How are you ever prepared to live with the mother’s heart inside of you?
How are you ever prepared to live with the mother’s heart that beats for children in unexpected and unfathomable ways?
For the aching for children held in hearts instead of hands.
For the breaking for children who live in heaven instead of homes.
For the longing for children who exist only in dreams and not in wombs.
For the swelling of an incomprehensible love that longs to burst forth and pour out.
How did I ever miss the beating of your hearts?
And then they became the beat of my own broken and bereaved heart, and I see you’re never prepared.
How are you ever prepared to live with the mother’s heart inside of you?
With the mother’s heart that beats for children in both expected and unexpected ways and to unanticipated depths.
For the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that ensues.
For the guilt that weighs.
For the selfishness that hinders.
For the fears and worries that attack.
For the overwhelming desires to love and shield and shepherd.
…And of course I could go on and on, forever I’m sure, but you get the picture…
How did I see you mothering but miss the depths of your love and struggles?
And then they became the beat of my own stretched out, expanded, vulnerable heart as I love and struggle with mothering two rainbow boys, and I see even then you’re never prepared for this thing called mothering.
Perhaps one of the greatest blessings to come from all the unexpected ways motherhood has come upon me and shaped my mother’s heart is how everything has opened my eyes to you.
The ones with a mother’s heart.
You know who you are. And I don’t want to miss you. And I don’t want the world to miss you either. Especially this weekend, but every other day as well.
This afternoon I pulled out the thick white book tucked safely away in my closet and thumbed through the pages. I stopped when I reached the date May 10, 2010. The entry begins, “Well… I survived last week (glad it is over), which also means I survived Mother’s Day.”
My eyes skim delicately through the words. I read, “I will admit, I avoided church this weekend. I couldn’t face it, face the unknown. I didn’t know what it would be like if I went. Would they ask the mothers to stand? Would they pass out flowers to the mothers?… I couldn’t face it. Mostly because even the church fails to recognize the pain of Mother’s Day for many women like myself… I didn’t want to start my day out feeling like my motherhood was in question or non-existent… So I didn’t go.”
That was my first Mother’s Day, which also happened to be my first Mother’s Day without my child, my little girl having died just 4 months before. I was hurting, empty, scared. Wanting to be seen, afraid of being unseen and the pain that would cause.
And then I began to see all the women around me with mother’s hearts like mine. And I might dare to say that I think over the years the world is making progress in seeing us too. I know our current church home recognizes us. I see various sources and news outlets on social media recognizing us too just this week. I don’t remember that before.
So whether you’re reading this and you’re the mom with no child beside her, visiting your child in her mind or at a cemetery, aching to hold them. Whether you find no children in your home because you’re an empty nester or you’re struggling with an empty womb and deep longings. Whether you’re rubbing your expectant round belly growing with new life. Whether you’re rocking a baby and nursing and reading this at the same time. Whether you’re changing diapers or chasing toddlers or watching them graduate or walking them down the aisle. Whether you’ve given birth to all your babes or adopted or fostered or are waiting… I could go on and on with all the ways the mother’s heart can appear for there are so many… whatever the story behind your mother’s heart, I hope know you’re seen today.
Whether or not I see your children, I see your mother’s heart.
The mother’s heart loves and struggles… with fears, worries, dreams, grief, identity, worth, weakness, exhaustion, selfishness, guilt, doubt, pain, inadequacy… and so much more.
The struggles may very in type and degree, but every mother’s heart beats and struggles in common ways. And most of the time we never knew our hearts could experience such depths and heights and struggles.
Here’s what I’ve also learned as my mother’s heart has beat through each of my struggles (as a bereaved mother, a mother of rainbow babies, a mother of boys, a mother of a strong willed child, a mother of children with allergies, a mother of Army brats, a mother who shepherds her children to know and love Jesus):
God created my mother’s heart, and while nothing may have prepared me for it, He knows it, and He alone provides for it.
Nothing may have prepared you for the struggles of your mother’s heart and the ways in which it beats. But I can assure you that God will provide for every need of your mother’s heart.
When our hearts struggle, He provides.
When our hearts grieve, He comforts.
When our hearts fear, He brings peace and courage.
When our hearts feel unworthy, He calls us worthy.
When our hearts feel unloved, He loves us perfectly.
When our hearts worry, He calms with truth as we trust.
When our hearts are scared to dream, He births dreams and writes new chapters.
When our hearts weaken, He strengthens them.
When our hearts feel inadequate, He says we are enough and fills our gaps.
When our hearts feel unseen, He sees them.
