I didn’t want to see him, let alone have dinner with him. It was Valentine’s Day, and my husband, Bernie, and I had hit the lowest point in our marriage of nine years. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Celebrating a romantic occasion during this season of marriage was awkward, even painful. This is where most couples walk away and call it quits. This is really hard and I don’t know how we’re going to make it. How do we celebrate this day when feelings of being in love are a distant memory?
It wasn’t always like this. Our early years of marriage were smooth sailing, and we looked forward to our time together. Over the course of our relationship, we had celebrated special days like anniversaries and Valentine’s Day (which is also the anniversary of our engagement) in a number of different ways. Some years when we could afford it and extended family members were able to care for our small children, we would get away for an entire weekend, savoring our time together at our favorite bed and breakfast on the shores of Lake Michigan. Other years we enjoyed a quiet dinner in our favorite restaurant, maybe even catching a movie afterward.
One year, as we waited for our server to bring us our drinks and were deciding on which fondue to order, the babysitter called to say that one of our daughters had gotten sick. We rushed home, put the kids to bed, ordered take-out, and watched a movie together. That anniversary stands out as one of my favorites, not because of what we did or where we went, but because of where we were at in our relationship. We were connected. We were figuring out parenting and life together. We felt loving feelings toward one another.
But now, with an accumulation of resentments and negative interactions between us, my heart felt hard. We had barely survived an onslaught of difficult circumstances, including a miscarriage, job loss, and Bernie’s serious bout of depression followed by his devastating diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Initially, our grief had brought us closer to each other, but as the stress and pain reached almost unbearable levels, our fears and anxieties went through the roof.
Communication became almost impossible. We were stuck in a cycle of unresolved conflicts, and every attempt to talk through our issues resulted in another fight. Bernie wanted to move past our conflicts and be close again; when I pulled away because of my hurt, his anger intensified. He felt rejected, like I was punishing him. I needed space and time to heal; he needed acceptance and connection.
Over an awkward, silent dinner, I looked at my husband of nine years and thought, how did we end up here? All around us couples were dining, and I silently made up stories about how happy they were, and the amazing lives they were probably living. Some appeared to be just starting their lives together, dating or newly married. Other couples looked older, and I imagined with envy that they had managed to make it through decades of whatever life threw their way. What was wrong with us? How were we supposed to mark this occasion when we didn’t even know how we were going to survive our marriage?
The Bible doesn’t tell us whether to give roses or chocolate, but it does define what real love looks like and gives guidelines for how to express it. We are told in Romans 12:9 that “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” 1 Peter 1:22b says, “Love one another deeply, from the heart.”
For us, during those difficult seasons, the most authentic way to celebrate our anniversary and Valentine’s Day was to go out to dinner and exchange cards that affirmed our commitment to one another. Cards that said, “Even with all we are going through, I still love you. We will get through this. I’m not going anywhere.” These were not the flowery, romantic celebrations we had often shared, but they were loving and sincere. They helped us to hold on, and gave us hope that we would, in fact, make it through. With God’s help, and our strong commitment to one another, we would come out on the other side.
And we have. With the help of a Christian counselor, Bernie learned how to give me the space and time I needed, even when it was uncomfortable for him. I learned how to move toward him when I felt like running away. We learned to be honest about our needs. With hard work, prayer, and plenty of opportunities to practice loving and extending grace to one another, we are on the other side of experiencing the joy of committed love. The warm, loving feelings have returned, and our friendship is deeper because of all we have gone through. We have authentically celebrated 25 wedding anniversaries and Valentine’s Days, and we continue to look for ways to genuinely love one another, in every season we are in: in good times and bad, for better or worse.
If you are facing a difficult season in your marriage this Valentine’s Day, consider these suggestions:
My writing and speaking career began with a Christmas letter. About ten years ago, I wrote a piece about our Christmas tree and included it with our family Christmas card. I received a lot of positive feedback on what I'd written (from people other than my mother), and someone even recommended that I start writing articles at church for a marriage newsletter. When I was asked to edit and contribute original articles to this newsletter which went out to about three hundred marriage workshop participants, my first thought was No, thank you. I don't know how to do that. But then came this other thought, brave and vulnerable...But I'd like to try. What's the worst that can happen? That I'm terrible at it and I get fired from volunteering?
