A letter to the woman who hates Mother’s Day

I woke up on May 1 to an inbox full of emails: Stitch Fix—Want to Give Mom Something Special? Walgreens Photo—Get Mom’s Gift in Time with 40% Off Apple—Show Mom your <3 with gifts she’ll <3 Lightstock (stock photography)—Celebrating Mothers And they just keep coming. It’s out of control—they really think I should buy lamination ...

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I woke up on May 1 to an inbox full of emails:

  • Stitch Fix—Want to Give Mom Something Special?
  • Walgreens Photo—Get Mom’s Gift in Time with 40% Off
  • Apple—Show Mom your <3 with gifts she’ll <3
  • Lightstock (stock photography)—Celebrating Mothers

And they just keep coming. It’s out of control—they really think I should buy lamination supplies to celebrate? Don’t get me wrong, I love office supplies more than the average bear. But still.

The thing is, Mother’s Day is the holiday I like least. It’s never been a particular favorite anyway, but since Mom died almost seven years ago, I’ve really loathed it. Some days I feel as though I must be totally alone in this. After all, when someone at church mentioned that this is the month of Mother’s Day, people cheered. Apparently, I’m an anomaly—but I don’t think I’m alone.

So I just want to say a few things to some of you who might be reading this.

To the woman who loves her kids but is exhausted and just wants someone else to clean up the kitchen for once…

To the woman who had to somehow walk away from the grave of her child, or spend months in hospitals watching her suffer, and lives in fear that they’ll find themselves back in that place again…

For the woman who has felt lost ever since her mom left this earth…

To the one whose mother really screwed up her head…

To the one who misses the grandmother who essentially raised her…

To the one whose child has cut her out of his life for reasons she cannot understand…

To the one who wonders if she’ll live long enough to finish raising her child…

To the woman who quietly mourns the child she miscarried, that no one wants to talk about…

To the mom who chose to let another family raise her baby but never stops thinking about him…

To the one who’s overwhelmed by all that her kids demand…

To the mother whose teen is out of control, who lies awake at night wondering what she did wrong…

To the one who always wanted a baby but the timing was never right…

To those who went through crazy amounts of medical intervention (or months of ashamed silence) waiting for the stripe on the pregnancy test to finally show up, but it never did…

To the woman whose mom means well but drives her crazy…

To the woman whose mom doesn’t mean well and is just flat-out mean…

For the one who is watching her mom (and her memories) gradually fade away…

To the one whose body aches from the hard work of being her mother’s caregiver…

For the one who has a dysfunctional relationship with a mom or step-mom or mother-in-law…

For the one whose mom lives halfway around the world wearing a soldier’s uniform…

To the one who raised a strong, independent child whose career took her far away from home…

For the woman whose mom disapproves of her…

For the one who struggles and fails to make the right choices…

To the woman who chose not to become a mom, but no one seems to understand…

To the one whose mom wants nothing to do with her…

For the one who has no help at home and no one to remind the kids to celebrate you…

To the one whose memories of her childhood bring sadness rather than joy…

To the one who never had anyone show her what it looked like to be a good mom…

For the one who doesn’t know why, but just feels ambivalent about this day…

To all the women who struggle to celebrate, for whatever reason…

I acknowledge you. I see you. I feel for you. I hurt for you.

And I want you to know this: in spite of your pain, because of your pain, I celebrate you today.

Even if people don’t seem to see what you do. Even if your wants and needs and actions are overshadowed by everyone else’s. Even if you feel as though no one else understands. Even if no one acknowledges you today. Even if there is nothing about this day that makes you happy.

Because you are wonderful. I am praying for you to find the strength to get through this holiday. The good humor to endure. The grace to forgive those who hurt you. The ability to smile, and someone with whom you can trust your true feelings. The faith to believe that God can heal whatever is broken inside—and for you to believe me when I say you are worth celebrating.

I see you today—and God sees you every day. You are not alone.

And you are so very loved.

Prayer for my teenage boy

My 15-year-old son goes back to school tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how weird it is to see him growing up. So I thought I’d share this prayer with you today. Lord, when people told me there is something special about the relationship between a mom and her son, they were right. But ...

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My 15-year-old son goes back to school tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how weird it is to see him growing up. So I thought I’d share this prayer with you today.


Lord, when people told me there is something special about the relationship between a mom and her son, they were right. But as much as I adore this boy, I admit that there are times I have absolutely no understanding of him. He’s like an alien creature inhabiting my world.

When I go to wake him up, I marvel at the way that this child of mine stretches completely across the entire mattress. When he talks, I’m amazed at how deep his voice is. When girls flirt with him, it makes me laugh. He’s still my baby, that little boy that pulled my neck towards him to hold my face in his chubby hands and kiss me. The one who threw temper tantrums and hid behind furniture. The one who played with Legos while singing adorably mispronounced song lyrics.

