So the other week I was driving to religious ed with my 1st grader, and she asks, “Mom, are you sorry had to give up mountain climbing in order to have kids?”

Gotta love the easy ones.  “No.”

Aria is a budding homemaker in the best possible Martha Stewart-y way, so I explained:  A person is kind of like a house.  You have to keep it well-maintained in order for it to be useful.  Sports and hobbies help keep your body and spirit in good working order.  If you let yourself get too run down, you are like a falling apart house, or a house that is dull and depressing — and that kind of house doesn’t serve its people very well.

On the other hand, you could build and build a wonderful, giant, strong, beautiful house.  But if no one ever moves in, what good is it?  It’s an empty building.  Houses are meant to be lived in, to be put to use.  To serve people.

I observed that God made us to serve Him and serve others, and we really can’t be happy unless we are fulfilling that purpose.  Just like a house cannot be a happy home if it is empty and unused.  Mountaineering was a way to build up my ‘house’.  But it isn’t my purpose: my purpose is to love and serve my family in my vocation as a wife & mother.

We talked about other ways that people serve their purpose.  Priests who serve a parish, contemplative religious who serve by their prayer, unmarried people who serve God and the community through their work.  Even people who are unable to do anything else, can serve by offering up their situation for the good of others.

And then we talked about how some people are always decorating, but no one ever moves in.  People think that because an activity — hiking, or reading, or taking a vacation — makes them feel happy, that they will be happy if they do more and more of that.  It’s like always setting the table, but never sitting down to eat.  You wonder why your life looks so beautiful but you are never satisfied, always hungry for more.

It was a good conversation.  She understood it, because she is, herself, such a builder and decorator.  She could see the tragedy of a table set for Easter morning, but no one every sitting down to eat at that table.  Always just more and more decorating, no meal ever served.

And of course, as these conversations will, I was enlightened too.  How often do I fall into the trap of just a little bit more reading, a little more quiet time, another walk on a lovely day, because I want to keep ‘feeling better’.  These activities are so refreshing.  They build me up, make my mind and body and spirit better able to serve.

But I find myself falling into the trap of always wanting to be more and more built-up, more and more decorated.  I forget that the moment of everything-just-so, of feeling so fresh and wonderful and new, is not meant to be the all-the-time feeling.  Anymore than a room should always be sparkling, never sullied by the foot traffic and dirty dishes of those horrid occupants who just make a wreck of a hard day’s homemaking.

So that’s my goal: to avoid an over-decorated soul. If it doesn’t ever feel a little worn, a little cluttered, a little grimy, than it is probably sitting empty and useless.  Clean it up, keep it well-maintained, yes.  But then put it to work.    Diligite diligentius.