Mother’s Day, 1987

Mother’s Day 1987, my Mom chose where we went to church that Sunday. We had been going to a great Catholic church for years but moved away and just. could. not. do. the local Parrish as it was D. E. A. D. and I mean, dead. No pulse. Dry as a bone. Even the priest died.

We thought, “God, You are big. Surely there is more to You than just standing, sitting, and kneeling…”

So, a beautiful lady who used to help my Mom clean the house once in a while invited us to go to her church. And when my Dad said, “Betty, why don’t you pick where we go for Mother’s Day…”, my Mom took him up on it.

28 years ago, exactly, on May 10th, 1987, we walked into a small non-denominational charismatic church where people were dancing in the aisles, waving flags, marching, and shouting “Hallelujah” and “Jesus” and praying in tongues and the pastor had a southern accent.

It was awkward. Seriously.

But, high-tailing it out of there would have been even more awkward, so we sat down near the front, a never-before heard of thing as a Catholic, and listened as best we could through the Texas twang to the message the preacher was sharing that day. And what we heard, amidst the hankies and praises and “amen’s” was that the God who we knew loved us, the One we knew about already from Catholicism, was One who wanted to know us, and be known by us, in a more personal way through the example of the life of Jesus Christ. And we learned the Holy Spirit wasn’t so much a Ghost as our spiritual life-line, a powerhouse for getting to know God through His word, a forever-with-me Presence for discernment and revelation, God’s presence in me for life.

And it clicked. It made sense. God, at least an iota of God, made sense to me in a way that changed my desires from learning ABOUT Him to wanting to get to KNOW Him, and be known by Him.

I watched my Mom quite a bit on this new portion of the spiritual journey. I watched her come into herself, her true self, her child-of-God-self. I wondered why she cried a lot about Jesus, so I finally asked her. She told me they were tears of happiness and thankfulness, tears to show her love for the Lord.

I used to be annoyed at how quickly my Mom’s eyes would rim wet when she’d talk about God and his Word. She could cry at the drop of a hat for the capacity of love she had for God.

Over the last several years, her tears didn’t bother me at all. The moment my daughter was born my tears began to well up and spill over, even at a commercial. I learned empathy. I was struck when I became a Mom just how very much my Mom loved each of us girls.

But as I sit and write this, remembering back to my Mom’s arms outstretched, head lifted, smile wide, tears freely streaming, dancing before her Lord, the very Lover of her soul, I’m most grateful that on Mother’s Day so many years ago, my Mom modeled to me a love and hunger for God, both in the giving and receiving, that would grow to insatiable depths right before my eyes.

One might think with such an example, one of a woman falling in love with her God and living solely for Him, that I’d seemingly follow suit. One might think. But I continue to fail miserably and pray more for God to raise my kids in spite of me.

Maybe that’s it? You see, I know my Mom wasn’t perfect, but the legacy of memories she left me are ones of her passionately pursuing her God.

I’ve passionately pursued trying to have my act together and continue to come up short…putting the cart before the horse, believing the lie that I HAVE to have my act together in order to approach God or receive from Him.

What my Mom modeled most faithfully was a life of going to Him each day and asking Him what she was supposed to be doing. One day at a time. Not perfectly but beautifully.

And looking back…and looking forward, I realize, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

All along, all that time, she “modeled” what a woman loved by God looks like…that’s where the tears flowed from…the place of knowing His grace and forgiveness and unconditional love, in spite of herself.

Thanks, Mom, for leaving a Mother’s Day legacy that defies time and space…I love you, always. Boo xoxox

Taken for Granted: A Series on Grief

Never in a million years did I imagine that this season of “The Graveswolds”, aka, life without a home, traveling some with Jason’s job, and basing out of my Dad’s house or my Mother-in-law’s house, was about me, so much. Sure, some of it…like the part where I’d be freed up of some grown-up responsibilities like mortgage payments and tons of cleaning, but I’ll admit that in my “Hey, I’m in my 40’s, strong as an ox, learned a lot about life already-ness” it didn’t occur to me God had something for MY heart. I thought I had oh-so-much-to-offer others, like, taking care of widows and orphans, and whatnot.

Last weekend God showed me one of the orphans, and, you can take it or leave it, but one of those “orphans” was…me.

Gasp.

Wait. What?

Um, Lord, this all hurts deeply. I’m kind of a mess…and by “kind of” I mean…There is no such thing as a secret, therefore You know every thought, ache, pain, cry, every ounce of longing on any given day that drains my day-to-day life energy from living fully now…because I wasn’t ready and so I’m stuck. You two may have been ready, elated even at her arrival, but I wasn’t ready to live one single day on this earth without my mom in it.

