Category: Motherhood


This weekend marked my maternal grandmother’s 97th birthday. Yes, 97. She looks like a spritely 75-year-old, is in excellent health, and until very recently could work circles around anyone half her age. I remember a few years ago when she was in the emergency room with an about-to-rupture gall bladder and the nurse asked her what medications she was currently taking. She said, ‘I don’t take anything’. The nurse turned to my mother and asked the same question, remarking that my grandmother didn’t hear or understand what she had asked. My grandmother, in excruciating pain, fired right back, “I heard you and I understood you. And I will tell you again, I don’t take any medication for anything.”

 My mother didn’t need to say a word.

 This weekend my family also celebrated my youngest son’s 10th birthday. Finally, double digits. My grandmother, his great-grandmother, “Memaw”, 87 years his senior.

 Although we don’t get to spend a tremendous amount of time together, my children adore their great-grandmother. And I’ve been thinking of a few things I hope they have learned from her, passed down generation to generation, reminding them of their roots and the legacy they’ve been given.

1. Family is everything. My earliest memories of my grandmother center around family gatherings. She and my Papa loved nothing more in the world than being surrounded by their children and grandchildren. They loved the churches my grandfather pastored and poured their hearts into the lives of its members, but nothing – and I mean nothing – brought them greater joy than having family around them.

2. Loyalty matters. My grandmother is fiercely loyal. She can correct, rebuke, and even punish a family member who gets out of line, but woe to the outsider who attempts to do the same. My Memaw is one of the sweetest, most gracious and forgiving Southern women you could ever hope to meet. Until you say something unkind about one of her own. Then I would suggest you head for the hills. Fast.

3. Growth is important. My grandmother was a teacher for most of her adult life using a teaching degree she earned in 1934. And at the age of 50, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education fromBerryCollege. Yes, going back to college was difficult. Yes, it took time, and energy, and commitment. But she did it. She also learned to drive. And for the record, she was a better student than she was a driver. The roots of my “Lead Foot Lucy” nickname can be traced straight back to her!

4. Change is inevitable. My grandfather was a pastor. Not at one church. Not at two or three churches. In his 57 years as a pastor, my Papa shepherded seven church congregations spread out over three states. My grandmother always made it an adventure, a calling, an opportunity. And she always made it home. No muss, no fuss. Just set up house, share the (one) bathroom, gather the family around the table for a home-cooked meal, and say the blessing. Make friends, embrace change, celebrate birthdays, holidays, and babies, and be grateful for the pillow on which you lay your head at night.

5. Marriage is forever. My grandparents were married for almost 60 years. When my Papa, her beloved Charles, was dying of cancer she was his advocate, his caretaker, his nurse, his meal planner, his gentle bath-giver, his prayer warrior. She was strong as he grew weaker, and she bravely held his hand as he left his earthly body to embrace immortality. Memaw taught us how to grieve loss and celebrate life in the same breath. She cried and she laughed and she hugged long and hard those who shared her grief. And she has faced head-on the years without him, sadly at times, accepting that it is not yet her time to be reunited with him. When it was suggested at one time that she consider re-marrying, she looked away and softly said, “it’s not for me; Charles was my one and only.”

6. The Bible is true. I don’t know how many times my Memaw has read through the Bible but she can teach it as if she wrote it herself! (No disrespect intended.) When she talks about her favorite passages or verses in the Bible, they truly come to life. Her love for God’s word is the foundation and cornerstone of her existence. And anyone who has ever met her knows that to be true about her. She doesn’t preach the Bible to those around her. She doesn’t have to because she lives it every single day.

7. Prayer works. My Memaw has spent hundreds, probably thousands, of hours throughout her life praying for her family, her friends, her community, her country, and the world. When she awakens during the night, instead of getting a warm glass of milk and going back to sleep, she gets on her knees and prays for whoever is on her heart and mind. And she stays there until she feels a peace about climbing back under the covers. I’ve heard her tell of many a night when she prayed right on through the night until it was time to start the day’s work. My life is living proof that her prayers were heard and answered.

8. Eternity is forever. I can’t remember a time (almost ever) when my grandmother hasn’t reminded us all that she wants nothing more in the world than for her family to be together. Forever. Eternally. She reminds us all how important it is for us to stay in right relationship with God, to love Him above all else, and to be obedient to His leading. Through teary eyes and strained voice she pleads with us all to be sure, be absolutely sure, that we know where we will spend eternity. And then she smiles that sweet little smile, cocks her head and whispers, “I love you all so much.”

