The day before Mother's Day I spoke at a Mother/Daughter Banquet. I'm not sure if you know this about me but I have a fear of public speaking. I spent weeks stressing about this event even though I was certain that God wanted me to do it. I couldn't sleep, my imagination went into overdrive, and I was an all around basket case. I am pretty sure I just had way too much time to think about it. In the future I will try and go about it in a more healthful way. This time I failed. As I sit here and think back I realize how ridiculous I was being. I had thought I would be standing in front of 40-50 people alone. In reality I stood before roughly 75 people but I wasn't alone. God was standing with me the entire time. So I thought I would share with you what I had written and also the link to the video in case you want to see why I don't do public speaking unless God tells me I have to.
Here is my speech for Mother's Day 2013
I have to tell you that never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that I would be standing here before you today. In fact, the last thing I wanted to be doing was giving a talk about my mother and my life, the day before Mother’s Day.
I put up a pretty good fight, too. But it has become increasingly clearer to me that when God wants you to do something, you are going to do it. Obviously, I lost. When Sharon called and asked me to do it, I initially told her no. I told her that I was sure that God would provide someone to speak … but it was not going to be me, because I am not a public speaker.
I’m a writer, I’m a kindergarten aide, I’m a mom, I’m a taxi driver for three kids, I’m a lot of things—but a public speaker is not one of them. I became so stressed out by the idea of doing this, that my sleep was disrupted and I was in physical pain.
I’m an excuse maker. God told me to be here and I said “But I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to do it. You want someone else. I can’t possibly go speak to adults, I work with children,” I said.
God came back with, “You are failing to see that they are all My children.” When I think of children I think of well…children. Not adults that are God’s children.
I had conversations with my husband about the situation. I had conversations with my friends. Then I revisited my husband and asked him how I could get new friends, because none of them were agreeing with me on this one.
In the Bible, God asked Jonah to go speak to the people in Ninevah. Jonah was scared and didn’t want to go. He tried to run from God and got on a boat to run away and hide. God sent a storm and Jonah was thrown into the sea. Jonah prayed to God and God sent a whale to save him. The reason I remind you of this is because I think it applies to my life. I skip the boat, the running away and hiding, and go straight for the whale, every time. Take the road, you say? Forget about the road. I will just go hide in the whale until God changes his mind. God may have a sense of humor, but he rarely changes his mind.
Almost nine years ago, I lost my mother to cancer. I’m not sure what kind of relationship you have with your mother, but my mother and I fought like cats and dogs. If I said up, she said down. If I said left, she said right. I was always right and she was always right. The one thing I was right about, I wish I could take back, and be wrong. I told her every day to quit smoking. I told her that she could get cancer and that it would kill her. So being right isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
My mother was a yeller. I was a smart-mouth kid and I gave her reason to yell. I had many ideas of what I thought I would be like when and if I ever became a mother, and I was not going to be a yeller. Sometimes I open my mouth however, and my mother comes out. I also swore I would never drink coffee like she did. But now that she is gone, I drink coffee fully doctored with flavored creamer, not black like she drank it… but I drink it nonetheless.
I grew up an only child. My mother was unmarried when she was diagnosed with cancer, so when she became sick, I took care of her. My children were 7, 6, and 2 at the time. I was a stay at home mom. We moved her in and doctored her the best we could. Every plan I had for having another child, every normal thing, became skewed and put on hold.
My mother was not going to die. In fact, she said she wouldn’t. She was going to fight and that was it. She wasn’t going to lose her hair either, and the day she lost it was devastating to her. It hurt me too, because it wasn’t me she chose to help her with that. It was a friend.
I had to force her to have conversations with me about her death. She would say “I’m not going to die but just in case I want this,” or “I want that, and don’t get rid of all my stuff because I have good stuff.”
