Another year, another Marian advent reflection.
As you may remember, we were asked to share our parental reflections during our church’s Marian Lessons & Carols service last year.
For some crazy reason, they asked us to do a follow up this year. (I guess they didn’t mind our irreverence after all!)
Below is the full reflection, which carries much of the same sentiments from a year ago, though perhaps with a healthier dose of grace and humor: the key ingredients for any parents staring into the abyss of life with multiple kiddos.
“The first things she took from me were selfishness and sleep.”
This song lyric written by Brandi Carlile resonated so much with us. Somehow she was able to hit the nail on the head with just that one line in her track titled “The Mother.”
We actually spoke a lot about our long lost sleep around this time last year. We also reflected on the expectations and surprising realities of our first full year as parents.
Spoiler alert: all of our preconceived plans and notions were shattered as soon as we had Lilia. Though after sharing our experience, we quickly learned that this is a pretty common occurrence among first time parents.
One year later, however, we find ourselves in a different place entirely.
You mean running after, negotiating with, and attempting to raise a fiercely independent toddler? Yes, that.
While also awaiting the arrival of our second child, due in the Spring? Yep, that too.
But there’s so much to prepare for before then! Like potty training Lilia. The holidays. Choir concerts. Family coming to town. House projects. Nursery set up. Knowing that neither of us will ever have a free set of hands again…
It seems as though nothing compares to the preparation required for expecting parents.
And yet, with Lilia, it seemed no matter how much we thought we prepared, we were never quite ready for what was coming our way: We zigged when we should have zagged. We jumped when we should have ducked. We worried when we should have enjoyed.
In the end, we learned that no matter how much we prepared or worried in the parental department, we were still able to locate joy and love in both the trials and in the triumphs.
Now, we have the opportunity to take what we’ve learned over these past few years as we prepare to welcome Lilia’s brother or sister.
We have a second chance: a gift that lies in the grace we didn’t give ourselves the first time, but that we should have.
Grace to be less stringent. Grace to veer from routine. Grace to acknowledge our humanness and limitations. Grace to embrace and learn from our mistakes. Grace to ask for help when we need it. Grace to laugh at the times when we should have zagged instead of zigged. Grace to be broken yet loving parents… and knowing that is all the child and we need in order to grow together.
But we couldn’t do it without Mary. There’s a reason we call her “Mary full of Grace”, after all!
Baby refuses to sleep? Hail Mary, full of Grace.
Baby pooped on you in the middle of the night? Hail Mary, full of Grace.
Toddler screams at you if you stay and screams at you if you leave? Hail Mary, full of Grace.
Toddler vomits on you in the airplane? Hail Mary, full of Grace.
We honestly wonder sometimes if Mary suffered from the same guilt and stress associated with motherhood. She only had one chance with Jesus, the Son of God. And how did she respond? With her Canticle, which begins:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
We can learn a lot from Mary just by reflecting on her response to God’s call for her life to be a mother.
Did she feel guilt? Unlikely, because she was filled with the surety of God’s goodness every step of the way.
Did she feel stressed? Probably not, because she put her entire trust in God’s promise.
Did she dwell on her mistakes? Perhaps… she was human after all! But she also probably understood that God was still accomplishing great things through her, despite them.
A wise priest once said that God is never sad when he looks at your life and sees problems, conflicts, or difficulty because he expects them all to bear fruit.
Perhaps this statement is an even more adequate definition of parenthood than the lack of selfishness and sleep described in our Brandi Carlile song.
Or perhaps they both hold elements of truth. (I mean, we really did lose a lot of sleep that first year… )
Perhaps what may have been a seemingly unbearable trial in that first year can now be seen as an opportunity for us to love God and lean on Mary even more as we prepare for child #2.
Much like each Advent season, with each pregnancy we are given a chance to make room in our hearts for what is to come. With each child comes a greater capacity to love another person, more than we ever thought possible.
It sounds strange, but sometimes we can’t believe that we – such broken and sinful people — get a second child when Mary didn’t. With just one pregnancy, she showed such an abundant amount of trust in God’s plan. Even in that one child her role as a mother to Jesus is one all of us mothers strive to emulate.
Though if you really think about it, it turns out that Mary had a second chance after all: with all of us, her children.
Her motherly love grows and extends to all of us and is made even more perfect every time we call on her.
Which as a parent, is A LOT.
I’ve been helping my mom make this fudge every Christmas since I can remember. It is now an annual holiday staple on all of our Christmas tins and cookie platters (alongside our Graham Cracker Toffee). As an added bonus, this was the first year Lilia was able to help me make it… so it’s even more special this go-around. We recommend using your favorite semi-sweet chocolate brand, because fudge is all about the quality of the chocolate!
- 2 Tbs butter
- 2/3 c. evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 c. mini marshmallows
- 2 c. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
- 1/2 to 1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Combine butter, milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Boil for 4 – 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and immediately stir in marshmallows, chocolate, nuts, and vanilla. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows and chocolate melt.
- Pour into a foil lined 8″ or 9″ square pan. Chill until firm (overnight preferred).
- Lift chilled fudge out of the pan and cut into small squares to serve.
- Substitute butterscotch morsels for butterscotch fudge.
- Add a layer of crushed peppermint candies or candy canes to the middle and top to create an extra festive batch.
- Make an adult version by adding 1 Tbs of bourbon or rum when you add the vanilla.
- For extra texture and flavor, add up to 1 c. craisins, raisins, or chopped dried cherries alongside the nuts.