Monday, February 04, 2008

Opportunity



You remember the haircut, right (see my last post for a thorough explanation)? Well there’s an addendum to that story I’d both like and not like to share with you. It involves the explicit instructions from my daughter’s stylist not to remove the rubber band holding together nine inches of hair being donated to Locks of Love, an organization (I was corrected by a friend of mine) that makes wigs not for cancer patients but rather for individuals afflicted by alopecia areata, a mysterious medical condition involving sudden hair loss. We promised to be careful while carrying home the correctly bound ponytail I had placed in a freezer bag for protection. Being somewhat predisposed to screw these kinds of things up I was unusually determined to be responsible, even pre-addressing the manila envelope that was to be mailed off that week containing Priscilla’s contribution; I was proud of myself for following through on all of the details.

So later on when my little girl innocently opened the bag to look again at the long silky waves now intended for another child, when the rubber band holding everything together somehow loosened and the strands of hair fell free, when she and I tried to gather them back up but they wouldn’t cooperate, wouldn’t stay together, I chastised her severely for an unintentional error. I felt myself bumping up against the line dividing “appropriateness” from “overkill” but I plowed it through it anyway in obedience to the insatiable appetite of my own irritation. When I looked up she was gone, I stood alone with my recklessness while a fistful of useless curls slipped through my fingers.

Three months ago, I watched on dumbfounded as a grim faced doctor told my sister-in-law that the stinging sensation in her abdomen was not an ulcer but a freakishly large growth that could possibly be malignant. It was all quite surreal, like an act in a play; I kept waiting to hear "Cut! Let's do that scene over!" “Don't cry, don't cry” I begged of myself, “Hold it together for Paige.” But over the weeks that would follow, throughout episodes of excruciating pain, a trip to the Mayo clinic and a stint in intensive care, it was Paige who comforted me; it was her faith, her courage that uplifted all of us. Eventually, there’d be a diagnoses: sclerosing mesenteritis, a rare disease of the mesentery tissue that can thankfully be treated with steroids; eventually, there'd be healing and hope. "You were amazing," I told her, "I could never have been that calm."

“I am good in a crisis,” she honestly explained, "its everyday life that is difficult.”

When my husband, Troy, says on any given month that things will be tight, I stoically rise to the challenge, spending money on nothing but food, bills, and gas. When nausea keeps the feverish head of one of my sons or daughters buried in a grocery bag-lined mop bucket, I will empty it repeatedly, rub his or her heaving back, and not complain although sleep will be scarce for both of us. I would die for the sake of the Cross, I work endlessly to tune out the empty promises of materialism, but don’t you dare infringe on my quiet time or take for yourself the last chocolate chip cookie. Yes, Paige, I know exactly what you mean - its not tragedy or sacrifice but rather banal annoyances that have the greatest potential to destroy me.

Priscilla, where are you?” I searched through each room; she was hiding and rightly so, I had hurt her deeply. Then a sniffle from under my bed led me finally to her hand, outstretched where I could see it, open wide so I could grasp it and pull her toward me. “I’m a dumb girl,” she quivered, through a heart breaking jumble of whimpering, snot and tears. “I ruined everything,” she went on and I ached as she made obvious the shame she was wrestling with because of me. “Shhh, shhh,” was all I could initially muster. “Lord have mercy,” I silently pleaded. And then I wrapped myself around her, kissed her cheeks to calm her down. “I’m so sorry, baby. It was an accident, a complete and total accident. Mama’s very sorry that she was harsh with you. I apologize, Priscilla, can you forgive me?” And of course she did because she’s resilient like that, but woe to me if I test that elasticity too often.

“You know,” I said, that evening, “while Priscilla and I were washing dishes, after a cherished red goblet had inexplicably shattered just seconds earlier, “it seems like your mom has a lot to learn. What do you think God’s been teaching me today?” She examined my face before stating her answer. Could she really talk to a parent about their weaknesses?

“W-e-l-l,” she began timidly, contemplating all of her many options “maybe patience?”

