7 Steps to a Clean Home with the Help of Joyful Children (One Method of Teaching Responsibility While Growing Closer as a Family)

I truly feel this entire concept was inspired by the Holy Spirit, or maybe even Mother Mary whispering wisdom into my ear.  Whatever the case, one moment I was standing in the kitchen calling my children to attention (with frustration and despair bogging down my mind) and the next moment, four of my children (ages 10, 8, 7 and 6) were happily and busily cleaning the entire house without one grumble or complaint!  Follow these simple steps to get similar results in your home.

Step 1:  Breathe.  Remember that they are children and children will make messes, explore and be creative.  Remember that they are capable of amazing things and allow them the room to show you their strengths.  Don’t expect perfection.

Step 2:  Divide the main areas of your house into Zones.  Don’t include bathrooms, bedrooms, or other “private” areas in your Zones.  Try to create one Zone per person.

Step 3:  Let the kids pick their cleaning Zone.  So far, I have had not arguments over who gets which Zone.  If a disagreement should happen then come up with a fair way of choosing: have them draw straws, roll dice, go from youngest to oldest, etc.

Step 4:  Explain the scoring system to the kids and put it up on a chart or white board as you explain.  Stay with me here as this is where it can get complicated.  Maybe say something along these lines:

     Your Zone will be scored on the following points: cleanliness (how well you do in picking up toys, trash and other misplaced items and putting them in their proper place); speed (how quickly you get the job done WELL; not just hurry up, but diligently work on your task to do the job well and completely–think perseverance and diligence); and attitude (Are you joyful or grumpy?).  These will be scored on a scale from 0-5, with 5 being the best possible score.  These scores will be added together to get your subtotal.  Everyone with me? [demonstrate on the white board].

Then say, “Now, you are all different ages and have different abilities.  To account for this, I will assign a Degree of Difficulty to your Zone based on your age and ability AND the extent to which you clean the room.”  A Degree of Difficulty of “1” is the basic pickup of the floor and flat surfaces; but a “5” would be if you cleaned under the sofa, organized the book shelf, vacuumed the floor, mopped the tile, etc.  The more you do, the higher the Degree of Difficulty becomes.  The reason why this is important is because your subtotal will be MULTIPLIED by your Degree of Difficulty to get your final score. [Demonstrate on the board how 15  x 1 is 15, but 15 x 5 is 75]  Let them give you different scores to see how it affects the total. [Bonus math lesson here ;-)]

zones

Step 5.  When the children complete their zone to their satisfaction, have them come to you and let you know that they are ready for scoring.  Then, with your full attention go into the room and inspect their job.  Be sure to give lots of positive feedback on the work they did well.  Don’t be afraid to make suggestions of where it could be improved, or hints about items that were overlooked.  Be generous, but honest with your score.  If my kids worked hard and gave it their all, I rarely score less than a 5.  In the above example, Zone 4 got a “4” in cleanliness because there was still quite a bit of trash on the floor and items on flat surfaces.  The Degree of Difficulty is the clincher here.  How much were they willing to put into their efforts?  My Zone 1 in the above example was the kitchen.  The 12 year old chose it with vigor and she delved into organizing cabinets and drawers, in addition to counters, floors and hand washing that her brother overlooked that morning.  That kind of effort deserved a perfect score for sure!  The Degree of Difficulty of 3 in the above example was the oldest child who chose to do the minimum effort.  He still had a great attitude and the room was picked up and vacuumed, so I explained that he could have earned a higher Degree of Difficulty by going under the furniture and straightening the bookshelves.  He did a great job, but it wasn’t going to be enough to win the contest.

Step 6.  Reward the top score with a prize.  I give 1st place 5 cents per point, 2nd place 1 cent per point and everyone else a quarter.  My children are still young at ages 6 to 13, so the prize is minimal.  If you have older children, then you might consider a higher payout–how much is a clean house worth after all?   The prize doesn’t have to be elaborate, but just a well-deserved reward for their effort.  At the end of this contest, your entire house will be picked up, vacuumed, spot mopped, and better organized than when you started.  Allow the reward to lift EVERYONE up, but still make the winner feel special for his/her effort.  Bask in their incredible efforts and boast on how enjoyable the home is when it is tidy and everyone works together well.  Sometimes we play a game, go swimming, or the kids watch a movie following the clean up—an activity to enjoy a job well done.

