I woke up this morning to my sweet husband kissing me good bye. He was off to men’s group for our church. He said good bye and then said that he was going to go to confession after men’s group and I should bring the kids to town so that we could go too. It had been a few months since we had gone to confession and it was definitely needed. My response to him was a groan and I muttered, “I’ll see what I can do.” I snuggled deeper into my covers. Oh man. I knew that I needed to go. More importantly, I knew that it was my job to take the kids. Guilt won over. I stayed put for a minute, or maybe thirty, and then I rolled out of bed. Do the right thing. Be a good mom. Take the kids to confession. Take yourself to confession. Ok. I hate waking up in the morning. I am not a happy waker-upper. I really hate to get up early on a Saturday, which for me is anything before 7. I am up before 6 everyday of the week, and I loooooove that extra hour of sleep on Saturday. But the husband was right. We needed to go to confession. So I did one of the few things that I hate more than waking up early…I woke up the sleeping, and therefore quiet, children. I dragged their sorry butts out of bed and we were in the car by 8:30.
I would like to take a minute and explain something. It is not that I hate going to confession. In fact it is quite the contrary. I love to go to confession! I know that a lot of nonCatholics, and honestly probably a lot of Catholics, misunderstand confession. They might not see the need to confess their sins to a priest. They can just tell God that they are sorry. And obviously they are right! Of course you tell God that you are sorry for the things that you have done that were wrong. But there is a sort of closure that comes from talking it out with a priest, especially if you are blessed with an awesome confessor like I am. The feeling that follows a good confession is unparalleled. There is a lightness in your heart and a peace that settles over you. Ahhhh. When I walk out of confession I always wonder why I waited so long to go in the first place. The sacrament of confession is a gift that the Catholic church gives to us that I welcome with open arms. My reluctance was not with going to confession, it was waking up.
Anyway, back to this morning… As I climbed the steps to the church, I was thinking about how things had been. I have been very stressed and feeling overwhelmed. I have been really cranky and irritable. In fact I had been so bad last week that my husband brought me home flowers and a cute little mug. When I asked him why, he replied that he wanted to do something to make me smile. I guess that I hadn’t been doing that…you know that happy smiling thing lately. (sigh) After the kids went to confession, it was my turn. I walked into the confessional and pulled the door closed behind me. There is the standard wall thingy with the little window and curtain that you can kneel in front of if you wish to remain anonymous. I don’t do that. I walk around the wall and sit in the nice comfy chair and talk to Father face to face. It is really a matter of personal choice. For me, I like to be able to look at Father. It helps that his eyes are always full of understanding and compassion, much as I imagine Our Heavenly Father’s eyes would be. Father knows me well. He has seen me through many things, the good, bad and the ugly. I was hoping that he would help me to figure out what was going on. Because, contrary to popular belief, I really don’t like to be unhappy and grumpy.
I started with the sign of the cross and began my confession. Without going in to great detail, I started to talk to him about the things that have bothered me. In true Father Bryan fashion, he listened to me talk it out. As I started to sort out my thoughts, I realized that it all came down to a lack of focus in my prayer life. Sure, we are somewhat consistent with family prayers and I pray for my family and friends throughout the day. But I am talking about my own personal prayer life. I will sit in my chair and read the daily readings in the morning, but I don’t feel any connection. I feel as if I am merely going through the motions. To be honest, half off the time I have no idea what the readings are even about…2 minutes after I read it. I just can’t shut off the racing of my mind long enough to focus on what is right in front of me. I have felt a distance, a longing. It’s like I know that He is right around the corner waiting for me, but I just can’t reach Him. The lack of focus is discombobulating in the truest sense of the word. It throws everything else off. I feel “off” and therefore I am irritable and crabby. I snap at those that I love the most, my husband and kids. In turn, I feel bad because I know that I am being ridiculous and mean, but I can’t stop what is coming out of my mouth. And then it hit me. I am a wife and a mother. I love being a wife and a mother. I truly, in my heart of hearts, believe that is the vocation that I am called to. I thank God every single day for making me a wife and a mother. But I sit back and see my kids growing up . Each one seems to grow up a little bit faster than the one before. They are all learning so many things and each new thing makes them more independent. They need me less and less. My baby is walking and talking like crazy! I have two kids that can drive on their own now. As nice as that is, it is bittersweet. I have always enjoyed our car chats and I realize that I miss them. Actually, a lot of motherhood is bittersweet. As mothers we teach and guide our children. We counsel and preach. With each milestone that our children reach, our hearts swell with pride, but a tiny piece breaks off. Our children pick up that tiny piece and take it with them, but we are left with a little hole. At first, you barely notice it, but as each child continues to grow and pull away, the hole continues to grow as well. I know that is how it’s supposed to work, but right now I feel as if my heart is like swiss cheese. They are moving forward and I am not. I am stagnant. I am not growing. Brian also has things that pull him away. He is very involved at church. He teaches Faith Formation at our church as well as at the Catholic church in Kittanning. He is involved with our church’s men’s group. He coaches the 4th, 5th and 6th grade boys’ basketball teams. These are things that use his God-given gifts. I am so proud of the things that he does. I am so proud of him. I love that he is so active in church and involved with Isaac’s basketball team. But again, it can be bittersweet. Sometimes, I feel left out, maybe even a teensy bit jealous. Again, I am stagnant. I am stuck. I am lost. Where did I go? I used to be a person! I used to be an individual with my own thoughts and goals. I was the one growing and changing. I was the one learning. I was the one taking tiny pieces of my parents’ hearts. I don’t know where I went.
At this point, I stopped talking and looked at Father. He had sat back and let me talk it out myself. But now it was time to listen. He looked at me and said something that I finally heard for the first time. In his quiet way, he said, “You are a wife and a mother. But that is not what gives you value in God’s eyes. You have value to Him only because you are you. Yes, He has called you to be a wife and a mother. But He loves you because you are you. It is that simple. He… loves…. you… because… you… are… you. You need to hear that. You need to really listen to me.” I have told my kids that very thing over and over again, but this was the first time that I really believed it for myself. As the tears started to stream down my face, I felt the holes in my heart start to close up a little bit. The healing of confession had begun. I was receiving the grace of the sacrament in abundance. Father went on to help me make a plan to regain the focus that was missing from my prayer life. He insisted that I carve out quiet time each and everyday, even if it was only for a few minutes, to pray and read the bible. He agreed that once my focus was back, everything else would fall into place. I would start to find me again.
I think that as wives and mothers we have a tendency to throw ourselves into taking care of our families and forgetting about ourselves. If we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of anyone else? We have all heard this a million times, on airplanes, at the doctor’s office, on shows like the Biggest Loser. You have to put yourself first. You have to take care of yourself or you won’t have anything left to give to anyone else.Put on your own oxygen mask first. … blah blah blah… So why is it so hard to put into practice? It’s simple…being a parent/spouse is all about sacrificial love. Your spouse and children become everything to you. You love them so much that your focus shifts to them. You do things for them, not because you have to, but because you want to. You love them wholly as much as your human heart can. You love them because they are them. The thing is to remember that God loves us wholly too, but His love, unlike ours, is complete. His love is what will heal the little holes. His love is Holy…So yes we need to take care of ourselves. But the best way to do that is to allow Him into our hearts. Really open yourself up to let Him in through prayer. That will bring back the focus. That will start us in motion again. That will help us to start to grow again…