Monday, July 28, 2014

My Mama's Father

"Daddy!  Daddy!  Come look!  Do you see me, Daddy?  Don't I look pretty?"

The silence said it all.  She wasn't good enough.  Or if she was, she would never know.  Her daddy didn't kneel down, smile, take her small hand and say, "Yes.  You are so pretty, the most beautiful."

So year after year, she tried performing to her best - her most vibrant liveliness, and when that didn't work, her most quiet politeness; her best grades; her tenderest heart; her most giving self; her perfect attendance at school (even after cleaning up her own vomit in the bathroom because of the stomach flu); her relentless affection for him, Daddy.  He never returned any of it, but if he had, it would have been her most tremendous treasure.  And it's a treasure she sought long after he died.

I will be blunt, but do not confuse this with disrespect.
I never loved my grandfather.  I knew that I should have, but I didn't.

The exact opposite of my always-loving, positive and warm grandmother, my mother's father was cold and distant.  I made peace with him before he died when I was 12, in a dream that I believe God wove together just for me...and a part of me hopes that my grandfather saw it, too.  Even though I don't love him, I want to love him because of how my mother and aunt and grandma loved him despite all that he withheld from them.

My mama has many times recounted stories of her father, and her heartbreak appeared right in front of me each time.  I held her crumbling heart in my hands, trying to find words to put it back together.

She talked about always wanting to please him, just seeking his LOVE...and I would later find out that he never gave her the love she deserved.  But with sincere adoration for her father, she still pictures herself a fractured young girl, waiting in dark living room silence for her daddy to drop his eyes to her and smile.

She wanted him to choose her.  But he didn't.  He was so persistent in not choosing her, that rejection outlined each of her mornings and each of her bedtimes, and it tightened around her like a noose.  But she. still. loves. him.

When I think about the word "daddy," the whole globe bubbles up with importance.  A daddy fortifies life; he reinforces the meaning of beauty in how he cherishes it in his daughter, he teaches his daughter to love herself because he loves her in every word he speaks, he creates safety and security in her very being.

I wish my mom and my tante (aunt) had this in an earthly father.  I wish I could go back in time and beg God to send a message to my grandfather about his high calling, a father to two eternally gorgeous and stunningly talented girls.

But what they have - what we all have - is greater.  Our heavenly Father loves us affectionately.  For many, this is difficult to receive because some of you have had fathers that were abusive, absent, or neglectful.  Thank God, I never endured that.  But many have.

Here's what we all need to know and remind ourselves:

Our Abba is Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).
Every good and perfect gift is from Him (James 1:17).
He is the God of all comfort,Who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinth. 1).
He calls us altogether beautiful (Songs 4:7).

Finally, Jesus tells us that we have one true father, and He is in heaven.

As a little girl, I related with my mom, and pictured her as a little girl trying to make her daddy love her.
As a teenager, I got fiercely upset with my mom for still caring about her foolish dad, and for still longing for his obviously-absent affection.
As a woman, part of me wishes I could pick up my mom's little girl heart and mend it.
But with God's wisdom I know what Mama now knows -- she has a true Daddy Who has loved her with an everlasting Love since she was knit together in my grandmother's womb.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Only A Mama Knows

On the crisp white edges of an extremely rare mid-day nap, I fell out of Sleepy and Restful Dreamland and was made aware of a reality that frightens me: my son is growing up fast.

My suddenly-wakeful mind watched slow motion picture reels of eight years of mommy bliss and mommy prayers and mommy worries and mommy cuddles.  Who knows why this moment chose me, but it did, and I watched the pictures float up and by.

Eight years old.  My son is eight?  When did this happen?  How did I so quickly go from holding sweet coos close to my ear to encouraging flips off a diving board?  Because time passes ... and it passes quickly, not waiting for you to take notice; it is impartial to what you do with it.

Photo found:

There are some things that only a mama knows.

