Archive for Marian Mothering – Page 2

The Virgin Mary Had Stretch Marks Too

“His mountains are misshapen yet stunning; His canyons broken yet whole; His blotches of clouds resting on a pink sunset sky imperfect yet breathtaking.”

There are some moments of mothering that I wish I could hold in my hand forever.  Moments that are the perfect snapshot of imagery, words, and emotions.  Moments that are impossible to capture on film, yet remain indelibly imprinted in my memory.

I’ll never forget one Saturday morning as I sat nursing our newest baby.  I was dressed in sweats, wearing no makeup, and my hair was in a haphazard bun.  I have to admit I was feeling like the definition of frumpy:  tired, dirty, and a little blue.  Suddenly, my two year old looked at me and said, “Mommy’s pretty!”  I looked at him and smiled, and a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds of my little pity party.

Madonna and Child, DaVinci

Madonna and Child, DaVinci

“Mommy’s pretty.”  Those two little words sum up a child’s ability to spot true beauty–their ability to look through the messiness of this world and see the work of God shining through.

My son had it right.  It’s in the little acts of love that real beauty resides.  As mothers, our bodies are ever changing, ever working, ever sacrificing.  We don’t fit into any mold of earthly beauty.  We wear battle scars of pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing as our badges of honor.  Our hands are rough from hours in dishwater, diapers, and laundry.  Our feet are neglected as they stay busy playing with our children, walking our babies, and driving the car pool.  And we all know what happens to our waistlines after bearing new life into this world.

We mothers may not be perfect in appearance by the standards of this world, but we only grow in glory in the eyes of God.  He created beauty.  He knows what inspires a sense of awe and a stirring in our depths that confirms to our souls there is, indeed, a great and glorious God.  His mountains are misshapen yet stunning; his canyons broken yet whole; his blotches of clouds resting on a pink sunset sky imperfect yet breathtaking.

True beauty is the physical manifestation of authentic love.  Was this never made so clear as by the body that was bloodied, bruised, and broken for the sake of our sins?  Do we not look into that exhausted, sorrowful, bleeding face underneath the thorn-pierced brow and see something beautiful beyond words?

Mothers, you are magnificent!  That stretch mark?  Beautiful!  Those dry, cracked hands?  Lovely!  Those crow’s feet and gray hairs?  Stunning!  A body given to the service of God is a body worth celebrating.  Let us turn our focus from what we know betrays this truth, and focus on the little moments of beauty we encounter every day:  a mother nursing her baby, a child being carried by loving arms and a strong back,  a womb that is nearly bursting with the next priceless gift to our world.  Cover and protect your bodies, not out of shame, but out of a sense of growing in sanctity as your temple of the Holy Spirit matures gracefully with time.

Did the Virgin Mary have stretch marks too?  I’m guessing no one really knows the answer to that question, but she was God’s masterpiece, the new Eve, the one worthy to carry His Son.  I believe her soul was housed in a body that did, indeed, carry physical reminders of the days she spent bearing and caring for our Lord.  She was, after all, perfect.

Thy Will Be Done

Charisse & Baby Faith

Charisse & Baby Faith

I gaze at my newborn daughter’s delicate features and feel my heart ache as it struggles to retain this moment that will go by all too quickly.  The joy of a new birth is soon mixed with the bittersweet awareness of the passage of time, and I am filled with the impulse to hold onto my daughter with possessive and jealous arms with no intention of ever letting go.

As I observe my other children going about their busy lives, the contrast of the peaceful stillness of my newborn snoozing blissfully at my breast creates an acute awareness of how quickly new baby squeaks and tiny baby toes turn into first toddler words and running toddler feet.  My two-year-old reminds me that self declared independence and weaning can happen sooner than I expected, and it doesn’t seem possible that my older children are gaining so much knowledge so quickly, playing at friends’ houses for hours at a time, and going to sleep-overs.  I can easily find myself ensnared by the temptation to long for something that cannot be–to wish that the moments of cuddling my newborn could last forever–to wish that my children could simply stop in time as they journey down the path to greater independence from me and assure me of how much they still need their mother.

