8 Little Arrows in my Quiver

Reflections and Ramblings of a Happily Harried Mom of Many

A Mother’s Tears August 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 6:33 pm

St Augustine is said to be the “son of his mother’s tears.”  Today is the feast day of that amazing woman – St. Monica.  Years ago, I adopted her as my patron saint, since I had a hard time finding a St. Colleen (maybe some day!).  I chose St. Monica after reading Louis de Wohl’s book about St. Augustine.  (If you have never read his novels about the saints, do yourself a favor and find some of them – they are great!). 

 I remember being so inspired by St. Monica’s faith and perseverance in praying (through her tears) for the conversion of her husband and her son, even when it seemed as if there was no reason to hope.  She was fervent in her own practice of the faith, and untiring in prayer.  What an example of the kind of mother I want to be!

Last night, I received an email from a friend whose teenaged son has been making some bad choices.  I wished I had some words of wisdom for her, but my own kids haven’t reached that point yet, as they are younger.  I know, though, that God has given my children the same free will He gave me, and that despite my best attempt at parenting, they will make some wrong choices in life, just as I have.  So what’s a mother to do?  I think St. Monica has shown us exactly what to do: cry!  And of course, pray without ceasing.

But let’s talk about those tears for a minute.  I will be honest — I love a good cry!  Some people believe that crying doesn’t make anything better, but I beg to differ.  For me, it is the best way to get out all the pent-up emotion I’ve been carrying about something, and once that’s all out, I then have room in my brain to process the situation in a better way.  And here’s the best part.  That pain, that comes out through the tears, can be offered back to God as a prayer for whatever situation is causing them to begin with.  Once I have released all the tears I can, it somehow feels like I can then release the whole situation to Him a little bit more freely.  When I am in a place of complete brokenness, it is then that I truly turn to God, realizing that He is the only one who really has any control over the situation anyway.

And the tears of the saints are not in vain.  The reading from evening prayer for today says it so well:

“Thus says the Lord:  Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from     your eyes.  The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward, says the Lord, they shall return from the enemy’s land.  There is hope for your future, says the Lord; your sons shall return to their own borders” (Jer. 31:16-17).

So go ahead and cry!  And then pray without ceasing!  There’s power in a mother’s tears.

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In Sickness and in Health August 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 1:34 am

I have a confession to make.  I broke my wedding vows.  Now, before you panic — it’s not what you think!  Exactly 18 years ago, my husband asked me to marry him.  Just nine months later I said “I do.”  When we said those vows, I’m pretty darn sure that I promised to love him “in sickness and in health.”  And therein lies the problem for me.  Well, at least the “sickness” part of it.

A couple days ago, he came down with a high fever and aches and pains.  He looked like he felt just terrible.  But instead of being kind and loving, I rolled my eyes and let myself get irritable about the whole thing, dreading what I knew would be expected of me.

When my children are sick, I can manage to be compassionate and nurturing, and sympathetic to every little whimper of pain or discomfort.  I’m a regular Florence Nightingale, soothing fevered brows, doling out Tylenol and Gatorade, and rubbing their backs while they’re throwing up.  So why is it that when my husband is sick, I suddenly turn into a grumpy, impatient, unloving and unfeeling woman?

Now I do have to say that my husband is very dramatic when he gets sick.  He has certain comfort foods he wants immediately — not an hour from now when I’ll be going out anyway.  He wants me to take his temperature, get a cool cloth for his head, and basically mother him.  But from what I hear, this seems to be pretty universal among husbands.  So what’s my problem?

Well, I’ve realized that what it really boils down to is this:  I’m extremely low-maintenance when I’m sick.  Just leave me alone, and let me sleep, and I’ll be fine.  So I have a hard time understanding someone who is the complete opposite.  And in my selfishness, I simply judge what I don’t understand, and become impatient instead of compassionate.

