When my oldest was six months old,we moved away from all family in the Mitten State to land locked Illinois. Three months married, moved to a residential home to care and raise High School boys. Twelve hormonal, eat all the food, wrestle all the feelings boys. You can do all of that math. It was one of the most stretching and chaotic, loneliest times in our lives.
That next year I thought I would add more excitement and enroll in college again. So here I was with twelve high school boys, two girls under 3 putting myself through college again while working full time.
It was there though that I met a woman who shaped how I learned to live life. How I see women and my ache for community was nurtured.
Suzy showed me what it means to carry each other. She worked in the childcare center there on campus. And since I had no family, a handful of friends and needed to finish school, I enrolled my oldest in their preschool program. She took care of my spunky toddler and loved her well.She potty trained her, so some may call her a miracle worker. Suzy and two other women not only cared for a room full of little’s, they began to take care of the scared first time mamas. Suzy began to teach me what my heart needed.
She taught me to gather people. To gather people around you that would not only love you, but lift you. Because you can love someone and hold them in their place or you can have women around you that want and see more for you. Speak life and love and hope and creativity into others and make sure others are doing that for you. And eat together. Not girls nights out. But girls nights in. And bring your children around the table. Let them see you laugh and cry and receive. Let them see what they too will need. Let them see the grassroots of your village. Let them see how intimate and important it is to be together and present. And let their be cheese. And bread. Because we all need good cheese. And Jesus loved bread.
This is what she would do. Every week. She would open her home and make the table longer and she gathered.
And she carried. We carried. We carried each other.
I look back now and know I made foolish mistakes as a new mom, a broken girl, a prideful heart. Many.
But she never locked her door.
She never uninvited anyone.
That was seventeen years ago.
And still today she gathers. Around her table. In her classroom. In her city. She gathers.
She still teaches those that have gone before and those rising ,that it takes a village. It is not one person, or one woman. It is a tribe. She taught me what the word MOTHER means.
I have learned that a mother is not defined solely as one who gives birth or doesn’t give birth.
It is not what you voted for or didn’t vote.
It is not what you eat or don’t eat.
It is not if your offspring think you hung the moon or they won’t speak your name.
It is not where you live or don’t live.
It is not who you read or if you have never read a word.
It is not if you are educated or you don’t have that privilege.
It is not who you love or don’t love.
It is not if you kept your child or bravely gave them away.
It is not if your child is a straight “A” student or will never speak a word audible to the world.
It is not if you use your breast to feed a child or collect WIC to feed them.
It is not if you have one child or lost them all.
It is not if you are a size six or didn’t know size existed.
It is not if you can give birth or were told you never will.
It is not if you are married or choose not to be.
It is not if you choose to have a child or that choice was made for you.
It is not if your child walks beside you or is now in a foreign land.
It is not if you speak to your mother every day or will never speak to her again.
I believe that “Mother” is not determined by the performance of your uterus but by the performance of your spirit.
I believe that it is the grace you pour over those around you. It is the power of forgiveness. I believe it is the protection around those you love. I believe it is the aunt who visits once a year to tell your son he is enough.I believe it is the voice of justice, even if it mean silence.It is the coach that tells your daughter she is more than a win on the court. I believe it is knowing when you have made a mistake and saying you are sorry. It is the neighbor who volunteers in the school. It is the women in the therapist office trying to breathe.It is the women who march. It is the women who chose to stay home.It is the woman at church who shower the teenager with love when others have turned her away. It is the grandmother who writes the stories of her life to be passed on. I believe it the friend who knows you need help, and comes closer.I believe it is how you have treated those around you when no one is looking. It is the women who opens her home to refugees.I believe it is the neighbor who teaches a child to plant a garden. It is the girl in line refilling her medication. I believe it is a sister who calls to encourage every week. It is the teacher who teaches your child to read.I believe it is the silent prayers you offer for those you have never met. I believe it is the patience of a friend who listens when the teenager no longer feels accessible. It is the nurse who grieves in the bedside next to you.It is the woman who stands in her truth. I believe it is the doctor who offers not just consultation but compassion. It is the woman next door that does not speak the same language but carries your child on an extra hip. It is the barista who offers a complement to the worn out mama in the drive thru. It is the kindness of the stranger who offers a hug to your weary heart. It is the flowers that you never paid for showing up in your cart. It is the compassion that opens your door. It is the spirit of hope that never dies.It is the truth within us that reminds us we are stronger together. It is the roaring of a lion and the gentleness of the lamb in all of our days.
It is you.
It is me.
It is every woman.
It is our job not to celebrate Mothers, but celebrate women.
It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a tribe of women to make a Mother.