My Mother’s Day Surprise

Celebrating holidays while living overseas and far from extended family is hard. I come from a large family who once a week regularly sits at my mother’s large table for the Sunday meal. Most holidays everyone is there – it is how I grew up. So, I love hosting get-togethers with other families, especially when they become like family. It makes me feel at home.

Mother’s Day was no exception. We had a potluck lunch after church. People ate between conversations and laughs. Kids splashed in the small pool. It was just a beautiful day.

After everyone left and I had a lovely nap, my husband asked if I’d like to try a new coffee shop nearby. “Bring your writing stuff,” he says.

I grabbed a notebook, my draft of my novel, and the book/handbook PLOT WHISPERER by Martha Alderson (if you are a writer, I highly recommend them). I glanced at my laptop, but decided time was too short for that. I noticed Uwe’s bag bulging, and figured he would work, too.

Oh, well, my Mother’s Day has ended.

I sat at a sidewalk table while he went inside to order. It wasn’t too hot with the shade of the umbrella. It almost seemed like we were in Europe, sort of. We talked about the day and the upcoming things that we were going to be involved in. I wondered when we were going to pull out “work”. Okay, honestly, I was thinking about when would I get to pull out my writing.

Uwe then looked at his watch and mentioned that we should probably go. I looked at my unopened bag and sighed.

“Wait, I think you should see the inside. You want to see this funny/cute French style hotel, don’t you?” he asks.

I followed him in. We checked out the restaurant.  We took the elevator, which has a ceiling to floor Eifle Tower painted in it. We got off on the 7th floor. While I looked at the view, he entered an empty room. I peered in nervously because he just entered without knocking as far as I could tell. I mean, who just wanders into hotel rooms without a key? 

I stood in the hall peering into the room. “What are you doing?” I yelled in as much as a whisper as I could without actually yelling. My mind told me this was all wrong, but my feet seemed to have a mind of their own and pulled me in.

It isn’t your typical hotel room with one bed, desk, TV, and carpeted floor. This room has wooden walls and flooring. All the furniture had a dark wood, including the tiny wardrobe. It had two beds facing each other, not side-by-side. And to top it off the two windows, one long and narrow and the other short and set low to the ground, had wooden shutters! It was mesmerizing in a cheesy cute sort of way.

Uwe rested his bag on the bed and began empty out the contents.  I watched as my toothbrush, toothpaste and brush bounced on the bed. He continued with my clothes and a few other books.

“Did you get us a room?”

“No, I got you a room. You have your writing books. I brought your Bible and journal. One night for you,” he said as he handed me the keys (which had an Eifle tower key chain).

“What?!? Excuse me? Uhh, What? Man, you are good. I had NO idea.”

With a kiss on the cheek he vanished out the door. I’m sat on the bed and stared out the window. I love my family and I love spending time with them – but sometimes as a person, a writer, I need to break away with no distractions. No guilt. Freedom to be creative. My husband knew this – he knew I needed a surprise.

So, that is just what I did. I began deepening my characters and hashing out scenes – all are steps to finishing this novel I started a few years ago.

And that was my Mother’s Day surprise.

Have you ever been surprised by someone? Share your story in the comments below.

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A Mother’s Day Letter to My Younger Self


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It is the night before Mother’s Day. For some reason my mind traveled to a time period fourteen years ago. I was a young mom about to hear my daughter’s diagnosis. With time wisdom grows. It’s through this wisdom that I wish I could have shared these few thoughts with that mom I was back then.

Dear Younger Self-

I know you forgot what today is, but let me gently remind you. It’s Mother’s Day. Don’t put your head down in shame. I know you’ve lived with your mother for the past several weeks. I know you forgot to buy even a simple card to thank her for her selflessness. For all the drives to the city, waits in the hospital, and the endless cooking she has done for you. I know you wish your husband and almost two-year old son were with you instead of back in China. The hospital visits and tests have taken a toll on your mind and body. It’s a scary place to be. You’ve talked with doctors, and even specialists. You’ve held your baby while nurses have poked her with needles. Yet, still no results. No diagnosis.

Emotions will visit you, strong emotions that will come when you least expect it.

Fear…

Don’t play the “What if” game. It will open wide the door to Fear. But, I know you will. The questions will come at you like quick shooting arrows. “What if she never walks?” “What if she dies?” “What if we have to leave China?” Don’t worry; he gets the best of me still today with his quiet whispers of doubt. Fear wants to consume you, but he won’t. Your daughter will get the diagnosis you don’t want to hear – Cri-du-Chat Syndrome. Your mother will be next to you in that small room in shock. Maybe it is a mother’s instinct, or maybe not – but you won’t be shocked because deep down you already know. Your world will be shaken though. Your baby will need a feeding tube. You will feel like all the air was taken from your lungs. Sit tight – the God who created that bundle of joy topped with red curls already knew. He’s not surprised. So, just breathe – in and out, in and out. You will feel like waves are pummeling you to the bottom of the sea, but dive deep into those waves. It is there where you will find peace. Dive deep into the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. Just breathe.

