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Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

Years ago, I got this twisted idea in my head that being home (with the kids) was akin to not being a contributing member of society. Hard to know where I would have picked that up, right? I grew up the eldest in a two-parent double income household, and while there was really no pressure spoken of in the home to do the same, the example made a definite impression on me. 

So, when faced with the financial numbers of my teacher’s income at the end of one school year {with one kiddo in first grade and the other in the toddler room at the school where I taught} I noticed that after gas, tuition, lunches, and a few creature comforts such as oh, I dunno, appropriate clothing for my teaching gig, the money and time just wasn’t there. The tradeoff, the expense was too high. While the timing would never be perfect {had we planned long enough, set enough aside, etc.?}, it was a plunge we had to take. 

And still, that nagging feeling of you’re not contributing to society kept ringing in my ear like a nasty little bug. 

You have a college degree.

You should be using it.

You wasted all that money on a degree you aren’t using.

I would shoo that bug away, trying to fill it with pursuits I thought noble enough to pursue while staying at home, putting myself into a class {or so I thought} that helped quell that feeling of not contributing. 

I would begin my own wedding photography business in Northern Virginia – just outside of DC – but my heart wasn’t in it. I’ve always loved photography – I got my first Pentax K1000 when I was just 15 – but starting the business made me soon realize that I loved it for the art and not the work side of things. 

Back to the drawing board.

Back to being just a stay-at-home-mom. 

Just.

A.

Stay-at-home-mom. 

Society had really gotten to me. That cursed message told me I was worthless if I was at home. So, I continued to search for things that would fill me in a way that I could stay at home and still be able to provide on some meager level. 

Then, one day I started to pray that God would silence that nagging feeling of being at home. I had tried various things with no real success or – worse – fulfillment, so I turned to God. My prayer was simple – I don’t like being at home, help me be at peace with it. I didn’t even ask Him to help me like it. I just wanted to be at peace with it. To settle that feeling of not contributing. 

And my word, did God provide a whole new sense of clarity about things! It took many years of this simple prayer to pull the scales back from my eyes. 

I realized it was my perspective that was leading to my own demise. I didn’t really think I wasn’t contributing to society. My society was represented within the walls of my own home. 

BRILLIANCE! 

Why didn’t I think of this before? From this epiphany, emerged a sense of confidence in the role that God had shown me. I was always a child of God, beloved in His eyes, first, and then wife and mother after, but it was my lack of understanding of the last two that led to being trapped in my own flawed thinking. 

Of course being at home has value – take THAT stupid society and your stupid impossible standards! 

Now came the hard work. Parenting kids all day long is hard, and exhausting, and mentally draining. At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was pour a stiff drink or eat a pound of chocolate…so, my prayer shifted. I went from needing peace to having peace to…desiring to like where I was. There’s a difference between existing in your vocation and thriving. I wanted to thrive. My family needed me to thrive. What I needed was spiritual Miracle Gro!  

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

And so began a second phase of prayer and discernment:

Why was I home, truly?

What was the goal?

What were my own personal goals?

Was I meeting them?

If this were a traditional work out of the home job, how would I be evaluated – honestly?

Was I giving my work 100%?

If my husband is my companion in my vocation, how was his input and support affecting my work?

This second phase would involve a difficult look inward – until I heard Noe Rocha, our parish Adult Faith Formation director share in one of his talks during our Jesus Is Lord program:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.

I CORINTHIANS 10:31

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

I realized that if I were to find any peace, any sense of calm in my heart, I was going to have to shrug off whatever had been weighing me down – my own personal stumblings. 

So, I set to work on just changing my own attitude. Chores around the house, once the bane of my existence, I now looked at as opportunities to glorify God. I’m going to bloom where I’m planted, I decided. My husband and I were gifted this beautiful crucifix years ago that hangs over our fireplace. I knew that even though I wasn’t wild about chores – especially the kitchen which I found to be the absolute least gratifying room to clean – I could find solace in uniting my small suffering to Christ on the Cross. Not as a way to hush myself up, but to give my daily work meaning in a way that I hadn’t done before. Redemptive suffering gave me an opportunity to see my own suffering in a new light, almost like food that shouldn’t be wasted. 

