Settle in, friends. Here’s a long one…
It’s a late night. Worry has taken the night away. The possibility of the few precious drops of sleep that I so crave will soon drift away with the sunrise, and I cry out to my God for strength and help. Wrapped in the warmth of blankets upon my bed, I seek the warmth of His loving arms. Oh, that I could hear His voice and be wrapped in His loving embrace. The image is at the forefront of my thoughts right now because I am in need of Him.
I am no mommy superstar. That title is not mine. These eight precious souls watch me for guidance and though I strive to guide them, I fall so frequently that I fear that will be their memory. I am struggling so much with this adjustment from homeschool to Catholic school for my children. “The letting go and letting God” thing… easier said than done. I am reflecting on why we made this change because it is so easy to live in the beautiful image of the glory days. The reality is that I am the mom of 8. Amazing. Kids. Each with such unique needs that the homeschool environment that we could provide would not meet all of their needs.
A dear friend visited over Thanksgiving this year. You know, the kind of friend that you don’t see or talk to very much but who fits you like a glove — whose smile brightens your soul and whose kids you love like your own. Yes, this is my friend. She has a son who has Autism. We were chatting about how things were going. I put on my happy face and said things were great — even though we were crashing and burning. I remember getting up and going into the kitchen to get a glass of wine. We have a breakfast bar with a large open window into the living room. My friend casually mentioned, “You know, Max has a team of 10 people to help him succeed. Are you ten people?”
This year two of my children were given the diagnosis of being on the Autistic Spectrum coupled with ODD, ADHD, and SPD mixed with anxiety disorder. We knew there were challenges and had developed some strategies to help them but things were getting too difficult. Two of our children have a neuromuscular disease called Arthrogryposis, confining them to wheelchairs and mandating a level of care that can be intense. We are also blessed with four more children who deserve all the love and attention we can give them. I am sure God will reveal more of their needs as they continue to grow. But just taking care of the typical needs of 8 children is intense without adding in the other stuff!
As I cry my eyes, wishing to bring my children back home because I miss them and wish I could give them everything they need, the reality that their care requires a team is humbling. I remind myself that humility is knowing who you are and who you are not and what you can give and what you cannot.
I wish I could give the physical therapy and the occupational therapy my kids need.
I wish I could put braces on and off while making eight sandwiches for lunch and talking a very anxious child down from his mental cliff, who is about to rage because he lacks my undivided attention.
I wish I could be reading books to the other children and have dinner ready and laundry done and meanwhile have scheduled every therapy, doctor, music lesson, church camp, etc.
I cannot. I cannot give at that level, and yet I still keep myself awake with the guilt of not being able to provide it. I find myself at mass begging the Lord to help me let go.
But as I stated, humility is knowing who you are and who you are not (according to Fr. Michael Schmitz). (Those following me know this quote has resonated in a great deal of my writing lately.) I am a mother. I am a wife. I feel created to teach and love and, well, mother my children. How do I reconcile that with the fact that their physical and emotional needs are more than I can provide for on my own? At times, I have prayed for the Lord to send someone to us like a permanent Mary Poppins. (Heck, The Brady Bunch even had an Alice.) I don’t like asking for help. I never have. Humility. It’s a big thing, isn’t it? Our parish priest Fr. David Sizemore is a holy man, and he reminds us often: There can be no true Christian charity without those willing to accept it.
Saying goodbye to your vision of how your life “was going to be” is hard. The “normal” of the life we have created is almost too normal for us. It’s like I can’t step back and see how extraordinary this life really is. I am so stuck in my own loss and grieving of the mother I thought I could and would be that I am not allowing myself to be the mother God wants me to be — now. My identity was so steeped in being MaryBeth, homeschooling momma of eight, that now, just being MaryBeth, mom of 8 seems wrong…somehow.
I know that having my children attend school does not mean that I do not love them or think that homeschooling is not right. How I wish I could give that to them! It is a gift indeed and I pray for the mommas out there who have been given that gift that they will appreciate it and live it fully every day. But God, He has a plan that is ever-changing for me. I am trying to see that eventually, once we get used to the early wake-up hours, the packing of 8 lunches (4 gluten-free, one dairy-free), and the onslaught of homework, that a new rhythm will be established. I have a son for whom this setting isn’t working right now. I know his anxiety levels and I feel his knowledge of his differences so acutely. I am trying so hard to build him up and to find the right solution. Jesus help me. I pray that read alouds with my kids will happen again. I pray that family prayer will pick back up again in a more routine way. I pray that my children will love me for what I am giving and that I can let go of what I wish I could give.
Have you ever been stuck? Have you ever felt like you wish you could give more than you can or than you are? These are my night thoughts. I woke my husband telling him how thankful I am for Holy Scripture in my life because I can recognize and call out the foxes in the vineyard trying to steal my joy, and yet there are moments when a chicken or two might meet its demise. There is a saying: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it robs today of its strength.” (Corrie Ten Boom). I have let myself be sapped of strength by my worry.
But we must be strong! We must persevere and call on Jesus to show us the way. These are the truths I know. These are the truths I believe. He has a plan for us — a path laid directly to his throne. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” Amen, Sweet Saint. It is in that trust that I place my life. Amen.
I wrote this entry a few nights ago and the next day went to daily mass, still trying to seek the joy in this path yet I was pretty frustrated with the Lord. I lectured that day and Father was giving a homily that I was not listening to. I was blocking it out because it did not start with “How to solve your problems with God.” Or something else that would solve my internal conflict. You should have seen my body language. It said, I’m here because I want something from you, Lord, but I am not willing to give you anything from me. And then I heard it. Our priest was speaking about how the Lord does not want us to hide out talents and treasures under a bushel. Pope Francis says, “Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave.” And so I asked the Lord and here is what he said. I want you to share.
Share. The Lord wants me to share. He wants me to take these children of His and share the joy of loving them. He created them for such a time as this, that their experiences thus far and forward will enable them to live a life worthy of emulating. I cried out to the Lord, But why my children? and he answered, Why my son?
The Lord is calling us all to step out and be brave. I love our Holy Father’s words because I can share them with my anxious ones and give them courage. They give me courage! Yesterday we went to living stations of the cross performed by our children’s school. My little one kept his teacher enthralled as he pointed out the characters in the stations. (His oldest brother was John of the cross and another was singing the Stabat Mater in the choir.) He knew the characters and songs from home and was singing them to her. I began to see these families at this school as people who genuinely want to pass on the traditions of the faith and who love Our Lord probably more than I do at times. A veil was tearing and I could see a bit clearer. As families reached out to say hello, and share how they knew me through one of their children being in one of my children’s grades and how they were impacted by having my family in their school, I realized God’s purpose is so much bigger than mine.
And so I let go.
I give it all, my everything, to Our Lord and I let Him use it to His glory.
Raw and beautiful, MaryBeth:). Keep up the writing! So glad you’ve joined us at our local school! My son is in class with your fifth grader and I LOVE that my boy has the chance to make a new friend and see that people with a physical difference are more alike than different. I hear you on the struggle to educate children of varying needs. I think you’ll find our parish and school a community that works hard to include children of all descriptions. You’ll meet many friendly and supportive mommas here who are traveling down the road with many of the special needs you’ve mentioned. Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for sharing!