“Two brothers worked a common field and a common mill. Each night they divided whatever grain they had produced and took their own portion home. One brother was single, and the other was married with a large family. The single brother decided that his married brother, with all those kids, certainly needed more grain than he did, so at night he secretly crept over to his brother’s granary and gave him extra portions. The married brother realized that his single brother didn’t have any children to care for him in his old age. Concerned about his brother’s future, he got up each night and secretly deposited some grain into his single brother’s granary. One night they met halfway between the two granaries, and each brother realized what the other was doing. They embraced, and as the story goes, God witnessed what happened and said, “This is a holy place – a place of love – and it is here that my temple shall be built. The holy place is that spot where God is made known to his people, “the place where human beings discover each other in love.”
This story, retold in the beginning of the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, is said to be an old rabbinical story that told of how a spot was ultimately chosen for God’s Holy Temple. This Mother’s Day post grew out of such an “overnight grain offering,” of one mom friend asking another mom friend to write about the ways we mommas give to each other in the day-in-day-out joys and challenges of mothering. These words are for all mothers who have been able to find Holy Ground in mothering. And it a reminder of who we are, chosen by God for this glorious task of Motherhood. It is our hope that these words encourage you to go forth and create your own holy spaces – “the places where human beings discover one another in love.”
It all started with a mug…
I (Kristen) walked through that discount store, sans kids, breathing in and out, captured in my very own thoughts without interruption. There it was, among the decorative mugs, those coffee mugs that always called me, though my cupboard already overflowed with more coffee cups than my husband and I could use in a two-week time period. But, this one…it said on it, “Best Mom”. I paused, then I grinned. I felt warm all over. I felt loved. I felt loved by myself. And I thought, “Yes! I am the “Best Mom” for my kids, I am going to claim this. They are too little to have their own money to buy this for me. I am going to live into this title. I am the “Best Mom” for three little humans. God chose me!”
I picked up that mug and happily paid the discounted price. I think it was 2.99 – part of the contributing factor to my coffee cup collection – they are just so cheap!
I brought it home. I cleared out some older, less cool, coffee mugs and made a space for it, a space of honor. I then just went ahead and made coffee that afternoon, JUST to enjoy its maiden hosting of that scrumptious hot beverage that I adore. I held it tight and as it warmed my hands, it warmed my heart and it reminded me that it is ok to love myself and affirm myself as a mother.
We sat around the counter, that next Friday morning in our weekly playgroup, six of my momma friends and I. We gathered, we smiled, hugged and carried on our snippet conversations, due of course, to the never-ending needs of our collective twenty children… for the first 30 minutes of our time together. Then, it was time to fill the mugs with coffee and tea. I grabbed the mugs and passed them around, saving my “Best Mom” mug for me.
We poured our liquid caffeine of choice and carried on…kids running, pottying, screaming, some whining for sure…and then Janise said it, “Oh, who gave you that sweet mug? I love it!”
Smirking, I replied, “I bought it for myself.” All momma eyes were on me. And then they cheered. They celebrated that I had bought that mug and that I had chosen to own it, to affirm myself and to not be ashamed.
From that playgroup on, we took turns drinking out of that mug of honor. Whoever had the hardest week, drank from the mug. It was a sweet reminder, an overnight grain bringing gesture if you will…that as fellow mothers, building one another up and affirming the good gifts each of us brings to the “mothering table” are worth celebrating and honoring, especially amidst the comparison, judging, guilt-ridden culture we often suffocate in.
Fast forward several weeks. I (Janise) had just given birth to our fourth child. The birth was fast and furious, and while I wouldn’t say it was easy by any stretch of the imagination (I so forgot how much it hurts to bring new life into this world!!), it went as well as a birthing experience could go. But in the days to follow, it quickly got hard. Of course there was the intensity of life with four kids, but what was completely unexpected was that my sweet fourth born Joy baby would struggle with nursing. I mean I had already done this three times before, so I wasn’t expecting nursing to be my biggest challenge.
Over the next several days, I struggled to feed Joy Baby while balancing the needs of three other children and my own sleep deprivation. By Friday, a week into this four kid thing, I was undone. Friday is playgroup day… the sacred space that has been carved into our lives for nine years now. I didn’t feel I had it in me to leave the house, but I knew I needed the encouragement, support and love that my Friday playgroup friends would give me, the “grain” they would offer to help fill those deeply depleted places in me. So weary, hurting and exhausted I got myself ready and headed over.
As I finally sat down to enjoy the gift of my playgroup friends, I breathed deep. I had made it, made it with my Joy Baby. It had not been an easy first week with her, but I had made it here! I breathed deep and sipped my coffee so carefully prepared in the beautiful cream and pale pink “Best Mom” mug by my dear friend.
As I held the mug in my hand feeling it’s warmth, a warmth that was reaching deeper places than my stomach, I leaned over to place it down on the driveway where we sat watching our kids play. As I did, the mug suddenly slipped out of my hand and hit the hard concrete. I watched it break in two as the coffee spilled out and I, in horror, realized what had happened. I had just broken this sweet mug my friend bought herself to remind herself that she is a Best Mom.
I could have cried… now mind you, I had postpartum hormones pumping through me. But more than that, I knew what this mug meant to my friend. I knew it was a precious gift my friend had given herself, sometimes the hardest gifts to give as a mom, a reminder that she is the Best Mom God chose to mother her precious three gifts. And there it lay, shattered on the floor… isn’t that sometimes how motherhood can leave us… shattered and every little bit of us draining out on the floor?
