I am blessed to say that my Mother is many wonderful things.  She is bursting with a magnetic energy that makes everyone who knows her want to be closer. Her smile is transformative; it makes you feel so loved and safe and cared for – it eases any pain. My Mother has a beautiful heart; her love pours out of her in her countless deeds to help others.  She is always there whenever you are in a bind, she is an outstanding listener, and she is famous for her practical wisdom.  My Mother is determined; so determined and hardworking, in fact, that she can still outrun and outlast women half her age.  She has this amazing ability to push herself physically past what anyone would think was appropriate or reasonable.  Above all these amazing things, my Mother has always shown us and reminded us (and there are many of us), that our Faith is most important.  If we lose the Faith we have nothing.  That life is not always easy but we are called to fight each and every day for what we believe in.  My Mother is as tough as nails.

As a child I used to think that she was like wonder woman.  I thought she was born with all of the talents and wisdom and poise and social graces.  Now that I am older I see that it wasn’t nature at all.  My Mother was shaped into a beautiful, strong person by being open to God’s will in her life.  We Christians are called to, “pick up your cross and follow Me.”  She cultivated her virtues by being ever flexible to what God asked of her.

Once, as she was driving me to high school we got in a terrible argument and I wouldn’t speak to her.  As we pulled into the school parking lot I started opening the door and had one leg out before the wheels had even come to a complete stop.  I was trying to get out as quickly as possible to slam the door and storm off when she grabbed me by the arm and said, “You might not know it right now but I love you so much that sometimes I feel like I could break apart.”  I was shown what God offers us – His infinite love and mercy and a path to grow and to come closer to Him.

Modern society tells us to wait to have kids – get the house and the car first. Then maybe have two, or if you are really ready to give up your life, three kids. My Mother sacrificed all the niceties of life – the nice car, the big house, the clean house, the free time, etc. – to raise the lot of us (and there were many more of us than today’s “perfect” number). While being a short order cook, taxi driver, fire fighter (yes, my brothers nearly burned down our garage), dry cleaning service, teacher, friend, she rarely lost her composure. Our crosses come in all different shapes and sizes but they are our crosses to bear.  Our sufferings may last only a few short hours or span our entire lifetime but they are ours.  God has given these sufferings to us because He loves us.  He loves us so much that He wants us to be transformed and molded into someone more beautiful – the person He created us to be.  He gives us our Cross because He knows us; He knows what we are capable of and what would crush us.  His grace is there for us whenever we ask for it.

My Mother was not, as I once thought, invincible.  She is full of joy, determination, and compassion because she has allowed God to live within her and she has not let the hardships of life turn her face from His.  She is as tough as nails.