A Mother’s Heart

“How many kids do you have?” Such a simple and straight forward question, yet it is the most difficult question for me to answer. When I first meet people and small talk ensues that question lingers on the horizon. My heart races and my palms sweat. I paste a smile on my face and politely the word “two” passes my lips all while my brain is screaming THREE!!!!! I remember years ago as I would give my standard “two boys”, I had a few people who  excitedly said, “are you going to try for a girl?” The bile would rise and I would choke out “no, I think we are done.” Through it all, the smile on my face never reaches my eyes. In the moment the lie of omission is easier than the truth. Inevitably after the “how many kids do you have?” question is answered the follow-up question is always “how old are they?”  I have never felt comfortable saying “my oldest son is 13, my youngest son is 11, and my daughter is deceased.” Seven and half years later just typing the word deceased brings tears to my eyes. Why in the world would I ever want to share such a deep corner of my heart as I am first making someones acquaintance? I guess deep down I have come to a place where I am protective of my daughter’s memory…I love to talk to about her and I treasure moments when others talk about her. But to me, her memory is too precious to merely share as I engage in blase social niceties. So I politely answer “two”…it escapes my mouth as easily as “fine” rolls off the tongue of the deeply broken person answering the question “how are you?”

“Her absence is the like the sky, spread over everything.” ~ C.S. Lewis

When a heart grieves it has to jump over the hurdles of all the firsts. The firsts are the worst…for each first brings a fresh wave of the pain and loss you foolishly thought was easing. When the firsts conclude days begin to flow into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it the months have flowed into years. Yet no matter how many years pass by there is one day of the year I struggle with more than any other day. It is not my daughter’s birthday and it’s not the anniversary of her death. No, on those days I often find myself celebrating the precious life that God blessed us with for just the briefest of moments…on those days my heart has opened to the beauty of how God used her short life to make an incredible impact for His kingdom…on those days I sit back in awe of God and I truly celebrate the author and the giver of life. However, with this blog I have always promised full transparency and the reality is…I struggle with Mother’s Day. It is the single hardest day of the year for me. For me, motherhood has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known and the most intense heartbreak. In the paradox of joy and heartache I struggle to celebrate. I often smile at whatever gift my precious boys bestow upon me when all the while my heart aches for the one gift I can never have…all my children with me on Mother’s Day.

“On a day when I should be rejoicing for all the blessings motherhood has brought me, and I have been blessed abundantly through motherhood. But I find myself reflecting on the thought that while motherhood has brought me overwhelming joy it also brought overwhelming heartbreak. I never imagined how many ways a heart can be broken until I stepped into the role of motherhood. Not that I would trade a single one of those moments. It just gets to be too much @ times. How to explain the indescribable void you feel on mother’s day when all your children are no longer with you. When you long to hold them all close to you and you cannot because one of them is gone…”

Journal entry Mother’s Day 2010

I remember it vividly…Mother’s Day 2011. I started the day with the same pit in my stomach that had been there the three previous Mother’s Days since losing my daughter. As I sat in church, the feeling came…it felt like the walls were starting to cave in around me. Although my breathing was normal, I felt like I was gasping for air…panting like someone who was a breath away from running out of air. Then it happened…the need to run. I bolted out of the sanctuary and into the bathroom. A meltdown ensued. In that moment I wanted to be anywhere but there. I didn’t want to see anyone and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get my husband out of service so we could just go home. The door crept open and as I hid in the back I prayed that whoever had entered wouldn’t even realize I was there. But God knew exactly what I needed. Through the door came a precious friend who proceeded to hold me as I sobbed uncontrollably. On that day I collected myself and I made this declaration…”I just need to accept that for the rest of my life I will be brokenhearted.” The words flowed out of me like bricks that would build a fortress around my broken heart. As if by simply recognizing my ailment I would no longer suffer from public meltdowns because I had safely locked it away behind the wall of “I’m fine!” As I exited the bathroom that day I honestly never thought my friend and I would ever revisit the moment. However, a week later she came to me…hesitant but determined. God had spoken to her about me in her prayer time and she obediently delivered this message. “I don’t think you are meant to be brokenhearted forever. God did not give you Francesca to break your heart” I was stunned…by the courage it took her to speak those words to me and by the power of what she had said. Can you even comprehend the freedom that was wrapped up in those words? I didn’t have to live a facade…pretending to not be hurting all while carefully guarding heart that I thought was irreparable. In her words came the power of healing. They didn’t erase the struggle but they did remind me of something I had forgotten…God truly does heal the brokenhearted…in the beauty of His presence and grace He binds up our wounds. But like any wound the scars of a broken heart still remain, always there to remind me of the journey, the hand print of a life that deeply and radically changed the course of my own. On some days the scar gets irritated, its presence is more pronounced…for me that day is Mother’s Day. It’s the day when the joy found in my boys meets the ache I still have for my daughter.

