Embracing the now even when you’d rather not

I’ve always thought of “living in the moment” in terms of savoring life and all its vivid but easily overlooked beauty. The weight of “now” needed to be measured and felt when a new baby who would soon transform into a lanky, little girl was in my arms. Being fully present during the happy or just everyday moments was important because it made me more grateful and forced me to not be so distracted that I missed out on all of the little things. And life is really just a hodgepodge compilation of little things. Little moments that when strung together make a life of consequence.

Yes, I have enjoyed being fully present while I read a treasured storybook aloud to my children or when Thomas stops nursing just to look up at me and beam, his bright, brown eyes shining. It’s good to sink into the now of those sepia-toned moments.

But what about when you walk into a bedroom and discover that your baby boy dug in to a dirty diaper and decided to use his poop as finger paint? Do you really want to savor that moment, especially when your dear, dear babysitter who really deserves a raise, says, “Well, now we know he eats everything,” because your innocent, little boy had his poop-encrusted fingers in his mouth?

There are some stories I’d really rather not be a part of.

I had a rough day. Today I really earned the title I jokingly give myself as an expert in hazardous waste removal.

Later in the afternoon after the home no longer reeked of sewage I asked my 3-year-old to please use the potty before climbing into my bed for some quiet time. I was busy tidying up the kitchen when I heard her calling for me in a high-pitched voice. “Mommmmmeeeeeeee.” Never a good sign.

As soon as I approached the bathroom, I smelled poop. More stinkin’ poop. Be still my weary, grossed out heart.

“Sowry,” she said, “but I pooped on the floor.” She neglected to mention that she pooped on the floor and then tried to clean up after herself, which resulted in several stained towels and a trail of poopy footprints on the bathroom floor.

And I kid you not when I sat down to write this post earlier today, she came up to me and said, “Sowry, but I pooped in my panties.” Then when I finally was squeezing in a much-needed shower just before dinner, my oldest ran in and announced that the 3-year-old had pooped in her panties again. Although she has had plenty of pee-pee accidents as my most recalcitrant potty trainer, the sweet girl has never pooped in her panties. She made up for lost time today.

How much stink can a mama take? (This is authenticity – the real, raw, and sometimes fetid version of motherhood.)

I was on the verge of crumbling and was having trouble holding it together. I was so tired and stressed about other things that had nothing to do with poop and were completely out of my control. Not that my kids’ bowel movements and where they end up were completely in my control either. My mind was reeling. Would there be more poop? Please no. But then it hit me. I wasn’t living in the moment. I wasn’t accepting the now. I was dwelling on what ifs and what would happen if and when, and it struck me that while it might seem counterintuitive to want to be fully present and focused on a crappy day like this, doing so actually will help me get through – or in the very least accept – the miasma of discouragement.

In Fr. Jacques Philippe’s Interior Freedom, he writes, “What really hurts is not so much suffering itself as the fear of suffering.”

The fear of thinking there will be more poop, less sleep, more heartache, more suffering can break a person. I think of my mom, whose chronic pain burns quite literally at an intensity I’m not sure I could endure. How can she go on like this? We don’t know. We can’t look ahead. She’s had to learn to accept her pain – just as we ought to welcome and savor our joys – one day at a time. She cannot fear what lies ahead. I can’t either.

I’ll take poop over chronic pain, and it will be easier to endure any of the less-than-ideal moments of life if I remain in the now. The moment will pass. There may be another calamitous diaper incident. There may be no relief to my sweet mama’s pain tomorrow. Or things will get better. Either way, I’ll survive. I’ll make it through. So will my mom. It doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow or even an hour from now. It’s what I do with what hand is dealt to me this very second.

Today was gross. Tomorrow when my mom undergoes more surgery will be hard for her and for all those who love her. Instead of wishing away the moments or fearing the future, we have to accept life as it is. We can’t dream of a cleaner, brighter, less stinky, less painful life. We have to accept the now, live in it, learn from it. Life is what it is, and it can be good and beautiful even in the midst of suffering if only we let it be.

A Good Friday Reflection

Image Credit: Two Hearts Design

This hasn’t been the greatest Lent. That’s an understatement, actually.  In all honesty, I feel like an epic failure. I set the bar low, and I still couldn’t meet any of my spiritual goals.

Yet in spite of me and my failings, Easter will come. In the face of my sins and my foibles, there will be hope. New Life in Him is not dependent on my performance. Thank God for that.

