Gladys Aylward: A Heart for China

Last week I had the chance to speak to a group of local women — and my mother, who had never heard me speak in public until then — about a group of women I’ve come to regard as my spiritual mothers: Women whose example led me, as surely as Moses led the Chosen People to the Promised Land, to where I am today. They (clockwise from upper left): My confirmation namesake, Amy Carmichael; Gertrude “Biddy” Chambers, widow of Oswald Chambers; Gladys Aylward; Mother Teresa; Elisabeth Elliot; and Corrie. ten Boom. (I’ve linked each of their names to my favorite books by or about them, in case you’d like to learn more.)

Like Moses, most of them did not “cross over,” as I did, into the Catholic Church (Mother Teresa is the only professed Catholic among them). And yet, each of them left an indelible stamp upon my spirit through their lives and writings.

Tonight mom and I finished reading the book about Gladys Aylward, the British missionary to China (1902-1970), whose story was retold (with great liberties) in the movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman. After twenty years preaching the Gospel to teems of people suffering under Communist oppression, she felt the Lord call her back home. At first she was incredulous — she had by that time become a Chinese citizen, dressing like them, eating like them, even thinking like them. And yet, she said,

“England, seemingly so prosperous while other countries passed through terrible suffering at the hands of Communist domination, had forgotten what was all-important — the realization that God mattered in the life of a nation no less than in that of an individual…. I knew that I must go back to the land of my birth. I must return to do what I could to dispel the spiritual lethargy that had overtaken so many. I must testify to the great faith of the Chinese church. I must let people know what great things God has done for me” (The Little Woman, 136).

This was nearly fifty years ago, and yet not much has changed. The “underground” Church of faithful Christians continues to suffer and to struggle, and even to die.

Pray with me for the Holy Father, for the Christians in China … and for all those on the front lines, who seek to ease the suffering of the “least of these” who continue to suffer simply for naming the Blessed Name. Mother Gladys, pray for us, that we might not be afraid to stand with your beloved people.

Another much admired figure, from the Civil War era at Notre Dame, I’d like to write about one day: Sister Angela Gillespie.

The Poor Rich

Today’s Gospel message has me thinking about how Mother Teresa used to speak of the poverty of the West, how we are so willing to give our money — but find it difficult to give of ourselves. Perhaps it was for this reason that Jesus said (Mk 10:17-27):

“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.

camels-gateThe “eye of a needle” referred to a gate outside Jerusalem, that was built for the city’s protection when under siege. The entrance was so low that a fully laden camel could not pass beneath it – rather, the animal had to be completely unloaded, and bend low to fit beneath.

Isn’t that a wonderful image of Lent, when we are called to divest ourselves of the luxuries of life in order to follow the Lord with humility, in obedience, and out of love — just like Saint Teresa of Calcutta?

Are you looking for a way to build up your marriage during Lent? Be sure to sign up for my “40 Day Challenge” by subscribing to my mailing list (on the right). God bless!

BOGO offer for CatholicMom.com Readers!

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Prioritize Ruthlessly

Teresa-21For those who are unemployed or self-employed, figuring out how to spend time wisely can be a real challenge. There is always more to do than time to do it. And so, last week when my friend Jennifer Fulwiler had an online “web event” to launch the paperback edition of her memoir  “Something Other Than God, I logged on and asked Jen how she manages to do everything she does: She homeschools her kids, hosts her own radio show, writes books and keynotes at practically every major Catholic gathering across the country.

Her two-word response was deceptively simple: prioritize ruthlessly. “When I wanted to write a book, I had to set aside everything else except my family. I couldn’t attend every church function or do the other things I wanted to do, because there wasn’t time. I had to prioritize ruthlessly to get it done.”

I knew she was right. Door-testing takes time. Once people heard I was looking for work, I suddenly had a L-O-N-G list of invitations of (unpaid) things well worth doing (and likely couldn’t have done had I still been employed). This weekend, for instance, I helped to host the Franciscan profession of the Immaculate Conception Fraternity here in Mishawaka, whipping up large pans of my signature chicken and rice dish to feed nearly 200 people. I also baked enough gingerbread to make 10 houses with the YDisciple group at church. It was fun, and it got me out of the house. On the other hand, if I got in the habit of doing these kinds of grand-scale projects, what would it do to the job hunt?

