Aftermath: The Terrible Truth Every Parent Must Face

My dear reader,

Late Monday night as news of the Manchester attack was breaking and sirens and people were wailing and our hearts were ripping open again, I came to a sinking realization. One no parent ever wants to admit.

I have been – to varying degrees – lying to my children for a long time. At least since 9/11.

In the days and weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, I told my older boys (then 7 and 10 years old) that they were safe. That Mommy and Daddy would do everything we could to protect them. That they shouldn’t be afraid.

In hindsight, I see those statements for what they were: false, true (but not the whole truth), and ridiculous, respectively. (And yes, regrettably.)

It doesn’t matter whether we live in Manchester, Mosul or Mexico City, Stockholm or San Salvador, Paris or Pyongyang, Johannesburg, Brussels or Baltimore; we have to face the terrifying facts…

We aren’t safe.

We can’t always protect the people we love.

And there’s a million reasons to be afraid. Very, very afraid.

The world is dangerous. Sometimes, insanely so. There are no real “safe zones” anywhere. (Even inside the womb.) And despite our best efforts to protect our children – car seats and sunscreen and safety locks and antibiotics and airbags and bug spray and bike helmets and content filters and floatation devices – we cannot always, entirely, eliminate harm/hurt/heartache/horror.  A baby monitor doesn’t prevent SIDS. There’s no vaccination against diabetes. Or depression. Even the latest and best auto safety features can’t stop someone else from texting and T-boning your Taurus. Or driving drunk.

A few weeks prior to the attack in England, a bus bombing outside Aleppo killed 126 people and injured hundreds more. It happened in a convoy that was transporting evacuees from a hot zone to a (possibly/hopefully/maybe/somewhat) safer zone. Among the dead were aid workers and refugees, at least 68 of them children. An explosion was their end.

Somewhere in Syria, there’s a mama like me. And she just buried her baby.

Oh God…

Bad things happen every day. Sometimes horrific, unthinkable things. Marathon runners and concert goers and bus riders are blown to bits. Whole, healthy bodies are broken in car crashes and burned in house fires. Teachers and students are shot at school. Gang violence mutates and spreads. Predators troll the internet. Vibrant, beautiful souls all over the world are struck by land mines and lightning and lashings and leukemia. The planet is tattered and battered by earthquakes and hurricanes and tornados and tsunamis. And the stark reality is there’s little we can do to prevent any of it.

In any given life at any given time, chaos or calamity can come crashing in. A grim diagnosis or catastrophic storm, a freak accident or planned attack, grievous trauma or ghastly terror. Even if we successfully avoided all hazards and havoc, if we somehow averted every disease and natural disaster, by now we should know that we can’t prevent the violence. One human being against another.

Hand-to-hand hatred.

I don’t understand all the psychology and neurology and environmental influences and developmental indicators. I am not a psychiatrist or sociologist or criminologist or counselor. I just know that somehow in some twisted, terrible way, people learn to bully and batter and brutalize. Simply because someone else is the “wrong” color or creed or sect or sex or race or religion or ________ (fill in the blank with any demographic we use to divide and conquer ourselves).

Whether or not we want to admit it, we are utterly incapable of eradicating every evil.

So what is a parent/protector/nurturer/news-interpreter-to-Paw-Patrol-viewers do? What do we tell our children? Or, more pointedly… what do we tell ourselves? How in the world do we make sense of senseless tragedy?

I don’t have all the answers, that’s for sure.

But I know I can’t hide the truth from my kids any more than I could keep them from growing (and outgrowing their clothes every time I turned around). I can’t explain away the ugly and angry and vile and venomous on the news or in the neighborhood. I can’t promise safe and sound and warm and fuzzy all the time.

‘Cause this ain’t heaven.

In fact, it’s a far cry.

Planet Earth can be pretty hellish. And to say otherwise is lying. Or certifiable delusion.

I don’t know why God allows it. The evil, I mean. I like my freedom, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes this whole “free will” thing goes awry. Heinously so.

I’ve heard the question a thousand times:

If God is good, why would He allow such savagery?

