Saturday, May 12, 2012

Not-So-Happy Mother's Day

What images does Mother's Day conjure for you? Is it flowers picked by chubby little hands, breakfast in bed, or maybe a big multi-generational dinner at Grandma's house? Does your Mother's Day include a long wait for a table at Mom's favorite restaurant, or maybe its a cross country phone call?
Unfortunately for some, Mother's Day is a holiday that is equivalent to an emotional boot camp. People who fall into this category either spend the day hiding out, refusing to even acknowledge all the public reminders, or spend the day with a fake smile pinned so painfully in place that they fear their cheeks will fall off.
So who are these women that would shirk such a warm and fuzzy holiday?

The Mother who has lost

I remember the first Mother's Day after Leo died I told my husband that I didn't want a single mention of the stupid non-event. It had been only a few short weeks since we lost him and I felt like I didn't deserve to be honored on a day celebrating maternal love and skill. I felt like the most basic part of being a mom was keeping your children alive and look how badly I had botched that! It didn't matter that this thought was completely illogical. I was pissed and not afraid to show it. At least I had two other living children at that time. What about the mom who has lost her only child? Is she no longer a mother? What is she supposed to do on that holiday?

The woman with empty arms

I've had many friends who have struggled with infertility. It's not hard to imagine how a day celebrating what you feel is your greatest lack would really suck. I have heard of many churches and restaurants that pass out flowers to all the moms that walk through the doors. I imagine this must feel so incredibly isolating.

The woman without a mother

Death or abandonment can leave many motherless. How lonely to spend the day remembering what should have or can never be a true celebration.

What can I do?

I am sure there are many categories of women who have a legitimate reason to dread this particular Sunday. How then should we act? I think the best thing to do is to not let them suffer in silence or ignore their pain. Resolve this Mother's Day to reach out to a woman who may be struggling. Tell her you admire her, tell her you know today is hard, or just give her a hug. Just don't let her hurt alone.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Wedding That Wasn't

This has been the most exhausting, exhilirating, disappointing, and wonderful weekend that I can remember in ages. Let me explain:
Last week I heard about a group of college students that go to my church that were planning a wedding for a homeless couple. WHAT???? Talk about right up my alley! I have been really focused on learning to serve the homeless community here in Mobile for the past few months and I am obsessively head over heels crazy about weddings!!! You throw the two together and I was in a mission minded girly frenzy! I met last Wednesday with a few of the students planning the wedding and heard all about what they had already done to get this nuptial show on the road.
You ever have one of those moments when words leave your mouth at the same instant that the thought forms in your brain? I think those moments are Divinely inspired. Others probably call them crazy. In any case, "Hey, let's have the wedding at my house!" flew out before really thinking about it. Thank you, Jesus, that I have an understanding husband who doesn't mind rolling with my wacky ideas. Now that I was on board we had only a few days until the wedding on Sunday. Word spread about what these college kids were doing; and many people donated items for decorating, donated food, and donated cash. It was beyond words watching all of this unfold. A group of six students even came to my house and volunteered hours of yard work to make sure my back yard was in perfect shape for the ceremony.
Let me tell you about these young men and women. These students bought the bride a wedding dress and many decorations with money out of their own pockets. They solicited donations and coordinated with a local restaurant who generously donated food. They scrounged up tables, chairs, and a hundred other items that go into an event like this. In short, they were AMAZING! Did I mention that all of this was during finals week????  I know when I was in college the only thing I was focused on during finals week was passing my classes and keeping a steady stream of caffeine coursing through my veins. Yup, these kids are my new heroes!
The day before the wedding had me and my 14 year old daughter spending the morning at Tent City (a homeless community in Mobile). It was her first time going to Tent City and I was curious what her reaction might be, but she dived right in and just loved on them totally with no fear or awkwardness at all. Here is a pic showing her sitting outside one of the camps:
The rest of Saturday found me and my girls getting our house ready, and the college kids finalizing all of the other arrangements. We even paused to snap a few pictures as my 17 year old went off to a dance. As you can see her little brother wanted to chaperone.

Sunday came with the same flurry of activity that accompanies any wedding. The college kids showed up at my house in the morning and began decorating, setting out tables and chairs, and stringing hundreds of fairy lights.
When it all was done my backyard and patio looked like it could have been the site for even the most proper society wedding. Yet again, these students' skill, creativity, and hard work blew me away.
At around 12:30 I took two of the girls to go pick up the bride at a predetermined spot where she had been spending time with a husband and wife ministry team. When we pulled up, the atmosphere seemed tense. The minister's wife asked for us to just hang around for awhile because they needed to talk to the bride and groom about some things. We watched from my car as they sat in a tight circle about twenty feet away in deep conversation. Our hearts sank as we realized something was very wrong. Finally about twenty minutes later the minister's wife came over and said that "some things had come to light over the weekend" and they "no longer felt comfortable participating in or officiating the wedding." They asked us to hang around for awhile longer and resumed their talk with the homeless couple. A few minutes later the groom approached my car and explained that they had a call in to another minister that they hoped would agree to conduct the ceremony. The girls and I sat just staring shocked at each other hardly believing this turn of events. Finally I suggested that the girls and I return to my house where we would await word from the bride and groom about whether the wedding would go forward. Frankly, having to explain to the rest of the group, who were putting the finishing touches on the decorations, that the wedding didn't look like it would take place completely sucked. These kids worked harder than you can possibly imagine and spent way more of their own money on an event that they believed that God had led them to do. Shortly after, we received the call that the wedding would not happen that day.  They were angry, they were hurt, they felt that they had completely been let down. I'm not going to lie, I was totally pissed. Why weren't we given some kind of clue even the night before that this wedding might not happen? We could have put a halt to the food preparation, the Wedding Arch delivery, all the last minute purchases and the countless hours cleaning and decorating. Why were we only clued in at the last minute???
Thankfully I received a call from their College Group Leader with wise words that I needed to hear in that moment:
"Those kids did exactly what they were supposed to do. They were obedient to what they felt God called them for in all of this. In all types of ministry, people will let you down; but we aren't ultimately doing this for other people or ourselves. We are doing this because we love Jesus. These kids will be blessed."
I realized then in one of those "Sucker Punch from the Holy Spirit" moments of insight that God's picture is way bigger than ours. We only get to see a small part of the backside of life's tapestry with all of its snarls and knotted thread. God sees the completed side with its perfection of design. Am I still irritated? Sure, but I know it will all work out for these students because they are dedicated, hard working, and are willing to totally make themselves vulnerable to love those that society regularly ignores.
It was too late to stop the food preparation so we decided that, though the wedding was cancelled, we were still going to have an amazing party! The ironic thing is that an unexpected thunderstorm flared up right at the time the wedding was supposed to take place. All of the tables, chairs and decorations were quickly stowed under my carport and everyone found a spot indoors. Ransom Cafe brought an incredible spread of food and my den was turned into a dance club. It was one of the best parties I've ever been to and how blessed was I that it was in my own home?
Here is a blurry cell phone pic of my den turned dance club:

I was so proud of the way they shucked off their disappointment and just decided to be the awesome, goofy kids that I grew to love this weekend.

So I think the best lesson that I learned all through this is that if this next generation will one day be in charge of the world, I know we are all going to be just fine.