This morning I was on Relevant Radio, talking with Kyle Heimann about my new book  Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  Servant’s publicity team, Kennedy-Brownrigg, has done a great job of lining up interviews for the book, and so I am talking about Mother Teresa a lot these days. This morning, I got to thinking about how she had to prioritize ruthlessly as well. With thousands of lepers lining the streets of Calcutta, how did she know which ones to help? How did she find the strength to EXPAND her work to other countries, given the level of need right where she was?

I found a nugget of insight in her book One Heart Full of Love, in which she describes what it was like to accept an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Cambridge. At first she protested. “You know full well that I have not studied theology. I just simply try always to live it out.” And yet, ultimately she accepted the honor. Why?

In reality, the event was a gift from God. And it was not just for me personally but for you, for the sisters, and for our poor. We must appreciate and accept it with all humility of heart, so that we can offer it to Jesus. After all, it belongs to him. All glory and honor are his. We must let Jesus use us as he sees fit. In that way, every aspect of our life of prayer, of fundraising, and of feeding and clothing the poor complement each other. They cannot be separated. One cannot be done without the other. None of them can be done without prayer. Your generosity and your sacrifices must be the fruit of your prayer life. (p.67-68).

In good times and bad, the measure of what is to be done is the same: all is the fruit of prayer, done for love of Jesus. The harder tasks keep us humble and trusting. And the “fun” things need not be written off as distractions, so long as we can offer them to God (that keeps the true distractions at bay, such as the big-screen time-suck in the living room). It becomes easier to prioritize when I ask myself not, “What do I want to do today?” but “God, what do YOU want me to do today?”

Excuse me, now. A little angel is calling me to go clean the carpets, a little prelude to the Thanksgiving celebration ahead.

8 Ways Mother Teresa Changed My Life

mother-teresa-13In celebration of the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) on September 4, I would like to share with you eight lessons and prayers that I discovered from reading Mother Teresa’s writings. Feel free to share some of your favorites as well!

I’ve posted these lessons at the “Extraordinary Moms Network.” It was such a privilege reading through dozens of books by and about this great lady. I found myself relating to her in surprising ways! (Like me, she became “Mother” in her middle thirties, and like me she HATED getting her picture taken.)  Here are links to the eight lesson in the post series, which will run from September 4 through September 11.

Lesson #1  The Power of Loving the “Other.” How I “met” Mother Teresa while on a cross-country bus in Mexico, trying to discern my own vocation.

Lesson #2: Always Take Mary with You.  What would you do with an unlimited train pass? If you’re Mother Teresa . . . you take Mary with you.

Lesson #3: God Works Miracles When We Make Ourselves Small. The sole survivor of last year’s murderous attack of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen remembers the miracle.

Lesson #4: God Enjoys the Simplest Prayers. Do you feel self-conscious about praying in public? Let this encourage you!

Lesson #5:  Faithful Love Sweetens Life How prayer is the “secret ingredient” of a peaceful life.

Lesson #6: God Transforms Our Pain Have you ever wondered what God was thinking when he allowed this or that to happen? Seeing how God used the pain of Mother Teresa’s life to bring healing to others spoke to me about this.

Lesson #7: God Measures “Success” Differently One day when we stand before God at the end of our lives, God will measure the value of our actions very differently than we have a tendency to do here on earth. How will you measure up?

Lesson #8: Joy, Like Love, Is a Choice. From broken hearts to natural disasters to national tragedies, how we choose to respond can be life-giving for ourselves and others.

Saint Teresa, thank you for the gift of your life to the whole world. Pray for us, your children, as we continue to follow your example of joy in suffering, trust in darkness, and humble service to all. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 If you are enjoying this series, you might also enjoy my two new books on her life and writings: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (preorders ship 9/16) and Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, (preorders ship 1/17), both available through Servant Books/Franciscan Media.

Thanks for reading!

Where has Heidi been?

Hello!  Did you think I’d gone away?  It’s been almost a month since the last time I posted, which as you probably know is not the best thing for a blogger to do. Tends to diminish traffic considerably.

However (and I suspect many moms can relate to this), there are times when life kind of takes over and squeezes out all the “extras.” This, compounded by the fact that I’ve been dealing with some things in my own life that — until I had processed them a bit — I didn’t feel ready to write about.  Even now, I’m not sure it’s “soup yet,” but as someone pointed out to me recently, I tend to be someone who processes things best in writing. So here goes.

