Me? Not my kids’ savior?
But I’m a mom and I want to be. So very much.
I like saving them.
From bad choices.
From all that’s wrong with the world.
It feels really good.
For the moment.
But I know it’s not good.
For their hearts.
Because when I am their savior,
I am also “saving” them…
From good choices.
From all that’s right with the world.
Doesn’t sound like much saving in the end.
Then what’s the point of this motherhood gig?
If it’s not for saving?
Hang on a minute.
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
What’s that still small voice whispering inside?
What’s that “aha moment” I can’t deny?
Has motherhood saved me?
bringing me JOY that I’ve never known before
revealing PATIENCE as I stumble along in the unknown
breathing HOPE when I need it the most
reminding me of BEAUTY in the ordinary moments
granting KINDNESS when I can’t find any in myself
allowing me to experience unconditional LOVE
opening my heart to see the tenderness of good good GOD
The question persists, but the answer comes.
PERHAPS IT HAS.
PERHAPS IT REALLY HAS.
One very ordinary Thursday, a precious friend poured out her heart to me about her son’s death by suicide.
“She’s gone,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the line. “We sang and prayed with her.” His wife had succumbed to cancer on that fall Saturday morning.
I received a terrible phone call that my best friend from high school’s two daughters were killed in a wrong-way crash by a drunk driver. It was Good Friday.
“Do you want me to come over?” I asked my close friend as soon as she spilled the ugly news that her brother had taken his own life.
I could go on and on and on. Loss. Death. Unstoppable grief.
So much sadness. So little understanding.
Each person loved so fiercely.
Each tender one lost too early.
Each story shared bravely with me.
Nothing is more sacred than to share another’s pain. It brings both great sorrow and surprising healing. Each time I enter into this very “holy ground” space, I count it as one of the greatest gifts I will ever know in this lifetime, the gift of another in their most vulnerable and real and raw place. Sheer, terrible beauty.
For those of you who have wildly loved and lost a precious someone, I pray today that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting. I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering, so that you would feel unexplainably loved and cared for. I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to you in the places only He can reach.
We share every part of this life together, including the great sorrows we face, arms and hearts wrapped around each other, each one of us helping the other hobble along toward redemption.
Please feel free to share the first name of someone you have loved and lost in the comments. I would just like to hold the space for them today.
Fear keeps me from loving deeply.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of losing myself.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of pain.
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of grief.
Fear of failure.
Fear of being swallowed up.
Fear of loss.
If I love deeply, every last one of those fears might come true. Many of them already have.
But, it’s a risk I am trying very hard to take every single day, no matter how afraid I am, because…
If I love deeply, I will also find ALL of these along the way:
And ultimately, LOVE.
Fear may win a few skirmishes here and there on the battlefield of my heart, but deep LOVE will win the war. That’s a guarantee from LOVE HIMSELF.
I’m awake. It’s 4:00 am. Just 45 minutes ago, I heard the garage door open and close for the last time at this ungodly hour. I ran downstairs to give and get a hug from our youngest.
You see, tonight was the night of nights. After a final dinner celebrating our two graduates, Rachel and her best friend did what they always do. They drove around enjoying our sleepy little town and the surrounding areas, talking about all those things BFFs talk about. This was their last time to do that as neighbors who’ve known each other (and been mostly inseparable) since they were just six years old. That’s why it’s an ungodly hour. I don’t blame them. It’s really hard to say goodbye.
After crying and hugging when she came in, and clinging to her (and secretly wishing I never had to let go), she went to sleep in her childhood bed for one more dreamy night and after trying to venture back into my own fitful sleep, I gave up and decided to process just a tiny bit of the swirling emotions coursing through my very bones.
You see, today is the day of days. I begin the long goodbye of driving my precious Rachel across the country to her new life on the other coast in Burbank, California. 2,764 miles from our house to her new apartment. That’s really far. We leave in just 11 hours.
When she burst on the scene 19 years, 10 months ago, I never fathomed the ache I would hold in my heart this morning. The proud and painful and thankful and joyful and awful ache. It’s the universal mom ache that comes every time we say goodbye.
It starts when our babies take their first toddling and tentative steps away from us. That initial ache comes unbidden as we grasp a glimpse of all the future steps they will take away from us, all the goodbyes to come.
The goodbye of walking onto a school bus or into a classroom for the very first time. Tiny hands turn and wave. The ache rears and settles.
The goodbye of a first sleepover or summer camp. They are not “right in the next room,” safe under the cover of our home. The ache rears quietly and settles quickly.
