I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mom lately. Actually, that’s not entirely true. My twenty-six years of being a mother have been filled with joy and sorrow, pride and grief, clarity and confusion. For me, confusion generally outweighs the clarity, so for twenty-six years, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mom.
This week I had a brief moment of clarity when yet another hurricane forced us from our home. As Delta came barreling down on our house, minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, we evacuated to my mother-in-law’s an hour away. She received us with open arms and warm Southern hospitality. Even as our electricity went out in her home, and the howling winds knocked down trees around her neighborhood, she served a delicious home-cooked meal. Then we hung a lantern and read bedtime stories. As rain pelted the windows, I looked around the room at the peaceful faces of my children and husband. It struck me that one of the real joys of motherhood is that I get to be a refuge for my children.
In the midst of the howling winds, my husband felt at peace in his mother’s home, my children resting comfortably in my arms. Reflecting on my life as a daughter and mother, I realize that even when the storms aren’t caused by weather, we seek refuge in our moms. When my life imploded in divorce eighteen years ago, I headed home to my mother’s kitchen to pour out my heart and bask in her hugs and delicious cooking. When my twenty-three-year old fled COVID in New York, she came home to ride out the economic and pandemic storm in the refuge of our spare room and my less-than-expert advice. My grown children joke that, in spite of my complete lack of knowledge of car repair, I’m still the first person they call when they break down on the side of the road. No matter how imperfect we may be, we are refuge, comfort, an ever-present help—this is a mother’s joy.
“God is my refuge and my strength, an ever present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1).
In these flashes of clarity (and lightning), I realized how my role as mother in loving my children connects to God’s role in loving me. By being a refuge to them, I am participating in God’s love for them. In moments of grave concern for them, I take refuge in God, knowing that as they take refuge in me, we are together in God’s loving heart. When I need peace to be a refuge for them, I find my peace in God. God’s gift of motherhood is so beautiful that I am still learning to think clearly about it even decades after receiving it, although sometimes it takes a hurricane to get through to me.