 Happy birthday, Memaw. Happy birthday, Stephen. As I find myself standing between the young and old, it occurs to me that the distance between 10 and 97 is not really very far. Not when it’s measured with love.

“Be careful – you’re gonna’ reap what you sow.” Remember hearing these words spoken from someone older (and probably wiser)?

I certainly do. I found myself on the receiving end of this admonishment from grandmothers, parents, teachers, my parents’ friends, neighbors, you name it. Having been born and raised in the South, this little nugget of truth wedged itself in my brain right alongside the more classic, “you ain’t got no dog in that fight” (translation, mind your own business) and “bless her heart, every dog has to have a few fleas” (translation, no one is perfect).

Of course, I also learned at a very early age that we could say anything about anybody as long as it was preceded by “bless her heart”.

Ahhh, how I love the South! But, that’s another blog for another day…

Karma; consequences; GIGO, the iconic ‘garbage in, garbage out’ which originated with the IRS during its shift to computer science in the early 60s.  Whatever terminology you use, it boils down to the same thing: if you do good stuff, you’ll get good stuff back; if you don’t, you won’t.  Now, try this on for size:

Hosea 8:7, “they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

This tiny little verse in the tiny little book of Hosea takes the concept to a whole new level. These words introduce the principle that we actually reap exponentially MORE than what we sow; ‘they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind’. I like the idea of reaping more than what I sow when it’s in the positive; but wow, not so much the negative. As I reminisce through the years, I can think of very specific examples where both these principles have played out in my own life and the lives of those around me. What about you? Are you able to temporarily see through the glasses of your past and examine where you have reaped – for the better or worse – what you have sown?

Our children begin to experience this at an early age: if they play nicely and use their manners, the reward is praise and encouragement – and sometimes an ice cream cone! Conversely, when children lie or act out inappropriately towards another, the consequence takes on varying forms of discipline. Discipline is a tricky thing these days, ranging in severity from the Time Out chair (or corner) to having the Hand of Knowledge applied to the Seat of Understanding (my dad preferred the latter but hey, I’m old school). Hopefully, these life lessons are engrained in our psyche very early on. But all too often as adults, I think we challenge this truth and try to beat the system. Minor offenses, ‘little white lies’, nothing significant or alarming to those around us. Until the whirlwind hits.

We behave based on the mindset that we are above negative or unpleasant consequences. We are not.

There are laws in nature: survival of the fittest; predator versus prey; gravity; the cycle of the tides. There are laws in life as well and this one is a classic. I’m taking this new month in this new year to re-examine some of the actions I take for granted and my mindset behind them. There’s some sowing I need to do and some sowing I need to stop. As my best friend shared with me recently, “if you don’t like the dance, change the steps.”

If you’re currently reaping an unpleasant whirlwind, may I encourage you to take a closer look at what you’re sowing?  And if you’re in that wonderful place where you are reaping a bounty and experiencing a refreshing whirlwind of blessing, be thankful…and do a happy dance!

I must admit, I was absolutely convinced that after 33 days of trial and only 10 hours of deliberation, Casey Anthony’s jury would hand down a guilty verdict.  Yesterday afternoon, sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office with my Mom (who fell and broke her shoulder over the weekend), I was absolutely stunned when a ‘not guilty’ was announced on the more serious Murder 1, Murder 2, and Negligent Homicide charges.  Facebook posts went through the roof, Twitter was all aflutter, and every cable channel except Disney and Cartoon Network provided up-to-the-minute commentary.  One newscaster offering her own particular flair for drama was practically salivating over the assumed guilty verdict just moments prior to the live announcement.

After hours and hours of research over the last two weeks about filicide – the deliberate murder of a child by a parent – I have learned that approximately 400 children under the age of 5 are killed in the United States every year.  That’s more than one child every single day!  And the large majority of these precious little ones are killed by a biological parent – not another family member, foster or adoptive parent, daycare provider, or stranger/predator.  Those we are born to trust the most are the very ones who have viciously, violently robbed these babies of life, liberty, and the simple joy of a frozen popsicle on a hot summer day.  If you increase the age of children to 12, the numbers go up even more.  In fact, the most life-threatening risk to a child under the age of 15 is their own parent.

