In Search of a Mother’s Love

There is a hunger inside of me sometimes.  We are all born with it—the desire for love and relationship.  From an early age we are taught in life how and who fills that need.  It is generally filled by our parents.  In most cases, the responsibility falls on the mother.  But what if that mother isn’t equipped to take on that role or isn’t capable of bonding with the child?  What happens to the inner need?

Longing for LoveThe Longing for Love

The need doesn’t go away; we just find other ways to fill that emptiness and hunger for love and relationship—in either healthy or unhealthy ways.  I didn’t know that or understand the affects that my mother’s mental illness had on me until about ten years ago when my unhealthy ways of relating and compulsive behaviors finally caught up with me.

I’ve done a lot of healing work and spiritual growth in that last decade.  I now serve in a ministry where I can come alongside others who are also struggling with the hurts from the past and seeing themselves as God sees them.  Even though I know with my whole heart that Jesus came to give me life and ultimately fill my need for love, there are still times when life can get me down.

I still have a longing to be known and to know others.  It is a longing for deep relationship.  It is the search for a mother’s love that was lost.

Looking for Love

I’ve lived my whole life this way—being self-sufficient without close siblings and without involvement and emotional attachment from my parents.  I didn’t know what I was missing because I didn’t experience it.  Now, after a decade of healing and recovery work, I know.  I know because I have started to more intensely experience the loss of the women in my life who helped me to heal.

michelle-ventor-reason-season-lifetime1When I started recovery, I had virtually no female friends—only a few through work.  I didn’t know how to be a real friend.  As I started my recovery journey, I observed real authentic vulnerability in other women.  I was hungry for that.  I let down my walls and embraced this new way of relating.  There was freedom gained by not being a secret or thinking that I was the only one who experienced that depth of pain.

Those bonds formed felt sacred to me.  They became my mother, my sisters and my daughters.  Those relationships have been hard to let go of over the years.  Insert the ever increasing presence of social media, and I begin to wonder who my friends really are.  Do I want quality in my relationships or do I want quantity?  I choose quality, but that has its cost too, as it’s hard to fit in the time to maintain the intimacy.

Missing my Mother

Mother’s Day 2014 marks four years since I last saw my mother alive.  Her passing and end of life forgiveness poured love back into me in a whole new way—her love and God’s love.  And still the loss of never getting to know her as a person keeps me searching at times for the love and mentoring of a mother.  My inner child (my little Ardis) still longs for my real mother’s love.

look_into_the_mirrorI wish I could’ve had more time with her.  She’s generally not far away though.  If I slow down long enough to look for her, she stares back at me in the mirror, smiles, and tells me that she loves me.  The knowledge and hope that I will see her again in eternity makes the longing fade into the distance once more.

May your Mother’s Day be filled with the love of your family or other important people in your life.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

How Do You Invest in People?

It all started in the summer of 2010.  I had just finished a Beth Moore Bible study, was basking in the sun on the deck out back and pondering my next season of ministry options. My passion was facilitating spiritual growth and recovery groups at my church, but had taken some time off during my son’s senior year in high school.  As I sat in the sun and prayed, I asked God for direction on how to serve. He clearly ‘said’, it seemed, to invest in people.

How do you invest in people?

How do you invest in people? One person at a time.

Invest in People?

“Hmmm,” I thought, “what does that mean?”  Within a few days I had my answer.  It came during a Skype with Pedro, the Spanish exchange student who stayed with us earlier that summer.  He told me that his grandmother had just been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and only had a few months to live.  With my mother being on hospice care and living day to day with the aid of a feeding tube, I sensed that I was to come alongside Rosa and support her through this painful period in her life.

I still wasn’t very sure how to do that—especially since we didn’t speak the same language—and I was struggling with my own mother’s prolonged illness.  Yet that connection led to the peaceful passing of our mothers—just three weeks apart, the beautiful bonding of two hearts across the world, and eventually the publishing of my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, in Journeys to Mother Love.

Over the last two plus years I’ve had to let go of the comfort of serving in an organized ministry role in favor of more one on one time connecting with people.  It is the continuation of my ‘invest in people ministry’.  Last week I was reminded of just how unexpected and profound those encounters can be.

A chance meeting in my hometown

A chance meeting in my hometown

A Chance Meeting

For this particular meeting, I was again basking in the sun, but this was at a nearby country club. I was with a woman I met two months ago at the marriage workshop my husband and I attended in California.  Her brother had suddenly passed away and she was in town for the memorial service.  The service was over and we stole some time away to reconnect, encourage and pray for one another.