I could go on and on about the forces of evil and fall of the human race and God’s inexplicable capacity for both immeasurable mercy and exacting justice (which is not yet fully and finally accomplished). I could try to explain the dichotomy of God’s fervent hatred of evil and His fierce love for the evil-doer. A love that chases after and overtakes and overcomes and cries out that no one – regardless of the ferocity of their cruelty or the atrocities they commit or the blood they spill – is beyond redemption. (Because Jesus spilled His.)

But the simple answer to the question hanging in the air right now is…

I don’t know.

But I do know this.

Jesus wept.

God isn’t passive or stoic or distant. He comes near, crouches low, looks into the freshly dug grave… and looks into the anguished eyes of the grieving.

He sees. He knows. He empathizes, agonizes, embraces, consoles. And someday, somehow, He will make it better. Better than better.

New.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  (Revelation 21:1-5)

Despite popular/modern/twisted theology, Jesus didn’t promise health, wealth and prosperity on this planet. If He had, He’d have been proven a liar a long time ago. A perverse one at that.

Instead, He promised His presence. In the hardest, darkest, bleakest, bloodiest places. In concert venues and prisons and ERs and slums, on race routes and subway trains, in classrooms and convoys, at Christkindl markets… and gravesites.  He groans and grieves with us. He is near.

And one day, He will put an end to the terror and horror and hate.

Joy to the world… the LORD will come. And He will start fresh.

And we will fully – finally – know impenetrable Peace, unbridled Joy, untarnished Beauty.

Holding onto my only Hope,

Wendy

P.S. Love. Will. Win.

 

 

 

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The most excellent (exhausting/exciting/ excruciating/exhilirating) job on earth

My dear reader,

Mom’s the word.

Well, at least this week it is.

And pretty much every week if you have a preschooler.

“Mom. Mom? Mom! Mommy???  Mom!!! And, my personal favorite, “MomMomMomMomMomMomMomMomMomMOMMMMMMEEEEEE!”

(Keep breathing, kid.)

Moms all over the world will be celebrated Sunday with sappy greeting cards, overpriced flowers, social media tributes, and every imaginable type of chocolate. (If anybody asks, I favor Swiss. But since I doubt any of my offspring are flying to Zurich this weekend, I’ll happily settle for a box of Sno-Caps.)

Come Sunday, some moms will be blessed with brunch reservations. Others, breakfast in bed. Some will be recipients of fine art. Others will get homemade-handprint-fingerpaint masterpieces (which they will cherish and preserve like an original Renoir). Some moms will get jewelry. Others, a cherry ring pop. Some will nearly faint at the gift of surprise visitors from farflung places (“Mom, I’m home!” will elicit sweet bliss from mamas whose birdies have flown the nest) or a brand new vacuum (< personally, I think a new Hoover is a terrible idea, but I know a few moms who’d be genuinely overjoyed by strong suction and assorted attachments). Others will feign delight when they get a bottle of Eau de Toilette. Again. (Side note: At $90 an ounce, one chooses to say toilet water in French, so as not to feel swindled.)

And then there’s the crown jewel of Mother’s Day bounty. Only a few highly favored and fortunate mothers will be given this most elusive and indulgent gift:

P & Q.

As in:

Peace and Quiet.

A long-anticipated trip.

Or nap.

Or a leisurely stroll around Sam’s Club… sans kids. (Retail therapy, wild freedom, and samples of salmon burgers and cinnamon waffles all rolled into one glorious outing. Practically a spa day… without the robe and slippers.)

The “mom job” is the veritable zenith of multi-tasking. It requires versatility, creativity, grace and grit. It entails wide-ranging responsibilities, ever-changing demands, gut-wrenching setbacks, grueling hours, and a vast and varied skillset. According to Business Insider, the “average” mom (as if there were such a person) works 94 hours per week and could command over $113,000 for her services in the marketplace. (I’ve been a mom for more than 27 years, so I’ll be issuing an invoice for a cool $3 mil. In my dreams.)

Here’s the reality of motherhood…

It’s actually (approximately) 28 jobs, including (but not limited to) the following:

Caregiver.

Counselor.

Coach/referee/cheerleader (sometimes all in a period of sixty seconds).

Chauffeur.

Chaplain.

Personal chef.

Program director.

Travel agent.

Tour guide/lifeguard/playground supervisor.

Scheduler. (And issuer of repeated reminders.)