When our hearts struggle with guilt, He covers us with grace.
When our hearts break, He binds them back together.
I hope you can see the pattern here:
For every need of our mother’s hearts, God has a provision.
To the ones with mother’s hearts, God sees you and is doing a mighty and beautiful thing with these mother’s heart of ours. And I don’t know about you, but whenever I get a glimpse into His work, nothing makes my heart more joyful or beat stronger or feel fuller or more alive.
Trust that God will provide for your heart today, speaking His perspective, wisdom and truth into your mother’s heart in your mothering season.
Expect God to speak to your heart today, to provide for your heart, and may you find glimpses of Him in unexpected ways to brighten and encourage your heart today.
I turned the page and looked back at the end of that entry from May 10, 2010, that first Mother’s Day I was a mother, and I came across the evidence of God meeting the needs of my mother’s heart even then in the worst season of my life, surprising me in unexpected ways. That rose I wrote about not too long ago. It’s there in the pages.
“God blessed me with several gifts this weekend… He gave me His peace which allowed me to survive and smile yesterday. But He also gave me some unexpected gifts. He blessed me with a beautiful, vibrant, pink rose that fully bloomed [on Mother’s Day]… more beautiful than the pink rose our friend delivered to use the day Hailey died and more beautiful than the pink rose I placed on her casket the day we buried her… I like to think that this rose was a gift from Him and Hailey…”
That first Mother’s Day God provided for my empty and broken mother’s heart.
Seven Mother’s Day later and my heart still has scars and cracks, but is fuller and deeper than ever as God continues to provide so graciously for me and grow me.
God continues to meet me in unexpected ways, and every day I’m learning to have an expectant heart for His unexpected ways and His love and provision and promises that I can expect.
This week we found ourselves “back home” in Illinois where our baby girl is buried. In bed the night before we were to head back our home here in Tennessee, I realized we were about to leave without having visited her. To be honest, it wrecked me a little inside for simple and complicated reasons. But I needed to visit her.
A mother’s longing for her child in heaven. This is what it looks like here on earth some days.
So we pulled up to her cemetery in our van with her brothers before we left town the next morning. No words spoken other than to tell her brothers we were stopped to visit Sister’s grave. Of course which I forgot would quickly bring about a plethora of innocent questions about her and death and who knows what else from the hearts and mouths of our babes in the van.
Sometimes being a slow processor comes naturally to me and it’s frustrating. Other times it comes naturally and I choose to welcome it and retreat within it. This was one of those times. Slow processing means I can shove down emotions. This enabled me to choose to keep a joyful spirit sharing transparently with my boys about their sister and praying quietly within my own heart as we visited her grave site.
My husband and I reached down to wipe a layer of mowed grass residue from the hard black stone with her name. Unexpectedly, little hands joined ours and together we cleaned their sister’s headstone. Our boys observed and commented how they liked the butterflies and cross etched into her stone. There was a mixture of answering their innocent questions and quiet silence. After a few minutes, we said it was time to go. I turned to walk toward the car only to be stopped by the voice of my oldest saying something along the lines of, “Hold on mom I need to give sister a hug.”
And then I watched the most unexpected sight. His 5 year old little arms wrapped around his sister’s black headstone; he tilted his head sideways and rested it on top. He never met her and understanding he has a sister who came before him and died as a baby is difficult I’m sure. But here he was loving and hugging his “big” baby sister in the only way he could. It was so normal and natural to him. And as soon as his little arms reached for the hug, his little brother, two years old, followed suit. And there stood my two rainbow babies, Hailey’s brothers, hugging the hard stone of their sister’s grave, smiling, and saying goodbye to her.
And in my slow processing and hiding and holding back all the emotions that asked to come forth, I inhaled deeply and gave thanks as I felt God hug my own heart simultaneously.
A wordless whisper. A knowing. This moment this week. This was my mother’s day gift.
And it was perfect. For my bereaved mother’s heart. For my rainbow mother’s heart. For my heart.
The rare gift of visiting my daughter the only way I can, of a closeness to her, as close as I can physically be this side of heaven… The gifts of two healthy boys to love and care for and shepherd and momma. The gift of being together with my three children in this moment.
This was not as I expected or ever wanted. But I will count this as good and be grateful.
God saw the needs of my mother’s heart before I even know what they would be this Mother’s Day. And He faithfully provided.
God knows your needs too. He will provide. Hold on. Trust. Expect.
Happy Mother’s Day to the one with a mother’s heart. May He surprise you with His love and goodness today.