Some weeks ago, I met up with a young woman and her five adorable children. The “how” is less important than the fact that she and her family have gotten me thinking a great deal about how we as a society treat the poor and marginalized in our society. On the surface, “Sherry” is someone who made some bad choices early in life, which are still weighing her down.  She has no job, few resources, no car . . . and her friends and family have precious little to spare.

She loves her kids. She dresses the warmly, and feeds them even when she herself is not eating. She has shown great ingenuity in finding public resources to pay for food and shelter. But without a car, even the simplest task such as registering the children for school becomes an exercise in frustration. Her two cousins moved closer to her, to help her out . . . but neither of them has been able to find work, and one of them is still trying to get his GED.

Now for the part I’ve been trying to figure out:  What does charity (in the best sense of the word) look like in this situation? My own resources are not infinite, my time is also limited … and, as cute as they are, these children and their family are not my responsibility. So, what is the Christian response?

Surely not, “Well, she made this mess … let her clean it up herself!” (I’ve heard that one already.)

Possibly, “Let her ask you for what she needs.” (Which allows her to control her situation — but could create an unhealthy dependency.)

Possibly, “Just be a friend, and listen.” (This is easier than it sounds, when you find five children living in a trailer with empty cupboards that reeks of feral cat urine.)

This is a situation long on drama and short on answers, I know. Even as I write this, I keep coming back to the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jesus always expressed a preference for the poor, the fatherless and the outcast. He especially loved the children.

At times like this, I wish I could sit down with Blessed Mother Teresa (our priest gave a homily about her life today, tying it in with the parable of the mustard seed and the faithful servant). When she looked around and saw those hundreds of children who could not be adequately cared for, how did she prioritize?  In a word . . . she kept her eyes on Jesus.  Each day was an opportunity to dispense moments of grace. She could not solve the problem entirely. Some could argue that she was unable even to put an appreciable dent in the need.

But oh, how she loved. “Do small things with great love,” she’d say.

Lord, let me be like that.

Remembering Blessed Mother Teresa

Today (September 5) is the feast day of a woman I feel sure is the rightful patronness of adopted and foster children: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

“Do not let the children die. Send them to me,” she was often quoted as saying. In each of those poor, suffering faces she saw “Jesus in distressing disguise.”

Some time ago, I wrote a series of posts on her life, based on the book Come Be My Light. You can read the first one, “Come Be My Light: Thoughts on Spiritual Motherhood,” here.

Otherwise, today I’ll keep it brief:

Blessed Mother Teresa, who now intercedes for us before the throne of grace, please continue to pray that more hearts will be softened and shaped by the plight of the poor and helpless of our world. May we find room for them all — and, by doing so, diminish our own spiritual poverty.

Blessed Mother Teresa, Mother of the Poor, pray for us.

Mother Teresa’s Rules to Live By

I found this the other day at one of Sister Spitfire’s blogs, courtesy of A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

Mother Teresa gave these rules to her Sisters to help them develop the virtue of humility:

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Accept injuries and insults.
12. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
13. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
14. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
15. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
16. Always choose the more difficult task.

“Don’t Be Weird, Mom!”

(This is a continuation of the series of articles reflecting on Come Be My Light and the spiritual motherhood of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, patron of adoptive and foster families, which I began earlier this year. For the original post, click the title.)

Sarah is an extraordinary walking paradox. She will parade around the house (and in public as often as I let her) with a mind-blowing array of fashion statements:
I applaud her budding confidence (insofar as it does not exceed the bounds of propriety). What puzzles me is that if I do anything the least bit unconventional … breaking into an impromptu chorus of “Sunrise, Sunset” and a little softshoe while I’m washing dishes, say, Sarah will invariably give me her stock response:
“Don’t be weird, Mom! People will think you’re weird!”

To which I respond, “Let them! The only thing that really matters is what God thinks of me, what I think of myself … and, to a different degree, what my family thinks about me.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not someone who typically flouts social convention on a whim. I love high teas and ballroom dancing and all manner of things traditional (it’s part of why I’m Catholic!). But when it comes to deciding standards of personal conduct, I learned a long time ago that “going with the crowd” is not always the wisest course of action.

