The fear of phony cards and obligatory flowers. You see, I'd rather get nothing than be honored for what I am not. It's painful... that awareness of how short I fall. It's that interior cringe I feel when one of my littles says that I'm "the best Mommy in the whole world." If I were slightly less disciplined, I would tell them that they're crazy and wrong and that they just don't know many other moms. Instead, I just pause for a moment to let the lump in my throat relax; and then say, "I love you, too."
They know I mess up. They know all the moments I have stepped on their little hearts through my carelessness or smallness. But still ... they love me.
All through Lent, I focused on gratitude and reorienting my thoughts and emotions toward giving thanks in all things at all times. After Easter, I relaxed a bit from the intensity of preparation and let that particular effort slip as well. What I noticed, is that when I give up the practice of consciously recognizing gratitude, I automatically begin to develop interior lists of failure and fears...
I forget to trust, I cling to my own strength... and I am enveloped by my own failures.
This morning, I read a post "For the Mother who fears Failure." I didn't want to read it because I knew it was for me... and Ann's posts always make me cry. Not a oh-how-sweet-it-reminds-me-of-babies-and-puppies kind of cry. But a gut-centered, bringing up the festering wounds kind of cry.
So I read it. And I cried. Because it was for me and blessed me. The problem with blogging about great writing is that excerpting it is never good enough and it really must be read entirely to be fully understood. I'll share two brief excerpts, but you can't read them unless you promise to read the whole thing... :)
"Relationships cost. It's not that you aren't going to blow it. It is what you do with it when you do"
"The Shepherd leads those with young not to be Hallmark versions of perfection, but rather persevering versions of humility. Grace stands in the gaps."
Fear is a powerful emotion. It grips and wrings the joy out of life. It takes the happy out of Mother's Day cards. Don't see me. Don't honor me. I have failed you and I will fail you again tomorrow. It prevents me from giving the best of myself to my vocation, to my husband and children... because I fear my weaknesses and fail to trust the Lord.
I am surrounded by evidence that He "stands in the gap"... six beautiful people who are growing and thriving and loving.
God is so gentle with me. He is always showing me the blessings, often with humor. We will occasionally receive generous compliments after Mass about how lovely and well-behaved we are. This invariably occurs after a loud, harried, and ugly attempt to get to the church on time. I arrive with a tightening throat and tears ready to spill and the good Lord gives me a gentle poke and a smile... Lighten up, girl. It's all grace.
The most recent incident was two weeks ago. An older couple approached me as I held my youngest. They complimented the family, particularly my husband, and I gave the appropriate words of thanks and appreciation. But perhaps I sounded too canned because they gave each other a meaningful look and turned to me again: "We really mean it. God has blessed you and you two are doing the right thing with it. Keep persevering." I felt the slightest taste of ironic bitterness on my tongue as I thought of our morning and the temptation to turn away from gratitude rose up within me. I looked up at the gentleman to give my thanks again and noticed a single tear streaming from his eye. He was wearing glasses so it was hard to see at first... but it never stopped. Perhaps it was a medical condition, I thought. Allergies or something. But he looked at me and I saw his eyes and beyond his words. He repeated... "You. Are. Blessed."
I kept staring at that tear. I could not turn away. I think he wanted me to see because he did not brush it aside and it just kept coming. He wanted me to feel what he was holding in his heart. I did. It wasn't uncomfortable. I could have stood there all day in that kind of silence. I felt comforted. I remembered gratitude. Please, pray for us, I said. And I believe they will.
So Mother's Day is almost here. I will wake up on Sunday morning and do what I always do and pray that my heart will be opened fully to the gifts of my children. They give freely and abundantly of their love (their innocence free from all the obstacles that plague my own generosity) and I must become like a little child... and accept with joy.
To all the mothers in my life: I love you beyond words. I know He has called you to great love. And I know that He made you just for me. Thank you and thanks be to God!