For the smile is the beginning of love

For the smile is the beginning of love

Our eldest just received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and the chrism oil smeared across her teenaged forehead transported me back to when she received the same glorious-smelling oil on her bitty baby head at baptism. Incidentally, teenagers don’t tolerate their mothers huffing their sweet-smelling heads as well as infants do. Truly, truly I say to you: The days are long, yet the years are short.

Now, as a young Mom, my skin crawled whenever someone observed my spirited youngsters and felt compelled to offer this gem: “Treasure every! single! minute!” I’d force a smile and bite my tongue to keep from pelting the well-meaning stranger with a litany of grievances. Did she expect me to cherish every blow-out diaper, each sleepless night, all ear infections and colicky episodes? How about the countless tantrums and the myriad other exhausting maladies of young motherhood?

Today, comments about how full my hands are don’t irk me like they used to. When the cashier at the store is mortified that I have the audacity to mother five—FIVE!!—children and declares: “That’s too many kids!” I’m neither shocked nor angry, and I’m certainly not losing any sleep over her ridiculous opinion. Rather, I laugh heartily and ask: “Which one would you like me to take back?”

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photo credit: Marie Sylvester

I AM my brother’s keeper

I AM my brother’s keeper

Brother's Keeper

Today’s post is brought to you by the power of technology because, frankly, technology can be pretty amazing.

Specifically, a piece of mail or a package arrives at my post office box, and I receive a text message on my smartphone notifying me to come retrieve it. Yesterday, I received such a text, so after school, to the post office we went.

The lone irritant about this otherwise brilliant notification process is that the text messages arrive whether I have received five long-awaited packages or one piece of thankless junk mail – the system doesn’t discriminate – so some days it’s obviously fruitful to take the detour to the post office and others the trek beyond our regular route feels like a waste, culminating with yet another cable solicitation torn up and tossed in the recycle bin.

Yesterday’s sojourn, while not fruitful mail-wise, instigated one of those unexpected “teachable moments” with my children, so I don’t count it all as loss.

Here, I pause for a brief parenting prayer: Lord, some day, I hope that I will be able to gracefully and gently segue into these moments with my children and not bulldoze into them with combat boots and a megaphone. But anyway. Baby steps. Amen.

After my solitary shredded solicitation was dispensed into the proper receptacle, we drove through the small parking lot. I glanced to my right and saw a young man and a young woman standing near the sidewalk, with a small child (probably toddler age) in a stroller.

Normally I wouldn’t have given a second look, but the young man appeared to be shouting at the young woman, who had her head down. He took one small step closer to her – he was still several paces removed – and angrily shook his finger at her several times before turning and facing the other direction.

From the back seat, I heard a child’s voice admonishing me: “Hey, Mommy – don’t stare.” I responded, “I’m not staring – I’m assessing the situation.” As the young man appeared to be calm and we eventually turned right onto the street,  I glanced at my children riding securely behind me.

“What if that man was so upset that he hurt the woman?” I queried. The response that came from the back seat sent a chill through my bones:

“It’s none of our business.” 

Insert all the wise, loving, Christ-like comments here:

If you were that woman, wouldn’t you want someone to care about and try to protect you if you needed to be protected? It’s called The Golden Rule, you know.

Let’s talk about the Parable of the Good Samaritan, shall we?

Remember Mother Teresa’s Gospel on Five Fingers -“You Did It To Me”?

We are all part of the Body of Christ!

We are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.

Except … I didn’t exactly say those things.

Other than a variation on the first point about the Golden Rule, no saintly story or parable of Christ came to my mind in the heat of the moment.

Side bar: I can think and speak so very well on my feet sometimes … why can’t I be as eloquent and effective when it pertains to teaching my children? Ugh. I need to get over myself. 

Frankly, my child’s response both stunned and saddened me.

I asked my children, “What if he punched her? Shouldn’t we call the police?” And a kid retorted, “So-and-so sibling name sometimes punches me, and we don’t call the police.” Riiiiiight. I replied, “Well, even though that’s not good or right, it’s not exactly the same thing.”

And then the questions flooded the car like a rising river –

Why? Why isn’t it the same?

What is the difference between protecting someone we know and protecting a stranger?

Why should some things be reported to the authorities while some things should not?

What difference does it make if something is done in public or in the privacy of our home?

Are we going home now? I need to pee.

Sigh. This momming stuff ain’t easy, yo.

