She Told Me the Truth

Over and over I was eviscerated by the little girl across the street. I thought she was just precocious, quite intelligent and maybe lacking the social graces that tell you not to point out to your elders when they look foolish. I gave her many opportunities to practice this skill, she continued her ways nevertheless. She was never completely rude merely pointed out the obvious in the midst of some drama that was generally preventable, exactly what you want to hear when chasing a dog through the neighborhood in your nightgown, say. Finally though she grew older and busier and has left me alone. Then yesterday happened, a new little girl entered my orbit who pointed out that I was wearing the same clothes as the day before.

This girl lives in a home where food is not always certain, I feed her every time I feed Plum. Her clothes are often a bit raggedy and her hair is always tangled. Still she smiles and giggles unceasingly, she savors joy like the huge bubbles we create together on the front lawn. So why was she criticizing me? Or was she? Once my defensiveness settled and I gave her back her popsicle (the one I angrily snatched away in my mind) I knew first that she was right and also that even though she didn’t know my whole story of a short night and a struggle to get a shower and that she was holding up my day because Plum wanted to ride bikes with her and I couldn’t leave them out on the street alone… well, I knew she is a truth teller. Just like the other little girl, she is a truth teller.

At some point, girls stop telling the truth each other, they begin to hedge on the question, “Does this make me look fat?” What these two little girls lack maybe in finesse, they cannot be faulted in their honesty. I hope they hold on to the ability to share truths with other women as they age. I am blessed with a couple of friends who maybe were these little girls, friends who tell me with honesty when I have messed up or stepped outside the boundaries. I wish I could say I respond more appropriately than trying to snatch popsicles back, my defensiveness crosses ages and I don’t hear feedback well. In fact, it often takes me a good amount of time to let it soak in, to allow the truth of the message to reach the real part of me. The stronger my relationship with the teller though, the less time it generally takes. Some truths though are still rumbling around, searching for a home, I hear the words and work to separate my emotion in the hearing to get to the glorious nugget that is meant only for me. Owning those nuggets means getting truly comfortable shedding another layer of protection I thought I had, the part that kept folks at bay. Can others really see me that clearly? Like the proverbial ostrich, if I keep my hand buried, maybe we can both ignore just how naked and exposed I am.

One truth teller told me that writing about my political views was hurting people, that it had hurt her. Thousands of justifications rose up in me like the activist I am, I was prepared to battle and protest and yet the word hurt was slowing me down. This conversation has been bugging me for a while, a time spent trying to connect what I feel so strongly in my soul that goes in seemingly divergent directions. Attending the writing conference, I heard a seminar speaker tell me the same truth and I sank lower in my chair. It wasn’t that I needed another voice to say it for it to be true, more that my soul had been readied during a week of worship and gentle prodding to hear it again.

To this end, I am prepared to make a promise. I will no longer write on this blog about my political leanings, you needn’t fear that one day you will open it and find an angry rant about anything more divisive than our beasts or where the laundry goes. I know this blog is not the format for my activism or protests about anything other than sticky fingers on my keyboard. Will you give me another chance to seek the truth and share the truth as I see it and to share along the way when truth tellers find me? I promise not to break your trust.

Note of caution, do not read my twitter account, a girl has to have an outlet. I may have something in common with the little girls of my neighborhood after all. Shall we all seek some truth today, how ever small? Dare we listen to those who bravely tell us our clothes don’t match or we have a bit of spinach on our teeth or we are screwing up our marriage or we are not being kind to our children or our car is a mess? Listening to each other might just be the most radical activism of our day.

By the way, I love your smile and am so grateful you stopped by. That is the truth.


Our Deepest Desires

He rises early, about two cups of coffee after me, trying to sneak into my office but the guns, blankets and other necessary props he selects along before moving to the stairs falling, crashing and excited tails of beasts hitting the walls alert me that my quiet time is over. I keep working as if I have heard nothing, holding on to the last moments before breakfast and transformers and endless chatter propel me into grandma time. His sleepy body finds me, edges closer until he is on my lap, scooting my chair way from the desk the computer all the things that separate him from me. Wrapped in a blanket, he snuggles for a moment as I breathe in the scent of his dreams and he cranes to read the words on my laptop. My tiny office now filled with two large dogs and a boy who is moving every day away from the baby who once only filled my arms.

