As the luscious scent of early lilacs fill the air and the bright yellow blooms of forsythia bring springtime color to us, mothers everywhere are pondering their vocations this Mother's Day. The warm fuzzies of motherhood -- baby coos, snuggly embraces from our children and milestones both small and big -- never cease to bring a profound sense of satisfaction to a mother's heart. Mothers often express the deep joy they feel as they watch their children blossom and grow into independent and caring human beings.

There's no doubt that the vocation of motherhood is overflowing with countless rewards and reasons to give thanks, but we would be remiss when discussing a mother's role not to mention that some challenges come with the territory.

First off, mothers most times don't receive compliments for their hard work. Thankfully, at the heart of mothers' vocations is the love fueling them to persevere in their God-given roles, especially during the wee hours of the morning when nursing their hungry babies or when breaking up sibling squabbles, and throughout the fatigue or frustration they may experience in running a household. Without faith in God and an understanding of her mission, a mother may feel unappreciated, depressed or burnt out.

Mothering with grace

Today's mothers also cope with the advances in technology that transmit worldly messages into our homes, making a Catholic mother's job more complicated. She now has to be even more careful to sift through everything that comes near or into her "domestic church," protecting her family from the dangers of the biased media and, even worse, the "anything goes" mentality of the world.

Gone are the days, too, when motherhood was held up high on a pedestal. Now we must contend with a less-than-affirming acknowledgement from society, because, sadly, a woman's worth is measured by the size of her paycheck. As well, the family unit, called the "vital cell of society" by the Catholic Church, is not given much value by our world.

Before we think all is dismal, let's acknowledge that Catholic mothers have risen to the occasion, discovering ways to mother with grace while keeping their sanity! Home-schooling mom, Karen Edmisten, in Norfolk, Neb., said she makes sure to offer a Morning Offering prayer when she rises each day to "make the whole day a prayer." She offers many prayers throughout the day, including decades of the Rosary. When she is "tempted to anger, frustration or boredom" she whispers "a short offering: 'For You, Lord.' It helps me to refocus on what I'm doing, and on the reason I'm doing it."

Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com, takes her role as first and foremost educator to her children seriously. "I try every day to instill in them a knowledge of, but also a love for, our Catholic faith. It's a job you can never do well enough," she said.

Hendey nourishes her faith with visits to the Blessed Sacrament, something many Catholic mothers strive to do to find peace and to receive sustenance from Jesus himself.

Edmisten looks forward to her hour of weekly Adoration. "I treasure that meditative prayer time," she said.

Visits to Jesus for Adoration and participation in daily Mass whenever possible is just the medicine for weary mothers. Edmisten also keeps a prayer journal to record struggles and insights.

'Day by day'

Patti Maguire Armstrong, mother of 10, said both she and her husband had been strong-willed children, and she thinks that they may be getting a good dose of payback. "It can be frustrating to want what is best for my children and then to watch them sometimes head in the opposite direction," she told OSV.

She now has a "deeper understanding about what God, our Father, must feel about us sometimes." When her children aren't wearing sparkling halos, for example, Maguire Armstrong recalls "that God's first children, Adam and Eve, did not always listen to [God the Father], either."

When things are extra busy, she sends up short aspirations of prayer and ponders favorite Scripture verses.

Roxane Salonen, mother of five, said that when she considers the magnitude of what she is truly doing as a mother she can feel daunted or frozen. Instead, she focuses on the big picture. She knows that "like any challenge, it's much more manageable to take it day by day and, of course, trust in and rely upon graces from God."

Salonen also connects with other like-minded mothers for an affirming exchange.

Catholic mothers are using varying techniques and prayer practices to stay in communication with God and raise their families well. All achieve the same goal -- peace of heart and contentment knowing that we are striving to follow God's holy will while mothering our children in the sometimes chaotic or challenging atmosphere of the home and society.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle, mother of five and Lay Missionary of Charity, is the author most recently of "Grace Café: Serving Up Recipes for Faithful Mothering" (Circle Press, $14.95). Visit her website: www.donnacooperoboyle.com