I used to hate my mom. It's true. If you saw us today you would think that I was lying and being all sensational to get your attention so you would read this article. But in all honesty, my mom and I have allowed God to restore our broken relationship and I can now say beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is one of my best friends. Here's our story:
For years I was under the impression that I had a normal and reasonably good relationship with my mom. To be honest, it was all I knew, so it was normal to me. She gave everything for us kids and often times sacrificed her own dreams so that we could live in ours. She was always there when we needed her, ready to listen and give advice. She loved me even when I was a raging pubescent teenager acting out, sleeping around, and in general making the house a hard place for our whole family to live in.
At 19 my whole life turned around as God invaded my space and I turned to meet Him face to face to give my life over to Him. I had grown up with a knowledge of God, I even heard Him speak to me (which was annoying when I was doing things on purpose I knew I shouldn’t have been doing) and often sensed His presence. I just ignored The God who never stopped pursuing me until I turned to receive His relentless love at 19.
There were a few circumstances that led me to the place of transformation and repentance, starting with the breakup of a long time boyfriend I had been with for 3 years through highschool and my freshman year of college. That moment towards the middle of my first year at college really spun me around, as I thought I’d be with him forever… But God had different plans.
Soon after the breakup, I was knee deep in finals week at The University of Washington when I received a distressed phone call from my mom. My best friend Brittani’s mom was on her deathbed and at the end of her fight with breast cancer. My mom was hysterical when I picked up the phone as Janet was her closest friend. The woman she had shared so much of her life with was slipping away into eternity before her very eyes. I had that feeling deep down in my gut that I had to get home to be with them all, even if it was finals week - I knew that time was short. I jumped out of bed, put on some clothes and ran through the quad of UW to my sister's house to call the airlines and buy a plane ticket home. Those were the days you actually had to call to get a flight as you couldn’t book online yet.
Just hours later, I flew home only to be met at the Spokane airport by my mom. Why wasn’t she at Janet's bedside? My heart sank knowing that while I was in the air, she had been ushered into eternity. I had to see for myself though. I needed closure. I mean this woman had been like a second mother to me. Almost every Sunday after church her daughter Brittani and I were over at each others houses, watching Anne of Green Gables whist eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches, Doritos with dill pickles on the side.
When I walked in the room to see her, my whole being was jolted with the revelation and reality of eternity. As I gazed upon her lifeless body, the most poignant reality came over me; I realized she wasn’t there anymore. Maybe this sounds so obvious, but to me it was a moment that my eternity pivoted on. Yes, her physical body was in front of me, but she was gone. I realized in the deepest possible way that her spirit had left, and that her body was just the casing that had carried her around whilst she was on the earth. If I hadn't believed it before, in that moment I knew the spiritual realm was real and I was messing around with it a little too nonchalantly. She went somewhere, and I knew if I didn’t get it together, that I wasn’t sure where I would go if I lost my life.
After the funeral, I went back to college to take my remaining finals, packed up and moved back home for the summer. I toured with USA teaching cheer camps through June and July and simultaneously, in spite of my revelation of eternity, still chose to mess around and act like an idiot… It was my final lap, and I gave it all I had.
At the end of the summer, my parents had started going to a new church and invited me to come along to an open night meeting at their annual summer camp. I reluctantly said yes, but it ended up being the most significant ‘yes’ of my life. When we arrived, I stepped into worship and had never felt such pure love… The presence of God was tangible. The evangelist who they had brought in to speak, got up and gave such a powerful message that when he asked who wanted to turn from their ways and give their lives to Jesus, without a thought, adrenaline pulsing through my veins I shot to my feet. it was like my heart was going to pound right out of my chest and come out of my mouth. And just like that, with my spirit leading my body, I ran to the front of the room, apparently not caring what anyone thought of me for the first time in a very long time! It was an immediate transformation. I turned 180 degrees around from my old life and stepped completely into the new. I literally left everything behind.
After that night, everywhere I went, I was in lala land. Everything, and I mean just everything was amazing! The sun was shining brighter, the flowers had become more fragrant, the breeze smelled sweet, and I practically skipped everywhere. I was a new girl. All my garbage, sins and shame had been washed away and I was now as pure and as white as snow. I was in love and I didn’t care who knew it.
Little did I know that right around the corner where love saved and forgave me, would I have to engage the same levels of love and forgiveness towards my mom. And then countless others with every passing year.
I will always remember the day my perfect little world was disrupted by the truth of our family's sordid past. I was sitting at a little boutique cafe in Spokane Washington across from my mom, the fire was crackling and my double short latte was absolute sipping perfection. We were bantering back and forth about life until I felt a nudge to ask some pointed questions about my upbringing. There were some things that seemed a bit fuzzy that I wanted clarity on.