I wrote an original article for one of the issues, and another leader (who was an editor at Chicago's Daily Herald newspaper) asked if she could rework the article and run it in a brand new parenting magazine the paper was launching. With my name in the byline.
Then I thought of a couple more article ideas for the parenting section, and after getting approval to write them I googled "how to write a feature article for a newspaper." We did this ping-pong thing for a few months, her asking me to write about a certain topic, and me throwing out more ideas, and then she said, "Why don't we just make this a regular column? We'll call it 'A Mom's Point of View.'"
I cut my writing teeth on that column, which ran for five years, and I also took a writing class at a local college. I honed my skills. I opened myself up to critique (which is so very painful, and the best way to grow). I learned from other writers. I registered for a writer's conference, which led to more articles published in various magazines. Several people told me I needed to start speaking as well, because speaking and writing go together, and my first thought was No! I stuttered as a child into adulthood. I want to be a writer. I could never be a speaker! And then my brave voice from somewhere deep inside...but I sure would like to try. What's the worst that can happen? That I'm terrible and no one ever asks me to speak again?
After attending my second writer's conference and pitching my book idea to more than a dozen publishers (and getting rejected by those who responded) I finally got two yeses. I chose Kregel Publishers, and my book, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy, What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die was released in 2017.
I have been speaking and writing to women for ten years, and I love it. I don't know where this journey goes from here, and that's OK. I'm learning to trust God's timing. He knows what is best and is preparing me for what is next. I'm learning to not let fear call the shots. I'm reminded to not despise small beginnings.
As with Mary, all God is asking of me is a willing, surrendered heart. That my YES comes from a place of trusting that He is good, He is with me, and He has a plan. I don't have to figure everything out on my own or know all the details in advance.
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)
Thanks for following along on my journey. You can read my ten-year-old Christmas letter below. Every word of it still rings true. Merry Christmas to you and yours <3
One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is putting up our tree. Every ornament takes me back to a particular time or place, a memory attached to each one. Many memories are joy-filled, and some carry painful reminders of a difficult season or time of loss. Yet when the tree is complete I find that it speaks of God’s goodness and faithfulness in my life, and I am able to see how my story echoes His greater story-the one we celebrate at Christmas.
Some of my favorite ornaments are from different places we’ve lived, like London, Mexico, and Austin, as well as from here at home in Illinois. Some we’ve picked up during our travels, like on our honeymoon, at our favorite bed and breakfast on the shore of Lake Michigan, and from the Wisconsin Dells. I love watching our three daughters dig through the boxes to find their “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments, along with dozens that they have made over the years. We have ornaments given to us by friends and family, as well as a few I fought for at white elephant exchanges.
Packed in these same boxes are ornaments we bought the year my husband, Bernie, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and a Hallmark globe from 2002 that simply says, “Emmanuel, God with us”. We bought it for our friends who buried their precious baby daughter right before Christmas, and then we bought one for ourselves because we needed those words of comfort as well.
We have two Crayola crayon ornaments that say “Oasis” which is where our children spent some time being cared for while Bernie and I found help and healing at our church’s marriage workshop.
Even my nativity set tells a story. I purchased it while shopping with my aunt on vacation. We had no idea that my uncle would go home to be with Jesus that very morning.
Some people would rather not be reminded of such painful memories. And I have to admit, that first year, it was hard to set up my new nativity. But with each passing year, I have come to realize just how significant all these treasures are. Together they paint a picture that is symbolic of our lives: the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows, the highs and the lows.
Often during the holidays, we work overtime trying to make everything seem perfect. We sing about our troubles being miles away and miss the invitation to come just as we are – troubles and all – and worship the One who came to be with us, to be our Emmanuel.
"If you could only have two foods on your Thanksgiving plate, what would they be?" This is a game we play in our family of foodies, and my answer is stuffing with gravy, and roasted vegetables - brussel sprouts and green beans with bacon, rosemary, and lemon. (In case you want to challenge the rules of our game, gravy is a freebie and doesn't count as a separate food item. And we make sure there is lots and lots of gravy.)
Thanksgiving in our family is definitely about the food. We host our extended family at our home, and we start the day with brunch (which is every bit as important as the turkey dinner). Midday, we have a traditional potato-peeling contest, which I've found is the only way to get a hundred pounds of potatoes peeled and have fun while doing it. My sister Deb is a rockstar at peeling potatoes. When she steps up to the sink, the rest of us watch in awe and there is lots of hooting and hollering.