Step 7.  Repeat as needed to maintain the orderliness of the home, but not more frequently than once per week.  We decided to do “Zones” on Friday afternoons so we can enjoy a movie night and focus on family projects or outings on Saturdays.  This week my kids decided to do it on Thursday because the house had become quite messy and even they wanted the order back!  Hey, I’ll take it any day.

I would love to hear your feedback on how this works in your home, what changes you made, and what rewards were given.  I pray that you have as much success with it as I have had.  Truth be told the greatest reward for me has been the feeling of connection, that we really work well as a team, the Domestic Church’s version of the Body of Christ in action.

Edit:  I am usually working on my paying job while they are cleaning.  Sometimes, I clean an area as well, but don’t get scored in the contest.  Yesterday, they actually did all of the cleaning while I was gone for an appointment.  It was especially rewarding to come home to a clean house and to know the kids had matured to this level of responsibility without my direct oversight!  My goal here is not the clean house.  That is just a side benefit.  My goal is to grow relationships with my children as they learn to be responsible and independent members of our family and community.

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Camp Schooling

IMG_20171023_120320581Yes, I’m really doing this!  We are currently at a local campground–a mere 15 minutes from home.  I’m basking in the sun, staring out at the lake and enjoying the laughter and play of my kids on the beach.  It has been a long-time dream of mine to travel the US in an RV and homeschool on the open road.  One of the major motivators to shift to homeschooling in the first place was the ability to travel.  Heck, we were spending thousands of dollars on private education back then (18 years ago and only 2 children enrolled in school).  The thought of all the places we could go with that money was astounding.  Of course, the savings in tuition was also the key factor freeing us to truly be open to life as well.  Homeschooling allowed us both the large family God planned for us and the ability to educate them well in faith and academics.  But, I digress.  The babies came and traveling very far was not really a feasible option.  Until now.

Four weeks ago, I said “yes” to God.  I finally let go of my pride and stepped whole heartedly into the vocation of wife and mother.  For 24 years of marriage, I had believed that wife and mother were not enough.  Someway, somehow, I had bought into the belief that I had to have some sort of tangible giving beyond my home to be “worthy.”  It might sound funny, but I didn’t even realize that this is what I believed.  Six months ago, I was ready to go out and find a job.  Not for the money, but for the affirmation and appreciation of my efforts.  I was grasping and desperate to be more.  To be someone.  To be me.  But, I didn’t know who I was.  Through prayer and faith, I just kept taking one day at a time and letting God lead me.  As painful, dark, and terrifying as that walk of faith was, I couldn’t go back.  I refused to stop living again, to stop being, to stop loving.  So, I kept moving forward motivated by love and hope and faith.  Then, one day my path was made clear to me—first in my heart and then in my mind.  I had to quit my job and embrace my vocation as wife and mother.  Easier said than done.

My job was working for my husband.  My job was a key role in creating and managing the databases for our business with our oldest daughter (my step daughter) and her husband.  We have four workers to run a business that needs to support both families and I was backing out!  I kept arguing with God that I couldn’t be replaced.  That they needed me.  “How will the databases be created and maintained?” I asked.  God said, “That’s not your problem.  You obey and let me do the rest.”  And so, I did.  I obeyed.  My husband was shaken, but he is not one to question God and supported me in the decision.  My step daughter seemed relieved.  It was time for us to rebuild and strengthen our relationship on a personal level.  It was time for me to enjoy my grandchildren.  As a mother and a daughter, she understood and was also very encouraging and supportive.  My kids were excited.  You must realize that my younger six children have no memories of a healthy mom!  The six of them were born in a seven-year timespan.  My health crashed after the youngest entered the world with both of our lives teetering in the balance.  I gave six-weeks notice and taught my husband how to create and manage the databases (apparently I am easily replaceable—a good lesson in humility right there).  And today is the fourth Monday since beginning my new career doing the most important job I’ll ever have: homeschooling homemaker.

When I talked to my husband about traveling the US, he wisely suggested I start with a week-long trip near home and work up from there.  Seeing that I have no experience in pulling a 30 foot camper, I wisely agreed.  Last week, I looked at the 10 day forecast and decided that it was a live or die opportunity.  If not now, when?  I packed over the weekend and Patrick drove us out to the campgrounds last night.  I cancelled all commitments and rescheduled appointments for the week.  And here I sit, surrounded in nature (I’m admiring a baby woodpecker only 20 feet away in an oak tree) with six very happy children.

