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Alison W Domestic Church Ink Slingers Single Parents Spiritual Growth

When the Kids are Gone: Tips for Single Parents

Being a single mother is stressful. It’s challenging and chaotic. It’s so easy to be stretched too thin and exhausted.

What’s even harder, though, is the time away from them. That was so hard for me and to be honest, for years I dealt with our separations the wrong way. The pain can be intense when we must leave our children due to work or custody sharing and that time is only edifying if it is filled with holy things. The time must be filled with giving yourself to Jesus in some form or another. That can mean solitary prayer or volunteering your time in service to others, but it can’t be idle.   

Idle hands have led me astray more than I care to admit. So I’m going to suggest some things to do when life is crushing you.

  1. Volunteer–find someone somewhere in need of something. Don’t take anything for yourself; just offer it all to Jesus.
  2. Pray–Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and get carried away by grace. Get out your Bible and holy books. Let Jesus speak to you.
  3. Work–Keep busy with things that actually need to be done, whether at work or at home, so you feel like you’ve accomplished something meaningful.
  4. Clean–Yes, this is a job that’s never done, but it can kill time and you will feel better for having done it. 
  5. Reach Out–People around you are hurting and need love. Go visit or call them. Love them.
  6. Enjoy friends–Surround yourself with people who care about you, who make you laugh, and whose company you enjoy. 
  7. Get Outside–Soak in the sun!
  8. Get a hobby–Plant some flowers, learn to paint, join a book club, or learn to swing dance.
  9. Work Out–Throw your energy into taking care of your body, as well as your soul.
  10. Write Lists–Make a list of goals, things to do, things not to do, of what matters. Use the lists to go forward.
  11. Heal Your Heart–It’s a painful place, but feel it. Feel the pain so you can process it and let go. That’s the only way to get the pain out. Cry. Hurt. Forgive the other person. Forgive yourself. 

I encourage everyone in transitional places to cling to the sacraments and to be easy with yourself. Transitional periods of life can take us through a living hell, but you can come out of the fire  stronger and closer to God.  

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

Striving, Growing, Rejoicing: Be Your Own Holy Family

A few weeks ago we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Family. It is a beautiful celebration of the Blessed Mother, Joseph, and the Christ Child. Unfortunately, in the past few years since becoming a single mother, it has become a solemnity of bitterness and disdain for me. Deep inside I saw it as nothing but a feast to enhance my shortcomings. A reminder of how he left us and continues to destroy my Catholic vision of family life.

Fortunately, this year there was a change in my thinking, a shift in my heart that encouraged me to celebrate the solemnity as the paramount liturgical celebration that it is meant to be.

In the Gospel for the day, one hears the customs of the time – Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, as was the tradition – and it may seem like an easily forgettable passage. However in Luke 2:40 it states, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”.

Growth. From verse 40 it screams to me. I think about the growth I have experienced in the past three years. I think about the growth of my children and how they are thriving. I think about the wisdom I have gained. I think about how we may not have the look of the Holy Family in our living room, yet in our home, we are growing closer to God each day.

Coupled with the Gospel, I heard an exceptional homily on that day as well. It is was one of those moments where the priest was speaking directly to me. He said, “Our own families truly can be holy families. All we need to do is strive. To grow ourselves. One step at a time. And to rejoice when we see growth.”

Striving. Growing. Rejoicing. How beautiful is this message of the Holy Family? How important is it to teach our children that no matter the situation we must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in the Lord?

No family can compare to the Holy Family. It is laughable for me to think that I can. And, for me to focus on the shortcomings of my own beautiful family is detrimental. Instead, I must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in our faith-filled life no matter the circumstances.   

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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.

 

 

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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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Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Prayer Single Parents Vocations

TRUST JESUS TO SHOW UP!

One of the scariest places in the world is in a courtroom opposing an ex-spouse. I have known few anxieties that could hold a candle to this type of fear.

God hates divorce; every divorcee knows this. But more than that God loves the divorcee, and that is where hope lies. It’s my theory that God is right about marriage but we are misguided in how we discern marriage. We tend to leave God out of the discernment instead of letting him guide us. My great grandmother was a rock star at discernment and I fear it’s something our generation has lost or even doesn’t know anything about.

One of my court adventures was also one of the most consoling days of my life. Not because everything went right in the trial, far from it, but because it was in this heralding moment that I felt the presence of Jesus by my side.

The purpose of this hearing was a general child support hearing. It was bad for me because my ex-husband quit his job and I knew my child support was about to tank. I had to work two jobs in recent years just to make ends meet, so I knew all too well how this could affect me.

Before court my mom asked me if I’d like her to accompany me. I politely told her I’d be fine and Jesus would go with me. She thought I was being facetious, but I was serious.  I hoped he would anyway.

So I went to court, rosary prayers said and rosary in my pocket. I found myself alone in the courtroom begging Jesus to be with me. My heart was peaceful, but my worry wasn’t gone.

In walked my ex-husband with his new wife and baby. There is a certain pain standing alone against someone that has moved on to a new family while I’m struggling so hard to maintain the first.

I focused all of my attention to ask Jesus to be with me. I prayed and I trusted.

Then Jesus showed up too; I know this because despite having every reason to want to climb the walls (the comments of the opposing table and the fear of what will become a financial burden for me) I was perfectly fine. My heart was peaceful.

The hearing went just like I expected: child support dropped to less than half and smugness from the opposite table. But I was okay, I knew we would be fine. Held up in faith, I walked out the door and down the stairs with my head held high. As I crossed the yard of the courthouse I could feel the bright sun and peace all over. I smelled clean laundry. That smell reminds me of mom’s house, my place of safety. This phantom aroma was a reminder from Jesus that He was with me.

I’ve done some time in the land of single parenting. I’ve cried and had breakdowns. I’ve feared and I’ve stood in faith. I’ve never regretted the days I stood in faith, and despite the fear and tears, I know the most painful days brought me a strength I didn’t know was possible.

Jesus didn’t promise we would not face hard times. He didn’t promise that the people around us would stand beside us or that we would be given a fair cut in worldly duties. He did promise to never abandon us, and He won’t. He comes into the dirt of our biggest fears and stands beside us. He brings mercy and hope that cannot be matched. All he asks is that we trust Him.

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that life is very simple. Trust Jesus to show up and He will. If you know someone that is heading to court, let them know you’re praying for them and help them to trust Jesus to show up. Though we’re stubborn and probably won’t ask for it, we single parents need support.