But yet… he’s almost 6 feet tall. He’s stinky and has whiskers and hairy legs. He’s never without a phone in his hand—unless he’s playing video games or sports—and he takes 400,000 selfies a day for SnapChat and can’t talk about anything but cars. One minute he hugs me and the next he wants nothing to do with me. He still needs his mama but he wants his dad to teach him how to be a man. He needs direction but wants independence. There’s a part of him that is still soft inside, still vulnerable, still tender, but he fights that because it’s not what he thinks a man is supposed to be.

Lord, help me to be the kind of mom he needs me to be. Let me be his safe place to be himself, without any pretense. Let me be the source of unconditional love and fierce mama-bear protection. Let me always be the one he holds doors for. Thank you for letting me be the person who gets the way his brain works, who knows what will make him laugh, who is willing to set him up for all of his sarcastic responses and nerdy jokes. But help me to hold him to a high standard (and still show him love if he doesn’t live up to that). Help me let him know his value without inflating his ego.

But more than that, Lord, help him to embrace becoming the man You want him to be. Never stop talking to him, whispering to him to make smart choices and be true to who he is. Help him choose his friends wisely, and surround him with people who bring out the best in him, who challenge him to work harder and be more kind and generous. Let him shoot high when he sets goals, and help him to learn from his mistakes but have the perseverance to try again. Let him know that he doesn’t have to hide his brain to be popular. Help him to be funny without ever being mean. Teach him to gauge his worth in You and not care about his relative popularity among his peers.

Hold tight to him, Lord. Give him the courage to put You first. To let others see how much he loves You. To go to You first for advice and direction. To stand up and be a man and to look at Jesus as his ultimate role model. Whatever he does in this life, let his love for You be clear to others, and let his service to You be done gladly and passionately. Keep him centered, Lord. Because You are the rock. Of his salvation and of mine. You are the anchor that holds us all in place. You are the source of our strength. You are our hope and our redeemer. And You are able to do all things. There’s no one else I could trust with him (or with my girls).

You are my everything. And my greatest prayer for him is that You will become his everything, too. Amen.

Prayer for the mom without a mom

Dear Lord, Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one who taught me the most, the one whose opinion mattered so much, isn’t here any longer. It’s hard to think about how to be what my children need when I face this gaping hole, an absence where it still feels ...

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Dear Lord,

Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one who taught me the most, the one whose opinion mattered so much, isn’t here any longer.

It’s hard to think about how to be what my children need when I face this gaping hole, an absence where it still feels like my mom should be. When, even after several years, I feel lost… adrift… permanently damaged, even as I go about my days. I’m not depressed. But I miss her. I feel perpetually lonely without her.

On a day like today, all I can think about is what my mom did for me. How she—even through her criticisms—was my unconditional place. My biggest supporter and strongest cheerleader. How she saw what was bad, misguided, or just plain wrong in my actions—and didn’t hesitate to say so—because she believed I was capable of so much more. Because she thought I was so much better than that.

I wonder now—when I rebelled, did it hurt her the way my own kids hurt me?

Did she stand firm in her opinions anyway, simply because there was no other choice? Because she had to be the mom she knew I needed, rather than the one I thought I wanted?

Did she lie awake at night, wondering if she was doing right by her kids?

Did she fume all day when I yelled at her unjustly?

And even so, did she defend me, instinctively, against any and all criticisms?

Did she mourn over her inability to protect me from people who would hurt me, injure my opinion of myself, break my heart?

I’m certain she did. As a teen, I was oblivious to that. As a parent myself, I now understand her better. Lord, You gave me wonderful mom, and I’m so grateful. And You’ve blessed me with remarkable, amazing children. So why do I feel more like crying than rejoicing?

Because I fully recognize all that I lost. All that she was to me. All that a mom should be to her child. And I’m afraid I can’t live up. I’m afraid I’ve already failed irreparably. I’m afraid my kids will never understand the depths of my love for them. My desperation to shield them from all that could harm them. My unlimited hopes and aspirations for them. They may never understand how deeply I feel the things that hurt them. Or how much I believe in them.

Maybe they’ll get it when they have children of their own.

Maybe someday they’ll cling to You when they realize they don’t have control over their own kids’ lives. Maybe they’ll live in awe of a God who loves us with a Father’s love. Maybe they’ll understand that we are forever connected, whether we’re both on this earth or not. Maybe they’ll grasp the reality that parenting well involves huge risk. It involves making unpopular decisions and hard choices and knowing that we can’t fix everything. It requires being hands-off sometimes when our instincts tell us to cling tight. It consists of a love so great that it isn’t changed by circumstances, actions, achievements—or by disappointments or failures. Our hearts are forever tethered to each other.

