Thursday, July 5, 2012

Be Open to the Giver....

My two weaknesses in life are chocolate and beautiful jewelry.  My husband has always known this about me, so when we were first married, he set about fulfilling my “beautiful jewelry” craving.  With the birth of each child, he bought me a lovely piece of jewelry to mark the occasion.  As the birthday of my July “baby” (he’s now 24, 6’2”) approaches, I am reminded of the ring Michael bought me when “little Michael” was born.

I had always wanted a claddagh ring, and I was not very subtle at hinting about it – actually, I was pretty shameless with my “wants”.  A claddagh ring is an Irish wedding band that finds its beauty in the meaning of the ring’s symbols:  faith, friendship, loyalty. So after my son was born, my husband presented me with a small ring box and I was thrilled!  I saw on his face the pleased anticipation, and I could tell he was waiting for my approval.  I opened the box, and my heart sank slightly.  He had bought me the claddagh ring, but he added an extra touch – Michael had the jeweler insert a heart-shaped ruby (the birthstone for July) in the ring.  I had my mind set on exactly what I wanted – a plain, gold claddagh ring-faith, friendship, loyalty! That’s it. No rubies, no extras, just what I wanted - but he didn’t give me exactly what I wanted.   I’m not good at hiding my feelings, especially when I’m in the throes of post-partum hormonal raging.  I saw the disappointed look on my husband’s face and felt terrible.  I tried to convince him “I loved it”, but he knew better.

I wore that ring almost every day and find that it is now one of my most precious pieces of jewelry.  I really LOVE the ruby and prefer the design over a plain gold ring!  It represents my husband’s thoughtfulness, generosity, giving me more than what I thought I had wanted, and a very special reminder of my July baby – no one has that same ring, which was designed especially for me.  I would have never picked it out, but it is so much better than the plain one I wanted.  Not only does it represent Michael’s faith, friendship, and loyalty, but it also represents our unique and united love.

Fast forward 18 years.  All marriages go through ups and downs, and we were in a “down” swing.  My daily prayer was asking God to heal issues between Michael and me – to make us more united. Then, Michael was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer.  Let’s be real- who thinks that’s an answer to prayers?  Of course, no one does.  No one hopes to experience chemo, financial distress, or confronting the thought of being left with seven children to raise alone.  And yet….what an unexpected gift and indeed an answer to prayers!  My husband and I learned what it meant to “Let Go and Let God”.  We learned to be calm when we didn’t have control.  We learned what a living Faith really meant.  We saw the importance of our family life with microscopic clarity.  We became very aware of what was important in life and what wasn’t.  We felt the Grace of our friend’s and family’s prayers surround us.   Without that gift, I don’t know that we would have the deeper commitment to each other that we have.  Without that gift, our children would not have experienced their parents humbled, vulnerable, and dependent on God.  Without that gift, I would still be spending my life seeking control – even though I never had it, and never will.  When we give up trying to control life, we are free and open to what God wants of us.  We are able to be filled with HIS plan, HIS will, HIS gifts for us – and HIS gifts and plans for us are far more glorious than we can ever imagine.

Ask and you shall receive – but be open to what the Giver wants to give.  Be prepared for a gift that you may never have expected, nor desired - but is perfection. 
Matthew 7:11
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Holds Your Heart?

On the eve of the Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I’m reminded of a day at the grocery store many years ago.
Since we homeschooled, I often did my grocery shopping during the day when the store was empty.  I brought all 6 children with me because my idea was “divide and conquer” with the grocery list.  The older kids went off to selected sections of the store, while I took the younger ones to other sections to complete our shopping in the least amount of time.  At checkout, they all had their assigned duties to bag the groceries, so that by the time I paid, we were off and ready to go.
This particular day, I had a new cashier.  I watched her as she was very distracted scanning my groceries.  She kept looking over at the children (ages 1-10 yrs) and shaking her head.  “Are all those kids yours?”  (As an aside….who would take other people’s children to the grocery store with them???)  “Yes”, I said, grateful that my children were unusually well-behaved that day.   She continued, “I could never have that many kids.  One is more than enough.  You think you can give each of them enough attention?  One is plenty.”  I made my usual nervous response, “Oh, they’re great…they’re great friends…the joy of my life…I love kids…blah, blah, blah”.  And off we went.
When we got out to the car, Joseph, my 5 yr old, asked, “Mom, which of us would you give back?”  “What?” I asked.  “If you only had one, who would you give back?”  He had overheard the conversation.  His tender heart sounded a little nervous that he might be one I’d give back.  I felt a huge swell of love envelope me.  I asked the children if they ever felt like there were too many, or if they didn’t get enough of my attention.  We had a long conversation about children, families, and generous hearts.  I knew that day what occupied my heart.  I explained to them how a mother’s heart grows with each child – how each of them have my complete heart.  I likened it to Jesus’ heart.  That He loves all of us equally and completely.  All of them confirmed they felt totally loved - no one was missing my attention, and I resolved that in the future  (and there were many other instances of comments by strangers)  I would look the person dead in the eye and without hesitation be clear about how Blessed I was and that saying “yes” to God’s plan was the smartest decision I ever made!
On these beautiful Feast days of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let’s take some time to pray about what occupies our hearts.  Do we live our lives in such a way that strangers would know what we love?  Do we let distractions enter our lives and displace what we truly love?  Do we pray for our husbands and children every day?

John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”
May we love with the mercy, patience, kindness, generosity, and completeness of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart.  
May we seek to imitate Our Lady’s pure love for the Divine Will of God.

Why the Fourth Station?

"The Passion of the Christ" was an amazing movie for many reasons.  For most mothers, I think one of the most moving scenes was when Jesus met His mother along the path to Calvary.  There it was on large screen: her Son, her heart, her anguish - His love for her, His confidence in her, and their silent strength as together they fulfilled the Will of God.

It is telling, to me, that the majority of Christ's life was in quiet normalcy.  God could have redeemed the world anyway He wanted.   He chose to do it in the context of a family - with a mother, a father, and a Son each fulfilling His will.

As a mother of seven children (ages 11-25), I have had many encounters with Christ through my role as wife and mother.  I have experienced some of the joys and sorrows that I'm sure our Lady experienced in the quiet, normal life of Nazareth. (Although I have never had the honor of witnessing a miracle, unless you call a son actually cleaning a room a miracle!)

And so with this blog, I hope to post thoughts and moments of a mother meeting Christ.  As an older mom, I hope to encourage and inspire other younger moms with wisdom learned the hard way, humor, and lots of love for the vocation of motherhood.

I hope you'll subscribe and tell your friends!  I hope you'll find interesting ideas for springboards for prayer.  Please feel free to comment. Share your encouraging ideas as we go through our busy days caring and nurturing those around us.  And always seek those moments when you find yourself at The Fourth Station - meeting Christ.