Don’t waste suffering! Someone else can use that, Miss!

While the struggle is always going to be real, it’s become much easier to deal with the daily doings when they have a purpose that is bigger than myself. 

How have you embraced your vocation?

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Current Events Faith Formation Guest Posts Motherhood Vocations

Motherhood and 1000 Concerts | Tajci {TY-chi}

By Tajci Cameron

“1000 concerts is a big number in any artist’s life” states the press release about our milestone concert happening on October 26th in Cincinnati, OH.

As I prepare the music and the narratives for the performance and give promotional interviews, I think about one huge aspect of this accomplishment that easily gets overlooked:

Mothering through 1,000 concerts and 13 years on the road.

 partner Matthew Cameron joins for the curtain call. Photo by Danko Puttar 2013

partner Matthew Cameron joins for the curtain call. Photo by Danko Puttar 2013

My husband Matthew and I raised our three sons Dante (13), Evan (11) and Blais (8) while traveling around America, with music dedicated to inspire, engage and encourage people to believe.

Singing was the easy part. I was well trained, had great mentors/teachers and many years of experience, as I started performing at the age of four.

Motherhood on the other hand… “It’s the most amazing, but hardest jobs of all’, my own mother would say to me when I was growing up in the old country Croatia.

From the moment I knew I was going to have a baby, I attempted to prepare myself for motherhood, getting my hands on all available resources: reading, studying and researching. But with mothering, there aren’t any tech or dress rehearsals available. The moment it begins, you are in the spotlight.

When life is stable, home and finances secured (and your own mother is living within a walking distance), even then, it’s a role no one can truly prepare for. It’s a role that doesn’t even come with a script, and yet, it’s the role that’s very much responsible for the other characters (our kids).

Blais and Tajci
Blais and Tajci

But being a mother, on the road, pregnant, with nursing infants, toddlers, one, two, three at the time… is something I wasn’t even finding a lot of resources for. I tried reading about other ‘famous moms’ (who travelled with their children), but was reminded that, although I had the status of a superstar, I gave up all the luxuries and support systems that come with it.  I had never met another mother who had attempted the same thing, so the best advice I would get from other moms around the country was an honest and sympathetic: “I don’t know how you do it”.

I would respond: “I don’t. We do,” giving a full credit to my husband Matthew who has been the world’s ‘champion Dad’, has provided tremendous support and done everything in his power to create an environment in which I could both sing, and focus on my kids. If travelling and affecting people wasn’t his passion as well as mine, I would have had a long pause in my career and stayed home until the youngest kid was big enough to not need me constantly (college age?).

Mothering on the road was unusual, adventurous, rich with magical moments, and at times, very hard.  It shaped my spiritual journey and influenced my concerts and music in many ways. I didn’t just sing my songs, I prayed them – most often praying for my children and whatever we were going through.

I took these thirteen years as an opportunity to let my children teach me, and help me to get closer to God.  I wasn’t focused on building my career but on surrendering and learning to say “Let it Be“.  As I look at my body of work and those 1,000 concerts, all I can claim is a journey of love and faith, at times victorious, at times broken, but always completely honest.

Because of the fact that we were doing everything ourselves (from booking the concerts to making promotional materials, producing the music, providing sound and light equipment, driving, setting up, tearing down and doing all the administrative, back-line work) I was fulfilling many more roles than that of a performer and a mother. Too many to list here… (even on LinkedIn they make me look way too A.D.D.).

IMG_0012So, there were things that I simply didn’t do – like taking my kids to soccer practices, decorating my house, or gardening – I attempted them, but mostly I gave them up to leave room for things that I didn’t want to sacrifice: like home-made meals we ate together (during the months we were home) and family movie nights.

There were years when I was stretched so thin, I actually broke down, almost lost my marriage (thanks to Retrouvaille, I didn’t) and, yes, I almost lost my mind.