The beautiful thing about marriage is that if you work at it, it gets you out of yourself and makes you a better person.  I didn’t promise to like my husband in sickness, but I did promise to love him.  And love is a choice — an every day, nitty gritty, in-the-moment choice to act with compassion, often in spite of what I might be feeling or thinking. 

If I really think about it, it’s pretty pathetic that I can’t manage to drum up a little sympathy and extra nurturing for the man who sacrifices so much on a daily basis to provide for us so I can stay home and live my dream of motherhood.  It’s pretty pathetic that I treat my children better than I treat him, since he is supposed to be my first priority after God.  So what if he’d like a little extra attention when he’s sick!  He certainly deserves it every once in awhile!

I guess thinking about the anniversary of our engagement made me realize just how good I have it, and so, before I start taking that for granted again, I’d better go apologize to my husband for being so mean, and tell him just how grateful I am for him.

 

Saints Among Us August 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 12:07 am

I was helping my husband this afternoon with the last chapter of his soon-to-be-published book, and we were writing about the importance of the saints in our Catholic faith.  He was explaining that the saints make amazing role models for us to emulate as we strive to grow closer to God. 

In reflecting on this, and also thinking over the past week, I’ve come to the conclusion that we also have some pretty special people right here on earth who can inspire us in our faith journeys.  And God blesses us by putting these people in our lives or thoughts just when we need it the most.  I was tempted this past week to stress over things like money, the possibility of moving, and my son’s fractured kneecap.

But then an old friend contacted me and asked for prayers for friends of hers.  Seems this couple has a four-month old baby who was a preemie, born with Down Syndrome and heart problems.  He had to have open heart surgery this week, and thus, the request for prayer.  The mom had written about what it was going to be like to take her baby up to the “red line” in front of the operating room and then let him go with the doctors as she stayed helplessly behind.  It’s making me cry again just writing about it.   But the most incredible part of the whole thing was that she wrote with such grace, and such faith in spite of the paralyzing fear.  And in the midst of a culture which encourages aborting these “imperfect” babies, she wrote so beautifully about the privilege of parenting this precious little boy. She and her husband even witnessed to their doctors about their faith!  

She also talked about how this made her realize that the other little fears/anxieties she had experienced in life were really nothing compared to this.  Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?  I may have 8 kids, and sure, at times, that can seem overwhelming.  But let’s face it — I never had any real problems with pregnancy or childbirth, and the worst thing I have ever had to go through with my kids was whooping-cough.  Scary, yes, but not compared to the red line!  I only pray that I would have the faith and the grace to go through that if I had to.  This woman and her husband?  Saints among us!

The moment I got the prayer request, I knew I had to pass it along to my college roommate.  She too, had faced a similar trial with her daughter, so I knew she would know exactly how to pray for such an intention.  As I thought back on what she had told me of her experience, I was struck that she, too, had faced it with grace.  She may not know it, but her faith was a tremendous example to me and, I’m sure, to the other people with whom she had contact.  She even took it a step further and got involved in ministering to other families who were facing similar health ordeals with their children.  And her faith continued to grow over the years, even when her second daughter inexplicably experienced sudden hearing loss years later.  That amazed me then, and it amazes me now as I remember it.  I would like to say that my own faith wouldn’t be shaken in those situations, but I’m just not sure.  My roommate?  A saint among us!

I also have a wonderful Christian friend who lives up the street.  For years she has been longing for children, and has been unable to have any.  It’s almost impossible for me to imagine my faith being able to sustain me through such heartache.  Yet this woman is the MOST JOY-FILLED woman I think I have ever met.  All she wants to talk about is how much she loves Jesus, and how much He loves all of us.  She is loving, generous, cheerful and full of life.  My neighbor?  A saint among us!

My money concerns?  My stress over the uncertainty of whether we’ll be moving or not?  My worry that my son won’t be able to play on the golf team with a broken knee?  Hmmm . . . somehow none of those seem very scary anymore!  Can I face my life with grace, and with my faith intact?  I think I can, thanks to the beautiful examples the Lord has given me to emulate this week.