Dying on the cross, Jesus thirsted for souls. He went to all this trouble and endured great suffering. Yet, there are so many, myself included many times, who don’t really appreciate his sacrifice. We continue to crucify Him with our own sins – no matter how small. How awful that must feel not only to God, but to His Mother, too. She stood at the foot of the cross and watched her only son suffer and die. She accepted everything with trust and grace. And here I am, unable to even make some pitifully small sacrifices in honor of Him.

Oh, Mary, it would be a lot easier to hate those who hurt Him, wouldn’t it? I bet it would even feel good – at least for a fleeting, pleasurable moment – to hate all of us who betray your Son with our actions (or our lack of action – say, being too tired to pray to Him).

Instead, Mary and Jesus chose to forgive again and again and to look beyond our weaknesses and our repeat offenses and to love.

I haven’t been very good at loving anyone but myself lately.

But I refuse to be a Judas. I refuse to give up, to cave in to despair. I cling to hope, hope in a God whose mercy is endless and who loves me even when I don’t deserve it. Like Peter after he betrayed Christ, I long to look into Jesus’ eyes, into Love itself, even though it might be easier to look away.

Easter is coming. I keep reminding myself of that. It doesn’t feel like I deserve an Easter after such a pathetic Lent.

I have some loved ones who not only deserve the joy of Easter but who will be living it on Sunday.

My cousin has been fighting leukemia for 3 1/2 years, but on Easter day he stops taking his oral chemo. Isn’t that beautiful? A priest will be offering a personal Mass in their home to celebrate this new beginning for him. Entering the phase known as “survivorship” on Easter Sunday takes the whole idea of “new life” to a new level, doesn’t it?

This Easter will be the first day of the rest of his cancer-free life. Deo gratias. He was 15 when he was diagnosed. He’s spent most of his teen years fighting cancer. Whereas my Lent has been too short, his has been far too long.

My aunt understands, more than I, what it means to stand at the foot of the cross. She understands what it means to be faithful in everything and every circumstance. Come Easter, she’ll embrace the new life in Him, in her own son, just as she has taken up the way of the cross for so long now.

This Easter is for my cousin. It’s for his mom, his dad, his entire family.

It’s for my dad who recently said he feels a lot like Mary sometimes having to helplessly watch his wife suffer with grace and endurance and to standby and witness his mom – who lives with my parents – have to face the realities of old age. He can help. He can pray. He can trust. But he can’t take my mom or our nana’s crosses completely away.

This Easter is most definitely for my sweet mama who despite failed surgeries and medical treatments clings to hope and gives thanks for a beautiful life.

Easter is for you, too. It’s for me. It’s for those who believe and those who don’t. It’s for those who suffer as well as those who seem to glide through life with nary a care in the world.

It’s for us all.

Imagine that. You don’t have to. It’s the Truth.

 His Truth.

We are all God’s beloved children, and we are all capable of being raised in glory.

Today there is darkness. There’s sadness. There is pain. There are lowly bodies that fail us. There are broken hearts and spirits.

In this world, there is suffering, disease, disaster, hate, indifference, neglect.

In my life, I get it right some of the time. Sometimes I don’t.

He is there through it all.

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

God says the word with the cross. Each nail driven in deeper and deeper drives His love into us.

And on Easter, whether we’ve kept all of our Lenten promises or not, whether we’ve suffered from cancer or another sickness, whether we’ve had to watch a loved one endure pain, whether we’ve held grudges, whatever our past, on Easter morning our souls shall be healed.

Our future is in Him. How can we not be full of hope and new life?



You’re Turning Into Your Mother

Mom and I spend a lot of time laughing together.

Recently, someone asked me how my mom does it – how she always seems to be filled with happiness instead of self-pity or fear when she grapples with so many health problems and chronic pain.

“She’s a real stoic,” the person said.

My mom would tell you she’s nothing of the sort. She would say it just boils down to the lucky fact that she was born seeing the glass half-full.

“You’re an inspiration,” I’ll say when she says such things. She’s then likely to shift uncomfortably.

“But I’m not,” she’ll insist. “I can’t take any of the credit.”

Mom would tell you it’s not just her genetics but her God who deserves the credit.

I explained this to the person who called my mom a stoic, which baffled her further. This individual has no religion. I tried to explain what “offering it up” meant and why my mom is better able to endure the suffering believing that it has a redeeming purpose. I explained how, as Christians, we are called to unite our sufferings with Christ and how this can bring us peace even if the pain remains.

The person dubiously looked at me and expressed further doubts. Read more

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