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Celeste

Granting Myself Grace & Resting in God

Can I share with you one of my biggest struggles? It’s patience. Having patience both with my children, but even more so with myself. I see my own faults and inadequacies when I am caring for my children with disabilities, magnified and enhanced. It’s as if I had been watching black and white TV for years. Then someone gave me a color TV. My eyes were opened and I saw colors and details I never noticed before. Perhaps this is a universal struggle for all parents. My kids struggle with Executive Functioning Skills, and require an extra ordinary amount of direction for simple tasks. It requires patience; lots of patience. They can achieve just about anything with patience and direction from me. Where the struggle comes in is most often with myself.

The things that go through my mind at times make me thankful that the interior life is strictly between God and us as individuals. (Unless we feel a need for spiritual direction, which I highly recommend!)

Why can’t you move faster, child?

Why must I tell you time and time again?

We’ve done this same thing everyday, in the same way, since your babyhood, and yet you still can’t do it one single day with out my direction? I am so tired, my child. I just need to rest a bit.

And then I see myself in the mirror of their eyes, in the blank expression, in the tears of frustration. I hear it in their voices when they tell me, “Mom, the alarm went off, it’s time for xyz. You need to come NOW.” I get annoyed with the sameness, the routine, the need for direction. It’s in our nature to expect that at a certain age our child will begin to self direct. But this isn’t the case always, and I know that this patience is a need that may go on for years, and even into adulthood. It becomes a time for me to look back at myself and see where I need to grow in order to love better.

Where is my patience? Is God our Father not infinitely patient with my inadequate self? Surely I can emulate some of his patience towards my sweet children. I rush to the foot of the Cross and beg for Mercy on my own inadequacy. He who gave them to me will lead me, if I rely on His Grace.

The thing that really strikes me in these moments is an experience that I have pretty regularly. Being the sole caregiver can be exhausting at times. About once a month, if I am not caring for myself properly, I will feel my patience start to wane and eventually fly out the window. I become short tempered, and easily irritated. My consideration for a child’s needs turns to feeling that their needs are a burden that I care not to deal with. First I run to the Cross, and then I embrace that child. Literally, embracing that child in the most loving manner I can possibly manage so that they feel loved and cared for, purposefully practicing patience and love in that moment and listening with a heart open to what they need. I call to mind how Mother Teresa would embrace and care for those on the street. She wrote one time about how she often did not feel like she wanted to care for someone, but she was the hands of Jesus in that moment. Sometimes, what I’m feeling is absolute repulsion at having to do a certain act once again, but my practice is to do that action with an over abundance of love and compassion, a smile, and gentlest words. I may even feel tears sting my eyes as I reach out to embrace someone in that moment because I am tired and it’s the last thing I want to be doing. “I’m going to embrace You in my child, Jesus,” is my prayer. I turn my frustration and lack of patience into what I would want for myself in that moment, and shower them in acts of love. And something miraculous happens. My irritation, frustration, and lack of patience is transformed. So often, it seems to magically transform into truly feeling love toward my child and being able to embrace those moments with grace.

He gives me a reprieve when I embrace Him in those moments of struggle.

It’s a practice in accepting Grace, for us to allow our brokenness to bring us closer to Jesus. He works mightily in those moments when we allow our weakness and our own inadequacies to become something as an offering to Him to help us grow and change and become for those around us a tool for his mercy.

Prayer
Jesus, work through my weaknesses to help me to serve my children well. Transform my embrace toward my children into the loving kindness that you give to us as our Father so that they may receive from me what you want for them. Help me to be patient both with myself and with them. Amen.

 

 

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Nicole B Single Parents Vocations

Battle of the Bath

I loathe bath time. It’s always a battle. An argument to get in the bath, an argument to get out of the bath. Moldy toys, bubbles, water everywhere. When I was married I would do anything to get out of monitoring bath time. In my humble mother opinion, bath time is the worst. Give me a poopy diaper any day.

Today, with a three and six-year-old, bath time is not the horrible task I once deemed it to be (my six-year-old will even take a shower on his own), but it is still on the bottom of my list of favorite things to do. However, just a few weeks ago bath time provided a moment. A moment to stop, a moment to reflect, a moment to ponder God’s grace through the eyes of a child.

