Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

For the Tired Mommies

“I’m so tired,” I complained offhandedly to my grandmother as we settled in to our Saturday morning phone call.

“What’s the matter, Babydoll?” She questioned with genuine care.

I began to list the litany of things I had done and still needed to do for my young family, culminating in a pseudo-diatribe about the dirty laundry taking over my basement.

“Did your washing machine break?” She wondered aloud.

“No, ma’am,” I responded.

Letting the silence hang loosely for a moment, which I am sure was for dramatic effect, my grandmother then slipped easily back into times passed. “I had a washboard,” she began, explaining its mechanics like only one who had to use it could. As she spoke, I could see her hands, bent outward toward her pinky fingers from years of hard work. I remembered how surprisingly soft they were, defying the coarseness the wrinkles, stiffness, and protruding bones seemed to convey. She described the art of and rationale for, even in these modern times, hanging linen outside on clothes lines, forgetting, I thought, the many times I had helped her with this very task when I spent youthful summers with her in Mississippi. She concluded her story with a memory about getting her first at-home, electric washing machine, needing no longer to schlep bags to and from the laundry mat and up and down stairs in her Chicago apartment.

“I had nine babies,” she said softly and matter-of-factly, “and they were all clean, and their clothes were pressed, and their hair was combed.”

I smiled to myself as I realized her point. She had a way of getting you straight without ever raising her voice or making you feel small. She just laced little stories and remembrances about a conversation, and then in a snap, she’d move on to a new topic, sensing you’d realized whatever you needed to realize with her subtle assistance.

I’m not sure how my dad and his siblings would characterize her as a mother when they and she were younger, but as a grandmother, she had all the quiet regality, matchless wisdom, and fierce resolve that made loving her, listening to her, and just cozying next to her in my pajamas on her gigantic bed so much fun and so worthwhile. And I am missing her terribly today as I thank God for her presence, and the presence of so many other wonderful women, in my life.

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel recounts what his own mother taught him about women and, quite specifically, the virtues and characteristics of a good woman. As I read this chapter, I picture my own mother goading me to hold my head up and advocate for myself, even when I am most afraid to do so. I watch her miraculously making a full meal out of what I see as “nothing to eat” in the pantry. I feel her hands rubbing my head and face as I lay in her lap, seeking her safety and comfort when I need it the most. I remember her hauling us around from store to store trying on boots and winter coats when I am still wearing shorts and flip flops. I cringe from her grabbing me by the waists of pants, hoisting my body upwards, gauging their potential fit months and months later. I see her accepting our challenge for relay races around the perimeter of our house, and I remember her winning! I watch her carefully apply that purplish lipstick in the bathroom mirror, and I mimic the click clack of her heels on the sidewalk as she saunters off to work. And, too,  I listen to her tears late at night when she thinks I am sleeping, sobbing quietly in the safety and darkness of her room.

Today, on this Mother’s Day, I consider how tough motherhood is. We are simultaneously putting on brave faces and falling apart on the inside. Our guilt and the shaming we internalize from others truly gets in the way of our living every moment to the fullest. The dichotomy of responsibility and the utter lack of control we have rips us at the seams. We wonder about our sanity and if it is all worth it. We inch silently to our individual places of solitude in the late hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning, when everyone we love is settled and carefree, and we pray to God for His validation, His ears, and His covering.

And there is where He meets us, just like He said He would. In the midst of the Spiderman toys and tween-aged angst and syrupy fruit cups and dirty laundry littered about our once childless and pristine homes, God meets us. We open our Bibles and we read, “but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised,” and we realize (once again because we’re hardheaded) that God’s grace is sufficient.

It all works out, Friend, exactly the way it is supposed to. God has not abandoned us. He not only sees, but also sympathizes with every hardship we face, and He is still blessing and rewarding us for staying the course in Him. It’s happening right in front of me as I look at my own mother, who is insisting that my son gets the major gift she’s purchased nearly a month earlier than his birthday. It’s happening as I get to witness how truly beloved she is. Her grandchildren, who still rush to the door when she rings the bell, see her with the same eyes I saw my own grandmother. They fawn over her, and she fawns over them. I pray that they continue to get to know her and benefit from her wisdom and stories and subdued chastisements as they navigate the complexities and frustrations of their own lives into adulthood, just like I did. I pray that she realizes how much those days of toil (and those rebellions I embarked on that surely made her question her effectiveness as a parent) long ago are being rewarded today.

We don’t have to be grandmothers ourselves before we realize that God is with us. We can simply look at how he has kept the women we know and love in His care. We don’t have a monopoly on womanly struggle, which my grandmother so elegantly reminded me with her washboard memory, but we do have a God who sees all and knows all and truly cares. So be reminded today that your greatest triumph as a Christian, wife, mother, and woman is loving God with everything in you!

Have a Happy Mother’s Day, Friend!


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