Tag Archives: Mother

Losing Lent

Oh, the season of Lent.  The most important season of the year next to Easter.  The season of fasting, penance, and almsgiving.  Or in the case of me, the most important season of the Christian calendar when I fall seriously down on my job as an adopted daughter of God.  Why oh why does Lent always fall during the busiest time of my family’s calendar?  I know that I have no say in the matter, but it always brings me down.  Advent, that I can do – albeit half-way.  Lent?  It falls during – dare I say it out loud – spring sports season where my entire family lives in a state of constant and utter chaos.  (Please forgive me – yet again – Lord.)

Does God want me in a state of constant chaos?  He does not.  He wants and hopes that I stay in the holy season of Lent.  He wants me to give my mind, heart and soul to this holy season and all that it offers me as a person.  It offers me such growth – such promise.  And then life takes over, and I get taken away in a fast current of track meets, lacrosse games, stinky laundry, and meals at 10:00 p.m.  Oh yeah, I also have dogs and a spouse.  I lose Lent.  It loses me.

So, I head to my parish’s Penance Service last Monday with my “memo card of sins.”  It is my turn, and I am face to face with the kindest face I’ve seen in a long time.  The priest is a jolly, older Irish man, and when he sees my “memo card of sins,” he jokes, “Is that the litany of Saints?”.  Phew.  I got a good one.

I know that reconciliation is full of graces that I will never fully comprehend.  Sometimes I leave feeling worse than when I walked in, but most of the time I feel the compassion and mercy of my heavenly Father, the sacred heart of my brother Jesus who walks my same roads, and the Holy Spirit who guides me through my crazy, 2017 life.   Most of the time, I leave armed with the armor of God – ready to do battle.

This time (and please forgive me for oversharing), but I confessed that I have not done a good job of holding onto my Lenten promise.  And let’s be clear – my Lenten promise is something that I should be doing anyway.  It wasn’t something above and beyond the pale.

This kind, sweet, loving old priest said to me, “Jesus himself fell beneath the weight of the sins of the world three times.  Even though he knew Calvary was ahead of him, he got up – three times.  When you fall, just get back up.”

I cannot begin to tell you what that simple message said to me.  “Just get back up.”   When you mess up once, don’t berate yourself.  Just get back up.  Do the next right thing.  When you make that mistake that you always make – you know the one – try not to make it again the next time.  Use positive self-talk telling yourself that you want to be the best version of yourself.  Pray to the Holy Spirit to redirect your thoughts and actions.  Ask forgiveness.  Again.

The priest said to me that we are close to Easter, but there is still plenty of time to work toward my Lenten promise.  Just get back up.  Here’s to getting back up.  We are all in this together.

Advertisements

Those Darn Teenagers

I know this goes along with the territory of being a parent, but I worry about my teenagers.  I not only worry about my own teenagers, but I worry about their friends.  I not only worry about their friends, but I worry about teenagers I do not even know, the children who go to our school.  There is something universal about being a parent.  When one child suffers, we as parents all suffer.  When one parent despairs, we all despair.  When something unfortunate happens to a child, it could have just as easily been our child.  We are all one in these moments.  No one parent is immune to the influences of our crazy world on our dear, beloved children.

What do I worry about?  Probably the same things you worry about.  The big stuff, and the small stuff.  Their grades, their immediate futures, their long-term futures, their circle of friends, their driving to and fro.  Their stress level, their happiness, their lack of happiness.  Their faith life, and the times they question their faith.  Their temptations, their reliance on the electronic devices in their lives, their ability to say no when they need to say no.  Their ability to say yes when they need to say yes.  Will their college roommate speak to them if they continue to make mountains of dirty laundry in the middle of the room?  Did they take their multivitamin today?  Ok, whew.  One less thing to worry about.  Is it not so much harder to be a teenager today than when we were teenagers?  I feel like a 45 record in saying this (hello child of the 70’s), but it is exponentially harder to be a teenager today than it ever was for us – and we felt like we had it rough!

