When we were little, my sisters and I used to sit in the back of the car and drive each other crazy. We’d fight and poke and ‘I Spy.’ We’d kick the back of the seats and ‘slug bug’ and ‘I’m not touching you.’ Our mama, she’d sit in the front and beg us to stop. She’d threaten to tell Dad. Instruct us to be kind. To use nicer words. To love each other, because each other was all we got.
Our mama, she’d sit in the front, and sigh, and tell us that she’d ‘had it up to here.’
When I was little I used to wonder how high ‘here’ really was. How much could she take? How much could we push? I figured that eventually, she’d hit that ceiling. Eventually, we’d find that cap on top of her patience, on top of her grace, on top of her love. Eventually, she’d throw her hands in the air and quit. That someday we’d get to ‘there,’ the constantly mentioned threat of ‘up to here.’
Those are the things I thought when I was little.
There’s a gasp of surprise, of awe, of respect, when you grow up and see your mama for who she is, for who she was trying to be, with you, for you, all along. When you hold your own baby in your arms and think, “Oh. This is how she felt about me.”
She was a mama who was a counsel, a confidante, a friend. She was mighty strength in the tiniest of packages. She was so much more than I gave her credit for – and isn’t that so often the frustrating way it goes? You wonder why you pushed her ‘up to here’ so often. And you realize that for your mama? ‘Up to here’ didn’t exist.
Mamas are so good at giving more. My mama, even on her worst days, still gave. She still showed up, leading, loving, praying, just as she had always done. She would back her faith and strength and hope against the ceiling of ‘up to here’ and push it away. Higher than I ever thought she could push. More than she ever should have had to handle.
She was a tiny little warrior equipped with the heaviest of armor. And maybe, so am I (and so are you).
“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” [Psalm 119:50]
She chose joy instead of sorrow.
She lived in victory instead of defeat.
She chose light instead of darkness.
She believed a promise that gives her life.
And if I want, if I need to (which I do), I can choose the same.
When my world tumbled down, I used to call her. We all did. We’d call our tiny mama and we’d fill her with our troubles. “Mama, I’ve had it up to here.” And she’d tell us things we didn’t want to hear, whispers of promises, and trust, and faith. Of joys that can always be found in the middle of anger. Of lights that still shine in the middle of the darkness.
We’d close our ears and beg for an answer that didn’t account for faith. That left Jesus out of the equation. We’d beg for an answer that made sense right here, right now. Explain the unexplainable. Define the undefinable. It never came. And now? Now I realize she couldn’t do that.
We were asking her to fight without her armor. Without her promises. We were asking her to do something she could not do. To be someone she could not be. Our mama, she didn’t do life without Jesus. He was the answer to her ‘up to here.’
She walked in victory before the battle had ever begun.
She clung to faith while she stared at what others said was sure defeat.
She believed a promise ages old, a promise she knew she could rest in time and time again.
And she pleaded with each of us to do the same. To push back the ceiling of ‘up to here.’ That there is no life to live, except for one in which you walk with Jesus.
Sometimes, when the three of us girls and the three of our boys were all home at once, chaos would ensue. Our words tumbled all over each other, laughter filled the dusty corners of my parent’s living room, and my mom would sit back, quietly, and never say a word.
She was a tiny little warrior, surrounded by the army that her and my father had slowly and painstakingly grown. A tiny little warrior, pushing back against the ceiling of ‘up to here.’ A tiny warrior, who refused to do life without Jesus by her side.
I would watch her sometimes and wonder what she was thinking. What she was hearing. I think I might know the whisper she heard in her ears.
“Well done, my tiny warrior. Well done.”
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Happy Mother’s Day Mama. You are so missed.