The first day of summer, the longest day of the year, was truly too long for him. Battling his inner clock, he wants to stay up as late as the other kids he hears playing while he takes a bath, while we are reading another chapter of Harry Potter, while he drifts of to sleep. Those children are no where to be found in those early hours each morning after he wakes, he listens instead to the birds as we refill the feeders and seek out the names of each one that flies through our trees. He collects mulberries from the tree beside the house, purple stained hands evidence of his snacking between meals. I am his early morning playmate, while the others sleep. But last night I let him stay up to catch the fireflies, the bugs of summer he has been anticipating like the last day of school.

We noticed them at least two hours before dusk, before they began to light up as they flew around the low branches and under the bushes. Rejoicing, I thought our early bedtime was secured, I watched as he caught and released, only after a chat with each one. He thanked the bug for letting him catch it, he promised to be gentle, he sent it back out into the wilderness. But even with all of his kindness, they didn’t light up. We found popsicles, a large old blanket for the porch, we began to read our nightly chapter, we discovered with Harry a mirror that shows your deepest desires. I knew mine at that moment was a child in bed, a glass of wine and another chapter to read in my own book. His was finding the ability to stay awake just awhile longer.

Those other kids, the one who stay up until the sky begins to darken, rode bikes to our yard, bringing their noise and energy and disrupting our snuggling. His swagger was back, he stopped cuddling with me, fueled by sugared icy treats, his goal to find the lightening bugs was restored. Soon the jar was filled as the bugs gave into nature, an entire family of bugs glowing within sweaty hands and crawling away only to be nabbed again by children who named them all “Carl.” Catch 10 more Carls, I said, and then we are going in for the night. Children who can read and add and ride their own bikes no longer can count to 10, another 30 minutes before we reach the magic number as I lazily watch them race across the yard, jump to get the ones just out of reach, all using the last bit of energy of spring to usher in summer.

Our longest day is over, he is sleeping late today. More and more I know he will learn to sleep in and care not to snuggle with me in the early morns. Grandmas know how quickly one moves from catching fireflies to lighting up our own nights, from rising early  and grabbing toys along the way to sleeping until noon and secreting away our most prized treasures. The seasons come whether we celebrate them or even notice. Timing is everything. As he sneaks down the stairs carrying leftover visions from sleep and the beginning ideas of adventures for the day, I type one more sentence and thank God for the interruption, the true desire of my heart, this child who still climbs onto my lap.

Fathering Day

As a woman, I have vast experience with mothering and childcare and babies and nurturing. I get when to dip in and when to butt out, even though my history is littered with mistakes on both of those accounts, I still basically understand the role of mother. My own mom and I were close and distant and conflicted and loving and generally a somewhat normal mother-daughter team. We weathered horrors and we sought shelter when we became those horrors. Through it all I either learned to do what she did or eradicate her behaviors from my repertoire. Alternatively, the “dad thing” has really always been a mystery to me.

Given the abuse at the hands of my father, I learned not to trust men, not to become vulnerable with males. Is it any wonder that when my children appeared I protected them from the danger in our own home, their father? But what if he wasn’t dangerous? I couldn’t comprehend the difference even though intellectually I knew he was never the monster that my own father was. Later after a divorce and remarriage, I was even more unable or unwilling to make room for Chef to have free rein with my most cherished gifts. Excluded from decision making, from special conversations, allowed in but only to the edges, I didn’t nurture that relationship, build in true dad trust. It is often only in the looking back that we can really see, isn’t it?

My faith walk has followed the same rocky stumbling path, how much easier would it have been to trust a God who was referred to as “Mother?” A Father God who loved and forgave and nurtured, was and probably is a bit beyond my comprehension, the language at the beginning of the sentence clouding all that comes after. The wonderful book by William P. Young, “The Shack” while critiqued by many, opened my eyes to choosing the form that God will take in order to reach me, to not frighten me. A God that would become a woman to draw me close and gain my trust, a mama God. I found my way in to the beginning of relationship. Harder yet though to trust the earthly men who cross my path, the one who lives in my home. I see that God is offering me opportunities to take what I have learned about mama God and offer up some grace to the man I have condemned wrongly unwittingly merely because of his gender.