This has a particular application to foster and adoptive parents. More than most parents, our children are going to have special emotional and other challenges that are going to make other people’s eyebrows go up with alarming frequency, especially in the beginning.

It happened the time my son punched the priest in the breadbasket for reaching out to bless him at Mass. And the following week, when my son (who had been hearing about his friend “Father Will” all week) greeted the elderly priest by patting the front of the man’s vestments as high as his two-year-old hands could reach. Come to think of it, it was right around the time of the scandals, too…

It happened the time my daughter drew a picture of her daddy in bed with her for the counselor (Craig has a nightly ritual of laying down next to her to read a bedtime story; the book was strangely absent in the picture). The next time it was a picture of mommy and daddy brandishing a L-O-O-N-G a whip (I still don’t know where that one came from, except maybe a horse scene in “Beauty and the Beast”).

It happened when my son’s first preschool teacher informed me that I was obviously neglecting my 4-year-old son’s needs because he didn’t use a napkin properly, and because he kept using words like “dead” and “kill.” (I wondered if the word his classmates had taught him — stupid — was so much better.)

It happens. And other people — those who don’t know your family — ARE going to judge you for it. Get ready for it … the disapproving looks, the heavy sighs, the hesitance to accept playdates. Get ready for the tons of unsolicited advice from grandparents, social workers, and total strangers about how you need to be “controlling” your children better.

I’m not saying don’t take the advice. Some veteran parents might give you some truly useful information with regard to managing stress, or potty training. But don’t expect them to understand, and don’t try to live up to someone else’s idea of perfect parenting. As a foster parent (or adoptive parent of an older child), there are going to be times when you need to march to another tune. Make a different choice. Try an unconventional method.

Don’t worry. If it’s a mistake, you can usually correct it mid-course. If the advice givers are real friends or if they truly love you, they will still be around years from now when the fruit of your labor ripens, and that wild little creatures is transformed into the radiant young man or woman who loves God and does what is right.

It’s OK to be weird when God takes you along a different path. Trust Him to give you the wisdom you need, exactly when you need it.
Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away,
but God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
She who possesses God, has everything.
For God alone suffices.
Teresa of Avila

Day in the Life of a Foster Mom

This is my final installment in the series about Come Be My Light, on the spiritual motherhood of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and why she is the perfect patronness of adoptive and foster families.

The final point that I took from this book was the idea that we need to be prudent in deciding what we are — and are not — able to do to meet the overwhelming need around us. When our kids came to us (initially with their older sister) we learned the hard way that there was only so much that we could do. It broke our hearts when we had to walk away from their older brother, who had been placed in a group home and who every time we saw him cried and begged for us to take him with us. We couldn’t. We knew that. But that knowledge didn’t make it easier to walk away.

In Come Be My Light, I was struck by the boundaries the Sisters of Mercy — bombarded by unrelenting need on all sides, the sick and the dying and the dirty and the orphaned — responded to those needs with true grace. They understood that they would be of no use to anyone if they did not tend to their own spiritual and physical needs … and so they kept their sanity by setting up a daily regimen of prayer and meals and rest that fit the needs of their community members.

We who have a heart for the children of the world who do not have families must take a lesson from these holy, courageous women. We shall be no good to anyone, including those God has entrusted to us right now, if we do not settle within ourselves what we have (and have not) been called to do.

We must also resign ourselves to the idea that the time will come when we need to accept a hand from others, too. In the story that follows, I recount a time when that hand came from a stranger … and yet, there are those all around us who are willing to lend a hand, if we are willing to let the need be known. It’s humbling, all right … but God created us in community, to help one another all the way to heaven.

Cleaning out my drawers the other day, I came across five large envelopes of photographs that, judging from how little Sarah was in the pictures, are at least three years old. I spent the better part of the morning racking my brain, trying to remember the events of that year. Even with photographic evidence in hand, so much had slipped away from conscious memory.

Happily, I still had my computer journal. Even during those wild first months as a mom, I always made a point of sneaking away every few days to record the highlights for another time. Sarah’s wide-eyed encounter with the camel at the petting zoo. Christopher’s love affair with kosher pickles. Sarah’s preverbal efforts to imitate my bedtime crooning. Christopher’s uninhibited delight in fighting “Daddy monster” clad in nothing but a diaper and his Superman cape (Christopher, that is. Daddy was fully clad.).