“A sensitive soul sees the world through the lens of love” ~ Anonymous

Mother’s Day truly is a great day. Motherhood is a precious blessing that should be celebrated. It’s a very hard and often, a thankless job. Honestly it’s the single hardest, yet, the single most rewarding accomplishment of my life. So I am all for taking a day to celebrate all the ladies who are mom’s…biologically and of the heart. However, this is a day when many mothers and children come face to face with a pain or a hurt they tucked away. In my own loss God has made me acutely aware that while this is a day of celebration, there are many who suffer heartache on this day. The woman who so desperately wants a child yet motherhood has alluded her wrestles with her emotions, the orphan who has never known their mother feels more alone, the child who suffers from the loss of their mother longs for just one more touch, children and mother’s feel the wounds of fractured relationships, a mother sits and cries for the prodigal in her life, and there is the mother who will ache to hold the child that is no longer present in this world. The list of the hearts that will ache this Sunday are many. A tender touch, a simple hug, a word of encouragement…these could be the very things, while subtle, that take away some of the sting that Mother’s Day brings. I’ll never forget the day my sweet friend came to remind me of who my God is. The sensitivity of her soul made her available to help soothe the ache of my heart. Her kindness and love were one of many ways that God began to bind my wounds and heal my broken heart. My prayer is that this Sunday we would all be sensitive to the hearts that ache around us. To recognize that as we celebrate we may know someone who is silently weeping. Be sensitive…God might just call you to be the blessing that a hurting heart so desperately needs.




Simply Grace

“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet…”

Human nature…it gets me every time. I read it in the headlines, see it on the television, and who am I kidding…I struggle with it. This idea of grace, it is so foreign to us. It doesn’t come naturally. We are conditioned to think and feel a certain way about people based upon a whole lot of things that matter not. We allow appearance, status, accomplishment, or lack of all the above to formulate what we think or how we feel about one another. Even if there is depth to a person character, passion within their heart, grace flowing from their soul we sometimes miss it because we struggle so deeply with our own inability to understand the full selflessness of grace.

So many of us are so desperate to be heard that often times words flow from our mouths before the full weight of our words can be considered. I cringe as I type…how often have I said an insensitive word, vented my anger before thinking a situation fully through, been rash to judge based on the superficial? How different the world would be if we were truly the change we wished to see, if we offered the same of kind of love that was lavished on us when we were so undeserving of it. What is so radical about Jesus Christ is this small, unassuming five letter word…G R A C E. Who knew five letters could carry so much weight…could be the catalyst to change the world. Yet so many of us who claim to love Jesus struggle with showing the very thing He lavished so freely upon us. Grace often alludes us even as we desire to grow closer to the Savior who is the very embodiment of it.

“Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped…”

As turn I on the evening news I cannot help but be discouraged. In fact I often find myself avoiding the television rather than engaging in the current events of the world. It is difficult to keep your head above the all consuming cultural wave that claims we have the right to demand things our way. Race riots rage, crime flourishes, relationships fracture…as the human condition slips further away from what we were created for…to be worshipers of God. We have been caught up in the vortex of self and if you do not serve me or my desires you are disposable…not worth my time. The image of God has become so distorted that for many it’s hard to remember that this whole thing called life is not about us at all but all about Him. Even in the realm of knowing Him we still stomp our feet when things don’t go our way…we debate to prove we are right…we shout truth only to find that where there is no grace there will be no one listening.

“Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us…”

When will forgive each other of the unpardonable sin of being different? Now that is not fuzzy theology…it’s actually not theology at all. You see, we humans struggle with our differences all the while God shakes His head in disbelief. Our differences are all the beautiful elements that make up His collective masterpiece and yet we miss it over and over again. Instead of picking one another up we delight in each others shortcomings or weaknesses…it makes us feel better about ourselves. Or even worse we exploit the least of these instead of taking care of them. We harbor bitterness and anger…refusing to offer forgiveness. Why oh why do we hold ourselves in the bondage that Christ died to set us free from? Why oh why do we not emulate our Savior? As His blood heals the wounds of our sin why do we struggle to extend the grace He so richly showed us?

“Charity is expecting the best of each other.” ~ Elder Marvin J. Ashton

I write this blog not to condemn others for I am also guilty of not extending grace. For letting my wants, desires, opinions, and preconceived notions override and cloud my vision. No, I write this blog to remind us all that we were meant for so much more…God desires so much for us and from us.

I have a friend that I often tease, I tell her that she needs to teach a grace class and I can be her first student. She exemplifies the simple, beautiful grace that our Savior Jesus Christ demonstrated. It’s in the softness of a gentle touch, the encouragement of a kind word, a new perspective offered when disappointments and anger arise, it’s the sweet symphony of acknowledging a wound or a hurt yet understanding that with every set back and trial comes a great opportunity for growth. It is in the knowing that life is messy and hard for everybody and sometimes we need to step aside of ourselves to recognize the season of life someone else is in. Grace is understanding that it’s not all about me, it looks at the big picture. Grace is what will resonate with someone long after a moment is over.

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

What is so radical about grace is that it is so counter-cultural. It defies everything we have been taught to be true. That life operates on some sort of merit scale, the more you do the more you earn. The beauty of grace is God exclaiming His love for His people regardless of their brokeness, regardless of what they can or cannot do, regardless of their social status, wealth, or accomplishments, regardless if the world finds them appealing or not. God’s grace is demonstrated so powerfully in that he loved us enough to save us, through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, from the sin that separates us from Him. God loves us all and He has uniquely created us for a purpose in His kingdom…His desire is to transform lives. Those who live in the dark do not even realize this and those living in the light often allow their focus to become blurred from what matters most to God. Be the change we wish to see in the world…if Christ followers lived a life of radical grace, grace like Jesus demonstrated, how the world might change, how they might stop to pay attention. Grace is indescribable until you receive it…then it doesn’t need to be described at all. It was never meant to be an essay or a short-story…it was always meant to be a lifestyle.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2

Tonight I had a gut check. I desired grace to be demonstrated in others when I struggled to extend it myself. As I sat down to type I recognized that grace is something many of us struggle with. I was prompted by a holy discontent burning within me…a discontent with myself. Grace and love have been lavished on me through my Savior, Jesus Christ how can I not in turn pour that very grace out unto others? He is the hope of the world and He chooses to use me and every other Christ follower to be His light…to illuminate a darkened world. What an honor and privilege that is. There is NOTHING greater that I can do in this life than be the light of Jesus Christ. How can I do that? I will be the change I wish to see in the world by living a life of radical grace. I will show kindness and consideration. I will give the benefit of the doubt and not rush to judgment. I will show compassion and understanding. I will remember what matters most to God should matter most to me and that is the heart of a person. I will recognize that God does not make mistakes. He creates us all uniquely to bring something fresh and vibrant to the tapestry of life. We all matter, we are all important, and Christ died so that we all may live. That my friends is what grace is all about.