The children are long gone, I cannot re-parent them, no do-overs will be forthcoming. Yet a special little boy appears in our home about every other day, has toys and a bed and clothes and a full life within these walls. I have another chance with this child to enforce listening to Chef, to follow what grandpa says. I have more chances to ask questions myself and to include him in the decision making. I have been given the grace to try out some trust and see if the horrors of childhood will be repeated or if that is where they will stay, just memories. Fully knowing that Plum requires no protection from Chef, I watch their relationship and know that I robbed my children of this gift. Plum leans on gramps, he lays on him, he has to be touching him all the time. They battle and laugh and learn and Chef pushes him to keep going when he wants to stop too easily. Chef has been the father to this child when no one else was showing up for the job. His performance has been outstanding.  As mama has taken over any need for my own mothering with this child and I am more and more just gran, I know that plum and Chef  will always have that deeper connection.

Father’s Day rolls around each year with the duty to honor those who have parented us. With each passing year I am better able to honor my own Father, who has not given up on me and is teaching me to honor the father in my midst. I might still have a shaky image of God as masculine, not entirely female either, sexually ambiguous is currently working for me. Progress, maybe, but the real growth is the trusting, the leaning. Like my Plum at bedtime when he wants his gramps to snuggle and I walk out of the room with confidence, we are all getting closer. Happy Father’s day to the One who lets me lean in, get close, who tells me not to quit. Happy Father’s day to the man who lives this out with our Plum. You make a great dad.


Bringing the two clovers like trophies, I thought he would celebrate how wonderful, how amazing I am. It is difficult to impress him these days, this child who prefers back-flipping on the trampoline and concocting ever more intricate battles with powers that always overcome mine. Impressing a 6 year old who is racing into boyhood and has little time to notice nature with me or wonder about the relationship between vinegar and baking soda is quickly becoming beyond my reach. Thus the two 4-leaf clovers I spotted on the way down the hill, a particular gift of mine, this finding of luck in the midst of grass, surely I thought, surely, this will bring wonderment back onto his face. With no shame I admit I wanted him to for even just that moment between bounces and flips to think I had done something special.

He stopped long enough to look at one, rejected them at first and then took only one as if we were going to battle the clovers, my God why does everything have to be your guy against my guy these days? He asked if they really bring good luck. Hedging a bit, still holding out hope for my superior ranking in his eyes, I blathered on about how lucky it is to find them and that we will watch to see how our day goes. Never satisfied with my first answer, with my blathering, he asked how can they bring good luck, what about God? My instinct to grab my special clover back, push him on his smart little bottom for a “playful” bounce and retreat back onto the porch must have come from just too many skirmishes where I lose to his higher powered bot. Really, he wanted to bring God into my moment of cool? Mic dropped by a 6 year old.

His clover was tossed to the edge of the trampoline, the leaves curling drying in the sun. He already knew that our specialness doesn’t come from how many leaves we have or how high we can jump or really which powers we create in the battle. It all always comes back to God. I brought him a gift to show him how important I still was, looking for affirmation that I fit into his expanding world, he gave it to me, as unexpectedly and lasting as only a child who carries his faith more firmly than the treasured rocks that always fill his pockets or the blanket he clutches as he drifts off to sleep. My worth is not bound in my ability to spot what is unique in a clover pile, if I never find another 4 leafer, if I never find a means to impress this child with Pinterest science experiments, the work is already complete. How is it that I cannot remember this but go looking for luck in the grass?

Later as he curled up under blankets next to me, indulging in screen time racing monster trucks and whooping with each bashing and crashing, he took a moment away just long enough to announce, “Gran, you are so nice.” I hadn’t brought him anything, I wasn’t doing anything. Nice wasn’t the descriptor I had been aiming for but when I received this gift, I knew I had my trophy. My moment in the sun had arrived, empty-handed and offering only me, this child took notice and affirmed that I was enough. Not flashy or carrying extras to make me stand out, I was just enough right there on the couch with him.I want to share the messages of God to this child, instead he more often speaks them to me: “Stop trying so hard, I already see you. ”

In the end, my day was lucky, the kind of luck that comes when your faith is firmly rooted in the One who made the clovers and the One who whispers in the voice of little boys. One day those reminders that I am enough may sink in so deeply that I will stop striving for affirmation or trophies or winning with extra powers. Until that day, I am lucky enough to have this child around to remind me. “Yes, Plum, God made the clovers. Our blessings come from Him. Isn’t that nice?”

