It was late evening in Florida when I got the message– “Your mom had a stroke.”  My brother’s girlfriend struggled to give me details from California as I messaged my best friend, “I need you,” and tried to control the tears.

No God, please not her.

New Year’s was spent rushing off to airports and praying in the sky, followed by sleepless nights in hospital chairs and decisions I never thought I’d face at twenty-seven.  My mom’s body was broken.  And so was my heart.

My sweet mom and I have always had a complicated relationship, with the past few years especially strained. We are complete opposites, to say the least, and our resulting disagreements often led to silent treatments for months at a time. I longed for the mother-daughter friendship I saw blossoming in so many of my twenty-something girlfriends—the kind that involves advice and pedicures and warm brownies when you come home.  But when my mom was out shopping, I was home writing.  When she was on a beach in Hawaii, I was on a boat in Haiti. When she picked a romantic comedy, I suggested a documentary.  And when I showed up in a sweater with holes, she quietly nudged high heels and makeup my way.

More than anything though, I wanted to see my mom happy and healthy apart from what the men in her life had shown her, and I think secretly, she wanted the same for me.  But we seemed to live in a constant state of disappointment with one another. So, we made a living of walking on eggshells with the whole of the United States between us.

Until I got the phone call that brought me to my knees and cursed the miles keeping us apart. “We still need time, God,” I pleaded. “This can’t be the end. We still need to figure this all out. She needs to know I really do love her.

And in His usual grace-filled and provident way, God is giving us time. Four months have passed, and my mom and I spend practically every waking hour together.  I have the opportunity to show her love when I help her dress in the morning and curl her blonde hair.  And she shows me love when she says words like “burrito” and “tea” and “good night.”  In the midst of all the pain and the questions that have plagued our hearts this year, I can see my sweet Jesus moving. He’s in the bills disappearing, the therapy dogs who make Mom smile, the doctor who recovered from a stroke and is now helping others.  He’s in the nurses and therapists who laugh and pray with us. And the tiny movements we continue to see in my mom’s arms and legs.

In the apostle Peter’s first epistle, he writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”  My mom may never be the same again, but God is making her new.  And He’s changing my heart, and our relationship, in the process.

Maybe you and your mom are struggling to find common ground, and maybe the silence or angry words deafen the whispers of good intentions. Maybe you’ve never met your biological mother, or somewhere along the way, this world unfairly took her from you.  Or maybe you and you mom have a wonderful relationship. Wherever these words find you this Mother’s Day, please know that our God is in the business of redemption, and His grace doesn’t shortchange us for the lot we’ve been dealt. His compassion and grace provide the most beautiful contrast to the demons we fight within us and with each other. Nothing is ever beyond His sweet song of restoration.

It’s funny how our perspectives of our parents shift when we “grow up” and live on the same adulthood plane.  We realize that our parents are only human, that they laugh and cry, feel deep pain and great joy, have pasts and make mistakes—just like us.

Today, sweet daughters, my prayer for you is to keep loving well, even in the face of loss, knowing that our sweet Jesus wastes nothing.

And mothers, no matter how much distance your daughters put between the two of you, please know that we desperately still need you at every age.  Don’t give up on us.  We really do love you.

Shannon Douglas

Born and raised in Southern California, Shannon is now the Communications Director for South Hills Church. She enjoys storytelling, styling events, strategizing for organizations, and going to Disneyland. Read more about Shannon in the "Our Team" section of She Has Worth.

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