We often hear the phrase “Parenting doesn’t come with a manual.” But what if it did? What if we trusted God as the Father that He is and sought His guidance in our parenting?

I think of the times I cry out, “Lord, I wish I had a mother to guide me through this, someone who understands what it is like to sacrifice and suffer as only a mother does.”

“Funny you should mention that,” He smiles as He raises His eyebrow to His mother, whom He loves so very much and who has given so very much in loving Him.

You see, there is a manual, and Mary continues to write it for us. It’s her mission to help us in our vocation. Who knows motherhood better than the Blessed Mother?

When I was walking through the adoption journey of bringing our daughter Elizabeth home, the Missionaries of Charity who cared for her taught me a short prayer: “Mary, be a mother to me and (insert request).” I would walk throughout my house repeating, “Mary, be a mother to me and finalize this adoption,” handing it over to her to take care of like a mother does. And when we brought Elizabeth home, Mary rejoiced with us!

There are, however, moments in motherhood when words escape us. We have all watched our children suffer. Whether it be the new mom with a teething baby who is sleep deprived and feels like she is drinking from a firehose with all the knowledge she assumes she must automatically know, or the mom of a teenager whose heart is outside her body with grief sitting on the floor by the living room couch as she prays her child through the night.

Sometimes words evade us. The unknown is too much, and here we meet our humanity. Here is where Mother Mary steps in.

She takes our sleep-deprived, empty well of motherhood in her beautiful and grace-filled hands, because she is, after all, a mother, our mother. We forget sometimes in our own pouring out till the tank is empty that we, too, have a mother beside us. Mary takes this offering and breathes her grace upon it.

I imagine if this offering could be placed on a platter, or in a basket, somehow it is arranged as an illuminated feast for the Lord. You see, she knows who the offering is for because, like a good mother, she knows our hearts. She comforts us, sits with us as we hold vigil with our children, and because she is filled with grace, she fills us from her well and through both this surrender and offering, we are renewed and refreshed in our motherhood.

We are reminded that we are not alone and our hearts lift to heaven in thanksgiving. That is her gift. Mary lifts our hearts to the Father, the source of all wisdom and comfort.

When searching for ways to mother, I have learned best through observation. Though I purchased all the parenting books, none was as effective as watching both good and bad mothers. But when the going got rough, and as children get older, oh how it does get rough, I needed more than just my coffee shop observations.

A good friend led me to the rosary, and my parenting, my marriage and my life have been blessed for it. Here we see Mary as mother in all her glory. She is trusting and rejoicing at the Annunciation. She is worried and frustrated when Jesus stayed back at the temple, and she could not find Him. She is mournful at His suffering in His passion. And she is honored by Him at her glorious Assumption and crowning in heaven. Her model is beautiful.

But in living out her call of motherhood fully she does not stop. What mother ever does? She continues to show us how to mother as she appears to us in her apparitions. With each visit, she shows us what her children need and how to do it. She encourages us.

At Guadalupe, she teaches us how to build trust with our children: “Am I not your mother?” At Fatima, she shows us the importance of being firm and fierce, and she doesn’t shy away from showing the children that hell is the result of grave sin.

As mothers, though it is difficult, we must be that guide. Mary has that chapter covered, too! Her heart is filled in helping us be the mothers God has created us to be. May we turn to our mother in heaven and seek her example and guidance as we mother from the heart.

This article first appeared at CatholicTimesColumbus.Org.