 

No Pain, No Gain August 12, 2010

Filed under: Family,Miscarriage — 8littlearrows @ 12:35 am

It dawned on me the other night that we’re already into August.  Thinking of August reminded me that one of my precious babies in heaven would have been born in August 2001, had I not miscarried.  She was due the 22nd or 23rd (Queenship of Mary, and feast day of St. Rose), so we named her Mary Rose.  Looking back on what was, at the time, an incredibly painful experience, I started thinking about suffering, and about how our culture has really robbed it of its value.

When people see my family, and how blessed we have been, they usually have no idea of the suffering that we have experienced on the way to that blessing.  People don’t know that I lost my very first baby through miscarriage, before I was blessed with my oldest son.  Or that I was afraid afterwards that I would never be able to have children, which was my biggest dream for my future.  I could have let that fear paralyze me, but instead, I grasped onto one word my doctor gave me: “hope.”  He told me that the miscarriage didn’t mean I couldn’t have kids; instead, I should have hope that I could get pregnant again, since I had been pregnant once.  So we named that first baby Hope, and sure enough, I delivered a son just 11 months later.

When we lost Mary Rose after two more healthy babies, I again faced a choice.  I will admit, there was a part of me that wanted to rant at God, to say, “That’s it!  Forget it!  I have three healthy children, and I’m not taking any more chances on getting hurt like this again.  No more!  I’m done!”  I wanted more children, but I was afraid it was going to happen again.

Somehow, God gave me the grace to persevere in spite of my fear.  I’d like to be able to say that everything was fine after that, but I’d be lying.  Just three short months later, it did happen again, even more devastatingly, as it looked like it may have been triplets this time.  And there was really no closure for me, as we had no way of knowing for sure how many babies we were mourning.  And it was so difficult to make sense of it all.  I mean, God was blessing teenagers and women who didn’t even want babies, and He was taking mine away!  Trinity joined her/their sisters in heaven, and I was once again broken-hearted.

But the Lord put wonderful people in my life who loved me and reminded me that He is faithful, and always has a plan even though it may not always be apparent.  Their faith sustained me when my own could not.  And the truth is, His plan was better.  Had I not struggled through all the painful emotions, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to keep trying.  And had I not lost those babies, I would not have my beautiful 8-year-old son, who was born the following year.  And the best thing of all?  I now have at least three little saints in heaven to intercede for me, and for their dad and their siblings, before the very Throne of God.

I was fortunate to grow up with a dad who knew that suffering had value.  He would always tell us to “offer it up,” whenever we were experiencing pain of some kind.  Oh, how I hated hearing that!  But as I got older, I began to see the truth in those words.  Christ allows us to join our sufferings to His for the salvation of souls.  Certainly God does not need our help, but He invites us to come alongside Him in His suffering.  And in doing so, we not only contribute to the work of His Kingdom; we also become holier in the process, by getting out of ourselves.  Suffering becomes a powerful prayer when offered for the sake of someone else.

We all have our own crosses to bear, and we usually don’t have a choice as to what those crosses will be, but we can always choose our response.  Christ embraced His cross.  We can, too.  By accepting the suffering that comes our way, trusting in His divine plan, and offering  our trials up as prayer, we will come to see that this is what really leads to the blessings that we all want.  To think that we can be blessed without suffering in some way is not only unrealistic — it is just not good for us.  As a parent, I don’t simply give everything to my children; rather, I teach them to do things for themselves, and let them know that they are not going to get what they want if it is not good for them.  Sometimes, I can see the bigger picture more clearly than they can.  I need to trust that this is what God is doing for me.

