Thursday, December 8, 2011

Meditation on Gentleness, at Christmastime

Once, my great-grandmother was speaking of the trials of being a mother of 6, to a minister. The minister said to her, “Dear lady, take the holy family as your model.”

“O yah,” she retorted, “them and their one!”

Just a little levity there, to get me started today!

There is a beautiful picture hanging in my living room: a young woman carrying a baby in her arms. This image is commonly known as the Madonna of the Streets. I only recently heard the story:

A young woman wandered the streets, say it’s New York City, and it is getting cold. It’s coming on Christmas. The woman is driven to distraction, worrying about how she will care for her child tonight, let alone for the next 20 years. And as midnight nears, and she begins to despair, Mary appears to her, with the baby Jesus in her arms and says, “Here, I will take care of your baby- if you will take care of mine.”

It is incomprehensible, the mystery we grasp at during this season of waiting. The Boundless, bound by a womb. The All-Powerful, helpless in a feeding trough. Eternal Beauty, wrapped up in rags, breathed on by oxen and asses.

He is given to us. If only we would carry His Image with us- everywhere!

One of the many reasons prayer is so necessary to a homeschooling mother is that I need to “carry His Image with me.”

When it’s 9 am and I’m already frazzled.

When it’s 2pm and a math book is floating in the sink of soapy water(?!),

The toddler is climbing the bookcase,

The preschooler changes her outfit for the 9th time today,

And my big kids are suddenly nowhere to be found- least of all at the table where I left them over their books 3 minutes ago,

It’s HIM I need to see before me…

BEFORE I open my mouth.

Prayer for me, as a mother, a homeschooling mother, who maybe gets 3 hours a week to herself, is how I knit the veil. The veil, of the child Jesus’ sweet face, that I (try to) throw over each child’s face whenever I look at him or her. BEFORE I open my mouth.

Because I resolved, as a brand new mom, that yelling might happen, but it would never become status quo in my relationships with my kids.

And I swore (through often-gritted teeth), as that first child and I negotiated that first year of kindergarten, that homeschooling would not change that resolution.

I had other mothers, homeschooling and not, tell me this resolve was ridiculous. That I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. That kids don’t listen if you don’t yell. But in my heart, it was never a question.

Gentleness is what God gives to me, at Christmas and every day of the year.

He is infinitely patient with my stubbornness.

He never rushes me, no matter how slow I am to learn his ways.

He gives to me, even when I am selfish with Him.

And He is the only Parent against whom I will model myself.

Every year as Christmas nears, when I see the babies in the mangers, I renew my commitment to gentleness. I use my prayer time to remember each child of mine, as a dimpled newborn, and thank God for these great gifts. I fail so often, committed as I am to gentleness, and I beg for the grace to do better in the year to come. I meditate on the patience of the Mother of Jesus, her humility, her quietness, her acceptance of the Will of God.

I want to give my children not just knowledge of God, not just the story of Christmas, but the experience of the gentleness and peace of God. And I pray for the grace to remember that- to see Jesus-

BEFORE I open my mouth!

“Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.”
~Christina Rossetti

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