“God’s love does not impose burdens upon us that we cannot carry, nor make demands of us that we cannot fulfill. For whatever He asks of us, He provides the help that is needed.”
Saint John Paul II
My wife and I always felt like we were going to be the parents of 3-5 children. There was never a stated goal and, while we have always been open to the Lord’s will, I tended to lean toward the left side of that hyphen more than my bride. After four sad miscarriages, we felt God was telling us that three was our number. Years after donating all of our car seats, crib, and infant accoutrement, we began to embrace our life as a party of five and started to look toward the future with excitement stemming from the impending freedom from diapers and midnight feedings. Perhaps we’d move to Rome for a few years or maybe I’d go back to school. At a time when we weren’t necessarily hoping for any more surprises in our life, the gift of Norah came at a time where we already felt tired and stretched, and her first little years would stretch us even more. Food allergies, respiratory issues, unimaginable screaming and an uncanny ability to get into things and do some serious damage summed up Norah. I don’t buy the line "you love all of your children the same." You love them the way each needs to be loved. Norah needed lots of love. Occasionally in my prayer during those first years, I’d wonder "Why not send us her first or earlier when we had more energy?" I often felt like I didn’t have the bandwidth to be the Dad I wanted to be.
Fast forward to four years later and our family continues to try and find our way through this challenging time with Peter’s cancer. I took a few days off last week to catch my breath and spend some dedicated time with the kids as we await the next chapter in his treatment. I couldn’t help but be saddened by how this whole reality has aged my older two daughters. And then there is four-year-old Norah. She loves her older brother very much but doesn’t give one hoot about brain cancer, unless brain cancer will play Barbies. As we all laughed watching her twirl around in her fourth costume change of the evening to music that was only playing inside her head, I was bowled over with gratitude that she was four, and at four years old, cancer cannot stop her from bringing joy and laughter into our house. She came right in time. I wondered what other gifts I have been given by God that maybe didn’t come when I wanted them to, but came when God knew I needed them the most. How can I receive everything, whether it be joy or burden or both, with an openness to its significance in Kairos (God’s time) not my time? Look around at your life, what’s in place now, what’s getting you through now, what’s bringing you joy now, that has been years in the making? The other night, when I once again had a moment where I didn’t think I had the bandwidth to be the Dad I wanted to be, it was little Norah’s twirls that got me back to the dancefloor. Prayers that you can recognize God’s gifts throughout all of the Lents in your life.