The older two just took off for a hike and the other four are frolicking on the beach.  We have already worked in our math lesson this morning and will soon explore the love of grammar and writing; but the most important lesson my children are learning is to follow God–to find and live the life He chose for each of them to live.  They already understand in their tender ages that this earthly life includes pain and suffering; but by striving to live God’s will, one will find peace and joy.

God’s Faithfulness — Part II

In Part I I told you about my prayers for a friend and my last minute decision to attend the Immaculate Heart of Mary Homeschool Conference on a Friday afternoon in July.  After hearing Ginny speak, I was moved to tears and certain that we needed to bring the kids back home for school.  I purchased a few books on my list and then headed to On the Border to enjoy a meal and fellowship with 15 or so other mothers.  I was one of the first to arrive and took a seat across from some familiar faces.  We jumped into conversation and began catching up to date with the events of one another’s lives.  Then, two women whom I did not know or recognize joined us at the table.  I introduced myself and some of the other ladies sitting nearby.  We began to discuss Ginny’s talk and I shared the story of my father’s healing at the Shrine.  Clair, who had just moved from Georgia to Texas two weeks earlier, commented on having visited the Shrine herself about ten years ago.  As it turns out, her family immigrated to Green Bay like mine had in the late 1800’s.  We got to chatting and decided that we needed to get together soon to continue getting to know one another.  As the Nine-O-Clock hour rolled around, I excused myself to head home and get to bed.  I was filled with joy at all the afternoon and evening had brought.  For the first time in a long time, I had peace about bringing my kids home to learn again.

Over the weekend, I saw a post about tickets for sale for the Edel Gathering in Austin.  It was just a few weeks away, but some of the ladies could no longer make it and the tickets were being sold via Facebook.  I snatched one up quickly and looked forward the Edel weekend.  It was on a whim that I made the purchase, so I reached out to see if there was anyone with whom I could share a room and/or a ride.  Clair was also going and offered to give me a ride.  Jenny had a friend, Elizabeth, with a room and agreed to hook us up for the weekend.  As it turns out Elizabeth had attended Texas Tech with my nephew and his wife!  Also, my daughter Allison babysits for them on occasion.  Everything seemed to be falling into place quite nicely.

The following Tuesday I loaded up the kids and headed East to Forney, Texas to visit Clair.  The plan was to help her organize her school room, but we ended up visiting the entire day.  She said that she had spoken to her grandparents and that she was a descendant of the Allen’s as well, but her grandfather told her that ‘Allen’ was a popular sur name and that it was unlikely we were related.  I agreed and added that our ancestors were Allen, but the name had been changed from Hallaux when they immigrated from Belgium.  We continued to visit and something in our conversation spurred me to want to show her something I had seen on the internet.  We headed upstairs and I waited while she booted up the computer.  It was then that she noticed the email from her grandmother and opened it.  What was the original sur name I had told her? What was the name of my great, great grandfather who came from Belgium?  And in that instant we knew that we were related.  There on the screen was a digital copy of the immigration document of Josef Hallaux from Belgium to Green Bay!  Clair’s mother and I would be fourth cousins, so that made us fourth cousins once removed–my children were her fifth cousins!  God had sent me a friend and just to make sure I knew it was from Him, God had put his fingerprints all over the experience.

You see, when I first prayed for a friend over 17 years ago–before the HENS existed–God sent me my friend Karen.  Patrick and I had known Karen from years before.  She had attended classes with my sister in college, her mother and Patrick’s mother were friends, our fathers knew each other through church and business relationships.  When we met again it was in our children’s preschool class on “Meet the Teacher” night.  But, what we came to discover after several years of friendship–those same children now in junior high–was that Patrick and Karen were fourth cousins.  I was teaching our children Texas History and their first assignment was to research how their families ended up in Texas.  It was in researching for this project that we discovered that Patrick and Karen share the same great, great grandfather; but have different great, great grandmothers.  Yes, fourth cousins.  No, I’m not joking.  Only God can do these things.  He sees the big picture and He is always faithful to those who place their trust in Him.

 

God’s Faithfulness–Part I

shrine olghIt was mid-July and I was feeling especially fearful about the prospect of homeschooling again in the fall.  My husband and I had agreed that we would divide our duties differently.  Since we were working together in our home-based business, we would work together to get the household chores and homeschooling tasks accomplished as well.  Still, my heart raced and my stomach flip-flopped at the thought of it.  So, I prayed.  I prayed for wisdom, for God’s will and for a friend.  For the first time in many years, I prayed for a friend.  It seemed silly, really since God has blessed me with so many faithful friends I am rich beyond belief (Sirach 6:14-16)!  But, my original tribe, The Hens, are in a very different phase of their lives—almost empty nesters—while I am still years away from an empty nest.   I prayed for a friend that could help me get through the loneliness and redundancy that one finds as a homeschooling mother: long days without adult interaction, math facts, grading, laundry, meals, etc.