It was also one of my primarily creative outlets those first six months or so. One hapless editor asked me to write a series of devotions based on the readings for that month … only to reject half of them because the reflections centered around my newfound vocation. “Enough with the kids, already!”

But I couldn’t help it. Those dirty-faced, shrieking, clinging little insomniacs had become … mine in a way that I had neither anticipated nor planned. Given that I was “only” their foster mother, it was arguably unwise. But it was too late; I was hooked. Which was a good thing, because we needed every pheromone our bodies could summon up in order to get through each morning … From the journal:

Day Four of our first week together.

4:10 a.m. Sarah is crying. Again. Craig feeds her to give me a few minutes of desperately needed sleep. (We were told she sleeps through the night after her 11 p.m. feeding, but she has not yet slept more than three hours at a time.)

5:05 a.m. Craig crawls back to bed just as the baby monitor erupts. Christopher. “I’ll get it,” I tell Craig. “You get some rest.” Apparently Christopher couldn’t remember where he was. I lay down next to him, my cheek pressed against the two dozen stuffed animals on his bed, until Chris goes back to sleep. When I finally get up, there is an unmistakable impression of Bob the Builder’s tool belt on my face.

5:38 a.m. Sneak out of Christopher’s room and back to my own bed. Sarah stirs in her crib, and I freeze, imploring heaven not to let her wake up again. Gentle snores
resume. Weak with relief, I stumble downstairs.

5:45 a.m. Passing by the kitchen, my stomach rumbles. Remembering that I didn’t eat until 2:00 p.m. yesterday, I grab a glass of milk and a handful of Goldfish crackers and eat them on my way back to my room.

5:52 a.m. Craig does not stir when I crawl back to bed.

6:30 a.m. Chienne knocks on our bedroom door and wants to watch PowerPuff Girls. We tell her to go back to her room, that it is not morning yet. She counters with an offer to watch Bear in the Big Blue House instead. When this, too, is refused, she howls.

6:35 a.m. Heidi gets up to put on Bear in Big Blue House, sets up Chienne’s nebulizer with her morning asthma meds, and stumbles back to bed.

6:40 a.m. Chienne is back. Wants to know if her asthma meds are done yet. (They’re not… she has managed to spill most of it on the machine). She wants breakfast – scrambled eggs and toast. Settles for sippy cup of juice – after her meds are completely done. I refill the nebulizer and sit Chienne on my lap to make sure she takes it all.

6:45 a.m. Sarah wakes up and wants to be changed and fed. Craig stumbles out of bed for the day.

6:50 a.m. Christopher wants out of his crib. I seat Chienne on the couch and tell her to stay there until I come back. “Spider,” Christopher says, pointing to the flowery paper on the wall. I change him and we rock for a few minutes. Then he grabs his sippy cup and joins his sister watching Bear.

6:55 a.m. Chienne announces that she has to go potty, then calls to be wiped. She then wants her hair “detangled,” brushed and put in a ponytail.

7:05 a.m. Bear is over. Winnie the Pooh begins. I go downstairs to the kitchen, wiping up last night’s dinner and throwing a load of clothes in the laundry. Sit down with Sarah to give her an asthma treatment and hear wails. Someone has hit someone.

7:10 a.m. Older two kids are hungry. Christopher eats a plate full of grapes. Foster
mother said they always eat eggs and toast. Kids refuse eggs. Don’t want toast either. “I’ll kill you,” Christopher adds for emphasis. It unnerves me, hearing such awful words come out of such a sweet little face. Finally, Chienne settles for salami and cream cheese, Christopher takes dry cereal. I eat Christopher’s toast, and wash it down with Chienne’s orange juice (which she has refused as well.) Sarah is cooing from her bouncy seat.

7:20 a.m. Christopher sees me playing with the baby and decides he wants to be held. “Bunny book!” he coaxes.

7:22 a.m. Chienne sees me reading Christopher the bunny book, and throws herself into my desk chair 10 feet away. She wants me to teach her to read. Right now.

7:30 a.m. Time to get dressed. Chienne wants her PowerPuff t-shirt, which I cannot find in her bag. Put on pink shirt (over loud protests). By the time Christopher is dressed, she has ditched pink t-shirt and dived head-first into the clothing bin, pulling each piece of clothing out for inspection. At the bottom she finds a red velvet dress that is three sizes too small for her, which she insists on wearing. When I refuse, she runs out of the room and slams the door. Three times. I bite my lip and count to twenty.

