We walk by faith, and not by sight:
No gracious words we hear
of him who spoke as none e'er spoke
yet we believe him near.
We may not touch his hands and side,
nor follow where he trod;
yet in his promise we rejoice, and cry,
"My Lord and God!
I'm running on less than 3 hours sleep. It's cold and rainy and dreary. My office is a bit nippy, so I'm typing with fingerless gloves on. And I've had it "up to here" with God.
(I am a firm believer that it's okay to get angry at God. I know the trials and tribulations in my life are not His fault, but I gotta unload on someone, and He's got very sturdy shoulders.)
The answer I thought I had for my chronic pain turned out to be a bust. That was a day of tears and anger. There is another possible solution, but I am afraid to hope. I'm sort of in a "I'll believe it when I see it" frame of mind.
Youngest Son has broken my trust and faith yet again, in an incredibly hurtful way. I am scrambling to pick up the pieces. I'll forgive him, but I won't trust him for a very long time, if ever - and I cannot imagine a more hurtful realization for a mother towards a child.
I'm just trying to put exhausted foot in front of the other here. There are no gracious words, no consolation of Christ's touch, no sense of direction.
Many years ago, my beloved sister-in-law helped me make my Consecration to Mary. This has been a lifesaver. There have been times - like now - that I cannot even pray. I merely finger the beads of my Rosary, and beg Mary to cover me with her mantle. I'll grab the end, tie a knot and hang on.
Zombies are so popular in our "culture" (I use that word advisedly). Sometimes, in our faith walk, we are zombies. We can't think, we don't pray, we just plod along, trying desperately to keep our soul on life support. Thanks be to God we have the sacraments, especially the Eucharist: truly life support!
Lack of sleep, far too much stress (and don't anyone dare to tell me to light a scented candle and take a bath - I will come after you!), a broken relationship, and physical pain: there is not any clear path for me. Faith, and the Blessed Mother's guidance, are the only things keeping me plodding along. Like zombies, this is not a pretty part of the spiritual walk, but I'll keep going until God offers me a better path, if it be His will.
A long, long time ago, I went to college. This was back in the olden days when a slightly naive but studious Catholic girl didn't have awesome choices like Magdalen College and St. Thomas More College. My parents dropped me off at Alma College, which was founded by the Presbyterian Church. A priest friend of theirs told them he felt confident that my faith life would be safer there than at any "Catholic" college available to me at the time, as most of them had joined in the post-Vatican II meltdown of the '70s.
I had planned to be an English major (and graduated with enough credits, but did not fulfill all the department requirements.) But I had a true epiphany as a freshman, in a class called "Religion in America." One of our readings was Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From Birmingham Jail." It knocked the breath out of me. I had never heard the Gospel proclaimed in this way - the Word of God as a basis for justice. (Gentle reader: Yes, I know now that the Catholic faith has a rich history here, but keep in mind that I was only 18. A mere babe.)
I decided then I needed to delve into religion in a deep way. I declared my major: religious studies! (A family member was a bit worried about my faith, but - thanks be to God - I was protected against any desire to change teams. Likely this was due to my mother's prayers.)
Please know: a major in religious studies makes one a great candidate for:
A.) Graduate school
B.) Tending Bar
C.) Winning at Trivial Pursuit
D.) Boring people to death at parties
I chose A. Never regretted that either. I have always been and remain truly fascinated at how we humans view ourselves and God. I love the quirkiness of my own faith (Incorruptible bodies? Booze? Folk Masses? Come on: this is great stuff!) and the quirkiness of other faiths, along with the heady theological questions and answers of the heavy-duty life questions faith attempts to answer. Graduate school took me around the globe: Japan, Africa, India.
Which leads us to the picture that accompanies this blog post.
JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 10, 2016: An Orthodox Jewish man swings a chicken over his family as they perform the Kapparot ceremony in the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem. The Jewish ritual is supposed to transfer the sins of the past year to the chicken, and is performed before the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish calendar. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANAWhen I see a picture like this, it stops me cold. I want to know more. I want to know this family, eat at their table, talk about our shared beliefs. I've never had a dead chicken swung over my head, but I see why it's done. Yes, I still love to learn about religion, and I (more than just a little) want to have a dead chicken swung over my head and celebrate Yom Kippur.
It's an interesting time to be alive, isn't it? And American to boot. Thought I'd make a few notes because my brain is getting a bit scrambled....
What I Know:
I know that I am a card-carryin' member of the Catholic Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. (Presidential elections notwithstanding.)
I know how to cook. And I'm pretty good at it, when I do it.
