Dear Rachel, Dwija, Mary, Cari, Kelly, Mary Kate, Jessica, Nancy, Kathryn, Susan, and many more,
I've been scrolling through my Facebook feed and over and over again I see your beautiful faces and your beautiful kids. I see your handsome husbands and your cute dresses and all the smiles. And I want to tell you something:
I have five little kids. The oldest is nearly six, the youngest is only nine months. I feel like I have finally hit a good stride and, with the grace of God, I have a lot of things under control. But I wonder and I worry about what will happen as my kids get older.
Will this one ever learn to think of others first? Will that one struggle with school? Will this one resent decisions I've made? Will that one be a flirt? Will they all grow in virtue? Will they love God and their faith? Will they make good decisions about dating and sex and college and parties and friends?
I am happily married and I have been for over seven years. I really like my husband - I like spending time with him and hanging out with him and talking about things with him. And I really like my husband - see the five kids above. He is an amazing man - a strong leader, a humble servant, a man of many talents and capabilities and a good sense of humor. But I wonder about rough patches that every marriage seems to have.
Will we have one? How will we navigate through it? How do I encourage him and not nag? How do I support and follow him when I disagree, when I'm scared, when I'm nervous?
I am eighty shameful pounds heavier now than I was when I got married. Six pregnancies in six years and a NICU stay and all kinds of emotional eating have left me round. Embarrassingly round.
Will I ever lose this weight? Will I have the time to exercise and do school drop off and pick up and attend daily Mass and keep the house clean and read blogs? Will I ever again fit into that Everyone Loves a German Girl t-shirt I've been holding on to for all these years?
All these thoughts, worries, questions: You answer them for me. When I see your pictures, when I read your Facebook updates and blog posts and tweets I breathe out a little sigh of relief.
Your beautiful, handsome, happy children seem so confident, funny, kind, thoughtful, eager to learn, and happy to be Catholic, even though you don't hide the hard. Your marriages seem happy, fulfilling, not without their crosses but also not without their deep, sustaining joys. Your lives seem balanced, even if that means that you are having to shift the balances every few months, seasons, or years.
I see you take the time to pursue things you love and enjoy: running, fashion, photography, chickens, gardens, writing, crafts, pampering and cooking.
I see you take the time to enjoy, encourage, support, play with, read to and love your children, meeting them where they are and raising them to the next level.
I see you take the time to honor, love, respect, care for, date, and enjoy your husbands.
I see you take the time to nurture friendships, to pray with and for your friends, to surprise them with flowers and cookies and phone calls.
I see you live a life pursuing God, finding time for prayer, enjoying and living and celebrating your faith, reading your Bible, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Your presence online is a presence in my life and I am so grateful. You are a role model for me. The words you write, the pictures you post, the quotes you share, the prayers you offer - these are sustaining and encouraging me through these years of little kids, of a still-young marriage, of eighty pounds.
Please know that I appreciate the gift you give. Please know that as you share your life you are giving me hope. Please know that I am so grateful.
So very, very grateful.
May our good God bless you and tell you "Well done, good and faithful servant."