Queen For A Day

When I was about six I remember my mother watching a program called "Queen For A Day".  It has stuck with me to this day, as I found it fascinating, even at that age.  Basically they would get three women on stage, each of them would tell their gut-wrenching sob stories of suffering, trying to outdo each other's misery---and at the end of the show, the one who was deemed to be the most pathetic would win---they would crown her, (literally)---and she would get a washer and dryer and a year's supply of Ivory Snow and maybe a trip to Mexico.

If you are a "Stay at Home Mom"--(I really despise that terminology--haven't decided yet what we should change it to--I'll keep you posted)--anyway, if you are one of those, this is really directed at you...If, on the other hand--you are a "Working Mom"--(and we all know that you have two jobs in this case--you are in a league by yourself; I am humbled in your presence, awed, amazed, impressed, etc. etc.  (I would go on, but being a "Stay At Home Mom" I really don't have the strength.

This will be short, but I just had to say it.  (Or ask it)---Have you ever noticed, or ever wondered--all the ten bazillion things we do on a daily basis that are (A) nothing you would ever tell anyone about because you don't tell people that you spent an hour with a kitchen knife cleaning the gunk out of the rubber on the inside of the refrigerator door,  and (B) that if you did not do these bazillion things the entire house and everything in it would eventually come crashing down around you---or eventually become of interest to the Health Department--or at least, your neighbor down the street who never spends an hour with a kitchen knife cleaning gunk out of her refrigerator because her refrigerator never gets gunk in it to start with.  (I have a LOT to say about those  people, but that is another day)

My twin sister works.  Full time.  It is stressful, and she gets tired, and all she wants to do some days is quit.  (Partly, I know, because she is good at what she does----anything less than perfection sends her up the wall.)  But some days we will go to lunch and she will attempt to paint a picture of her day, and what she has already done, was in the process of doing, and is on the schedule for the rest of the day--or week.  I honestly try to understand it--to be sympathetic to it.  But most of the time I confess I am thinking to myself, "Wow, you really had to teach that training class to 900 professional people and do it while fighting the struggles and pressures and countless hours of preparation that went into it??  Really??  Hey, I can identify!!  This morning I mucked out the bathrooms and swiffered under the furniture--(I really did--you should have seen it)--and cleaned out the hamster cage--and even collected all the trash and got it out there before the garbage man came--(still in my pajamas and robe--I have ceased wondering or even caring what the neighbors think.) I haven't even started on the dusting...or the kitchen..or the...

And so, fellow colleagues--"Stay At Home Moms"---(drum roll, please...)--the judges have heard you--they understand your struggles--even if no one else does--they are impressed beyond words at your unending dedication to all things mundane, boring, and even totally gross--your courage, strength, fortitude, and endurance....and have unanimously voted you to be.....

Our Queen For A Day!!  Take the stage for your first walk--this is your night--There she is...etc. etc. etc...

(We'd throw confetti, but we know you'd be the one stuck cleaning it up...)


Bright Morning Star

The light streamed into the room casting the kind of glow you only begin to see this time of year--sort of surreal, but warm and familiar.  But then, there has always been something about sitting in church--God's house---with His sun coming through the window--that has always been so indescribably beautiful--it is almost too sacred to write about--as if we should all just keep it to ourselves--just between us and God, our own sun-kissed God smile.

This morning as I sat enveloped in this glow, I watched as a young mother carried her baby-- a tiny pink-clad ball, sleeping in her mother's arms--part of this sun-filled room, and yet unaware of it, floating somewhere in the place that babies go when they sleep--somewhere only the angels are allowed to be.  Tiny fingers curled into a ball, tiny little toes curling under her pink dress.  Beauty beyond anything this world should be allowed to see.

Thank you God, for giving us a peek at your glory--in the sun on our faces, and the promise of life everlasting in the face of a child who has just begun her own.

Psalm 27:4


Just Like Me

They were all out there--as usual--a sea of white in their prison issue---some huddled in conversation, others alone with their thoughts, not apart from the group--but alone, and seemingly content to be so.  Some, as usual, locked eyes with us as we approached, others ignored us--or didn't see us, or didn't care.

