The Other Mother

The Other Mother

Paint and PetalsTo the mother whose arms will be empty. To the one who will wake up with a heartache. To the mom who will wish she had a scribbled on card and a kid with bedhead to wake her up. To the mother who wonders if she’ll ever hold a baby. You aren’t alone, and you aren’t forgotten. Mother’s Day may seem like a painful reminder, and you might feel left out and isolated. But you aren’t.

The thing I found when I went through my losses, my painful Mother’s Day, is that far more women than you would think know exactly what you’re feeling. Believe me when I say you are not alone. If your miscarriage or infertility happened before you had any children to hold, this day may be especially hard because no one will say Happy Mother’s Day to you. But I will say it–Happy Mother’s Day, sweet momma. You may not have a baby in your arms, but you are a mom. And even though hope may seem gossamer-thin, hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I know it’s hard and painful and your broken heart just wants to give up.

Sunday, I’ll walk outside to my hydrangea and I’ll remember that Mother’s Day, the one I didn’t want to happen. The one where I cried all day and just tried to stay busy with work and church stuff. The one where I thought no one would say Happy Mother’s Day, but then Matt gently handed me a hydrangea plant in memory of our baby and said the words to me I so longed to hear. Happy Mother’s Day. I didn’t have a baby in my arms yet. I was pregnant with our second child but didn’t know it at the time. Later in the summer, that baby would go straight to Heaven too. My arms were painfully empty that Mother’s Day, but in my heart I was already a momma. A momma waiting on her child. When I walk outside to my hydrangea this weekend, I’ll pray for the waiting mommas. If you’re on my list, I’ll pray for you specifically and for your child just like I do every day. If you aren’t on my list and want someone to pray for you by name, I’d be honored. Just leave your information below.

Hold on, sweet momma. You aren’t alone, and you aren’t forgotten.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted… Psalm 34:18

Poured

Poured

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAm I the only mom who feels like she should get a medal for letting her kids paint?

During breakfast Lydia asked if she and Charlotte could paint. I was feeling bold and adventurous (read: I had not had caffeine yet and my brain wasn’t fully processing) so I said yes. I laid out an old vinyl tablecloth to cover the floor, stripped the girls down to their diaper/underwear and let them go crazy. Meanwhile, I was a few feet away doing some dishes. I turned around a few minutes later to see Charlotte painting her leg and her foot blue. I pulled out the baby wipes and tried to get most of the paint off her foot. They went back to painting. A few minutes later Charlotte was painting the kitchen chair. Apparently, painting paper is far too predictable for my little artist. By the end of it, they were both covered in paint, so I hauled them to the bathtub to rinse off, glanced at the clock and realized it was only nine o’clock. Despite all that clean-up effort, she’ll ask me to paint again next week, and we’ll do it all over again. Because that’s what moms do. We pour out.

I know you. I see you. You pour out at your job, at the gym, at the parent-teacher conference. You pour out at the grocery story, at the oil-change place, at the classroom. Whether you work outside the home or stay at home or some combination of the two, you pour yourself out every single day. And it happens before they ever even hand you that sweet, screaming baby. I know brave women who pour themselves out every single day praying, waiting, begging God for a child to hold. Women who undergo tests and hormones and all sorts of things before they ever hear a heartbeat. Women who fill out mountains of paperwork, jump through a million hurdles and fight on their hands and knees for a child who needs a home. I know you. You pour out.

The first Sunday of Lent, we celebrated Communion as a family. Lydia and I baked unleavened bread together, rolling the dough into six little balls, one for each Sunday Sabbath during Lent. Lydia pressed the balls down and used a fork to prick tiny holes through the bread creating a cross in the center of each little loaf. After they baked, we gathered around the kitchen table with the warm bread and drinks while Matt read from Matthew. I had forgotten to get grape juice so we worked with what we had–coffee for Matt, tea for me and leftover McAlister’s lemonade for the girls. I imagine Jesus smiled.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

As I ate the piece of bread and drank a sip of my drink, I realized every time I pour myself out for my family and those God has put in my path, I embody the very essence, the flesh and blood of my Savior.

I know what poured out looks like because I saw it lived out every single day of my childhood through my mom. Last week, the girls and I went to Mississippi to spend Spring Break with my parents and sister. While we were there, my mom did what she always does. She poured out. Through meals and gifts and hugs and time, she poured out. One day a little boy at her church was admitted to the hospital for a heart procedure. Mom called me as she was leaving the hospital and I could tell her heart was hurting for this child who had to go through things he couldn’t understand and for his mom who just wanted to know he would be okay. She left a trail of love all over that hospital wing.

