet, once it is done, I find there is quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
She’s right. It is a difficult lesson. I have adopted a style of mothering that leaves little room for solitude. For 10 years now, I have had a child with me almost constantly. I don’t even share the collective sigh of relief that echoes in the neighborhood when the school bus lumbers off in the morning. My children are home, looking at me expectantly, ready for a day of home education.
This is a carefully chosen lifestyle, one which I embrace wholeheartedly and love dearly. Still, I have days when I crave solitude. I yearn for time to think uninterrupted thoughts or not thoughts at all. Usually, if I am alone or if I am at home with sleeping children, I am sitting in front of the computer, frantically trying to meet a deadline.
There is a time, however, when the very clinginess of my children gives birth to time alone. When my fourth child was born, my mother gave us a king sized bed. While this is certainly not on ordinary baby gift, she knew that she was giving my husband and me the precious gift of sleep. She knew that ours is very much “the family bed.”
The nursing baby is often allowed to nod off between us because I have nodded off before her. The three-year-old who insisted on his own bed until his second birthday, now insists he can’t sleep can’t sleep alone. We start him off in his room; he usually migrates to ours. And the five-year-old still hasn’t slept through the night. (Please don’t send me suggestions for solving my child’s sleep problems. I’ve been there and don’t care to do that.)
When our bed reaches capacity, at five bodies, I crawl out. I go to my son’s room where the blinds block the light totally and the bed is made with inviting flannel sheets and a flannel-covered down comforter. It is a twin bed and the first time I escaped to its safe harbor, I felt like I was back in college. It was so quiet. I was so alone. I made a personal rule not to think of anything in that bed that I wouldn’t have thought of in college.
I don’t think about kids, or teaching, or homemaking. I don’t compose columns in my head to be written at dawn before children arise. I don’t think of my husband in anything but the romantic, dewy-eyed, “engaged” frame of reference.
Since I don’t have any exams, term papers, projects, or extra-curricular activities to think about, I usually just fall asleep. But for the few moments between leaving the crowded bed of grown-up responsibility and falling asleep in the solitary bed of a carefree youth, I am completely relaxed and very open to creative ideas. It is enough to make me wonder if I shouldn’t pursue solitude occasionally when I am fully awake.
Elizabeth Foss::In the Heart of My Home
Ten years ago, I brought a simple band of gold into the jeweler’s shop and asked him to engrave it for me.
“I want it to say, ‘Once upon a time and happily ever after’ and the date ’9-12-87.’”
The jeweler cocked one eyebrow and said, “It’s just one ring; you can’t write a novel on it.”
“It’s not a novel. It’s just the beginning and the end. Can’t you print really small?”
“No way. You’ll have to come up with something else.”
Before we even got to the altar, the reality was that this was a marriage and not a fairy tale. My perception at the time was that “happily ever after” meant that we’d never be unhappy. I took the jeweler’s refusal a bit personally. It’s a good thing I wasn’t superstitious. Ten years and four children later, I’ve discovered what “happily ever after” really means.
My white knight, it turns out, doesn’t ride a white horse. He drives a 1988 black Taurus sedan. It is the “family car” that we bought when we discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, that we were going to have a baby for our first anniversary. It is the car that he tried to convince me not to take to the hospital for that birth. He was afraid I’d get it messy. That car made midnight trips to the hospital a few more times, for a life-threatening infection as a result of chemotherapy, for another birth, and for the first of many childhood asthma attacks. It also has been the chariot to countless Sunday Masses, Saturday soccer games and midnight trips to the grocery store. Now it groans along, needing frequent transfusions of vital fluids in order to reach very local destinations. No white horse, just a trusty old black car.
My white knight, it turns out, doesn’t live in a castle. He lives in a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. He works very long hours to pay for the house. There are so many riding toys, basketballs and bikes in the garage that he has never parked his chariot there. There is a swingset in the backyard that he designed and built for his children. Inside, there is happy confusions. Upstairs, there are beds in every room, but the knight often finds himself having a “sleepover” on the floor of the the family room with the young squires. No castle, just a home.
My white knight, it turns out, gets cranky when he’s hungry (he reminds us of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk). And sometimes he gets angry. This was not something I counted on when I went to have the ring engraved. I think I thought that as long as we were in love, there would be no anger, no arguments.
Around the time of our wedding, Carly Simon had a new song entitled “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of.” The tune was catchy and though I cannot even find the album (an antiquated term in these days of CDs), my children have often heard me sing the few phrases that have stayed in my mind over the years. [editor's note: isn't the 21st century grand? I found a YouTube link in 2 seconds flat:-)] I sing this tune when I wipe runny noses and clean dirty diapers, when pots boil over just as the white knight calls to say he’ll be late to dinner. I sing it when I’m frustrated because I can’t get the real to meet the ideal.