Right Here

The sound of his feet tromping up the stairs, down the hallway reached me before his voice, calling out, “Gran where are you?” Those feet that no longer fit into little boy sizes, are reaching into adult numbers with each new purchase of shoes. I remember those baby feet, how I kissed his soles and sniffed the very infancy that rose up, never musty never dirty. His feet are large now, often filty and filled with bits of sock and smelling of the day’s sweat and gym class and time spent at recess. School is out though now so shoes are only for going to the store or church so toes are most often covered in mud and bits of grass and always something under his nails. Those feet were carrying him upstairs to find me as I was hidden away on my balcony for just a few moments to read the  chapter in the latest book I had downloaded.

He was searching me out to ask if he could have a cup of shaved ice, the equivalent of any other child asking for ice cream. His grandfather sidestepped the decision, unable to give a firm no to those blue eyes and that smile. Those eyes are wicked enticing, he moves his eyebrows just like his father, it is a terrible wonderful combination when unleashed on those who don’t have a shield in place. Already the girls in the neighborhood gather and swarm and jockey for his attention. I want to warn them, I know what a boy with that kind of charism can do to a girl. I watched them ride their bikes back and forth in front of our house, looking craning trying to get him to come play or issue an invitation to join him but he ignored them, preferring to sit on the trampoline with me and roll balls of play doh in a game where points are scored in a system rigged against me.

I said yes to the shaved ice as we made a deal about dinner, I was somewhat drunk on the book I was reading and the momentary peace I had experienced and the birds and those eyes and that smile. Lost in the moment of just being gran and not worrying about vegetables and protein, I said yes. Anticipating that he would take those large feet and his prize back down the stairs and out the door to rejoin his grandfather in victory, it was an easy deal to make. I didn’t want to get up yet to make more food and clean the kitchen again and disturb the Saturday evening. He didn’t scamper though, he climbed onto my lap, ignoring the other chair on the balcony and wiggled and nudged and scooted until he found a way to fit his growing body onto my shrinking one. His feet reached almost to my outstretched legs, as I rested them on a stool, his head no longer nestles under mine but blocks my view.

He complains that I get more screen time than him, that I can “always be on my phone” and he can’t. Taking that opportunity to show him what I was doing, that I wasn’t playing games or killing zombies, he still wasn’t impressed. He saw the words and so offhandedly said, “No gran you were writing and you posted that.” In turns wowed that he understands that I write and had mistaken the John Irving novel I am reading for something I could ever do, if only because he read none of it and only saw a flash of it and at this point in his literacy has no taste for good books, and then dismayed that he equated gaming and reading as endeavors of the same measure when completed on a device,  I explained the difference between books and games.  I told him that he had unlimited time on my iPad if he is reading. My phone was snatched away with his sticky fingers as he searched for the book apps we downloaded, apps he ignores to instead kill zombies and race monster trucks. While he explored the possibilities, I noticed the day streamed along his arms and  legs, the moments of marker that left the pages and touched his skin, the places where water fights had removed patches of dust blown up by bike skid-out competitions. I smelled the boy in his hair as his head rested on my shoulder and remembered that these moments are moving as quickly as the images on the screens. How many more times will he choose to ignore the kids who come calling in order to play with me?

After another water fight that I did not agree to and absolutely lost and then his bath where he got to warm up in bubbles with more battles of guys who are missing some limbs because the beasts like to sneak in and eat bath toys, we read another chapter of Harry Potter. I wanted to read the books to him first before he saw the movies, to entice him into the world of magic and reading just as his father was lured in but Mama showed him the first movie and who can stop there? So we were backtracking and the gift of a lovely illustrated volume given by a former babysitter who knows the power of JK Rowling and also how special this little boy is was our vehicle into the story. Curled up next to me, growing more limp with each paragraph, he listened as the day eased away. Impossible not to remember reading this book to his father, not to remember saying, “Last chapter” and hearing, “NO! one more!” until he chose to take over reading by himself. Hooked, the child who wouldn’t read, mastering the task because he had to know what would happen next. Plum already knows though and wants me to get to the part with the snake and the part with the girl in the bathroom. We won’t get there tonight, the trampoline and the bike and the water battles and a warm bath ensured his body was betraying his words and he was sent off to bed.

