Sunday, May 8, 2016

For Those Who Mother Me

In church this morning, we sang an old hymn called "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." I flashed back to the Sundays of my childhood when I stood by my parents, singing the same song.

This memory was a heavy one and tears pricked my eyes because it is Mother's Day and my mother is gone. But before we even made it to the "hallelujah" chorus of the song, God had already filled my heart with images of women who have mothered me and loved me well.

My sister, Mary, came to mind first. Our family lore says she started mothering me the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. She took on the physical chores of nurturing me when I was an infant, but those chores have since matured into nurturing my soul. Over the years she's become my sounding board, my memory keeper, and my bossy kick-in-the-pants surrogate mother.

Next, images of my friends' faces flashed in my mind as I sang. These are the women who text me morning greetings and prayers to start my day, much like Mom used to wake me in the morning before school with a chorus of "Get out of bed you sleepy head." These women regularly check in with me, care about the state of my heart, ask about my kids (and love them) as if they were their own, share my grief by sharing theirs, and encourage me to be vulnerable and authentic. They call me on my crap when I try to hide my pain or when I get all sassy and crabby over the lemons life dishes out. They struggle in the trenches with me and carry my burdens with me.

Other faces flooded my memory while I sang:

My mother-in-law mothered me well last year when she told me to chase my dreams now saying, "Do it now or you'll regret it the rest of your life." She's one of the people who compelled me to attend a life-changing conference, and her words still echo in my head when I feel small or crazy for pursuing my passion.

My kids' teachers have shared their insights about my children's temperaments and honed my mothering skills with their observations and encouragement. I am forever indebted to Jackson's second grade teacher, whose presence and words lifted guilt off my shoulders when she shared a story of her daughter's growth with me.

Jackson's third grade teacher tenderly leads me to advocate for him and she encourages me immensely when she tells me the things she can see in his character that reflect our shared values. When I became a mom, I assumed my kids' teachers would help them grow; I never guessed they'd bless me too!

Nothing and no one will ever replace Brenda Steele, the mother I lost on September 7, 2004. I will forever have a piece of my heart missing, until I am reunited with her again.

But in God's infinite goodness, He has gifted me with people who have helped me feel less alone, supported my dreams, prayed on my behalf, and reminded me Whose I am.

Mothers have taken so many forms in my life: Neighbor. Former coworker. Pastor. Therapist. Cousin. Aunt. Stepmother. (Heck, even my husband has taken on the role of mothering my heart when it was broken and needed mending.)

Happy Mother's Day to the people who treat me like one of their own!

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