My eldest daughter, Kate, has fallen in love with pie-making, and my middle daughter, Claire, is my stuffing soul-sister who loves cooking it almost as much as eating it. Our youngest, Brenna, is not a fan of cooking or stuffing - she likes the sparkling juice. And the rolls.
Every year, my sister, Kari, makes her husband's favorite broccoli casserole which involves velveeta cheese and ritz crackers, and usually forgets the homemade cranberry sauce until we are gathered in the kitchen for grace.
Our gathering changes and evolves every year, because life is constantly changing, and families go through stuff. There are empty chairs at our table because some of our loved ones are gone. Relational changes mean some people are not coming and others are. Illness keeps some of our loved ones away. We miss those who cannot be with us and we are happy to welcome new faces. Our family, maybe like yours, can get a little messy. Families can be complicated. Most are far from perfect.
But through it all, through all we have been through and all the challenges and changes we've weathered together, we have found God's grace to be so much greater than the mess. We've found His love and comfort to be stronger than the pain of loss.
When we gather, the food is a big deal. But more than that - way more than that - it is about the relationships. Siblings reconnecting. In-laws bonding. Cousins becoming best friends all over again. Stories told and retold - often with embellishments. Trying to get the gravy to taste like Grandma's and the stuffing to taste like Mom's. Heavy doses of laughter and forgiveness and acceptance. Because we are family. And no other people on the planet share our history and our stories. It is an absolute gift that our home is the space where all this gets to take place.
If you have an empty chair at your table this year, I pray for God's healing comfort. Take time to grieve. Be kind to yourself. Maybe this article can help - I wrote it about our first Thanksgiving after Mom was gone. https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/when-cancer-takes-your-loved-one
I am not a runner, at least not in a physical sense of the word. I dislike running so much, I don't even like to watch other people do it. Unless they are like Usain Bolt or the guy from Chariots of Fire, because those guys were made to run. And I love watching people do what they were created to do.
But like you, I am running a metaphorical race. I'm doing a number of things that God has called me to do: I'm a person of faith and a follower of Jesus. I'm a wife and a mom. I work at a job I enjoy that fits with my unique wiring and passions, And I'm a communicator - I write and speak, mostly to women, weaving together compelling stories with biblical truth to inspire and encourage women in every season of life. My friend, Julie, creates beauty from clay. I try to do the same with words. And when I succeed, I have this amazing sense of fulfillment that I'm doing what I was created to do. Maybe the way Usain feels when he runs.
Recently I spent a week in Michigan, speaking at women's groups and events and visiting with family and friends. It was the best week I've had in a long time. I came away with a runner's high, with my bucket filled to overflowing with gratitude and contentment. Gratitude for all God has done in my life and the opportunities he provides, and contentment for this journey I've been on for the last ten years. At times I feel like I'm on the slow track, but it's more than OK with me because the work God is doing through me is an overflow of the work he is doing in me. And in his wisdom he knows which opportunities are right for me at just the right time. Yep, I came away from my speaking engagements full of joy (which was precisely what I spoke about at all three events.)
But somewhere between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, and then somewhere between Belmont and Chicago, I lost my joy. I got tripped up in a few different ways, and it has taken me a good chunk of time to get myself back on track. As I write these words I am still working some things out.
Sometimes we need to fall so that we can take a moment, get our focus back where it needs to be, and then continue moving in the right direction. I did some things to bring on the discouragement from last week, but I also did some things to chase it away.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (comparison, fear, doubt, discouragement)
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (And as my sister reminded me, heaven's economy and numbers are different than earth's)
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast (doubt, distraction, discontentment, pride, self-importance, self-obsession) works through a whole batch of dough.
You...were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. If you are led by the Spirit...you are free. (You are free!)
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
And there it is. I trip and flail when I am not in step with the Spirit. I lose my joy when I lose my focus. What about you? Where are you getting tripped up as you run your race? What do you need to do today to keep in step with the Spirit and run the race uniquely marked out for you?
In the past three weeks we have gone from a household of five to a household of three. Two of our daughters are now in college - one a junior, the other a freshman - and though we've done college drop-offs before (and they were hard), this is taking some getting used to for all of us.