Then I realize that this is why I parent the way I do.  Attachment Parenting offers my children the foundation of trust and love that is essential for them to carry out their God-given purpose in this world.  By being in tune to their needs and responding to them through my presence and actions since the day they were born, my children have a strong sense of self worth and moral integrity that will not easily be broken by the pressures of this world.  Attachment Parenting gives me the bonding time that I need with my children so I can be confident that I will guide them in the way God intended.  I love it when my baby needs to nurse or clearly just needs some snuggle time with me.  I never feel more needed than when one of my older children specifically wants me to play that game with him, read that book to her, or put that band aid on.  It is in these moments that our mutual trust and love become evident and our souls are bared so we can truly get to know one another.

I realize my children are a gift, not just to me and my husband, but to the rest of the world as well.  And while, as parents, we are their primary caretakers, we are called not to selfishly claim them and their abilities as our own, but to give them back to God as they learn how He wants them to serve Him.

As St. Peter Damian said, “Let us detach ourselves in spirit from all that we see and cling to that which we believe.  This is the cross which we must imprint on all our daily actions and behavior.”

So while I sometimes wish I could lock myself in a room and keep my newborn’s snuggles all for myself amidst the flurry of new baby visitors, I understand that my beautiful daughter already has a greater mission in life than filling my heart with joy.  She has the ability to thrill grandparents with her precious baby coos, to delight other children with her miniature proportions, and to remind all who see her of how sacred new life is.  Just as my baby daughter carries a unique ability to bring others closer to God simply by being who she is, so are my other children blessed with talents and abilities that will allow them to carry out the specific missions that God has planned for them.  My parenting style gives me the intimate moments with my children that I need to have the strength to detach myself when God is calling me to allow His child to do His work–a strength I call upon more and more as my children grow up.

Perhaps in these moments of child-led detachment we experience many of the same feelings that Joseph and Mary did upon finding Jesus in the Temple.  Mary asks, “Son, why hast thou done so to us?  Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”  And Jesus replies, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  (Lk 2:49)

Our loved ones are not our own.  They are precious gifts from God who, if we fulfill our vocation well, will never need to be sought with sorrow, but rather released with joy to do the work of our Father in heaven.

During this Holy Week, I pray that I might emulate Mary as Christ’s Way of the Cross became her Way of the Cross.  I’ll soak up these early years of holding my children close and make a choice in every moment to lead them closer to God by my word and example.  And as my children’s moments of independence fall faster and closer together, may I release them whole heartedly back into His care with confidence that my  personal fiat will inspire them to respond always in the words of Christ, “Thy will be done.”

A Living Prayer

Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi

My patience has been running a little thin lately. I’ve found myself grumbling a little more at my children and heaving my shoulders in big sighs, even as my conscience is telling me to be more gentle, patient, and joyful in my vocation. On the brink of complete frustration in my perceived failings as a mother, I suddenly realize why I am struggling lately.  I’m pregnant!

While pregnancy can be a time of great joy and anticipation, I will admit that it is also sometimes just plain difficult, tiring, and painful.  As a mom who has always practiced extended breastfeeding, I find myself now nurturing two little ones with the outside of my body and one with the inside! Some days I literally feel completely drained by dinner time.

So I have to ask myself, “What is God’s Great Plan in all of this?” I believe I am parenting in the way He has guided me, but why does that seem so difficult at times?

As I look to Mary, our Blessed Mother in heaven, the answer becomes clear.  God has not presented me with pointless trials and difficulties during pregnancy, but with great gifts of opportunity. He gives me the opportunity to emulate — through the very flesh of my own body —  the virtues lived by Mary.  My children find joy and peace when I happily sit down to comfort them at the breast or simply give them a hug. Kindness and goodness are evident when I seal a wound with a bandage and a kiss. Generosity shines forth when I nourish their little bodies with food before sitting down to eat my own, and gentleness triumphs when I teach them proper behavior with a soft word and natural consequence rather than yelling or ineffective punishment.

And love? Motherhood gives us all the evidence we need to confirm that this is, indeed, the greatest of all the virtues. For God has given us mothers the wonderful gift of being able to completely give our bodies over to the nourishment of new life.  This is what it means to be a woman who is called to the vocations of marriage and motherhood. We are not only called to make good choices for our bodies, but to make holy choices that are fully in line with the will of God.  It is only when we embrace our femininity the way that God designed it, and give ourselves over to the love of God and our family, that we will truly know who we are and feel at peace that we are on the path to heaven.