Anyway, now that a day has passed, and more appropriate things to say have come to my mind, I will be revisiting the incident – expanding the teachable moment beyond the actual moment, if you will – so that my children can hopefully eventually understand and know and live out the fact that, yes – we ARE our brothers’ keepers. And EVERYONE is our brother.

Now, I’m not advocating that we all turn in to Nosy Nelly and Busy-body Betty – not at all. What I am saying, however, is that there are surely situations we encounter or conversations we overhear where we genuinely feel the quiet nudge of the Holy Spirit telling us to say something. Anything. And we ignore the nudge and we walk on by. “It’s none of my business,” we tell ourselves.

How many people get away with horrid things because someone is afraid to call him or her on it? 

Maybe it’s because the recent tragedy in Orlando weighs so heavily on my heart … I can’t help but ponder if someone heard something, saw something – anything – that portended the coming catastrophe and didn’t do or say anything about it because they thought it wasn’t any of their business.

All deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, love, and mercy. All. Each. Every. 

Had that young man struck the young woman, I would have dialed 911 in a heartbeat. And I would have rolled down my passenger’s side window and yelled at him to stop and asked the young woman if she needed help. And I would have driven her and that toddler somewhere safe if they needed it. Maybe we would have had two guests for dinner that night. I would never knowingly put my children in harm’s way, but there might have been something we could do.

Thanks be to God, no intervention on my part appeared to me necessary this time. But what about next time? Will I have the courage to be my brother’s keeper?

And, perhaps more importantly at this stage of my mothering game, when I am gone, will my five children rise up to help those in need? Am I raising compassionate kids who will bring the light of Christ’s love into the world? Will they be their brothers’ keepers?

Thanks in no small part to text notifications, crappy junk mail, and being where we needed to be when we needed to be there, we’re going to keep working at it.

God bless y’all,


Photo credit: hans s via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

The day Love showed up

The day Love showed up

Today was just going to be one of those days. I’m sure you know the sort.

The baby crawled into bed with me at way-too-early o’clock and proceeded to kick me like he was auditioning for The Rockettes for the next hour.

My back let me know in no uncertain terms while I was changing said baby that it would go out on me without any provocation WHATsoever.

There was no coffee in the house – zilchnot even instant (and exactly how was I supposed to manage my domestic church, let alone fight the zombie apocalypse, without any caffeine???)

The cute new toaster burned my toast and, adding insult to injury, somehow managed to indiscriminately catapult the aforementioned charred slice into the dust bunny village on the floor between the refrigerator and the counter. Woof.

The dishwasher, in complete and utter disregard for my wishes to the contrary, flatly refused to load itself (what was its damage, anyway??).

Everyone wanted my snack (despite the fact that they’d already been fed, and I’d finally managed to scrape the last 1/16 cup of vanilla yogurt into a bowl for myself).

And, to top it off, my attempt to pleasantly yet firmly instruct the children to sort, fold, and put away their freshly-laundered clothing was apparently akin to torture that sent at least half of the beleaguered tykes into an ongoing screeching ritual so cacophonous that even a howler monkey would have grabbed his earplugs and headed for the hills.

But wait – there’s more! Other songs on this broken record included: Who Was Staring at Whom, She Smashed My Finger, Spilled Milk Dripping on the Hardwood Floor, and The Inconsiderate Booger Wiping Incident.

Then …

Something happened.

Somehow my desperate prayers (half-hissed through clenched teeth ranging in content from “help me bear this gracefully,” to “get me the heck out of here!“) were answered in an unexpectedly precious way.

Towards the latter part of my craptastic afternoon, I heard a quiet knock upon my bedroom door. Standing there, wearing who-knows-what ensemble undoubtedly inspired by the movie The Croods, was my first-born son. “Mommy?” he queried. “Yes,” I responded, half-listening as I smoothed the comforter down over the foot of my bed. “This is for you,” he said, as he handed me a slightly wrinkled piece of paper.


Ohhh …”  I breathed, half whispering to this sweet, precious boy, who has long been an effective balm for his mama’s weary heart, and half addressing The One Who knew exactly what I needed at exactly this moment in time. “Thank you so, so, so much. I love you, too.

I hugged my son for longer than was probably comfortable for him, but if he was bothered by it, he mercifully didn’t let on.

Because of this precious moment with my little man – one fleeting piece of kairos in an otherwise jumbled-up mess of a chronos sort of day – I realized that perhaps it was not just one of those days after all; maybe it was something much, much better …

… a day when Love showed up.


“This is the day the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad.”

-Psalm 118:24