Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus

Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus
Nursing Madonna (wikimedia commons)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

If You Give a Child a Stone by Andrea Nease

If You Give a Child a Stone by Andrea Nease
This past Thursday’s Gospel reading from Luke is one I’ve been familiar with for several years. It has stood out to me because it references cosleeping, which has been a part of our family’s lifestyle since it is one of the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding. In Luke 11:5-13 we read:
“And he said to them: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves, Because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him. And he from within should answer, and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” 

When I read this again on Thursday, it was not the cosleeping part that made an impression. I focused on the part about parents giving good gifts to their children and not giving them stones when they ask for bread. I see how it applies to my own life and our culture as a whole. Here, it laid out so matter-of-factly that a parent would, of course, give their child a good gift and not a substitute. Are we really listening to what our children are requesting? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty of giving my children “stones” at times. 

How many mothers and fathers do this with their babies who ask for their mother’s milk? When their child wants to nurse, rather than nursing the child and giving him what he asks for, we give him a “stone”. It could be a bottle, a pacifier, a toy, a security object, utilizing a piece of baby furniture like a swing or play yard, taking them on a car ride, singing them a song and rocking them, passing them off to another person or feeding them solid food. There are numerous “stones” we could give. We often go to great lengths to avoid what is natural and what our baby legitimately asks for and has a right to. We try to distract them from what they really want and need. As Alanis Morrissette says in her song Ironic: “It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.” How incredibly frustrating for the person who just wants a knife and keeps getting spoons again and again.

I’m also reminded of Matthew 25:35 & 40 that say:

 “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in,”

And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” 

If only I truly saw a hungry Jesus every time my toddler asked me to nurse for the 10th time in an hour or when my baby wakes me again at 3am.

I haven’t met a nursing mother yet who couldn’t use this simple reminder. Even the most loving, devoted nursing mother has her moments where she has just had enough and gives in to her own desires instead of graciously serving. Mary would be the only exception I could think of. Proverbs reminds us that even the just man falls seven times a day. Just two weeks ago, I had to take a hard look at myself and realize I have been giving in to temptation to avoid nursing my three-year-old daughter. It made me chuckle when I read about the man rising from bed because of the knocking friend’s persistence. A toddler who wants to nurse is definitely persistent! I could dream up several excuses to try and get out nursing, but none of them are just. So, I’ve been consciously forcing myself to nurse her “like a newborn” again- without protest, with my full undivided attention. I soon saw her become more affectionate with me in return and her behavior improve within a day or two.

I’m thankful for God revealing my failure and rebuking me, and also for His mercy for when I have failed. He is very patient with me. Nursing is one of the most difficult things I have done, and I know I’m not alone. Not only is it often a physical battle for many, but also cultural and internal as well. Why does God lay such a heavy cross on a new mother’s shoulders? I think it is because we need this difficult struggle to grow in holiness and to build our “resumé” for the rest of our mothering career. Parenting never ends. Needs change, but there will always be crosses to bear. We can draw on the strength we gained early on to get us through other difficult times. But, we must have fortitude and persevere through the difficulties to fully benefit. When we do, we also grow in faith and trust in God. In prayer we must learn not only to petition God, but to have silence and listen to Him speak to us. It is the same with mothering where we must learn to listen to our children so we can know their needs rather than guessing or dictating and inadvertently handing them a “stone.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

L.O.V.E.

 (Wikipedia Commons)

This weekend I attended a women's retreat at my parish.  The speaker was Sonja Corbitt, author of several books including Unleashed, Fearless, and Ignite.  She was a very down to earth speaker but also very passionate about helping women break the destructive sin patterns in their lives and also love Scripture.  She came up with her own version of Lectio Divina which I think is well suited to being a mom.  It is called L.O.V.E.  The acronym stands for Listen, Observe, Verbalize and Entrust.  She suggests reading the daily Gospel reading first thing in the morning and following the LOVE method for just 5 minutes.  As you continue this practice, you can increase the amount of time.  Even busy nursing moms have 5 minutes to spare.  At first, you may not hear God's whisper but if you stay committed to this prayer time, eventually you will.

Yesterday's Gospel reading is the perfect Scripture reading with which to start, because it mentions Jesus having been breastfed by Mary and also the importance of reading/listening to God's Word.  Here it is:

Luke 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."  He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." (taken from usccb.org)

Try to find a quiet spot before your baby or toddler wakes in the morning. Ask God to speak to you.

Then LISTEN to God's Word.  Read the verses slowly and think about them.

OBSERVE.  Think about what it means to you or what God might be telling you in these verses.  What is happening in your life right now that might tie into the Scripture reading?  Think about all the patterns in your life - the good and the bad.

VERBALIZE.  Tell God what you think he is trying to to say to you in these verses.  Ask Him if you are right.  Possibly write it down.

ENTRUST.  Trust in God and in rest in His peace.