As one whom his mother comforts so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13
As I was driving in the car today pondering the current state of my motherhood, the song “Dear Younger Me” came on the radio and I was immediately a puddle of tears. My baby girl turned 21 on Saturday and it’s always a special day because she shares her birthday with my grandma. Grandma died just a few days short of her 90th birthday so when Shannon arrived on what would have been her Great Grandmas 90th birthday, I felt like God had given me an extra special gift. When my beautiful Irish aunts all told me Shannon was sent to take Grandma’s place, I felt extra grace to help her become as faithful, joyful and kind as the amazing woman she shares her special day with.
Fast forward 21 years and my babies are all grown up now. I blubbered a bit as I looked at their baby pictures, choosing just the right one to post on Facebook, but they weren’t tears of sadness or grief…they were tears of joy, relief and thankfulness. Joy that we have three adult children we are very proud of and that we really enjoy. Relief that we survived drivers training, orthodontics, awkward middle school stuff and discovering the path God picked for each of them. And thankfulness for all the graces, gray hair, lessons in patience and proud mamma moments along the way.
I took all that to Mass with me and watched a sight I’ve seen many many times unfold before my eyes. Mass had just begun when I spotted her…you’ve all seen her…that mom with the little one who at moments has the strength of Hercules. You know the mom I’m talking about…the one who walks in with a load of kids and stuff and looks exhausted before we even stand for the opening hymn. My heart is always touched by the moms who desperately want to look put together but all too often they rush out of their house wearing the only outfit that will fit over their beautiful body that is still shaped a little differently after bringing forth another miracle. I look across the aisle and see the mom who tried to do her hair in the 2.5 minutes she had to get herself ready after wrangling up all her little lovelies only to have it all messed up, pulled down and chewed on by the soggy fisted wee one in her arms. I notice the mom who had an extra 30 seconds and decided to accessorize only to have her beautiful necklace become a chew toy. I see the mom who is wearing her favorite color in the hopes of brightening up her tired complexion only to have it decorated with stripes of spit up down the front and back. I see the moms who are trying every thing they know from pacifiers to board books to cheerios and goldfish to keep their little one quiet in church but they end up frazzled, stared at and sporting the tell tale sweaty lip before mass is even half over.
As I thought back to my “young me” I decided she had some things to say. After nearly a quarter century of being a mom, here’s what I’d like the mom with the sweaty lip to know. You are beautiful and the fact that you got out of sweats or yoga pants and made it to mass with your family makes Jesus smile; don’t worry about the cranky person two pews back who doesn’t know that. I want you to know that growing babies leaves evidence; on your hips, belly and thighs and it’s BEAUTIFUL! You are beautiful because you are a walking sacrifice…every day. Women often give up flat bellies, tight buns and perky anything so another human can enter the world and then feel bad because they don’t look like they did when they were 16. Each roll and lump and wiggle tells the story of your YES to life. Just so you know, there are no body size specifications for entering heaven.
I wish the younger me would have know that babies are loud, they smell bad and they are messy…usually in public! They are also cute, funny, amazing and holy in the eyes of the Father who perfectly created them and gave them specifically to you! Our world is pretty crazy and bringing our wee ones to church is the greatest security measure we can offer their soul. They belong there and you belong there! We need you there, and the Father needs you there. You may walk out the door and not be able to recall a word the priest said, but the graces will be granted because you were there with your babies, trying to worship and praise God with your church family. That's what we’re called to do and he certainly doesn’t expect us or the infant and toddler we’re toting along to be perfect but present.
I see you tired and frazzled and wondering if it was all worth it and the older me says “YES IT IS! Please don’t stop coming to church!” I see you sweat, I see the spit up, I see your patience sometimes fade but more than all that I see your faithfulness, your hopefulness and your absolutely stunning beauty. I remember it and I needed you to know some days I’d like it all back. I’d like you to know that it won’t last forever. I’ve never seen a 12 year old ask for goldfish, a sippy cup or a story book during the homily. Someday you will return to outfits that match and accessories and hair do’s that are stylish and lovely, but for now, just revel in the fact that you are doing the greatest job on earth…being a faithful mom whose trying to help her kids get to heaven. So wipe the sweat from your lip, buy a comfortable outfit and sit by people like me who will reach out to take your baby or make faces at your toddler to try and entertain them while you take a breath.
A Seed To Plant: If you aren’t a mom, share this post with someone who is and most of all, be the one who makes that young mom with the sweaty lip feel supported, loved, welcomed! Next time you see that mom in church, instead of scowling or judging, say a little prayer for her and ask the Peace of Christ to come over her and the little one she’s desperately trying to keep from distracting you.
Blessings on your day!
Let your speech always be gracious…Colossians 4:6
Jeremy was a young boy who was best friends with trouble. He spent more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom. One day when he was in the 8th grade, he had once again won himself an all-expense paid vacation to the principal’s office. This particular day, the principal and the vice principal were both absent so the secretary sent him across the street to see the High School principal. He took a seat in the unfamiliar office realizing this new territory made him a little nervous. When the secretary told him the principal was ready to see him, he walked heavy footed and heavy hearted toward the gentleman seated behind the desk. He prepared himself for the judging glare and harsh commentary he had become accustomed to. What happened next however shocked him right down to his socks and changed his life. The principal rose to his feet, smiled broadly and then shook the boy’s hand with the same friendly warm handshake he would have extended to a celebrity visitor. He looked the boy in the eye and said, “Welcome to our school Jeremy, I’m happy to meet you. I understand you will be a student in this building next fall and before we talk about what brought you here today, I’d like to talk to you about what gifts and talents you’ll share with us when you’re a freshman.” One conversation was all it took to change a young man’s direction.
I wish I could say my speech is always gracious…I wish I could say my speech is always as positive and optimistic as that principals…shoot,truth be told, my tongue can be snappy and sassy at times; especially with the people I love most. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t put my head on the pillow at night and examine my conscience and my day without recounting an instance when I barked off an answer or responded silently to someone’s silly questions with a DUHH! look in my eyes. I have to admit I’ve had moments when I should have just bitten my tongue and kept quiet. Maybe if my tongue tasted better, perhaps like chocolate, I would be more likely to bite it and swallow ungracious words.
Since I don’t think God will be changing tongue flavors any time soon, it’s up to us to pray for the grace of discipline to speak gracious words. I think the first step to gracious speech is to ask ourselves two basic questions before we speak: 1) Would I say these words to Jesus? And 2) Will any possible good come from these words I’m about to speak? We are all created in the image and likeness of God so He is present in each person we speak to…hum…that’s something to think about. It’s also important to remember we speak with our eyes and our body. There have been times my face and my body said something completely different than my words.
I think God is calling us to something way bigger than, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. In this verse from Colossians, He’s directing us to speak graciously! He’s establishing it as the norm,every day, not just on Sundays between the church pew and the car…He used the word always! Biting our tongue won’t give us the gracious spirit needed to speak graciously always, but being mindful of this verse and asking continuously for His grace will get us closer. Imagine how we’d all feel if this Scripture came to life in our home, workplace and church! You just never know when God might have you in mind to change a life the way Jeremy’s principal did with his gracious words.
A seed to plant: Make note of those people who seem to be the subject of your most “ungracious” words, then jot down a few sentences you can speak to them that are gracious.
Blessings on your day!
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