“I miss my mommy.”
These were the words my African son whispered to me tonight while sitting in my lap.
And he wasn’t talking about me.
After a long suffering day of hyper excited (fake over-happiness), nervousness, and dramatic attention seeking behaviors (aka…I’m trying to get into trouble to prove you don’t really love me), I finally found a quiet spot to pull him close, swallow my annoyances, and connect. I already knew that all the mentions of Mother’s Day at school, in the stores, on the radio, and everywhere, was weighing heavily on him, and to say this is hard to navigate as his new mommy, is a goliath sized understatement. It is completely heartbreaking, devastating, and lamentable.
You see, up until today, Mother’s day has always been about me.
I spent 14 Mother’s Days, completely childless, believing and praying for a child to come, only to end in month after month, year after year of disappointments and frustrations. And every year, every single year, as the children’s pastor of our church, I plastered on my best Sunday morning Christian smile, and begrudgingly worked in the nursery to give all the other mothers the “day off.” Yup. It was always a policy in our church to have only men working in children’s church that Sunday, except for me of course. Since I wasn’t actually a mother yet (don’t even get me started), I surely wouldn’t mind. (Dearest churches, if you have a wannabe mama, please don’t do this!) The unjustness of every single Mother’s Day in my heart raged wildly out of control. To all outward appearances, I handled it with grace, as a leader should. But inside, my heart was crushed, cracked, and crumpled. When would I get to celebrate too? Seriously, God. When’s it my turn? I had a white American Christian right and I was entitled to it! (I know, right?!?! SO awful.)
SO now, finally, here I am! My very first Mother’s Day with our family complete. After 15 years of marriage, we have three beautiful children from all corners of the earth, that have been all brought under our roof by nothing less than the very grace of God. I should be ecstatic. I should be leaping for joy. I should be relishing in the hugs, kisses, handmade cards and flowers.
But friends…..it’s still not. about. me.
And actually, it’s less about me than it EVER was before. As I sat on the couch tonight with my two sons, I was keenly aware that Mother’s Day is not a happy day for MOST of the world (I know, it’s an American holiday…work with me here). In fact, dare I say this:
Mother’s Day is a first world privilege.
Amidst the cards and flowers and candy, mothers worldwide still are losing their children due to utter poverty, war, famine, rape, sickness, and disease. Too many times, I have stood on foreign soil on the missions field with mothers literally placing their newborn baby in my arms, begging me to take them, desperately longing for the their baby to have a chance at life, based solely on the fact that I was white and from America. 🙁 Imagine that for a minute. Put yourself in the shoes of that mother from the dump, giving away your newborn baby to a complete stranger because you knew in your heart of hearts that your child was doomed to a life of depravity living in the garbage dump in rural Cambodia. I cannot even speak intelligible words when I allow myself to think about the wretched heartache these mamas must go through! (I personally took this pic on my last trip to Cambodia….This space is their entire living quarters. The baby was just born 4 days earlier) #Lordhavemercy
It is estimated that right now, there are 230 million children worldwide, orphaned. 230 million! That’s 230 million mamas, NOT having a good “Mother’s Day.” I know we cannot even comprehend this staggering number, but I DO know this: My children, were two of them. And my two sons, who now call me mommy, also have another mommy. For them, the crushing heartache and jagged disruption of this loss is too hard for a 5&6 year old to navigate. “Why can’t we go back to my other mama?” I swallow a big knot…completely speechless. I have nothing. There is just no answer appropriate for this child from hard places. I can only utter, “I don’t know. But it’s ok to be sad and it’s ok to miss her.”
And so, after 14 years, as I finally get to celebrate being an actual mommy with a complete family under one roof, I realize that it’s still not about me. It’s not about cards and jewelry and flowers. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are good, and wonderful and even Godly. But for our family, and the majority of the human race globally, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of loss. It is a day of sorrow for miscarriages, still births, and early deaths. It is a day to lament for mamas who so desperately want a baby to hold and their house remains quiet. For us, it will be a day of remembering, a day of mourning a loss that cannot be understood, a day to draw a picture for her hoping that somehow God will send that picture in a dream to her (because only God knows where she is), and it will be a day to light a candle and pray for the mamas of all three of my children who sacrificially gave so their children could have a family. For me, it is a day to be soberly reminded, that somehow, God chose me to raise these three children and lavish all the love I have into their lives. It is a day to be thankful for all the noise in the house and the dirty dishes, and the legos on the floor, because all those things mean there are sweet babies in my home, which God has brought to me.
To all the mamas out there who have experienced loss, I remember YOU this day. May the God of Hope be your rescue today. May He heal where human hands cannot. And to all the mamas loving kids from hard places, keep it up. You are doing the hard work of redemption. #wewillneverforget