I find myself sitting on the tarmac right now. My neck feels tight and I try to find relief by twisting and stretching from side to side. I am cornered into a window seat with little room to spare. There is an invisible privacy fence positioned between me and the adjacent stranger. She smiles with a sparkle in her eyes as she sits down, but I am alone as she turns and engages the one next to her in a language I cannot understand. As we take off I look down at the outstretched miles of neighborhoods and highways in this mass of humanity. I look forward to returning home, where my bed will be familiar and the pressure of being mom will seem to lessen as the thousands of miles stretch between us.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, a handful of tears well up inside of me and I cannot, nor do I want to, stuff them back inside. I think back on our last few days together and the precious time with each of my young adult daughters.
As I watched one of you with your new friends come squealing off a roller coaster at the amusement park, I felt weary from my own emotional ups and downs. The letting go and holding on, the efforts to offer hope yet not advice, the wrestle of when and if I offer truth and when I just listen, the battle of trying to fix the pain versus letting you sit in it. Sometimes it was so messy!
Meanwhile, I muddled through parts of my own stories of pain and loss, while trying to hold onto hopes and dreams of goodness for you. At times I felt depleted knowing I would leave you again, after a handful of days, to figure it out on your own. No matter how much I tried, I still couldn’t seem to do this mothering thing as perfectly as I had always dreamed.
In recent months I have become more realistic in my mothering goals and have decided to change my expectations. If I can leave you with more blessing than burden I will be content.
Often times this weekend I felt myself on the precipice of failure, but reminding myself of my new objective steadied me when I fell short. Thank you both for your patience with me, and for courageously pushing back when I was out of bounds. I bristled when you did it, but I know it was a gift to me.
As I consider the women I have sat across from this weekend I am amazed by both of you. You are beautiful in your ability to be vulnerable and honest. You are wise beyond your years. Your ability to empathize and listen is remarkable and you are able to enter into confusion and unknowns in ways I see few women able to do. You continue to risk in pursuit of your gifts and passions, and this is a rarity in women today. You trust your gut the best you know, and move toward life despite the cost. You love God without rules that keep you bound. Your freedom is infectious. There is something significant and stunning about you both which draws and repels your peers. It isn’t always easy to walk life the way that you do. When I grow up I want to be like you.
I reflect and thank God for all He has created in you. The breathtaking beauty, the secure depth and stunning wisdom. In all my best efforts I never could have taught, built, or produced this in you. I am in awe of the abundant goodness of God.
Turbulence jolts me back to my to my cramped space and I notice the sweet woman next to me shows concern with her eyes as precious tears of thankfulness stream down my cheeks. As I wipe them away, I laugh and remind myself of what I often tell you, “The world needs cryers more you know!”. And then I sense a conviction traveling down to my gut. I take in a deep breath and open my heart a crack to receive the truth. The still small voice of the trustworthy, all knowing spirit reminds me, and He speaks what I most want to hear, “You my love, have been more blessing than burden.”
Maryhelen Martens is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships. She finds life in authentic conversation, walking alongside others and ultimately Jesus – who has been so kind. Each day, she draws from a larger bowl of grace for herself and others. Maryhelen, a mom of three, currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with Keith, her husband and co-laborer of 29 years.