Grace

What I know now….

It was a little over 5 years ago I entered into the classroom for the first time. It’s crazy to think it was that long ago, yet, it seems like yesterday. Nick and I had just moved to Sugar Land, I was coaching a 10U select team with a seasoned and wise softball coach, and I had decided I would also help with the high school softball team when it came time.

At this point, Nick and I had barely been married a year; he transferred to a new city he had never lived in before and honestly he didn’t like it. I had already dealt with 3 deaths of people close in my life in the first 6 months of our marriage. We had bought our first house so we were also navigating new home ownership for the first time in the midst of all these changes. It was fun and hard. I was working over 70 hours a week trying to be the best teacher I could be and gone for the weekends with a traveling select softball team. Needless to say, I was busy. Nick decided to look for a new job 6 weeks after his transfer down with Chase Bank. Nothing really seemed ideal at this point. Our marriage was strained but at least we had each other.

Then, in the midst of it all, the following January,  Nick and I made the decision to take in his mother who needed our help. She was in really poor health, at the time, and we knew it was the right thing to do – no matter the timing. She has Parkinson’s and, at the time, she had this diagnosis for 10+ years but the condition of her health 5 years ago made it apparent that we needed to help, get her to see the best doctors we could in Houston and try to keep her alive. It was a really scary situation for everyone and not a very easy transition. Overall, we made it work and now she is in much better overall health. For the last year or so, she has lived on her own outside of Dallas. We couldn’t be more happy about her progress.

But this isn’t what my blog is about, really.

During all of this, at my job at a Christian school, I kept hearing this word: GRACE. I heard it a lot. I heard it a lot in terms of my teaching. You see, I am a tough teacher (or I was). But what I had a hard time understanding back then was how to get the kids to be motivated. What I really mean…. is I didn’t know how any student couldn’t love school as much as I did. BIG WAKE UP CALL.

My first year was R-O-U-G-H. I learned I’m the 10% of students that actually did what the teacher said as far as homework, studying, reading, etc. Now, I wasn’t the brightest student but I worked my ass off in school. I had a hard time motivating those students who weren’t like me as a student. I was young and so that presented another issue of authority – I was rigid and unwavering. The principal at the time was hard on me – really hard on me. I think he knew I was good but also knew I had a LOT to learn. So GRACE kept popping up in our conversations. I think by the end of that year I would have vomited if I had heard that word one. more. time. GRACE.

A few days ago I was driving the boys home from “Donut Friday” and I thought about all this. I laughed because ironically our daughter’s middle name is GRACE and I laughed at how fitting it feels to us to name her that. Because guys, 3 kids under 3! We will need the GRACE we can get. I realized in the car how I really didn’t understand the word, GRACE, at all until I had the boys. I was virtually screamed at until blue in the face my first couple of years of teaching about giving GRACE and it fell on deaf ears, again and again and again. To me, it was an excuse. A scapegoat. Instead of holding students accountable for their actions…. we needed to give them GRACE. I’m not going to lie, there were times where actions and consequences didn’t match up in certain situations and I vehemently disagreed with some decisions regarding GRACE being given but nonetheless I still didn’t fully “get it”.

I don’t know why it took until having my own children but somehow something clicked. I realized in that moment in the car that the reason I couldn’t understand GRACE back then is because I was trying to protect myself from feeling vulnerable. Seriously. I mean if you look at the snip-it of our lives the first year and a half of our marriage, it was insane. Nick and I went through a TON and honestly, we felt alone as a couple. Not many people our age were dealing with as many elements of life at once and so it was hard to relate to anyone. So, I really don’t blame myself for guarding myself like that but it was a HUGE factor in how my life has shaken out in the last few years.

Then, we had the boys and we are 8 days away from having this little girl and it clicks. I haven’t taught a full year of school in 2 school years (though I have started the last 2) and I finally get it. I get WHY I had a hard time giving GRACE when I walked through those doors over 5 years ago. LIGHT BULB MOMENT. 

I couldn’t give GRACE to them because I couldn’t give it to myself. 

Wow. What a heart stopping moment at 38 weeks pregnant with your 3rd child and your beautiful boys behind you. If you know me, you probably aren’t surprised. I am my biggest critic – TO A FAULT.

But how could I have given something to someone else that I didn’t experience to myself for myself? I couldn’t. There was no way.

How did having kids do change this for me? They show me it every day. Every day they give me GRACE. Every. Single. Day. Every day I feel it. I see it. I live it. I’m not perfect and pregnant me is FAR from perfect. But my boys (including my husband) love me through it anyway. They show me every day through their actions, their kisses and hugs at bedtime, when they help clean up their toys and even when they just want to snuggle.