Grief…

Grief will come, in fact, she already has. This Mother’s Day you will grieve for that child you thought you knew. You will cry hot tears that seem to never run dry. They are tears of healing. Release them. Let them wash over your face while they wash over your heart. I wish I could tell you that Grief eventually exits your life, but I can’t. She will come back when you least expect it. Fourteen years later, she still visits me. When I see other kids in middle school laughing with their friends at the local 7-11 or tying up their shoes about to play in a soccer tournament, she comes back. My throat tightens and my eyes begin to drip tears. And there she is. Grief dressed in black. I’m learning that Joy can accompany Grief. It is those times I offer gratitude and praise that Joy is also there. I give thanks for what Matthea can do and I praise God for his many blessings in our life. So, as you grieve this Mother’s Day know that “joy will come in the morning.”

Loneliness…

This Mother’s Day you will feel lonely. Uwe and Marcus are miles away. You feel like you are the only one going through this, yet you know that is not true each time you enter the hospital. But, Loneliness comes and tries to squeeze out those in your life who love you. Don’t let her. Remind yourself that you are not alone. God is there with you. Your family is there. And remember your friends just drove a few hours to spend time with you. They are praying for you. Don’t let Loneliness crowd out the others.

Guilt…

Yes, you will feel guilt. Guilt will overshadow Grief. Guilt will remind you of friends who have lost children. Guilt will point a finger and say, “You’re child is living. Why are you grieving?” You won’t really know what to do with Guilt. You will try to hide Grief, but it will still be there. I want to give you permission to block Guilt out of your life. You have permission to grieve. This diagnosis is hard. There are a lot of unknowns. It is scary. So, don’t believe Guilt. Pray for those friends and be sensitive when you talk with them, but don’t bow down to Guilt.

Hope…

You may not feel like there is any hope right now, but she is there. Hope will come pouring in when you find out that you can go back to China. Hope will come when you gain confidence in using the feeding tube. And even this day, Hope will come in a form of a Mother’s Day gift from your sister. A small cut rock that says, “A Mother’s Love begins long before we can remember…And brings us Warmth and Happiness We Never Forget.”

Give yourself some grace today. Your love for your children comes through. I can’t tell you that everything is perfect and life is like a rose garden. Life isn’t easy. I mean whose life really is easy, huh? But, life is good and full. I can’t tell you all the great things because you need to experience some surprises in life.

I wish that the decade older version of me would send me a letter like this. I sure would like to know how these teenage years turn out.

Your loving “more mature” self,

MaDonna

The Importance of Good-bye

The last ride last night.

My guys left for the airport a few hours ago. They both needed to get back home. I am staying in the US for another month with the girls.

Each time we leave a place we make sure that we and the kids get the opportunity to say Good-bye, especially with family. Yesterday was that day for them. Most of my siblings came over for supper. One even brought their horses and dog so Ge Ge could have one last ride. After 10pm, hugs were given and some tears were shed. It was hard to watch.

More Good-byes this morning. More tears. This time harder for me to watch. Last night the tears were going out the door with them, but this morning as they pulled away in my sister-in-law’s blue Durango I witnessed the heartache of my family left behind. A behind-the-scenes moment if you want to call it that. Watching my mother and nephew was gut wrenching.

I’d like to skip this process and just sneak out when the time comes in a month. Bypass the tears. Skip the downcast faces. Miss the awkward silences of trying to come up with another topic to talk about to avoid the final good-bye. It sounds like a good plan, but my family would be furious and I know that the process of “grief” is needed for both sides.

Closure is needed. I’ve known this and my husband has made it a high priority to make sure good-byes are said properly.

 Properly = Eye contact, hug/handshake, and the words “Good-bye, Thank-you, Love you” spoken when appropriate.

The winter of 2009 my father passed away and I saw the huge importance of saying Good-bye. The previous summer we had the opportunity to be in the US with them. We had no idea it would be our last with him.

Yesterday we went to the cemetery with the kids. Mei Mei broke down crying because she wanted to hug him, to tell him Good-bye. I was able to remind her that we did that when we saw him last. We prayed and asked God to give him a hug for us and to let him know that we loved him. My heart was heavy, but so thankful that we were intentional about saying “Good-bye” that final summer.

We can’t know for sure when life here on earth is over. People die in car wrecks, plane crashes, and illnesses everyday. For this reason, each time we return “home” I have made it a point to make sure that I and the kids let the people in our lives know they are loved and special.

Your Turn: Do you do anything special with family when you leave them to return “home”? Please share in the comments below.

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