Locations & Times

Experiencing Mother's Day in the Both/And

by Mackenzie Matthews on May 08, 2024

We are entering Mother's Day Weekend. It is the day we honor and celebrate our mothers and aunties, our maternal figures who have shaped us. It's the day we also honor the mothering within our own stories.

I want to encourage you to look at your story as we near this weekend. Look at the people in your life who have been beautiful examples of motherhood. Who are the aunts, aunties, teachers, coaches, neighbors, bosses, and friends who come to mind? Who has been in the chorus of those who have mothered you and nurtured you in addition to your own mom? Who are the "bonus moms" in your life?

There is power in celebrating and honoring the people who have made you in big ways and small ways to be the person you are right now. In 1997, Fred Rogers won a Lifetime Achievement Award Emmy.  In his acceptance speech, he said:

“All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are — those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life? Ten seconds of time. I’ll watch the time.”

He gave 10 seconds of silence, then he continued:

“Whomever you’ve been thinking about. . . how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made. You know, they’re the kind of people television does well to offer our world.”

Is there anyone better than Mr. Rodgers? The answer is no. But how might we take that advice? To think of these things. Mother’s Day is a day that invites this kind of honoring and gratitude to those who’ve made us.

It also invites the chance to honor the hard and tender pieces of our histories too. Truly to hold the "both/and."  Because both joy and sorrow can be present at the same time. Often they are. 

For those of you who feel the tinge of pain within this Mother's Day because of: 
Mothers you didn't have,
Mothers you couldn’t be,
Mothers you lost,
Mothers with strained relationships…

…there are many of us standing alongside you.

Many of us feel the mixture of the "both/and" of this day. We who honor the good of mothers and mothering in our stories and who feel the tender elements this day brings to the surface. We acknowledge it. And we want you to know we care about that part of your story and are praying for you this Mother's Day. 

My personal feelings about Mother’s Day have been a bit of a roller coaster.

I still remember, as I sat in the full auditorium, the moment startled me. It's the tradition on Mother's Day, but I wasn't prepared. I didn't remember from years past that the mothers are invited to stand. It was their moment to be honored and celebrated. The crowd was speckled with hundreds of women who stood. But I did not.

I wanted to catapult myself through the wall. Or just disappear. Vaporize, combust, fly away. Moon walk out of the building. But I just sat there and felt the wave of grief and envy and disappointment.

To be honest, I hated Mother's Day for a good stretch of years. I have a great relationship with my mother, my mother-in-law, and the nurturing women in my life abound. I hit the jackpot on this front, seriously. Both/And! But Mother's Day became something difficult and tender for me. I stopped attending church on this day because that tradition of standing was a bit too painful for me to withstand. I couldn't engage, and it felt wise and kind for me to step away on this day. I had my own keen awareness of those around me who were mothers, an ever-present reminder to me that I was still waiting.

It's not my reality anymore. I'm counted in the crowd of women who can stand now, although this tradition is one we've since retired. I have a nearly four-year-old son. Getting to be his mama is something I will never get over. It's a miracle that I can't adequately express. My words fail me. If I met you out in the wild and started to tell you about it, I would most certainly get all weepy, then I would show pictures of my son and would officially be THAT mom. It has happened before! I am, indeed, that mom. 

It was a journey to get to where we are. Becoming a mother was slow. It was painful. Our journey was marked by loss and grief. And yet, here I am. On the "other side" of a miracle that I wasn't sure would ever come. I celebrate Mother's Day, and yet I still feel in tune with the tender place in me that resented it. I am keenly aware of what it feels like to be back on the "other side" too. I feel such empathy for those who still are waiting with no assurance that what they long for will ever come.

In the middle of some of those hard years of trying and waiting and loss, people would say to me, “God is faithful. It will happen.” What they meant was God would give me a baby. They certainly didn’t mean to, but they tied God's faithfulness to it. 

God never promised me a baby. He promised to be with me, and to that He was and is so faithful. 

I get to do the full mom gig now. I'm here and healthy to do it. What a gift. It's hard and so good. But you need to know it wasn't God's faithfulness. I didn't deserve my son Powell. I didn't suffer for a while and therefore earn him somehow as a reward. 

If the baby never came, God would still be faithful. 

God was good before. God is good now. He will be good despite the suffering that most certainly comes my way. Because suffering unfortunately will touch all of us. Jesus Himself said, "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16.33b

Miracles happen. God is active, moving in our midst, bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, right now. His power and presence are accessible to us through Jesus. Now. Miracles happen.

But, as Pastor Jeff Lucas often says, “We can't have a theology of miracles without also having a theology of suffering.” They both need to exist together.

Wherever you find yourself as we enter this week and weekend of celebrating the moms, in the waiting, in the suffering, in the broken dreams, or right in the middle of the miraculous generosity of God, may you take comfort in his faithful promise to be with you no matter what.

And again, celebrate the people who mothered you into being this Mother’s Day!

A Mother's Day Both/And Liturgy
This Mother's Day, I bring myself before you Lord.
How good are the gifts you've given me in moms and bonus moms.
Gifts in the hands and hearts of women,
Who have seen me, delighted in me, formed me.
I name them now: ____________________________.
Thank you for loving me through them.

I place any of the tender mix of my heart before you also.
The wounds, the sorrows, the disappointments.
Meet me here, O Christ.
Where I need comfort, be my dwelling place.
Where I need rest, be my peace.
Where there is conflict, be my wisdom.
Where I need healing, bring Your spirit.
Where I need hope, lift my eyes to Your goodness.

Give me strength and courage to acknowledge this day
and all that it brings up in me.
You are generous.
You are indeed faithful.
With me to the end of the ages.


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