Somewhere in the clouds over Colorado, the natives were getting restless. The 5-hour flight from New York City to Park City, Utah required musical chairs. It was Pierce’s turn to sit with me, so we decided it was time for “The Life of the Lyons’ Kids” slide show on my laptop. Hundreds of images began to roll across the screen in poetic fashion. In and out, one after another.
Mom and Dad as newlyweds. Our first home. My growing tummy. Cade’s arrival, so tiny at 4.9 pounds. Every moment and milestone recorded. The wonder in our eyes as new parents, the bravery and eagerness so obviously marking our expressions. Another arrival. Beloved Pierce in a Steelers jersey being hurled into the air by daddy’s arms in our old back yard. Giggling and tugging on brother Cade as they waddled around the room. Finally, the arrival of our third blessing. My shocked and overwhelmed face at Gabe’s announcement of “It’s a girl” right there on the operating table. Images of pumpkin patches and Halloween costumes and Easter egg hunts and pool parties. Laughter and light captured by the camera lens through the years. Time stood still as we took it all in flying through the heavens.
Suddenly, I saw a single tear stream down Pierce’s cheek. “What is it, son?”
His reply: “You seem to have lost your joy since we were little.”
My heart stopped.
The plane might as well have made a nose dive.
I asked, “What do you mean, hon?” As if the knife couldn’t go any deeper, he said, “You and dad don’t smile like that anymore.”
Spiraling. Was the plane falling toward the ground in breakneck speed, or was it just me?
And then his sweet, perfect nine-year-old face completely broke. He couldn’t stop crying as I held him. Dumbfounded by his words I tried with all my might to hold it together. My sweet, sensitive boy! I nervously begged for more details, hoping I wasn’t the only one being thrown under the bus. “Is it just me or your dad, too?” He responded it was both of us. Somehow that didn’t help.
I think this epiphany was as hard for Pierce as it was for me. In our secret moment on the plane, time stood still as I glimpsed at my life through the rear-view mirror. Cautiously seeking to understand, I quietly asked, “When do you think we lost our joy? How long ago?” He thought for a while, “I think about 2 years ago, or a little more. When I was around 7.”
We were moving to New York.
I just wanted to run and lock myself in the airplane bathroom and weep. I had no idea. I thought my struggle was internal. Thoughtful, even melancholic, maybe, but “no joy” for my children to see?
Lord, you could not have staged a more powerful intervention.
I apologized, sharing I had no idea that it seemed that way. That I wanted to show him joy again. That I didn’t realize I was even lacking it. That New York had been hard and I was trying my best. That I was sorry I failed him in these past 2 years. He felt terrible and I felt terrible. But his unbridled honesty was saving me.
Waking me up.
In the moments that followed, everything crystalized. I started seeing through the lens of my son. I heard through his ears. We taxied and landed and gathered our brood to try to get into the rental car. And then I heard it, crystal clear. “Hurry up!” “Stop fighting!” Nagging. Lecturing. It was as if the negativity we were breeding as parents had turned into a gavel on my own head. Blow after blow after blow, I was hearing it for the first time. Brokenness and pain, trying to keep everything together, everyone on time. Joy lost. Smiles gone.
What had become of me?
“Out of the mouth, the heart speaks.” I know it all too well. What was my heart speaking? It caused me to pause…and be still. And cry out. To be wrecked once again, when I had the chance in private.
Psalm 139: 23-24
Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.
As I processed this, feelings of insecurity surfaced.
Lord, am I worthy?
Am I worthy of your love, given freely? It often feels like I have to earn it. So, I run a ragged pace, trying to earn this unconditional love of yours. Somewhere along the way I self-taught you might love me a wee bit more if I worked really hard at pleasing you. Oh, the pressure! Oh, the joy-robbing sadness. Yet you take me as I am. Freely. With delight. And love. Nothing earned. The recovery of this gift is rescue to my soul.
A couple months later, I walked through central park on an early spring day, crystal clear, blue-grey skies bursting with tulips in full bloom. His comforting expression that He has come to “seek and to save what was lost.” To bring it back to life.
Eugene Peterson says, “Salvation means the healing and rescue of a body that is brought back to the way it was intended.” Not just our souls. Every part of our being, our lives, our existence brought back into right relationship. The way it was designed from the beginning.
Salvation is coming alive again, just as the signs of spring before me, spurred on by that unexpected, gentle love-reminder of that cross-country flight. Joy was returning. Salvation is changing the mother in me.
I’m still navigating this, only 12 years into motherhood. But here is what I’m encountering. Motherhood doesn’t begin with making cupcakes to perfection for the class birthday celebration. It doesn’t mean being Room Mom. It doesn’t mean polishing silver. It doesn’t even mean hosting Mom’s Group.
It means looking into your child’s eyes dead-on and saying,
“You are my beloved.”
“I would give my life for you.”
“The things that scare you, they scare me too.”
“We will face those fears together.”
“I can’t believe I get to be your mom.”
“I love your heart.”
“I will mess up…often.”
“But I will come to you, and confess. I will ask your forgiveness.”
“I will give everything I have to nurture the talents God has birthed in you.”
“I will aim to live a life that models that celebration.”
“You were meant for amazing things.”
These words reflect the kind of mother I desire to be. Birthed from a joy that stems from deep within. Sustained by the grace of a Savior.
This Mother’s Day, I’ll be listening more than talking. Letting my children save me from my own weakness.