The goodbye of their very independent, “I’ve got this,” preteen self. This one smacks loud and jolts abruptly. The ache rears ferociously and settles slowly.
The goodbye of a challenging teen mishap. Their childhood innocence door slams shut. The ache rears dragging fear along with it and settles in fits and starts.
The goodbye of backing out of the driveway moments after receiving freedom in the shape of a gift from the DMV. The ache rears with memories of a toddler in her car seat and settles with some much-needed freedom from late-night, seemingly endless pickups.
The goodbye of a graduation cap and a college dorm room. Stopping here for a moment. This one was really rough for me. This ache rears and settles, rears and settles, rears and settles, every time they come home and leave, come home and leave, come home and leave.
The goodbye I find myself in this morning. The goodbye of moving out and moving on. The goodbye that speaks to adulthood, active parenting job done, “will they make it on their own? This ache rears fresh and raw this morning. I am hopeful it will settle.
There are more goodbyes to come. The goodbye of weddings and births of grandchildren (I’ve experienced those with my oldest and she is experiencing her own goodbyes now). Every time, the steps are further and further away. Every time, the ache rears and rears and rears. Every time, the ache settles and settles and settles.
I know that with each goodbye comes a settling hello. A settling hello that brings newness, possibility and life. Believe me, I know.
But in the wee hours of this morning, I sit in the real, raw ache of the goodbye, not rushing the pride I feel, the pain I feel, the thankfulness I feel, the joy I feel and the awfulness I feel. It’s beautiful here. It’s sacred here. It’s momentous here.
The sun is not up yet. I sit quiet in the dark. The ache will settle soon enough. I like the ache for now. It’s my very good friend.
(To those of you who have said the worst goodbye in the loss of your child, I am just so sorry. I wonder if there is ever a settling after the ugly rearing of the ache. It’s okay if there’s not. Maybe there shouldn’t be. Either way, I wholeheartedly salute you. I stand with you. I sit with you. I am just so very sorry. You never should have had to say this kind of goodbye.)
And that’s when I heard it, “Hold space for them.”
“Hold space for them? What does that mean?” I asked God.
I sat there in my car in the parking lot of the addiction rehab I taught at and knew God was calling me to embark on a journey with these women. As I hung up the phone, I was caught by a sweep of His presence, as I felt the answer to my question settle in my spirit…Just show up every week and be there for them. Be present to their pain.
It’s been almost a year since I heard those words, “Hold space.” I’ve learned to stay present without a response. Without turning away from the pain of others. Loving without saying a word, giving each other space to feel. I’ve learned “holding space” is a beautiful way to sit with them in their pain. It’s finding the depth of love necessary to allow them to feel without judgment, without rushing in to clean it up or fix it. It’s standing beside one another offering hope without saying a word.
A few months ago, the Holy Spirit sweetly asked, “Yeah, but do you know how to hold space for yourself?”
Hold space for me? There’s no time for that.
I’m learning what this means. In a season of five active kids, a dad fighting for his life, and a husband with a demanding job I’m finding I need more time for me. Often times our own self takes a back seat during busy seasons. The thing is, we can’t afford not to take care of our own soul. This is why David spoke to his soul, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Ps. 62:1,5). We live unawakened lives when we neglect our souls.
Join as I’m a guest on The Dolly Mama and the Millennials podcast where we talk about ways to hold space for ourselves and why it’s important. Laugh and cry with us for thirty minutes as we explore the need for soul-care and how to do that during this busy journey of motherhood.
Thank you for taking the time to listen! Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who has someone in their lives called children 🙂
“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self. The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love. The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other. This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)
Grief. Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it. We question what to say when someone is grieving. We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.” We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us. Should we come close or give the other space? It can be a very confusing time for everyone. And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself, I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain. It’s just downright uncomfortable.
The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving. And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider. I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it. After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.
I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer. My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.
My friend lost her precious brother to suicide. He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.
Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.
I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide. This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.
A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years. His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him. He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.
One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday. They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.
You have your own stories. So much horror. So much sadness. Grief multiplied.
This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet. Me too. At times. But not today. Come with me. Lean in. Learn along side of me. Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old. I promise you that it’s not all horrible.
When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort. Yes. All of those things. Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious. Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away. I ask that you would read on.
Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017. Four months later.
Steven is gone. He is gone. He is gone from me. How can this be? How can he be gone, just gone? I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged. He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together. All those things are gone.
My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place. It is an empty space…and it will stay empty. It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him. My own future will always hold this empty space. I am suffering. I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.
This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place. I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all. Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together. If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.
I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories. Memories of the two of us. All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected. All the treasured memories we had together with others. Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.
I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.