Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
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!
Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges...James 2:4
I wonder what I would read if someone were able to compile a list of the “top ten most confessed sins”. I wonder how my personal sinfulness would “measure up” against the list…would mine be bigger, smaller, spicier or dull in comparison. The truth is, sin is sin and because of Adam and Eve, we are all born to sin, classifying and comparing it doesn’t do us any good. I’m sure God isn’t going to cross check my sins against the top ten list and give me extra credit for committing only the most commonly recognized sins.
In the second chapter of the book of James, he writes about what I would imagine just might be on that top ten sin list; Judgmental Thinking! As a society, I think we tend to put things into categories and create levels and comparisons. That’s fine if you’re sorting nuts and bolts, organizing your kitchen pantry or sorting your sock drawer but when we start letting that comparison thinking bleed into our interactions with people, then we need to give these words from St. James a careful read. When we begin to “size each other up” based on appearance, possessions or position and align ourselves with those who seem “desirable” according to societies standards, we will always come up short! Unless we look through God’s eyes we’ll miss the parts that really matter.
My Grandma told me once that when you choose a husband; make sure you pick a man that will help you get to heaven. (I followed her advice to a T and just so happen to be married to one of the two greatest men on earth ...my Dad being the other!) That’s sound advice in any relationship. Just because we might judge someone to be wealthy, successful or powerful doesn’t mean they are faithful or Godly. If our goal during our time on earth is to get to heaven, someone’s fancy shoes, flashy car or impressive resume isn’t an accurate indicator of their ability to help guide us to our ultimate destination.
As humans our vision is narrow. St. James cautioned against judgment and condemnation because only God can see us as a whole. Judging others using society’s standards and human eyes is about as useful as picking out a new car by looking only at the door handles! On Friday, Catholics will celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross and the Gospel reading that day will remind us that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world. John 3:17. If the ruler of the universe doesn’t condemn even the most sinful of us, that’s a pretty solid indication that it’s not a task that should occupy a spot on our to-do list.
As we let the words from St. James sink into our souls and re-shape our thinking, let’s remember to look at others through God’s eyes and each time we see a cross, recognize it as a symbol of our need to love and not judge or condemn. Maybe if we let the vision of the cross change our judgmental thinking that top ten sin list might drop to nine!
A seed to plant: Purposely put yourself in the company of someone this week you would not be in the habit of spending time with and share a kind and friendly conversation. It could be as brief as someone in the line at the grocery store of as significant as a trip to the soup kitchen...take down the walls of judgment and social classification and reach out! I'm willing to bet the blessing will be big!
Blessings on your day!
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10
When I was in college, I had my life all mapped out! I was very careful to organize each and every detail. I had everything written out in a notebook including how many children I wanted, what color my house would be and what kind of job I would have. According to my plan, I was to be married by 23 and be finished having babies by 30. I even had their names picked out, of course with alternates in case my future husband didn’t like my first choice. It was fool proof ... my happily ever after was all right there written in the notebook! I was so organized…what could possibly go wrong. Before I knew it I was 25 and absolutely nothing written in my notebook was happening, in fact, there were quite a few things that had happened that I would have never considered putting in the notebook…things like the death of my brother, and losing my Mom to cancer…those were not in my plan! I was melting inside and I remember feeling a little lost!
During this “lost season”, I went to visit my Grandma. A visit with Grandma Thelma always made things better! As we were sitting on her porch swing and she was trying once again to teach me how to crochet, tears started to fall down my cheeks into the yarn on my lap and Grandma gently took the things from my hands, knowing completely well that the tears were not due to my miserable attempt at crocheting. A couple questions later, there I sat blubbering like a baby spilling the whole tale of the stupid notebook and all my foolish plans. I distinctly remember telling her in the middle of my hissy fit that according to my plan, I was supposed to be half way done having babies by now but instead I was sitting on the front porch with her on a Friday night. I also told her that in the meantime I was quite sure all my eggs were rotting! I told her I’d been so careful in my planning, I just didn’t understand what had gone so terribly wrong!
When I had finished, Grandma sweetly said, “I know the problem!" She always did, but her explanation wasn’t what I expected. She didn’t mess around with her words…she cut right to the heart of the problem. She said, “You need to throw that darn notebook of yours in the trash.” I looked at her in shock and she went on to say, “The problem with your notebook is that it’s your plan and that’s never going to work.” She went on to lovingly remind me that everything happens for a reason, both the good and the bad, it’s all part of God’s plan whether we like it or not. She told me to ask God to write the plan for me, she also assured me that He was a better planner than me and that I would indeed have a few good eggs left when I needed them! Thank you Grandma!
That visit on the porch was like Jesus rounding up a lost lamb! I had gotten so tangled up in trying to take care of myself I had forgotten that really was Gods job. I still keep a notebook, but it’s a prayer journal. I still write my lists and organize my plans in the notebook, but the big difference between the first notebook and the ones I write in now…these are the plans I ask God to bless if they are according to His will and strike down if they are not. I often remind Him I’m pretty thick-headed so please be very clear with the directions because I don’t have Grandma to clear it up for me anymore.
How could we possibly think that a God who loved us so much He would send His only Son to save us wouldn’t know better the plans for our life!
Let Him take over your plans…you won’t be disappointed!
A seed to plant: Grab a piece of paper right now, and write down your plans for the week…then ask God to bless the list…invite Him to take charge of the list… and then stand back and see what He does with your week!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com