It happened at the end of the 20 minutes of dreaded bath time. My three-year-old was told to let the water out so that he could get out of the tub. My three-year-old is strong. My three-year-old is determined. So, when he pulled the plug he yanked it so hard that the knob on top of it came off in his hand. His eyes were large and his lip quivered as he squeaked, “I broke the bath”.

“It’s okay, we’ll fix it,” I assured him as I hurriedly lifted him from the tub and rushed him to his room. It was at this point that my six-year-old got involved. As I am helping my youngest get his pjs on, I hear my oldest in the bathroom splashing in the water trying to pry the metal stopper free.

“Just leave it, I will fix it later,” I shouted to my oldest.

“No, mommy. I can help. I need to take a shower.”

I could hear him struggling with the plug with all his might. After I had my youngest fully clothed, I returned to the bathroom to find a discouraged and disheartened six-year-old. He left the bathroom and I was left with the plug.

It had been a long stressful day, we only have one bathroom, and my oldest needed to take a shower as he had just returned from swimming lessons. I took a deep breath. It was just me and the plug.

After a few minutes, I realized I wouldn’t be able to pry the plug on my own, so I had to get the tools. In my single mother mind, this is the ultimate frustration. My bath time schedule is now prolonged with this hiccup, and I have to try to fix this on my own. I can feel my frustration level rising. I think of my ex-husband in these type of situations because this isn’t how it is “supposed to be.”

Despite my slight frustration, it actually didn’t take much to pry the plug loose. I got the tools, used the pliers and had it free within minutes. As I jumped up and gave a little shout of glee over my bathtub prowess, my six-year-old came zooming back into the bath.

“It worked, Mommy, it worked,” he shouted!

“Yes! Mommy got it free,” I replied, still feeling quite accomplished.

“I knew it would work. I knew my prayers would work! I prayed to God that you could fix it.”

With that delightful and innocent comment, I stopped cleaning up the tools and took my oldest in my arms. The pure joy and wonder he had in God’s grace was astonishing. Stressful days, bath schedules, and broken plugs were forgotten with his words. A lesson on “not praying for things” could come another day. Instead, we embraced in the bathroom over his excitement and experience with God’s goodness. A perfect reminder to find His goodness every day, even in the dreaded bath time.

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Celeste Single Parents Special Needs Connection

Special Needs Parenting, Solo

 
Parenting is hard work for any person, whether you have one, or two or 8 or 12 children. You learn to strategize, categorize needs, make schedules, chore charts, and instill any other number of flow charts so that life can come together with some semblance of normalcy. It’s not different for me, parenting 4 children, more than half with special needs, keep the house running semi-smoothly, running between 4 different schools throughout the school year… solo.
 
Yes. Solo.
 
My answer to that common question of how I do it is simple; I survive on grace. And coffee. I’m not some extraordinary super-mom, and I have no secret recipe. I simply have grace. (And don’t forget the coffee.)
 
Though I lack the partner that I wish I had to help me carry this yolk, I do have a great Advocate that I call on, minute by minute, to help me through the tough stuff, and the daily grind. I would be failing miserably in my motherly vocation without the grace that God showers down on me in every second of the day. He is my help, my sounding board, my advocate, my strength, my confidant, my advisor. I wish I could tell you that I just ring him up and have great back-and-forth conversations about the kids everyday, and/or that He advises me and consoles me when I struggle with something. But it’s not so. I do a lot of waiting on being shown the way, and a lot of trusting. God is definitely teaching me patience. The reality is that I have a lot of advisors and people that I run things by, especially when it comes to things that I feel unqualified to decide about. My kids therapists and special ed teachers are invaluable resources that I call on. I’m not always qualified, but they are. When my children outgrow a particular resource I stay in touch with those people that have come to know us and our circumstances so that I can take advantage of their knowledge and experience. They become my friends. God provides!
 
