Happy [God]mother’s Day

Dry Creek Crossing at 8:00a MDT

I woke up a little late this morning. It is snowing and sleeting in Denver today (while my own mother has sunny, 90-degree weather down in Tennessee), so the clouds kept my bedroom a little darker a little longer than usual. It was 7:30a when my eyes opened and I blindly reached toward my nightstand to grab my blinking smartphone. I had received an email overnight from a new friend in the Czech Republic, and I had to get up RIGHT THEN to answer her email RIGHT NOW. Her question reminded me of struggles my David and I’ve encountered in the last few years. If my answer could ease her pain, it needed to be sent halfway across the earth immediately!

Maybe an hour later I’d finished my reply. David had gotten up by then, and we were both settling into a restful, coffee-infused Sunday. He was watching golf, sneezing, and cursing this “ridiculous” weather; I was cataloging stuff from great-grand Aunt Bessie’s trunk; we both were avoiding church.

Mother’s Day isn’t a particularly happy Sunday for a couple who has had multiple miscarriages. In years past we’ve had church leaders who were sensitive to our feelings. Maybe they avoided mentioning Mother’s Day entirely, or maybe they made a point of including the parents of miscarried children as “mothers” worthy of honor on this day. We were thankful for their efforts, but no matter what anyone says or does, Mother’s Day is miserable for any woman who wants-but-doesn’t-have a particular child. If there’s a special children’s music program that day, it hurts. If the existence of the holiday is ignored entirely, it hurts worse (because Mother’s Day is the elephant in the room and you know you’re the reason why it isn’t being acknowledged).

So this Sunday, we stayed home. It was easy to do: the weather is indeed “ridiculous,” and we haven’t officially joined a church out West yet. No one would notice our absence.

From our balcony

A few hours later David went to bed with a painful sinus headache, and I stayed up working on the trunk stuff. In the quiet I heard a ding-dong from my smartphone: the mama of my soon-to-be goddaughter posted a picture of the mobile I had commissioned for her baby, and she thanked me for it. I remembered the words I’d typed to my new European friend just this morning: “But [are fertility treatments] right for you and your husband? That is for the Holy Spirit to tell you. After 7 years of … procedures and 5 miscarriages, David and I are confident that God doesn’t intend for us to raise children of our own. We believe He has other plans for us, such as being very involved in the lives of our godchildren and our future nieces and nephews.”

Yes, I stand by those words. God has shown to me that He wants to use me in nontraditional ways. As Paul said to the Corinthians,

My primary desire is for you to be free from the worries that plague humanity. A single man can focus on the things of the Lord and how to please the Lord, but a married man has to worry about the details of the here and now and how to please his wife. A married man will always have divided loyalties. The same idea is true for a young unmarried woman. She concerns herself only with the work of the Lord and how to dedicate herself entirely, body and spirit, to her Lord. On the other hand, a married woman has vast responsibilities for her family and a desire to please her husband. I am not trying to give you more rules and regulations. I only want to give you advice that is fitting and helpful. I want to help you live lives of faithful devotion to the Lord without any distraction (1 Cor. 7: 32–35, The Voice).

I am a married woman, but I can extrapolate Paul’s intention to apply to my situation. I am a woman who “desire(s) to please her husband,” but because my David and I don’t need to divide our loyalties between children and Him, we can together “live lives of faithful devotion to the Lord without any distraction.” Is that not exactly what a godparent is commissioned to do? To guide his or her godchild to “live lives of faithful devotion to the Lord without any distraction”?

Lilies of the Prairie

Rocky Mountain Lake Park

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that Spring is my favorite season. I love watching the world come to life. I loved pruning my Tennessee lilac bushes and making tulip arrangements. I didn’t love the bees (I’m allergic) or the pollen (allergic to that too); but the sunshine, mild temperatures, fragrant plants, and general beauty were worth the energy I spent sneezing.

