Sunday marked my 30th Mother’s Day.
It was the 30th that has come and gone without my biological mother to celebrate with.
I know what you might be whispering: “Oh, Marissa, I’m sorry!” To which I will no longer reply, “It’s okay,” followed by an awkward, forced smile.
My heart’s mended enough to acknowledge mine for what it is: a deeply sad reality–a reality that our gracious Heavenly Father has long desired to walk me through.
But this was not always my realization. I didn’t let myself “go there” emotionally for quite some time. Yes, mine was a sad reality, but I would build a dam of smiles and “It’s okay’s” every time someone would show some semblance of sympathy. The dam I erected held back the sea of emotions that time and again would be breached without any forewarning. King Solomon was so wise: “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” (Proverbs 14:14)
Today I consider the “breach” to my formerly “dammed” emotions a sort of grace.
God gives us grace to experience sorrowful emotions not to bury them. As we bear them, He invites us to behold Him–the One who comforts those who mourn.
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 5: 4)
The first time the dam was breached was in my dorm room during my freshman year at UF. My tears soaked my dear friend’s jeans that evening. The tears would come in torrents. That was the beginning. There were more layers of healing–of comfort to come–because God would not relent in inviting me to experience His more. He is the Good Shepherd of our souls. (Psalm 23)
The second breach came many years later. I was pregnant with Ariella. One day, seemingly out of thin air, my mind was flooded…flooded with questions. How was I to be a mother to my child without the example of my own mother to glean from? How was I to know that I would be a “good one” at that? How would I raise and nurture a young infant into womanhood, where I help to set the stage for a life that loves God and loves the people He loves.
My insecurities were very real–as real as the pain of not having the reassuring voice of a mother to quiet them. But God wanted to be the One to reassure me in her absence, though I didn’t perceive it at the time.
He knew that one day I would.
After that tear-ridden time, I remained uncertain. I dried my eyes and waited for their puffiness to subside before venturing out into the world again with a shaky, self-assured smile and the dam, once more, fully intact to hold the sea of unwelcome emotions back.
Until this year…
Two days before my 30th Mother’s Day, Ariella, now 2-years-old, presented me with my first Mother’s Day flowers. How it warmed my heart to hear her rush into our home, calling out, “Mommy, where are yoooooooou!” The smile across her face as she graced me with her gift, pink and yellow flowers arranged in a mason jar, melted this mother’s heart like nothing else.
Later that evening during Ariella and her dad’s soccer and park outing, my buried sorrows would surface yet again.
It happened as I cleared out Ariella’s dresser of 18 month clothes she’d finally outgrown. Her outgrown clothing was a tangible reminder that she was maturing, and it dawned on me later that so was I.
This time, I would no longer compare my emotions to the unwelcome levee breach that broke forth grief when Hurricane Katrina pushed the sea inland. The sea of my emotions swept in differently.
I was different this time.
The posture of my heart made all the difference. I embraced it all. More than that, I embraced how God could usher in comfort, peace, wholeness. The same God who would calm turbulent waters in a sea-tossed boat 2000+ years ago, would whisper to mine: “Be still and know that I AM…”
What satan and my melancholy temperament could have used to usher in doubt, despair and depression, with eyes fixed on my good Heavenly Father, He displaced the lies that flooded my mind in the past, replacing them with the Truth of His comfort and redemptive might.
Two days prior to Mother’s Day in Ariella’s room, as the emotions came in, I surrendered, allowing myself to “go there” emotionally. I admitted that my experience without my biological mother was something to mourn and not hide behind a fragile smile.
Mine wasn’t the only one, however. In the very few memories I had of my mother, I do recall that she smiled often. Perhaps she too had erected a dam, for I was told that her life was one of many sorrows and hardships–much more than I would ever know. It literally brought me to tears wondering about the heartache she must have endured to not have her own mother around and a step mother who was supposedly unkind amid all the other hardships my mother faced.
My mother’s was a difficult life at best. There are many questions that will go unasked and remain unanswered, especially since she passed when I was 18. Still, I know enough…and have experienced enough to know that both our lives included much sadness.
My heart breaks for me…and it breaks for her, my mother, Marie-France.
On the morning of my 30th Mother’s Day, I articulated something that I had never expressed in my heart. On that third day after my sorrow was revisited, the proverbial dam was destroyed with these words: I love her.
As I recount that now while penning this post, in my mind’s eye I see an image of water and in it a submerged branch.
My name, Marissa, by one definition, means “of the sea”. In the Bible there was a sea named Marah; it was one of bitterness, undrinkable, unable to refresh the thirsty Israelites as they set out on their journey from Egyptians slavery. However, when God spoke the word, Moses dipped a branch into the bitter sea and miraculously it became sweet. God’s people would drink and be refreshed. (Exodus 15, Zachariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:2; Jeremiah 33:15; Isaiah 11:1; Acts 2:30)
As with most things in the Old Testament, this history foreshadows God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ for all who would truly believe in their hearts, thereby following Him with their lives.
Jesus is the Branch who changes the bitterness in our lives on this earth into sweet. His Presence alone bears that redemptive power through Holy Spirit.