What I didn’t realize when I had those miscarriages is that God would use them to prepare me for something.  It dawned on me years later, when I was able to be present for someone else who was going through the same thing — in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had not first experienced it.  And I have been able to share it as a witness at various times, even on TV once, so I have no idea who may have been impacted by it.  It gave me a compassion for other women that I may not have had otherwise.  And mostly, it reminded me, and continues to remind me at other challenging times in my life, that God is sovereign, and that He has a plan for my life that will be better than anything I could ever dream up.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11 RSV)

 

For My Thoughts are Not Your Thoughts August 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 7:23 pm

I found out this morning that my six-year old son told our six-year-old neighbor (who is not Christian) that if she didn’t believe in God, God would kill her!  Whoa!  What do you do with that?!!   Hmmm . . . I think a little theology lesson is in order!

My first inclination when my neighbors told me this was to wonder what on earth I could have said that would have caused my son to even think that way, let alone scare the daylights out of our little neighbor with the misinformation.  I mean, how does a six-year-old even think of something like that? 

And then it dawned on me.   After all, this kid is a typical boy, running around all day with a sword or a gun, chasing after, or being chased by, his brothers.  He’s also extremely passionate in everything he does, whether he is expressing love, or anger, or something in between.  So in his little six-year-old mind, it made sense that God would act the same way he would.  He was simply projecting his own personality and experience onto God.  

Then I got to thinking — don’t we all do that to some degree?  Don’t our own experiences (good or bad) with parents and other authority figures, or even our own behavioral tendencies, determine how we see God, or what we expect of Him?   

I was blessed to have very loving parents, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to see God as a loving Father.  Not everyone is so fortunate.  However, I know that I attribute some of my own characteristics to Him; for example, I have a highly developed sense of justice, and I know sometimes I think of God as giving us things when we deserve them (or withholding them when we don’t), rather than just because He loves us and because He is generous and wants only the best for us.  I also tend to have a hard time with forgiveness, so I’m not always good at seeking and accepting His forgiveness.

But with this realization comes the more important one that I don’t have to stay stuck in this habit of seeing God through my own foggy lenses, because I have His Word to guide me:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways my ways,’  declares the LORD.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (IS 55:8-9  NIV). 

And the previous verse says it all:  “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”  Now that’s the God I know and love!

 

Happy the Man Whose Quiver is Full August 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 10:59 pm

My brother and his wife just had their second baby yesterday.  There’s nothing like a brand new baby to remind me just how precious life is, and how blessed I am!  For “Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the son’s of one’s youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!”  (Psalm 127:3-5  RSV)

It doesn’t get any clearer than that — children are a blessing, period.  Not just when we have enough money, or a big enough house, or when they are “planned,” or when they don’t require too much sacrifice on our parts.  I will admit that there are times when I haven’t seen my fertility as the blessing that it is.  I have my selfish moments, or even whole days, when I resent the sacrifices I have to make as a mom of many.  Heck, I can’t even work out without finding someone to watch the baby!  (Although sometimes that’s a handy excuse for being lazy!)

But the truth is, the benefits of living in a big family far outweigh the sacrifices when I remember to look at the big picture, and when I remember to keep myself centered in the Lord, and in His Word.   It’s sometimes easy to get bogged down in the negatives: when money is tight, when you wonder if you can possibly fit any more bunk beds in the house, when the kids are squabbling all day . . . well, you get the idea — don’t want to get bogged down writing about it.

I was speaking with a woman at a social function one day when I was pregnant with my 4th or 5th.  When she noticed I was pregnant (again!) she asked if I was “done” after this baby.  I told her that I didn’t know, but that God did.  Her response?  “Don’t you want to have . . . like . . . a life?”  I’ve never forgotten that, and not because I was offended by it, but because I found it so sad.  For the life of me, I can’t think of anything I could be doing with my life that would be more valuable than raising children to the glory of God.  And this woman had children of her own!  How sad that she didn’t see the value in what she was doing as a mom, but was spending her time looking forward to “having a life!”

Honestly, I love my life, thank you very much!  Is money tight?  Yes, but there’s food on the table and a roof over our heads.   Is our house crowded?  You betcha!  But I just spent an hour of quality time with two of the kids putting together our third bunk bed.  Besides, how much room do they really need to sleep anyway?!  Do my kids fight with each other?  Of course.   But I’m also seeing them enjoying each other’s company.  Even at camp this summer, with their friends, they spent time together voluntarily.  What a wonderful thing it is as a parent to see your kids becoming friends. 