Right about now, you’re probably sitting at your computer or holding your iPod shaking your head, wondering what happens in the mind and heart of a parent to move them from the normal, everyday frustration of parenting to not only thinking about but actually carrying out the murder of their own flesh and blood. This can’t even be stretched to ‘mercy killing’, where a parent might possibly argue that death was an act of kindness. No, not by any stretch.  This is the cold-blooded, premeditated, planned and rehearsed killing of a defenseless human being.  Now, if your blood pressure is rising and you’re starting to squirm, keep reading.

In 2008, approximately 1.2 million abortions were performed in the United States.  More than 50% of those abortions were performed on women between the ages of 21 and 25.  Cold-blooded, premediated, planned and paid for killing of a defenseless human being.  As much as we cry out for justice on behalf of little Caylee Anthony’s murder, had her mother opted for an abortion anytime prior to the birth of her daughter on August 9, 2005 we would call it ‘a woman’s choice’.  Caylee was murdered and callously tossed away in a garbage bag before she could celebrate her 3rd birthday with cupcakes, lemonade, and girlfriends.  But over a million little Caylees die every year in legal abortion clinics throughout the US before they ever draw their first breath.

For all the outrage Casey Anthony’s verdict has brought to the surface, it would do us well to recognize that until we as a people put inestimable value on human life – all human life – we will continue to reap what we have sown.  Selfishness will prevail.  And we will grieve the heart of God who knit us together in our mother’s womb.

I cleaned out our attic this week.  It’s only June – not even Summer yet according to the calendar – but the Atlanta area is already enduring temperatures way up in the 90s.  My goal was to work in the mornings before the heat soared past unbearable.  However, anyone who knows me knows that once I get started on a ‘project’, it’s hard for me to stop.  I’m like a freight train on crack. 

So I climbed the stairs, took a few steps onto the plywood flooring and looked around. Wow. I think there must be something about insulation, duct-taped boxes, and intense heat that promotes reproduction.  Where did all this stuff come from?  I found suitcases, Christmas decorations, papers from previous school years, air filters, clothes, and toys.  It seemed easy enough to begin editing.  I started with broken toys (how did they end up in the attic and not the trash can?)  I then moved on to parts and pieces of incomplete Christmas decorations (repeat previous question).  Clothes that no one in my family will ever wear again, luggage long past its prime, and a collection of stuffed animals that would rival FAO Schwartz brought back great memories, despite the fact that I was beginning to look and feel like I was at boot camp in the desert.

Going through each box with just enough detail to make sure I wouldn’t regret our Friday morning visit from the trash man, I was quickly filling the bags beside me.  Then I found it.  The box with Rachel’s costume from her dance recital six years ago.  It was an adorable bright yellow top and skirt that felt something like a cross between vinyl and plastic with black taffeta everywhere (literally).  Her group danced to Rascall Flatt’s Life is a Highway.  I remember her practically floating down the stairs to show her Daddy after we had the whole outfit perfectly in place, complete with slicked back her hair and makeup. She was beaming and her Daddy was speechless.

Next, I came across a collection of sports cars that Alex collected when he was much younger.  I remember the various Christmas and birthday celebrations when he received them and how he studied them, learned about the make and model, discovered all the parts that would open and close, and proudly displayed them in his room.  His favorite by far was the truck his Granddaddy gave him, a replica of his own. Alex kept a very special place reserved just for that truck and it was very often the first one he showcased when anyone else admired his collection.

With the heat sweltering and my eyes stinging from sweat running down my face, I was about ready to call it a day. My stomach told me it was well past lunchtime but I decided to go through one more stack before descending into the comfort of the air conditioned hallway. I moved a small blue blanket that a family friend had made for Stephen’s crib and opened the box underneath where I saw a stack of cards and some computer-printed sheets of paper. 

And I started reading.  “Dawn, we are praying for you and your family every day”; “Please know that Heaven is being bombarded with your name!”; “Our children pray for you and Baby Hood every morning before breakfast”; “So sorry to hear that you must undergo another surgery”; “Praying for you as you begin your chemotherapy treatments”; “Please let us know if we can do anything for you”; “You and Richard are a testimony of God’s strength and grace”; “I love your short hair!”; “The Lord brings you to mind several times each day and I am asking Him to give you strength and courage”; “Thank you for your updates by email…it helps me pray specifically for everyone in your family”; “You look fabulous with a bald head!”  More cards.  More Scripture passages.  More prayers.  Countless emails and notes of encouragement. 