Mary was so perfect that she was assumed both body and soul into heaven.  I am grateful that, as an attached mother, I too have the opportunity to strive toward her complete holiness.  I have the opportunity every day to live life as a prayer through the actions of my body. This is the Theology of the Body: our bodies are a reflection of the interior of our souls.  I am honored that God has given me this unique ability to give myself to Him in such a way.

And the extra fatigue, aching back, incredible weight gain, and days when I feel I have been constantly poked and prodded by little hands and feet both inside and out?  I’ll gratefully accept those, too, as an opportunity to overlook discomfort in favor of growing in the virtues I’ll need to carry my family to heaven.

Babywearing by Amanda Carnes

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Thank you to Amanda Carnes for this wonderful introduction to the benefits of babywearing!  Amanda Carnes lives just outside the suburbs of Chicago with her husband Scott and three children aged 7, 4, and 1. They have been homeschooling since 2010.  They practice an attachment parenting, which blends with their Catholic faith.  Amanda is a licensed esthetician, and worked as a make-up artist before becoming a mom. She now focuses her time on raising her children, and supporting mothers in breastfeeding as a La Leche League Leader. She blogs at www.crunchyandcandid.blogspot.com

 

Amanda and her very content baby!

Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying your baby in a sling or other form of carrier.  Many experts feel that babywearing is an effective way to promote attachment to the infant, calm crying, facilitate breastfeeding, reduce the risk of post-partum depression, and have free hands to attend to other tasks/children.

Catholic counselor, and host of More2Life radio program, Gregory Popcak, has written extensively about attachment parenting, and its benefits. He and wife, Lisa, encourage parents to wear their babies in his book Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Perfect Kids.  He talks at length about the benefits of attachment parenting, and I recommend his book to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of attachment from a Catholic perspective.

According to Dr. Popcak, one of the extraordinary benefits of babywearing is that it facilitates “entrainment”.  He explains, “Entrainment is a kind of invisible but very real umbilical cord that exists between a mother and child for about the first year after birth” He goes on to describe how entrainment is important for many mechanisms in the baby.  Babywearing helps to “train” these mechanisms (breathing, and stress coping) by keeping baby close to the mother.  He also beautifully describes how baby is wrapped in mother’s womb for nine months, and then baby will be wrapped in mother’s arms.  As Dr. William Sears put it, “nine months in the womb, nine months out”.  Babywearing is a self-donative practice, a giving of yourself, it helps baby to adjust to the outside world.

We know from the gospels, that we were made to love. “This I command you: love one another.” John 15:17. What an awesome way to show love to your baby, keeping them close to your heart in a carrier!

Babywearing is not a new found fad: Babies have been worn for centuries. Women of indigenous cultures have countless wa

Loss

In seventeen years of marriage, my husband and I have said goodbye to people who were very dear to us.  When one of my sisters unexpectedly passed away, it was my husband who tenderly shared the news with me.  When word of his father’s passing reached our home, it was I who had to find the delicate words to speak.  But this week, unlike the times before, we received word of our loss together.

The image on the screen was not wholly unfamiliar.  Between my husband’s professional knowledge and the fact that we’ve initially met each of our eight children via ultrasound, we recognized the dark space on the monitor.  Our eyes searched for something more.  What we saw was a very tiny person, someone we’ve not yet greeted, and someone who we will only meet in heaven.

Neither one of us was prepared for the situation.  I don’t think it ever occurred to us that we wouldn’t have the chance to raise this baby.  We were so looking forward to the joy of another child in our lives.

In this culture of convenience, I was ready for the onslaught of criticism for being open to a ninth child.  I was ready for the jaw-drops and eye rolling.  I’ve been through that before, but this time I was fiercely armored with God’s strength.

I’m not sure why these things happen. Though, in my sadness, I trust that God allows life to take its course.  He never wishes for us to sorrow, but uses our trials to draw us closer to Him.  I weep for this loss, but I also trust.  I trust that I will grow as a wife, as a mother, and as a Christian.

The funny thing about loss is that it makes you aware of how intensely you loved.  I loved this baby from the moment I thought I might be pregnant.  I prayed constantly for him and said often how thankful I was that he was a part of me. This brief little life was spent entirely being loved – a love that won’t cease to exist.

So here I sit, with my reddened eyes, returning over and over to the dates on my calendar, hoping for a gross miscalculation.  I wonder if I somehow caused this loss.  Did I run too intensely, too far?  Did I unknowingly ingest something toxic?  Was I simply undeserving of this gift?  Or, I pray, was I the mother specifically chosen to eternally love this dear little soul?

