Magic

Life Lessons from a Two Year-old, Motherhood, Uncategorized

Three Christmas seasons ago, while I was pregnant with Hank, one of my fellow teachers gave me a Christmas card that I will never forget. Inside it she had written: Your holidays are about to get sooooooooo much better!

I didn’t get it at the time, but boy, I sure get it now. This Christmas has been infinitely more special, already; thanks to the excited little two-and-a-half-year-old who started his Christmas countdown at Halloween. (He made one adorable little “Ho-Ho,” minus the white beard!)

Don’t get me wrong–I have always loved Christmas, but I have never loved its tendency to overwhelm me each year. No matter how prepared I am. There’s such high expectations, and only so many days to get it all done!

Then there’s the whole “meaning.” We debate so much about what Christmas is all about; whether it’s the birth of Jesus or the giving of gifts or the spreading of holiday cheer. The battle of “Presence” vs. Presents. The scramble to do all the things for all the people you love, that you can’t seem to find time/energy/motivation to do throughout the rest of the year. Is this really the only time of year we can take the time to send out a written greeting to our friends or take a family photo? To make a batch of cookies and take some to a friend? Or bring chocolates to your best customers? It’s usually the only time I do any of those things! And then there’s the unavoidable holiday stress; the long list of to-do’s and check-offs and projects and wish-lists. It is so easy to get wrapped up in it all! (Pun intended)  🙂

However. The wise prediction in that dear teacher’s card was spot-on. The Christmas blues tried to get me down this year, but luckily, my little boy’s spirit wouldn’t let them. Not this year! Not with this precious toddler, filled from his blonde ringlets right down to his chubby little toes with anticipation and excited energy. Filled with absolute magic.

Santa hasn’t even gotten here yet, and already this has been my most meaningful Christmas, by far. Now that I have truly seen Christmas through the eyes of my child–through those innocent blue eyes that don’t see to-do lists or piles of unfinished wrapping–I have also seen the magic.

Because ALL he sees is the magic.

After tucking him in last night, I stayed a while in his cozy dark nursery, watching the light from glittery snow flickering on the walls as it spun in the special snow-globe his daddy bought him a few weeks ago. And as I sat there, I saw the Christmas magic. But the magic wasn’t the Santa in the snow globe, or the glittery snow floating around him in the current.

The magic was the curly blond head peeking out of the blanket in the crib just below it, peacefully dreaming about “Ho-Ho.”

(And likely, the “big huge excavator” that he’s hoping Ho-Ho will bring down our chimney soon.)

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(And popsicles. Not a night goes by where this boy doesn’t dream about popsicles.)

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Faith, Motherhood

I wear a special silver medal around my neck each day. A delicate, flower-bordered medal from France; the image of Mary with her sweet baby Jesus on her lap. This medal is what I hold onto when I need a little divine intervention, a little extra patience, or a bit of maternal support as I feel (and pray) my way through motherhood.

My whole life, I have felt a special connection with that sweet young mother, our holy Mary. The ultimate mother. The Mother of God

Maybe it’s because I have been raised Catholic all my life, or maybe just because I have always wanted to be a mother above all else. But for whatever reason, Mary has always been my comfort. I can’t remember when I started directing my prayers her way, but I still almost always choose Mary herself to pray to.

Those long painful years when I wanted a baby more than anything? I wore my Mary medal of comfort around my neck and prayed to her at night to please bring me my own baby, someday.

I think she must have heard me, because eventually, she did. When my miracle baby started to grow in my tummy, I felt more connected to her than ever. Two years ago this month I was four months pregnant, and singing at a beautiful baptism mass at our church brought me to tears. I couldn’t take my hands off my belly. My tiny baby had just started to move in the weeks prior, and he danced in my tummy that entire mass as we joyfully sang about Emmanuel; the baby Jesus who was coming soon. Just like in the Bible when Elizabeth’s baby boy (John the Baptist!) danced in her tummy at the sound of pregnant Mary’s voice when she entered the room, (in Luke 1:41) he was also leaping with joy. I think both babies knew the Lord was near; they could feel the Holy Spirit.

And a few months later, during those long-but-wonderful, exhausting first weeks and months of motherhood; it was still Mary to whom I prayed. Constantly. I asked her for guidance, for patience, for energy. I asked her to help me be a good mother, like she was.

I guess it’s my blind faith that makes me know, without a doubt, that she was a good mother. I guess we don’t really know that she was–we never hear all that much about Mary actually mothering; we simply believe that she gave birth to her baby boy that first Christmas night and laid him in that manger. We all know how the story goes; there was no room at the inn, but she made do anyways. In a barn. She did what she had to do, like all mothers do (and have done, throughout the ages). She did the best she could, with what she had to work with. And mamas have been emulating her ever since.

We also know that Mary accepted her role with pure grace–her only warning a visit from the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38). She accepted her life-changing news wholly, and without questioning. 

Talk about pressure! It’s daunting enough to bring any child into this world, but to carry the Son of God? And raise him? Now that’s some serious motherhood pressure! 

Even though I always felt connected to Mary, I didn’t really–fully–get it until I became a mother myself. I can’t imagine her anxiety during that pregnancy. Her hopes and her fears for her child’s future. The beautiful, yet brutal beginning to their family story–what with Joseph almost leaving her when he heard the news, and then the whole having a baby in a barn adventure. Yikes!

Talk about grace!

Hail Mary, full of grace.

I often wonder whether mother Mary was funny, or playful, or if she was all business. But I never wonder whether or not she was a good mother. I know that she was. 

Mary has guided me through many a tough time, insprired me to be an accepting and open-minded mother, and comforted me on countless occasions. I believe that in spite of our many differing views in our myriad faiths, we can all benefit from keeping Mary in our hearts and our minds. Even if it is just the idea of Mary.

As a proud Catholic, I acknowledge that our fierce adoration of the Blessed Virgen Mary may at times garner us criticism from other Christian sects; but I personally believe that our high esteem for her is something that the Catholic faith has gotten right. 

I think Pope John Paul II nailed it when he said:

“At the centre of this mystery, in the midst of this wonderment of faith, stands Mary. As the loving Mother of the Redeemer, she was the first to experience it: ‘To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator’!”

Hail Mary, full of grace. 

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

My dear fellow mamas–past, present, or future:

This holiday season, and beyond; take comfort in the grace of the Blessed Virgen Mary, and find her peace in the craziest moments of motherhood. She is watching over all of us, with love. 

(And personally, I think she watches over the mamas just a tiny bit more closely.)

Ave Maria, Gratia Plena.