“You are absolutely right, sweetheart,” I assured her. “Help us not forget that all things are sent by You. Have you heard mom pray that before?” Thus began a conversation about frustrations that have a purpose, that when examined in light of salvation can lead one straight to Christ. And I honestly think their working because with each spilled box of beads, dropped gallon of brand new apple juice emptying its sticky contents all over my kitchen floor, I become less exasperated, more likely to grab a broom or hand out some paper towels then lose my temper. Longsuffering, I need to remind myself daily, is an earned discipline. I must bear some weight before I gain the strength to follow Jesus’ example, to stand back up and walk again after being struck by wickedness or affliction. I’ve got my “count to ten” rule, a spray bottle of disinfectant, and several icons hanging within my view. Please prepare me, most Holy Trinity, for what is coming around the corner. Out of love for my family and for the furtherance of Your glory, may I exchange my impulsivity for restraint. There is never an empty moment when your sights are set on Heaven, no lack of opportunities to save one’s soul.

9 comments:

paige said...

Dear Molly, thank you for your sweet blog. Truly, it was everyone's support and prayers that helped us through those weeks. Now comes the tough part - back at home with four-year old tantrums, dirty dishes and piles of laundry - no lack of opportunities indeed!

H and S said...

Sigh. I couldn't even count the times I've been harsh with my children over their mistakes. Thanks for your honesty.

Kelleylynn said...

Your honesty is a reminder that we all fall short from the glory of God, no excuses - just pick up the pieces, but in your case, the hair!
I had the honor to test my poorly developed patience out while sponging up spilled lemonade all over the staircase, as I also needed to get out the door...can you sense my tone? ;)

I read from Mountain of Silence how a monk answered a pilgrim his inquiry on what "they" do all day? He simply replied "I fall down, I get up, I fall down, I get up..."
Now that should teach us some patience.
I'm right next to you, Molly, a sinner. Lord Have Mercy!

Lucy said...

I had tears reading this. Like you and your sister, I'm good in a crisis, but I flip out over everyday annoyances. I have lashed out far too often at my children for mistakes that were childish but not rebellious. I have learned well the art of a sincere apology. Hopefully, that teaches my children something too: that even mommies make mistakes and this is what you do when you make one.

I have a question for you, too. What is your family doing for Valentine's Day? I'm curious because I would like to celebrate it as a feast day with my kids (and hubby), but I don't know what to do. I would like to find a good story of St. Valentine and teach my kids some history behind our observance of the day (they're pretty young yet, so I can't go through the whole thing, although my six year old and I did talk about Cupid and Greek gods and goddesses a little). Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks so much for your blog. Your writing resonates deeply with me.

Kelleylynn said...

Molly, please forgive - I do not want to step on toes, but I had to help out with Lucy's question...

Our family has a great little children's book on Saint Valentine retold and beautifully illustrated in mosiac style by Robert Sabuda (Aladdin Paperbacks)
St. V's story is unlike that, but of course, the world protrays...I highly recommend checking it out. I'm sure that there's a website for Aladdine Paperbacks - Good luck and let me know...
Thanks Molly, for letting me input.
We have no "traditions" and I'm interested to hear if you have any...good question, Lucy

Jilly said...

Thanks for this post. I am just coming to realize why children are considered sacramental in some traditions. Nothing tests my self-control and patience like my 3 year old.

Molly Sabourin said...

I very much appreciate your feedback, Kelleylynn, on Lucy's question as I, too, would like to hear other ideas on how to celebrate Valentine's Day with my kids! Your question, Lucy, is a great one and has got me thinking. I have always been a sucker for Valentine's Day despite its bad reputation for being a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make a profit. I hate to admit it, but as busy as we are, my husband and I need to schedule our romance every once in awhile and V. Day is a good reminder to look at each other as husband and wife instead of just "tag team" partners. My mom always gave us cards and little treats growing up and I appreciated it. That book you mentioned by Robert Sabuda looks like a nice way to merge faith into our celebration of "love".

kelleylynn said...

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Robert+Sabuda&sortby=2&sts=t&tn=Saint+Valentine&x=58&y=10

Apparantly, the book is out of print but I located it here for purchase with many other references on St. Valentine's Day!
I'm leaving this as a treasure to unfold, for all will be pleased with this little book...

Lucy said...

Thank you so much! I ordered the book and though we won't have it this year, we'll use it next year. I love Valentine's Day and I would really love a way to make it more of a holy day. We do lots of paper hearts and candy, but we do use it as an opportunity to express love as a family, not just romance between Dh and me (although that's important, too).

This year we're decorating and having a heart-shaped pizza and I think I'll read some sections from I John about how we're to love one another. I found an icon and the troparion on comeandseeicons.com, so we'll look at that. I wish I knew more about tones for singing it, but we'll wing it. :)

I can't wait to see the book! Thank you again, Kelleylynn, for the suggestion.