Remember This When the Ache Returns

Sometimes it surprises me how hard it hits me. The grief. The way the memories and the longing can co-mingle in one giant ache. The tears well and they spill and I think to myself, “Shouldn’t I be over this by now?”

But I’m not.

My broader story, past life in West Africa, is one of an parent-less daughter. I lost my mom and dad at a very young age. My journey has been one of great sorrow and strange woven-in-the-cracks joy.

God has healed so much of the hurt. He’s patched my life together with mothers and fathers who don’t share my DNA. He brought my motherless heart full circle with a daughter whose eyes reflect back to me something of my mama. It’s been so much sorrow and joy all bound up together.

I find there are days that ache like an old injury. Like when the weather turns damp and cold and joints ache with the change.

I felt the ache strong the other day.

Sundays are for napping. I dare anyone to disagree. I had curled myself beneath a stack of covers and was mulling over a long list of questions and to-dos in my head. My 33 week pregnant belly weighing me down along with my worries. As my mind spun I lost it. I lost it. I cried big fat tears and the ache in my soul felt like it might break me in half.

I wanted my mother. I wanted her to show up on my doorstep with hot tea and answers. I wanted her to organize my closet so I can find that pair of shoes I’ve been missing and the underwear without the holes. Eighteen years she’s been gone, but I still feel the need for her so near.

I’ve clung to Jesus and read the books about grief and healing. I can look at the scars without glancing away from the ugly, but that hasn’t always been so. It’s a part of me, but it’s taken years for me to embrace it.

What I can also do now is own the hurt. For a long time I thought it weakness to fess up to the longing. I thought it a flaw in my strength for me to say out loud I miss my mama and I still need her.

I’ve come to realize most of us have something that creeps up on us and splits us down the middle. Maybe it is past abuse. Perhaps it is a loss so big you’ve felt like half a heart walking around for ages. Relationships fail. We fail. The wounds are real.

The pain we experience in the past rarely stays in the past.

When we go to the field? Well, those scars come along with us. They can open up into fresh wounds at the most inopportune time.

Doubting Thomas plunges his hand into the scars of Jesus to believe. Ironic when I focus on my own scars I start to doubt. Life overseas can be a roller-coaster of self-doubt. We can wonder if all the self-sacrifice is worth it. It can cause past hurts to well up and spill over into all the good we’re trying to accomplish.

The truth is we live in an upside down spiritual world. Our physical world tells us to suppress and move on. The truth of the Gospel says it is in our weakness we are made strong.

It is from scars we are healed.

Are there scars that are holding you back? Do you feel the need to hide your scars?


  1. Annette April 2, 2015

    I had a mother, she lived to be 98.  I was born when she was in her mid 40’s.  But I never really had a mother.  She would have never showed up with tea and answers.  She allowed my father, and others to abuse me.  She never intervened. When, at the age of 8,  I needed medical intervention after their sexual assaults  she told me, in front of the doctor, “we are never going to talk about this, this never happened”.  We never did talk about it. I hated her.  My goal at 13 was to get as far away from my family.  I became one of the meanest, angriest kids, teenager, you could ever meet.  Look at me wrong and you might get a black eye, cross me and you might get knifed.  I was going to protect myself, because no one else would.

    Jesus found me when I was 17.  Many things changed.  I am 35 now with 6 beautiful kids.

    I said all that to say, that ache, that wanting my mother, has never left.

    She died 3 years ago, still angry, bitter and refusing to admit how her actions affected me.  She had 4 grandchildren she refused to meet.  I have had lots of Godly replacements for a mother, but I still ache for her protection.

  2. Jessica Hoover April 2, 2015

    Oh sister, I ache for you. I write a lot about motherlessness. I’ve come to realize that so many women have experienced the loss of a mother in a thousand different ways. The scars are not all that different. No matter how a mother was lost the wounds can carve themselves into the contours of our soul and leave us hollow in all the mother needy spaces.

    I’m glad you’ve had mothers who have come alongside you. I’ve had that too. It’s a huge blessing. I think not having a mother has an inverse affect too. It infuses our hearts with a passion to mother well that is unsurpassed. Sending hugs and nods of understanding to your motherless heart today.

  3. Jennifer April 2, 2015


    I want to thank you for putting some of what I just spent two years living through into words.  In particular the conclusion which you reached “The truth is we live in an upside down spiritual world. Our physical world tells us to suppress and move on. The truth of the Gospel says it is in our weakness we are made strong. It is from scars we are healed.”  For me the truth is that it is as I have learnt both to recognize and effectively embrace rather than run away from the pain and in particular from the scars that  I am finding real healing. Sometimes overwhelming beyond measure but it is for me not in denying it but almost in accepting it, and the reality of God with me within it, that well meaning people who think it should be over, but who fail to understand that none of it is necessarily something to “get over” or “recover from” or even “learn to forget” but rather something which has made me stronger in unexpected ways and helped on fundamental levels to shape me into just the person God has made me to be, for whatever it is he has prepared for me. I may not be what anyone else wants me to be, but I will be who I am, scars and all.

  4. Jessica Hoover April 2, 2015

    Jennifer, your words are beautiful and really resonate with me personally. I don’t think the scars are something to hide. They are part of who we are. They don’t go away and we learn to live with them even if they are still visible. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us survivors. Survivors with stories to tell. Stories that is we allow become Jesus-sized stories of redemption.

  5. T April 2, 2015

    Just this week, as the plans for my daughter’s bday party were coming together, I automatically thought, “I can’t wait to tell Mom.”  Oops.  I’m almost to the 2nd anniversary of my mom’s death, and it still doesn’t seem real sometimes.  I’m so sorry for your experiences, Jessica, and the ladies who commented above me.

    In answer to the 2nd question, I think it has been tough at times to balance grieving and faith in my mom’s salvation, particularly in front of people who aren’t believers.  Much easier this year, though.

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