To All the Mothers Who Glue Things Back Together

When I was in the 4th grade our teacher offered incentives for reading and writing. Students who reached certain milestones were allowed to pick out a small ceramic object from the arts and crafts cabinet and paint it during class.

As and avid reader and writer I earned several, but it was a ceramic teddy bear that I had my eye on and I was beyond thrilled the day I was able to paint it and take it home. I couldn’t wait to show my mother. I was proud of my prize and even prouder of my paint job – an adorable, brown teddy bear with a green neck scarf and blue eyes, holding a heart. I worked really hard to make sure it was just right.

I rushed off the school bus that evening with the ceramic teddy bear in hand. I was so desperate to show my mother that as I sprinted up the steps to the house I tripped and fell, dropping the teddy bear. It smashed into dozens of pieces, as did my heart. I wept loudly as my mother rushed out to see what had happened. I showed her my broken prize, now just a mess of shards. I was devastated.

“Don’t worry,” my mother comforted me. “I can glue this back together.”

With that she gathered all the pieces and ushered me inside for a snack to soothe my angst.

That day she glued that whole thing back together, just like she said she would. It had cracks and chips but was good enough to make me feel proud once again.

And that’s what mothers do. We comfort, we soothe, and we put things back together. We are glue. We create bonds to repair the damage done by forces we can’t control. When our children hurt their pain sticks to us and we carry it as if it were our own.

We couch bad news, fix scrapes, hug away anger. We pick up the broken pieces of our children’s problems probably more often than we should and we painstakingly glue them back together. Our patch-up jobs may have cracks and fissures and chips, but they are completed with love and complete devotion.

I don’t remember if I thanked my mother. I probably didn’t. Now that I’m a mother the gravity of what she did that day strikes me in a way it could not have at nine years old. I’m quite sure she would have rather been doing anything else than hunching over piece of cheap ceramic, fitting the pieces back together until her eyes went blurry and her fingers went numb. I know that that is last thing I’d want to be doing any day of the week.

Yet, she did it. She did it because she’s my mother, and her heart could not be whole until mine was. So she labored, thanklessly. That’s what we mothers do.

Recently my mother lost her own mother. This is sad but this is also the destination of every one of us…if we are lucky. Parents are not meant to outlive their children and it is a privilege to be able to exit this world before them. However, we still miss who our parents are to us, who they were and how they sacrificed. As my mother grieves for her own mother, I would just like to use the space afforded to me in this column to say this:

Thank you, Mom. Thank you for all the days you hunched over impossible tasks just to soothe my broken spirit.

And to all the mothers out there who put things back together on a regular basis…Happy Mother’s Day.

I Hate This Sign. It’s a Total Lie

I hate this sign.

This sign is in the front yard of a couple of my neighbors and I really hate it. I hate it because it’s some kind of virtue signaling. I don’t want to assume motivations but it is safe to say the word ‘hate’ has recently become tragically coopted by the American left. These days it seems to refer to anyone who doesn’t espouse the same ideologies as the coastal elites. But mostly I hate it because it isn’t true.

The problem I have with this whole ‘hate’ conversation we’ve been having in public discourse lately is that ‘hate’ has been assigned to one side of the argument (the right) and ‘love’ has been assigned to the other (the left) and that is just a destructively dishonest characterization on both accounts.

It illustrates a woeful lack of understanding of human nature and the nature of hate.

We all have hate in our hearts and in our homes. Whether we voted for Hillary or Trump, believe in socialism or free markets, prefer dogs or cats it makes no difference.  There is no home on this planet, not one anywhere that doesn’t house hate in some way, shape or form. Our political ideologies do not immunize us from hatefulness.

That is because hate is not an action or a type of speech. Hate is a condition of the heart, and the heart of man is wicked.

My neighbor may very well believe she does not allow hate in her home but that would be a terrible lie she tells herself. I would bet my prized “Bob and Doug McKenzie: The Great, White North” record that if we questioned her long enough we would find someone she truly hates. Maybe it’s the lady at the grocery store who uses checks but never bothers to pull out her checkbook until after the cashier gives her the total.

