Humbled Through My Children
“Venti iced chai with soy please.” I pulled away from the drive-thru and pressed the straw to my lips before heading back out onto the highway.
Alas, another road trip. My mom had kindly and lovingly let my boys take her portable DVD players with us in the van. This, coupled with a binder of movies and three sets of headphones, has made a predictable improvement in the noise level and harmony inside our van. With the boys occupied with movies, I faded the radio to the front of the van and giddily pressed play to a list of podcasts silently waiting for ages in a folder on my iPhone.
A few podcasts have begun and ended when I hear from the backseat, “I think we’re going to stop again. I just saw a sign for Starbucks.” I chuckle and tell them, “No,” giving it no more thought.
Later that day, we walk into our hotel room and one of my boys excitedly exclaims as he sees an advertisement on the desk, “Mom! They have your favorite coffee – Starbucks – here!”
“Thanks for letting me know.” No more thought dedicated to it.
We met up with my husband for a few days before heading back onto the road again for some more driving. After several hours, I stopped at a Target to quickly pick something up and to let my boys stretch their legs a bit – helping to get out those long-drive wiggles. As we’re walking through the doors, one of my boys tells me, “They have Starbucks here. Can we get a drink?” Alright…this time I felt it. The smack as I realize the impact my stops at Starbucks across several states have made on my sons. I’ve unintentionally taught my boys that Starbucks holds a prominent importance in my life. Far more importance than I ever gave it credit for. In the past two months, I’ve stopped at Starbucks far more times than I care to admit without being embarrassed. Previously, I only went as a special treat – a handful of times throughout the entire year. My frequent stops to get a chai tea started when I was making road trips with the boys. Without my husband. Without my daughter. The car had seemingly shrunk and the fighting was a bit more than my sanity could take. Coffee sounded good. After all, I used to tell my husband that it was my cup-o-sanity. That first sip seems to somehow magically take the edge off the “He took it out of my hands again!!!” in the backseat. It was my coping mechanism of choice.
I skipped the chai tea this time, in shock and revulsion with this realization, and only purchased the intended item from the store. We settle back into the van, all buckled and ready to continue our journey down the highway. I started the next podcast by Fr. Thomas Hopko and became completely engrossed in it when I realized how much it spoke to my life personally. I even listened to it a second…and a third time. A mom had written him an email asking him if God plays favorites. She writes how it seems that there are some people who seem to be dealt a silver spoon in their mouth concerning their ability to become a saint. Aren’t we all called to become saints? Then how does the average person who struggles with situations dealt to them beyond their control ever attain sainthood? Fr. Thomas talks about how every person is called to a vocation – some to monasteries, others to the world around us. Some to great things, some to struggle all their life. We have no answers to why this is so. Only God knows the reason. No one has the same life circumstances and therefore we are not going to be judged the same way by God. How do we handle the hand we’ve been personally dealt? That’s the important aspect.
There are too many times where I find myself struggling with my circumstances. Worrying and agonizing over my inability to overcome a certain situation. I’ve fallen many times, over and over again, as I’ve made mistakes, lacked faith, or completely lost all hope. I know that I’m not perfect. I know I will make more mistakes BUT I need to continually get up and continue trying to do better. I’ve discovered on this trip that in some of my weak moments of patience, I’ve been clinging to the wrong hem of garment as I clench and grasp hold of it to pull myself back up again. I’ve turned to the hem of a coffee company for comfort when I should have been grasping at the hem of Christ’s garment as I pray for lasting comfort and guidance. I’ve mistakenly taught my children that an object is where you find peace instead of God. Our actions speak volumes to not only our children but those around us. “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.” – St. Seraphim of Sarov
Should I refuse to drink another cup of coffee or chai tea for the rest of my life? No. It’s about the level of importance I’ve placed on them. My kids are watching me…learning. Anything I’ve turned to in order to forget my problems or to find a sense of peace, has turned me away from the one person I needed to turn to most – God.
“The primary goal in the education of children is to teach, and to give the example of a virtuous life.” – Saint John Chrysostom
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