I am three years old, and I am hungry. I sit in a honey-colored wooden chair and press the small of my back up against its hard slats. My two brothers, my sister, and I are in the kitchen…waiting.
There is a crusty loaf of homemade bread on the counter, and my mother stands in front of the stove, stirring flour in a cast-iron skillet. Four hungry faces watch her every move. Flour and water—it’s all she has. And this crusty loaf of bread. Soon, the acrid smell of scorched flour permeates the kitchen, and she adds water, making a pasty gravy that will bind pieces of bread to our stomachs, gluing down the hunger pangs.
This would become my very first memory—my beginning.
This is what my mother has taught me: We do the best with what we have. And sometimes we are left hungry, but most times we find that what we hold in our hands fills.
All of my early memories are wrapped up in my mother’s hands. Kneading the cool dough of bread, gathering soft blankets around me as crickets chirp through an open window, planting the sting of firm discipline on my bottom. She was my home base, my safe place, my solid foundation.
Until she wasn’t anymore.
And then years of unmoored drifting, separated by a sea of anger, disappointment, and choices that widened the distance between us.
Some days the calendar marks can be a painful place.
What do you do when there isn’t a Hallmark card to describe all the hills and valleys you’ve traversed together? When things aren’t exactly the way you’d like them to be and the bridge you’ve built with love has so much water under it that crossing it still feels dangerous at times? What do you do?
You do the best with what you have.
Over the years I’ve learned that a mother’s love can outwait anything. And grace is easier to don when it covers one’s own failures. Time and my own mothering have opened my eyes to the many faces of love in ways I never could have understood as a younger woman.
Love. It covers all.
We’ve learned to let love lead, my mom and I. And things are good. We still agree to disagree on some things—big things. But we try to love each other well. Because doing the best with what we have doesn’t mean we are settling, but that we are trusting God in this becoming. It means opening our hands to our own expectations—to the pretty little pictures we paint in our minds of how things “should” be.
Because God does it better than anything we can imagine. He does, after all, specialize in making beauty from the broken.
He takes what we have … and makes the best of it.
Mother’s Day is fast approaching and a dear friend of mine has written a book that honors all mothers. Everything that Makes You Mom is a beautiful book of stories–memories of Laura’s mother, and prompts that will stir your own memories and open your heart to the mothering given and received. I’m grateful to offer this part of my story in Laura’s Mombouquet tour–a blog tour celebrating Everything that Makes You Mom. You can read more about the book here. Watch a trailer for it here.