I survived my first week. Those close to me lovingly advised me to practice good self-care. To do things that fill my bucket, and to be kind to myself. Because it was going to be a hard week. I took the advice to heart and had every intention of laying low, taking it easy, and giving myself the space and time to process my feelings about my baby birds leaving the nest. It turned out to be a hard week, indeed, but not for the reasons I expected.
A family we know lost their son/brother to suicide. Someone I love was hurting and needed my time. And I sensed God nudging me to visit a friend who has cancer, a friend I hadn't seen in weeks because, well, I was busy getting my girls ready to fly the coop and doing the things we do during summer. It was a hard week, but you know what? My bucket is not empty. God lovingly provided the energy and strength and friendship and prayer I needed to move through each day, taking one thing at a time, doing the things he was calling me to do. Two mornings in a row, friends called to pray with me just when I needed it. And I felt connected not only to my friends, but I felt so powerfully connected to our life-giving God who provides and protects and gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do.
Self-care, from a humanistic perspective, is all about assessing our human limitations and needs for sleep, rest, good food, exercise, relational connection, solitude, recreation, etc...and then being intentional to meet those needs. It's about self-awareness. And though all of these things are good and healthy, focusing on these things alone will not fill our buckets or our souls.
Jesus experienced human limitations and needs just like us. He needed sleep and rest and food. He needed friendship and solitude just like we do. And yet because his purpose was always to do the will of his Father, his days and moments were directed by the Spirit. Time and again we see his attempts to take care of his human needs interrupted by people's needs and God's higher purposes. (If you are a mom, you are most likely experiencing these interruptions several times a day!) He retreated to the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. He performed his first miraculous sign while attending a wedding as a guest. After he began his ministry, he pulled away for times of solitude and then was immediately bombarded by crowds of people with needs. He fell asleep from exhaustion on a boat, then was woken up by his panic-stricken disciples because of a violent storm. He stopped to rest at a well, tired, thirsty, and hungry, and while his disciples went to get food, he talked with a woman who was seeking truth. His self-care was always within the context of his higher purpose and calling - to do the will of his Father. The eating and the sleeping and the solitude - they all were subject to his obedience to his Father in each moment. Which meant that while he was preparing to enter into his season of ministry, he faced spiritual opposition. While he was waiting for lunch, he asked a woman for a drink of water and then, recognizing her spiritual thirst, engaged in a Spirit-led conversation that transformed her life and later, her whole village. And, immediately after being woken by his disciples, he silenced a storm, demonstrating that "even the wind and the waves obey him."
Jesus went to great lengths to explain to his followers his dependency on his Father.
John 5:19: "So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does."
John 12:49: "I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it."
John 8:28: "So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me."
In John 15, Jesus uses the imagery of a vine and branches to show our need to remain in him, to be connected to the source of life. How foolish it would be to cut a branch off of a bush, lay it on the table, and then spray it with water, sprinkle plant food over it, and shine a spotlight on it, hoping it will grow. And yet if we go through our days not connected to the true Vine, even our best attempts at self-care will be fruitless. Jesus is the Source of life, and apart from him we can do nothing. But when we live from a place of abiding in him, staying connected to him, he provides everything we need to do his will. He gives strength and energy even when we are tired and weary. When we remain in him and in his love, even interruptions don't have to deplete us.
It is good and wise to take care of ourselves. It is good to have self-awareness. It is important to understand the unique ways in which we are wired and be intentional about our choices. But I am learning that solely focusing on meeting my needs does not fill my bucket or protect me from depletion. On the contrary, when I love and serve others as God leads, when I am connected to him as I expend my energy and give of my time, he fills. He satisfies. He replenishes and restores.
I'm delighted to share a guest post this week from my friend, Letitia Suk, author of 100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens
Summer! Is there another season so full of opportunity and possibilities?
When your kids were little, you planned the agenda and they tagged along, happy in general with whatever you planned. Not so much with teens! Before giving up and letting them make their own summer memories, here are a few ideas to try!
By Labor Day hopefully you have a camera full of photos and a heart stuffed with memories. Lighten up, loosen up but hang on to your vision for the best lifetime relationship you can imagine with your teen!
(Adapted from “100 Need to Know Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens.”)
