In the past couple of weeks, such days have been numbering greater and greater in our home.
Be it the change of seasons, neuro-differences, or just plain old preteen testing of limits and pushing of patience, but lately something has had my eleven-year-old reaching new heights of... I don't even know what to call it.
Moments that make me cry out interiorly (and sometimes aloud!), "Lord, help me with this child!" "Mother Mary, please wrap us all in a calming blanket of grace." "Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner, and on my son, too. Help us grow in virtue."
Yes, in recent weeks, it has become more and more apparent to me that the hurdles my husband and I faced when helping a sensory-challenged four-year-old through day-to-day life some years ago were likely just mere training granted us so that we might be better prepared to navigate the more strenuous ups and downs and ins and outs of parenting a preteen.
Indeed, the course we are on now is wearisome at times. Yet with our Lord's generous gifts of strength and grace, we remain steadfast in it. And -praise God - it is not all hardship.
In fact, even through our most challenging traverses, there are always footprints of hope to follow and - blessed be to God - regular moments of respite, too.
Sympathetic fellow sojourners, literal breaths of fresh air, and surprise vistas of glory. Each and every moment of challenge is balanced by real and present hope. By respite. By fortification. By gratitude amidst the grumbling.
Further, I know I am blessed with an incredible and vital item in my "parenting toolbox": prayer. And, here, I do not simply speak of my own prayers.
I know that many pray for me and mine and am thankful for that. Today, I am even more grateful for the prayers of the very child that has been challenging me the most in my parenting journey of late.
Thursday, that child hit an apex of insolence. His behaviors were anything but acceptable and I was calling on every bit of grace I might be gifted with to get me through the night.
Friday, was better, but not exactly easy going. As the day wore on, I wondered if, when evening came, I would have the stamina to get through it alone since my husband was not going to be home.
In fact, I was so weary from Thursday's eruption and Friday's residual aftermath that I almost skipped going to Divine Mercy Holy Hour and Mass. I just was not sure that I was up for keeping my children quiet enough there so that they would not to disturb anyone else's prayers, much less my own.
However, the Spirit prompted me: "Go," and I listened. I told my children to get whatever faith books, paper, or pencils they might need to keep themselves prayerfully engaged during the Holy Hour and headed to the church.
What a refreshment to my soul, it was. As I prayed... as I gazed at the image of Divine Mercy... as I looked to the crucifix and to a stained glass window depicting Mary at the foot of the cross... as I examined the gentle face of Mary looking down at Baby Jesus in carved statue crowned in blooms, my heart filled with gratitude and reassurance. I did not doubt our Lord's mercy at all, and I even felt at peace when redirecting my younger children's expected antsiness.
That peace, though, only went so far. In fact, as prayerful and peaceful as I may have been kneeling in the pew, I was really still "she of little faith".
My oldest son had been so contrary prior to going to Holy Hour, that when I glanced over at his pencil moving steadily across a page, I wondered if what he was writing was completely inappropriate to where we were. I suspected what was going from mind to paper on my son's side of the pew was just more of the "ick" that he had been spewing out in writing and verbally over the past days and weeks.
I just did not have the energy to face another potential altercation with my son, especially in the middle of Holy Hour. Plus, I truly just wanted to savor the solace of placing focus on prayer over parenting my preteen, so I chose to just breathe and to overlook whatever my son might be writing.
Little did I know how silly I was being.
That is until my oldest son, who had been holding out on honest apologies and sincere acts of reparation since the day prior, not only slid past his siblings to offer me a spontaneous and genuine embrace, but also handed me the stack of papers he'd been writing on.
With a deep breath, I looked down at the papers. On them were prayers. Amazing prayers. Prayers that I am certain came from Divine Mercy as a balm for my boy and me.
Now, with my son's permission (and even a smile in a photo!), I share the prayers that he wrote in case they might help you or your preteen redirect moments of hopelessness to ones of mercy and grace.
God, thou are the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Savior of Saviors, and Protector of Protectors. You are the only way to Heaven. God, thou are greater than great, the best of the best, kinder than kind, and more merciful than mercy. Jesus, you are the only Way to the Father. Jesus, thou are the Prince of Peace and King of Kindness. Father, you are the Lord of Love and Emperor of Mercy. Holy Spirit, you are the Bestower of Gifts and the Life within us. Holy Trinity, you are the God on High and the Giver of All Things. Thou are Love, Truth, and Life. Mary, you are the Mother of God and our Mother, too. Joseph, you are the Father of Jesus and the Protector of the Church. Holy Family, you are the perfect family. Mary and Joseph, pray for us. Amen.
O Joseph, Protector of the Church and Father of Jesus, help us to obey God. O Joseph, pray for us. O, St. Joseph, I love you. Amen.
Holy Joseph, Father of God the Son, thou are great. O Joseph, thy son is God. Thou is blessed. Amen.
O Jesus, save us from the tortures of Hell and bring us to Heaven. O Jesus, bless us and all we love. Amen.
O Holy Spirit, pour on us thy blessing. Save us from Hell and bring us to Heaven. Amen.
God, you are the end and the beginning. Thou, O Lord, are the way to Heaven and will save us. Amen.
***St Paul, you are the apostle to the gentiles. St. Peter, you are the first pope and the great pope for you met Jesus. St. Luke, you are author of one of the great gospels and painter of beautiful icons. St. Mary, you are the Queen of Queens. St. Joseph, you are the Protector of the Church. Saints, please pray for us. Thank you. Amen.
***St. Paul,pray for us and help us to be good. Thou, Paul, stopped your bad ways and started to do good. Help us to do the same as thou did. Amen.
Jesus, you are my savior. Jesus thou deserve more than I can give. Jesus, thou died a painful and horrid death for us. We don't deserve thy mercy, but thou have given us more than we could imagine. Thou, O Jesus, are the Son of God and are God. Thy Mother Mary is the Mother of us, too. Thou gave us thy mother. Amen.
Indeed, Jesus did give us his mother - a model of strength, trust, and love. A mediatrix of grace that I am thankful for. And, He continually gives us more than we can image each and every day. In prayer, in the examples of the saints, in the Eucharist, in His continual presence, our Lord offers each of us incredible amounts of mercy, strength, and hope. Hope born of love.
True and unwavering love.
As I reflect on the past week, the day's reading, and a rereading of my son's prayers, clear messages of mercy, hope, and love prevail.
Lord, thank you for being such a kind and merciful God. Mother Mary, thank you for so often wrapping us in your protective mantle.
So many times as a wife and mother, I have felt woefully lacking, but, just as often, I have recognized truth in the saying that You do not call the equipped, but rather equip the called.
You, Lord, gift me everything I need to parent my preteen. You are also equipping him for what he is called to do in this world. Thank you for this. Thank you for placing my focus back on your merciful love and generous grace.
Now, I know there will continue to be moments, days, and even weeks and months when I struggle with living my calling and stewarding my children, yet I also recognize that I have never been alone on my journey and never will be. The same is true for you.
Please, whatever your situation today, be confident that He is there, equipping you, loving you, constantly offering you hope. Embrace this hope. Walk with it.
The journey may be long, but it is oh so blessed - even through the challenging times.
Whether you are parenting a preteen or not, I pray that, today, you are filled with God's mercy, kindness, and love. Indeed, it is always there for us.