I believe that there are lessons woven into all of our experiences.  Will this help me to appreciate my family all the more?  Will I be a more compassionate, tender friend?  I hope so.

The beauty behind attachment parenting is that it recognizes the great love and sacrifice that goes into parenting.  We aren’t burdened by love, but blessed by its bonds.  This baby, whom I’ll never hold in my arms, nuzzle close, or gently kiss, gave me another opportunity to nurture to the best of my ability. 

Miscarriage feels so counter to the role of parenthood.  We’re supposed to protect our children, but the circumstances require us to let go.  God is with us, though.  He knows the depth of our love, our sorrow, and our pain.  His love will soothe us, and His hands will carry our child to a better place.

Photo credit: Oremus (photos.com)

Little Leavings

Kim’s son Aidan in NYC

This week I really felt like the parent of a teenager.

My 13 year-old son Aidan received an invitation from his aunt (Philip’s sister) to visit her for a week in New York City.  He would fly alone and spend the week seeing the sites with Auntie Anita, her husband, and their baby boy.  What an opportunity!  He was so excited and intrigued:  He could talk of little else from the time we told him about the invitation until the morning he left.  He’s an aviation buff, so I wasn’t sure if he was more excited about the plane ride or seeing New York City!

This wasn’t’ the first time he’d traveled alone.  When he was 9, he flew as an unaccompanied minor to visit his Great Aunt in northern Minnesota in December.  That’s right: a California boy in the heart of Minnesota in the winter.  (He was actually born in Boston but doesn’t remember much of his years there.)  My aunt and her husband own a home on a lake surrounded by woods:  very different from our California suburban existence.   We believed and hoped the Minnesota adventure would be a great experience for him.  He had a week of sledding, ice fishing, and bonding with second cousins.  However, looking back Philip and I think he was a little young to have gone alone that week.  He still needed some intensive parenting from us across the miles.

The first night he was there, he was frightened and phoned us on the cellphone (which we’d given him “just in case”) several times in the middle of the night crying.  Everyone was sleeping and the house was dark.  He didn’t feel comfortable, he was confused, and he didn’t want to be there.  Things improved each day and by the last few days he was enjoying himself.  On the plane flight home he choked on a piece of hard candy.  He was talking about how scared he was over the choking incident for several days afterward.  It must have been very scary indeed to feel vulnerable already on a big airplane alone and then to find himself at the mercy of a lump of candy lodged in his throat with no mom or dad around to help him.

Fast forward 4 years and off Aidan went on a giant airliner — as a regular passenger not as a minor — headed for one of the most overwhelming cities on the planet.  What a difference.  My boy had a wonderful time on his trip to New York City.  He phoned us every night to tell us what he had done during the day and sent us photos of himself visiting the popular sites – the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Concorde, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and more.  He had a ball.

He wanted our advice about practical things:  how to handle a problem with the prepaid credit card we gave him, what to do about a rash on his neck, what he should wear on the plane flight home, and that sort of thing.  But he didn’t need the kind of emotional support and encouragement he needed to get through his week in Minnesota.  Our involvement this week wasn’t about helping him survive a difficult separation from us.  It was about listening attentively while he shared his joy and enthusiasm, helping him navigate small bumps, encouraging his capability, and reminding him of our love and support across the miles.

He demonstrated a level of confidence and competence that, quite frankly, caught me off guard.  My baby is really growing up.   I found myself feeling a little blue for the first few days after he left, not just because I missed him, but because the evidence was mounting that my darling boy is beginning to find his own footing.  My role as his mother is changing.  I realize I need to grow into my role as the mom of a teen just he needs to grow into his big feet and hands.  I recognize that our children are moving toward greater independence from the day they can crawl (even earlier).  But Aidan’s self-assurance on this trip drove home for me that he’s beginning his journey toward adulthood, preparing himself for the destiny God has planned for him apart from me.

