A Mother's Embrace
By Joan Lamar (Jan 26, 2016)
"I don't really know you, but I am giving you this problem because it is beyond me."
Those were the words I spoke 10 years ago to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had never really prayed to Mary. In fact, I had never really given her much attention. But, I had a problem. A big problem. And so I turned to our Mother.
I was primarily an at-home wife and mother of three children. I worked part-time for the family business, but my husband was the main breadwinner of the family and his business was faltering. There were all sorts of reasons why the business was failing over the past few years, but we tried to remain optimistic and hoped things would turn around.
The night that I prayed to Mary was a particularly dark night. It was close to Christmas. Normally, my husband's business made 50 percent of its annual revenue in the month of December. Well, we were off by a lot that year. I was handling the bills and payroll and I never knew whether we could meet payroll every week. And there was no extra money that December. The lump sum private school tuition for two of our kids was past due. Our normal monthly expenses were not being met. In past years, we always had made sure we had the necessary padding for the first two months of the next year because January and February were quiet months in terms of our business cycle. Well, we had nothing. In fact, we were in debt to the tune of about $15,000.
Earlier that day I had called the bookkeeper at my kids' school and told her our situation. "Jill, I can't pay the $12,000 I owe the school. Maybe you can put me on a monthly payment plan and I will figure out another way." I figured maybe I had to ask my parents if I could borrow some money — something I had never done in my adult life. Jill assured me things would work themselves out and that I should pray for a miracle. I answered, "Jill, you don't know how much I have been praying for a miracle."
That night I snuck off to bed quietly. My husband and I were in such despair I don't even think I said goodnight. I crawled into our bed alone in our freezing room of our creaky 200-year old house and just started to cry. And then I started to pray. For some reason, through my tears, my prayer drifted to (then) Pope John Paul II's spirituality, totus tuus — everything through you, Mary.
Mary had always seemed remote to me but I thought about the depiction of Mary from the movie The Passion of the Christ. In that movie Mary was so real, so earthy. So, with that vision of Mary in mind, I gave this problem to her. I had run out of ways to approach it. I had prayed about our situation for years with no answer. So, I brought it to my heavenly mother. I figured if John Paul II goes to Mary, so should I.
As soon as I spoke those words to Mary and gave this thorny situation to her, I felt a physical maternal embrace that I had never experienced from my earthly mother. Then, what I believed to be Mary holding me in her arms, I was cradled to sleep. I slept all night. Just sleeping through the night was a miracle. I hadn't slept for a year because of the worry.
That morning, I woke up refreshed and had no vestiges of the despair from the night before. Or the worry of the past year. I drove two of the kids to school and came back to get my youngest ready for his morning pre-school, before heading to work at my husband's business for the morning. As I was feeding Henry breakfast, I realized that I had bought a lottery ticket the day before and thought, I should check on that. Now, I never played the lottery, but it was one of those acts of desperation. I didn't even really know how to check to see if I had won. But, I went online and eventually found the right website, just to check. To my surprise, I had 5 of the 6 winning numbers. I had only bought one ticket. I didn't know the rules of the game, but I thought, maybe I won something. So, I investigated the rules, and it looked like I won $4,000!
I dropped Henry off at pre-school, then went to my husband's business. I pulled him aside and told him quietly so that none of his employees could hear that I thought I had won $4,000 playing the lottery. He's like, "What?" I wanted to keep it quiet because I was embarrassed that I had even played the lottery, but we went up to his office to check the site and the numbers again. It looked like I was right. I had won something. So, I called the lottery office and they said, "Yes, you did win, but you didn't win $4,000, you won $27,000."
My husband and I were in disbelief! How could this have happened? I then told him about my prayer to Our Lady the night before and my experience of a physical embrace and we both immediately knew she caused this miraculous turn of events. We both started to cry, but these were tears of joy and thanksgiving. After taxes, this was the exact amount of money that we were in debt, plus it gave us the two months padding for January and February. What a tremendous gift, just in time for Christmas! It is a gift I will never forget because Mary brought me and my husband out of despair. And, she didn't stop there.
Our lives started to take a shape that we never imagined. Within two months, I went back to work full-time and got a job at a great Catholic college where I also began studying for my master's degree in theology. We moved our family to the neighborhood near the college which had a great parish headed by a holy priest and a school staffed by the Nashville Dominicans. Many of my neighbors teach theology or philosophy at the college, so we had solid Catholic families as neighbors and friends. We would have never found this sacred neighborhood if our Blessed Mother hadn't opened up these horizons for us.
My husband's business eventually closed. I lost my job at the college after about five years because of a restructure, which threw me a bit. But our Mother has always taken care of us. She has protected us under her mantle and called us into a deeper joy and into a deeper trust of God's plan for our lives. Totus tuus, Mother.