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The Piece of Cheesecake That Brought Peace in Parenting

God can use anything to reveal truth to us…even a piece of cheesecake!

Let me explain.

My first three children came along very quickly. We started referring to them as the “annual baby” after I gave birth in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The “2014 model” came in just under the wire on New Year’s Eve! Life with three under three was exhausting and chaotic. Even though my lifelong dream of becoming a mother was being realized, I felt as if I had jumped on an emotional roller coaster; never knowing when the next high or low would sweep me along its track.

In the midst of those years, I began to forget details about the children’s milestones and firsts. What was Bridget’s first word? What was Max like at six months? What date did I first feel Teddy flutter in my womb? I could not remember. I often worried that I was forgetting my children’s childhood before it even happened. I found myself impatient and frustrated a lot. I’d dread the waking cries that signaled the end of naptime and immediately feel guilty for dreading them. All of this led to worry that not only was I not “enjoying it” but also already forgetting the memories that “go by so fast” as so many encouraged me to do.

What does all this have to do with cheesecake? Well, cheesecake is my favorite dessert and one that I rarely get. When I get my fork in a piece of cheesecake, I savor it, taking tiny bites and allowing each one to dissolve on my tongue. So one night, in those early years of motherhood, as I was savoring a piece of Adam’s Peanut Buttercup Fudge Ripple from the Cheesecake Factory, it hit me, I needed to savor my children like little pieces of cheesecake.

When moments of motherhood are particularly sweet and special, I should stop and simply soak them in. I needn’t worry about what difficulty might be looming. I needn’t worry about what task I should be doing. I need only stop and savor the moment, the children, the joy. This does not lead to me remembering every single moment of my children’s childhood. But it does allow me to look back contentedly at times spent savoring their little souls.

What about the rough moments? The tantrums, fighting, sleeplessness that I’d prefer to swallow quickly and leave behind? While I was in labor with Teddy, I had my second “mini epiphany” about Christian motherhood that frames those challenging times.

During the early stage of labor, I was dancing around the living room to praise and worship music praying and swaying, when I came across a “Litany for Laboring Mothers” and this line struck me:

“St. Elizabeth of the Trinity reminds us that whenever we are suffering, our soul is growing, becoming infinite in order to hold you who are infinite. As this mother’s soul grows in order to contain more of you, Lord, and in order to love your presence in your newest image contained in her child, we pray...”

The physical suffering of labor, the stretching and pains of her body, stretch her soul and allow it to grow. Her soul grows to make room for the image of God that she is blessed to give birth to and raise. I began then to pray that the pains of labor would stretch my soul and shape me into a more perfect mother. A more patient mother. A more loving mother. A holier mother.

After delivering my third little human (caught by the midwife on the hospital bathroom floor, but that’s another story!) I had some time to reflect on this idea of stretch. I realized that every time I’m about to speak harshly to my children, or react out of impatience instead of love, or their adorable, sticky little faces are driving me slightly crazy; that is a chance to stretch. Through these difficulties, I can grow more whiney and bitter, or I can grow in holiness. If my response is one of docility to the small suffering that God allows in that moment, I will stretch into a more perfect mother.

So “savor and stretch” became my interior disposition toward parenthood. Through that stage of three children age two and under, now into the season of five children and a homeschooling classroom, this outlook has brought such peace and perspective. Every moment is an opportunity for grace, whether it is the grace to savor or the grace to stretch.

What has exceeded my expectations (God is good at that!) is that not only can this frame of mind carry us through difficult times, it can even transform a stretch moment into a savor one! This happened in a very memorable way one long night when Teddy was a newborn. I was on nursing duty, so Mike was “on call” when Max decided he just didn’t want to sleep. Mike tried and tried again to put him down, but Max just kept screaming. So Mike once again traipsed into Max’s room with a heavy sigh. As he left our bed, I prayed for him, asking God to help my husband to stretch. When Mike came back to our room, he described the most amazing moment rocking Max – He had anticipated being frustrated the whole time but instead was overwhelmed with thanksgiving for the gift of fatherhood. He hadn’t even wanted to put Max down once he fell asleep! He had stretched. And stretching when suffering brought him great joy, leading him to savor a moment with his child. It’s like Mother Teresa once said, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

So might I suggest framing frame life’s daily moments this way? When the kids are being adorable and good-natured and all is right with the world, stop and savor. Don’t think about how it’s probably going to get hard in the next few hours (or minutes) but just stop and enjoy the blessing. We may never remember every detail of these years, but let’s commit to enjoying them. And when we’re faced with a challenging moment, let’s pray for the grace to stretch into the holier version of ourselves that God is calling us to be.

Looking at each moment as an opportunity to savor or stretch…thank God for that piece of cheesecake that offered such peace for parenthood!

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