This past weekend my husband had a 24-hour call shift, so I was faced with going to Mass solo with a preschooler, toddler, newborn, an armful of religious books for kids, and the requisite monster diaper bag that rivals any trendy, largish purse starlets tote around (then again, are over sized bags still considered en vogue? I’m fashion-challenged these days).
Although it could have been an exhausting experience, it was quite the opposite. I felt as I always should after receiving the Eucharist – refreshed, renewed, and part of something much bigger than myself.
Not only did I wisely plan ahead getting the girls’ clothes ready the night before (forgive the boasting, but I felt like a super mom arriving at church on time with the girls adorned with bows in their tamed locks and donning coordinating dresses), but I also asked a friend earlier in the week if we could sit with her family since I knew I might need an extra set of arms.
My friend (the frequent comment poster known as Kris) gladly obliged and during the celebration she scooped Rae up and even took Madeline and her to the children’s liturgy and left me with the baby to enjoy the adult version of Mass.
It all worked out perfectly. The baby nestled close to me in a carrier and only started to stir while the chorus was belting out the final song of the celebration. Madeline and Rae didn’t make a peep when they were back in the “real” church and informed me later that the children’s liturgy was a lot of fun. My friend’s older son carried Rae to the car for me and helped to strap the girls into their car seats.
My two arms were more than enough on this Sunday because I had so many people on hand to help me. All of this reminded me I’m not alone. I’m part of a much bigger family – the Body of Christ.
Not surprisingly, I left the church parking lot not only feeling nourished by the Word of God and Christ himself but very grateful for the throngs of people who have offered me so much support in recent weeks.
While on bed rest, my husband swooped in like a real knight in shining armor to “save” me from anxiety about the kids and the pregnancy and gave our girls extra TLC and cheered me up with roses. My parents and in-laws both rearranged their schedules to serve as pinch hitters while I was sidelined. Another mom friend of mine came over to play with Madeline and Rae when they were going stir crazy. Even my blogging “family” stepped up to the plate. Fellow bloggers Cathy and her daughter Rachel (who just welcomed her first baby girl!), both of whom I’ve never met in-person, sent me a care package complete with a journal, magazine, and jelly beans for my sweet tooth. Countless other fellow mom bloggers offered encouragement through tweets on Twitter, emails, and blog comments.
Then the baby arrived, and more people rushed forward with prayers, friendship, gifts, and meals. Just today a woman from my parish stopped by with tonight’s dinner, and another friend showed up with lunch.
And these gestures of kindness are just the beginning. I’ve been blown away by the outpouring of love, generosity, and delicious food that’s either made it to my doorstep or surfaced in my email inbox or on my blog (yes, I even received an e-certificate for an online meal provider from my parents).
While I can’t possibly personally name every person who has reached out to my growing family, what these giving people have reminded me is simple: It takes a family – and not just the flesh-and-blood-kind – to joyfully welcome and to raise a new child.
A family – not the village, or rather the expansion of government programs – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other politicians have been known to promote whenever they bring up social problems facing our families today, the isolation mothers may face, and/or raising children in America. Government is not a village, and a bunch of “forward-thinking” and impersonal bureaucrats cannot even begin to offer parents what the Body of Christ can.
Ah, but I digress. My point here isn’t to politicize or to denounce certain ideologies (a tired, new mom’s energy and limited cerebral capacity is not best spent climbing upon a soap box). What I’m really advocating is discipleship, not just within our households but in the greater community.
In recent weeks, I’ve witnessed first-hand how we can serve others, support moms in their beautiful but often draining vocation, and as Christians, how we can build up the Body of Christ.
I recently had a first-time expectant mom ask me what it takes to be a good parent. I had no profound wisdom to impart. I’m still figuring things out and definitely view myself as a rookie mom. But based on my limited experience in the trenches of motherhood, I’d have to say that besides a whole lot of prayer, living up to the awesome call of parenthood takes humbling yourself as well as opening yourself up to the family God has given you.
In my case, I’ve been abundantly blessed with a big family: A supportive spouse; a willing and able 4-year-old little helper; four grandparents who are generous with their time and their money; an active church community; a homeschooling co-op comprised of committed, caring moms and children; a close circle of friends both old and new, some met in-person and others I’ve discovered in some corner of cyberspace; and even strangers who have noticed a mom with her hands full and have simply offered to hold the door for me.
So to all of my “family,” thank you for giving so generously of yourselves. Thank you for encouraging me as a wife and a mom and for helping to welcome our precious Mary Elizabeth into our lives. Thank you for reminding me that my husband, children, and I are part of a much bigger family and are called to not only love one another, but to share our love with all those we encounter.