Stylist/wardrobe consultant.

Laundress. (A ceaseless, stinkin’ dirty job. Can I get an amen from all the football/hockey/soccer moms out there?)

Teacher/tutor/academic advisor.

Nurse.

Nutritionist.

Project supervisor. (This particular job strikes fear in the hearts of fourth-grade moms everywhere.)

Driving instructor. (Sheer terror.)

Event planner.

Money manager.

Motivational speaker.

And the most fierce, fulfilling, heart-stirring and heart-stopping job of all:

Nurturer.

This is the one that comes most naturally and instantaneously to nearly every mother who has ever lived (even those of us who are the least “domesticated” of domesticators).

Why? Well, maybe because we were made in the image of God who is the very Essence of flawless nurturing. He is the perfect (and undeniably the most patient) Parent ever. Not only is He our Heavenly Father. He invented and ordained the art of mothering.

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. The Lord alone guided them… (Deuteronomy 32:11-12a)

That hovering thing that moms do? It’s hard-wired into us. And it’s divine. For a time. (Children and “chicks” need hovering. Young adults do not. Preaching to myself here.)

Moms are a beautiful study of contrasts:

Soft as marshmallows and tough as nails.

Tender as NICU nurses and brutal as drill sergeants.

Gentle as doves… and ferocious as lions.

The mom job is all-consuming. 365/24/7. No vacations or holidays… or sick days. Those days are Just. The. Worst. Feverishly and valiantly enduring chores, errands, homework hell and dinner prep despite a splitting headache or churning stomach. All hail the barfing, battle-weary baby mama!

And, while we’re offering salutes, let’s just take a moment to reverently extol all the adoptive moms, homeschool moms, foster moms, stepmoms, and military moms. The grieving moms… and those aching to just be moms (our collective hearts go out to you). The moms of sick kids, strong-willed kids, and special needs kids. As well as the undisputed heroines of motherhood: single moms (and dads) doing daunting double-duty due to the lack or loss of a parent along the way.

Kudos and Bravos and Blessings on the whole lot of you!

The founder and forefather of parenthood – God – clearly understood the complexity and intensity of the job. And He issued a very clear directive to every child (of every age). The fifth commandment (one of 10 that He – literally – wrote in stone, once upon a time) is this:

Honor your father and mother. (Exodus 20:12)

Not just on Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day). Everyday. With your words (to them and about them), your tone, your actions and attitude.

It doesn’t say “honor your mother if you think she’s doing (or did) a great job mothering you.” It doesn’t say “honor your mother if she’s exemplary or even somewhat honorable.” It simplys says honor her. Period. (< Yes, even when she has it.) The word “honor” means:

To regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect; to give special recognition to.

Moms aren’t perfect. They mess up. (Most of us, every single day.) But nearly every mom on the planet is trying really, really hard to give her very best. Most want desperately to succeed in this mom job. And most will fall short and falter and fail. Repeatedly.

Honor them anyway.

Acknowledge their efforts. Affirm their best qualities. Appreciate their sacrifices. Applaud their “heroic measures.” Can’t think of any? How about 280 days of in-utero nurturing and sustenance, you ungrateful parasite! (Just kidding. Kind of.)

Certainly there are plenty of troubled moms out there. Moms whose children have suffered the collateral damage of their own unmitigated hurts and heartache. Moms who simply couldn’t give their children what they needed because of their own brokenness.

Honor them, too. If for no other reason than the fact that they gave you life.

Pretty great gift, don’t you think?

Mothering is hard, holy, humbling work.

The toughest and best job of all.

~ Wendy (aka Mom, Mommy, Momma, Ma)

P.S. to Zack, Mitch, Jordan, Trent and Chloe: First, I want to say thank you. Being your mom has been the most profound privilege of my life. Second, I want to say sorry. I know I’ve screwed up plenty. And royally. And I can only pray and trust that God’s grace and mercy will cover my countless mistakes. Third, I want to say I’m proud. Proud of the people you are becoming. Keep going, keep growing, keep becoming who God made you to be. Fourth, I want to say I’m praying. Hard. For every one of you, every day. And finally, I want to say, I love you. All the way up to heaven and back a million zillion times. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

 

Wendy pregnant photo