The week had been a rough one.  Sick kids and stresses in our family life and marriage were taking its toll on my mental well-being.  Friday rolled around and our weekend plans had to be cancelled.  Then, I remembered the Catholic Homeschooling Conference was being held that very day.  Yes!  Yes, I could still make it and even sneak in the social dinner gathering that Jenny had organized.  I remembered seeing her post on Facebook and quickly replied that I would attend after all.  It was only out of desperation for socialization that I was attending this conference.  I still was not convinced that homeschooling was the right fit.

I arrived at the conference around 2 o’clock.  The first observation I made was how many women I knew.  Their faces made my heart fill with joy. “God has blessed me,” I thought to myself.  I must have seen, visited and hugged at least twenty women in that first hour!  As I was catching up with one mother, Ginny Seufert walked by.  She has spoken at almost every homeschool conference I’ve attended for the past 16 years.  She caught my eye because she looked particularly youthful and beautiful this day.  I told her just as much.  She was just on her way in to give a talk.  My friend asked me if I wanted to hear Ginny speak.  I wasn’t going to attend the talks.  I still was not sure that I was going to homeschool.  I was almost certain that I had heard it all before.  This would be my 18th year of homeschooling IF we were to homeschool, that is.  Still, I agreed to go in and listen.  Ginny is always good for straight talk and hearty laughter.

I was not prepared for her talk this time around.  Her topic was something to the effect of “Why You Should Persevere in Homeschooling No Matter What.”  She pointed out all of the confusion in the world, the opposition to natural law and its infiltration into the educational system of even the youngest students.  She then went on to discuss the Peshtigo Fire in 1871 in Northern Wisconsin and the miracle at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.  Fascinating topics on their own accord, but especially relevant to me.  You see, I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin almost 100 years after that horrific fire.  My ancestors were Belgium immigrants living in the area at the time of the Fire. Adele Brise is a relative by marriage in my family tree and I had heard the stories of the fire and the miracles for many years.  But, even more relevant because my own father was healed through the intercession of Mary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on August 15, 1937.  If not for that miraculous healing I would not be here today.  My second observation for the day was that my life has a particular and unique purpose.  Like Adele Brise, I heard the words in my head, “Teach the children the way to salvation…I will help you.”  Moved to tears, I knew I would and I could return to homeschooling.  Mary would help me as well.  It was time for us to formally consecrate ourselves and our children to her.  Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus Christ; intercedes in begging grace for us; and protects us and guards us as she protected and guarded her own Son, Our Lord.

5 Ways to Survive Life Crisis: from my perspective

 Put Your Oxygen Mask on First  

I know it is said often, but it really holds true.  You cannot help anyone else if you are down and out.  It is critical to take care of yourself and the opposite of selfishness.  It has taken me a loooooong time to learn this.  During this last time of crisis I did a much better job.  I rested and only did what I was able to do and no more than that.   The laundry piled up, the toys became scattered, the floors got icky, the weeds got taller and multiplied by ten and the kids became needier for lack of attention.  Only the critical things made it on the “to do” list: read extra praise and snuggles for the kids.  The rest will wait.

Ask For Help

When I woke up unable to move except for a few inches, I knew I needed someone to take care of me.  My husband was not the person to ask.  He had six kids to feed and love on and a mile-long list of his own critical tasks.  Who is the next capable person?  Can I call a friend?  Well, my 11-year-old daughter is very attentive and loves getting texts.  So, I texted and asked her if she would like to be my nurse.  One minute later she was at my side and did an excellent job caring for me.  Also, talk with a trusted friend and let him/her know what you are going through.  For me, just sharing my struggle brought me great relief.  It somehow made it more manageable.  A friend’s empathy and encouragement can mean the world during a crisis.

I was able to make lists and do a little planning the next day, so I planned meals and helped make the grocery list.  Then, I asked my 18-year-old to do the shopping.  During the non-crisis times I had been teaching my kids to cook and this payed off big time in the times of  crisis.  The kids also began tackling the laundry a little at a time.  Mornings are my worst as far as functionality, so I asked for help in getting the kids to VBS.  Everyone will have unique circumstances, so think about the resources available to you, prioritize your needs in order of most critical and then ask someone for help.  It is much easier for people to help if they know you have a specific need.  And if you are the one being asked, the opposite is true: just offer to do whatever you are able.  When someone is in the midst of a crisis it is often difficult to make a decision of what you need.