I would like to say that I “give it all up to God” when it comes to my children and their daily challenges.  However, I don’t.  I feel like I can fix it.  My husband feels like he can fix it.  However, as parents, we can SO not do this alone.  We need the unconditional, non-judgmental support of our friends.  If we think we are alone in our challenges, we are not.  We need our faith communities – youth group, positive and faithful adult role models, or just a great relatable priest, youth minister or religion teacher can make a huge difference to a teen.  We need the model of the Holy Family – a mother and father who lived simple lives but still had the reality of raising their child to be a functioning adult amidst normal day to day challenges.  (Did Joseph regularly grab any milk on the way home from work?)

And of course, most of all, we need prayer.  There is a line in the Marist Mother’s Prayer Group prayer that says, “whatever we may do for our children, let us never fail to pray for them.”  Our role as parents is to help them to know, love and serve God.  No short order in our current, crazy world with distractions galore.

Here are two prayers I found, one for both a boy and one for a girl. (source: http://www.lords-prayer-words.com)

Prayer for my Teenage Boy

Dear Lord,

Help me to love, without expecting anything in return.
Help me to engage, even when I don’t fully understand him.
Help me to provide, quietly and gently to give good gifts.
Help me to speak, not to sow criticism but encouragement.
Help me to say sorry, to own up when I mess up.
Help me to forgive, even when I feel hurt or ignored.
Help me to hope, to breathe out joy and vision for the future.

Help me to carry my son, through the patchwork of hopes, dreams, hurts, worries, anger and the joy of teenage years.
Help me to remain open and soft
To understand and not to judge
My brilliant son.
Amen.
Prayer for my Teenage Girl

Dear Lord,

Help me to love, when she is angry and upset.
Help me to engage, when she needs a friend and a listening ear.
Help me to provide, to accept her needs and give out when she is needy.
Help me to speak, not to sow harmful words, but encouraging ones.
Help me to say sorry, to apologize when I fail her.
Help me to forgive, each day to provide grace and a new start.
Help me to hope, to pour out love, acceptance and truth.
Help me to carry my daughter through the patchwork of hopes, dreams, hurts, worries, anger and the joy of teenage years.
Help me to remain open and soft
To understand and not to judge
My beautiful daughter.
Amen.
We are all on this journey of parenting our pre-teens, teens and young adult children together.  Let us support one another in words, deeds and mutual prayers.  The occasional knowing hug, or well-timed text message.  Let’s get all these monkeys to heaven.

 

Ladybugs and Cardinals

My daughter and I experienced a “God moment” this week together.  I do not know if there is a formal definition of “God moment,” but I could define it as a way that God speaks to me in the ways of my every day, normal, mini-van-driving-mom existence – through an unexpected experience, a “chance” or not-so-chance encounter with someone or something, a song on the radio, or a scripture reading – however you might define it.  But it clearly leaves me with a sense that God and His Holy Spirit are truly with me.  And I do not mean that in a creepy way – just a true sense of what I already know in my heart and soul but often forget – that God is with me at every moment of every day if I would just open myself up to Him.

I think we all know that God speaks to us in many ways:  through His Word, through other people, in the Sacraments, and the list goes on.  It is not every day that we see a billboard from God screaming:  “Hey!  Yeah!  YOU!  I’m talking to YOU!”  However, God chooses to “wink” at us all the time in unique and personal ways that says, “I see you.  I’m here.  I want you to hear my voice today and always.”  The trick is opening your heart, mind and incredibly busy existence to how He wants to speak to us.

My daughter is going down a path that is different from many of her friends and classmates as she prepares for her future.  It is right for her, but may not be right for others.  Some of her friends are supportive, encouraging and curious.  Other friends are disdainful and making her question her choices and her dreams.  We were watching a program on TV the other night together, and the excitement it created in her was contagious.  We took what we learned and jumped on the internet to learn more.  We were both excited, and knew that this very random show on a random night was no accident – no coincidence.  A God-incidence, perhaps?

