When Mothers Learn To Stand

Tina TurnerYou can’t possibly understand how much I love Tina Turner. Seriously. You just can’t, but maybe you will after you read this. She’s the soundtrack to pieces of me and after writing a really difficult chapter in my book, sobbing like someone had just ripped out pieces of my heart and mangled it, I turned on Tina and I danced. And I was happy again. 

Momma liked to listen to Tina Turner so it was only natural for me to fall in love with her too. I didn’t always understand the lyrics although I could sing every line by heart; looking back I understand that Mrs. Turner helped Momma learn to be strong and fierce. Loving Jesus helped her more, but I still want to give Tina a little credit. For three solid minutes two broken women connected and Tina sang for her letting her know it was okay. Perhaps we can’t have “Proud Mary” moments without learning that it’s not okay for someone to knock the wind out of us, and sometimes the life out of us.

When Tina sang to us, I believed her. Line by line the words spoke that we could just say it, “You better be good to me.” And later when I was sifting through teenage hormones, falling in and out of love, I let go of a boy who wasn’t being very good to me. Even broken girls can know that they are worth so much more than they are getting; Tina said so.

I’ll never forget what it looked like watching her get shoved to the ground. Young brown eyes watching from an upstairs window, pulling curtains back to make sure she was okay. Mad, but okay. I’ll never forget the moment our eyes met and I knew she saw me standing there looking down on a moment where mothers learn to stand. Momma got up, she always did. Sometimes we opt for a risky love and Momma was willing to risk love twice, but just barely. Love would build them back up and show them a better way, one with Jesus at the center, but it took time and years and tears in the night.

Blending families and children and past mistakes leaves a wake of crazy, but I envy their love sometimes, my mom and my second-heart dad. It’s the attached at the hip kind, like you can’t say one name without the other. Two messed up hearts can become whole together and if you ask me if I think we get better as we age I would say, “Heck yes, we do,” because I’ve watched it.

Standing in the hallway all grown up looking at the picture of two brown-eyed girls and one foxy momma, just the three of them together but a complete family unit. I looked over at my heart-dad and said, “This is my favorite picture…”

He smiled and said, “Mine, too.”

“Is that what we looked like when you fell in love with us?” I had never asked that before; but I already knew the answer.

“Yeah, it is.” He gave a slight smile reflective of quiet, good heart.

We didn’t say anything after that, no words needed between us because if we did, we would both be crying. His soft heart entwined with mine, no bloodlines to connect us. But if you were to ask us, we would tell you that we love each other like flesh and blood because we are flesh and blood and mended love.

I’m so glad he fell in love with us. I’m just so glad he wasn’t afraid of how scared and stubborn she was sometimes because she knew what it was like to lose her voice and her way. All she wanted when she was much to young was a happy family and a happy marriage. Marriage, not love, left a mark on her, the kind that even time can’t erase. But Momma found her love to grow old with, but not without a few bumps and bruises and thoughts of running again. But this time, love didn’t run because it didn’t have to. It won. A thread of redeeming grace was waiting for both of them in a tiny church decades ago. A wounded woman who loved God and bathed her decision to love again in prayer sitting next to man who looked a little like love and a little like trouble. He didn’t love Jesus, he just loved her and as she prayed telling God she couldn’t go through heartache again… she looked up and noticed that the man who loved her had walked up to the front of the tiny church to love Jesus too.

And that’s what we do, we walk up to the front and try to love Jesus and His redeeming grace that loves the mess we’ve made on our own. He picks up shattered pieces and wipes away the bloody mess from our hands because He’s already redeemed years and years of sins and bad mistakes. Jesus knows we can’t clean up life-mess like that; His wounded hands and side cover and clean all the stains and shards we cannot. We walk up to the front and sometimes our sanctification process is so slow, but it’s the lasting kind that changes our spiritual DNA and reserves a seat for us in heaven and for new life walking in abundance and blessing here on this broken earth.

Momma didn’t have to tell me why she loved those songs because I felt it, singing Landslide in the backseat I wondered what getting older would feel like and if I would be afraid of changing too. But when you are little you can’t really wrap your mind around grownup lyrics, but in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense. We listened to so many things, mostly Christian songs and radio stations, but every now and then I had Proud Mary moments in Momma’s car and I fell in love with words and lyrics and a soul-stirring, three-minute story.

Our stories are much longer than three minutes, but if we we’re willing to listen to the song our heart wants to sing, what would be your song? Your anthem? Your hope? Sing a good song, even if it’s a broken one because when you break free, you teach another soul how to break free too. Our testimony and the power behind it heals the leftover hurt and pain that resides inside of us, extracting the ugly baggage by giving us new and better things to hold onto.

Much love to you…Proud Mary’s keep on burning.

Jennifer Renee

Photo: Herry Lawford