My mother is an amazing woman.
Most people commenting about her say what a lady she is. And it is the first thing you notice.
She is intelligent but gently spoken, and she carries herself well. She likes doilies and little pink flowers. She is a woman who wears pearls while she gardens.
But she also adores king snakes, and she has a thing for those huge black and yellow garden spiders. These creatures are the good ones, you know, the protectors of the outdoors, a woman’s best friend.
After God, husband, and poodle, of course.
I have seen her chop down a tree, barehanded, with an axe.
I have seen her move a couch. By herself. Not dragging it, but lifting it off the ground and setting it gently down, Wonder Woman in blue jeans.
I have seen her saddle a stallion, and I once saw her kill an armadillo with a shovel. Not an easy task. Like hammering a nail with the sole of a shoe. But saddling up horses and protecting kids from rabies and leprosy is an everyday thing in the South.
It’s what you do.
It’s what you do, even if you are a single mom, and you have so many hours set aside for crying on a Saturday afternoon. You chop the trees, you whack the beasts, you put on your pearls, and you take care of the kids.
Single moms are my heroes, especially my mom.
My mother pinched every thin dime we had and somehow made a home on a teacher’s salary. She cooked meals from scratch every day, and, one Easter, she stayed up all night sewing so we could be those girls at church in the beautiful dresses.
We knew we didn’t have what other kids had, but sometimes when I visited their houses, I realized I didn’t want anything different. My mom made a good life for us. And I did see her cry, a lot. But I learned something about pain from her tears.
She hurt, yes.
But my mother never wallowed.
She never took her identity from pain. She did not let betrayal define her life or ours. She had times when she cried. And then she got up. And took us to the park or to the river. And cooked out hamburgers and hot dogs and ate potato chips out of giant generic bright yellow bags. And laughed and sang songs. And enjoyed life, in spite of all the heartbreak.
My mom knew how to focus on what she had, not on what she didn’t.
It is easy to look at someone lovely and only see the pearls. It is easy to look at someone courageous and only see the strength.
It is easy, and sometimes more comfortable, to assume if someone has success, then they must have never known defeat, they must have never known pain like ours, they must have never had to whisper to themselves in the dark.
But mostly, isn’t the opposite true? Most of the people I know who walk in a shocking level of victory have overcome some shockingly terrible thing.
The difference is not that they were never knocked down, but that they decided to get up.
They made certain choices in the face of pain. They gave grief its time but did not let it overtake them. They put emotion in its place and did not let it wash over them. They took their burdens to God and left them at His feet.
The challenge for us comes when we look to their example and decide if we will follow it for ourselves. And it’s an example that Jesus teaches, however much we sometimes twist that message in the church.
When faced with the lame man at the pool, Jesus did not pander to him because of his pain. In fact, we never see Him do this. He said to the man, “Get up.”
My audience here is truly amazing. I have an extremely high level of support. Even so, I have had some criticism of my worldview, and considering the generally encouraging tone I try to set here, I find it surprising. But one of the great joys of writing on the internet is opening yourself to all interpretations of your message, and all the uncensored, unveiled response.
I would say this. Life is messy, and we are walking uncharted territory. If we can’t be honest about these situations, and laugh and grow together, then we are kind of missing the point.
There is always backlash to a message of strength. There is always resentment when someone shares a story of bravery, some secret jealousy or suspicion. There is always that one person worried that courage is just a cover for recklessness, that one person who wants to bring up a few rare exceptions to argue and prove a point and use it to justify their own passivity. That’s fine. This blog might not be for them.
But for the ones who want to get up, welcome.
We are going up, together.
You are in my prayers. I am rooting for you. To focus on what you have and not on what you don’t. To have victory and to enjoy this bloody beautiful life in spite of it all.
With His help, you can get up. You can do it. We can do it. Going up. Together.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat, and walk.” Jn 5:8