His name is Andy and he seems to find a seat behind my family at Mass every week. He’s an older gentleman who always attends Mass alone and leaves one to wonder about the “story” behind this quiet soul. He was kind enough to introduce himself one morning after Mass and handed me his business card of sorts that lists his name and education. It’s clear he is a learned man; perhaps your stereotypical genius introvert: a pensive thinker, seemingly withdrawn from the world yet carefully taking in his surroundings.
More than once after Mass he has stopped my two sons to tell them how impressed he is with the way they care for their little sister. A few weeks ago, he walked in and once again took his seat in the pew directly behind us. He then proceeded to watch as our seven-year-old daughter, Mary-Rose, began to quietly climb up on her brother’s lap, then down again, face forward, then backward and hop from the lap of one brother to another multiple times. Her movement is constant, yet her brothers take it all in stride, patiently picking her up, putting her down, and doing their best to sneak in a snuggle when she sits long enough for a squeeze.
This particular day, once the final song had begun, I noticed Andy lean over to my husband, hand him a twenty-dollar bill, then give him some important directions. On our way back to the car, my husband explained that this kind and gentle man was once again taken with the selfless care her brothers afforded their sister. The twenty dollars was for Mary-Rose to take her brothers out for an ice cream. A “thank you,” if you will, for their love and patience.
Truth be told, the relationship between Mary-Rose and her two brothers is nothing less than remarkable. It’s something I thank God for each and every day. What Andy doesn’t know is that this mama’s heart was fearful this bond between our three children might never develop. Our boys are twenty-three months apart and had seven years to develop an incredibly close relationship before their little sister entered the scene. At seven and nine years of age, their world was turned upside down when we adopted Mary-Rose into our family: a two-and-a-half-month-old angel, born with an extra chromosome and a long list of hearts to mold.
Literally overnight, there was this new little person in our lives that required mom and dad’s attention — and lots of it. Our sons had every right to be resentful of this little lady. Things could have gone awry; I remain aware of that reality every day when I stand back in awe of how amazing things turned out. These two boys of ours opened their hearts to their sister and haven’t looked back since.
“Yet you, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are our potter; we are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8
This simple, yet powerful gesture from Andy does much to ground me as we move into this new year. The perspective of one who is all but a stranger places the beauty and intimacy of God’s work in our lives right before me, as clear as a memo from above. When I look at my sons and their selfless love for their sister, I am reminded that anything is possible if we open ourselves to His perfect plan and take our place on the potter’s wheel with expectant and malleable hearts.
Of course, as I sit here on this snowy New England morning, wrapped in warmth, coffee cup in hand, and no need to head out into the storm, my strength in being molded seems easy, even exciting. None of us truly know what the next 365 days will bring. As with the start of any new year, we all have two choices. We can fill our calendars with carefully thought out plans and step into tomorrow cautiously hoping things will turn out the way we want, or we can pray for the Potter to mold us to adapt and cherish each day as it comes, to give us strength to weather the storms and grateful hearts to recognize and absorb the gifts that will surround us.
As we welcome the start of a new year, I picture Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus stepping out of the manger and into a life that was full of uncertainty. My prayer is to walk into 2018 with the expectant and trusting hearts of the Holy Family, asking God to wrap us in His promised and unfailing love and inspire us with the courage to allow Him to mold us into the perfect work of His hands.
Copyright 2018 Nicole Johnson