Lord, as I write this, I feel my heart loosening. My gratitude welling up. My sadness is still there but not bringing me down… instead, it’s lifting up my head, directing my sight towards You. Because I do have reasons to celebrate. Reasons so much greater than flowers and gifts or the perfect card.

I have You. And I had her (and will always have her, even if she’s not here). And I have my kids.

And I do have joy… in spite of the sadness. But on this day, with Your help, I will let joy prevail. Thank You, Lord.

Amen.

Happy(?) Mother’s Day

I used to think Mother’s Day was a holiday for everyone. After all, we all have (or had) moms. Easy enough. When I saw that people were sad, I assumed they just weren’t focusing on the good things. Sure, I thought, my friend’s mom isn’t here with us anymore, but she can still celebrate. She ...

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I used to think Mother’s Day was a holiday for everyone. After all, we all have (or had) moms. Easy enough. When I saw that people were sad, I assumed they just weren’t focusing on the good things. Sure, I thought, my friend’s mom isn’t here with us anymore, but she can still celebrate. She has memories. Why wouldn’t she want to be a part of this heartwarming, happy day?

Oh, how I did not get it.

And oh, how much I hate that I do now.

It’s funny — this wasn’t a big holiday for us. I’d get Mom a card. Maybe a gift, if I happened to think of something. We didn’t always get together. I guess once I had kids of my own, it became more about being with them and allowing them to celebrate.

But now, as I face my third Mother’s Day without my mom, I’m faltering again.

I don’t know how to celebrate my mom without falling into the abyss of missing her.

I don’t know how to let my kids celebrate me without feeling an extreme lack — a sharp jab into my side, an ice pick puncture with each thought — because my own mom’s not here anymore. And because I worry that maybe I’m not enough for my kids. That I can’t give them everything they need. That I can’t be all that they want. Or, worse, maybe they don’t want what I have to offer.

And I know I’m not alone. There are women who mourn today, feeling the loss of a child they barely knew or a little life they’ve never been able to grow. Women who are acutely aware of the missing other half — the one they haven’t met or the one they’ve lost, the one who would or did transform her from half of a couple into (possibly) a parent. Women who feel that they must be unworthy, because they didn’t have a mom who evoked these pastel-colored, flowery memories. Or because their kids don’t feel that way about them.

So how do we get through this day? How do we address the hodgepodge of disparate emotions all around? How do we know who needs a silly smile reflected back at them and who needs a quiet, wordless embrace?

We don’t.

So just walk gently today. Don’t assume everyone feels happy. Be free with kind touches, genuine smiles, words of affection. Give thanks for what you have, and ask God to fill the empty places left behind by loss.

Notice, as the moms are honored, the woman still sitting on the church pew, sad because she can’t stand up among the other women. Watch faces for the person who can’t maintain a smile when the heartwarming poems are read, because maybe they’re lonely or hurting or can’t figure out how to forgive the mother who damaged them. Pay attention to someone who’s spending the day alone, and consider inviting them along. If everyone around you seems happy and content, by all means, join in the celebration, and lift your voice in gratitude to God.

But if you’re the one who’s hurting, know you’re not alone. Allow God to turn your feelings upside down (because, really, His upside-down-ness is one of my favorite things about Him). We don’t have to hide from sadness or feelings of inadequacy. We don’t have to pretend to be happy if we’re not. We just have to open ourselves up to the One who can heal, the One who will comfort, the One who makes the broken places whole again. He’s the One who can see past the facades. He’s the One with the eternal perspective. He celebrates with us, grieves with us. He nurtures us, forms us, rejoices in us. He never gives up. He stays close and He never lets go.

But the really amazing thing? His arms are large enough to do more than just hold you and me. As He wraps around you today, remember that He is also holding close our moms, our grandmothers, our aunts and sisters and friends and babies, encircling us all in the same embrace. He reaches beyond space and time, outside of the bounds of this physical world into the radiating light of heaven, and holds us all tight. Gathers us in together. Bridges the impossible gaps between us and those we long to see again. We may not be able to see it, but He’s there. She’s there (whoever you’ve lost and are thinking of on this day), right there with you. God’s embrace doesn’t falter or fail. Because she’s with Him, and we’re with Him, we are all, somehow, together again.

And because of this, in His phenomenal way, God transforms this day, which could easily be filled with sorrow and regret and mourning — into something different. Something better. Something more. Something that, even if it may not make you want to buy a Hallmark card, is worth experiencing. Worthy of gratitude. Filled with healing. Bursting with light.

Because of this unfathomable grace, He makes it possible for  me to say to you, with all love and sincerity and compassion and hope and tenderness, that today, I will celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day. May you find in this day — in Him — all that you need. Amen.

 

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