For most of the past twenty years, I have been awakened in the dark of night by a small person who needs to be held close, comforted, nursed. And although there are still times I long for an uninterrupted sleep, I have come to discover something beautiful about those midnight wake-up calls, and ultimately, about the daily tasks of caring for a family. It is something that so many mothers around the world have known for generations. It is that those few moments of wakefulness during the quiet of each night, and the countless earthly occupations of each day are overflowing with two-fold grace.
In meeting my daughter’s or son’s physical needs of nourishment and comfort, despite my need for sleep, I am showing them how to love. I am making a gift of myself. And in the self-emptying, grace flows in and nourishes my soul. Now that these halcyon days of young motherhood begin to wane, I cherish those moments more and more. I look forward with tenderness to those hushed, starlit hours curled around the tiny form of my child, small hands holding me close, diminutive feet drawn up to receive mother’s warmth.
Several years ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I worried for her, for her husband, for her children. I agonized over the treatments that laid her so physically low, and marveled at her spiritual strength. I mourned the loss of her ability to nurse her small daughter, as I still could my son. And I began to use that precious mid-night stirring as a vigil. I prayed rosaries and Divine Mercy chaplets on my fingers, and rocked children to the rhythm of the Jesus prayer.
And even now the habit remains, having become a part of my very being. I pray for my husband’s and children’s needs and concerns, for people in our parish who are struggling financially, who are ill, or who have died. I pray for people who send me messages. I pray for myself. I give thanks for the gift of life, for new friends, for happy surprises, for the kindness I see in the world, and for affirmations to my petitions.
The acts of love and prayer, accomplished at first between sunset and dawn, helped me to grow in spirit. They have affirmed, for me, the special blessing and innate value of motherhood. They have revealed a way to turn every task of my life into prayer. Mopping of a floor, or scrubbing of a toilet may be offered up for someone else’s suffering; and hanging out clothes on the line, or washing the dishes after a meal can be occasions for giving praise and thanksgiving. The work gives a means of prayer, the prayer invites grace, and grace ennobles the work.
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament. ~Brother Lawrence “The Practice of the Presence of God”
With a family of ten, I have more laundry to wash, more mouths to feed, more diapers to change, and more sleepless nights than many mothers do. And I know that God sends each of us what we need in this life for our ultimate perfection. Knowing my own enormous need for grace, He has sent me eight unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable gifts, each offering me myriad opportunities to meet Him in the ordinariness of every day – and night.
Copyright 2012 Brian and Nissa Gadbois