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Skipping Church on Mother’s Day

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Looking Back

Every day I look at Facebook’s “On This Day” app to see what I was up to exactly one year before. My posts seem to split into my own specific version of B.C./A.D.: B.B. which is “Before Baby” when I read my posts and think “dear goodness, could I have created more boring and shallow status updates if I had tried?!” And then comes A.B., or “After Baby” when the 99% of my posts are baby/kid pictures, “listen to what she said today!” posts, and the random mommy rant. Can anyone relate?

“On This Day” can be so fun and a great way to reminisce. Except when it brings up bad memories.

Take today for example… on this day last year I had shared a post from The Time-Warp Wife entitled An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day), a wonderful piece on how churches can celebrate and lift up all women on Mother’s Day. I just loved the post. It was illuminating for me and helped me to begin sorting out my own embattled feelings about Mother’s Day.

Then, I read the comments.

Coming in Last Place is Compassion & Empathy

I didn’t read the comments on the actual blog post. I read the comments on the Facebook post. See the post here. The top comments were painful to read. Until that moment I assumed that other women would feel compassion for the childless, the infertile, the bereaved mother, the grieving daughter. Instead I sat in stunned silence, hot tears stinging my eyes as I read cruel words that accused hurting women of “playing the victim.”

I’ve never forgotten those words carelessly written that day.

Words Like Honey…

There was, however, one dear voice towards the top of those comments who spoke with kindness and compassion. That one amazing woman who had never experienced infertility or miscarriage offered sweet words that brought hope to my heart; hope that there is still love and sisterhood. She called on the mothers commenting on the post to stop seeking to honor themselves, to stop rubbing their joy in the faces of the hurting, and offered to pray for those who were sharing their pain and grief.

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul…”

The post on Time Warp Wife ended up being controversial, which is just an embarrassing reflection on some Christian women.

The week before Mother’s Day 2015 I shared the article from Time Warp Wife with a friend. It came up in conversation and she was curious to read it. I didn’t think any more of it until Sunday rolled around.

My husband and I were sitting in church on Mother’s Day and at one point in the service the pastor began talking about an article that had been shared with him that week. As he read it aloud my jaw dropped. My husband nudged me and with wide eyes he whispered “isn’t that the post you shared?!” I nodded and we later learned we both had the same thought racing through our heads: “well, crap. We have to find another church now!”

Because of the less than nice reception the article had received that week and how I had been criticized for even sharing it on my own Facebook pages, I thought for sure this moment in church wouldn’t be a good one. Of course that was crazy talking because the article was amazing! Our pastor reading those healing words aloud to everyone listening was incredibly beautiful.

The Brutal Truth

Miscarriage changed my life.

After miscarriage I became an incredibly broken and compassionate person that I was not before. So compassionate that I do not want to stand in church to be honored as a mother on Mother’s Day as my friend sits. The first time I experienced this after miscarriage my heart bled for the precious women sitting, not by their own choice, as mothers stood all around them. It’s breathtakingly brutal, if you’re paying attention.

If You’re Going to Honor Mothers at Church, Do it Well

After miscarriage I became desperately attached to my one treasured little girl. I’ve always loved her, of course. But since the loss of her sibling I need my girl so much more. My heart aches when I put her to bed in her own room because I want her sleeping beside me so I can stare at her and kiss her face until I fall asleep.

My crazy love for my girl is why if a church is going to honor mothers, I would love for the celebrations to be more focused on the actual needs of mothers and their children rather than pseudo spiritual ritual of giving “honor” to mothers in front of the whole church. How about pulling together to change the oil in every woman’s car? How about sending a grocery store gift card to all the single moms? Why not get volunteers to do some yard work for elderly women in the church and neighborhood?

I’m fine with a Mother’s Day “tea” or whatever on Saturday where moms and kids dress up, have a party, and take a million selfies. I’d love to pick my daughter up from class after church on Mother’s Day and see what beautiful little handmade gift she made for me during the class. These things can be pleasant for moms without also rubbing the joy in the faces of women who are struggling.

If we’re going to make a whole big thing out of Mother’s Day at church, I’d like it to be less awkward and more about celebrating the bond between me and my precious little one and my own mom.

Maybe your church could make it known that this Sunday in May will be a celebration of all women. Pamper every lady in the church with chocolate treats at the door, a gym filled with snacks and chair massage stations, and a message of encouragement.

When 1 + 1 Doesn’t = 3

In the aftermath of loss, I became a broken person. I’m now painfully honest. Excessively cynical at times. I no longer have the luxury of believing the way I used to believe. I now know that good things do not always happen to good people.

I have had to grasp concepts of questioning and uncertainty while surrounded by my American Christian culture that assumes to have it all figured out. I’ve been forced into a place where I no longer have the option of the black and white belief that if I do this + believe this = I get this. I have no choice but to become familiar with questioning everything I’ve ever believed to be true and good.

What I Need

It’s because of this beautifully broken place in which I live that what I actually need from the church is not to stand and be applauded for having successfully procreated. I don’t need a little token gift from the church on Mother’s Day.

What I need is real and accessible community.

I need to eat dinner with friends.

I need fun activities to attend to make good memories with my husband and daughter centered around church life.

I need full acceptance of me even when I sound like a liberal in a room full of conservatives (who knew that being fully on the side of love and compassion and being one of those “Jesus Feminists” would be enough to alienate me from my conservative friends… but whatever man!).

I need to see diversity and strong women in leadership in my church and community.

I need to be a part of a support group through church where I can work through anger, grief, self-pity, hopelessness, and other negative emotions in a completely safe space.

Sometimes I need to rage and curse and yell that I don’t believe any of this, then raise my hands in sincere worship and sing songs to this God that I choose to love and believe is a good God in spite of the terror of this life.