What struck me was how God had orchestrated this ‘chance’ meeting in my hometown and how fortunate I was to be able to be there for her.  I didn’t have to ask a boss for time off.  (And I’m sure it would’ve been frowned upon by an employer.)  I did have to make a choice to delay some promotional work, but it was well worth the investment of my time. (For more about this chance meeting and how God’s hand was all over it, check out “Filling the Jar With Rocks”, on the Journeys to Mother Love blog.)

The R.O.I. points to heavenly rewards.

The R.O.I. points to heavenly rewards.

What’s the R.O.I?

I always find that my people investments have a two-fold benefit.  They serve to encourage and support the other person, and they also provide an intangible return to me.  In other words, it undoubtedly blesses both of us in some unexpected or profound way.  And ultimately they create a big R.O.I. (return on investment), not just in our day to day lives, but in the heavenly realm as well.

Just like any other investment decision there are risks associated with it—the biggest I think is rejection.  But I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone and take those risks instead of living with regrets.

After two years of heeding to those ‘investment’ nudges from God, I strongly encourage others to be on the lookout for those same kinds of encounters.  We may never know the R.O.I., but I believe there is a banker up above who is keeping track.

What are you doing to invest in people? I’d love to hear your story.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

The Road to Spain, Update 2 ~ The Year of Waiting

Last week marked one year since I secured the funds for my travel and confirmation of my trip to Spain this summer.  I remember it vividly because I wrote a post about it and Skyped (video call) with my Spanish family on that day too.

A perfect fit and a perfect exchange.

A perfect fit and a perfect exchange.

Last year at this time, my friend Linda graciously helped me by unexpectedly buying my mother’s wedding ring.  While I was planning on selling the ring to get money for my trip, I never expected it to go to someone I knew.  That was more confirmation of God’s hand on my trip.  It was a win-win situation for both of us as she wanted the ring to celebrate the receipt of her mental health license; and it fit her perfectly.

The night before I revealed all of this to my Spanish family over Skype, I went over to Linda’s home to do the exchange—my mother’s ring for my airfare to Spain.  It was a memorable evening as we sipped wine, talked about the journey ahead and the reality of my trip started to sink in.  Linda has been a big cheerleader for me along this journey and I know she will be there in spirit—along with my other prayer partners.

Revealing My Secret

I Skype with my Spanish family about once a month.  Rosa is learning English, but Pedro still does a lot of translating between us.  On this particular video call I asked Pedro to view my blog online and translate this newest post to his mother.  I eagerly watched and waited for their reactions.  He laughed when he translated the part about his music sales not being as much as I’d hoped (to cover my trip costs).  Later as he started to connect the dots in the story he said, “Oh, I know where you are going”.

I'm heading to Spain!

I’m heading to Spain!

As he progressed through his translation of the story, I heard the excitement grow in his voice.  He met Linda the year before and was happy to hear how she was involved in this story.  As Pedro neared the end, Rosa broke her silence by speaking in English.  “Incredible, incredible,” she said with delight in her voice.

Pedro told me they would reserve the summer of 2013 for me.  Rosa, in her excitement, rattled off all the cities in Spain we would visit and said she would go to a travel agent and start planning.

We talked about the core reason for this trip and my desire to continue with my writing.  Rosa agreed to share with me her perspective of our story and wanted to get started on that too.

Still Hard to Believe

That was the start of my planning for this trip of a lifetime—6 weeks in Spain.  Last month, Pedro’s father sent me a calendar of my itinerary including most of those cities we first discussed.  I will share more about my itinerary, etc. over the next few months and hope to post regular updates on my blog from Spain.  My writing is a significant portion of this trip, but I also want to be in the moment.

8 weeks until I arrive in Spain.

8 weeks until I arrive in Spain.

I feel blessed beyond belief at times for this family’s generosity to take me in like this.  They are not only opening up their home to me, they are opening up their lives in a multitude of layers—Rosa for trusting me to write about her side of the story, knowing that it will bring up painful memories—and Pedro for letting me partner with him on his musical pursuits.  I pray I can do it all justice and that God would keep me focused on His will for it.

Unbeknownst to me or my family, the road to Spain started with our opening up our home to Pedro, for a short term exchange program in July 2010.  Now, three years later, it is my turn to be the exchange student.  The waiting is almost over.

Celebrating Our Milestones

My definition of family has expanded greatly over the last few years and now includes Pedro’s family, the young man we hosted from Spain in the summer of 2010.  My whole world has expanded as a result of participating in the Education First international exchange program.  Mostly thanks to Pedro and his mother, Rosa, I’ve learned much about Spain—its culture, food, economy, music, and more.

On top of that, are the simple pleasures in celebrating life’s milestones together—the good and the bad.  Since meeting Pedro, we have mourned the loss of both families’ maternal grandmothers and the passing of my father this past summer.  We celebrated his high school graduation, the recording and creation of his CD of original piano compositions, and his acceptance at a Spanish university where he studies law and business administration.