My children can be very unlikable at times.  But overall, I really enjoy them.  I even like my tweens and (gasp) my teenager!  I look at each of my kids with their very different personalities, and I can’t imagine life without any one of them.  And on my bad days, all I have to do is remind myself of the friends that I have who are experiencing infertility, who would be thrilled to have my “problems.”  The key is remembering to practice gratitude — not something I’m always good at.

Now, of course, quivers come in all different sizes, so I’m not one of those people who thinks that everyone is called to have as many kids as they possibly can.  The thing is, only God knows what He has planned for each of us.  For today, I’m just grateful that mine is so large, and at times I feel undeserving of it.  But that’s the beauty of our God — He gives us so much that we don’t deserve just because He loves us.  I just pray that I can give Him glory through the way I parent my children, in spite of my unworthiness.

 

One Heroic Moment August 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 7:29 pm

When I started this blog the other day, my husband jokingly told me that I should blog about how wonderful he is.  Well, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before he would give me a reason to do so in all honesty.  I was right.

This morning was one of the mornings he had to be out of the house by about 7am.  I awoke to my cell phone beeping at about 7:30, just as my daughter walked into the room ready to walk a neighbor’s dog that she and her brother are taking care of for a couple of days.  She was realizing that as soon as she came back from doing that, she would also have to feed and walk our dog.  She heard the phone beep, so she checked it and found a text from my husband:  “FYI:  I’ve already fed and walked the dog this morning.” 

Now that might not seem like such a big deal, but my husband’s days are full of little actions like that one which, when put together, make him a pretty amazing husband and father:

  • He regularly goes out of his way, when he’s out on business, to pick up raw milk for me (we drink that instead of pasteurized), saving me an hour and a half round trip.
  • He brings home dinner frequently when he knows I had a terrible night’s sleep the night before, or am having a particularly rough day.
  • He’ll give the kids a shower or bath simply because he knows it’s one of those things I really dislike doing.
  • He takes kids with him almost everywhere he goes, even though it would be easier and quicker to go by himself, just because he knows that it’s important to spend time with them.
  • He takes the kids out to breakfast and makes them order for themselves, so they will learn to be independent.
  • He cooks every Sunday, and many other times, to make sure I get off at least one day every week.
  • He takes kids with him, in the stroller or on their scooters, when he walks or runs, even though it would be faster and more relaxing to go alone.
  • He coaches baseball and helps with scouts, even though he could be working at those times, because he knows that when the Dad is involved, the kids stay interested, and also get quantity and quality time with him.
  • He calls almost daily to see if I need anything while he’s out.
  • He will call and set up hair appointments for the kids and then take them, because he knows that planning and phone calls are not my strength!
  • He takes the 2 y.o. to the beach with him to get her out of my hair, and then stays with her by the shore so the older kids can have fun out at the dock in the deeper water.

The list could go on and on (and I’m sure he’ll tell me later that I should have continued!), but you get the picture.  One of my favorite recording artists, Marie Bellet ( http://www.mariebellet.com/), on her album “What I Wanted to Say,” has an awesome song called “One Heroic Moment.”  Every time I hear it, I feel so grateful for my husband.  It’s all about how the little things her husband does each day that may seem like no big deal, are actually a series of heroic moments that not only make him a better husband, father, and person, but ultimately bring him closer to Christ and set him free.

The chorus goes something like this:  “One heroic moment in an ordinary day, minute after minute, little steps along the way.  He knows he must deny himself for the man he needs to be, and each heroic moment slowly sets him free.”  And so, Honey, I just want to say thank you for all those little sacrifices, and I want you to know that they don’t go unnoticed — not by me, not by the kids, and not by the Lord!  You are well on your way to becoming “the man you need to be!”