Of Nail Polish and Elbow Grease

Palm Sunday morning, I woke up to the clinking of bottles in the master bathroom. I thought nothing of it until I rose from my bed and entered the bathroom. There, in the floor, was my miracle baby – a terrible two, no doubt. She sat surrounded by puddles of nail polish on the laminate floor. Upon closer inspection, she too was covered with the light mauve-lavender nail polish.

My first reaction was rage. Not a good thing for a Catholic mother of two (four-and-under), busy working mom, and wife to admit. You see, my miracle baby has been transformed into a mischief maker with a distinct mind of her own. I have been left with the task of always being a step behind and sometimes a moment too late behind this little two year old tornado.

My second reaction was despair. It was 8 a.m. and I had myself, my four-year old, and this lovely specimen to get ready for 9 am Mass. I wasn’t sure at that moment whether my husband, a new, but quite casual Catholic, would be joining us. I was uncertain of my ability to accomplish anything.

Prior to glimpsing the catastrophe in the bathroom, I had sent a text message to my parents. They are truly my miracle-makers as they continually offer and care for my children in times of need. They live next-door, definitely not my husband’s cup of tea, but priceless to me. When my dad arrived, I lead him to the scene of the crime and continued scrubbing little feet and legs with polish remover (non-acetone). He stared as I glared at my daughter. Then he quietly and calmly took her from my grasp. I handed him the sponge and polish remover along with clothes for Mass and bid him luck.

I wish I could say that prior to Mass I forgave and forgot the woes of my morning. I wish I could say that looking out at the bright sunshiny morning relieved me of my gloom. I even wish I could say that once I entered that holy place that transcends time and space that my misery and eyes lifted to God in His glory. However, I am honest enough to bow my head and admit, even as I mouthed the words of Mass and sang the hymns, my mind returned to the mess at home.

I usually clear my mind and unburden my soul at Mass. Not necessarily as I enter, but at least before I leave. Yet, this day, I have to say that never did my burden leave. Even after Mass and the most holy sacrament of Reconciliation, my heart stayed heavy and my burdens loomed.

As I sit here and write this post, I know what I should do and the mental exercise needed to lift my eyes to God’s glory. But, I am finding it hard to see the glory for the gloom. During Reconciliation, the priest advised me that I’d lost my motive for life. Our motive should always be to love and live as Christ to on another. Honestly, I feel that life is shouting “crucify her” as the people did at Jesus on that passion-filled day. I feel that like Peter denied Christ, I am being denied. I feel that I need rest and succor in order to survive, but Father told me instead to bow my head and serve others with a joyful heart and lots of elbow grease.

I need to gird my waist and wash my children’s feet as Christ washed His disciples’ feet. Not out of obligation or necessity, but out of love and respect. Instead of that imitation of Christ I find myself standing before Him asking that this cup be passed from me. However, it is an insincere imitation as I do not bow to His will, only mine. I comfort myself that at least I know what I’m supposed to do, even if I struggle mightily. So while I can’t be certain of the joy in my heart, I am bowing my head and adding my elbow grease to the mess of my life. Perhaps with Faith, the joy will ensue.




  • JanineApril 5, 2012 - 6:12 am

    Thanks for this article, today. This is where I am too — grudgingly stumbling along, complaining away like the Israelites in the desert, and finding that Joy is something I have to really, really work at. These things too shall pass. If it’s any consolation, When my most difficult child was two, I also had a 4yo, and was pregnant with my 3rd, and every single day had some new and major incident in it. I’d call my mother in tears several times a week because I had no idea how I was going to coach that kid into adulthood, or even adolescence, without one of us dying. She was really something else. So hang in there.ReplyCancel

  • BirgitJApril 5, 2012 - 2:59 pm

    Sorry and ((hugs))…it seems many of us are facing our own ‘trial by nail polish’ so to speak!ReplyCancel