A Mother's Act of Contrition

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for all the yelling I did today,
For losing my patience more times that I can remember,
For rolling my eyes, and slamming doors,
And forgetting that they're just babies, and they don't know any better.

I'm sorry for failing to be a good partner to my husband,
For blaming him when my day is difficult,
As if his day spent with other adults is somehow responsible for my children's terrible naps.
And for forgetting that we are in this parenting thing together.

I'm sorry for choosing to do bad, and failing to do good.
For being selfish instead of serving,
For trying to escape instead of being present,
For seeking earthly comfort instead of Heavenly treasure.

I know that these things grieve Your heart, and I know that I don't deserve Your mercy.

But I know that You still love me.
Because after my child threw the most epic of tantrums,
And after he spent three minutes in the time-out chair,
I wanted nothing more than to pull him into my arms and say I love you.

In these moments I can see what it must be like for You to love me through all my faults and failings.
Nothing my child could do could make me love him any less,
Even though sometimes he makes me want to pull my hair out.
I'm so grateful that this is only a shadow of what Your love for me must be like.

Help me, with Your grace, to start again, O Lord.
Help me, with Your grace, to see every hardship as an opportunity to share Your cross.
Help me, with Your grace, to remember my children are the sheep You have asked me to feed, the mission field you have placed me in.
Help me, with Your grace, to give myself to my family, even as You gave Yourself for us.
Help me, with Your grace, to love the way You love me.


Deep Water

Lately I've been tired. Not just sleep deprived, but a burned-out kind of tired. I feel like I'm doing the same things day after day. Cleaning up the same messes, cooking the same meals, getting up with the baby at the same times during the night, giving the toddler the same instructions over and over again. Sometimes it feels like a thankless job with no visible results. Sometimes I get discouraged, and I get tired, and I get worn out. When I stop and think about it, I know that what I'm doing is important, I really do. But sometimes I just with I could see some fruit for all of my labor.

 Then I read a gospel passage like this:
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.” (Luke 5:1-5)
I know I've read these verses before, but this time the words are jumping off the page at me. I understand exactly how Simon Peter felt. He was tired and discouraged, he'd been up all night long, he'd just finishing cleaning those nets for crying out loud! And Jesus wants him to go out there again?

Clearly Peter's obedience was rewarded, and Christ revealed His divinity through it. But there's another reason this story stands out to me as so amazing; it's because I know how it ends. I know what Simon Peter goes on to do- cast out demons, heal the lame, stand in the empty tomb, hear the rushing wind of the Spirit and speak in tongues at Pentecost. And it blows my mind to think that when Jesus found him he was tired and discouraged from being up all night- just like me.

Just when I think I've finished my work, when I've gotten both kids down, and the kitchen is cleaned up, and the laundry pile is taken care of, when I've made my cup of tea and am about to settle into a comfy spot on the couch with my book, (who am I kidding? with my Netflix) invariably someone wakes up to be fed, or to be tucked in again. I exhale with a sigh of exasperation, can't I just catch a break? But I should pay attention, because Jesus is passing by, and He is calling me into the deep water of my vocation.

"Lord, I've been up all night, and I haven't caught anything!"  "I know," he says, "but do it again, so I can show you my abundance." 

There's an abundance in my life whether I like it or not.  Every day an abundance of opportunities to show love to my family.  And not just the kind of love that looks good on Instagram. Service, love in action. The kind of love that gives of itself and lays down its life. It's hard to love like that. But there's also an abundance of grace that helps me to love, imperfect and selfish though I be. Maybe right now I can't see the fruit of my love in action, the catch that is sinking my boat, but I have to believe it's being made, and stored up in eternity.

For the time being I am in deep water, and it's right where Jesus has called me to be. It's not easy, but there is so much more here than if I had just stayed on the shore.

Baptism Day

I don't know the date of my baptism. My husband doesn't know the date of his baptism either. To be honest with you, I don't remember the date of Trixie's baptism, even though it was not that long ago.

But I will never forget the date of Johnny's baptism. June 1, two days after he was born.

We were brand new parents, and to turn our world even more upside down we had just found out our son had a very serious birth defect and would be having his first of many surgeries within a day or two.

