If I were to take inventory of my life when I reach the end of it, and were to reflect on the people who loved me the most, I know it would be those who cared about the condition of my soul. Those who spoke “hard” truths, and challenged my lifestyle. The people who provoked faith, ignited courage, protected my innocence, and watered the soil of love. Take my mother, for example, of a person who I know loved me and loves me the most. My mama, who has never gone a day without praying for her three children since the day of their birth. I grew up with that, with her: a mother of faith. A mother who prayed…so it’s hard for me to imagine my life void of that, and it’s difficult for me to place myself in the shoes of those who grew up without religious parents. I’d be lying if I said my mother’s zeal for Jesus didn’t embarrass (and exhaust) me as a teenager and young adult, but to this day, as a woman entering her late twenties, I will forever be grateful for a mother who did her best to raise me morally upright.
When I was thirteen and wanted to start wearing makeup, mama protected me, and she protected me because she loved me. Boundaries are set out of love (I didn’t see this as a young girl). I was convinced mama was trying to ruin my life, make me miserable, and ban me from being desirable to boys barely hitting puberty (because let’s be honest, twelve year old boys are pretty insatiable, no? I’ll pass, thanks). Mama not only warned and informed me about perverted men (“not ALL, but many”), but she also graciously emphasized the fact that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God, and that I was perfectly fine and beautiful just the way I was; I suppose that was the underlying reason as to why I never got braces. Mama taught me about inner beauty, and she taught me by demonstration. Just simply observing my mother was a learning curve that held great significance. I saw that my mother wasn’t afraid to smile her real smile, and not a rehearsed-in-the-mirror smile with a Cindy Crawford influence controlling it. Mama wasn’t afraid to laugh genuinely, or worship God freely, or be seen without her makeup and hair done, or not be in the best shape of her life. In fact, she really struggled with her weight for many years. Yet she still loved, she was still happy around her children, she still smiled, she still laughed, and she still sang (albeit out of tune, perhaps). Mama was herself—she was my mom—and that’s what made her most beautiful to me.
Everything that she was, everything that made her her, was truly genuine. Not a shred of superficiality or pretending to be someone she wasn’t existed in my mother, and I loved that about her. Ironically enough, mama embraced her insecurities with confidence. She didn’t bury who she really was under a full face of makeup or draw the wrong attention to herself by showing off her body in an attempt to feel empowered. To me, my mother has always had this secret strength about her…and I know she earned her stripes of faith and courage in the prayer closet. Mama had so many amazing inner qualities about her to offer that it wasn’t necessary to simply rely on good looks and use that as a weapon. Make no mistake, of course my mother is beautiful outwardly. Her whole demeanor though, in its entirety, was effortless. The strength (perhaps even the empowerment) she possessed was from God, and there was no denying that. Something is to be said about a woman who is sold out for the Lord. I’ve seen it, and I’m telling you — the liberation that comes from knowing who you are in Christ, far outweighs everything else in this world. Just ask mama.
When I wanted to wear certain clothing, mama protected me again. “Sweetheart, you need to be careful with how you dress. You’re growing, and because of that your body is changing…therefore, I’m afraid that shirt is way too tight”. I remember feeling my blood boil and my skin crawl simultaneously when my mother said those awful words: “your body is changing”. I grew up in the 90’s, and although the fashion of that era has made a successful comeback, at that time, the clothes my mother made me wear weren’t stylish by any means. Some pretty horrendous photos have resurfaced of me in everything from parachute “shorts” (read: capris) to MC Hammer pants to oversized coats that made me look like I was a 300lb ten year old. Oh, and I had a “bowl cut”. Lloyd Christmas style. You know what, though, I look at the photos now and get a good belly laugh out of them. Realistically, there was no reason for me, as a CHILD, to be frolicking around in skin-tight booty shorts and shirts exposing my midriff. There was no reason to allow makeup application to consume my precious time that I wouldn’t get back. There was every reason, however, to go outside and be a kid. Play and run around until the sun went down. Capture fireflies. Find worms in the dirt with my sister. Spend quality time with my dog. Get dirty doing kid things. Play soldiers with my brother and my dad. I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything in the world, even with the hardship that eventually came into play. It’s okay, and all is forgiven. You’re only a kid once, and I had the opportunity to enjoy being one. It wasn’t rushed. It wasn’t depleted by social media begging for my undivided attention. For that I’m truly grateful.
