Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Club Thursday | Mama Made the Difference

Mamas Teach Us to Survive In Order to Thrive

We are reading through the book Mama Made the Difference by T.D. Jakes. All direct quotes taken from the book are in bold type.

You know, life is full of secrets; there are things we survive but do not discuss.  There are victories that will never be celebrated, the narrow escapes from h*ll's kitchen that leave us deeply grateful but publicly silent. Every person has the story of a woman in their family who has/had survived through a tough struggle of some kind.  Some stories are shared with others, and some are kept as family secrets. Who knows, maybe you are the woman being mentioned here.  Whatever the case, your story of survival will in some way- whether in raw detail or watered down- be told to your children and your grandchildren and will in some way bring hope to future generations who find themselves in a struggle to survive a period in their life.

Because I had not suffered as she did, I viewed her blessing as a hardship.  How many times do we look at another person's situation and think in our own minds, "If I were her...."  We always know what we would do in someone else's situation, however, we do not always know the story of what brought someone to the point at which they are.  Who knows, where they are might be the best place they have ever been in their life, but because we do not know of or about the struggles they have had to survive, we begin with our judgemental and opinionated thoughts.

The quote from the book is in reference to T.D. Jakes great-grandmother. She had been born a slave and had suffered many things.  When he was in elementary school, he was visiting her in her home which had no air or heat, and he was watching her cook chicken over a wood-burning stove.  He could not imagine hauling wood to the stove in order to begin the process of cooking a meal.  But to his great-grandmother, this was her wood, her stove, and her little home. Because he had never had to suffer the hardships of slavery, he viewed her blessing as a hardship.

Whoever you are and whatever your heritage is, let me encourage you to study it and treasure it.  Know the strengths and weaknesses of your people.  Be acquainted with their triumphs and struggles, for those things belong to you.  If at all possible, walk the land your ancestors worked and see the sights they saw.  Growing up, I never truly appreciated the Hispanic culture.  My grandfather had told me not to learn Spanish because he did not want me being looked down on for speaking a language other than English.  However, as I got older and became more exposed to families that were not Hispanic, I became more appreciative of the closeness, the warmth, the generosity, and hospitality of the culture I had always just taken for granted.  I do not know a great deal about my family beyond my grandmother on each side, but reading this chapter has made me a bit more curious about them: who they were, what their lives were like, etc. And it is definitely something I want our children exposed to. 

I believe that one of the mistakes we make when we become familiar with the past struggles and victories of our families is to stop when the stories end and to file them away in our minds as interesting tidbits of our personal history.  What we must do instead is to take one step further and claim their trials and triumphs as our own, weaving them into the tapestries of our experiences, drawing strength and courage from the spiritual, emotional, and mental DNA of those who have gone before us.  I have noticed in Addie that she carries a lot of my mother's temperament in her little body.  That is something that I want her to know.  As she matures and gets older, I want to be able to share with her, when glimmers of Mom's personality come shining through, specific memories and moments when Grandma Ana had the same look, mannerism, and determination so she can go forward with a knowledge of how her grandmother would have responded in a very similar situation.

The Bible teaches us in Hebrews 12:1 that "since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," that we can "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."  As I pursue my calling as a wife and mother, I often think of the cheering section I have that is cheering me on to be the woman that God wants me to be. Not only is there the earthly community of cheerleaders...
  • a husband who encourages my ideas even when they are inconvenient for him and talks fondly to others about the wife he has at home, 
  • a three year old daughter who can be heard saying, "Good job, Mommy!" when I'm hanging the laundry or doing some other mundane but necessary household task,
  • a mom-in-law who encourages me as I care for her son and granddaughter,
  • extended family members who are also homemakers but further along in life as they encourage the new generation of homemakers to love their husbands and children,
  • a sister who sends me encouraging text messages randomly,
  • friends across the miles who encourage me as we spring clean "together",
  • and you who are faithful readers of my ideas, lessons, and ramblings,
but there is also a spiritual community who is cheering us on when we push on without giving up. Can you imagine the homemakers of old that are cheering for us as we do our day to day tasks, and how they must wish sometimes that they had some of our conveniences? 

I am going to end this post with the following quote from the chapter.

Whatever you are going through, be determined to survive it.  Tell your lungs to keep on breathing; tell your heart to keep on beating.  No matter how difficult your days may be, determine to live them.  Life will not always be so grueling, so just keep going.  Survive the dark days because eventually morning will come.  All you have to do is keep on going until it does.

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