A Story on Mother’s Day

Today was the first time in a decade I haven’t spent Mother’s Day, feeling like an abandoned aircraft hangar, with rickety falling off doors, loose tin and rats in the corners. It’s a victory to instead feel like a busy, well-lit clearing house, processing little boxes of love and sending them right back out the door.

The difference is, lately I’ve been telling the truth – a lot – to people who are also knee-deep in the messy and glorious body of Christ. And I think it is totally remarkable how the Lord moves his followers to drift and sway together like seaweed does in the tide. Especially, when life is painful.

The reason I walked away, ten years ago, from a faith I didn’t understand, was a bad story with a faulty premise.

A failed attempted at motherhood weakened my superstructure of tepid Christianity, belligerent politics, pride, loneliness, judgment and fear. After it all fell down, I sat for years at the bar nursing one bitter cocktail after another and barfing that story all over everybody.

Today, I don’t even recognize that girl, because I straight up repented – in the most literal sense of the word – I turned and walked the opposite direction; away from the bitterness that was poisoning my life and into the arms of Jesus and his people.

Crazy. Wise. Choice.

That choice forced me to look hard at the stories I’d always told myself. The sanctimony. The loneliness. The fear. Then I had to admit it, so people could help me replace those stories with new ones about who I am and what I’m doing in the world God so desperately wants to redeem.

And in that process, God made me a mom. A spiritual mom. A mentor mom. All day today I’ve received calls, cards and texts from women who said I’ve mattered to them in some way.

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Living as a follower of Jesus has brought me people who cry in my office, my car, my living room about a thousand topics, including the children that they, like me, cannot have. It has brought me mentors who tell me to read Isaiah 54. It has brought me daughters who tell me they do something now because they watched me do it.

Unimaginable. Couldn’t have written that story alone. Impossible.

And the only difference between now and my bitter barfly days is Jesus.

It takes courage to stare down the stories we have told ourselves for years, to dismantle them and begin to write new ones. Mostly because without Jesus as the first and last word, we’re still trying to save ourselves.

And that’s just not the whole story.

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When Mother’s Day Hurts

I kind of dread Mother’s Day. In fact, a few years ago, I was at Cowboy Church for Mother’s Day Sunday feeling pretty normal, until they asked the moms to stand so they could hand them a flower. I started crying so hard I made my own nose bleed and was in the bathroom for an hour.

See, right now Sam and I should have a seven year-old and we don’t.

It’s a long, horrible story that legions of women share, but don’t often talk about. We just cry about it on the way home from church. I’m 41 now, and I decided a while ago to either get ok with not having babies or go insane, so I got ok with it – 364 days a year. On this day though, I kind of have to gut it out.

It helps that I have a wonderful mom of my own to celebrate and two step kids. Even though Tyler, Emily and I converged when they were 17 and 19 and I was 32, Emily sends me a Mother’s Day card every year. She knows the story. She stands in the gap. She’s kind of amazing.

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Emily Left. Tyler Right. Best. Wedding. Ever.

So my loves, all you non-moms or trying-to-be-moms, it’s ok to be a little tender on Mother’s Day, but here’s something to remember whether or not your life ever includes the things you think you can’t live without:

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Jeremiah 29:11

That scripture finally dropped from my head to my heart at Mercy Ships last fall. So this morning when the Pastor asked the moms to stand up, I stood, not just because of Emily’s card but because of Africa Mercy crew members KJ and Mary too.

KJ running a tight ship.

KJ running a tight ship.

Mary doing the same.

Mary doing the same.

Last fall, the three of us were sitting on the grass outside our classroom. We’d been asked to pray for each other and wait to hear from the Lord on each others’ behalf. If you have a hard time swallowing that, you’re not alone. Right away, Mary said the idea of expecting God to speak was hard for her, but she opened up her heart anyway and we prayed.

Then KJ, whom I didn’t know very well at the time, said this to me: “I don’t know what this means, but I feel the Lord saying, ‘You are a mother to many.'”

KJ had no idea what a direct hit that was, but guess who did? Mary. She and I had talked about mothers and babies and loss earlier that day.

See how cool God is? On the face of it, he was just speaking to me, when in fact, he was speaking to Mary too about something completely different, but just as important – Faith. It’s startling and delightful when He does it like that, and this is the God we serve.

So this morning I stood in church and counted all the “children” God has put in my life, people who are groping their way toward the light just like I am. Sometimes when I speak at churches or events, people will approach me afterward and tell me their story or just thank me for telling mine. Most often, they are women young enough to be my daughters. So I count them as such and think, my God, who am I that you let me do this?

But I’ve already decided, I want to spend the rest of my life seeing people for who they are becoming, not who they currently are; encouraging them with the truth that they are beloved and precious in the eyes of God.

And that to me feels pretty motherly.