Slapped in the Face
As I sit down to write this, Mark has been gone for a week now, recording a record in Lexington, KY. There’s LOTS I could say about this week of “single-parenting”, but for this post, I just want to share one moment that really struck me this week.
Like really struck me… figuratively, yes, but literally, too.
But before I tell you what happened, I feel it very important to acknowledge:
1) All of you mothers out there - Maybe some days you’re cruising through life and basking in the beauty of all motherhood has to offer, but I’d bet- especially if you’re a mom with young kids- most days feel more like being in the trenches. Daily life can shift between a battle ground (full-blown survival mode) and a circus ring (Is this real life?).
I find it necessary to stop and say “Thank you” for all that you do day in and day out for your family. Motherhood can be one of the most thankless and under-appreciated jobs. But regardless if the world (or even your family) knows all that you do or not, you and I both know you are the heart of your family. You are what keeps everything else going.
2) All of you fathers out there, but especially Mark - Wow. How under-appreciated is your job, too. If mothers are the heart of the family, then you are the head. You keep us grounded, you guide us, and you protect us. Take away the head, and there is no direction, no vision, and no drive. We need your presence, your ability to be selfless, and your commitment to us. Though we don’t say it often, we see you and we appreciate you. Without you, we are like chickens with our heads cut off.
That’s, at least, what it felt like with Mark being gone this week. Or- as I mentioned earlier- the circus ring, juggling endless kid duties with work duties, not to mention the cooking and cleaning and packing lunches/bags and then unpacking, grocery shopping, paying bills, doing laundry, nap times, bath times, and bedtimes. Sheesh. At the end of the day, I’m left wondering if I even fully accomplished any one of those things…? I’m making lists for tomorrow because, by now, I’m even more mentally exhausted than physically exhausted, and although the house is quiet once kids are tucked into bed, I have no motivation to get anything else done for the day. Tomorrow (& its to-do list) is only a few short hours away…
But - Tonight was different.
We made it to the weekend. No work tomorrow and we’re oh so close to having Mark home again!!! On top of that, my parents offered to keep our 2-year old, Fulton, for the night, so this evening it was just me and John Paul (our 1-year old).
I often feel JP was “robbed” the newborn stage. (Sounds a little ridiculous and clearly not the truth, but it's how I feel. Back story - We anticipated Fulton would be in daycare during my maternity leave with JP. Well, our daycare experience went sour and came to an end just days after JP arrived. Fulton was now home with us and still needed tons of my attention all day long, even seeking it through becoming physically aggressive towards us. This often meant little time for one-on-one snuggles and newborn bonding, frequently putting JP aside to tend to Fulton’s needs…cue 2nd child jokes. Most days I felt like a zombie or a failure of a SAHM (“stay at home mom”), spending all of my energy and patience keeping the kids alive and safe, counting down the seconds until Mark was home, and wishing for the day when Fulton would be older and JP wouldn’t be a fragile newborn anymore. It was a very hard time, and I learned a lot about the necessity of asking for help.)
So…all of that to say when I get moments like tonight when it’s just John Paul and I, I truly treasure them so much. In a strange way, it’s like making up for lost time.
Tonight, I let him stay up later than usual. We played and giggled and read books together.
I don’t really know how to explain it besides that it was quiet, peaceful, and we enjoyed each other’s company. When it was time to go to bed, we sat in his rocker to say prayers and he pointed to the frame on his wall (thanks to our friend E.A.R.) that has a quote from his
name-sake, St. John Paul the Great. It says: There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice. I read it out loud to him and he smiled. Then he turned and pointed to another frame on the other wall, our family picture. This went on and on, as he’d go back and forth, pointing to the JP2 quote then pointing to our family picture, smiling and giggling as I continued to identify each. Then, he did something I didn’t like…
He slapped me in the face, repeatedly. As he whacked me, it hit me like a ton of bricks - There is a correlation between these two frames he keeps pointing at.
C'mon, mama, don't you get it...
There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.
Notice he doesn't say "if love makes demands" or "if love requires sacrifice". He says "when". It's a guarantee. If we want to experience love to the fullest extent, then we also must be willing to face and accept all that it will demand. It will require sacrifice. The definition of sacrifice is an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. These moments in our daily family life (Mark being gone, life being a circus, feeling exhausted, working, doing endless chores, struggling to prioritize our marriage, taming the monkeys,…) are all exactly what JP2 was speaking about. It is our family that is more important and worthy. It is through our family that love makes demands. It is through our family that we are called to sacrifice. It is through our family that we are to learn to grow more and more selfless. And we do not need to be afraid of this.
Most days, I don’t see the big picture. I don’t see how these little moments amount to anything… much less contribute to our growth in holiness or path to sainthood.
But tonight, JP convicted me - they matter. They really do. Because when we do these seemingly insignificant things, we not only do them for our children or our spouse, but
we do them for Jesus, too.
“…the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40, emphasis added).
Thank you John Paul for “slapping me in the face” with a whole bunch of truth. Thank you Saint John Paul the Great for your wisdom and ability to call me to something greater. I desperately needed it. Please pray for us.
Tonight, I choose to not be afraid of the demands of love. I choose to not be afraid of selflessness and sacrifice, even when it means giving up something else I value. I chose to be thankful for the chaos that is growing and stretching me into the woman, wife, and mother God made me to be.
Tonight, I choose love, and I offer it all back to Jesus.