At the dinner table, when we all were done eating, mama would whip out this huge book of activities that I assume were created for families to spend more quality time together. I can’t really recall the activities, but I remember that I loved doing them. There was no “parents versus cell phones” battle for attention—we were all mentally and physically present to potentially bond with one another in a fun and creative way. Sure, at times there was fighting in our household as is the situation in most, but as I close my eyes and replay the reel of my childhood, all I hear is laughter. All I see is a beautiful and Godly woman, a mother, her graceful silhouette simultaneously in every room of the house, anointing each dwelling place with song and prayer and praise.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for my three precious children that you blessed and entrusted me with. Thank you that they are healthy. Thank you for protecting me while I was pregnant with them, and thank you for protecting them from harm all these years. Thank you for loving me, and thank you for loving them before they were even formed in my womb. Lord, I pray that they would know your love. I ask you, God, to reveal your love to them in a way that your existence, your power, your grace, and your love…can’t be denied. I ask you, Lord, to protect them all the days of their lives, and I pray that they would grow up to know you, love you as you’ve loved them, and would live to serve you and bring glory and honor to your Name. In your precious Name, I pray. Amen”.
Something like that.
Mama and I hit some rough spots in our relationship, as most mothers and daughters do (usually when the daughter is a teenager). She aggravated me, and often at that, but I’m not exactly sure why. I know at one point I was jealous, but at that time I didn’t know it was jealousy. I remember years ago, sitting in my seat in church seething at the fact that my mother was so happy and standing up, clapping her hands, and singing during praise and worship. Normally, that’s something that wouldn’t upset me; why would it?! If anything, it makes me really happy to see people in church so joyous! But, the reason why it got me so heated was because I was angry with myself. I was mad that my mother had something that I clearly didn’t possess. She had joy, and I didn’t. I lacked it. I couldn’t blame her for that, it wasn’t her fault she found freedom in God! In fact she was the one who tried to show me that life was so much more meaningful and purpose-driven with God in the equation. No, not in the equation. With God as the driving force. God the pilot. Jesus the lord.
Mama was a protector because she loved me. She nurtured my spirit with the right soul food because she loved the little girl that that spirit belonged to. She challenged (not discouraged) my ideas, values, and morals as I got older because she cared. She encouraged (not forced) me to save my virginity until my wedding day not because she was a prude, but because she respected herself and wanted her daughters to do the same. To be quite honest, I cannot guarantee that I would have the upmost respect for my mother I do today had she been slack on the topic of sex. I’d much more prefer my mother to present sex to me as something very powerful and sacred that only my husband deserves, versus her telling me something along the careless lines of “honey just be careful and use protection”. Granted, I made my own choices. I didn’t always listen to my mother. Often times, and unfortunately, we don’t learn our lesson until it hurts us. Even when playing with fire does burn us, we still don’t learn! My mother told me the things she did because she loved me, and loves me. Never out of a perversion of power or control. She did the best she knew how. If I don’t say so myself, I turned out pretty remarkable…and it’s because I was raised by a truly remarkable mom.
Here I am, turning twenty-eight this weekend, and thinking about my future a lot more often these days. I can only hope that at the end of my life, whenever that is, I turned out to be maybe half as amazing as mama is.
Alas, a toast! To the only person on this earth I one hundred percent know without a doubt in my mind…loves me intimately infinitely. Mom, you are everything. Thank you for caring about my soul, and where it’ll spend eternity. My love for you is limitless. Cheers.