Look for the Positive

Having a crisis is the very definition of things going wrong.  The key here is to recognize that EVERYTHING is not going wrong.  Something has to be right or you would not be here.  For me it was all the little things: my husband poking his head in to ask if I needed anything, the kids giving me snuggles, the flowers blooming amidst the weeds, the sun shining, my comfortable bed, my caring friends… Well, you get the idea.  Make a mental note of every little thing that brings you joy and thank God for it.  He is there in the suffering with you and is patiently waiting to pour out the grace and peace for just the asking.

Minimize the Negative

It is good and healthy to acknowledge all that is going wrong.  It sucks to be sick.  It feels crappy and you can’t do anything about it.  I have had 7 straight weeks of not feeling well beginning with a case of laryngitis and continuing through this last week of reacting to gluten.  It is easy to get discouraged.  And it seems to pile up.  Mom is down, Dad’s stress goes up, the kids’ stress goes up, the house starts to fall apart, the car breaks down, kids get sick, and the list can go on and on.  Name those crappy things and cry it out if you need to.  “God has big shoulders,” Fr. Jim used to tell us.  Pray and cry out to Him and name all those things that are burdensome.  Then ask God what you should do about it.  If you can take action without causing yourself more harm, then do it.  Otherwise, let it go.  The floors, the laundry, the weeds will all be there another day and it really won’t take long to get it back on track.  Don’t get bogged down by the negative. I know, easier said than done.  But, I can assure you that you will get better with practice.  God has been giving me lots of practice.

Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Feeling irritable when you are stressed is a normal response.  But, try not to alienate those closest to you.  In my personal experience, I would get upset when my husband seemingly avoided me, or was short with me when I was at my weakest.  I would take his absence as a form of abandonment.  In reality, he was doing double time taking care of work, house, kids, shopping and trying to deal with his own emotions and stress of seeing me so sick.  We can easily focus on our own pain and suffering and forget how strongly it affects others.  My kids are also affected.  It is frightening to see Mom so sick and weak.  Mom is supposed to take care of them, not the other way around.  My kids take on extra chores as well.  After a few days, it can wear everyone down.  Try to remember to say “thank you” for the smallest acts of kindness.  Praise the good that others are doing.  Don’t let guilt over what you cannot control spill over into bitterness and irritability towards others.  Another burden I often add to my baggage is to take on the added stress expressed by others.  If my husband gets short with the kids, or the kids start bickering with one another, I have to take great effort to remember that is not my fault.  I cannot control others and I cannot control my health.  So, I just *try* to speak gently and offer praise and encouragement where I can.  Everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have.  None of us are perfect.

I do hope this helps you when you are in time of crisis.  Unfortunately no one is able to avoid life crisis.  Yours will be unique to you, so my story and advice may not apply.  I pray for you all that God give you peace and healing, grace and joy as you walk your journey in sickness and in health.  And I thank you for your prayers and encouragement as well.

Brave New World

Seven weeks into the new school year a new groove has formed.  Life follows this new path revealing once unseen landscapes and vastly different views.  Yet, I can’t help but seek out the old and familiar sights.  Longing for the companionship of other adult women and seeking for social outlets for my remaining lone-homeschooled child, the Bible Study sounded like a perfect blend of opportunities for us. “Bring along your children, your Bible, your journal and pens,” the Facebook post beckoned to me.  It sounded like the superb opportunity beginning with the Holy Mass, ending in fellowship centered on the Word of God, and coming to a church in my neighborhood this Friday.

Daniel ran fever all day on Thursday, which meant no school on Friday and my plans for Bible Study seemed lost.  I crawled out of bed earlier than usual this Friday morning at 7:45.  Angela met me in the hall with bright eyes and excitement.  “Sorry,” I said, “we can’t go because Daniel is sick.”  She quickly offered a rebuttal that Dad was working from home today.  We could still make it if we hurried.  I glanced at the clock and dismissed morning Mass quickly.  I was barely out of bed and my regular routine takes 40 minutes.  But, I conceded that we could still make it to the Bible Study for 9:30.