When Pedro turned 18 last year, we heard about some of his “coming-of-age” milestones, like legally being able to drink and to vote.  He proudly sent a photo displaying his voter certificate as proof that he voted in the Spanish presidential elections last fall.

Pedro’s new car

Last week, Pedro marked another rite of passage—passing his driving exam and getting his driver’s license.  This was quite an achievement for him since he took the exam multiple times—a common occurrence in Spain due to the extreme level of difficulty.  Pedro sent videos of him and his family picking up his new car at the dealership and driving home.  It was an unexpected surprise and a delight to witness this first in his life.

As with so many of Pedro’s milestones, he wrote a song to commemorate it.  A year ago he wrote “Drive” (click link to hear the song), in anticipation of his learning to drive.  Now that goal is a reality. (“Drive” © 2011 Pedro González Arbona)

Celebrating our milestones via video, photos, music and Skype has certainly connected us, although we are 5,300 miles apart.  It is the next best thing to being there.

I enjoy celebrating life’s milestones with my extended family and others who have journeyed this road to wholeness with me.  Watching the videos of Pedro’s milestone reminded me of the many blessings I have had in my life since his arrival in our home.  Last fall, when I had a significant birthday celebration, Rosa and Pedro joined in via Skype.  I wrote about this celebration on the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog.

The physical expansion of my family has expanded my whole world perspective.  It has taken me beyond my local sphere of influence to a global sphere of influence—one that will include a monumental trip to Europe next summer.  In the meantime, I am continuing to celebrate life’s milestones along the way.

I encourage you to celebrate and commemorate the milestones in your life—no matter how big or small.  We can cling to these milestones, along with God’s Word, when times are rough.

Preparing for Mother’s Day

                Except for sending flowers and a card to my mother for Mother’s Day in years past, my Mother’s Day focus has mostly been on spending time with my immediate family—my spouse and two sons.  That was until two years ago.  That was the last time I saw my mother alive—Mother’s Day 2010.  Since that time Mother’s Day has much more significance to me. 

                My mother had a nervous breakdown when I was six years old radically changing the trajectory of my life.  From that point on the messages I received were to avoid being like my mother.  For the most part I learned to stuff my emotions for fear that I would be labeled “crazy” like her.  Her mental illness led to her absence in my life in many ways.  Growing up she was mostly absent emotionally and then when I entered adulthood, I chose to disconnect from her physically as well.
                But two years ago, God laid it on my heart to visit my mother one last time.  I had visited her twice in the previous six months to care for her after a debilitating stroke left her paralyzed on the right side of her body and unable to speak.  This visit was even more painful than the other visits and I feared this was going to be the last time I would see her alive.
               Preparing for Mother's Day It is hard for me to believe that visit was two years ago.  My life is radically different now, including the way I prepare for and celebrate Mother’s Day.  That is because in the process of losing my mother, I was blessed with the gift of emotional and spiritual healing.  As a result, I have gotten in touch with parts of my identity that I had denied and suppressed for years.  I tend to think that the way I am now is similar in many ways to how my mother would’ve been had she not suffered that nervous breakdown all those years ago.  I am grateful for recognizing that I AM wired like her.  It is part of the legacy that she left me and makes me very grateful for her on Mother’s Day.
                Another major way that my Mother’s Day celebrations have changed is that I share this special day with Rosa in Spain.  Rosa is the mother of Pedro, the exchange student we had in our home the last two summers.  Rosa and I lost our mothers within three weeks’ time in a way that has connected us like sisters.  Mother’s Day in Spain is one week earlier than in the United States which means I have to plan way in advance.  This year I even enlisted Pedro’s help to buy flowers for Rosa from me.  It is very touching to now have this mother to mother connection—especially since we have never physically met.
                One last thought about preparing for Mother’s Day.  Last night during the women’s open share time in our recovery meeting, I asked the attendees to each share something that they are grateful for with their mother’s or with their own mothering.  In the past, I think it would’ve been hard for me to answer that question.  It’s not that I resented my mother or blamed her for the lack of nurturing and guidance.  Those things were out of her control and were not intentional.  But sometimes it’s hard to be grateful in the midst of pain and sorrow. 
Answering this simple question last night gave each of us an opportunity to practice gratitude—a necessary recovery tool that helps to take us out of our victim mentality and look for the positive in life situations.  It was a blessing to hear each woman share a nugget that made them grateful in this way.
                I personally have a tremendous amount to be grateful for in my own recovery journey.  It has positively changed my own mothering skills, it helped to push me out of my comfort zone to care for my mother at the end of her life and now it has helped me to reach across the world to celebrate Mother’s Day with my sister Rosa. 
               What are you grateful for this Mother’s Day?   
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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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