I have no idea how long I sat on the floor of our attic reading those precious notes of encouragement, remembering like it was yesterday.  But what really made my heart swell was the realization that nearly ten years later I remain close to almost everyone who sent those cards, notes, and letters.  How it blessed me to realize that these friends and family have shared the good, the bad, the ugly, and the miracles of life with us! 

I was drenched when I slowly, carefully, came down those rickety stairs and closed the ‘trap door’.  But my spirit felt uplifted. Encouraged. Strong.

Eight years in the attic.  And still so very close to my heart.

This past Friday evening I had the privilege to walk the Survivor’s Lap during the opening ceremonies of the Cherokee County Relay for Life.  My daughter’s best friend, Meghan, had joined a team from her middle school to raise funds for the American Cancer Society – the “Official Sponsor of Birthdays”.  When we arrived at the high school hosting the event, it looked somewhat like the inner circle of the Daytona 500.  Brightly colored tents everywhere, loud celebratory music blasting from the speakers on the stage, and a huge inflatable birthday cake covered in blow-up candles.  It was a long drive to the school, the traffic was terrible (go figure – Friday afternoon at 5pm), and it was one of the first really hot days we’ve had here in the area.

I was wearing my “The Chemo Made Me Do It” t-shirt with a pink breast cancer ribbon on it.  The kids and I walked around from tent to tent admiring all the creative ways people show their support and raise funds for cancer research.  Rachel and Stephen excitedly pulled me in the direction of the Survivor Wall of Fame and helped me sign it, adding their own personal touch to my autograph. 

To say that I attend these events with mixed emotions is an understatement of epic proportions.  It is with a deeply grateful heart and tremendous pride that I call myself a ‘survivor’ and I have gained laser precision accuracy at spotting others in the same camp.  There’s something a little different about us and unless you are one, there’s no way to explain it.  We simply know each other.  But I have to admit, there is an indescribable pit in my stomach that rears its ugly head when I see a man, woman, or child walking around with the telltale ill-fitting baseball cap.  It forces me to remember.  It smacks me in the face and screams, “I almost had you, too”.  And as proud as I am to be a survivor – as strong as I feel every day – it is my ghost whisperer.  An unexpected ache or pain or an unusual lack of energy always provokes the inevitable “what if it’s back?” in the deep recesses of my mind.

Thankfully, my kids were with me and Meghan was happy to introduce me to her classmates/team members.  The emcee for the event called all the survivors to gather around the stage and after a beautifully patriotic national anthem, we all sang Happy Birthday to each other.  Rachel and Stephen were on either side of me and before we started the first lap we heard a couple of stories from other survivors who had joined the celebration.  One young man was diagnosed with colon cancer barely a year ago and shared about his treatments and prognosis.  His young wife and son were sitting on the grass as close as they could get to the front of the stage, obviously proud of their warrior husband and dad who was fighting hard and winning his battle.

Then we heard from a young lady (barely 19 years of age) who is preparing for surgery this week.  She has had FOUR cancer diagnoses in the last few years.  Four!  She is a beautiful young lady, full of energy and a positive spirit.  She talked about her cancer as if she were sharing with us her volleyball schedule.  I felt some very familiar emotions start to rise as she shared about the support of her family and friends, and the daily conflict of emotions.  She even made a statement that I remember jokingly sharing upon my initial diagnosis, “I’m too stubborn to let cancer beat me.” 

As I was standing there I met two other ladies, Donna and Laurie, who less than a year ago were photographed at the lake together enjoying each other’s friendship, their families, and life in general.  And here they stood this night, both diagnosed within weeks of each other, currently in treatment, and bald.  I briefly shared my story with them and introduced them to my little hero (Stephen) and my private nurse (Rachel).  We chatted as only survivor sisters can and then Laurie looked at me and said, “can I ask you a question?”  “Sure. Anything.”  She looked at me for a few long seconds and asked, “Is that your real hair?”  I smiled.  “Yes, every single strand of it.”  Smiles.  Hugs.  Hope.