As I asked countless questions, digging deeper and deeper into the pit of darkness my mom prayed none of us would ever discover and uncover. I could see her uncomfortably shifting back and fourth in her seat, brow furrowed and mouth dry. She was visibly wearing her anxiety and fear, It was almost palpable. I had hit a nerve, and apparently it was a big one.
The knowledge of my mother and father’s past sin and shame was laying siege to my apparently fragile emotional stability and new found faith. When the that veil was lifted, my true heart was exposed. Looking back, it's appalling to see where in a moment that deserved compassion, forgiveness and love, my mom was assaulted with my anger, hatred and vengeance. In the matter of moments, she had become an object of disgust and disdain to me and I unknowingly stepped into the place of judge and jury. I felt I deserved to sit in the judgment seat, and proceeded to for 7 more years.
The things she revealed with fear and trembling, helped me make sense of some of the fuzzy memories I had along the way growing up. But at the same time, they also incited a deep anger that I had been keeping at bay within me. I called her names I have now since apologized for, and I made a glorious scene in my favorite coffee shop.
I got up from the table, shouting with expletives no young lady (or anyone) should ever use. I told her I hated her and would never forgive her (In hindsight, such an unhealthy vow to make!) as I stood up from the table and dramatically walked away. She followed me out the door crying and begging for forgiveness that I refused to give. I will never forget seeing her standing at the back door of the coffee shop as I ran to my car, pure white snow falling down upon her as she sobbed and asked me to come back and not walk away from her. She was truly sorry for her actions, but I was hurt and she was going to pay for it as long as I saw fit. Anger and rage cause blindness and cut off compassion.
I had ammunition, my mouth was the gun and she was now my target. I got good at target practice. I knew how to craft my words to get straight to her heart and wound her, make her feel ashamed and sorry for all that she had done over and over again.
I remember a couple of weeks after all had been made known, lying on the couch reading a book when my mom walked into the kitchen. I glared at her with disdain and she said something to me that changed my life, although she wouldn’t know it for 7 more years until I gave birth to my first son. She said;
“Andi, I only hope you can forgive me one day like I know Jesus has forgiven me.”
I layed there acting like her words didn't’ effect me, but deep down I knew she was right, but I made a conscious choice to hold onto unforgiveness which turned into bitterness, contempt and resentment. Over the next 7 years our relationship was tolerable. But emotionally I wasn’t going to let her close within a ten foot pole. And I knew that would hurt her as she had been the only one I went to for anything in my life. I made her pay in a thousand little ways. The sound of her voice annoyed me because of the resentment I had allow to fester in my life. So when she would speak, often times I would make sure she knew it was annoying me and speak harshly to her. I did anything I could to poke at her insecurities so I could be superior to her. I spiritually bullied her to make myself feel better. And it worked… for a while. Until I became pregnant with my first child. I was about to become a mother. Would I want to be treated by my child how I was treating my mom? The answer was clear - no. I had to change.
All of a sudden, I had a newfound sense of responsibility to deal with all of my issues. I knew that If I didn’t deal with my “stuff”, I would pass it onto my son and in turn the next generation. I had been in counseling weekly for about a six months previous to finding out I was pregnant. Many of the issues from my own past were rearing their ugly head and I needed help to get free. Each week there was a breakthrough, but I was amazed at how many layers of ‘stuff’ I needed to deal with. Becoming pregnant opened up the “mom” jar, and it was time to go there.
I was about to become a mom myself, and started to think about all of the cruel ways I had been treating my own mom. I realized that if my kids treated me the way I was treating my mother, I would be heartbroken. But the truth is my mom really did hurt me, and I needed freedom from the pain.
Paul and I had gone away to Dunk Island for our “baby-moon” a few months before Ezekiel arrived. Through my counseling, I had been dealing with the issues from my past abuse and sexual sin and someone recommended I read the book “Kissed the girls and made them cry” by Lisa Bevere. Little did I know that by reading this book, the breakthrough with my mom was right around the corner. “Breakthrough with your mom” isn’t the intent of the book, but God can move however He pleases!
Paul had gone out to the beach to relax. I stayed back because I was the size of a whale and way too tired to move. I grabbed the book and settled into bed to read. I got to the story of the adulterous woman thrown at the feet of the pharisees because she was “caught in the very act”. In the book, the way Lisa tells the story absolutely captured me. It was like she saw it with her own eyes.
She painted a picture with her words in a way that captured my heart and brought me to a place of forgiveness and repentance. And now, as I re-live that moment… I will paint the picture in my own words out of John 8… A moment that deeply changed me forever and brought redemption and restoration to a mother and daughter's relationship.
The adulterous woman… torn, tattered, broken, dirty and disheveled embarrassed in front of a crowd and then thrown at the feet of Jesus. He looked down at her, as she was covered with shame and pain from the brutal dragging it took to get her there from the “holy” pharisees. He looked down at her, the crowd staring at her wondering what he would do. The law said she should die, but Jesus was in the midst of ushering in the new way… The New Covenant. He wrote on the ground and to this day not a soul knows what he wrote there in the dirt. Was he stalling? Was he sending a message? Was He thinking and listening to His Father to get direction as to what to do?
