Life in Progress, Part 1: Why I wasn’t looking forward to school starting

Since July I’ve dreaded the back-to-school process.

The reason is probably not what you’re thinking. In fact, I’m almost positive it’s not.

My dread wasn’t because of early mornings, extra-curriculars, or the busyness that the school year brings.

It wasn’t because of the car payment’s-worth of school supplies, or the homework packets.

It was the question. The one I had no idea how to answer, but that everyone would be asking.

“How was your summer?” 

Parents, how  many times do we hear that during back to school time? Like 72,000, that’s how many.

It started a week before school began when I was helping out on my kids’ campus. “How was your summer?” another parent inquired. I thought I was ready for it, but I still had to think carefully about my answer.

“It was good,” I replied. “Pretty low key,” I added, lying.

When I was young I’d read those books that allow the reader to choose the outcome of the story. “Go to page 62 to find out where Mr. Buffalo hid the key to the treasure,” OR “Go to page 109 to learn whether Mr. Buffalo really does take up skeet shooting.”

That’s how I feel every time someone asks me how my summer was.

I could say “Fine,” OR I could say, “John and I went to Oregon for a few days.” If I pick the latter, the next question is surely, “What’s in Oregon?” I could say “We love it there” (which is true) OR I could respond with “Family” (which is sort of true).

I can’t say the thing though. The thing that made this summer hard and life-changing and eye-opening and breathtaking.

When someone asks me how my summer was, I don’t feel comfortable replying, “My mom died.”

Yaquina Head Lighthouse; Newport, Oregon
Yaquina Head Lighthouse; Newport, Oregon

That is not — not! — what people want to hear. Many people only ask about summer break because it’s the equivalent to chatting about the weather. If they really are interested, that answer is a serious downer.

What I’d say next, which would probably freak people out, is “It’s okay though!!” waving my hands around to smooth over the awkwardness. “That’s not even the big part!”

Then I’d have to explain the story. My history. And that takes some time.

I’d have to explain why I’m faced with grieving two different people. My mom, the one I was estranged from for the last 18 years. The one who fought psychological demons for a lot of her life, and most of my childhood. And the mom I didn’t even know. The one who, in the last several years — and unbeknownst to me — found love and peace and community. And faith. She found faith. There is no grieving competition, but if there was, I think I’d score high.

But like I said, her death isn’t even the big part. To understand her end, you’d have to know our beginning, and that post is coming.

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Truth Reflected (a spoken word poem presented at Southwest Church, Nov., 2013)

mom-child-walk-425jh101209

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a five-letter word.

M.O.M.M.Y.

I’m not sure what you thought I meant.

I as mommy look different than you as mommy,

It’s not good or bad.

It’s different.

No mother is perfect.

Walk a mile in my shoes,

I’ll drive a mile in your minivan,

and we can meet somewhere in the middle

and quickly learn

that we all birth replicas of our hearts.

They lay in our arms,

Crawl on our floors,

Run through our homes.

Yes, we birth tiny versions of love,

and that is common ground.

Over our swelling hearts we prayed.

In labor we cried out to God.

Through scrapped knees, snotty retorts and missed curfews,

we implore Jesus to help.

So when we walk the aisles of our stores,

and trek through the halls of our schools,

and sit under the roof of this Church,

let us not compare our labels to other women,

since the only thing we know

for certain

is that we serve Jesus and are called according to His purposes.

There is another word.

Not a good one like “mommy.”

It’s four letters.

It stings like the wasp that got me the day I grabbed the hose too fast.

It stings me, right here, every single time.

It’s how I introduce myself,

describe myself.

It’s the reflection I see in a sink full of dirty dish water,

how I define myself when I look into the eyes of my sons and my daughters.

It’s four letters.

J.U.S.T.

I am just a wife.

I just take care of the house.

I don’t work, I just serve at the church.

I am just a mother.

That lie digs deep.

It steals our joy,

and preys on our insecurities.

We are more than just.

So much more.

We are His workmanship.

His chosen ones.

His children.

Tiny replicas of His love.

The sheep of His pasture.

We all gather and kneel at His altars.

We are His.

He owns me and I am totally okay with that.

Also, we are broken.

Hairlines and fault lines and heartache.

Tokens of past mistakes that cause us

to pluck the strings of our hearts

like guitars

and sound a mournful tune of errors made.

So I ask:

How has evilness wrapped its hand around your throat?

What’s your label?

What do you see

as your identity

that makes it so hard to breathe?

A drunk? a user? a cheater? a liar?

A bad wife? Just an okay mother?

Too heavy? Too ugly? Too dumb?

Just so you know,

those are lies.

Every single one.

Forget just.

It’s in the past.

Our past mistakes aren’t even a part of the story reel

that plays today.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has passed away.

We should count ourselves blessed to have friends

who will remind us of that everyday.

So you can stop calling to mind the former things,

or ponder things of the past.

We’re called to let it go,

lay it down.

Not lay it down while you’re wrapped up in it like a blanket.

It’s more like, burn it and run.

Christ is our defender

and tomorrow’s freedom

will only come from today’s surrender.

We are broken,

but our God, our Potter, He makes us whole.

Sometimes He takes us to a place of brokenness

to perfect His work in us.

At His wheel He shapes and creates.

In wombs He knits.

Were created in His likeness.

Oh yes, there are times we feel battered and are left bleeding,

but we are worth more than

the lies.

The lies that say we’re just….insert something here.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay and You are our Potter

and all of us are the work of Your hand.

He designed us to live wholly, without cracks that slice through and leave

pain in their wake.

In the trials that hurt, we have to see God in the mending.

But the wheels come off and

We forget

That our identity is in Christ.

We drown in the comparisons,

putting the focus on our differences

instead of seeing them for what they are.

They are God’s fingerprints.

We are all loved and pursued by Him

Equally.

A new four-letter word.

Free.

It’s on the parchment.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free

so stand firm

against the enemy’s schemes.

Do not let evilness

tell you that you are not good enough.

Do not let the world set your standard

for attractiveness.

Do. Not. Conform.

Be rebellious against the enemy.

It’s his fist that

beats us down,

but our names are inscribed on the hands

of the One who wears the crown.

And I get it.

Life can be boring.

Laundry and homework and meals and toilets.

Just hear this,

the days are long but the years are short.

Until our tiny heart replicas march off on their own adventures,

they are our adventures.

They are our tears of joy and the reason we cry,

“I love you!”

and

“Knock it off!”

in the same day.

We should see them through the eyes of that friend

who always says,

“Seriously, you have good kids.”

They’re a gift.

We are their mothers.

We should all seek to see that truth reflected

in the eyes of our sons and our daughters.