No matter what kind of home you grew up in, a tortilla eating, pasta making, rice steaming, or take out eating family, there are some foods that draw you back to memories of sitting at the table with your family. These anchors bring you back to memories of home, the place where you found comfort, where cherished times were shared with those we love. Just as food is passed down from generation to generation, our upbringing and traditions are passed down from one generation to the next.
On March 1, 2022 in honor of Gerry’s mothers birthday, I had the pleasure to sit down at Gerry’s Kitchen table where she has shared many meals, including one with her son’s family the night after we interviewed. I got the chance to hear more about what it was like for her to become the beautiful mother she is to her three children and the loving grandmother she is to her three grandchildren.
Gerry became a mother to her daughter Kristy at the young age of 21. And then, by the time she was 25 she was a mother of three. In her words “Bing, Bing, Bing” as she recounts how two of her pregnancies were expected and “planned” while her last was a surprise. Yet she states,
“We may have plans as mothers, but the Lord will direct us and will take us where we’re supposed to be.”
In our conversation we touched on the area of fear. We mothers tend to fear a whole lot… from the moment we learn that we are expecting to the moment where our children get married or move out of our homes we have an array of fears that we encounter. Gerry shared about her self-inflicting fear she placed on herself.
“My mom had set the bar really high and living up to her expectations of what a mother should be. I watched how she took care of her family, as her children had gotten older, how she was always there for them. And I was afraid that I wasn’t going to live up to her standards.”
Think about this, haven’t we set this same self-inflicting fear? We may look to our mothers or maybe other women whom we admire and tend to think what we do is “not enough”. This is not a mother thing… this is a woman thing. We tend to look around to gauge if we meet the standard. Why do we look to others and measure ourselves in this way?
Gerry said it this way: “I think as women, we want to be the best that we can for our family. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I grew up with “Leave it to Beaver” and Mrs. Cleaver was always in the little white dress with the pearls cleaning the house. I’m thinking, oh my gosh, that’s not really reality. You expect that perfection on yourself. You set the expectation like, my house isn’t as clean as it should be… I went to my friend’s house today, and her house was spotless. Why isn’t my house spotless? So, we’re always trying, but it’s not competing. It’s just judging ourselves against somebody else. We’re always trying to find ways that’ll help me get better here. So, I think it’s just the thing that women put on themselves. And I think we pressure ourselves into the idea of, I got to have that meal done every night at the same time. And I got to make sure this is done, then this is done, we put pressure on ourselves as women.”
Doesn’t this resonate inside of us as women? Mother or not, don’t we look around us and think I want to be better; I want to look perfect. What is perfect??? (Faultless, flawless, seamless, impeccable, precise, exact, ideal, complete, refined). Stop for a minute and think, is this what you want to measure yourselves to? Why do we desire to be perfect? Is it because we are missing something? What are we missing? Here’s how Gerry put it:
“I’ll tell you what I told my daughter I said, your house does not have to be perfect. Your life does not have to be perfect. Love your children. Give them attention, not things. Show them that you love them by your actions. And don’t measure yourself according to somebody else’s standards. Look to yourself because you’ve got all these good traits. If you can cook… Good. That’s a loving act towards your family. If you can keep a house, if you can do whatever it is that you can do, but don’t put that pressure on yourself that you have to be as good as (insert name here) or whoever.”
In other words what we are missing is looking to who we were created to be. Let’s begin here… Look around and realize that we are all unique beings. That’s right, there are over 7.8 billion people in this world, according to the US Census Bureau. Of these people, how many are the split image of you? Not even twins can say they are the same in everything. So then why do we search for this sort of perfection? Let’s look at what sends this message our way and impulses us to believe this to be true. Is it a magazine we look at? Is it the ads we see? The movies we watch? The sitcom/TV show we entertain ourselves with? What causes you to think “I am less than…” or “I need to be equal to…” Now maybe we don’t compare ourselves but like Gerry said we try to be better for the good of our family. But what I found out through talking with Gerry was the unique encouragement from her mom that we can all take in for ourselves.
“the way you take care of Kristy (her daughter), the way you watch over her. You’re a wonderful mom. You’re a great mom, you love your child, I could see that! And you’re going to take good care of her”
Let’s break down what Gerry’s mom said through this… “you Love”. That’s right ladies, Gerry loves!!! And she loves well! Now I encourage you to ask yourself do you love? The kind of love I am referring to is Agape love. This is the love that gives without expecting anything in return. Most of us moms give our hearts to those around us expecting nothing in return. It’s not what we wear, what we cook (although I do think our families and loved ones enjoy it when we do, this is probably an act of service which is a love language), but rather how we display our love to them when we’re busy, angry, frustrated, and lonely. Gerry shared how her family even to this day remembers a gesture of love and when they get together, they talk about this gesture with gratitude and sincere appreciation
“We did a lot of boating and ATV riding, I was real simple back then because I was a working mom. The kids always remember we would carry them into our van at three o’clock in the morning because we were on our way to Lake Elsinore. They always say ““mom, you always had pound cake for us, we never got pound cake any other time. Remember we would sit around this ice chest and drink our juice or milk with the pound cake? I love those days”” Pound cake was expensive, and it wasn’t something we could afford but I knew that it would be special and it would be simple enough to give it to them and then they would be off to go play when we were on our little adventures.”
What I gleaned from Gerry was that although busy and maybe on a budget she found simple ways to display this Agape love to her children who even now as adults carry that with them. We don’t need to complicate how we love our family. We don’t need to complicate our life with this “perfection”. We just need to learn from Jesus how to love.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:12-14 NIV
So I ask what does perfection look like in the eyes of the one who created each of us? Perfection looks like LOVE, the kind of love that puts self onto a shelf and seeks the best interest of others, not for the sake of being recognized, but for the sake of the deeper needs within the other person you are showering with your Agape-love. .
I want to encourage each of you to learn from this beautiful woman that learned what true perfection looks like. I want to say don’t believe the lies that the world teaches us that we need to look like the next magazine cover, the next movie star, or the next celebrity. Your beauty is within, as scripture instructs us of how our Creator sees us:
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
So go and love your family the way God has shown us and commanded us. Let your only expectation be asked in this way “did I love like Jesus?”
Feel free to share in the comments what ways have you recently displayed Jesus’ love to your family?