So, now that I’ve gone totally personal, what do you need? Think about it for a moment. How can we each help create the church culture that we need ourselves?

When Mother’s Day Hurts

So many friends tell me they do not attend church services on Mother’s Day. Many who do struggle to balance their joy and sadness.

I have friends who have lost their mother too young. I have so many friends who have suffered painful miscarriages. I have friends who have buried their babies on the day they should have taken them home. I have friends who secretly carry shame and trauma post abortion. I have friends who were abused or neglected by their mothers. I have friends who are dealing with infertility. I have friends who are childless by choice and prefer to avoid the rudely intrusive and cutting judgement of others, and so they don’t attend church on Mother’s Day.

To those who find Mother’s Day painful or at least bittersweet, let me release you from expectation… you don’t have to go to church on Mother’s Day.

 

As my pastor friends everywhere are having heart attacks right now, let me tell you, if you know me at all you know I understand your position deeply. Calm the heck down and listen. I’m on your side more than you may realize.

Yes, it’s true. You can celebrate a peaceful Mother’s Day in the way that you choose. Church does not have to be a part of your celebration.

Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day When it Hurts:

Take a walk in the sunshine.

Enjoy a family brunch.

Write your mom a letter. Deliver it to her and give her a big, grateful hug. Or, sit by her grave and read the words aloud.

Go to a movie with your favorite people.

Dance in the rain.

Have a picnic in the park with your children.

Write letters to the babies you wish to hold one day.

Eat all the chocolate.

Get a massage.

Ride roller coasters.

Paint your nails.

Lay on the couch and watch movies with your children all day.

Sing in the shower.

Plan a big cookout with friends and family.

Read a good book.

Go to church. If you have a beautiful, loving, compassionate, accepting community of faith that will bring you care and joy on Mother’s Day, be there. If not, you need no excuse.

Skipping Church on Mother’s Day

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11 Comments on Skipping Church on Mother’s Day

  1. Delia
    May 7, 2016 at 11:23 am (1 year ago)

    Awesome post! You somehow have this amazing way of articulating all the icky feelings I don’t understand or know how to explain. As I excitedly await my first Mother’s Day with our little girl, I’ve had this weird feeling of guilt as I think of both our lost baby and women who feel like I did last Mother’s day. We also will not be attending church on Mother’s Day. Instead, my hubby planned a little get away for our family of 3 for the night and I can’t wait 🙂

    Reply
  2. Andrea
    May 7, 2016 at 11:41 am (1 year ago)

    I SO get it with how churches need to pay more attention to those of us without children and to moms in general…

    Reply
  3. Ai
    May 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm (1 year ago)

    After reading your post, I’m reminded of the command to consider the interests of others more important than our own. In this selfie generation, that can be challenging for many of us. I love how Jesus has a special tenderness towards women, who have experienced loss: the barren, widows, and those whose children died (Mary, just to name one). He has set the example for us on how to consider these women.

    Reply
  4. Joyfulmomof6
    May 7, 2016 at 2:48 pm (1 year ago)

    I love this post, especially where you said ” I have had to grasp the concept of uncertainty in an American Christian culture that assumes to have it all figured out. I’ve been forced into a place where I no longer have the option of the black and white belief that if I do this + believe this = I get this”. Miscarriage did that to me too, and also being abused as a child by my mother, who was supposed to protect me and having 3 special needs children…I got so tired of those in the church spouting off formulas like that. I am still a believer, though and I find it shameful that the worst comments I’ve gotten have been from supposedly Christians, especially when they try to blame medical issues on “unconfessed sin”

    Reply
  5. Kay
    May 7, 2016 at 9:32 pm (1 year ago)

    Wonderful post. Makes me think about a lot of things I had never really put much thought into. My sister has suffered from a miscarriage, and I know how difficult it was for her. Great things to think about during Mothers Day Weekend!

    Reply
  6. Sheila Qualls
    May 9, 2016 at 10:43 am (1 year ago)

    I was so pleased yesterday to hear my pastor mention women who have lost children or who have been unable to have children yet. Thoughtful post.

    Reply
  7. Deb Foster
    May 9, 2016 at 9:08 pm (1 year ago)

    Sorry for your loss.Thank you for acknowledging and affirming that we have the freedom to choose, to say no, to set boundaries. I have not dealt with the loss of a child but Mother’s Day is hard for me because of past history of abandonment and abuse. When others celebrate parents, I grieve the loss and unmet expectations. Thanks you. Blessings.

    Reply
  8. Mary
    May 13, 2016 at 6:14 pm (1 year ago)

    The main purpose
    of church should on God and His Son and scripture- not on mothers, fathers, grandparents, politics, etcetc—we create unecessary controversies when we lose our focus ..

    Reply
  9. Rebecca
    May 10, 2017 at 3:30 pm (2 weeks ago)

    My mom is dying. Right now as I write. My grief and pain don’t have to get in the way of mothers being honored on Mother’s Day. I appreciate your loss. I really do. I’m experiencing my own but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to accomodate me.

    If we try to be so sensitive to everyone’s personal struggle, where does it end?

    We must all make our own choices. I will not be attending church this Sunday. I want those who do attend to feel good about their day.

    Let them relish in their day. I’ve had my time with my mom. I don’t want others to feel my sadness on a day of joy for them.

    Reply
  10. Lisa
    May 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Thank you for this! My husband and I have been trying for almost three years and haven’t been able to conceive. This Sunday on Mother’s Day is baby dedication in my church. I had already decided that I wouldn’t be able attend and stay emotionally strong to get through the rest of the day, but it’s so nice to know that I’m not alone in this feeling.

    Reply

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