Springtime in Denver is different. Better, if you ask me. It seems as if every day is sunny and the temperatures never go above 75. The blooms aren’t as prolific here as they are in the South because the climate is so much drier in a prairie, but I don’t have any pollen allergies. And there are no mosquitoes. I can sit outside in a park with my laptop and write blogs without a box of tissues. It is glorious.

I am thankful to have a husband who appreciates beauty and nature as much as I do. Each weekend when we go into the mountains and hike, he lets me stop and just gawk at the snow caps and springs and (super-cute fuzzy) mule deer around us. He’d buy me “rocks” every day if he could, and he does manage to keep the vase on my mantle full of freshly cut flowers (now courtesy of Whole Foods instead of our backyard). Those cut flowers are the only Spring blossoms I’ve really seen around here.

Today the vase is full of lilies: a reminder of Easter week and an inspiration for an upcoming baby shower. My sweet niece and goddaughter, Lily, will join the Haley clan at the end of May. She won’t just be a result of the life that comes to earth in the Spring, but the embodiment of that life.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27 NKJV).

Jesus is trying to explain why humanity should stop worrying. God is in control of everything. He brings life to the earth in the Spring, and He has brought life to my niece. Notice that after millennia of doing this, He still enlivens the world with great care. God takes the time to adorn His creation. He rains on all those beautiful plants when we forget them (not to say that I ever forgot to water my plants) and raises them up under His sunlight.

I’ve written a letter to Lily, and in it I’ve encouraged her to consider her namesake. Lilies are delicate and beautiful, yes, but they are also hardy and carefree. God wants these things for Lily’s life. God cares for my flower of a niece as He cares for His wild prairie blossoms: meticulously and completely. He will make sure that the irritants she encounters in life are beneficial just as bees and pollen that might irritate her immune system make for a more beautiful Tennessee spring.

But should Lily need to escape the itchy South and practice giving her worries to God, there’s no reason she can’t come to the Denver prairie for a season.

Aunties and Old Lace

The priceless (but not valuable) treasures on this table include
falling-apart Bibles, black-feather handfans, 100-year-old
 medical school diplomas, and letters. So many letter.

My kitchen smells funny. It’s that acid-paper, old-glue, pink-mold-covered-photograph smell known to permeate museums and “private collection” sections of libraries worldwide. It’s not a bad smell; it’s just a distinctive smell. It conjures memories of writing graduate theses, opening grandmas’ hope chests, and working at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. When it isn’t in my kitchen I actually like this smell of nostalgia–unless I inhale fumes from pink-mold-covered photographs and must run for my hot-pink Benadryl. (Stupid allergies.) Why does my kitchen smell like the Vatican? As the very-unofficial family historian, I have temporary physical custody of all the old letters, photographs, and memorabilia of my Granny Womack and her ancestors.

Just before my David and I moved to Colorado, we asked my family if we could take “the trunk.” My Papa Womack, who would die only 9 days after we left Tennessee, gave his blessing as did my father and my aunts. This meant the world to me. Stored inside the Victorian-era luggage is everything my Granny and her Aunt Bessie deemed valuable: over 100-years’-worth-of love letters, angry letters, bad kids’ artwork, school report cards, and newspaper clippings; a flapper’s dress, a black-feather handfan, and a baby’s black-leather slipper.

My great grandaunt Bessie died in 1984 when I was three years old, but she ended up with a starring role in my book. She is the last woman I profile. She lived a book-worthy life: she lost her first husband to suicide, spent her career serving the people of Virginia as a tuberculosis nurse, and survived the violent rape by and pardoning of her assailant. The details of these events are only now becoming clear as I read old letters and newspaper articles. Her strength of spirit inspires me. Aunt Bessie never had her own children but raised my Granny Womack, and my family considers Aunt Bessie to be our matriarch (now three generations beyond her). Her example teaches me how a woman can be a mother when she has no children and a saint when she sometimes lacks virtue.