We walked the survivor lap, my children and I, arm in arm.  To see several hundred people standing on the inside track clapping, cheering, and waving was incredibly moving.  Tears.  I couldn’t speak, and my kids don’t see me like that very often.  Rachel held my hand a little tighter.  Stephen put his arm around my waist.  And then I rounded that last curve and looked up.  Meghan was standing there with her team, clapping and cheering like crazy.  It got the best of all of us and as I started to run to meet her, she and the others broke away and ran right towards us.  We met in a huge circle of hugs and cheers and smiles.  And we walked that final stretch together.   I turned around and looked back through the crowd of other survivors.  A few paces back, Donna and Laurie were walking arm in arm surrounded by their circle of friends.  Our eyes met and we exchanged a ‘thumbs up’.  New friends.  New heroes.  And a fresh reminder that beauty is often found in the most unexpected places.

Some time before Thanksgiving last year my dishwasher went kaput.  I opened the door one morning to unload the previous night’s dinner dishes and noticed detergent baked onto the bottom of the dishwasher floor.  Along with last night’s dinner baked onto my dishes, glasses, pots, and pans.  Apparently the tube thingy that comes out of the middle to spray water everywhere had snapped.  So instead of actually washing the dishes with hot water, it simply baked at high heat everything I hadn’t rinsed off.  Note to self: Mom was right – rinse the dishes thoroughly before placing them in the dishwasher.

After fiddling with it a few times, we determined this was something a little more advanced than a do-it-yourself superstore fix.  I called a reputable appliance guy in our area and after his assessment and estimate, we realized we could replace the dishwasher for about the same price as repairing the existing one.  One problem: with my husband and I both unemployed, it didn’t matter how comparable the costs were – neither repair or replace was an option.  Now, let me say I love to cook.  I really do.  But I love it a lot more when I can stuff all the evidence into the dishwasher, press a couple of buttons, and walk away.

So it was with mixed emotions that I began washing dishes at the sink.  And let me just tell you, a sink doesn’t hold as much as a dishwasher.  It seemed like every time I turned around the sink was full again.  Yes, I enlisted the help of our kids to gather dishes, help rinse, and put away (I’m very particular about the washing part).  But it’s still a time consuming process and something about standing over the sink really bothers my lower back.  Not to mention, I have dropped and broken more dishes from slippery dish washing liquid than I care to admit (maybe a Freudian way of justifying less elaborate meals?)  Anyway, after a particularly big meal one evening – roast in the crock pot, potatoes, carrots, green beans, biscuits and gravy – Richard half-heartedly said, “I’ll do the dishes tonight.  You cooked a nice, big meal.  It’s my turn.”  Woohoo!  I was out of the kitchen before the kids took their last bite of biscuits.

A few minutes later, feeling a little guilty about taking such great delight in my mini-vacation from the kitchen, I walked back to the sink and began rinsing the growing pile of now soapy dishes and glasses.  At first we just stood there, side by side, my husband washing and me rinsing.  And then Richard, never one to be quiet for long, started making small talk.  Nothing major, simply news of the day or something he had heard on the radio or something about the kids.  The conversation started flowing, moving seamlessly between us.  And before we knew it the dishes were done.  A few nights later he helped me do the dishes again.  And so the pattern has continued.  There have been a few nights when Richard and Rachel have taken clean-up duty.  I think there may have been more soap sud battles than actual dish washing but it was great to hear them laughing from the other room.  Stephen has helped  a few times but usually ends up asking for something else to eat, making more dirty dishes.  You see where this is going, don’t you?

My point is this: sometimes the unexpected, even aggravating circumstances in our lives create an open door for us to discover a whole new way to connect with one another.  The dishwasher is still broken, and I still do the bulk of the clean-up after dinner, but I may wait a while to replace it.  That broken dishwasher has given me a new place, and a new way, to connect with my family.  And I love it.