Only a mama knows the exact shape and feeling of her unborn child, warm and utterly safe in her womb.  Only she knows the comfort it brings her to hold such a high calling, and to nurture a sweet miracle, the miracle of all miracles.  Only a mama knows that feeling of looking at her just-born baby and knowing that Love has materialized.  And she knows that feeling twelve hours later of wishing her baby was back in the safe womb, where she knew he was okay, where the world couldn't hurt him.

Only a mama knows those early morning eyes that stare right out of the crib looking for you.  She can tell just how long they have been awake by her baby's movements and breathing.  Only a mama knows that late-night rocking, even if it's on her cheap twin mattress bed because there simply wasn't room in her tiny apartment for a rocking chair.  She knows the feeling of her hair being twined between baby's fingers as he watches you sing tired lullabies.  She burns slowly-blinking eyelashes into her memory - the sweet half-moon eyelids of a tired baby finally giving in to sleep.

A mama can feel each time she has folded him into her arms to hug, to read a book while stroking his hair, to soothe an ailment.  She knows the head against her chest, her child's body all bones and muscle and perfect flesh.  It's a replay button that she would push every day for the rest of her life, if only life granted that luxury.

Only a mama knows the unique fatigue that accompanies her child's toddlerhood, the twitching muscles that are afraid to sit still (heaven knows he will be running off on another adventure soon!), the heart that looks long at her child's face as it grows and changes ever-so-quickly.  She knows just how his hair looks when it's a bit long and flips up slightly over his ears.  She watches the sunlight glint in his eyes at the park, and gazes straight through to his heart - heart of her hearts.  Only a mama knows.

Only a mama knows knobby knees that run, twirl, play, fall, get up, bend down to inspect God's tiniest creatures.  A mama loves those knobby knees like she has never loved her own body.  She knows the soft, angelic skin because her fingertips have traced and retraced arms and cheeks, legs and toes.  She remembers what her child's hand has always felt like in hers ... even when holding hands meant a tiny grasp around her pointer finger.  Every time she crossed a parking lot, walked into daycare, strolled about on a sunny day, she grabbed that little hand.  And she still tries, even though he won't grab back anymore, and his hand is now almost the size of hers (much to her disbelief).

Only a mama knows the prayers she has prayed, asking God if He even knew what He was doing when he entrusted this beautiful little life to her.  She knows the moments of weakness, the deep sighs of her bones wanting to give up because she. can't. go. on.  And she knows how a good night's sleep takes away all of her fears and worries, and God calms her heart when she looks upon her child in the fresh morning minutes.

Only a mama knows that her child's pain is also her pain.  And in spite of this, she must teach him how to handle his own pain with dignity, respect for others, and with God's guidance.  Only a mama knows the tears that seem to carve her child's cheeks like a river; his tears are her tears, and his sadness, hers.  And only a mama knows that she must shake off this sadness to show him strength, to be an example.  A mama knows those lonely moments in bed when she finally lets her walls down to be weak before God (because when we are weak, we are strong...through Him).

Only a mama knows that grin her child gets just before revealing his latest trick or talent, the grin that tells her to put down whatever she is doing and watch.  Only a mama knows what it means to be cheerleader, coach, nourisher, confidant, disciplinarian, laundry lady, and blanket-tucker all in one.  She knows what it is to pray with him each night, kissing his cheek as she tiptoes out of his room.  She knows that her child still needs her help, even when he doesn't want to admit it, and she knows when to back off and let him fail in order to learn.  She knows because of the depths of her love, the love that God was teaching her while that little one was growing slowly in her womb.

Only a mama knows that watching her baby grow up means that she must also begin to let him go.  She knows the anguish of an empty hand while walking side-by-side with her baby, but she also knows the deep joy of watching him grow in health, wisdom, and Love.

I know this: God gifted me with motherhood.  He gave me all of these moments with my son.  It is Love at its highest and most difficult calling.  And I get to live it.  Though I cry and cry because so many sweet and tender moments have passed, I am looking forward to the new depths of Love that are sure to follow.

I love you, Julien.