My husband and I remember the day our newborn son was transferred to the NICU as the darkest of our life. We had no idea what was going on, struggling to keep up with medical jargon we didn't understand, feeling like life had come to a complete stop, and that it would never be normal again. We were sharing the little tiny pull-out couch in Johnny's NICU room. I was hobbling around on the unsteady legs and in the weirdly shaped body of a newly postpartum women, recovering from a very private event in a very public and uncomfortable setting. We took turns holding Johnny's hand through the window of his incubator. I couldn't stop crying.

We decided that we wanted to have Johnny baptized before he went into surgery. The procedure was not incredibly risky, and his prognosis was very good, but we wanted to have him baptized all the same. We called our priest, who quickly came down to the hospital. My parents were there, as well as our good friends who we had asked to be Johnny's godparents. The nurses kindly overlooked the 4 person maximum of the NICU rooms for us. Johnny was placed on a pillow on my lap, his IV tubes and monitoring cables carefully arranged, and the rite began.

There, in that NICU room, in our darkest hour, we invited the light of faith. Hoping for what we could not see  forgiveness of sin, adoption into God's family, grace  drops of water were sprinkled on Johnny's forehead. We buried the fear and sadness that had consumed the last 24 hours with Christ in the water, and we allowed hope and joy to rise. Johnny was the one receiving new life, but we were being renewed as well.

The next day Johnny went into surgery. We still felt anxiety, and we still cried, but something was different. A sacrament had taken place, the invisible had been made visible and tangible. We were united with Christ, even there in our darkest hour.  Or maybe, especially there, in our darkest hour.

Tonight at dinner we will celebrate Johnny's baptism. Trixie will lend Johnny the baptism candle she received when she was baptized in our church. We'll light it and receive the light of Christ again. Since beginning this post I have looked up the date of Trixie's baptism, November 14. So we'll be sure to light the candle again on that day as well.

That time I cried because I saw a baby in church

I went to mass last weekend by myself for the first time since I have become a mother.  Alex was cantoring for the Vigil mass. I have tried doing mass on my own with the two kids a couple times before when he has cantored. I survived it, but just barely. I've been working on letting go of the need to DO everything. It's OK if I'm not a super mom who can do mass alone with her children. I don't need to be good at that.

So Alex went to mass by himself Saturday evening, and I went to mass by myself Sunday morning. And it was AMAZING!

Normally I feel strongly about having my kids in church with me. I grew up in a churches that had nurseries and cry rooms.  The babies were not in Church and I don't think that's the way it's supposed to be. Jesus said "let the little children come to me" and I think he meant it. I like bringing my children to church.  I like bringing them into the presence of Jesus.  I want them to start learning now that this is what we do, and this is what believe.  But all that being said, it sure was nice to go to mass all by myself and be totally focused. It would be A-OK with me if we make that a once a month thing.

Anyway, I was sitting there in church without my children, and I couldn't help but notice everyone else's children. Do you get that way? When you're away from your kids all you want to do is play with the other kids around you? Well, that was me Sunday morning.

While I was sitting there admiring all the other little tots around me, a young couple walked in and sat down at the end of my pew with a car seat. They got themselves situated and then pulled the tiniest, freshest little newborn baby out of that car seat, his legs curled up and his back arched, and his faced still a bit smushed. I looked at that new little baby and I started crying. Like, actually crying.

Maybe it was because I didn't have my children with me and I missed them.

Maybe it was because I'm beginning to feel like I could have another baby again. (Um...Did I just say that?)

Maybe it's because that tiny baby in all his newborn fragility, so perfectly formed and miraculously put together, reminded me of the fragile miracle of life. A friend has a miscarriage, another rejoices at a positive pregnancy test, my friend Laura is still grieving the loss of her own sweet girls. Our lives "are like a breath, our days are like a passing shadow." (Ps. 144:4)

 Maybe it was the completely enamored way his parents just stared at him all through mass, and the way I scooped up and loved on my own babies when I got home from mass. It's just the thinnest, faintest shadow of the absolutely extravagant way God the Father loves on us, His children.

I'm learning so much from being a mother. But mostly I'm learning how much God must love us.

Photo Cred: Bast Photography