David and I were fortunate enough to have all the kids home for Christmas. From all corners of the country they came, beginning the week before the holy day, one by one — by plane, by train and by bus.
The younger girls, still at home, were abuzz with excitement. I won’t lie: While each homecoming consisted of whooping, laughter and giant hugs, all the glorious commotion had its bumpy points too. You can’t bring 12 people together, half of whom are adults themselves with independent lives of their own, and mix them all back up in their original family without a few little jolts here and there along the way. If parents are wise, they will know and accept this as just part of the young adult return landing.
I liken it to the inevitable turbulence when taking off or landing a plane. There are just air pockets that exist. There is a particular nature of plane flying that cannot be avoided, and even the best pilot has only so much control over the smoothness of the ride coming in.
Unless one is in inclement and unusual weather, turbulence in landing a plane is usually short-lived. So it is with the bumpiness of a family reconnecting under one roof after weeks or months of being apart. Individual schedules, personalities, ideas and expectations have to be respected and accounted for, but generally, it is rather quickly that everyone acclimates, and we are happily one again in all our quirks and glory, our imperfect, perfect “familyness.”
Every mother will tell you she is happiest when her little family is all together. I am no exception. For about a week there was overlap: Everyone was here. It was heaven to have them all my little chicks under one roof. The first night I could hardly sleep, in the dark, quiet house. Just like when they were little, they were all tucked in their beds, safe and warm, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Nothing could harm them. For the first time in probably a year I prayed for each one, one by one, while they were actually physically close in proximity to me and to each other. Time flew back, in my mind, to when the oldest was a preschooler. After roughhousing and proclamations of resistance, a hot bath, toothbrushing and more than a few books read snuggled under a favorite blanket, the little ones were rounded up and prayed with and for, and put to bed. After several instances of their dad or I bringing them glasses of requested water, they would fall asleep.
Tonight, the house was quiet again, just like then. I savored every minute then, and I savored every minute again when they came around this year, for Christmas.
A mother can intuit her children’s needs. She knows their strengths and weaknesses. She knows how to encourage and build. From the time her children are little, she aims to help them improve and learn, be challenged and grow. There is a delicate balance between offering advice and guidance, and telling them what to do, especially as they get older and have become grown up themselves. We never stop being their parents, yet we must respect their individuality and autonomy, just as we wished our own parents would respect ours.
Our family of 12 did not attend our home parish for Christmas Eve Mass. I was grateful we were all together, though, as we entered the neighboring parish church we had chosen. I had a few very special intentions for which to pray, and high hopes for inspiring words. I must admit, my eyes and mind wandered during the homily. I looked up and down the pew and a half where my offspring and our bonus daughter were sitting. As I looked at each person of mine, each child I had borne, there in the warm church on this most holy of holidays, I sensed specifically all the different things each needed physically, spiritually and emotionally.
As the list ticked through in my mind, I became overwhelmed at my smallness in their current lives. I was discouraged, realizing my inability to fix all their problems, remedy particular difficulties and generally be a comfort, support and challenge all at once in a most perfect way. It wasn’t like I could wash off a cut, kiss a boo-boo and put a Band-Aid on it as in the days of old, or simply offer a hug, an ear and a mug of hot chocolate and automatically things were better. Even in the midst of the joy of all my children being together, of our family being whole again on this Christmas Eve, I was suffering.
I briefly closed my eyes and inwardly cried out to the Lord internally, “I can’t know exactly what they need. I can’t give them all they need!” Strongly and immediately, deeply in my heart, I heard Him. I knew it was Him.
“I can and will provide for them.”
This sudden thought planted in my mind startled me. In crying out internally, I hadn’t expected an answer, but it was just the answer I needed.
At that moment, I was overcome with peace and relief. This was the Lord speaking in my soul, of this I am certain. Suddenly, my own ineptness, weakness and inability to fix everything did not matter. Our God is a faithful God and He has my children in the palm of His hands.
I believe we mothers (and fathers too) are meant to be channels of grace, the grace of God to be exact. We aren’t supposed to be a “hands-on,” perfectly acting, responsible-for-everything parent all the time, especially as our children get older and grow up and move out of the house to begin lives of their own. We guide. We set the example. We train. Then we let go. We are asked, at this point, to be open, willing and vessels of God’s love and action. We say “yes” and allow God to work through us, but we also stand back and let Him do His thing. All this I understood in that one moment, at Christmas Eve Mass, with my mostly separated children together once again.
You see, God loves our children even more than even the best parent could. He created each of our children out of nothing, for their own sake, so they can know, love and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him in the next. He has counted all the hairs on their heads (Luke 12:7). He formed them in their mother’s womb. (Jeremiah 1:5). We must, as 1 John 4:16 tells us, “… know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
The Christmas holiday is over. David’s and my children are long back to their new homes, back to their adult lives. I miss them every day. I am still concerned about their concerns, care for their troubles and stresses and pray diligently for them. However, I also feel peace and comfort knowing that even as much as I love them, God loves them more, and I am more confident now than ever that whatever I lack, He will fill. He will, in fact, give them each exactly what they need.
Commission of the Care of Soul and Body
Into thy hands, Mary, I commend the bodies and souls of NN. I ask thee to provide for them and to protect them. I ask thee to protect them from the evil one. I ask thee to enlighten their minds, strengthen their wills, and refrain their appetites by grace. I also ask of thee all the things I ask of their guardian angels. St. Michael, call down from Heaven the legions of Angels to protect them; I ask all the things I ask of their guardian angels. Guardian angels of NN., under your intellectual and volitional protection I place their bodies. I ask you to illumine their minds and refrain their appetites. I ask you to strengthen their cogitative powers, their memories and their imaginations. Help them to remember the things they should and not remember the things they should not. Help them to associate the things they should and not to associate the things they should not. Give them good clear images in their imagination. I ask you to drive away all the demons that might affect them while they sleep (or throughout the course of the day). Help them to sleep and if you should deem it prudent, direct their dreams. Help them to arise refreshed.
From Deliverance Prayers for use by the Laity
Nihil Obstat Father Cliff Ermatinger
Imprimatur Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop of Denver
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