After reading my last post, my mother texted me to let me know how much she enjoyed it. But she also said this to me:
“I do regret we never took a REAL vacation. I get sad about it sometimes. But only for you guys, never sad for myself…”
And it made my heart tighten to think of how there are mommas out there who are struggling to make it- maybe even on their own- and regretting the things that they cannot give their children.
You wake up before the sun every single day and work a job (or two, or three, like my mother) that you don’t love simply to keep the lights on and food on the table. You fight to make it to every game and concert and activity even though you can’t really afford to miss work. You make sure not to make promises for fear that you won’t be able to follow through. You have restless nights in the dark worrying about how you will afford school supplies, uniforms, fees, and club memberships… or worry about the pain of seeing your child’s face drop when you tell her she can’t do cheerleading this year. And you cry, but you’ve gotten really good at hiding it, because they aren’t tears for you, they’re tears for them.
So you take from yourself to give to them. Everything. You pour out of yourself until you feel like you have nothing left to give. And then you pour out more. And the lucky ones have a spouse that pours out too. But some of you mommas are the only vessel and you often feel like you’re running dry. But you keep pouring out what you can.
I know you do. I know it because I saw my own mother do it. And I didn’t really see it then- not until I had kids- but I see it now, in my childhood memories.
Oh mommas… don’t you know by now? Don’t you see? The material things that we can’t give our children do not matter. Not even a little bit.
What I took away from my childhood was so much more important that getting to stay a couple nights in a hotel room and ride some rollercoasters. A day at the beach could never have taught me what I know about mothering from watching my own mother. Hard work. Dedication. A spirit of determination. Accepting help when you need it, and never taking more than you need. Gratefulness. Joy in what you have, instead of sorrow for what you haven’t. And love.
Love in the form of late nights and early mornings, endless chauffeuring to games and activities, heart and soul- not money- poured into the simplest of days to make them special, ears that listened, pride swallowed, body broken, hands calloused, eyes tired, and heart full.
But can I tell you something? They see it. Your children. I know that you think they don’t care or appreciate you, but they see it. And someday, they’ll understand it too. They will feel it in their bones. Your love-struggle will be interwoven into the innermost fabric of their very being.
Don’t you see that what you’re giving them is so much more important than what you can’t give them?
You know what breaks my heart even more than knowing that *I* never got to take a vacation as a kid? It’s knowing that my mother never got a vacation. Because now that I’m a mom I know. I know that no one in the world deserved it more than her. Not for us, for her. For YOU, momma… but it never mattered to her as long as we were healthy and happy.
You have not struggled for nothing, momma… so keep going.
“What’s your favorite childhood memory?”
My husband asked me this not long ago, and while I consider my childhood happy, it was difficult to conjure up a specific memory that I felt embodied the essence of it. Shouldn’t that be an easy question to answer? Something joyous should always come easily to the forefront of the mind, right?
I won’t pretend I had a rough upbringing, but I was raised by a single mother who often worked two and three jobs to keep us afloat- long days and nights with little to show except full tummies and happy faces on her children. Many of my friends have wonderful childhood memories of going on vacations and visiting fabulous places. Or having big elaborate birthday parties and expensive Christmases. We never took so much as a weekend vacation, but our hearts were always full.
But then I remembered….one single moment that I feel was the most perfect and happy of moments for a little girl:
I’ve just awoken to a summer morning, sunlight blinding as I opened the metal screen door and sleepily step onto the astro turf-covered front porch. The pastures are lit up bright neon green from summer’s morning light, and the most perfect breeze blows through the front porch. My mother is on the west end of the porch, paint brush in hand, painting a large bookshelf white to go in my room. An airplane buzzes overhead and the wind chime clangs in the background. She looks up, and smiles.
That’s it. That’s the moment. Unceremonious and completely insignificant on a grand scale. And I often think of how my mother couldn’t have known that this was the moment that would be etched into my brain when I pictured my childhood. Her hair undone, a messy shirt thrown on, paint covering her hands. And then I think of all the moments in my own children’s lives that I’ve tried to make so picturesque and perfect. All the messes to which I’ve said no, and all the times I’ve insisted we not go out to play when the weather wasn’t ideal; and I wonder what they’ll remember about their childhood…
So today is a yes day. We’re embracing messy hair and dust on the floors and dishes left undone. No struggling against the ever-strengthening current of perfection. Today, we just play, because today could be the day. Any moment could be the one carved into their little hearts and burned into their memories. Today could be their moment in the porch.
A baby. Someone's baby. Face down on the shore. Washed up from the vastness they had hoped would bring them new life- water that held their fate. Desperation can be the only explanation for putting one's trust in something so volatile.
So we see the picture in the news and our hearts lurch and our stomachs turn, and so does the channel. We can't even watch as the world burns around us... And I have to wonder, are we doing enough? I don't mean our government. I mean us. I mean me. And where do we start? When our news feeds flip from one tragedy to the next, and our hands fall paper white from fear and our eyes burn and our minds race, where do we even start? And will our children see and learn from our mistakes? Will they still claim our Jesus if we sit back and wait on the bodies to wash up on our door step?
We can't say we didn't know- not just about the one dead baby in a sea of others, but about all of it. Here and abroad. In our streets and theirs. In our homes and hearts.
We can't say we didn't see the quiet racism and the systematic injustices that now spills over into outrage and boils in the streets. We can't say we didn't know of the murder of thousands in their mother's wombs before their lungs had even a chance to take in a breath. We can't claim ignorance to the disintegration of the foundations of families, hidden in the shadows of the internet where promises of instant gratification and self glorification live.
We can't say we didn't see. And if we see, we can't stand stock still while there is work to be done.
So what do we do? Where does that leave us? Shouldn't we feel the same desperation in our hearts to help a broken and dying world that those migrants felt before putting their hope in the water and cramming their courage into a boat?
Go. Move. Help. Be the Church.
I'm not talking about earning your way into heaven. I'm talking about embracing your humanity and conceding that we're all in this boat together, and our only hope is in the water.
There is hope in Christ.
There is truth.
The only water that holds the promise of life...
My name is Chelsea. Redeemed. Wife. Mommy. Photographer. Light Chaser. I hope you find light here too.