Watching her suffer was heart wrenching. They gave my mother six to eight months and I got to keep her for almost a full year. Then in the wee hours of the morning, on July 14, just one day before my birthday, Jesus came to my house, stood at the foot of her bed and took her home. She went home to be with Jesus, and I told everyone about it. I rejoiced that my mother was saved and baptized the year before she died and told everyone how happy I was that she was no longer suffering.
Then the day she was laid to rest, I fell. I came into what was her room at my house. There were funeral flowers all around the room. I lay down in the middle of them and wept. I fell into a pit of depression and didn’t re-emerge for two years. I went through the motions of daily life. Doing only what was necessary and nothing more. It was so bad that when I was delivered out of it by Jesus, my mother in law revealed to me that she was afraid they would never get me back.
Every year on her birthday, and the week of mine, I go into battle. The guilt that I didn’t save her comes back: I didn’t fight hard enough. I let her go. I didn’t take her to that cancer hospital they advertise on TV. and they may have saved her.
Then comes God and asks me when I got so big that I think I have the power to keep people alive. I don’t. There isn’t anything I could have done, and the reality of that both saddens me and relieves me. I am happy that my God is strong enough to save her and ease her suffering. I am happy in some ways that my mother got cancer. Had she not, she may never have come to know Jesus and the question of her eternal salvation may still remain. Today I know for certain that my mother is in heaven and that one day I will see her again.
Until then, I am here with two teenage daughters and a ten year old son. Not one but two teenage daughters, in case you missed that. There are days with these girls that I think I may be seeing my mother sooner rather than later. I love them but they drain me like nothing else.
Everything is so dramatic all the time. They are nineteen months apart. I had them close together on purpose. I wanted them to be best friends and to always have someone. I wanted them to have what I never had. But they try to kill each other half the time. They argue, they fight, kick, hit and carry on like they are mortal enemies, not sisters and best friends like they are supposed to. God has a sense of humor.
Although I wanted siblings, I was not at all convinced that I wanted children. I grew up wanting siblings but not children of my own. I had cousins and I thought they were terribly behaved. If I did have children, I would do it better. Well, I have not done it better. I don’t even have my mother’s “look.” She could turn on me and give me a look and I would know to backpedal and hide. I give my own children what I think is “the look” and they refuse to backpedal; they go straight to the edge and jump. I thought they would have a healthy fear of me and a certain amount of respect. Instead I believe I’ve made them so comfortable and loved them so much that they may never leave.
What is worse is that I’m terrified that one day they will leave. I have no idea who I am without them. I got pregnant one month after I got married. I have been married with children almost from the beginning. What do we do when they are all grown and gone? Hang out with the cats? My mother hated cats. Now I have three cats. I have no idea who I am. I’m terrified of being alone and yet I am never alone. Sure, I would like to go to the bathroom alone. But I do not relish the idea of being alone in my house without the children for any longer than a school day. They fight, they create a lot of laundry, they control every television, and chip all of my dishes … but I love them. I miss my mother every day, some days so much, I forget that I myself am a mother too.
I guess with all of that said, I don’t know what the moral of my story is. I already told you God must be crazy to ask me to speak to you.
Maybe it is that God can take a smart mouthed kid -- who was never going to get married and have children because she thought kids were brats and the parents never stayed together and fought all the time -- and transform her into a wife and mother with the family she always wanted growing up. Maybe it is that God can take you from the pit and deliver you into higher ground. I have been to the pit and back a couple of times, but God will keep coming for you to bring you out again. Maybe it is that even if you take the whale instead of the road you are going to end up right where God wants you eventually. I’m not sure.
All I can tell you is that without God, I wouldn’t be here with you today. Without God I wouldn’t have a family. Without God I wouldn’t be able to do my job, write, live through the teenage years with my girls, and I sure wouldn’t be able to prepare a mostly edible meal.
I think the lesson is to focus on what you still have and not what you have lost, even if they drive you nuts. So for this Mother’s Day, hug your mothers, love them, enjoy them, fight with them if that is what you do, and don’t miss one moment. For each of them is a gift that may not stay here on earth, but will remain in your heart forever.
Here is how it actually came out