I want to continue the legacy my parents gave me. My most-uttered prayer is that my girls will know and love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and I pray they love Him because they see me pour out love and grace every day. Just like the disciples, I won’t do it perfectly. Some days I’ll be confused or stubborn or impatient or selfish, but, gratefully, God can take my flawed yet willing heart and use it to reflect His Son.

Every sleepless night, every report card, every load of laundry, every meal, every paint-smeared mess is an opportunity to pour out. And every gray hair, every stretch mark, every moment spent in tears on our knees is a reflection of a life lived for a greater purpose.  A body broken. Love and grace poured out.

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When things don’t look like they used to…

When things don’t look like they used to…

egg sac spiderSince I was a little girl, Charlotte’s Web has been a favorite of mine. After our own little Charlotte was born last fall, I started reading the book to her. During the day, we would sit in the rocker with the pale sunlight casting a spell over the nursery and in the evenings I would turn off all the lights except the small lamp beside the rocker leaving the two of us caught in a golden globe. We would read about the farm, about the geese and the goslings, about Wilbur the little runt pig and about a beautiful spider named Charlotte. There are people who think Charlotte’s Web is a rather sad book. Matt asked me one time, “Doesn’t Charlotte die at the end?” Yes, Charlotte does die, but the book isn’t about her death. It’s about her life, about how she loved her friend Wilbur and how she loved her babies, how she used every cell of her little grey spider body to author silky messages and craft a peach-colored puff that held 514 tiny spider lives. It is the story of a woman who knows what her purpose is and knows her body is a tool to bring that purpose to fruition.

Ask a woman if there’s something about herself that she would like to change, and she will almost always say yes. A couple days ago, I dragged my kids to the drug store in their pajamas at 7 am. We were there within two minutes of them opening the doors. Why? Because I desperately needed to color my hair. My incredible mom who passed on to me many wonderful traits also gave me the genetics of early gray hair. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m convinced I’ve discovered another one, and on days when my three-year-old feels like pushing all my buttons I’m pretty sure an entire village pops up.

It seems there’s always a pound to lose, a wrinkle to erase, a dimple to smooth or something in need of a lift. We have these bodies and we have this one life. We don’t take this body with us, so why we wouldn’t we use it up while we’re here? Why wouldn’t we use every fiber of our being to give and love and create? Why wouldn’t we celebrate when our body shows the wrinkles from years of laughing? Why wouldn’t we appreciate the transformation that happens when we carry a precious life for nine months?  We make healthy choices, we exercise, we moisturize and I’m definitely going to cover these grays. But I’m tired of beating myself up because things don’t look like they used to.

Like my favorite t-shirt that just gets softer and more loved with every washing, I want to use this body. I want to wake it up early to see sunrises that color the sky in cotton candy clouds. I want to keep it up late lost between plot twists of a really great book. I want these feet to travel to Africa and bring our brown-eyed child home. I want these hands to paint walls that create a haven, to bake bread that feeds a heartbroken friend and make cookies that are really just toasted dough. I want these eyes to watch two girls grow strong and brave. I want these ears to hear a million dreams, “Guess whats” and “I love yous.” And I want this mouth to speak life to those around me, to whisper “keep going” and to kiss my husband every day until death do us part.

What if I didn’t view my body as a keepsake to be guarded and maintained but as a tool to do what I was put here for? What if I appreciated the role my body plays in helping me carry out my purpose? This morning I was working out in the flower bed, pulling weeds that had crept in around my wildflowers. In the spot where a flower had once bloomed, a small spider had created her egg sac. I thought back to Charlotte’s Web where Charlotte describes her egg sac as her “magnum opus,” her great work. As parents, we will invest many, many hours and much blood, sweat and tears into our children. There will be gray hairs from the times they miss curfew. There will be forehead wrinkles from the times they were weren’t invited to the birthday party or didn’t make the team. There might be a little post-pregnancy pooch that just won’t disappear no matter how many ab crunches are done. And there will always be a heart that breaks when we see our children go through pain and heartache. These 7000 days will wear us out and leave a lasting mark on our bodies. But we accept that. Hopefully, we even celebrate that. Because we know it is worth it. They are worth it.