What if the prince on the horse in your fairytale
Is right here in disguise?
And what if the stars you’ve been reaching so high for
Are shining in his eyes?…
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s the slow and steady fire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made
It’s your heart and soul’s desire
I never thought I’d have to reminded that my life is indeed the stuff that dreams are made of.
But I do. Reality is not as sugar-coated as the fairy tales. However the pain in our lives has borne such sweet fruit. The bitterest of arguments have yielded the greatest understanding, the tenderest reconciliation. Real life is not a fairy tale. There is no fairy godmother; nothing is tied up in a beautiful bow.
Instead, married life is a journey undertaken by two souls. Our destination is heaven. That is our happily ever after. There is always joy, even in the darkest moments, because there is always God. Our marriage is a covenant between Mike, me, and God: a commitment. For better or worse. The joy, the genuine happiness, is in the commitment–God’s commitment to us; ours to him; and ours to each other.
What I could not know as a young bride-to-be is that in a covenant marriage, the flushed, giddy, once-upon-a-time romance grows into a deep, abiding, mature love. A love that endures. A love upon which God pours out His riches graces.
On second thought, maybe I did know, deep down inside. I had my husband’s ring engraved “Once upon a time and forever” and slipped it on his finger on a beautiful morning ten years ago “as a token of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
From Elizabeth’s archives, September 1997, posted on June 9, 2010.
Recently a friend and I were talking over some things we needed to find a way to communicate to our husbands. We both agreed there was just no way we would be able to reach his heart and be heard the way we needed to be heard, the discussion would center on the wrong thing, go the wrong direction, and inevitably end up in misunderstanding. I confessed that all we could do was pray that our husbands’ hearts would hear what needed to be said from a heavenly voice.
Besides these tough conversations that inevitably arise in marriage, there are also the requests, the needs that continually present themselves. These men we call husbands are beloved. We desire their happiness. We are bothered when their burden is heavy and worried when they are tired or sick. Sometimes we have no way to assuage the difficulties they face. A warm meal and a sincere prayer is all that we can offer–and it is enough.
And then there are the moments of sheer joy, when love for that man overwhelms you and gratitude springs up like a fountain. You want to rise up at the city gates and praise him. Your house full of toddlers and preschoolers are happy to chant “Daddy” for a while, but they don’t quite share in the outpouring of emotion you do. So you pray in thanksgiving.
Thinking over all these thoughts recently, I have discovered a new dimension of my relationship with my Blessed Mother. I do not feel like I love the Blessed Mother from afar. I feel like I really know her–that I have buried my head her shoulder and run to her embrace many, many times. I know the feel of her mantle and the sound of her voice. I feel the pain of her disappointed glances and the sweet joy of pleasing her. We are mother and daughter.
And now I realize that it is the same for my husband. See that little boy she’s holding? It’s Jesus. But it could just as easily be my husband or yours. And she loves him the way she loves me: tenderly, with intimacy and maternal care. I have come to realize of late that not only do I have a heavenly Mother, I have a heavenly Mother-in-Law! She wants for her little boy even more grace than I do. That heavenly voice I desire him to hear? It’s hers, and she wants to tell him what he needs to know. That overflow of love I want to express? Hers is a floodgate. And so I have begun to give him to her, over and over again, every day, many times a day. I give her his needs, his desires, his cares. I give her our disagreements and our joys. I give her his work and his play. I let her be his mother, so that I can be his wife.
The Bible tells us that “a man shall leave his mother and cleave to his wife.” In order to take up headship in our families, our husbands let go of the comfort of their earthly mothers and trust us to fill in the gaps. We are human and imperfect and bound to disappoint on occasion. But his Heavenly Mother will never disappoint him, and we can fill up what is lacking in our own efforts with the grace she so readily disperses.
I have always loved to pray the rosary for the peace the repetition brings me. It clears my head when my hands and mouth are busy and my thoughts are focused on Jesus. I want to be better at praying the rosary every day, the way the Lovely Lady has asked so many times. And now I have a new focus. It is my time to chat with my husband’s Mother, to compare notes, share fears, concerns, joys, to get feedback and background from someone who has known him longer than me. My rosary is like tea-time with my Heavenly Mother-in-Law.
She shows me the life of her Son and I give her this son whom I love. She takes him in her lap too, cuddles him close to his Saviour and does far more for him than I can do alone. I am so grateful for that.
From the archives of Footprints on the Fridge