A friend of mine shared with me a story about a special sign in her life.  She was going through a challenging time with one of her adult sons.  In the midst of it, lady bugs began to visit her daily.  They literally starting appearing all the time and in many different places.    As a devout Catholic, she looked up the significance of this.  She learned that the lady bug is actually named for “Our Lady’s Bug.”  In the middle ages, a pestilence invaded the land, and the people asked Mary to intercede on their behalf.  Lady bugs swarmed the land, and ate the pests.  My friend knew in her heart that the lady bugs in her situation were there for her uniquely – it was her mom (who gifted her the special devotion to Mary) letting her know to give it all to Mary and to trust in her intercession with God.  She loved the lady bug visits, and through them, she learned to trust.  One day, she realized that the lady bugs had not been to visit in a while.  She realized that her son was in a wonderful place, and that peace, at least for a time, had come back to her family.  She prayed that the lady bugs had moved on to someone else who needed those sweet little visits as much as she did.

I have also heard that cardinals have long been a Christian symbol of visiting those who have been saddened by a loss – in particular, a “Cardinal Loss” or a heart-rendering loss of a loved one.   I am no theologian, so please do not quote me, but birds have long symbolized the soul’s ascent to God above material things.

The cardinal has traditionally held spiritual meaning in the Christian faith. The cardinal’s distinctive red color symbolizes the blood of Christ, representing the everlasting vitality of Christ’s blood and the fire of the living spirit.  (source:  reference.com)

I first heard of the visit from a cardinal from a very devout friend of mine after her long-time partner died of cancer.  When I saw a bright red cardinal by the marsh where my dad and I always loved to fish, I was shocked and amazed – I had never in more than 20 years seen a cardinal there.  Now, after losing both my mother and father in a few short years, I regularly see male and female cardinals outside my kitchen window – and cardinals mate for life.  Coincidence?  Easily.  A God-wink from my Father in Heaven letting me know my parents are OK?  Possibly.

Either way, my faith is renewed, and my hope is restored.  Bring on the cardinals.  Bring on the lady bugs.

To the God-moments and God-winks in our lives!

 

An Early Christmas Gift

I feel so very happy – like I have received an early Christmas gift.  Since a week ago Friday, I have had events – both social, and spiritual/church-related (and even better, combined – whoopee) – which have rejuvenated my spirit.  This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is a very big deal to me.

Last Christmas, my family was dealing with the loss of my husband’s long-time job.  I was not feeling very merry.  My children were not feeling very merry.  We were looking to the future with trepidation and fear.  So what did I do?  I closed myself off to the people I cared most about.  I responded an instant “no” to the Evite of my dear friend Cathy who hosts a lovely Christmas brunch, chock-a-block with incredible Christian women from our parish.  I am sure I also said no to my awesome “boozy” friends who wanted to celebrate with a glass or two of Christmas cheer.  Hey, all are welcome in this place.  We are all God’s children.

This year, despite the recent loss of my dear mom, and my funk of not only feeling poor physically but also feeling perennially behind the eight ball logistically, I said “yes” to more than my usual invites.  It even surprised me, as social as I like to think that I am.  The MMPG Christmas meeting at Pam’s house inspired me to honor my mother who just passed, my parish’s Life Teen Special Needs group reminded to me to dance as if no one was looking, and my Marist Love & Logic ladies group said we are all in this together – no matter what our children’s age.  I also encountered in this small space of time:  my friend Cathy’s gathering of “incredible Christian women whom I seek to emulate,” my former Bible Study’s rock star moms who foster newborns while raising their own families, and lastly – an amazing group of women at my parish “Walking with Purpose” who reach out regularly to moms like me with welcoming invitations to “come and seek.”  That’s a lot for a week during Advent.

