By Heidi Hess Saxton
In today’s responsorial psalm (Psalm 69), we read the words of a heartbroken leader.
“Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for consolers, not one could I find.”
Throughout our lives, we are called to fulfill many different roles: daughter and mother, sister and friend, leader and follower. Not all these hats will fit comfortably on the head. In fact, some of these roles will reveal in new and unsettling ways some of our most glaring faults, our human foibles and weaknesses, and the flaws that God most needs to root out of us in order to make us ready for heaven.
For me, it was motherhood. It wasn’t until we brought our first (and only) sibling group home from the agency that I was confronted with the reality that I am one of the most hot-tempered and impatient people on the planet. After only a week of sleepless nights, I was reduced to such a sorry mess that the kids would see me coming and run from the room, shrieking
“Mommy monster! Mommy monster!”
Well, Sarah didn’t run. She just kicked her feet in the baby seat and burbled. But I could tell she could see right through me. Over time, we worked out an understanding, and fifteen years later (yipes), I can look back and laugh. But it wasn’t funny at the time. At. All.
Now, of course, I face different challenges … ones that makes today’s psalm very relatable. The kids don’t shriek “Mommy Monster” anymore, but they are quick to point out my every little flaw with heartbreaking insults, just the same.
“You tell ME not to yell, but here you are yelling at me!” (I was?)
“My FRIENDS all get to wear nose rings to school. You are just SO twentieth century!” (Indeed. Guilty.)
“I’m HUNGRY, and you never give me snacks!” (Oh, so the fruit bowl, yoghurt cups, and pretzel sticks don’t qualify?)
And then there’s the queen of all insults: “Just two more years and I can go live with my REAL MOM!”
Heartbreaking, for both of us. It’s the storm of a broken heart, who even after all this time (and therapy) still connects in a very primitive way to her first mother and pushes me out into the cold. It’s the self-centered cry of a normal teenager, who wants to cut the bonds of dependency, and who idealizes the unknown.
Most of all, it’s one more opportunity to brace myself and let God do his work, enlarging my heart to see not just my snarky teenager and her sullen brother, but all the versions and roles they will play throughout their lives — and to trust that God has a plan for them, just as he has for me.
Jesus, I trust in you.
About the Author:
Heidi is a wife and adoptive mother, contributing writer to WINE, and author of Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta and the follow-up companion, Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Servant, released January 2017). Heidi received a graduate degree in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit in 2012, having converted to the Catholic faith in 1995 from the evangelical tradition. She met her husband, Craig, at the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Club, and lives with her family (including two special-needs teenagers, a longsuffering Aussie shepherd and a snuggly Chiweenie) near South Bend, Indiana.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. We adopted a sibling group (of 5) and your words rang home for me today. Prior to adopting the kids, I felt I was very even tempered and when the children came I couldn’t believe what a hot head I was (read just walking out of the house and to the nearest coffee shop with only a text to my husband). Almost two years later, times are better but I am always disappointed in myself when I succumb to the temperament that is not in the image of Christ.
Adriana, you are not alone. Stress wreaks havoc on even the mild-mannered! Breathe deeply, run to the coffee shop (and confessional?) as needed. God sees us, and will strengthen us in our weak spots if we ask. Thanks so much for writing!
Hi Heidi, thank you for sharing. Your story is very relatable for me, not in the way that I faced the same struggles but in the helplessness of realizing that “my gifts” as a mother were being stretched. Mothering my adoptive son, Joseph, now seventeen years old, has required ingenuity, self-sacrifice, growth beyond my wildest imagination, lots of soul searching, and plenty of prayer. As a family, we have come so far. Our family prayer for the last year and a half has been a miraculous piece to our more mind blowing, progress. “Come, Holy Spirit. Come. Make us a holy family founded on love.” Luckily for me, and for my small family of three, God can accomplish what we find impossible on our own merit, and can make something beautiful out of all our “sorry messes.” Hang in there, you and your family are never alone!
Stretching is hard work, whether it’s the womb or the heart! Thanks for writing, Karen.
Will keep you, your family, and all families struggling with various issues, in my prayers this Easter Season. May the healing, peace, hope and unity of Easter fill our hearts and homes.
Oh heidi, you speak to my soul, we have an adopted daughter soon to be 27, she has challenged my Christianity to the core … But at the end of most days she makes me a better person … Maybe a crazy better person !
When I look at my kids now, in high school, I cannot imagine what they will be like, what we will be like, ten years from now. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thank you Heidi, Your words ring true for all of us.
Thanks, Sharon. I continue to pray for you and your work.
Thank you for sharing. If it’s any consolation I’ve been given four children the natural way. Prior to them I was pretty even keel, but as they grew… so did my temper especially into their teenage years. Your children may comment to you, “in two years I’m out of here to live with my ‘real mom’ take heart, it’s more frightening to hear, “I’m out of here in two years!” As a mom, any mom the thought of them ‘on there own’ when they are still teenagers seems impossible and frightening. Gods timing is everything and His ways aren’t our ways. Once He gives us children, no matter how, as mom’s our hearts will be hurt and broken. That’s when I’m reminded of her greater pain, the Blessed Mother, and turn to her for help. My youngest just went off to college and the oldest is expecting our first grandchild. You said it best and the older I get the more I know; the confessional is comforting for our failures, prayer is for our hopes and dreams, but a good cup of coffee with a friend, sometimes is just what you need for the moment. Blessing to moms everywhere! ~LeAnn
And to you, too, Leeann! Thanks for writing.
[…] over at WINE (Women in the New Evangelization), I share a bit about what it is like to raise children adopted very young through the teenage years. In particular, what it is like to come face to face with a version of yourself you never knew […]