As a singleton, I struggle with being patient and waiting for the right answers to become apparent. Some days, when I struggle with a pertinent question regarding one of the kids care, I very timidly make a decision with the best of intentions after having educated myself to the best of my ability, through knowledgeable people and research. Someone once told me that I act bravely when I step forward and advocate for the kids in this way. I don’t feel brave. I’ve resigned myself to acting bravely on their behalf. I may go home and cry after a meeting where I had to tell someone that something wasn’t acceptable for my child, but in the moment I put on a brave face because that is what my child needs me to do. Isn’t that what any parent would do? I don’t have any different power or control than any other parent. I do, however, often feel in those moments that I wish with all my being that there was an equally invested heart that I could pass the torch on to. The burdens can often feel greater than whatever strength I might possess, but God has never failed to provide for a moment of relief when I need it.
 
On the subject of relief, as the years have gone on, one thing has become absolutely clear to me. Though my circumstances do not always allow for me to physically go away from my house or my children to rejuvenate, it is still absolutely necessary for me to take moments wherein I can rest and refresh myself. I truly believe that our Lord does not want me to burn out. As a special needs parent that is very easy to do, and very dangerous. As a singleton, it carries some serious consequence. Locking myself in the bathroom for five minutes to read a short homily isn’t indulgence, it’s feeding my soul and my mind. I spend the few extra dollars to buy the nice smelling soap, to enjoy my five minute shower so the shower doesn’t seem like one more chore to fit into my day. (It’s easy to go 3 or 4 days without one when the toddler can’t be left unsupervised for even a second.) I’ll find a new book and keep it in the car to read while I wait in the pick-up lines at schools. These are simple things, and at times it feels indulgent or I’ll have this mental conversation about how “you don’t absolutely need that cup of coffee that someone else is making you and those dollars could go somewhere else”. But you know what…it’s really nice to have someone else make you that cup of coffee. They are truly doing me a huge service. In doing these things for myself, I realize that I am also doing my children a service by teaching them several things. One, that I am deserving of time, respect, gentleness, and refreshment (and not necessarily a drink). And two, that sometimes mom needs to be out of sight for a little bit of time to be able to come back and be the advocate that it is necessary to be.
 
The vocation of caring for special needs children is not lessened in value or dignity because of my singleness. This is something that I struggled with and worried over for quite some time. My children are not illegitimate because I am divorced. They are still loved by God, perhaps in a very special way now. Because I parent without the other parents involvement, at times my children feel abandoned by their  father. It is a heartbreaking thing to say out loud, and I cry as I type this. They have questions, they have struggles. It is a huge sorrow to carry. It is something that we must grow through, pray about daily, and run to our Heavenly Father to console us in those times of utter brokenness in spirit. At times I may feel that it is more than I can carry alone, but the truth is that miracles abound in our life on a daily basis. The understanding and insight that my older children have now is astounding at times. I truly believe that by virtue of the Sacraments, I have been given the graces and ability to carry this vocation adequately as a singleton. And not just by receiving the Sacraments myself! I think that the Lord has mercifully showered down grace upon my children through their baptisms and through the Sacraments that they participate in as well. When my children watch me faithfully approach the Sacraments, and speak of them like they are medicine for my broken spirit, they too come to appreciate and desire the graces that come with participating in them. That’s not to say that it is an easy journey, (have a teenager prepping for Confirmation? You may be able to relate!), but it’s hard to argue with reason and Truth. And Love. As long as I speak and act with love and understanding I think that, and I have been assured that, the Lord will not abandon my children in this burden they carry.
 
Do you know a single parent that is also a special needs parent? Here are a few things that you could do for them that would be of great service to them.
  • Sit with their child or children so that they can go to Confession.
  • Are you going to the store, and live close by your special needs parent-friend? Call them up and offer to pick up something from the store for them since you are already going that way.
  • Have a Mass offered for them. Please do this! There are communities that have enrollment for perpetual Masses.
  • Invite them over for dinner. They will really appreciate not having to cook! (Ask them to bring french bread or something easy.) Or bring them a frozen meal. There doesn’t have to be a special reason. 
  • Ask to come visit them for a few minutes at their home. Often times special needs parents don’t get to leave the house very often to be social. They are often isolated for long periods of time. It is a great service to visit them even for a few minutes. (Maybe you could let them get that shower in uninterrupted!)
  • Ask how their kids are doing. Inquire about their child’s needs. Sometimes that can be overwhelming for us to share about and we tend to give shortened/condensed versions of things to not overwhelm people. We can feel like we’re burdening others with our children’s needs sometimes. But if there is one thing in particular that you already know about their child’s disability or needs, ask about how that is going.
  • Bring them flowers, a new board game, some muffins, a movie and some popcorn… just because!
  • Talk to their child/children. They are people. They have feelings and like to be acknowledged, too.
  • And lastly, pray for them! Pray for parents, pray for the children.
Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Mass Motherhood Nicole B Prayer Vocations

