Mother’s Day was for hiding.
Some years, it was behind my apron, fixing up a feast at home for my mother-in-law while Nate attended church. And other years it was underneath my covers, seeing this thin sheath between me and the world (which had what I wanted) as my greatest ally.
Our church seemed unusually prolific, busting at the seams with round-bellied women and diapered toddlers. It often felt like work for me to walk into a room and see them as more than merely women who knew this apparent “rite of passage” that I couldn’t quite get. At times, this surfaced envy and that thick ache of loss and all the “why, Lord?” questions that came with it. Some days it wasn’t about just hiding from them. I wanted to hide from Him, too.
I didn’t like who I was when I stared into what I didn’t have.
On one particular Mother’s Day, I took my customary pass while Nate joined the mamas being celebrated.
The day before I’d had a few extra minutes to pop into a greenhouse boutique that held almost nothing we could afford at the time. I poked and prodded through trinkets and potted plants and gift cards — something I’d rarely done.
One pot caught my eye; it was exactly my taste. With no wiggle room to splurge, I went on with my day.
Not twenty four hours later, Nate returned home from church with that very same pot, filled. A gift. My fifty-something friend, Linda, a mom of four and grandmother of three, had picked it out and packaged it just for me. She’d taken her eye off of her big day to ask Him who else needed celebrating.
Though she didn’t know this particular ache, she scooted close to His heart, the One who is the best gift giver.
And that day she was His detailed-reminder to me: not one of your tears is lost on me, Sara.
On a weekend when women stand and are celebrated for that glorious mundanity which is motherhood, there are just as many sitting beside them whose hearts are sunk. The one who lost her baby this month and the other who’s logged years — not months — trying to conceive. The mama whose husband died or isn’t around to rally those troops to celebrate her and the other who has fostered children into a forever-mama’s arms but has none, yet, of her own. The single woman who wonders, on this particular day, if femininity has to be tied to offspring, and the mother — adopting — who has no stretch marks, only paperwork, to show for her pursuit.
They share the bench of our pews.
When I moved out from behind my plastered smile in this little Virginia church — amid all those women who birthed their first, second and third babies while I knew them — and I began to let them see my blood-red vulnerability, He used them. Beautifully.
Just like He used Linda on that Mother’s Day for me.
If we ask Him to highlight the unique pains of those around us, we might just get a chance to buy that extravagant pot. Even more, we might just get to receive a piece of the Father’s heart for us, in our giving.
We so often look away from another’s bleeding — what do I say? how do I respond? — as evidence of how our eyes dart away from Him in our lack. We subtly believe His hands are tied against their pain that is unfamiliar to us and our own pain, which is very near. We see Him like a version of ourselves: dumfounded in the sight of loss.
But His hands aren’t tied. And He doesn’t turn, He leans in to the broken.
These women are at the threshold of discovering a side of Him, known uniquely in their ache. They have gold underneath those tears. Their reproach will one day be their crown.
And it’s in putting on His unnatural love for them that we get to see another angle of Him. (Their broken spaces are also holy ground.)
Whose Linda will you be this weekend?
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Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.