- Letitia (Tish) Suk, www.letitiasuk.com, invites women to create an intentional life. She is the author of 100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens, Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat, and Rhythms of Renewal and blogs at Hopeforthebest.org. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area.
...just not here! I've accepted a 12-day writing challenge @hopewriters, and using the prompts provided each day, I'm sharing all about my writing journey. You can follow along and catch up by following me over on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beckybaudouin/
and like/follow my author page on Facebook;
Any other parents out there with a strong willed child? Or maybe you've been blessed with more than one? My husband, Bernie, and I thought both of our older girls were strong-willed, at least in their own ways. Our eldest, Kate, was extremely particular about food. She knew what she liked and didn't like, and she wouldn't budge on flavors she was not fond of. Our middle daughter, Claire, was generally more compliant, but still strong-willed. She just chose her battles more carefully. When she really wanted something, she'd dig in her heels and fight. But we didn't know what strong-willed really meant until our third daughter, Brenna, came along.
Her arrival should have been our first clue. The doctor had said that, as with my other two deliveries, things were pretty slow moving. It was about 7:30 pm and the doctor said I still had quite a ways to go - the baby would probably be born around 3 am. So I told Bernie to go get a sandwich from the cafeteria before it closed.
Even with the epidural I'd been given I felt significant movement and called for the nurses to check on the baby. The monitor strapped around my belly was not registering Brenna's heartbeat. The nurse tried, unsuccessfully, for several minutes to find the heartbeat and then called for another nurse. When that nurse couldn't get the heartbeat either, they tried a new monitor in a different location. Finally, the nurse looked up at me with a concerned look on her face and said, "Don't push. Don't push! She's ready to be born -- I need to call the doctor!"
"While you're at it could you page my husband and tell him to forget his sandwich and get back here?" Bernie ran in right before Brenna was born, and we knew the moment she entered this world: our girl was a force to be reckoned with.
Brenna was an intense child with over-the-top emotional reactions. We often couldn't help but laugh out loud at her extreme outbursts, which only upset her further. She was relentless in advocating for herself. She was an extroverted, super-social child who insisted on doing everything "all by herself." When she was in kindergarten, she used to walk around our cul-de-sac and talk to whichever neighbors were out in their front yards. One neighbor loves to tell the story of how Brenna came over one day, sat in her kitchen and had a snack, and spoke for 45 minutes in a British accent, never breaking character. (We like to do this sort of thing in our house.)
Like most kids, Brenna was born without a filter. But she was also born without that measure of timidity most kids have around grown-ups. Which is why she felt the freedom to tell one of our other neighbors, "Oh, you're the people with the ugly couch in the window!" They thought it was hilarious, stopping to tell me the story one day as they were driving past our house. And then they added, "It's so funny how kids repeat things their parents say." Ugh.
I never said our neighbor's couch was ugly. And I grew weary of running into other parents at the grocery store who wanted to tell me about the shocking and hilarious things my daughter had said to them. I couldn't possibly predict or foresee all of the wacky things that would come out of her mouth. As she got older, she argued and pushed and negotiated and I would tell myself, "I just need to be a little bit stronger than she is."
But as she grew I saw her defiance slowly turn into determination. She was motivated. She was proactive. She made lists for herself and wanted to be independent. She wanted to wake herself up with an alarm clock, pack her own lunches, and ride her bike anywhere I'd let her. She'd write me letters - really more like essays - explaining her reasons for wanting something, and often times I'd say yes because she is very persuasive, and well, can I just be honest and say I like her style? I like that she's tenacious and doesn't give up easily. .
So when she recently told us she wanted to be an umpire for girl's softball, I wasn't surprised. She filled out the on-line job application and went to the training. She printed out the rule book and studied as if for a final exam. She made Bernie and I go out to the front yard and pretend to be 2nd grade girls running bases and striking out.
On the morning of her first game she was nervous. I told her it was normal - after all, this was her first real job. But she had studied and prepared, and she was gonna do great. Bernie and I sat in the bleachers along with the parents of the 2nd grade girls, and it seemed like yesterday to me that Brenna was throwing the softball for the first time. I love watching our girl play. But it is entirely different to watch her ump. It's a different kind of pressure. I heard one of the moms say, "Oh - we've got an umpire this year! We're moving up!" Another mom quipped, "Yep...some junior high girl, I think." I watched Brenna strap on her gear and take her place behind the catcher. Then I heard my daughter yell, "Batter up!"