Father’s Day Liturgy: Cheerios, Tears, and Prayer

Mass with a five year old and a two year old. It’s a beautiful, chaotic, maddening, complicated adventure, isn’t it? The longest hour of the week for sure. How can 60 minutes seem so excruciatingly slow one morning, but the next day, let’s say when I am rushing to get one to school and the other to daycare it whizzes by?

Prior to March 24, 2015, I was never so proud as when we went to church as a family of four. In my mind there was nothing more beautiful than a family worshiping and growing in faith together. Sure it was a challenge with little ones, but always a time that I treasured, honored, and looked forward to each week.  

Fast forward a year and three months, and I am absolutely anxiety ridden about taking my children to mass. It’s ridiculous to think that way, I know. Church is a safe haven, but as I sit there trying to juggle a preschooler and a toddler I am constantly reminded that he left us. That he is so ill that he cannot comprehend that he would have been supported, cared for, and forgiven within the Church. He has left us and it is now just me, the boys, and a bag or two of Cheerios in the fifth pew.

On Father’s Day 2016 I ventured to mass with my own father and two children. Armed with a bag of church appropriate goodies (which I was very much against when we were a family of four) I was determined to have a peaceful, faith filled hour. My soon-to-be Kindergartner got it. He did great, the toddler was a young two, so it was the typical struggle of an inquisitive 27 month old.

But it wasn’t their behavior that caused the anxious pain in my heart that day, they were actually quite well-behaved on the third Sunday of June. Instead it was the message. As I tried to squash my single mother anxiety when I prepared for mass that morning, I didn’t think about the possible homily. I didn’t think about the message that might be shared on our first official Father’s Day without him.

The priest began with statistics. Statistics about children from a fatherless home. The priest spoke words like, “low self-esteem, poverty, addiction…” These words made me uncomfortable, a little angry, somewhat sick. “Those will not be my children,” I thought to myself. However, before I could dwell on his statistics, the priest said (quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), “when human fatherhood has dissolved all statements about God the Father are empty”. This idea played over and over in my mind, as I held back tears. It made perfect sense – if one doesn’t understand what it’s like to have a human father, it is difficult to understand and trust in God the Father. With that statement my purpose became clear. After that statement, my dedication to sharing the faith with my children became renewed. I vowed to live a Catholic vision of family life for my children no matter the circumstances.    

With this in mind, I sought to answer two questions:

  1. How can my children even begin to understand God the Father without their own father as an example of Christ?
  2. How can I help my children to trust in the Lord when they have already experienced so much heartbreak in their young lives?

These are complicated and loaded questions that will most likely take me the next 20 years to answer, yet I have in my heart a simple plan: model and pray.

It’s a great responsibility to model our faith for our children. Our behaviors are what truly reveal our beliefs. It can be frightening when we become aware that our children are listening to us and watching us much more closely than we ever realized. We are the first and the primary teachers of faith to our children. I never expected to carry that responsibility on my own, but my situation only strengthens my commitment. I know that I must model the faith in hopes that they can experience the true love and trust of God the Father.

Along with trying to model the faith for my boys on a daily basis, I pray. I pray so fervently for my children, for my parents who help us everyday, for our supportive friends, for my former in laws, and for him – my ex-husband, their absent father. At first, those prayers were extremely difficult. There was, and still is, so much anger towards him. However, I pray for him. I know that it is a necessity. It’s the greatest modeling of the faith I can do for my children. I pray for him every.single.day. I pray for him at night. I pray for him in the car. I pray for him in moments of sheer single mother panic. I pray for him when it’s just me, the boys, and a bag or two of Cheerios in the fifth pew at Sunday mass.