We arrived to the welcoming greeting of one mother with her lively three boys and waited for the others.  After some time, we discovered that we were in the wrong room and a group of women and children could be found down the hall, already finished with the kids’ craft and Bible story.  Beautiful women, beautiful children and such a great opportunity being offered; yet, as I sat there I could hardly contain the anxiety welling up within me.  My own two children were calm and at ease with the coloring pages, but the activity in the room was proving too much for me to handle.  I tried to listen as one mother explained the hope for what the new group could become.  Something about rotating responsibility for overseeing the children while the other mothers met for discussion in an adjacent room.  All I could think was (and pardon my expression), “hell no!”  My energy was completely drained in a matter of minutes from the simple, normal activity of young children.  I attempted  to explain why I couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to oversee the children, but just felt completely awful about not being able to take a shift every other month.  After all, we only would be meeting every two weeks.  I politely thanked them all and truly enjoyed making their company, but I desperately needed to head home.  By the time I walked out of the room, I could barely walk.  This was not where I needed to be.  Not any more.

God has a way of stripping away our false identity in order to reveal our true selves–the self He created and wills.  My identity has been so closely tied to young children and mothering for so many years and now it is not.  I have a heart for mothers with young children because I know the struggles and joys so well.  But, for some reason God is blocking this path at this time in my life.  He seems to continue to refocus my energy to self awareness, self love and self care.  He knows that if I am in a room where others are struggling or children are in need, that I will pour my energy out to them and leave nothing for myself.  I know it too.  That is why my energy drained so quickly.  My body sensed it, and like a frustrated spouse throwing up his arms in exasperation, my body let the energy drain from itself as if to say, “Your going to give it away anyway, so what’s the point?”  But, I’m not.  I won’t be going back.  I will pray for the success of the group for the other mothers and their children.  It is a beautiful apostolate and truly needed, especially for homeschooling mothers.  I will, however, continue this journey of self discovery and for the opportunity for Angela to socialize while her siblings are at school.  While I will fondly remember the beautiful landscape of roads once traveled, I will try to embrace the ever changing landscape before me in each and every moment.  Part of me grieves for my old, familiar self: always a baby in the arms or a toddler on the hip (or both).  But, I know that I am called to serve another purpose now, to serve in a different capacity for the sake of God.  In the proper time, He will show it to me.

Ego vs. Spirit

Much of my healing journey has been about acknowledging my emotions instead of shoving them ever deeper into my subconscious mind.  This has been the most difficult aspect of my healing by far.  To face my emotions is to face the naked truth of myself.  It is to strip away the facades that I have created in order to be presentable to others.  It is the lie of the deceiver that starts very young: you have to change who you are in order to be loved.  In fact, God loves me and sees me as I truly am and He is the only one I should be concerned with pleasing.

I have always been a pleaser: the good little girl who played quietly and stayed out of the way of adults, or the entertaining story teller when others wanted to be entertained, the quintessential teacher’s pet, the one who got along with anyone and everyone, the peace-keeper.  It is true that is the personality that God gave me, but it is also true that He didn’t intend it to keep me from living out His Holy will; an excuse from becoming the woman He created me to be.  I have always searched for outside affirmation for my words and actions.  The slightest judgment or criticism set me awhirl of distress and my joy was quickly lost.  As I started to recognize the gifts within myself to intuitively make decisions, I recognized that my intuitions were “right”, while others’ opinions of what decision should be made were often “wrong.”  At first, this new experience of recognizing truth within myself was manifested as a feeling of pride–my ego–saying, “See, I was right!”  I quickly realized that this satisfaction was misplaced; that the “right” I recognized was God’s truth manifested within me.

So much of our human disagreements and division are grounded in this very same experience of the human ego vs. Truth.  Because we feel so strongly about this issue or that one, we come to trust that instinct within us that we must be right.  The error comes about when we do not center our truth or filter it through God, through the Holy Spirit.  We either distrust the Holy Spirit whispering within us and search for human affirmation, or we trust our own ego so much that we overpower and block the Holy Spirit from directing us.  To find love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (the fruits of the Holy Spirit) we must be willing to put our own ego aside AND listen intently for the whispers of direction.

I know that I am not saying anything new.  I have heard it all before many, many times myself.  But, for some reason my journey to fully grasp this concept has taken me 46 years.  It is always simple, but rarely easy.  May the Holy Spirit dwell within each of us, may we let our egos submit to His Holiness, and may we have the grace and courage to follow where He leads us.

Enjoy one of my favorite new songs.  “…sometimes I gotta stop and remember that you’re God and I am not…”