Grace for This

swimmer henry

Henry watches footage of his race in the All Star Swim meet. As an aside, turns out Henry is a really fast swimmer — the fastest six-and-under boy in the city!

A few weeks ago at Mass, our boy Henry was being particularly spirited. Those who sit near us each Sunday at 8 a.m. have watched our fifth son go from sweet baby to spitfire toddler to a young boy learning to behave who still has his moments.

This particular week, he was having some moments.

About half-way through Mass, I finally saw the writing on the wall. For whatever reason, Henry was overly worked up and it was time to use an exit strategy and save ourselves a lot of heartache. I took Henry to the back of the church where his strong will and my (Lord willing) stronger will battled our way through the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We’re going to get through this, I told myself, because we must.

At one point I looked over to see a sweet family with five children — all younger than my son Henry — sitting perfectly still in rapt attention. No one was squirming, nary a fidget in sight.

A wave of discouragement washed over me. I felt run-down. What am I doing wrong, I cried to God, please help me fix this.

Fix this. Fix my son. Just change his behavior. I’ll take a robot, if you have one to trade.

In that split-second prayer, in my desperation and despair, God was merciful and filled me with his peace.

I felt a content that comes not from a child magically snapping to, but from the peace of God. Henry is not a problem that needs to be fixed, my spirit reminded me, but God will gladly give you grace to get through the next twenty minutes.

Oh sure Henry’s behavior needed some help. But it wasn’t the end of the world. I was able to remind myself that my son is a normal six-year-old boy, and as I’ve had four other six-year-old boys before I know they aren’t always wild about being in church. I’ve been here before and now have four big boy altar servers to prove we’ll make it through.

I begged God to help Henry behave, and instead God granted me perspective.

Sometimes the gravity of my job as a mother overwhelms me. My task is to raise good and righteous children, people who will know and love and serve God, people who understand they were created to be with God in this world and in the next. All of that plus learning to be a productive member of society who can act proper in public.

If I’m not careful, I can freak myself right out.

When I start feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, the first thing I need to remind myself is, “these thoughts are not from God.” God doesn’t want me to feel bad about myself, he doesn’t want me to feel undone. And he certainly doesn’t want me to feel incapable of what he’s asked me to do.

God has set before me the task of being a wife and mother — this is the job he’s given me, more important than anything else I’ve got going on right now. This is my vocation, the special call God has placed upon me, and because of that, he’s given me every grace I need.

God doesn’t call the equipped, as they say, he equips the called.

What I need to raise my children — the children God has given ME — is available to me. I don’t have the grace to raise anyone else’s children, nor do I need it. Nor do I need to look at someone else’s children and figure out how to get mine like that. I can certainly be inspired and seek encouragement and inspiration from others, but I don’t need to focus so hard on how well everyone else is doing that I lose sight of what it is God wants from me and Paul and our children.

That morning in Mass, when God sent me peace (instead of zapping Henry into submission as I’d hoped) I realized that God would give me the grace to handle Henry — to handle each of my children — because those were the children God has tasked me to raise. Paul and I will be given the tools to be the best mom and dad to our sweet darling babies because these are the babies we are raising. Each of us will face our own unique challenges as we raise our children, and God is always there ready to help.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.


  1. Oh Rachel! I SO needed to read this. I’m forever struggling with comparing my kids to other people’s – both good and bad. “What I need to raise my children – the children God has given to ME – is available to me. ” Words for me to repeat to myself over and over.

  2. “God doesn’t call the equipped, as they say, he equips the called.” Amen. Love this!

  3. It is difficult not to “compare” our kids with others, especially when we are struggling; looking for insight on what we might be “doing wrong.” Comparing at times gives me balance and I see the blessings that I may have overlooked. I have a boy who will sit still in church at age 6 but he can’t swim at all after 4 years of lessons. There are blessings and struggles, just depends on how you look at it.

  4. If we didn’t live in another state, I could have been that other family you saw. Five kids aged 1-7. We’re at the earliest Mass on Sunday in almost the first pew with the girls in fresh braids or pigtails. I just want to reassure you that what you saw was absolutely an ILLUSION. Things look very different from the back. I know because people always come up to me at the store and rave about my kids’ behavior in church. But from behind, you don’t notice when the little one slides down onto the floor. You can’t hear the constant “turn around, pay attention, sit up” litany. And everyone else’s kids sound so quiet because they aren’t screaming in YOUR ear. From behind, you can’t tell that no one’s brushed their teeth, the baby’s diaper reeks, and three of the kids slept in their church clothes.