What is a Mother?

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What makes a woman a mother?
Is it the birth of a child, the badge of victory over labor pains and carrying to full term? Is it feeding hungry mouths, tucking in sleepy eyes? Is it holding a baby in her arms?

What about those who have held their baby and given it to another? Or those whose child has left this earth?

I held a baby once in my womb. It was only for a handful of days, a few weeks, but I felt a mother’s love well up from within. I knew it was a boy; I felt it deep within my core. I felt my body softening, changing to house this precious gift, and just as quick as the joy of motherhood begun, it retreated, as my body purged the beautiful baby to be. Doubled over for a few hours in excruciating pain, I wept for my child- at the thought of my precious baby going down the plumbing, to join the sewage and waste.

The day I miscarried I read Matthew 1:23, “Behold a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means ‘God with us’.” I had cried out, “God why are you hurting me?” And within a half hour my friend showed up with a verse from Jeremiah: (29:11) “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” We cried, prayed and named my baby, Emmanuel Jeremiah.

I still love Emmanuel. I never knew the feeling of holding him in my arms, but I know the feeling of letting him go. I have dreamed about him in heaven, and those are wonderful dreams to awake from, as I know one day I will hold him close with a mother’s love. I have drawn his picture- I know his smile, his laugh, his eyes. I recently lost a baby dove named Galilee, and the night she died, I dreamt that my grandpa handed Emmanuel the dove and said, “here is a gift from your mother, she loved this dove and she loves you. She wants you to care for this bird now.”

To science, my body had a fetus within it for a little while. To friends, I shouldn’t worry, I can try again and one day be a mom and celebrate Mother’s Day with them.

Yesterday, I filled my schedule with plans celebrating all the “real moms” but in the quiet moments, my mind would drift to knowing Emmanuel would have only one more month to go before he would have been born, and yesterday I would have been a mother to be. Only, I am not a mother to be.

So, I try to focus on the things I do well, teach art, love kids, love others, and as I go to sleep each night, I secretly hope for those rare glimpses into Heaven to see my dear, sweet Emmanuel.

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May- I am Enough

I traveled to visit my mom and dad for Easter a few weeks ago. As I was getting ready for the Easter day in the guest bathroom, one of my art pieces caught my eye. A modest size leather weaving, stretched between a patina turquoise frame adorned the wall behind the mirror. The image was a soft landscape, painted and burned lines created the image as the word “Enough” was stamped within the sky. Last year, I had an influx of sales for these sweet weavings I called “The Blessing Memoirs.” Each held a blessing for the person that received each piece. My mom had ordered three; Faith, Beauty, and Blessed. Another woman had ordered; Enough. Several other orders were going out that day for shipment and I accidentally switched Faith and Enough- so when the women opened their art they were “blessed” with a different piece than they ordered! They both decided to keep the one they had been sent, and I sent them each another piece of art for their trouble. As I stood in the bathroom a year later, little did I know this “accidental” art piece would be ministering to me.

Sometimes life can be weary. We have the “should-haves”, or the “oughts to’s” that seem to carry a weighted expectation of where we should be and what we should be doing with our lives. Sometimes those voices come from outside ourselves; people holding judgements as they watch our lives unfold, while others being loved ones carrying the expectations of what they hope for us. Sometimes that voice rattles from within ourselves aching for more, demanding for perfection or something close to it.

My heart has ached to be enough most of my life. Enough’s definition reads as, “adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.” It seems like such a simple thing to ask for or even to achieve, but how does being enough to our society, to our world, and to ourselves seem to evade us so often?

I was born to a nurse and an engineer with a definitive need for extreme cleanliness and hard work ethic. You can imagine the fits and disasters they had raising an artist daughter and mechanic son as their kids! I remember as a small child, laundry needed to be sorted, shelves dusted, my room vacuumed and bed made with the corners folded just so. My mom would almost glow as she taught me orderliness in the realm of the house. As a child, I was full of imagery and fairytales seemed as real as breathing. Coloring pages filled my room as I drew out the stories in my imagination, and once I was done with “play time”, I would attempt to consolidate the wondrous chaos created in a neat pile in the right corner of my desk. In order to handle the structure, the regimen and chores, I asked my mom to sew me an apron, out of an old hand-towel and left over lace from one of her decor projects. I presented her with an educated speech of how it would efficiently help my productivity, and how I would be able to keep “cleaning items” in the pockets. So she willingly sewed me the apron- and as I put it on I could enter my fairy tale world as I cleaned and sang, dusted and hummed, imagining myself as Cinderella as my mother barked out orders for the next task to be achieved. Imaginative play allowed me to creatively flourish in a home that seemed foreign and sterile to me. If I didn’t look so much like my parents, I would have thought I was not their child. My little creative mind made connections and ways of interpreting the “order of how things should be”, and I was able to abide, for the most part, with the rules of the home.

My mom’s life is orderly, meticulous, and safe. I could only imagine what she feels as she sees my brother’s hands covered in oil and mine covered in paint. Not even to mention the way our brains process and think through life and the journeys we have each traveled. I commend her for putting up with our  “disasters” for 20 plus years in her home. Her home is her canvas, her restoration project; just as my brother and I have projects, her place is where she can have everything in its place.

Flash forward to Easter visiting my mom and dad this year. I still feel foreign. We have memories and things we connect on, my dad’s hard work ethic, and my mom’s knack for interior decor, textures and colors, as well as our love for the outdoors, and gardening. My dad and I share a common love for animals. When it comes to my life, my business, or even the way I connect with God, it is as if we are speaking two different languages- and that is okay. My mechanic brother lives in California, my artist self lives in Oregon, and my mom and dad have retired to Arizona.

I asked my mom this trip, “Mom, do you ever miss your kids?”

She thought for a moment and answered, “I guess I do, I’ve just realized I can’t control them.”

I asked my dad the same question, ”Dad, do you ever miss your kids?” and he answered, “All the time! I miss my kids every day!”

I realized then that I receive love through affirmation- that is my language. I have to admit my heart ached with my mom’s answer, because I wanted her to give me a huge hug, and say “of course I miss you!” But that would be me wishing for her to be different than who she is. She has been fashioned and created to be her, not who I want her to be. So, I take her answer as a good and honest one. That it is not her job to control her kids. I was impressed by her openness and acceptance this trip. We had much conversation that helped me understand how life was when she was growing up, where she is in life and what she values. I admire her for taking on the task of raising two very different kids, even when they did not make sense at all to her. When we scared her, stressed her out, and more often than not, frustrated her- she did the best job she could, and that in itself is enough.

For so long because I was so different than her, I thought something was wrong with me, that I was not enough. I wasn’t clean enough, careful enough, organized enough. What I’ve realized is I am enough, just as I am. My brother is enough, just as he is. The same with my mom and my dad. The method we go about to create each of our lives is just different. We still all love God, but we each connect in a different way. We still all love each other, but feel and show our love in a different way.

I am thankful for my little art piece that hung on the wall on Easter, reminding me that we all fall short at times, but through Jesus we are all Enough. Easter is the day to celebrate His rising and victory over sin- victory over “missing the mark.” I thank Him for being my everything, so that being me is enough. No more striving to fit a mold. Enough is enough.