“Boy Jesus in the Temple” by Adriaen van Der Werff

During the week I thought of the Gospel account of the boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52).  When he was 12 years old, Jesus became separated from his family during a caravan trip to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover.  Frantic, his parents went searching for him.  Like any human parents, Mary and Joseph must have been sick with worry, wondering what had happened to their boy.  After 3 days they “found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

Jesus wasn’t anxious or frightened; He didn’t turn himself into the Passover lost and found.  In fact, in the Temple the people who heard him speak were “astounded at his understanding and his answers.”  Luke 2:47.  At last reunited with her son, Mary said the same thing just about any mom would say:  “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  Luke 2:48.  Jesus responded: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Another translation is: “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s work? “

In both translations, Jesus is asserting his divine sonship and holy destiny.  He’s letting Mary know that the time will come when he’ll have to set aside his family ties in order to attend to God’s plan for him.  Mary was obedient to her Father, too.  She didn’t grab her son by the ear and say,” Is that right, Mr. Smarty-Pants?!  Just wait ‘til I get you home. I’ll teach you never to scare me again!”  Jesus left the temple with his parents and “his mother kept all these things her heart”.  It would be many years before Christ’s public ministry would begin, but this Little Leaving was a signal to Mary that Jesus’ Moment in History was coming.

Aidan has many years to go before he’s ready to leave home, and he’ll continue to need guidance and love as he gains spiritual power and wisdom.  But for the first time I have glimpsed that day.  Aidan’s moment will come:  the moment when he realizes his vocation and when he decides how he will respond to God’s unique call for him.  This week was just a Little Leaving, but there will come a day when I’ll release him to his future, to go about his Father’s work.

I will let go.  I will let go not because I want to, but because I have to, because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s my own Yes to God, because it’s part of my journey in my vocation as a mother.  When I think I can’t bear it, I’ll have our Blessed Mother to help me.  She truly understands the suffering of parents as they release a child to his or her destiny, mission, and even to a cross.

Aidan is home now.  He had a tremendous adventure that he’ll never forget.  When I picked him at the airport I tried to play it cool so my mom-ness wouldn’t freak him out, but I think I cracked his back for him when I hugged him.  We had dinner before we headed home.  At one point during dinner he said, “I’d like to take another plane trip soon, but next time I want the whole family to go.”

This says a lot, doesn’t it?  He is finding his footing, moving toward independence, but he still loves us, still appreciates us, and still feels connected to us.  For now, he still needs us, though perhaps in a different way from his youth.  Oh, my heart is so very glad!

Marian Mothering: Gentle Discipline Rooted in Respect

I have written and re-written this article more times than I’d like to admit.  Every time I thought that I had finished, something just felt off. After a lot of reflection and a great discussion with my husband, I realized that my challenge is with the word ‘discipline’ itself. 

If you were to ask anyone besides my husband, they would very likely say that  I don’t discipline at all.  To most outsiders, I am probably a little too relaxed, and we’re just lucky with a well-behaved child.  We are very lucky to have such a wonderful child, but we also work very hard to create a respectful relationship that allows us to be a little more relaxed.  We don’t discipline her.  We respect her, recognize her wonderful spirit, and work to fulfill our role as parents by anticipating unnecessary challenges.  This process takes time, love, and a great amount of prayer for Mary’s intervention.

On the outside, you will see a beautiful girl making snacks for herself, choosing her own colorful outfits, and usually, stomping in the closest mud puddle.  She also has a say in what we have for dinner (usually “corn-on-the-bob”), and helps plan our vegetable garden.  Many of the choices that she has would be off-limits in some households, but to us, there is no need to exercise unnecessary control.  She is clothed, so why would it matter if she is wearing a pink flower dress with a shamrock sweater and green rain boots?  The girl loves color.   She also often chooses her favorite ‘corn-on-the-bob’ or peas for a dinner vegetable, but she’s eating vegetables!  It’s OK if we eat them a little more often than we would like.  We respect her, and so she gets to exercise her voice. 

That being said, we draw very strict lines when it comes to safety.  A hand is always held when we are in crowded areas, parking lots, and close to water.  She is not allowed to wander off on the property without one of us, carseat is a must, and stairs are not yet tackled alone.  These lines, and a few others, were drawn early and with many patient conversations.  Unless the situation becomes dangerous, we always have a quick conversation explaining our reasoning behind something that we have to do, and we always give her the option to remove herself before we help her. 

This method, as you can imagine, requires a bit more time and patience than other methods.  However, we have found that giving her the opportunity to make these decisions, and arriving at a point where she can say ‘ok, I understand that it is not safe’ fosters her intrinsic confidence and trust.  It can be challenging to be patient.  Sometimes, when I’m tired, or I have to eat again to battle the insatiable pregnancy hunger, I think for a moment about just removing her from the situation and coping with the consequences later.  I am happy to say that I really can’t recall a moment where I have done this, but the thought serves as a reminder that I need to turn to Mary more often for the strength to recognize that Clare has her own unique needs, and I have to let go of my desire for unnecessary control in certain situations.

