I was showered with gifts from my family for mother’s day, taken out to lunch after church and yet I was in a funk. A mood. A powerful struggle to let go of the past and grasp hold of the future God has set before me. All weekend long I struggled to put into words what I was feeling; What I have felt for a large portion of my life. I rarely enjoyed mother’s day. I dreaded picking a card for my mother that depicted what a loving giving relationship with a mother looked like; all the while attempting to define why I felt there was a lack of relationship with mine.
I believed the lie that I was somehow shorted when it came to the “best mom in the world” experience. I didn’t get the warm hugs, positive words of affirmation or bucket loads of encouragement to be my best from her. Even though we went to church occasionally, she never prayed over me or talked about God or His word to me. I was given clean clothes, hot meals and a home in which to live. There were rules and chores and we were told to “go outside and play”. For a time until we moved the summer before my sophomore year of high school this was the norm in our home. Shortly after our move he began traveling for work, she began working outside the home and our somewhat predictable life began to unravel. My step sister, at 15; became pregnant and married shortly after. My brother began to drink more and stay away from the house with friends. I became entwined with friends, boyfriend and activities as well. The summer of my junior year our family fell apart. My brother moved in with a friend, my mother began to travel with my stepfather leaving me there alone to go to school and work; only coming home briefly before departing again to be with him. The summer of my senior year my brother signed up for the Army, my step sister had moved closer to her mother and my parents moved me out of the two story house into a small trailer on a triangle piece of property by the city park. Once again I was alone, working and going to school; financially responsible for everything except the rent. From this experience, I grew up into a fiercely independent woman who didn’t take anything off of anyone. I took care of myself. I married, had a child and divorced. I took care of my son alone. I spent time with him, read to him and made sure he knew he was loved.
And for the longest time I use to think my mother was weak. I believed I needed more from my mother than what she had given me and that if perhaps she had made just the tiniest of effort I would have done great things sooner. I believed she was weak because she caved in to a demanding husband by allowing him to take what little she had in dignity, money and time and selfishly use it till it was all gone. I believed that lie through my teen years, my twenties, thirties and well into my forties. I believed it until God took me aside and corrected my assumption about this good woman.
Through a series of events she had come to stay with me and recuperate from an injury. I had not lived with my mother in well over 32 years. I was not looking forward to this and not so politely told God this “forced intimacy thing” is not working for me. In fact if I were honest I resented having to do things for her that I felt she never did for me because during the time I was growing up in her home her focus was all about my stepfather. Her energies were not spent on nurturing her children it was taking care of his every whim and fancy.
One day during this trial my mother made a comment to me about me reminding her of my aunt who had recently passed. An aunt whom I was extremely close to and joked that we should have been mother and daughter; who was a stubborn, determined kind of individual. I think that is why we got along so well. That is also why my grandmother and I got along so well we were all cut from the same cloth, built from the same mold. Determined, persistent, matter-of-fact kind of girls. No frills. Solid, dependable and loyal. We loved deeply and took charge when necessary to get things done that needed to be done. All from Texas, tough as nails and soft as mud. I was forever thankful to my heavenly father for these two and their deep love of the Lord. I learned a lot about His word and by watching their walk in the Christian faith. I learned a lot about who I am in Him and how to grow in His knowledge and Grace. I learned how to love deeply in spite of being hurt by others. What I didn’t learn, didn’t see or maybe failed to see is how my mother even though she was different was yet the same. She had strength, quiet hidden strength that carried her through some amazing things. While my aunt, grandmother and myself were verbal, in your face, move over and let me do it kind of people my mother was unassuming yet managed to maneuver the same minefields as we did. Survived the same tragedy’s, heartbreaks and upsets. It just looked different on her.
She loved deeply but couldn’t show it in a way that made sense to me. She was dependable and loyal even if it wasn’t to me. She got things done it just didn’t look like how I might have done it. Her quiet strength in God may not have been clearly visible to me while I grew up but was evident to many others later in her life. When my step-father passed away I watched this woman grieve. She grieved a lifetime of things she cannot go back and undo. She grieved the loss of herself, her marriage of convenience and her dream of love. I watched as she sold off 25+ years of her life and priceless precious heirlooms so she could pay off debt and enter into her new life as a widow. I watched as she made her way in a new church, new home, community and neighborhood with squared shoulders, dignity and a smile for everyone around. I watched as she re-dedicated her life to Christ and bloomed in a new ministry opportunity. I watch as she continues to break new ground and discover new friends at the ripe young age of 73. I marvel at the quiet strength this woman has and know it can only come from one source. Jesus. And I hope one day when my kids reflect upon their life with me they too will be able to overlook my failures and flaws and see my strength and know it comes from Jesus.
Copyright © 2016 Melanie McKinley. All Rights Reserved.