I see his father most when he is sleeping, those blue eyes that are exact replicas closed to me. I see the resting face and I watch, wondering at his dreams and knowing when he wakes his feet will be a bit bigger and his fingers a bit longer and his eyes a bit more charming. While he sleeps though I can look at him and see the son I no longer can gaze at and know that each child only visits for a season, they nestle onto laps and ask before they get snacks only for a short time before they read to themselves and take their own showers. I know this gift of moments all add up to him choosing different playmates and one day kissing the feet of his own children. One day he will tell the stories of growing up fully surrounded by the love of his grandmother, his cousins will wonder that they were kept from those kisses and ice creams and water fights. He will love his friends and spouse and children and live out his faith in large part because of the moments I don’t steal away on the balcony but spend reading Harry Potter and cutting up strawberries for him.

The first weekend of summer break is drawing to a close, the burn pile is gone. I struggled to light it after too much rain had dampened it all. I wanted to roast hot dogs and make s’mores but just couldn’t get it going. Knowing he was going to be disappointed, I tried to explain about water-soaked wood and that another week of sun would do the trick. I reminded him that patience is good. With his most serious face and those blue eyes shining, he asked me if I remembered our family motto.  Muttering excuses, spouting reasons, I tried with all I had to explain. Still, he asked me, did I not remember? Yes, Plum, I remember. “We never give up.”  Confident that he had left me to my task with my confidence restored, he went about playing and I called in Chef to actually make the burn pile ignite. Hot dogs were roasted, s’mores were made. Our legacy and his to us, the simple reminder that if we want something badly enough, we will make it happen. This child is proof everyday that doing all the hard work and smelling the stinky toes will bring deep joy of snuggles on balconies and giggles on the way to bed. This little boy who is ushering in summer for the 7th time with bigger feet and blue eyes that can read without my help calls me back to the moment and away from worries and remembering and wishing, “Gran, where are you?” “Right here, sugarPlum, right here.” Contact established, we are both exactly where we need to be.


Welcome to Summer

I was involved in a rescue attempt yesterday, called into the fray when my tiny cat was in the yard and didn’t budge even though the two 100 lb.+ beasts came barreling at her.  She stayed fixed in both her spot and her focus, this little feline who generally leaps away at the very sound of the door opening. She is not a fan of the beasts though they love her, affection  shown with huge slobbering tongues wiped along her body, itty bitty nips with their massive jaws as they urge her to play. No, it meant she had a critter in her sights, one she may have lovingly nibbled or swiped with her delicate princess paws. I could have left her to her natural need to take all of the beast frustration out on the smaller rodents she meets, but the door was already open and the beasts were heading towards her before I realized the circle of life was in full swing in my back yard.

Much rushing, yelling, pushing ensued as I tried to protect the mole that I despise on account of his being a rodent though it was nothing personal and tried to protect the beasts who would surely try to lick and nibble and I was near to vomiting at the very idea of that. Plum came to see what all the excitement was and jumped each time I by turns tried to scoop up the critter and then recoiled when I almost did. I was stuck in a game of Survival, where I have to throw someone else off the island to save myself. In my defense, I am truly terrified of rodents and I know they can jump really far and they run scittering really fast and I would have died if it got on me and I am not convinced Plum knows that whole call 911 thing, he may have taken the opportunity for unsupervised screen time. While I lay there dying, more rodents would come, it was a true horror film playing out in my mind as I sought to catch or not to catch and to keep the beasts away and they are seriously quite strong. Ultimately, I stayed on the island and the rodent ended up in beast mouth which may have saved me momentarily but I realized then rodentinsidebeastmouth was even more disgusting because beasts enter our home and rodent mouth is EWWW and dear Lord is it only the first day of summer break?

