Monday, May 2, 2016

More Than, "Just A Mom"

Of course, she never mentioned it.

Considering the fact that I knew her my entire life it seems like it might have come up in just one conversation.

When my mom was seventeen years old and a senior in high school she was given an award by a major metropolitan newspaper for her writing, She received a certificate of achievement and a trip to the big city.

In the picture that was published of my mom in the newspaper, her hair was dark and styled, the lipstick appears to be deep red and her smile was so big her eyes were squinted shut.

She wore a look of pure joy and half-embarrassment.

It gave me a glimpse of the young woman who would someday be my mom.

That was almost the only notoriety she ever received.

A year later she was getting ready to be a first-time mom. And before it was over she had four kids of her own and after us, she was handed two others who needed the strength and stability her arms and home could offer.

Mostly we were an ungrateful lot.

Especially me.

While other kids I knew had moms with careers, big vacations, and the newest cars, my mom was “just a mom.”

Her degree was in early childhood development and her platform was an old house she made into a home.

She got her masters in making hamburger 200 easy ways, removing Kool-Aid stains from the laminate flooring and finding mismatched socks.

She lived in a day when there were no, zero-spill sippy cups.

No internet to google symptoms.

No disposable diapers.

Honestly, how did she survive?

But day after unending day, she climbed the mountain of laundry, stood at the podium of her stove and served another round of handcrafted macaroni and cheese to her yawning audience of four.

No one applauded her when she got up in the night with another sick child, even when she was sick too.

None of us complimented her for all the cupcakes she sent into classrooms, the hours spent helping us with homework, or the miles she put on the car to deliver us to our next event.

There were no rave reviews written for the 30,000 plus meals she served up over the 30 years of having extra people around to feed.

It never occurred to me that she may have had ideas what life could be like if she had pursued her own dreams or developed her own talents.

In a culture that tells women they owe it to themselves to follow their dreams, my mom thought it was better to help us follow ours.

Her eulogy is one of a servant and a super-heroine.

She was a peacemaker and she championed the cause of the hurting and the neglected.

It took me half a century to realize much of what it cost her.

In fact, I’m still unwrapping the sacredness of having a mom like her.

In another time, she probably would have had a mommy blog or wrote about living on a large acreage or even hosted a food blog.

She could have been the editor for a website because she had the untapped skill set for it.

She may have thought her calling was small or insignificant in the whole scope of things.

I know now that it was a thankless job and she earned every gray hair on her hallowed head.

Somehow I just thought she would always be sitting there in her favorite chair with her glasses slipped down on the end of her nose, weaving the needle and thread in and out and in and out on the design on her latest project.

She always said she made her quilts with love.

Actually, she weaved that truth into most of what she did... living her life with love which is the test of all true religion.

I didn’t realize it was a gift to be able to drop in for breakfast at eight in the morning always served with Folgers coffee. Or how lunch was served at noon and supper was always ready at five.

She lived the gospel in the unseen things of honoring her husband and sacrificing for her children in places that only God really knows the depth of.

I wonder if she ever speculated what life, “could have been,” if she was more than “just a mom.”

I wonder how many days she thought her job was too mundane or her accomplishments too small.

I wonder if she ever just wanted to throw in the spaghetti encrusted towel and just run away.

Of all things she could have done with her life, I never, not one time, heard her speak of regrets.

She did say with candor that on hard days, her own mom reminded her, “….in this family we don’t give our kids away.” And once she said that maybe after the kids were grown she’d go back to school.

By the time, there was no one to take care of she’d become content to write her legacy onto the lives of others.

Instead of being a published author, she wrote her life of love in our hearts.

Not only am I still realizing the gift of her, I’m still unwrapping the sacred gift of being a mom myself.

It is the single best thing that ever happened to me.

Three times.

Before motherhood, my heart was too small, too self-focused. Something about dealing with small humans revealed deep and messy issues of my own and is a constant reminder how my flesh wants to rule the world. At least my world.

Being a mom must be in part, God’s way of pushing us to love others more than we love ourselves.

If you are reading this, I hope you will be grateful for the mom who gave you life.

If you are a mom I pray you can embrace the divine beauty of your holy calling.

And no matter what your life may look like, keep living the gospel by loving others and doing the things that no one sees.

It matters.

Our greatest accomplishments aren't actually accomplishments, but what we do in love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Believing So We Can See

Even the invisible airwaves couldn't hide the pain and disappointment hanging in the silence. My question to her wasn't intended to uncap the well of sorrow she had been pressing down.  