If my name should mean “of the sea”, I don’t wish my sea to be one of bitterness or despair, but one that’s experienced the Presence of the Living Branch, Jesus, who transforms me from the inside out. (Zechariah 3)
He makes my life sweet, because though there are sorrows, I can mean it when I say, basking in His love and kindness towards me: “It is well with my soul.” His comfort has given me peace that transcends understanding–the bridge to my hope, which leads to my joy.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
That is the purpose of this post.
On Mother’s day this year, I realized that, at least in part, the dam that I erected was one of bitterness. I would not willingly allow myself to experience the sorrowful emotions, because I refused to mourn willingly. I was bitter. Why did life have to deal me such a terrible hand? Why me!? And in the fight against self pity, as I dammed in my emotions, my mind whispered, “Why the tears!”
When “why me” turned to “why us”, I then realized that no one is exempt from the pains of this world. I surely wasn’t. Neither was my dear mother!
Neither are you.
Our sorrows come in various shapes and sizes and at different times in our lives. The truth for everyone on God’s green earth is that we will suffer loss. That’s the nature of our lives on this side of Heaven. Going down the trail of a theological dissertation on the “problem of pain” as some have coined it, is not what I endeavor to do in this prose. Theology in its merely cerebral, heady form never helped the religious teachers of old in Jesus’ day–it made them proud and distant. They knew the Scriptures, but they missed the Jesus who they pointed to all along. Knowing the Truth for who He is, Jesus Christ, God with us, Emmanuel, is what changes us and grants us peace and comfort…and joy.
Experiencing the power of God’s presence in the midst of pain, IS what turns the bitterness of my realities…our realities…into sweet! He can help us to mourn, and as we have our eyes fixed on His love, He’ll help us to mend.
Each year of my life I’ve chosen the Psalm that corresponds with my age to be a sort of anthem where I highlight specific verses. Oh, how the 30th Psalm resonates this year. I forgot about this yearly tradition until the day before Mother’s Day, when I believe God brought it back to remembrance. It remains the timely balm for my soul, even after experiencing my 30th Mother’s Day without my biological mother to celebrate. God is a good, good Father.
He’s always speaking. That’s not in question. The question IS: Are we listening?
He can help us to mourn, and as we have our eyes fixed on His love, He’ll help us to mend.
I pray that you will open yourself up to embrace all that He has to give–even the comfort that will help you to live joyfullyalive in Him…in the midst of your sorrows of the past, future or present…
Joy can come in the mourning. Who knows! God may even send someone into your life to help you to realize His grace in helping you to experience precisely that! In fact, I pray that He does. But nothing replaces spending time, allowing Him to speak to us through His Word.
HE’S encouraged my soul through Ariella Grace and through these timely words from her father written to me on my 3rd Mother’s Day with her: “You’re a beautiful example to Ariella. Keep loving her towards Christ and raising her in His Truth.” ~ Andrew
God’s always speaking to us all. That’s not in question. The question IS: Are we listening?
Andy had no clue how timely his words. The following was timely encouragement as well. God is so faithful to give us what we need. But are we open to receive?
….5b Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
….11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
Heavenly Father, you are God and you are good. Thank you for your kindness even when we’ve felt that life has been so terribly unkind to our loved ones. The prince of this world has come to steal, kill, and destroy, You said to your disciples 2,000+ years ago. But you didn’t leave them without hope: “But I have come to bring life, and life more abundantly.”
Thank You for the hope that we can have in You. Thank You for the ways You continue to invite our hearts and minds to listen to Your heartbeat of love towards us. We don’t have all the answers. We will never know all that You see above the stormy clouds that limit our vision of the sun at times. However, help us to realize that though we don’t see it, in You there is always hope…there is always Your light at the end…You will work everything out for the good of those who love You–who are called according to Your purposes in Christ Jesus, Heavenly Father.
May we know that You see above the clouds. You see what’s ahead, and as we choose to walk with You, our hands in Yours, You will lead us into a redemptive future where joy comes through the mourning. You can turn our mourning into joyful dancing. You can take away our clothes of mourning and clothe us with Your joy, so we may sing praise to You and not be silent with our thanksgiving.
Give us the grace to bear the load of our pain only long enough to recognize the need to surrender it all into Your loving hands. You were willing to bear the load of our sin through your passionate sacrifice, in Jesus Christ, so, great is Your willingness to even bear our pain–the pain of our great sorrows here on earth. Jesus became a Man of Sorrow, acqainted with grief so that we could experience relief…Your comfort and peace.
I thank You God and pray that You will bring comfort. Please give us the grace to receive what You’ve always been ready and willing to gift us with!
For those who have been waiting, the follow up post to “Good Friday…just not good enough”, will arrive in your inbox shortly. It’s a post that’s taking quite some time to articulate fully, so I thank you for your patience. As I shared in “Why JoyfullyAlive?”: “I’m not sure the path this joyride will take, but this I know for certain: The destination is already determined by the One to whom I pray: Jesus, you lead the way!”
Thank you for joyning us along this joyney. 🙂