They forgive me daily from my faults. They show me GRACE. And I will forever be grateful for that gift. Because when I step back into that classroom one day, I won’t be the same. I will still be tough but I can give something else (and probably more) to them that I have finally experienced from being a mother.

 

It’s the toughest job I’ll always love.

 

Rachel

“Momnipotent”

The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean

I started reading this book last night. I have to thank my Aunt Veronica for giving it to me when I was pregnant with the twins. I never cracked it open. During my firestorm to organize as much as possible yesterday (which, by the way, I am paying for it today), I came across this book again. Something prompted me to open it last night and start reading. Can we just acknowledge that when God’s timing is perfect, it’s so perfect?

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I’m not going to lie, my spirit has been wrecked these last few weeks. I don’t mean I’ve had doubts in my beliefs (although that’s totally fine if I have) but I mean, just life has been hard. Last week’s news ignited some serious anxiety issues that I have struggled with for a good chunk of my life. You know when you find something for YOU or plan something for YOU and look forward to that – it’s an amazing feeling. Now take it away – totally sucks. Anyway, I won’t get into it all again – you can check out my previous post if you need a refresher or didn’t catch it last week.

But I’m struggling and I’m overwhelmed. Life has overwhelmed me lately. In ONE week from tomorrow, my due date is THREE MONTHS away and I couldn’t feel more UNREADY. (Is that a word?)

Stress 1: I feel like all the junk has to go. I know it’s not COMPLETELY necessary or even reasonable but have you ever fought with a pregnant woman when she’s made her mind up about something? I don’t suggest it.

Stress 2: Once the junk goes, I’ll feel better about getting ready to bring another human into this world and maybe even start her nursery. Again, I know she won’t live in there for at least 3 months after she’s here because of the stairs we have in our house but argue with a pregnant woman? I think not.

Stress 3: I feel like I don’t have enough time with my boys. They are so fun and so exhausting but I just can’t help but be sad that my first-born children will not be JUST THEM anymore. I’m not worried about loving this girl or having enough room in my heart – I know she belongs there. My heart isn’t complete without her and the future siblings here (2 more to go!). However, it’s sort of funny because I’ve had 2 at one time so you would think adding 1 more isn’t a big deal but it’s HUGE for me. I don’t want this part to end and frankly gets me teary eyed thinking about it. We’ve been through so much together starting from before they were born so it’s a bittersweet change to our story.

Stress 4: The pregnancy itself is a stress. Again, I won’t go into it because I pretty much unloaded last week. And frankly, I’m too tired to unearth those emotions again.

So these are the 4 main stresses I have and then I started reading this book. I haven’t read a ton of it yet but something struck me last night. Spiritual motherhood is something that we, women, are all called to be.

“In makes sense…that while some women are called to biological mothers, every woman is called to spiritual motherhood because motherhood is knit into the very structure of a woman’s being. Women are created with the gift of interior readiness to receive others into their lives, and in doing so, to nurture their emotional, moral, cultural and spiritual well-being. This is an exciting and creative challenge because women can be spiritual mothers anywhere: in the office, at home, with their grandchildren, in the neighborhood, even sick in bed” (Katrina J. Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Women’s Journey, 41).

I found great comfort in this quote last night. I’m not sure why I did but I did.

Maybe it’s because I struggled with infertility so I recognize the want for a biological child.

Maybe it’s because I know people who have adopted or in the process of adopting a child.

Maybe it’s because I have spiritual mothers in my life that have no biological lines to me but have impacted me so much.

Maybe it’s because, as a teacher, I feel like I have been a spiritual mother to some of my students I have watched grow into amazing young men and women.

Maybe it’s because I have seen spiritual motherhood IN ACTION from a multitude of women my entire life – some with children and some without.

Spiritual motherhood. I think I found comfort in it because it’s bigger than me and what I am feeling. This whole earthly motherhood gig is T-O-U-G-H! But somehow, to know that I have something inside of me, that we all do, that feeds our children and the people we connect with around us, that’s bigger and stronger than how I feel right now covers me in comfort and the grace I desperately seek.

Honestly, right now I just feel like I am barely surviving. You know just doggie paddling in the waters of life. My kids probably watch too much TV, get away with too many things, and eat way too many chicken nuggets. I mean, they don’t mind but the inadequacy of how I feel in raising them is suffocating. But right there, in the middle of me suffocating, the Lord says “It’s okay.” The Lord has blessed me, and all women, with this spiritual motherhood because even know I’m totally judging myself (and openly sharing that judgement on my post right now), it doesn’t matter. As long as I am here, present with my boys, they get SOMETHING from me that I didn’t know really existed until last night. I don’t even know if I quite understand what I give to them. But I have been blessed with “an exciting and creative challenge” that I wouldn’t change for the world (Katrina J. Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Women’s Journey, 41).

Here’s to spiritual motherhood,

 

Rachel