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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: motherhood

She runs. (Guest Post by Ashley Dickens)

I'm excited to have Ashley writing about Mother’s Day from a different angle: through the eyes of an adult daughter. Additionally, it's great to have Ashley here to feature the incredible work of HOPE International. This summer, my oldest daughter and I are traveling to Rwanda with HOPE, and we're looking forward to learning more about this organization in order to support their work. As a gesture of your own commitment to HOPE, maybe you'd like to make a small donation today? You can easily do that here.

Ashley 1When I think about my mom, I think about the Marines.

It’s an unlikely pairing, given that the only uniform my mother has ever worn is a cringe-worthy little number from her high school cheerleading days. However, several years ago my husband’s dog-eared copy of It Happened on the Way to War by former Marine Rye Barcott radically altered the way I thought about motherhood. It’s a gripping read that made me forget to breathe more than once, arresting my attention with the repeated refrain, “Marines move toward the sound of guns.”

The fierce imagery of that captivated me. The defiant, almost irrational courage of unquestioningly running toward what others are running away from makes my heart beat wildly. I see that same unflinching courage in so many mothers across the globe—women who run toward danger simply because that’s where they’re needed. It’s a universal truth that transcends culture, race, and socioeconomic status—from suburbia to the Sahara, where you find a mother you will find a woman fighting fiercely for her children.

My mom isn’t a Marine. She’s a world traveler, an unapologetic risk taker, a passionate activist, and a killer chocolate-cake baker. Pint-sized and with an unflappable conviction that both zebra stripes and sequins are neutrals, she imparted the delicate art of sarcasm to me like it was a precious family heirloom and taught me that walking with Jesus is about infinitely more than being a “nice girl.” You’re far more likely to find her in a pair of feisty red heels than combat boots and fatigues—and she is the single bravest woman I’ve ever known.

Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, Hallmark tells me to buy her a flowered card with a cotton-candy-fluff sentiment penned in careful cursive—something the Ingalls sisters might have given to Ma. The absurdity of it puzzles me—something about a generic pink card has never quite seemed right for my mom. Or, I think, a lot of moms.

My mama is a force to be reckoned with. I remember standing wide-eyed and nauseated in our kitchen as a little girl when, without warning, I began to projectile vomit all over the white-tiled floor. The whole scene looked like something from The Exorcist—minus a Catholic priest or two. Indelibly etched into my mind is the memory of my mom running toward me, her hands irrationally cupped open.

She’s been running toward me my entire life.

My mother’s unflinching bravery carried her from the comfortable little town she grew up in to a doll-sized apartment in the post-communist city of Kiev, Ukraine. She packed up three children under the age of six and as much Jiffy peanut butter as she could stuff into her carry-on and moved our lives to a place where the only thing she knew how to say was a hopeful, “Do you speak English?” In a city with no workable educational options, where those who had come before her had thrown up their hands in surrender and left, she opted to start a brand-new school for her children to attend—one that still exists today. Her bravery has carried her into crumbling refugee camps and crumbling marriages—to the places that looked irreparably dark and broken. Very hardest of all, two years ago it carried her into a dark ICU where she held her 21-year-old baby’s hand as he died of cancer.

It’s what mamas do, isn’t it? They run toward the hard, the ugly—they run toward the sound of guns. Our mothers bravely dive into dark and splintering brokenness with us and show us who Jesus is over and over again. They’re the first on the scene when our bones and hearts are shattered, when savage insecurities rear their ugly heads and our dreams feel worn out and hollowed. They hold the midnight watch beside cribs and cancer beds, speaking life over our dead places and believing on our behalves when nobody else will. Our mamas love wildly and fiercely, mirroring the God who runs toward us as they teach us to be like Him—second-chance-givers, hope-bringers, restorers.

My belief in the power of motherhood is an enormous part of why I love HOPE International so much. Through the power of the gospel and a small loan, HOPE empowers mothers around the world to keep running toward hard and holy things, to keep bravely fighting for their children, their communities, and the broken world around them. At HOPE, we have the breathtaking privilege of watching mothers trapped in poverty harness the power of a small loan and a safe place to save their money, and run toward the most broken places in their communities. Day after day, they courageously step into the hard work of building stronger families, neighborhoods, and churches, one person at a time.

Mamas and marines—they have more in common than I ever imagined. This Mother’s day, if a generic pink card doesn’t quite reflect the valor of your mom, consider joining me in framing this for her instead. “There is no fear in love”—moms across the globe put flesh and bone on it every day. If you’d like to join me in giving this digital print to your mom, you can snag a free download here.

Celebrate Advent: Make room for love.

I wish I loved my children better. The milk spills and seeps through the crack between the table.

The book report she’s typed needs reformatted.

There are ping-pong paddles on top of the microwave and socks in between the couch cushions.

And he’s out of bed again.

I wish I loved my children better. I wish every time they needed me, I didn’t sigh. That I didn’t meet every occasion for discipline with my teeth clenched and my eyes flashing fire. I wish I were more ready to laugh and memorize the details of their faces and hands. I wish dishes and laundry were more easily set aside.

I wish my heart’s love were clear water, and my family and husband could stand at its edge and find their reflections.

“Do this, and do it with love. For this is your work that will ripple out into eternity.” – Ann Voskamp

I wish I had God’s heart.

His heart written finally in the story of Advent, a gift of grace given to unexpected people in unexpected places. Love rippling out into eternity.

A baby in a manger.

A carpenter, a young virgin, a donkey, and shepherds.


What could God mean by it all other than to say that love matters most? That love is humble? That all must be set aside today for love?

“Any work done for love is an act of worship. It becomes a special devotion, a prayer. And recognized as this, it must be seen as something that requires total attention, with full care given to every detail. Attentiveness to the work being done is a spiritual virtue. It is not right to see some things – creative tasks or prayer, for example –as superior to others. Any task can become an act of devotion, just as any can be falsely glorified. All deserve equal care.

The final truth follows from this last. Since all that we do becomes an act of devotion each person’s life becomes one long litany of praise. . .It is up to us to make the celebration as beautiful as possible.”

-Finding God at Home, Ernest Boyer, Jr.