When her words came, so did the tears. 

"It wasn't supposed to end up like this," she half-whispered.

Her story may have unique characters and villains, but the narrative had a familiar ring to it. 

The pen of suffering written on lives through trials, disappointments, and loss can leave our stories hard to keep living. 

I have a file that contains letters and printed e-mails of brave and precious souls who dared to put into words their deepest disappointments and life altering pain. 

They tell of husbands who walked out, wives who bolted, children who rebelled and babies who died.

There are typed, tragic accounts of how drug abuse forever altered their loved one.... or how drug abuse altered them.

How mental illness stole the person they once knew, jobs ended, homes were repossessed and the life-long savings disappeared.  

And cancer. So much cancer.

What would we do if for one day –just one– the news reporters had only good news to report? 

That's just not the world we live in. 

I.... we.... live in a world where people all around us are wondering how to take one more step forward.

It was in a particularly difficult season, one that involved one of my very closest relationships I found myself feeling hopeless. 

The accusing voice of failure replayed a familiar chorus in my head, "This. Is. All. Your. Fault." 

For months, I wavered somewhere between anger at this person's choices, while knowing the reality of my own flaws and quite honestly being angry at God. After all, He was the One who allowed the core circumstances to happen in our life.

Driving alone down a long portion of highway I began to verbalize the pain. Perhaps for the first time, I wasn't trying to be brave or keep up appearances or control the situation. I wasn't even being polite toward God.

Gratefully we serve a King who isn't afraid of the raw conversations. He isn't put off by the ugly sobbing or when we dare to wrestle with Him about our pain.

My grappling with Him in the difficulty didn't change His God-ness or His love for me. In fact, I think it was more clearly revealed.

I remember the stretch of highway I was driving on. I remember the words I said. And I remember the struggle and the ultimate releasing it all to God in a small burst of faith.

The size of a small seed of faith.

I had finally reached a place of peace—a place of release– a place of knowing God would have to do the work in my heart and in those I loved.

I could move forward in confidence that He was in control.

Something about that place, those moments, were a turning point for me.

Even though what I could see had not changed, I felt like something was settled.

That's how it was for Jacob.

He found himself alone, afraid and powerless as he was about to face his brother who had vowed to kill him years before.

It was a crossroads of where he had been and where he was going.

And there He wrestled with God.

In that encounter, some things were settled. God blessed him and changed his name.

Jacob the deceiver, became Israel the God-wrestler. 

And from that day forward Israel walked with a limp.

People who walk with a limp have my respect.

The things in life that didn't turn out like we hoped? Those are the things that help us lean on Jesus instead of ourselves.

No matter what our income, age, or credentials, at some point, we will have to embrace our powerlessness.

On the happy day, we come to the end of ourselves and our resources and all the trying to fix that husband, child, boss, or 10,000 other issues...... we are left with two choices.

We can focus on our problems or we can focus on the Problem Solver.

We can stare at the mountains or at the Mountian Mover.

We can run away or run toward.

We can worry or we can worship.

Worship is the thing that shows us Israel had more than a name change in the wrestling.

In Genesis 33:20 it says this: 
Then he built an altar there and named it El-Elohe-Israel (Mighty Is the God of Israel).

After the wrestling? God was no longer a God, or a religion passed down. Nope. He became the Mighty God of Israel.  

God moved past vague and impersonal to very personal. 

The. Mighty. God. of. Israel.

In my own God-story there have been, and will be many seasons of learning and trusting and growing in my faith. 

Despite the circumstances that surrounded me, I settled the issue of Who had the power to do something about them.

I settled the issue of  Who I would serve no matter what the outcome. 

The. Mighty. God. of. Rhonda.

And the Lord has not let me down. 

The unending, uncomfortable, unpopular paradox is that we do learn through pain. 

Dear Fellow Limper,

You who are pressed down under the circumstances that did not turn out like you'd hoped.

To the abandoned, the hurt, and all who feel forgotten, passed over and taken advantage of.

For every person that has suffered, is suffering... deep loss and pain and various afflictions.

Don't focus on what you can see.

Believe that the Lord is mighty and working on your behalf.

Don't settle for going to church or going through the motions or merely listening to someone else talk about faith.  

Believe that you can know personally, "the Mighty God of ____________." (Fill in your name.)

Some things really do have to be believed, before our eyes can be opened to see.

With all my love,

© Rhonda Quaney