Some gazed at us, glad to see us---to see anyone, I suppose--not wearing white--as if we brought some of the world in with us--a tiny piece of light, a little bit of something good, or at least, something not here--anything, anywhere, but here...

Others only stared, wondering what we were there for, and did we really think we could offer them anything to hang on to--could we dare to think that we could ever truly understand them enough--empathize enough--to give them any real hope or insight?  We did not live in their world.  We didn't know where they came from--what life had handed them.  We would never understand it.  If they had the chance they would tell us to save our "Jesus loves you" speeches.  They had heard them before.  They would not be attending the service, thank you, just let us have our cigarette breaks in peace.  Save someone else worth saving.  Jesus does not love women in prison.  And as usual, we prayed that God would tug at their hearts--just one more time--to listen just once more, to not give up on God. To not give up on themselves.

But today something happened as we made or way to the area set aside for our "service" that I had never seen or heard before, although I am sure that it has happened hundreds of times, and in the same way that it happened today. I had just never seen it.  And I could not shake it--didn't even talk about it to my friend who was there with me; partly because I could so relate to it, and oddly, partly because I could not possibly imagine myself in this woman's--this mother's--position.  It seems so insignificant.

It wasn't.  I will never forget it.

There were several women grouped together, encircling one holding some items in her hand, smiling, proudly showing them to the other women, handling them as if they were priceless antiques or precious gems.  There was nothing, no one, more important than these items she was sharing.  The other women were all waiting for a turn to touch them.  "Was she crying?" one of the women said, as she handed the poloroid snapshot of the little girl back to her mother.  "Yes, a little"..I heard the mother say.  And for just the tiniest second I could see the pain on her face.  The pain only a mother can feel when your child is hurting.  The gut wrenching ache that nothing can touch or get to.  Just please, God, help my baby.  Love my child for me when I can't be there.

I understood the pain a mother feels.  I have put my children on the bus where there were bullies.  I have seen disappointments and hurts and trials and errors, and I have had to let them go--loosen my grip, and give them to a world that is not always good.  I have been afraid for my children.  I have watched J.P. grow into a young man and leave our home, and prayed, please God, that he is all right, that God will watch over him as he makes his way in the world.

But I could always get to my children if I needed to.  I could always hold them, and talk to them.  There were never any bars separating us.  My children knew that I was home when they got off the bus. That I was there--as I am now--to bandage that scraped knee, or to mend that broken heart, or to encourage them to try when they had tried and failed.  And they knew that I was there when they made the team, or the grade, and that there was someone to run to, to hug, to dance, and laugh, and share, like only a mother can, the little things in life, that are really not so little--those things you remember and carry with you always...Those things and more--I am there--every minute, every memory, always, always, there.

Visiting day at the prison was over.   This child, by now, was long gone, somewhere far from where she wanted to be, far from where any little child ever should be--far from her mother.  Nothing more sacred than that.  This mother's arms ached to hold this child again, but had only snapshots to hold.  Don't grow anymore, my baby.  Wait till I see you again.

I don't know what sent this mother to prison.  I don't know what choices, mistakes, or roads she took that got her where she is. I only know that it is my prayer that she will fight with all that is in her to get out, and to stay out. That she will be the kind of Mom that can take the right kind of pictures.  Pictures with Santa, and birthday parties, and Easter Egg Hunts.

Pictures that don't end with crying.

But for that brief moment in time I couldn't see her white prison clothes.  I forgot where we were, or why we were there, or why these ladies were inside a chain length fence surrounded by barbed wire.

I saw a scene that happens every day, in every neighborhood in the world--a mother, surrounded by other mothers, showing off pictures of her child---so much love for that child her heart could burst--so proud that she was hers--so grateful for this precious gift--this child.  Just an ordinary woman, surrounded by other ordinary women, sharing the joys, understanding the pain, and marveling at this most miraculous of gifts--motherhood.

I saw a Mom.

Just like me.

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