Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Ugly Sweater

I was probably 14 or 15 that Christmas, and someone was sick that year. I don't remember if it was me, my brother, or my grandparents, but due to someone's illness, my father's parents didn't come over on Christmas Eve that year, which was unusual. Most years they spent Christmas Eve with us (my father was an only child, and they lived 20 minutes away). I knew my grandmother would give me a sweater because I got a sweater for every conceivable gift giving occasion. To give you some perspective, over the course of the years (pre-teen to early adulthood), I received 2 Christmas sweaters, a Christmas vest, an Easter sweater, and countless non-seasonal sweaters. I still have a few of them, but I've also sold and donated many. 

Getting back to this particular Christmas, with my grandparents not present, I somehow felt it was acceptable to voice my true reaction when I opened that year's sweater. Ugly doesn't really begin to describe it: it was a brownish grey, with flecks of many, many colors, almost as if it had been worn by someone doing a lot of painting. I expressed my disapproval of it, undoubtedly as only a teenager could. And boy, did I catch it from my mother. Little did I know that my mother had helped pick out this monstrosity. She thought the brownish grey would hide dust and dirt well, and the zip front would help make it practical for me when I was working at the stables or riding. 

When I got that sweater I hated it. It wasn't until years later, when I went back to riding (after many years away due to a knee injury) that I was able to appreciate it. I'm not sure I would have ever called it my favorite, but that sweater served me well. 

I am slowly starting to see IF as that ugly sweater: something I never wanted but that is coming to serve me well. Because of IF my faith has been tested time and time again; I cannot just drift through, going to Mass, believing but not fully taking my faith to heart. Because of IF I know that I owe my husband all of me: the good, the horrible, the in-between. I owe him the tears and the screaming fits as well as the apologies for being difficult. I know that we have to be able to talk about anything and to actually do so; there will be no waking up 20 years down the line and realizing that that now the kids are gone, we have nothing to talk about. IF is making me more compassionate towards others, no matter what they are suffering, even if it hasn't done a thing for my lack of patience. 

I'll leave you with Sara Groves' "What I Thought I Wanted," which describes so much of how I feel about IF.


  1. I love how open you are. This is a great post. I've often thought this may Brrrr be one of the hidden blessings of IF: there will be no waking up 20 years down the line and realizing that that now the kids are gone, we have nothing to talk about.

  2. Wow! What a beautiful and wise view of what IF has brought to your life. Thanks for sharing!

  3. So wise, thank you for these words!