But even during those years, I never lost the sense of gratitude for being a mother and having these amazing lives entrusted to my care. I wish I took more pictures. And I wish that I had a little elf who would organize those pictures into albums, store the digital files in ways that actually makes sense, and make prints regularly.  And there are thousands of images that tell thousands of happy moments scattered across the Great Plains, on either side of the Rocky Mountains, from Sea to shining Sea.

Our oldest son Dante took his first steps in someone’s lovely home in Dallas, TX; Evan took his in the RV on some California highway traveling northbound; and Blais took his first steps on the thousands of years old cobblestone street in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

They built snowmen in a different part of this enormous country every winter; hid in the tall grass in front of a sod house somewhere in the middle of North Dakota; grew to like New York bagels as much as LA’s ‘mango on the stick’, Chicago’s hot dogs, and Kentucky BBQ ribs. Maybe I wasn’t taking my kids to the soccer practices, but they got to see America through their own eyes.

The hard parts were finding Urgent Care offices open in the middle of the night; beginning a long ride with a baby who was running a fever; cancelling the only one out of 1,000 concerts because our baby Blais was in the hospital with blood in his stool – which then turned to be intolerance to the lactose in my breast milk (after which I traveled around the country, performing five nights in a row, with two days off, for weeks at the time, on a strict non-dairy diet – and I mean, no-whey-in-bread strict – which pretty much cancels all fast food travel road that sometimes kept us ‘alive’ during the long night rides).

The harder parts were snow and rain storms we drove through, with me clutching my babies close to me, praying as hard as I could, that God and His angels would keep us safe.

Even harder was watching them cry for me, with their little hands stretched out toward me, as I had to begin a concert, be completely and utterly present – because in my concerts, there was no hiding. There was me and my music. Honest and completely surrendered.

Copy_of_1_000_times_Tajci_her_family_and_her_audience_sang_I_do_believe_._Photo_by_Danko_Puttar_2013Many nights, I would nurse the babies till the moment I would have to walk up to the stage – and somewhere in the middle, my husband, who would have just introduced me, would walk the other way so I could pass him the baby (he would have just enough time to clear the church door before the baby would realize he was not attached to me any more and start wailing…)

Every once in awhile, I’d let them stay under my keyboard during the concert. I couldn’t bear the thought of them crying somewhere in the basement of the church with Matthew.

From the moment they could crawl on their own and hold a microphone in their hands, they began to sing with me the closing song: “I do believe”.

Tajci&Dante_with_FansWe did homework on the road, on dining room tables in our hosts’ houses and in parish offices, packing and unpacking the school supplies a million times (there aren’t any ‘organizational’ tips in parenting magazines for ‘road-schooling’). After years of adjusting our tours so the kids could be in school Monday through Thursday and only miss one day of school per week (and an amazingly flexible Catholic School and teachers), we decided to homeschool them. The drives had become too long and we finally tired ourselves out.

These days the kids are doing great – excelling in school, they all play instruments well and they are tremendously well-adjusted kids. They still come up at the end of each concert. Our voices are much stronger as we sing in three part harmonies in the song that still brings the audiences to their feet: “I believe, I believe, I do believe.”

But, it’s time for a change. 1,000 (almost all of them free) concerts and long touring seasons are behind us.  As I begin to travel more by myself to perform, I face a challenge that makes all those ‘hard’ baby and toddler years seem as comforting as a “Berenstein Bears” story.  A challenge that comes with even bigger lump in my throat and heaviness in my chest as I get on that flight and text my husband: “Taking off. Kiss my boys. I love you.”

Motherhood – truly, the most beautiful and the hardest jobs of all.

Listen to Tajci’s “Songs for Moms” Playlist here or on: ReverbNation

::Tajci Cameron is a singer/ songwriter and inspirational performing artist. She currently lives in Cincinnati, OH with her husband Matthew and their three sons Dante, Evan and Blais. More about Tajci at Tajci.net and iDoBelieve.com::

Link to “Let It Be – Mary’s Story”: iTunes