And, so, last weekend, I sat at a table where four women gathered to break bread and drink wine, and deep into the heart of our conversation, each of us living here and now on earth without one or both parents, one looks into my soul and says to me, my face hot and tears uncontrollably streaming by then, “Did it ever occur to you that what you thought was a season of being available to help your widowed parents (houselessness and living in South Dakota) might be about healing to your grieving heart?”

Wait. What?

The ever-so-quickly approaching Mother’s Day has me pausing to take in long, hard breaths every day, every so often, more often than not. I’ve done “firsts”…had 8 1/2 years of them already, having lost Noah. People email me, call, text, take me to lunch and coffee and ask me questions about grieving and death quite often. I’m kind of seasoned in death-stuff, not afraid of it, clearly realistic in the whole part about none of us being able to avoid it…

…but apparently Mom’s die. And I wasn’t ready for one of those moms to be mine.

She was my spiritual compass. We spoke often, for sure daily, many days a few times here and there, just checking in with one another, sharing little things and big things, spiritual insights, life dreams and frustrations, prayer requests, asking questions, learning from one another…her sharing years of wisdom, discernment, and life experience, me helping her embrace what was, and was not, important to get up to speed on in this generation. We spoke candidly about her journey, yet we never spoke about dying…

News. Flash.

And so here I am, one week away from my first Mother’s Day without my Mom to call or make a beautiful meal for. I can hear my heart beating in my chest as I type, and each beat is marked with an aching of the tremendous and profound loss I feel. And I’m not the first woman on this earth to ever lose a mother, and I wasn’t the last.

It’s one month shy of one year and I haven’t even scratched the surface of my grief. In fact, I haven’t really even gone there. I pulled up my big girl panties, because crying doesn’t bring her back, and kept on truckin’ on, “to make her proud”…except for the part where my soul is crying out to bask in healing, my memories need space and time to come and go as they may, and the part where losing a son is different from losing a mother…not one better, easier, harder, quicker…different, and equally necessitating TIME to heal and TIME to breathe and TIME to wrestle and reflect and dig in and release and whatever else.

A few practical things I’m taking up on this grief journey to healing is I took Facebook off my phone. It’s still on my computer and a way I love to see what’s going on in other people’s lives, but it’s a distraction on my phone, and really, not a necessity on this journey. This blog has always been a sanctuary of healing for my heart, even when arrows fly from readers, as writing is an outlet for my soul. I will be here more often, sharing bits of the grief, because we talk about all sorts of other losses, but the loss of a parent is so accepted in society, so when one grieves longer or more deeply or in an ugly, painful way that others deem too lengthy or inappropriate, well, they move on. My Mom was a Baby Boomer. There are millions of women (and men) like me (and my sisters) who, if they have not yet, will be losing their parents in the next couple decades. Death is expected, but the pain which accompanies it is something we need to talk about with one another. I hope my processing can help your processing one day…

Another thing, I’m reading “Nobody’s Child: How Older Women Say Good-bye to Their Mothers” by Diane Sher Lutovich, “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom, “Final Gifts” by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, another one about pain and suffering, and doing a soul-care Bible study by Ortberg and Willard.

I’m also going to shell out some serious money to meet with a counselor who is supposed to work miracles…because some things in life are worth the investment, like hearts and souls…

Physically, I breathe. I’ve been spending time doing Yoga breathing. I breathe strategically when I swing kettlebells and do pull-ups at the gym. I breathe and use my legs to lift heavy landscaping rocks when the grief necessitates manual labor. I breathe when I sit lakeside in my Mother-in-love’s hammock, listening to the rhythmic waves lap up on the shore, pairs of ducks drifting by, listening to the effects of the wind through the pines.

There's nothing like nuggling lakeside in the hammock with my Little Lover...nothing.

There’s nothing like nuggling lakeside in the hammock with my Little Lover…nothing.

I breathe in and wonder what Heaven must be like. Then I exhale knowing it’s not yet my turn. I inhale God’s Spirit of healing and then exhale the burdens I so daftly thought were mine to bear and inhale the truth that His yoke is easy and His burden is light…His power is made known in my weakness…and I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

I wear her ring on my right hand, one she got in the early ’70’s, sterling with red coral…a Thunderbird made by Arizona local Navajo. An Arizona kid, a Phoenix or a Thunderbird, I think of the two interchangeably as I look at it each day, regardless, they both carry mythological symbolism of strength and life and renewal…one just has to rise out of the ashes in order to draw its strength.

So many memories include this ring on my Mom's hand.

So many memories include this ring on my Mom’s hand. It was made by Navajo artisans.

I’m working on that…

Either way, I know my strength and healing are found in the work Christ did for me at the Cross. It’s there I need to sit and face this loss, because trying to run from it has only caught up with me.

I wasn’t ready to lose her…which is why I wasn’t ready to grieve, either.

So, I step out, one foot in front of the other…and one day I will rise.

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T-shirt brought to you by "Chosen and Dearly Loved" a ministry for special needs.

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