I know I am loved by my siblings, and I love them in return.
I know I survived raising 5 kids with a lot of issues. And I'm really, really proud of them.
I know that the older I get, the more I like cats.
I know that big families are a big blessing.
I know that the saints are my friends. Deo gratias.
I don't know how I'm going to vote in the upcoming election. It's like a choice between food poisoning and a life-threatening allergic reaction.
I do not know how my kids managed to survive me as a mom.
I do not know how to keep my kids Catholic (but if I did, I'd be rich. I pray. A lot. And hope. A lot.)
I do not bake well. I have never successfully made a decent batch of chocolate chip cookies. (It pains me to write that.)
I do not know why I like winter. I just do. In Michigan of all places, where we do winter right.
I have absolutely no idea why bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. I trust God to sort it out.
I don't know how or when I am going to get this stupid tumor taken care of, but if tenacity and generally being a pest counts for anything, it will be soon. God willing.
So there you have it. I'm smart and stupid, all at the same time - as I imagine every human is. (I could fill entire football stadiums with what I DON'T know: how to tie a fly, engine repair, why small boys bring home dead mice, how scoring works in tennis [love??], how to do a smoky eye, why anyone would want to do a triathlon, etc. I could go on. Which is why we'd need those football stadiums.)
May all the saints pray for us.
Marie Claire magazine, which is pretty standard fashion/ads/young women in America stuff, recently printed an article about women who were miserable as moms. MISERABLE.
"The regret hit me when the grandmas went home and my husband went back to the office and I was on my own with him," she says. "I realized that this was my life now—and it was unbearable."And:
"I wish I would never had kids [sic]. I realize I am not mother material, and I am terrified thinking how I am going to be forced to take care of it."And:
She envies friends not for their spontaneous vacations and naps, but for the time and space they have to think. "I hold a lot of data in my head," Ananya says of constantly keeping on top of all the details that go with small children: doctor's appointments, weight, height, most recent allergies, toys they want, foods they will eat. "I long for a life without this mental clutter," she explains.Dear heavens. I hope that somehow the children of these women don't stumble upon this someday and recognize their mothers.
Ann Landers (a syndicated advice column which ran for years) floated questions to her readers: "If you had it to do over again, would you marry the same person?" and "Would you have children, if you had it to do over?"
The results were overwhelmingly negative. I was in middle school at the time. I remember being so devastated that so many people would dump their spouse that I asked my mom, "Would you marry Dad again?" She said she absolutely would, that my dad was the best man she had ever known, save her own father. That gave me some peace of mind, but the whole thing still rattled me. (Please know, dear readers, that I grew up in a very small town, and our parish was the center of our lives. I truly didn't know anyone who was divorced until I was in college. It wasn't in my realm of experience.)
Back to parenthood. It seems that many folks stumble into parenthood rather casually. "We weren't really planning but now I'm pregnant so ..." or "Well, we'll have one kid and see how it goes. We really don't want to change our lives much ...."
I know people who put more forethought into adopting a dog than they do in bringing a new human being into the world.
In some ways, I can sympathize with the women in the magazine article above. Being a mom is nothing at all what I expected. It's hard. It's Marine bootcamp hard. And no one can really prepare you for it.
Dear Husband and I had our two oldest, both boys, for about a month (we were fostering, waiting for the adoption to be finalized.) The boys were 2 years and 10 months. We went from having no kids to having 2 toddlers. I woke up some morning and thought, "What the heck am I going to do with them all day???"
Then our oldest got sick. He was feverish and snotty and miserable. And of course, it was after office hours. So I put him, in his blue footy pajamas, and took over for urgent care. Which was packed. With a bunch of feverish, snotty, miserable people. The little boy in the blue footy pajamas played for a bit, then crawled into my lap, and dozed.
And I thought, "He NEEDS me."
Something flipped in me. I went from being this kid's non-stop babysitter to knowing that his very life depended on me. I became a mom. A mom of a feverish, snotty miserable toddler, who needed me.
To those moms out there who think they just can't be a mom to the baby, the toddler, the teen: you can. But you'll need help. Sometimes, you'll need girlfriends and wine help, sometimes you'll need husband help, and sometimes you'll need professional help. If you think you can't, you can. You won't love every minute of it. Some of it will be hard. Sometimes you'll dream about driving away, far away.
But that kid - your kid - needs you. Needs you right now. Will need you a billion times between now and forever. Step up. We other moms will help. Let us know what we can do to help. We can listen. But don't think for one second that you can skip out on this, or take your regrets out on your kid. You are needed.
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