Apr 27, 2016

A Road Paved with Struggles Leads to Heaven

I was young(er), in love, and super excited about getting married. My husband-to-be and I talked endlessly about God's plan for us and for our future family. We agreed wholeheartedly to always be open to life, to let Him set the number of kids we would welcome. Early in our marriage we would go to daily Mass almost every day. We enjoyed Bible studies and prayer groups, choir practices and co-rec softball. Sometimes we would sneak away for a trip to a Cardinals game in St. Louis or for a dinner out with good friends. Then, just 10 short months into our marriage we had our first precious daughter. In that single moment, within the echo of her first cry our whole life changed – as a couple and as parents.

All of a sudden life became challenging in whole new ways. We went from worrying about what Chris would wear to work and what was for dinner, to praising God for having clean clothes at all and for take-out food!  We read all the books and listened to our friends that had kids already, but nothing at all could prepare us for being parents. Like so much of our lives, if we really knew how it was going to turn out would we do what's next? Would we take the next step, make the scary phone call, or send that important email? We all know the answer is NO!

Even though we wish God would write it all out clear as day, He's not going to.  If we always know how things are going to turn out, then we'll never step out in faith and trust. Instead He asks us to “walk by faith" and to “trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.” We don't know what God knows. We can't see what He sees, yet, by stepping out in faith we can participate in His plan for us more fully.

I'm only 8 children and 12.5 years into my mothering journey, so definitely not an expert by any stretch, but I am certain about one thing: Being a mother is just plain difficult! Lately, it seems that being a mom has been harder than usual and I know I'm not alone. Countless mom friends have lamented about children's behavior, bad school days, spiritual dryness, etc. We all want to throw in that proverbial towel at times or maybe auction our kids off on eBay (just kidding)!

Like I'm prone to do, I've been seeking reasons as to why everything feels so off, especially as a mom. Am I doing something wrong or different? Is there something I'm not seeing or hearing? Do I pray enough, read enough, sleep enough, exercise enough? Are the kids getting enough of me? What about my husband? I could interrogate myself to death and still come up with no logical explanation for the seemingly endless drudgery of my days. So I said to myself, why not let the readings of the day  smack me upside the head instead? Listening to His word is a much more fruitful exercise than mental selfbeating! So in today's first reading Sts. Paul and Barnabas are preaching to a large crowd and they say this, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” There it is ladies and gentlemen, the answer to why things are so difficult lately – because that's my path or your path, the road I need to walk or you need to walk, to get to Heaven.

My vocation is marriage and motherhood and in theory I always knew it would be tough after the “I do.” In real life, though, I had no idea it could be so hard. As I get older (and wiser) I recognize my road to Heaven is paved by each and every struggle. It's easier going if I embrace those struggles and carry those crosses instead of weaving in and out of them trying to avoid them and instead tripping and falling flat on my face. Every cross that I pick up and carry (the sleepless nights, countless heartaches, homeschooling hardships, financial stress, etc.) is one that He is helping me carry. When I remember that I'm not walking this road alone and that I never have to, the crosses become lighter.

Our God is an awesome God (go ahead and start singing), but really and truly He is, especially in the
way that He knows us, you, me, our children. He knows exactly what we need when we need it and who to put in our lives to help us on the road. So my advice to myself (and to you) is to trust that God has it all figured out and keep on keeping on. It's easier said than done, of course, but always worth remembering. When we're in the trenches and it seems dark and lonely, those are the times He's right there ready to help we just need to ask Him and to trust Him.

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