I watched as she called balls and strikes, as she confidently yelled "safe!" and "out!" I thought my heart would burst with pride when she pointed to the runner who ran to second after an overthrow at first and commanded, "Go back to first!" Because in second grade you don't get bases on overthrows. She knows that 'cause she's the Ump. She was authoritative. She stepped into her new role and owned it.
On our way home she admitted she'd made some bad calls.
"Yes, but you made a lot of good ones, too. And you learned a ton - next time you'll do even better."
My strong-willed daughter: strong enough to say yes to something new and kind of scary, strong enough to admit she got some things right and a few things wrong, and strong enough to want to try again, knowing she'll do even better next time.
Oh, and I made sure those parents knew the new umpire was my daughter. That strong-willed characteristic - it's for sure genetic.
"What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
- Helen Keller
I’m walking in circles inside Walgreens. I came in because I wanted to buy a couple of sympathy cards for friends, but now I’m avoiding the card aisles altogether because of the Mother’s Day cards. I’m caught off guard, sobs welling up from my broken heart as I stand in the middle of the shampoo aisle trying to regain my composure.
This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom. People say that when you lose someone you love, the firsts are the hardest—the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first Mother’s Day. Last year at this time I was terrified that my mom would not survive her recently diagnosed cancer, and this year that fear is my reality.
Most people who have lost a loved one have a story about falling apart at the grocery store. The details vary, and the trigger can be any- thing from a bag of potato chips to a beach hat, but the experiences are similar: you stop at the store to pick something up, you see something that reminds you of your loved one, and you are ambushed by feelings of deep grief and loss.
After finding a couple of blank cards near an end cap, I wander over to the Easter candy aisle thinking that some chocolate might make me feel better. That’s when I see the marshmallow peeps. Those were Mom’s favorite, and I always bought them for her at Easter. Now they have hollow milk chocolate eggs with a marshmallow peep inside; she would have loved that.
Before Mom died, she said things like, “I will always be a part of you” and “You’ll always have me in your heart.” As her daughter, I couldn’t imagine then what it would be like to not have her here anymore. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. But I am also a mom, and my relationships with my daughters help me understand what she meant when she said those things.
When our youngest daughter, Brenna, was in kindergarten, she went through a phase where she felt disproportionately guilty after she had done something wrong. Her dad and I were over it, her sisters were over it, but she couldn’t get past her guilt—she couldn’t move on. She would say, “There is just this voice in my head telling me I’m bad, that I never do anything right, that I’m not good.” Finally, I thought to ask her whose voice it was in her head telling her those things. She looked at me like the answer was obvious. “You!” she said. I laughed and cringed at the same time. I had never said those things to her, but she had picked up on my frustrations and disappointments, and that translated into negative self-talk spoken in my voice. It was a good reminder that as a mom, my voice is powerful.
We joke about hearing our mothers’ voices in our heads, and when we are younger that may feel more like a curse than a blessing. But we are lucky if over time that curse turns into a blessing as her voice becomes a part of us.
In pretty much any given moment, if I quiet myself, I can imagine what my mom would say to me. I can still hear her voice and feel her love. Now I know what she was trying to tell me. Her love has become internalized inside my heart, and in a way that means she lives on in my thoughts. It means that she is always with me, in my heart.
Our eldest is now driving, and soon she will be leaving for college. Sometimes I look at her and can’t believe she is already a young woman. In some ways she is like me, and in other ways she is so different—and I know what’s happening. In the day-to-day mothering, I am becoming a part of her and she—well, she has always been a part of me. That is what it means to be a mother.
A few days later, after my emotional trip to the drugstore, I drive back to that same store and walk directly to the Mother’s Day card aisle. It is hard, but today I feel a little bit stronger. I stand silently, reading card after card, patiently searching until I find the one that best articulates what my mom means to me. Then I make my way to the check- out, passing through the candy aisle to pick up a package of peeps, even though I don’t care for them. And in my heart I hear my mom’s laugh.
Reprinted with permission from Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy by Becky Baudouin, Kregel Publications, 2017.
Categories Mothers, Mother's Day, daughters, family, loss, grief, hope, love