An anonymous poet once said, “The pouring of compassion, combined with the mixing of gifts and generosity, blend together to serve miracles.”  The first time I saw this printed in a magazine, it was the artwork that caught my attention.  The artist had captured an old world feel, something between Renaissance and Renoir.  I read the words again, promptly tore the page out of the magazine, and taped it up on the wall where I could read it daily – sometimes several times a day.  In light of Mother’s Day I would like to tell you about a very special woman who epitomizes every word of this short but powerful prose – my Mom.
The pouring of compassion… my Mom feels things deeply and even though her strong Southern upbringing won’t always allow her to show it, her heart is as tender as fresh biscuit dough.  She will be the first volunteer to provide a meal for someone who’s sick or recovering from surgery.   When she and my Dad travel, she always tucks away the complimentary shampoo, conditioner, bath gels, and lotions from the hotel so she can deliver them to a local ministry helping underprivileged women.  Whether she’s praying (I’ve heard her) or writing in her journal (I’ve read a few entries), nine times out of ten it’s about someone else and their needs.  When I had breast cancer and was overwhelmed by everyone wanting to take care of me, she touched my arm and said gently, “Sweetie, they love you.  Let them.”
Combined with the mixing of gifts and generosity… my Mom has many gifts and she happily, generously shares them with anyone and everyone.  She has the gift of beauty but you won’t find one vain bone in her tiny frame.  She has the gift of hospitality and can instantly make anyone feel at home, ready to put their feet up on the sofa and stay a while.  She has the gift of creativity and can make the simplest meal beautiful and memorable.  She has the gift of music and sings with a joyful spirit.  She has the gift of reading.  That may sound strange but no one – and I mean no one – can read a story to a child like my Mom.  She can literally make time stand still in a story.  I’m thankful my children have been the benefactors of that one!  Everything she does is blanketed in generosity.  She regularly goes above and beyond and finds tremendous satisfaction in making life a little sweeter for others.
Blend together to serve miracles… my Mom always made our house a home.  We may not have had a lot in the world’s eyes but we didn’t know it.  She made birthdays, Christmas, and sometimes a regular old Saturday morning magical – usually on a shoe string budget.  She worked a full time job, volunteered (for everything) at our church, kept our house clean and the laundry done, carted my brother and me to all our social and sporting events, and taught me by example to be a gracious, kind, compassionate woman.  I learned to respect others by watching her respect others.  I learned to do my best by watching her touch everything with excellence.  I learned the deep satisfaction of a ‘Norman Rockwell’ moment by helping to prepare a special meal and gather her family around the kitchen table.  And I learned to be fiercely loyal to my family by understanding that sometimes it’s alright to not keep your mouth shut.
I lovingly refer to her as ‘Miss Daisy’ (when she’s not around), my children call her ‘Honey’, and our friends know her as ‘Mrs. C’.  She pours compassion, combines it with the mixing of gifts and generosity, and blends it all together to serve miracles.  She is simply, beautifully, my Mom.
 
Motherhood at times can be an incredibly lonely job.  No one knows your children like you do.  And you don’t want anyone to.  Moms can, at times, be their own worst enemy.  We find it very hard to admit shortcomings, ask for help, or acknowledge that our child may in fact be the problem instead of the solution.  I’ve been a mom for a little over 21 years.  And in those 21 years of parenting three children (see Friday’s blog, The Three Bears) I’ve learned the value of having other honest, authentic, passionate, unsure but wonderful moms in my life.
My mother-in-law.  She’s been married as long as I’ve been alive and raised three boys with an iron fist and a velvet glove.  Born and raised in East Tennessee she can cook up a storm, surprise you with her quick wit, and remember every child’s name she ever taught in pre-school.  My mother-in-law tells me regularly that I’m a good mom – and she tells my children, too.  She’s got my back when the kids go to her for something she knows I’ve already put my foot down on.  But she will also be the first one to quietly, privately tell me when I need to let go a little.  She and I made a pact early on to be honest and open with each other.  It is refreshing and comfortable to be with her no matter where we are.  I’ve learned from her to make a big deal about the big stuff.  Period.  She encourages me, prays for me, and loves my kids real good.  I’m blessed to have her as a mother-in-law and one of my dearest friends.
My best friend.  We refer to ourselves as ‘Thelma and Louise’ and share a love for coffee that probably has crossed over the line to an addiction.  And neither one of us is signing up for an intervention.  Our daughters actually introduced us at the mall one afternoon – at the age of 3! – and it’s been ‘best friend bliss’ ever since.  Early in our friendship our family was at her house with two other families enjoying a lovely Sunday dinner.  After our meal, the ladies were all in the kitchen washing dishes, putting away leftovers, and cleaning up.  I noticed one of them knew where all of Lori’s dishes belonged and I remember thinking, “I want a friend like that…one who knows me so well that she knows where all my dishes are.”   On SO many levels, I can honestly say that nine years later, Lori knows where my dishes are!  We laugh, we cry, we pray, we watch movies, we sit quietly, we ‘vent’, and we share a ministry at our church together.  Lori knows me and loves me in spite of – and because of – my weaknesses and warts.  She is my safe place and my secret keeper.
My cousin.  Growing up one of ten cousins on my mother’s side, we were equally divided among boys and girls.  The one closest in age to me, thankfully, was another girl.  She is physically beautiful but her inner qualities make her breathtaking.  Barbie is warm, engaging, witty, unselfish, and strong as steel.  She married earlier than I did and started her family before I did.  Nothing in this world has ever brought her more happiness, joy, and contentment than being a wife and mom.  She truly lives for her family.  Her boys adore her, her daughter wants to be like her, and her husband is a great guy who knows he married WAY up.  Barbie is happiest when her home is full of family and friends and she can take care of everyone around her.  I honestly believe if God had chosen to bring Jesus into the world in the 20th century, He might very well have chosen my cousin to be His mother.
Miss Dottie.  One of the greatest blessings I’ve experienced as a grown woman is knowing Miss Dottie.  We met by chance (and God’s design) at a Wednesday evening church supper and I knew instantly she was someone special.  Miss Dottie was put on this earth to love people and to pray.  She has the uncanny ability to make everyone around her feel important and special.  She calls me ‘darling’ and it somehow makes my whole world better.  Miss Dottie has literally prayed down mountains.  If it’s 95 degrees and clear blue sky outside when she prays for rain, she picks up her umbrella.   She will cry over a friend’s pain as if it’s her own and shout for joy at the smallest victory.  I had the amazing privilege of being mentored by Miss Dottie for two years.  She taught me how to pray; and that taught me everything else.
My Mom – Quite simply, a fabulous woman.  You can read more about her in tomorrow’s blog because I saved the best for last.
These women are my family, friends, truth-tellers, and cheerleaders.  I’m not alone in this thing called Motherhood.  And I’m so very thankful.