I picked up the broken pieces and held them out to my friend as I apologized profusely, “I am so, so sorry. I broke your mug. It just… it just slipped from my hand. I can’t believe I did that.”
In her gracious way she laid her hand on me, “Janise, it’s just a mug. It’s ok.”
“But it’s your mug!” I replied, “It’s your special mug. The one you gave yourself.”
She continued, giving me a hug… “But it is just a mug. It’s ok.”
I received her hug, but I was not deterred. I carried the broken pieces inside, washed off the remaining remnants of my spilled coffee and carefully wrapped the broken pieces in a burp cloth, the only soft thing I could think to grab that I had with me, and carefully laid it in my purse. I was determined to not let her shattered gift be thrown away.
I brought the mug home and carefully repaired it, making sure that it was pieced together as perfectly as it could be. Amazingly, after repairing it the outside looked almost perfect, but if you looked inside it’s pale pink interior, you could see the crack inside where it had been shattered and pieces were missing, pieces I never found on that concrete driveway, though I searched.
There is a lesson in this broken but repaired mug… of the perfect exterior we try to keep as mothers, but how we can never fully hide the shattered places and cracks that lie inside, and maybe we shouldn’t try… but that is for another time and another post.
Time passed and though repaired, I hadn’t yet returned the mug to my dear friend, though I’m not sure why. Months passed and still it sat on my desk. I think I still felt so badly I had broken it, that it still remained chipped. I even looked online for an identical replacement mug, but could not find one.
Then one day, I was out shopping with my oldest girl at a discount store, looking for storage bins to help contain the mess that seems to overflow our home. As I came around the end of an aisle, there it was, a cream mug with the words “Best Mom Ever,” with the same pale pink inside as the mug I had shattered. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately grab it and put it in my cart. I knew I had found my overnight grain offering for my friend.
But then I decided to look again. It was the month leading up to Mother’s Day and the shelf was overflowing with mom mugs. As I looked, there it was in the back, another beautiful cream mug with pink insides and the words “Best Mom Ever.” I grabbed it and placed it in my cart.
This mug… it was for me. I, too, would claim the truth, I am the “best mom ever” to the four humans God chose me to raise. He chose me to raise my Firecracker Girl and Sensitive Heart and Sweet Boy and Joy Baby. God chose me to be mom to these precious four gifts. I will own this truth, not waiting for it to be bestowed on me by my husband or kids.
As I stood in line with my daughter, I held the mug, looking at it. She asked, “Who are those for?” Well, this one is for Ms. Kristen. I accidentally broke a mug she had that was similar. And this one…” I held up the one in my hand and said proudly, “…this one is for me.” She looked at me funny and I just laughed. “I’m claiming the truth that I am the best mom ever to you four kiddos that God gave me raise.” Then this firecracker of a girl, she hugged me. Maybe she agrees.
Within the next few weeks, I (Kristen) entered Janise’s house, prepared for our annual birthday outing together. There was a beautifully tissue paper stuffed gift bag sitting on the table that Janise excitedly reached for and placed in my hands, “Happy Early Mother’s Day,” she whispered. I peered in that beautiful bag to find the sweet “Best Mom Ever” mug that she had gotten me. It was beautiful and so very sentimental. It was so thoughtful and precious. I had, in all honesty, missed my Best Mom mug, but I did really view it as only a mug and had hoped that Janise had forgotten about breaking it that fateful day.
Janise encouraged me to dig deeper (something she is known for as a spiritual director)…so I reached into the bag and pulled out the repaired Best Mom mug.
I delightedly received that repaired mug, that shattered yet built back up and restored mug that happened to represent me as a mom. And the one who took the time to glue all of its pieces was a momma friend, also broken and yet being mended, a fellow sojourner in this life journey of motherhood.
“One night they met halfway between the two granaries, and each brother realized what the other was doing. They embraced, and as the story goes, God witnessed what happened and said, “This is a holy place – a place of love – and it is here that my temple shall be built. The holy place is that spot where God is made known to his people, “the place where human beings discover each other in love.”
Both the new “Best Mom Ever” mug and the repaired “Best Mom” mug represented such a holy place… “the place where human beings discover each other in love.” What a beautiful picture of God’s love. God has given us fellow mothers to encourage one another and build each other up! He has given us each other to mend tender hearts, long nights of interrupted sleep and frayed edges brought about by the tireless pursuit of intention amidst the raising of those energetic, fantastic bundles of pruning opportunities! And to remind us, we are the best mom ever to the littles he has given us.
Let us delight in carrying that luscious life-giving grain to other mothers in our lives – in those times when they need it the most – those times in the deep of the darkest and most lonely nights – so that God’s holy places can not only be found, but delighted in and multiplied.
Believe this, dear sisters. You are the person God chose, the one God saw perfectly fit to raise your wild one or your one with the sensitive heart or your firecracker of a child. Our God, He saw your gifts and places of necessary growth that perfectly matched each child He entrusted into your care.
God, He chose you, the Best Mom Ever, to be Mom to your precious gifts from God.
Happy Mother’s Day to each of you and thanks for helping us both be the “Best Mom Ever” to our babies. You are too.
Now, go out and buy yourself a “Best Mom Ever” mug… and buy one for that momma friend of yours while you’re at it.
Cheers to you… Best Mom Ever.
Janise is a deeply passionate wife, mother, pastor, teacher, writer, spiritual director, and friend on this journey of faith. She is a lover of God’s Word and passionate truth teller, trying to “keep it real” in the mess of everyday life. Check out her beautifully insightful blog, Janise Matyas Smith, where she invites all of her readers into a deeper and deeper still, life with God. You will certainly find more “grain offerings” there!