Maybe it’s our neighbor down the street who lets her dog poop on other people’s lawns and then refuses to pick it up because “it makes me gag.”

I’ll bet my Star Wars puzzle collection her kids have screamed “I hate you!” at least once inside the walls of that home.

Maybe she hates Trump voters or Republicans or Taylor Swift. Maybe she hates child abusers, her husband’s ex or her stepkids. Maybe she hates herself.

The point is, she hates something. Everyone does. It takes a special type of arrogance to believe that you and your household are incapable of hatred simply because you say so.

This is why the race conversation in America can never truly be held, at least not honestly. The root of racism isn’t white people or privilege or America…the root of racism is hate, and hate is just another word for sin. We are all sinners. Our hearts rebel against love and obedience from the moment we are born. Racism isn’t some special kind of sin, it is merely yet another symptom of our sinful nature.

Hang on to your pearls, because I’m about to take it to church for a minute. 

This is why God must intervene before a statement such as the one on the sign can even begin to be true. The irreligious left loves to “challenge” the Judeo-Christian model of divinity by saying “God is love,” as if He is nothing else. They think “love” means the absence of hate, but that is not love at all. Love is a verb. It requires forward motion, deliberate action. It is so very easy to say, “I don’t hate anyone” but it is exponentially harder to say “I love everyone, even my enemies.” You can’t even begin to comprehend what it means to love everyone if you don’t understand the nature of Love.

That type of Love is not possible without the guidance, grace and mercy of a loving God who is also a wrathful God; a God who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to wipe away the consequence of our sin – death – and make a way for us to be near Him again.

He did not send His son to die only for Democrats or only for people who believe in gay marriage or only for pro-lifers. Christ came for sin, not virtue…and sin lives in every one of us. As He sacrificed to extend love and grace to us, so are we called to make the same sacrifice for each other. There is no sacrifice involved in only loving people who think like you do. There isn’t even a little bit of difficulty in that.

That sign is easy, and that’s why it’s there. My neighbor need not make any other gestures for everyone to know she hates hate. The sign is a cheap replacement for the only thing that can really combat hate – the active, deliberate application of the tolerant, deep, accepting Love of Christ for even the worst among us.

Even those dirty Trump voters.

Even that racist family member.

Even for you.

A Valentine for the Perfectly Imperfect Mother

*Click here to listen to the audio version of this post.

It’s Valentine’s Day and where I live this day is full of love and sweetness…and tests. Mommy tests to see if you are a worthy competitor in the child-rearing wars. Tests to see if you really care about your child and their social status in the classroom.

I have never been good at tests.

First, we have to make a card for every single child in my girl’s overcrowded classroom. Fair enough.

Then last night my daughter informs me “We’re supposed to buy candy to put with every Valentine.”

Well, poop. It’s 5 minutes before I leave for the evening to take my husband out for his birthday.

John Wick Chapter 2. Awesome. See it.

Oh, and it’s also lunch exchange. You fill out papers with your ideal lunch, then everyone is assigned a lunch exchange partner and you have to pack that kid the perfect lunch for Valentine’s Day.

I can’t fail this test, even if it means a couple of stops in the evening on the way home from date night.

Except suddenly it’s 10pm and I’m coming out of the movie with my husband and we’re excited about John Wick and the next movie (oh, there’ll be another one) and that scene where the bad guy gets stabbed in the crotch and my husband says he’d rather just die after that.

We’re laughing and enjoying each other and I forget about the grocery store and the perfect lunch. I forget about the cards and the candy and by the time we get home we’re exhausted because when you get to be our age 10pm on a school night might as well be 2am.

And now here we are, busily getting ready for school and all of a sudden I realize – the cards aren’t finished!

I set my daughter to work quickly assembling these pieces of paper that will be destroyed or thrown away within hours of their gifting. As she does so I start to pack the perfect lunch for someone named Megan. Of course, I’ve lost the sheet that tells me what Megan’s perfect lunch is so I have to go from memory. Ham and cheese sandwich? I think so.

I pull out the bread and start assembling.