Wow.  I feel loved.  I feel recognized.  I feel like someone is seeking my miserable, “Debbie Downer” company.  I feel like even when I am a horrible hermit crab, tucked inside my shell and so barely wanting to venture out, someone wants to draw me out and interact with me.  That feels so great.  What a beautiful reflection of God’s love during this season of Advent!  The second week of Advent the theme was “Love,” as we lit the second purple candle

 “Love is knowing that someone cares for us more than themselves.  Love is the realization someone would lay down their life for us.  Loves involves commitment, and commitment involves sacrifice and time.  God loves us beyond any human love we have ever experienced. Love can be ours this Christmas as part of The Christmas Gift.”

 Source:  St. Brigid Advent program

I leave you all with a note of thanks for those who have invited me (and others who may be like me) to partake in fellowship even though I (or they) may seem like a huge buzz-kill some days (not exactly the most Christian words, but hey, they fit).  I strive to reflect God’s glory, even in my challenges, even in my family’s challenges.  Thanks for continuing to invite me to be a part of your world.  It means the world to little ‘ole me.  I also promise you, that reaching out to others will reap the same fruit.  Keep reaching out to those who are difficult or challenging. To the neighbor who drives you crazy.  To the widow on your street who is always complaining about something.  Love, Love, and Love some more.  Even when it is so, so hard.

“Lord, I love you and know in spite of everything I can depend on your love for me.  As I encounter times that are rushed, even crazy, I will repeat the phrase, “I love you, Lord” to remind myself that I cannot do everything alone.  When my chores, holiday preparations, and gift-buying overwhelm me, and I face more darkness, I will turn to you and your LOVE.  You will point me towards The Greatest Gift that awaits me on Christmas.  Amen.”

Source:  Brigid Catholic Church Advent 2016 Program

 

Here’s to Building Cathedrals!

IMG_1031Some days we feel seen, and some days we feel utterly unseen. Aye, there’s the rub. Just when you think you have “Uber” tattooed on your forehead, or “cleaning service” written across your t-shirt, your kids up and surprise you. A fellow alum and I have been laboring – yes, laboring as varsity lacrosse team parents for two years now. The glamorous tasks we undertake would shock and amaze you. I sometimes ask myself, “Does this really matter to my daughter?”

Tonight at the lacrosse playoffs somewhere in Canton, GA a monsoon took over in the last 10 minutes of the game. I was standing there with my stats partner, getting soaked to the bone while the rain was coming in sideways. We attempted to keep the game stats going until the paper turned illegible and the lightning alarm rang. I started running for cover when my daughter overtook me. “I love you mom!” she shouted as she ran by. I was seen. I was surprised, and I was seen.

For moms who have moments of feeling unseen, please read (or re-read) this great story, even though it is a little long. I’ve seen it many times before, but it bears repeating as we prepare to celebrate Mothers Day.

“The Invisible Woman – When Only God Sees” by Nicole Johnson

“It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand, and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, ‘Who is that with you, young fella?’ ‘Nobody,’ he shrugged. Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, nobody?’

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family – like ‘Turn the TV down, please’ – and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, ‘Would someone turn the TV down?’ Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We’d been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, ‘I’m ready to go when you are.’ He just kept right on talking.

That’s when I started to put all the pieces together. I don’t think he can see me. I don’t think anyone can see me.

I’m invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I’m invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’ I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She’s going… she’s going… she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip, and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’

That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.”

 

So what does the Word have to say about moms?

“Your adornment should be … the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 66:13

 “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 1:27-28

 “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed.” – Luke 1:46-48

 

I have heard before that a mother’s love for her children is the closest that we can get on Earth to our Father’s love for us. Here’s to all the moms out there – those who are living and continuing to bless us in ways seen and unseen, and to those who have passed and continue to cheer us on from heaven.

Love to our moms, and to those who love us like moms!

Happy Mother’s Day!