I am the loud and proud mom of three great kids: Alex, Rachel, and Stephen.  My hair has been varying colors and lengths throughout their lifetime, the size of my clothes has changed (just a little), and sometimes I am not on my best behavior when they’re around.  But they know I would throw myself in front of a train for them.  In birth order, they are:

SugarBear – my firstborn.  The child I cut my parenting teeth on.  The pregnancy for which everything was a first: the first ultrasound, the first ‘butterfly’ of movement in my womb, the first completely guilt-free lunch at Wendy’s consisting of a double cheeseburger, large fry and root beer, followed by a medium Frosty.  I have never been so sick.  After that disastrous outing my diet consisted mostly of Mexican food, Chick-fil-A, ice cream, and TUMS.  The first labor pains (after measuring a barely detectable contraction on the monitor, I asked the nurse how much worse they would get before I delivered; she didn’t answer) and the first clumsy attempt at nursing.  I gained only 18 pounds and wriggled back into my favorite cords in just two weeks.  Alex was born with a smile on his face and I learned from him the truth of Erma Bombeck’s words, “having children is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body.”
PoohBear – my only daughter.  An emotional pregnancy – I didn’t eat as much but cried about everything.  Alex was nine years old.  When we told him I was pregnant he wrote my grandmother a note that said simply, “God answered one of my prayers.  We’re having a baby!”   I gained more weight during this pregnancy (don’t ask me how or how much) and we chose not to learn the sex prior to delivery.  Our ultrasound technician wrote the results on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope.  We poked a tiny hole in the corner, put a ribbon through the hole, and hung it on our Christmas tree.  Delivery day began very early on a January morning and less than four hours later we held our little angel.  She was long and lean with porcelain skin and every time we swaddled her she managed to work one foot loose from her blanket.  Rachel is still our free spirit, best described by her Uncle Bo as a cartoon character come to life. 
LittleBear – my personal proof that God is still in the business of miracles.  Just three short weeks after 9/11 and my husband losing his job (along with a huge commission), we learned I was pregnant.  Oops – not really planning for a third child.  At our first baby checkup my midwife felt ‘something’ in my right breast.  A core needle biopsy at the women’s center of our hospital resulted in the phone call that changed our lives: “Mrs. Hood, all four tissue samples were malignant.  You have breast cancer and should call your surgeon immediately.  I’m so sorry.”  The moment I saw our baby’s tiny frame on the ultrasound monitor I was head over heels in love – and fiercely determined to beat cancer for both of us.  Three surgeries, a serious infection, and four rounds of chemotherapy later, I held our little miracle in my hands.  Born three weeks early, he weighed a whopping five pounds, eleven ounces and was barely 18″ long.  Hard to hold and impossible to diaper, Stephen has grown to be my living, breathing, running, jumping, chocolate-soup-eyed boy.
Being a mom to my three bears has taught me many things.  Here are just a few examples:
1/ There is nothing sweeter in the whole universe than sitting quietly in a rocker at 3a.m. snuggling your newborn with a full belly.  Conversely, there is nothing more stick-a-fork-in-your-eye maddening than your baby screaming at full volume at 3a.m. for no apparent reason.
2/Boys like to be naked.  Girls like to wear pretty dresses.  Boys like to pee in the bushes.  Girls will lie to your face and “pwomise” they did not pass gas.
3/My greatest accomplishment with my first child was teaching him to fix his own bowl of cereal and find the cartoons on Saturday morning until at least 9a.m.  My greatest accomplishment with my second child was teaching her to wake her big brother on Saturday morning.  With my third child, I was so happy we were both here – and healthy – that I got up and made waffles for everyone on Saturday morning.
4/Kids are incredibly resilient.  With Alex I worried that every scratch, bump, and belly ache warranted a trip to the ER.  After Rachel was born, the nurse-on-call and I were on a first name basis; she was always calm and reassuring.  By the time Stephen arrived, if there wasn’t a bone sticking out of place or enough blood to soak through a bath towel I patted him gently and said, “Cool – that will be a great scar!”
5/My kids notice when the house is clean but don’t judge me when it’s not.  They like it when I make their favorite meals but don’t complain when dinner is PB&Js.  They know holidays are special to me and endure my long list of photo ops.  They want me close by when they don’t feel good, look to see if I’m on the sidelines at their sporting events, and still like for me to tuck them into bed at night. They have patiently endured my long recoveries from multiple surgeries and have cared for me far better than any private nurse ever could.
I’m crazy about my three bears.  As Goldilocks discovered, they’re just right.