“Mom, no!” I hear my daughter shout. “My teacher says we can’t use white bread because it’s not good for you. We have to use the brown stuff.”

I roll my eyes and assure her that no one will die from a white-bread sandwich on this one day in the entire history of their lives. I’m not confident I’m right. I say it anyway.

Did Megan say she liked pudding cups or Nutella snack sticks? I have both. I’ll do both. If she likes neither she can trade…oh, except you’re not allowed to trade lunch items in school anymore. So I guess she’ll suffer from malnutrition and rejection.

My daughter yells at me.

“Mom! You forgot the raspberries! Megan said she wants raspberries!”

I sigh. There is no such luxury in this house.

Seeing all the junk in this “perfect” lunch, I realize there’s no way I can send it without some fruit. That’s enough to get a visit from CPS around these parts. I look around until my eyes finally lay on a single, sad, browning, spotted banana. Not quite fresh, but not quite inedible. My daughter wrinkles her adorable nose in disgust but I have no time for her judgment. Megan needs a fruit and that clock is ticking.

Now we’re supposed to put the lunch in a cute, special little paper bag or shoebox that is carefully decorated for V-day. Would you care to wager how many of either I have on hand?

Having no containers of an appropriate size for Megan’s perfect lunch, I have no other option but to use the giant paper grocery bag I got at Sprouts the last time I wanted to seem like I cared about the environment.

The bag is eleventy-billion times too big for the perfect lunch but my daughter packs it up anyway. Her cards are not filled out but they’re assembled and with 3 minutes until go-time that seems good enough to me.

“Mom! I don’t have enough cards!”

Oh, for the love of…

There are 32 kids in the class. I bought two boxes of cards with 16 cards each in them. The perfect amount.

But when you’re a parent there’s no such thing as perfect and my children apparently decided to goof around and waste 3 cards writing dumb notes to each other.

“Your friends stink.”

“Not Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Booooo!!!”

Great. Now 3 children will have their self-esteem irreversibly crushed because they will be the only ones who didn’t get a crappy, candyless V-day paper from the tall girl. I see my husband’s eyes. They are half bemused, half-annoyed. “When are you ever going to pull it together?” they say without letting the words spill from his lips.

We stuff my daughter’s backpack with the unmarked cards and the least-perfect perfect lunch with white bread and brown bananas and then I push her out the door. For a brief second I feel relieved. This must be what God felt like on the 7th day.

The chaos of the morning looks back at me, accusing me, judging me. I imagine the room mom and teacher exchanging sad, knowing looks when they see my daughter’s non-perfect perfect lunch and subpar cards.

I have failed to be the perfect mom. Again.

I grab my cup of coffee and remind myself that I might not be the most domestic stay-at-home mother on earth, but I am home. I have given up so much of what I hoped and dreamed for in my career and my personal life in order to be at home. I have fought the boredom and melancholy that comes with it, fought the urge to scream at other mothers who say they could “never be at home all day with my kids. It would drive me crazy.”  Yes, if frigging drives me nuts! This is why we call it “sacrifice.” I’m not doing something I was made to do. I’m making an investment in my kids now that hopefully will pan out for them later. That’s it!

I think about last night’s date with my husband, a man I’ve been married to for 18 years who has been a faithful husband, father and provider without complaint. I think about the work we’ve put into our marriage to ensure a solid, stable ground for our children to build their futures upon. I think about praying over them when they’re sick or nervous for a test or just sad.

For just a few brief moments I think about all the ways I haven’t failed my children and I give myself the tiniest pat on the back. It could be worse. I am not a perfect mother and I don’t pack perfect lunches (or any, for that matter), but I am the perfect mother for my children and I know they would never want anyone else to call “mommy”.  In the end, my children won’t remember this disastrous V-day, but they will remember that I was home for them when they walked in the door from a long day at school with the children of other, perfect parents.

They’ll remember the warmth of these crazy, chaotic days and that is more valuable than anything and I know it’s important to give myself credit for that.

As I set about tidying up I suddenly come across the sheet of instructions from the teacher for V-day and peruse it as I bask in this brief but crisp moment of contentment.

Crap.

The kids were supposed to wear red today.