Clare is an actual person.  She isn’t just a malleable child.  She functions with passion, purpose, and intent.  She also may have a plan and mission for the day that makes perfect sense to her, but I don’t completely understand.  In these moments, I turn to Mary for guidance and reassurance.  I recall her respect for Christ’s mission, even though she didn’t completely understand the magnitude of His purpose.  She likely didn’t understand all of His intentions as well, as we are reminded in the story of Jesus remaining in the temple when Mary and Joseph left to return to Nazareth. 

When I find myself becoming frustrated, I try to remember that I may not completely understand Clare’s intention in a particular situation, and that she is of course inherently good.  She does not begin her day thinking “How can I make this challenging for mom?”.  Instead, she goes about her day trying to learn, enjoy, and grow.  As her mother, it is my job to work to understand her needs and desires, and to recognize that it is OK if they are different from my own.  We work together to love and enjoy our day, while deepening our respect and trust for each other.

Mary has served as a wonderful teacher to us, showing us that we are nurturing and fostering a beautiful light of spirit.  We’ve created a great balance of play and conversation, rooted in respect.  For us, this balance of quiet and peaceful discipline remains, as long as we always return to Mary’s example of her great love and respect for Christ’s magnificent mission.

Marian Mothering: A Brief Introduction

Editor’s Note: I am thrilled to present to you Lisa Stack’s inaugural article on Marian Mothering.  Lisa will write a monthly column on this topic.  Welcome Lisa!

Lisa Stack with daughter Clare

I’m Lisa, Catholic  mom to a beautiful daughter and a son on the way!  On a monthly basis, I will share with you on CAPC my practice of mothering in Mary’s image.  This is a method that has evolved (and continues to do so) over time with great reflection on my role as a mother, and how this role enhances my faith.

This is not a guide to parenting; it is a journey to further understanding our role as ‘Mom’ and how we can deepen our connection with Christ, through Mary.  While it may initially appear complicated, it is simply a two-step practice of taking each challenge or joyous event and applying the following two questions:

  1. How did (or would) Mary approach a similar moment with Christ?
  2. How does my appreciation for Mary as a fellow mother, further my understanding and love for Christ?

In light of this month’s Table Topic, I will explain a brief example of this practice using my personal struggle in recognizing Clare’s independence, while yearning for her to stay my sweet baby forever.

Over the past few months, Clare has taken great steps to learn what it means to care for herself.  She prefers to wash her own hair, brush her own teeth, select her own clothes, and even dress herself.  She hasn’t exactly mastered these tasks yet, and I find myself wanting to jump in and help – but I don’t.  I take the challenging road of waiting patiently, until she asks me for help.  I hate to see her get frustrated when she just can’t get her foot into the right pant leg, but I know that she has to do it herself.  She desperately wants to do it herself, and I respect her process.

Initially, I found myself experiencing grief over her increasing independence.  I knew that it would come eventually, but I didn’t understand how challenging it would be for me to watch her grow and change so quickly.  As my heart ached, I looked to Mary for an example of strength. She, too, had to let her child grow and change.  She had to let Him venture out into a world alone, where not everyone would love Him.  I imagined her wanting to keep Him close and safe, knowing that others would not understand His mission.

Although Mary may have wanted to keep Christ for herself, like I want to keep Clare, she let Him go.  I drew from her strength, and her unconditional love.  I also appreciated Christ in a new light.  I saw Him through the eyes of a mother, not just as one of the many He sacrificed His life for.  Suddenly, the thought of letting Christ go out into a world where many would reject and persecute Him became far more painful, and my love for Him grew.

Imagine, for a moment, watching your child struggling to put their own pants on, while knowing that they were the son or daughter of God?  What strength and love Mary must have had to not just pick Him up and hide somewhere to keep Him safe.  What faith she must have had in God, to trust in His plan, even when it caused such great pain.

Although there is a great difference between Christ’s great sacrifice, and Clare’s morning ritual, I have come to a greater understanding of both Mary’s strength and Christ’s great mission.  When I find myself feeling grief over Clare’s independence, I remind myself of Mary’s strength, and the importance of respecting a child’s mission – even if it is, for the moment, conquering purple leggings.