I have known women over the years whose deepest heart’s desire is to be a mother.  They are kind, loving, generous, tender, compassionate, and dedicated to giving their absolute best to the fruit of their womb.  But their womb is empty.  They know all too well the words, ‘barren’, ‘infertile’, and ‘incapable’.  Motherhood defies them, even mocks them.  They pray, they fast, they cry hopeful tears of joy followed by devastated tears of sorrow.  They visit doctors, search the internet, and subject themselves to all sorts of tests and procedures.  All to no avail.  
These women grieve what will never be.
I have also known women over the years who had the opportunity to bask in the glory of being called ‘Mother’.  They are women of integrity, character, strength, and passion.  They know the thrill of announcing, “We’re having a baby!”  Delivering their very own bundle of joy is excruciating and exhilarating, counting fingers and toes is fascinating, and kissing those rose bud lips is glorious.  They have swaddled an infant to their breast, nourished them with the very best nature has to offer, and settled their anxious child with a softly whispered, “shhhhh…Mama’s here.”  But they know the excruciating pain of losing a child – a child of any age – and being forced to say good-bye much too soon. 
 
These women grieve what was.
And over the years I have known women who had the opportunity to be a Mother, women who saw the stripe turn pink or blue and decided – for good reason or for no reason – to end the life of their unborn child.  Whatever your thoughts and feelings about abortion, make no mistake about it: these women grieve, too.  Maybe not publicly, probably without condolences from loved ones, but they grieve.  In the quiet of the night when thoughts will not surrender to sleep, they remember.  As they pass a maternity store window, or gaze across the park at a mother pushing her child in a stroller or on a swing, they remember.  They wonder.
These women grieve what might have been.
None of these women would deny in their heart they want to be, have been, or could have been a mother.  They all had dreams of some sort: to be a Mom, to be a Mom forever, to be a Mom later.  My guess is that for these women Mother’s Day is the most difficult to endure.  Hopes crushed.  Dreams lost.  Choices made.  Innocence lost for both mother and child.  I believe, as Scripture promises, that God keeps their tears in a bottle (Psalms 56:8).  If He in fact knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and sees the sparrow fall (Matthew 10:29), imagine how His heart must break when tears flow from agonizing emptiness, grief, and regret.  
As we approach this Mother’s Day may we look beyond the greeting cards, department stores, perfume counters, and jewelry stores to see those who truly need our love and encouragement ~ these women who would be Mom. 
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