Every weekend I worked from home. For as long as I have been a professional I was always on. I wore my company brand on my sleeve and flashed that logo every chance I got. I worked in media my entire career and lived to work. I fed off stress and loved the rush of working under pressure. For twenty years, I worked chasing a number, a budget, a revenue goal. I had the privilege of working on the revenue side of media on the teams that sell the advertising. I lived in the profit margin connected to a “pace to last year’s revenue” ivy bag.
One Saturday morning, I was sitting at the breakfast table with my two youngest children of four, Luka, six and Mary, five. As I typed away on my laptop the two ate cereal. Luka began to talk and to this day I cannot tell you what he said because I was too busy being connected to my work desk via internet connection. As I typed away intensely working on a proposal or email or spreadsheet, I couldn’t hear a word my son was telling me. And then my 5-year-old daughter in the loudest, meanest tone turned to her brother and told him loudly “She’s not listening to you, just like she always does...She’s not listening.”
I was floored. She said it so mean as if to tell him” Be quiet she never hears you”. Teary-eyed he looked down. My heart sank and I stopped working.
When I became a mother, I made a promise to focus on the spirituality of my children. I was raised in El Paso. I grew up in faith at St. Joseph’s Church and in my mother’s kitchen where the rice and beans of my faith nourished my soul. Like many I left El Paso for college and eventually for work and yes, I strayed from the seeds my mother and faith community had planted. Let’s just say thank goodness, my 20s were before Facebook.
Eventually El Paso came calling me home where I continued being an exemplary flawed Catholic. As I grew older and became a mother my roots in faith began to show so when my daughter said this to my son all the “buts” and excuses came flooding forward. I thought: Why is Mary saying this to Luka? How am I not listening? Don’t I give them enough? But I make sure they go to a Catholic school. But we go to church every week as a family. We read bible stories. I help with Children’s Church during each mass. I clothe and bathe and feed them. I have a good work-life balance. But my husband and I married in the church. I grabbed for every excuse why I thought this shouldn’t be happening.
From the mouths of babes, I just got served a hard dose of reality and then I realized our two eldest sons probably got the worst of me. My family was paying a price for my disengagement and over focus on my career. Many women do a great job of juggling it all but I unfortunately had allowed my work to take over and I was completely out of balance. I was there but I was not present. If I’m not listening to my kids, who is? And if I’m not listening I’m probably not talking to them either, so who is talking with them? If I’m not engaged…who’s engaging them?
I was going through the motions of my faith’s traditions but losing the point of them. It wasn’t long after this reality check that I realized I was living my life more like Martha and less like Mary. Jesus was present in my kids and I was too busy to be with him through them.
It was time to make a change and do a better “job” at being present for my family. I prayed God would send me an opportunity to use my gifts to glorify him. I prayed for an opportunity to redeem myself and be a better person for His church both at home with my own family and elsewhere with others. He answered and the Diocesan Communications Director/ Editor position became vacant. I chose to be the one listening and engaging with Jesus, with my kids, my family, our church community and those outside it.
It can be easy to slip into the habit of being faithful without practicing our faith in everyday life. We forget how Christ is in our everyday routine. If we choose not to slow down enough to listen and to see, we will miss him. We will miss finding the joy he gives us as a gift in the sunrise on our way to work, sharing lunch with coworkers, the man with the Jesus sign at the stoplight, the elderly walking to the bus stop, the changing a diaper, giving our kids a bath, making a meal, washing a dish and even washing my husband’s clothes. I think of everything thus far that I have missed as blessings at home and in my life outside it and I know I have missed a lot.
This Easter Sunday my son Luka Mateo turns seven and our celebration of Jesus’ rising this time more than ever will be beyond the chocolate bunnies and new church clothes. We will take more time to celebrate the everlasting new covenant God made with his people in how we act with each other remembering Jesus gave his body and blood for each and all of us. I will take my time to slow it down, play a game, jump in the balloon and listen to Luka and not just on this birthday. Luka’s middle name Mateo means gift of God and this Easter is perfect timing to celebrate his seven years as my Mateo. We should all take a slowed down moment to celebrate our Mateos too.