Last year, we celebrated our anniversary a few days late, grilling out and staying up too late watching Indiana Jones only to have my water break around 11:00 pm. Instead of going to bed, we had to go the hospital. We left two days later, four days into our second year as a married couple, with our son safely buckled in the backseat.
To call this year a learning experience is the biggest understatement I could make. Josh went from working as the lead bartender to management training only a few months after our son was born. I continued to take classes, while our son visited his grandparents or aunt. A time or two, he came to class with me. Unconventional? Certainly. But it worked for us fought for the balance between parenthood and achieving the goals we had set for ourselves.
Although I can't speak for my husband, I feel like I have changed so much in the last year. I have felt my self soften and relax. I made myself feel like a martyr to my child and in the last few months, have really started to practice actually asking for the help and personal time needed to be the best mama I can be.
The greatest thing I have learned this year though is this:
You have no idea how much you can love your partner until you begin raising a child together.
It brings out some of the best (and admittedly worst) things about them and provides us with a chance to work together in a totally new way. Marriage and child-rearing is not about equal, it is about equitable. It is not about your way, it is about the best way. It creates the opportunity for a young couple to really begin working together, admitting when they can do better, and rejoicing in one another's successes.
We're looking forward to our next year together, as I begin my first year as a teacher, as Josh begins his second year as a manager, and as our son begins to walk, talk, and develops into his own little self. We've learned so much about parenting and teamwork this year and I cannot wait to see how much our relationship grows in the coming year.
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Full disclosure here: I neglected my Sunday obligation recently. I woke up feeling not 100% and just ready to visit with my family during spring break, so I loaded up and left earlier than planned and skipped Mass.
The following weekend, I knew that I needed (and wanted to go to Mass). I also knew that to do so, I needed to receive God's grace through the sacrament of reconciliation. So, I planned my Saturday afternoon to-dos around being able to attend confession and then Mass. We got to church time to spare. I dropped our jackets and bag in the back pew and made my way to the confessional. But as I approached the confessional, I realized there was no priest. I checked with a parishioner who was helping set up, who confirmed my fears: confessions ended at 3:30. Although I had arrived on time, I had definitely missed the window now at 3:35. I was devastated. I sat in the back pew holding my son and my soul cried out to God. What was I supposed to do now? I had made a good-faith effort. Should I hurry to my car and rush to another church, another confession? Should I just stay here, attend Mass, and try again next week?
Lord, I need you.
I eventually settled on staying, as much I wanted to receive Jesus in the form of the Eucharist, I wasn't going to be able to get anything from Mass if I attended much later and interfered with my son's routine. I offered my heart up to God, trusting that this worship would be enough this week and that our loving, merciful God would accept me as I was.
"Excuse me, one of my parishioners told me that there was a young woman with a baby who needed to go to confession-
"Yes!" I exclaimed.
The priest smiled down at me, "You know that God loves you very much, and is always ready to welcome and forgive us?"
I assured him that I did and explained that I had missed Mass last Sunday. Right there, in front of everyone, with only a few minutes before Mass was scheduled to begin, I was able to receive God's grace through absolution. He went to get ready for the Mass and I turned back to face the Crucifix in the front of the sanctuary. I hugged my son close and felt the deep, abiding love God has for me. I was forgiven. I was redeemed.
I know that this experience is not necessarily a by-the-rules confession. I know it wasn't the best confession I've ever made. But I also know that God isn't looking for perfect. God doesn't demand a black and white, by the book faith life from us. God just wants us to try to do better because God loves us and is always ready to welcome and forgive us.
Thank you, to that nameless man, who listened to God's gentle nudge to tell the priest about that young mama who needed to go to confession before Mass. Thank you, Father, for listening to God and reaching out to the tired, imperfect mother who desperately needed to feel God's grace. And thank you, God, for your infinite love and mercy.
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