7:50 a.m. Everyone but me is now dressed. Older two children are drawing with crayons and markers. Christopher finds a permanent marker in the “washable”
can. I explain that the marker isn’t really “magic,” and that unless we get washed up pronto he will go to his wedding with pink knuckles. “No!” he exclaims (the one word he uses with any regularity.) My request that we wash up is greeted by temper tantrums.

8:00 a.m. Christopher is screaming for no apparent reason. Screams again when Craig tries to pick him up. Wants Mommy. “He certainly seems to have bonded to you,” Craig comments mildly before going to get changed.

8:01 a.m. Chienne demands to sit on my other knee. “When are we going to the park?” she asks. I wrack my brain in vain to recall any such promise. We settle for a trip to the neighbor’s swing set – after Mommy has her shower.

8:05 a.m. Christopher pitches a fit when I leave him alone with Craig to take a shower. Bangs on the bathroom door despite Craig’s best efforts to lure him away. Craig gives up and goes to clean up the breakfast mess.

8:12 a.m. I come out of the shower to find Chris in a full-blown crying fit. Snot and tears everywhere. It takes five minutes just to get him to stop crying.

8:17 a.m. Chienne starts yelling because we have not yet gone to the swing set like YOU PROMISED! Craig takes the older two next door for a three-minute swing.

8:20 a.m. Sarah whimpers. Needs a change.

8:30 a.m. Now Sarah wants to eat. I hold her off fifteen more minutes with her binky.

8:45 a.m. I feed Sarah. Craig escapes to work. It’s not even noon yet, and already I am ready for bed. Mother’s group meets at the church at 9:30, and there is no way I’m going to miss a free hour of babysitting. Time to get the show on the road.

9:00 a.m. Still not on the road. Have stuffed a large backpack full of diapers, changes of clothes, sippy cups, crackers and fruit snacks, crayons, toys, Diet Coke and Excedrin Migraine. You’d think we were leaving for a month instead of an hour. By the time all three kids are in their car seats, the older two have managed to kick
off their shoes and socks and are screaming for snacks. I shove the stroller into the back end of the van, put on Elmo’s Greatest Hits, throw a handful of animal crackers into the backseat, and mentally tune out the din.

9:05 a.m. Sarah starts screaming. The car seat was not installed correctly, and tilted to one side as I rounded a corner. One hand on the wheel and one eye on the road, I reach back to push the seat back into its upright position. There is no place to stop the car, and no way I can get to the seat without releasing the other two little ankle-biters into traffic.

9:20 a.m. I pull into the church parking lot, shove the shoes back on the kids’ feet, and grab the giant backpack. The door is locked. “I hafta go potty,” announces Chienne.

9:22 a.m. A puddle has formed around Chienne’s ankles. Christopher suspects a babysitter is on the horizon, and goes into a full-throttle wail. Sarah sees the other two crying, and joins in. A sympathetic mom finds me weeping on the sidewalk, and helps me usher the kids inside.

9:30 a.m. Children safely in the nursery, I pour myself a cup of tea and find a seat. The speaker today is giving a talk about how important it is to find time to pray
each day. Heads are nodding, eyes avoiding contact. We know, we know. Now if we
can just convince our kids…

A few days ago, a writer friend of mine said that she was finding it hard to write now that she had three children under the age of five. “Don’t worry about getting published right now,” I suggested. “Just keep up your journal … It’s amazing how quickly the memories disappear if you don’t get them down.”

Then again, looking over that particular journal entry, maybe it’s a little like labor: The mind naturally blocks out the really painful stuff, just so you remember the joy.

Blessed Mother Teresa, Mother of the poor,
you see the poverty of our nation,
and are praying even now for courageous
men and women to step forward and enrich it.

Blessed Mother Teresa,
Patroness of Extraordinary Families,
pray that we might follow your example,
and take to our hearts those who do not know love,
welcome into our homes those who need family,
and feed with our own hands
those who are starving for the Bread of Life.

Blessed Mother Teresa, Mother of Calcutta,
We need not travel to India to see
the impoverished spirit of a nation.
Pray for us, that we might be ready
to shine with the hope that is in us.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.