Much shouting at Plum to help me corner the racing celebrating beast who joyously held the rodent in between his jaws as he zipped by at a lightening speed.  For the very first time in his entire life Plum decided he needed shoes on. Shoes!  I am in survival mode level 999 like all his games and he abandons me while he seeks shoes. At the last second I shouted for him to remember to shut the door but the last second was really the too late second because he didn’t shut the door and the rodent breathed beast ran into my home.  The kid still had no shoes, the dog was inside with a mole covered in slobber, I was having an anxiety attack and it was only 8:30 am. This is why day drinking is a thing.

The beast was cornered and removed, jaws firmly clamped and tail wagging excitedly, onto the back porch where he was ordered to “Drop it.” I didn’t have a watch on or access to the microwave timer but I believe this continued for at least an hour as the mole drowned inside my happy beast’s huge mouth and my Plum offered him treats and bones and beast #2 just on the other side of the door barked angrily at being kept from all the fun. Admitting defeat in the entire chain, I ushered Plum back in and left the dog outside to think about what he had done. He promptly spat the no longer scittering or leaping mole onto the porch and waited to be allowed back into the house. You know that game adolescents and men who never leave adolescence play on each other, where you reach for the car door and they drive away, leaving you on the curb? Each time they promise not to do it again until you are ready to kill them but still, over and over you reach for the handle and they scoot the car just out of reach? My beast is an adolescent. Touch door handle, beast grabs his treasure.  I walk away, he drops it. I knew I was being played but damnit, the rodent was right at my door.

I don’t believe there is a lesson here for me except to scan my full yard before allowing my beasts outside and to make sure Plum knows that if granny falls over dead in the yard this is not extra screen time. Welcome to summer break, friends.

Ruth and Naomi

I have been reading the book of Ruth lately, digging into the story of two women who united under extreme circumstances. I find myself coming back to this story often, I know the deeper meaning of the players and God’s call for us. Still, I just really like Naomi and Ruth, I understand them beyond the surface level of the story. The funky boundaries of their relationship, the strength of their characters, the hardships that they faced together, these women were rock stars. I want them at my dinner parties, I know women like them. In fact, I surround myself with Naomi and Ruth in friendships, in classes I attend, in groups I am drawn to. I love these women. They show up, they ache, they are loud and are shy, they just keep doing the next right thing even though they carry a history that hurts and a fear for what their children are doing right now. They pull me aside and share their brokenness because I tell mine here, they know we will recognize each other. Still, the story or Ruth and Naomi is about more to me, a guidebook of how to love in the midst of hardship and the world questioning your right to, a society that says go back to your own people, a story that tells of a love that goes beyond blood and into the souls of women.

My own relationship with Mama defies explanation, is one of the purest examples of the power of prayer and a view of real redemption. We have struggled together to find our way in the wilderness, she was left “widowed” almost as soon as she discovered our Plum was growing within her womb. Chef and I offered safe haven about 7 1/2 years ago now, we have been offering the same ever since. She and I are our own Naomi and Ruth, gleaning what is good from the fields of our history, a bond that is so strong and fragile on any given day, yet forged by God thus unbreakable. Mama and I met when she was at her lowest, we have found ways to take each other even lower. We have hurt and healed each other in ways that only women can. Words that wound and leave scars have been flung out in anger and fear. We also have spoken sweetly and at the most tender times, messages that bore truth so fiercely the walls melted away. This bond is what happens when God gets involved, when God says I will not allow you two to break what I have chosen to stand. Despite all of our best efforts to destroy our relationship on any given day, any given year, we have survived and are bound together not just in our love for Plum but the underlying love for each other.

