Advent Reflections – December 12, 2015

Before starting this reflection, I would be remiss not to recognize today’s beautiful feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May La Virgen Morena watch over us and keep us safe.


Willing to Make Sacrifices for Others: The Reality of Motherhood

Motherhood in its physical sense is a powerful force of nature. When a woman discovers she is carrying life within her, she is filled with two competing emotions: joy and fear. She is joyful, in awe of the creation that is growing within her. And she is fearful, because she knows that the fulfillment of this growth is a painful birth.

Fortunately for the human race, the fear of childbirth is one of the first sacrifices a mother makes for her child. She sacrifices that fear in order to give her child life. Motherhood is full of such sacrifices, though not all of them on such a grand scale.

A mother sacrifices the music she would like to listen to in favor of her child’s request. She going to lunch with a friend to stay home with a sick teenager. She flies across the country to help her daughter deal with the realities of deployment, sacrificing time and events with her spouse and other children. She denies wanting the last piece of pie.

The sacrificial spirit of motherhood is a spirit of giving. Each sacrifice that a mother makes becomes a gift for the person she loves. Gifts of time, of attention, of life, even of pie.

Who do I make sacrifices for? What is one thing I can sacrifice so that someone else will benefit?

Grace in Sacrifice

As a parent, there are a lot of opportunities to practice the art of sacrifice. The ability to make sacrifices occupies an interesting place in our society, as I see it at least. On one hand, we highly value sacrifice. Think of a person’s quest to lose weight, get in shape, train for a particular event, or prepare for a significant moment in life. We sacrifice time, pleasure and comfort for the sake of our goals. It is important to notice that all of these sacrifices are for our own purposes, our own desires.

Now see the other side of the coin. There are sacrifices not quite so highly valued, and are usually even harder to make. These sacrifices are the ones we make not for our own desires or our own good, but for the good of others. Parenthood is full of these kinds of unglamorous sacrifices. Getting up in the middle of the night because the baby is crying, listening to the same music over and over again at the request of your 3 year old, and today specifically, giving up free NFL football tickets because John is recovering from croup.

american-football-220047_640A unique opportunity came to Ben’s squadron and he is going to be able to be on the field, calling in and coordinating the fly-over for the national anthem. So cool. Roof access, great seats and field access for the fly-over. Incredible. Plus, free tickets for the guys on the field and the families of those actually flying the plane. And free parking. It’s so generous and it would be such a memorable experience for our family. And, I really, really, really wanted to go – it’s not even my team playing but still, come on. It was too good to pass up.

But John was sick. He was up at night coughing, ended up with croup, had to go to the doctor, the whole nine yards. Saturday he was starting to feel better, but definitely still wasn’t himself. Not well enough to go to church that evening, which we needed to do in order to make the Sunday game on time. My decision was made for me. The kids and I had to stay home. There was no other option.

Yet I tried to justify a way where we could go. He’s not so bad, he’s getting better. I’m sure he will be fine tomorrow. But it’s all false. All the mother in me knew what to do and what I need to do for the wellbeing of my child. And still the rest of me rebelled, trying to find a way to satisfy my desire to go to the game.

Into this dilemma, enter a reflection I read on baptismal promises. I am presently in the midst of retreat-like experience through an online group and the link above was for my reading for the day. It challenges us to consider the promises we made (or were made in our name if we were infants) and reflect on how we live them out in our day to day life. After spending some time with this reading, I posted this in our group discussion:

The baptismal promises are, for me, all about trust and the submission of ourselves to God and His will. So, by keeping humility in the forefront, modeling after Mary, I will be doing a greater job of living my baptismal promises.

Basically, the way I understand the challenge to live my baptismal promises is to cultivate a spirit of humility, which will lead me to better trust God and submit myself to His will. Which leads me back to my dilemma, which deep down I knew wasn’t truly a dilemma. I told Ben we weren’t going and that he should give the tickets away to other members of the squadron. That should be the end of my story. Though I made the right decision, my heart wasn’t in it. I had performed the right motions, but with the wrong attitude.

As the day went on, I recognized my inadequacy and slowly, let go of my disappointment, conforming my heart to match my actions.

One thing that this day highlighted is that God’s graces in our lives aren’t always found in smiling faces, in helpful friends or in loving moments. Sometimes, it’s found in disappointment, in frustration and in sacrifices. Regardless of where we find the grace, it is there to help us become more like Christ, both in action and in attitude.

Honking Horns

We were heading home from a grocery store. The kids and I had ventured off base on a rather blustery day (we’ve been watching Winnie the Pooh lately) in search of some more fresh fish for our Good Friday dinner. We actually had a great time at the store. John and Rosie did well and didn’t pull one another’s hair too often. Clare giggled and cooed at all the right moments when friendly shoppers stopped us to cluck and her and comment on how I must have my hands full. We played with the scales in the produce department, John and Rosie guessing how much different items would weigh, much to the delight of one store worker stocking onions. We even remembered to find little chocolates to put in the middle of our soon-to-be-made rice krispy treat Easter eggs (I decided decorating hard boiled this year was inviting unnecessary angst and stress this year so we are opting for a more toddler/young child friendly version).

Everything was going well. On our way home, we stopped at a red light and were planning on turning right. The cars across from us had a green left turn so we were obviously waiting before proceeding even though a right on red was perfectly legal. I don’t trust cars turning left to automatically stay in the left lane and sure enough, cars were using both lanes to turn where I wanted to. We were content to wait our turn. No big deal.

Apparently, however, it was a big deal. The car behind us honked. John asked “Oh Mommy, what was that?” I replied that it was a car horn, but I don’t think it was at us since we weren’t doing anything wrong. Then, a few seconds later, a much longer and louder honk occurred and it sounded pretty close by, perhaps even the car right behind us. A few others chimed in as well – there was a line of 3 or 4 cars all waiting to turn right with us.

No – could they be honking at me? I don’t get honked at, truly. I think I’m a pretty good driver. I don’t speed (much) and living on bases for 4 years has taught me to do a complete stop at every stop sign. I don’t run lights, I do my best not to cut people off. I let pedestrians go first and I almost never forget my turn signal.

Well, the light switched to green and I turned right, staying in the right lane. The car behind me swung around into the left lane and sped past. As the car flew by us, the man driving turned and gave me a dirty look – clearly the impatient and impolite honker. I got so mad!

I was doing the right thing. I was following the rules of the road and keeping everyone safe. I was waiting patiently and not causing a risky situation. What hurt even more was that others joined in that first car. All honking at me, the person doing the right thing. It wasn’t right and it certainly wasn’t fair or just. I said a few things I probably shouldn’t under my breath and drove on, part of me wishing I had followed that car into the parking lot he had to get to in such a rush to make him explain himself.

As we drove home, I cooled off. I started to think about how quickly I let my emotions get out of control. I had just finished explaining to John and Rosie that we were starting a very special time in the Church year and how we remembered when Jesus died and rose for us so we could have eternal life with God in heaven. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong. He was a good Jew, a good listener, a wise preacher, and a good friend. What happened to Jesus, starting the night after the Last Supper and through to his terrible death was not just. It was not fair. And yet Jesus did not complain. He did not lash out, he didn’t try to run away. Jesus accepted all of the hurt, the pain, the injustice and through his resurrection, transforms them into love, peace, forgiveness and salvation.

I’m not saying that having someone honk their car horn unfairly in your direction is in anyway comparable to the sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. However, it is an opportunity to unite yourself in a small way to that sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us. Instead of getting frustrated and upset, I should have remained gracious and peaceful. Yes, the man was in the wrong. But that does not make my reaction right.