 

 

 

The #UnintendedJoy of Reluctant Motherhood

This week is the week of “choices.” It is School Choice Week (a passion of mine) and it is also the week of March for Life, where we are once again made aware of the issue of “choice” in pregnancy and abortion.

As we head into the annual March for Life on Washington this Friday, #UnintendedJoy is currently popping up across Twitter – women and men sharing their stories of how an unintended pregnancy led to unimaginable joy and thanksgiving. Pundit Mary Katherine Ham penned a particularly moving article about her amazing baby girl, born just two months after the loss of her husband, Jake in a tragic accident.

I don’t have any stories of such magnitude. I’m blessed to be parenting two amazing children with my husband of 18 years. I’ve never had an unplanned pregnancy and since I was very young I always knew I wouldn’t want to be a single parent and planned my life (and sex life) accordingly.

My story feels inadequate compared to others, but I wanted to share it anyway, in case a young woman is out there who might be moved in some way by my very simple but life-changing tale.

I never wanted to be a mother. I always viewed children as a burden.  I knew of almost no one in my own family who actively planned their families. Rarely did I see a pregnancy met with joy, only concern and disappointment. Of course, that always changed once baby arrived, but the sentiments stuck with me and I unknowingly internalized them. I didn’t want to create the same kind of burden for myself that I had visited upon my single mother.

Then something crazy happened. I fell in love with a family man. A wonderful man, the son of a dedicated pastor and stay-at-home-mother, raised in a stable home with three other siblings. A “traditional” man. We did what few black couples do these days (statistically speaking)…we got married. Once we’d decided on marriage it happened quickly…within months. Tongues started wagging at church. The pastor’s son marrying so fast? She must be pregnant!

I was not. But just like that famous line in one of our favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally.

When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

Despite our commitment, I was sure I could do no child any good as a mother. I just wasn’t the “mothering” type.

My husband was patient and understanding. As I matured into my marriage my love for him deepened and there seemed no more natural way to express that love than to create a life together. After a few years I agreed to start a family and within a year we were the parents of a healthy, handsome baby boy.

I couldn’t have known how utterly and joyously helpless I would become the moment I held him. I was suddenly a slave to love and there would be no turning back. Years later we added another bundle of joy. What my kids gave me was a deeper sense of purpose than I’d ever known. Suddenly I wasn’t just living for myself.  I was right that children were a heavy burden to bear…I was wrong about how terrible that burden would be.

It is the sweetest load I’ve ever borne.

Becoming a mother has also gave me a whole new understanding of God’s love for me, for each of us. I suddenly saw myself from His perspective…the perspective of a parent.

I once overheard my toddler son singing some praise and worship songs from church as he played. I stood behind his door for 30 minutes and just listened to him singing and playing.  It was as if I’d never heard singing before. In that moment I couldn’t have imagined a more moving, amazing, talented singer in all the world. My love for him seemed too big to fit in my heart.

That is how God sees us – with warts and flaws, yes but also as the most beautiful of creations. Our voices are His music. Even when we are disobedient or selfish He still sees us as stunning and perfect, the way were created to be. Just like I see my children as incredible, delightful and wonderful human beings even in their flaws, so does He see us.

Ironically, as opposed to stopping my forward momentum I strongly believe being a parent has at times been my only reason for continuing to move forward when all I wanted to do was stop everything and give up.

Parenting has made my husband and I closer in ways I didn’t know possible. We’re an exclusive team and this is the family we’ve made together. No one knows what we know about this family, this life, this experience called the Davis family. It’s a sweet secret that will always bond us.

I am so glad God changed my heart toward parenthood. It frightens me to think of all the #UnintendedJoy I would have missed out on had I let my fear dictate our path. In pro-life circles we (rightly) focus our efforts on women and men who are struggling with the fear of unintended pregnancy. They need our encouragement to know that while right now it might feel like the end of the world, in reality it is only the beginning of something great.

I only wanted to add to that encouragement. You don’t have to be single and alone to be terrified of parenthood. Even the comfort of having a partner didn’t spare me from the insecurities about my future if I allowed myself to be a mother.

