Why I am not celebrating Mothers Day this year.

 

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.

A WARRIOR will rise….

When I was younger, my cousins and I all got under-roos for Christmas one year. It was either that or at one of our joint birthday parties. Because when you have 18 cousins, you have one party a year not 18 million. Because really, who has that kind of time or strength for that much piñata hitting?

My mom still has a picture of me with my siblings in the fantastic underwear that somehow transformed us into superheroes. Because nothing quite says “save the day” like red and gold undergarments.

I look at that picture now though and realize that little girl had no idea of how strong she really was.

Last week I had someone ask me when I started to believe that I  really was strong. I wish I could have said about the same time that the infamous under-roos picture was taken. That then, is when I believed that who I was included the word strong. But if I am honest, it wasn’t until my late 30’s. It wasn’t until then, that I started to understand what strong was.

I had returned from my third trip to Africa years ago more broken than I had ever been. My mind had shifted and it was in fight or flight mode. I really did not know how to function. I thought it was the hardest battle I would ever have to face.

I think the first time that I believed I was strong, was actually walking into that emergency room and asking for help. Splayed out with nothing between my dignity and a paper gown I had to start believing then that I was something else. That I was a warrior.

They say that you become who you surround yourself with. So if you want to be a strong person you need to find strong people. If you want to be brave, find the broken.

I found the people that I wanted to be more like and spent time with them. I signed up for a personal trainer and realized that my body was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I also marched my ass back into therapy. Well, one because I couldn’t make sense of what was going on and two because I am a feeler. I feel everything all the time. I am basically a walking kitten, well maybe a tiger. A walking tiger who likes ice cream.

Knowing I was strong did not come overnight. I did not wake up one morning and ka-boom I was a warrior.

I was warrior all along. I just didn’t know I was.

We all are. We are all warriors. We have all  had battles that have left us tasting dirt. And we have had battles that have left scars that tell more stories than we had wanted. We have run through battles unscathed and some have taken parts of us with them. We have fought armies of those in front of us and some of us it is the battles of our past that keep us chained. Some of our battles are on the public front and everyone’s cousin knows our business, while other battles, sometimes the hardest battles, are those we can barely whisper about. Some of us battle alone because we fear that others will view us as weak.

Whatever the battle we face, we become a WARRIOR when we realize we were never meant to go to war alone.

The battles that have left us bloody and raw have only made us stronger because of those around us who carried us to healing.

It is then that we are strong.

 

I realized that I do not want my daughters to know that they are strong, that they are brave, that they are warriors when they are thirty seven.

I need to them to begin to hear it now.

As I hug my middle one before she goes to bed, I have started to whisper into her ear

 You are brave. You are strong. You are a WARRIOR. And I adore you.

It is a small thing.  A simple thing. One thing I know I can do. I can tell her who she forgot she was. Who I never knew I was.

And yet who we were born to be.

I have to hope that they will start to believe it before they are my age.

It is time. It is time to start believing that you are a warrior. And reminding the women around us who they are. Who they were born to be.

A warrior asks for help. She takes her medicine. She takes that class she was afraid of. She forgives. She encourages. She delights in others accomplishments. She makes room at the table. She feeds herself well. She tells the truth. She walks towards healing. She doesn’t create drama. She is a listener. She lifts other up without looking for any credit. She lets others go. She is loyal. She is strong. She takes care of herself. She is a servant. She comes closer to the pain. She speaks life into others. She takes responsibility. She sits with the sorrow. She grieves for as long as it takes. She feels all the feels. She celebrates the movement of her body. She delights in the sunshine on her face. She welcomes the quiet. She waits for God to whisper. She follows what sets her heart on fire. She lets others love her.

And most importantly…..she WILL RISE.

A warrior will rise.

I remember one morning, months after I had been home from Africa. I was doing all of the right things. I was taking my medication. I was going to therapy. I was eating only whole foods. I had given up the nectar of the gods, caffeine and I was exercising my butt off. But I still could barely move from the couch some days. I felt like life was happening around me and I would never participate fully again.

Until I did.

Until I let my body heal. Until I let my mind heal. Until I let those around me carry me out of the battle.

And then I would rise.

So sweet one, today if it feels like the weight of fear has you breathless. If the battle you face is too painful to utter off your lips. If your scars have been reopened for the world to see. Remember this…

You are. You always have been, a warrior.

And a warrior WILL rise.