Now that she has married this wonderful new man with a full family in tow, has a new baby, Sweetness, my place in her life is once again a battlefield. Blessedly, this time it is not us warring. Who wouldn’t, if you have not journeyed with us all these years, wonder why in the world she calls me instead of a different grandma or brand new sisters? Why does she allow me into her heart when others are kept at bay? I won’t share Mama’s story here, what I can say is that building and destroying trust and trying to rebuild it is not for the impatient, results are not immediate. Isn’t this true of all parenting? The seeds we sow at the earliest ages are what we find sprouting in adolescence, rarely do we get the behavior turn around from a time-out in the blink of an eye. We stay with it, we keep trying. We do the next right thing and own when we did all the wrong things and admit we were just too tired and hungry and lonely to even have a conversation so please don’t talk to us when we look like that again. We admit our humanity and we show humility. Because those characteristics are what we want to see in our children. Mama and I have learned each other’s hungry faces, too tired to talk voices, we have learned the silent signals and where all the land mines are. We have found that hurting each other is so horrible we can no longer bear to do that, loving each other is too dear, we must continue. Doing so is work, I know I drive her crazy and there is a really big obstacle called my son in the way many days. Still she knows that more than anyone on this earth, I want her to succeed. I am invested in her being the best mama ever. She knows that I don’t visit her to judge her progress but to delight in her love for her family. She trusts that I never carry a scorecard to document her wrongs but rather a camera to catch her family loving laughing snuggling. She wants me to see her doing this, my soul aches to see her see me seeing it. Together we know how critical it is that she be affirmed as mama, that she not be undermined at this important time in her daughter’s life. We have journeyed here before. Traveling together on this road is much much sweeter while she holds and loves and coos at her baby, I take the pictures. My need is not to hold Sweetness, my soul yearns to see her do so with this confidence. Thus, she allows me in, a spectator a witness someone to document this time around because I was there before. Naomi and Ruth bound together searching for scraps of nourishment, feeding each other’s souls. I get it.

Mama doesn’t let others in so readily, she carries many wounds. She doesn’t broadcast them for all, she is protective of her story and her family. Oh Lord loving our children is hard, isn’t it? We just want in, they want boundaries and schedules and to be seen as adults with the ability to make choices that are respected. We see children playing house until we are forced into acknowledging our baby has grown, our work there is done, we no longer can give a time out. Forging a new relationship with an adult child requires respecting limits we don’t like, we may be put in the thinking chair, our desire to speak may be rejected. No longer in control, we find ourselves suddenly wondering what happened, where did we go wrong, even try to affix blame on the interloper, the new spouse. We lose sight of the fact that we have actually succeeded in launching our child into the world, we can now sit back and drink wine on the porch and do hardly any laundry and the house stays neater. We find our own women friends again. Just as we do, the phone will ring and a question is asked. Do you think she may have a fever? What would you do about this stain? You find you are invited to step in just a bit, you must control the desire to rush forward and do the laundry and make the dinner and hold the baby. Go drink your wine and just listen. I imagine Ruth and Naomi spent many hours talking to each other, more was spent listening. Those silent places are where holiness happens.

When Ruth went out into the fields, when she later married Boaz, she didn’t leave Naomi behind. Their relationship was cemented in the journey of hardship and loss and pain and tears, all those long talks and shared worries about where the next meal may come from and how much they ached over the Ruth’s husband no longer being around, Naomi’s son gone from them. These two women were bound together thus when Ruth began her new life, she took her “mother” with her. During a time when bloodlines really mattered, this is an incredible story. The graciousness of Boaz is remarkable. Today, families are scattered like those barley seeds that Ruth labored to harvest, bloodlines are even more messy. Today to have two women like Mama and I bound together after so many fractures and obstacles is surely the work of God. We are blessed that our real life Boaz accepts our relationship. We are blessed to have each other. Just this Sunday as we sat in church together, I gloried in how ridiculous our family tree at that moment was and how amazing God is at sticking folks together. Later as Mama sat outside the sanctuary and sobbed because her gift to me on Mother’s Day was not good enough, sobbed because my children were not seeing in me what she does, I could only remember those two women long long ago who found a way through famine and loss and hardship with only their faith to carry them. Mama’s gift to me is more pure than a bouquet or a bottle of perfume, it is the inclusion into her journey. It is the gift of trust that comes only through fire that has singed us all but left nonsense in the ashes and what matters most stronger and standing.

Isn’t it amazing that the story of Ruth and Naomi is what is shared at weddings? The story of love that is selfless and outside of convention, the story of women who understand that listening is every bit as important as talking and honoring looks different than showing up on one day each year with a card or flowers. Time to build trust and following each other along the path of God is surely the only way in to lasting relationship. Mama and I have journeyed long to get to Bethlehem and I know there is room in the city for others to join us. May they come and sit patiently, may they wait for their invitation to dine on the barley seeds, may they accept the gifts of love that come from the deepest parts of a young mother’s soul. It is worth the journey, I promise.