She'll be 54 years old.
She gave birth to me when she was 16 years old, and married my father 3 days later. I lived in the same house with her for 21 years.
I remember, when I was little, all of her friends would say how I looked just like her. She was a brunette; I was a blond. I didn't understand.
Over the course of my life, there have been many opportunities for forgiveness and healing. My mother and I weren't very close while I was growing up.
Too much hurt...too much blame...too much dissension - too much evil in my home for a little girl to know how to deal with it all.
When my first child was born - her first grandchild - she was so happy, and I understood more than ever the depth and bond of love between a mother and a child. (And doesn't every woman have a need for her mother when they first become a mother themselves?)
In many ways, we began to grow closer. I so very much wanted us to grow closer!
Then came more incomprehendable heartache.
The alchoholism continued...
Heartwrenching emotional turmoil.
More opportunities for forgiveness...
Until I began to shut down my heart (and sometimes even my eyes).
It's the only way not to be hurt by someone you love. The only way to not be hurt by someone who says they love you.
It's the only way not to be hurt by your own mother.
So, in the midst of this, God gave me a gift - so precious, so deep, so dear. He gave me the idea of a gift for her birthday.
Months ago, I was looking through some things in our storage shed when I found 2 dresses that belonged to my mother as a young girl. I took them inside and washed them. And I thought about framing them as a gift for her for Mother's Day.
I bought the shadow box frame...and then Mother's Day came and went..without me so much as touching the dresses. The unwrapped frame sat behind a chair, collecting dust.
I've been praying - for YEARS - and begging God to help me let go of the hurt. To forgive.
It's sooo hard!
This week I took out the 50-year-old dresses and the frame, determined that I was going to get that frame out of my way! And, I didn't know what else to get her for her birthday, anyway.
And, here's where God's gift showed up...
I was ironing one of the little dresses in the quiet of my kitchen (a quiet kitchen at my house is no small miracle in itself, so looking back, I know that God must have orchestrated this moment in time!).
My eye caught the size written on the tag.
My mother was 3? And, God and I began a conversation as I ironed those little dresses.
It went something like this...
Me: "She was 3 once?"
God: "Yes, crazy girl! Of course she was 3!"
Me: "I know, I know. (smile) But I don't think I've thought much about what she must've been like then."
God: "Well, think about it."
Me: "Innocence. Beauty. Starting to talk in sentences - just like I've watched my little ones do. Bright eyes. Twirling around in her new pretty dress. Laughing. Running. Crying when she was scared. Wanting to be loved. Times with her grandma - one of only a few people in her life who really showed her love. Created and loved by You."
God: "Yes. I created her - for a purpose. For a reason. I love her."
Me: "I love her, too, but she has hurt me so much, God. I can hardly bear it! I wish things were different."
God: "They can be. But, it's not up to you. It's my job. Trust me. You have to let the hurt go."
Me: "You know I've tried, but I literally don't know HOW to let it go!"
God: "When you look at her...when you think of her...think of this dress. Think of her as an innocent child. Because she is MY innocent child. She is forgiven by Me. I know it will take time, but you must think of her this way. You must forgive, b/c I have forgiven you. I have a plan for all of this. You don't see it now...but you must trust me."
Me: "I don't know if I can do it, but I'll try, God."
God: "I Am right here with you."
And, so, I began to cry as I stood there and ironed a little green, size 3X dress. And, I began to praise God, from whom all blessings flow, for the gift of forgiveness.
For mine. For my mother's.
I know it will be a daily struggle to continue to forgive. I've seen too much - felt too much - to think otherwise.
But, I have hope - hope that God gave me...
THE DAY I IRONED A LITTLE GREEN DRESS AND THOUGHT ABOUT WHEN SHE WAS THREE.