Like a swarm of bumblebees that buzz one way and then the other, their little bodies bump and rub as they move in unison after the rolling target. The air is booming with commands, but the rush of adrenaline has rendered the players deaf.
Just as some tense on-lookers bound from their seats, arms waving wildly, the pint-sized leader boldly takes the perfect shot straight into the goal.
Shortly after having given birth to my first darling daughter and fourth child, someone suggested that I seek employment working with special needs children.
I hadn’t been soliciting advice or job hunting, but I guess the messenger found it reasonable to imply that we should move beyond baby-making; seeing as we’d finally managed to have that elusive girl-child and that our dream of having a large family had been fulfilled (according to societal standards).
We were headed in opposite directions, my husband to soccer and me to fulfill our weekly adoration hour with the rest of our brood of children. It wasn’t really anything new or extraordinary, single-parenting in adoration.
Admittedly during the adjustment period three years ago when we first began adoring as a family, two pairs of arms and eyes were needed to manage our youngest ones as the clock ticked off sixty minutes, but since then we’ve all learned how to spend an hour in the chapel with (relatively) few interruptions or needs for discipline. Continue reading →
For years, at about 3pm on Christmas Day my kiddos would hit the wall one by one. After a long Christmas Eve followed by a too-early-rising, their energy stores were depleted and just past midday they’d drop like flies: a snoring pre-schooler on the couch still clutching his new light saber, a drowsy teen sprawled out on the floor amidst her books.
Additionally, I often noticed an air of disappointment creeping in once the last gift was torn open, the evening meal digested and the boxes hauled out to the trash. Honestly, I sensed it in myself almost as much as I detected it in my family members.
Heavy with my fourth child, I remember the phone call that alerted me to turn on the television.
With my college roommate on the other end of the long distance line, I sat on my bedroom floor staring clueless and confused at the screen. My three little ones (at 5, 4 and 2 years old) were carrying on around my perimeter with business as usual, completely unaffected by the troubles of the world.
The morning news cut to live footage of the first tower with smoke billowing from its side and the newscasters tried their best to spin a story while still devoid of facts.
As I listened to their banter and speculations, a second plane appeared in the New York skyline. Its purposeful trajectory made clear we were witnessing something very different than first considered.
When our friends’ son entered seminary right out of high school, I considered that they had some recipe for raising such a faithful young man. And when their daughter gave serious consideration to joining a religious order, I was convinced that our friends had stellar parenting skills and a formula for holiness.
Those friends had a secret, I was sure, and I wanted to know what it was.
Whenever I had the opportunity, I watched them. Intently, I studied their pious mannerisms when we joined them for adoration and I kept a mental account of everything they did when we ran into them at social gatherings.
Comparing their family to mine, I noted how soft-spoken and gentle they all were. From modest, tidy clothes to neat hair styles, their five children always appeared well groomed and respectful.
Recently, I implemented a reward system in our household. I’ve been down this road before (many times in fact) with my older boys, but it seemed an ideal time to re-institute a temporary system of clearly defined rewards for obedience and self-control as well as an equally unambiguous list of punishments for bad conduct.
Honestly, I didn’t add anything new to the roster of expectations, rather this was simply an attempt to reorder that which had become chaotic around these parts.
A Battleground of Wits & Wills
A rude comment here, an insult there, a push, a retaliatory shove, some name calling and lots of chores left undone, our home was becoming a battleground of wits, wills and whining.
My children took to the system like guppies to water. Left and right, I was issuing good behavior tickets that could be cashed in for screen time, fabulous Dollar Store prices and coveted alone-time with mama at Chick-Fil-A.
Das Martyrium der sieben Makkabäer Antonio Ciseri [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
After a hearty meal, a male dinner guest and my husband reclined on the sofa where they set about solving all of the world’s problems.
After a few laughs, the conversation turned serious as they speculated about the probability of coming persecutions like those already faced daily by Christians in the Middle East. They proclaimed their intentions to stand firm and fight on the side of Christ.
They spoke of Crusaders, valiant defenders of faith and freedom, martyrs and saints. Their words conjured up pictures in my mind of courageous men standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the front lines against a well-armed enemy.
I took comfort in their confidence and wanted to believe that I could trust in them to remain steadfast in their convictions should the times precipitate a need.
Eleven o’clock on a Saturday, I found myself doubling back through the church parking lot in a frantic attempt to secure a spot for our big family van. Anticipating sparse attendance, I had left home with a bare minimum of time to spare, but from the looks of the overflowing lot my assumption had been wrong.
Conceding a legitimate space was no where to be found, I stopped the engine beside a landscaping bed and ushered my children out.
Seconds after we’d crossed the social hall, someone swung open the heavy church door allowing the music to escape.
Like a punch to the gut, the cantor’s familiar words reminded me of why I was here on this chilly February morning. “How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” she sang. Tears surfaced as I tried to absorb the reality of that line.