I’m fourteen years into this parenting thing and I can say with full and complete honesty that there has never been one day, one hour, one second, one iota of a moment that I have regretted my children and their presence in my life.

That is the true legacy of #UnintendedJoy.

Abortion Is America’s National Unhealed Wound

It’s all about the womb.

Novels on dystopian societies like Brave New World and The Giver invariably begin with the dissolution of the family. Emotional bonds forged in the womb are broken and replaced with drug-enhanced loyalty to the State and its ideals. These remain novels only because human biology makes the stories unrealizable. The only result of babies without emotional bonds is suffering and tragedy.

It’s known as “the orphanage problem.” State-run communities don’t function as families. Even mothers in prison were found to have a better outcome raising their babies than sterile institutions. In the 1940s, Austrian psychoanalyst Rene Spitz published his results.

Love won: 37% of the infants kept in the bleak hospital ward died, but there were no deaths at all amongst the infants raised in the prison. The incarcerated babies grew more quickly, were larger and did better in every way Spitz could measure. The orphans who managed to survive the hospital, in contrast, were more likely to contract all types of illnesses. They were scrawny and showed obvious psychological, cognitive and behavioral problems.

In America, between 45 and 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned. Among unmarried women, 20-29 years old, the number increases to over 69 percent. And 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion. The overwhelming reason for abortion is that it’s less unkind to kill a baby before its born than to bring it into a world without love. These mothers believe they will be incapable of loving their babies.

Maybe that’s got some truth to it, but it’s far more likely they are in denial.

The answer to our national unhealed wound is not punishing women for having abortion. That’s like saying the cure for a broken bone is amputating the limb. The answer to abortion is love. It’s the only answer, or we assume humanity is no more than animals descended from pond scum, as I heard Kirk Cameron say last night.

There’s only one truth in the universe. I don’t buy all this relativist junk where there’s “my truth” and “your truth” and “that’s not truth for me.” The sun shines or we die. A billion billion parameters are exactly, perfectly right to the smallest possible measurement or there’s no life on Earth.

Ravi Zacharias recalls a professor of his, a quantum physicist, describing what the first few microseconds of the creation of the universe would have looked like. He described in great detail the how contraction and expansion ratio had to be so precise and the margin of error so small. And he added that the exactness demanded of that moment was such that it would be the equivalent of taking aim at a one square inch object twenty billion light years away and hitting it bull’s eye.

If we are just evolved pond scum, a whole lot more than just emotions is in the wastebasket. Our “rights,” our dignity, our destiny, our morality: these are all just myths. If we’re not loved by a Creator, we are just babies abandoned to a cold, sterile, institutional universe to die a lonely and pointless death. Abortion then is the least of our worries.

I heard Christian columnist Cal Thomas characterize an argument with an abortion advocate thusly:

Pro-abort: “What about rape and incest?”

Thomas: “You can have rape and incest. Can I have the rest?”

“What about health of the mother?”

“You can have the health of the mother. Can I have the rest?”

“No. It’s my womb.”

The argument for abortion is one of fear, selfishness and rejection of love. It goes like this: if I can’t love my baby, nobody can. It denies the love God the Creator has shown us in enabling us to live at all. It denies love as a concept. It denies that a baby raised in a prison can thrive while a baby raised by a faceless institution dies.

God either loves us all, or there is no God. And there is a God because we’re here. The Bible declares that we are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Our nation’s founders declare that these truths are self-evident. They do not require further explanation or defense. We are here, therefore we are loved. We are loved, therefore God exists. God exists, therefore we have a duty to love others.

Abortion is the denial of love. There’s no healing without love–loving the mother who aborted her child; loving those who have suffered; loving those mothers facing unplanned pregnancy. Anyone who cannot grasp that God loves us too much to allow us to embrace abortion cannot grasp God’s love at all.

Abortion should be illegal because our laws should be based on God’s principles, not because we wish to control wombs. Abortion should be illegal because God loves us. Should a mother who obtains an illegal abortion be punished? Let me answer that question with a question: Should God destroy the universe because his creation, humanity, denies his love?

You answer that one.