The Pharisees spitting with anger yelled at him in what I imagine a condescending tone, testing him in front of the crowds… “WHAT DO YOU SAY WE SHOULD DO JESUS?!?!?”
He pauses, looks down at her with total pure love. Gazes into her eyes and gives her the dignity that every human soul deserves. He then turns to the Pharisees, and with wisdom that could only pour down from heaven He asks them… “He who is without sin among you, let Him be the first to cast a stone at her.” The deafening silence was palpable. All you could hear was the breeze blowing through the streets. Everyone in shock, not knowing how to respond to such a heart penetrating question. And one by one the walked away. Not one of the pharisees was without sin… and they knew it. The crowd thinned till there were only a few left…
Jesus, again, looking down at a the woman who had messed up her life, and I’m sure had suffered abuse, and now her shame was on public display. But the way he looked at her, well… He didn’t look at her with any shame, just unadulterated love and forgiveness. He says to her… “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”
I can only imagine her looking up, wincing wondering if a stone would come flying towards her face to take her life. But when she looks up, she is assaulted by the purity of something she has never experienced before. Love… forgiveness… and no shame. To her surprise she says to him… “No one sir…”
They had all up and left, no one perfect enough to cast a stone. No one except Jesus.
But He doesn’t throw a stone… Instead, He looked her right in the eyes and says, “Neither do I condemn you… Now go and leave your life of sin.”
As I read these words and this story came alive to me I flashed back to that moment where I was lying on the couch glaring at my mom and she said to me that she prayed I would only be able to forgive her one day like she knew Jesus had forgiven her… and I wept.
I cried out, alone in my room to God… “Oh, God… Oh God! I forgive my mom! I forgive her… You have loved her always and I do to! I forgive her!”
And you’d think that it would end there, but right after those deep penitent words came out of my mouth, it was as if Jesus himself was in the room right next to me, and I heard the words from heaven ring in my ears; “That’s so good sweetheart… Because you were the pharisee that threw her at my feet, when you should be right on the ground next to her, on your knees asking for forgiveness.”
I dropped to the ground with my big 8 month pregnant belly and wept, repented and asked for forgiveness…. Forgiveness for the judgment I had held against my mom when it was never my place to sit. The Judgement seat has room for only one, and it doesn't have a reserved name tag on it reading “Andi Andrew”. Judgement seat, party of one. And that “party of one” is Jesus.
In that moment I gave back all control to him. I gave Him my mom to deal with as He saw fit. I gave Him back my life to do with as He saw fit…. I let His love and forgiveness wash over me. I realized that even in the story of the adulterous woman, the pharisees had a chance to repent and receive forgiveness, but they chose to walk away.
When we are confronted by God with our pharisaical ways, do we walk away, or remain until His love tenderized ever calloused part of our hearts? We have all stood in the place of pharisee, not wanting to forgive, but wanting to make others pay for their sins. We have all thrown people at the feet of Jesus acting as though we were more righteous than them when the only one who makes us righteous is Jesus. We need to get on the ground, suck some dirt, repent from our judgement and sins and forgive others. It will set us free!
I am so glad I had that moment, because the next month I was giving birth to my first born son - I needed to clear the way for him to come into the world with the cleanest slate I could give him. And not only that, I was keenly aware that my mom was coming to town for a whole month. she was going to be staying at our house the whole time and be all up in our business. I knew I needed to have dealt with the issues in my heart to the best of my ability before she arrived otherwise I was going to be making her pay by cutting her down, manipulating her and just all around making her feel bad for her past.
The day she arrived, I have the keenest memory of the two of us sitting on the floor in Zeke’s room just a few days before he arrived into the world. The morning sun was streaming through the windows warming our backs as we folded his tiny little clothes together talking. I was asking questions about what labor was going to be like and getting advice on what to do and what not to do… And then there was this moment of silence. A holy moment. It seemed as though the heavenly hosts were peering over through the windows of heaven to watch this moment… I slowly opened my mouth as the words began to come out like a flood.
“Mom. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that the last seven years I have hurt you and made you pay for the sins of your past. I’m sorry I’ve held such judgment and disdain for you and I’ve made sure that you’ve felt it. I’m sorry that I made you feel like you’re the only one that has sinned in this world. I’m sorry that I have been so self righteous acting as though I’m perfect when I soooo realize now that I’m not.” I went on to tell her the moment of reading the story of the adulterous woman, how it changed me, my revelation and pharisaical ways… and then I said these words. “I have forgiven you just as Jesus has. Now will you forgive me.”
By this stage, we were both crying, hearts on our sleeves. And with silent bellows, sucking in the air through her tears trying not to weep uncontrollably she looked me in the eyes, tears spilling down her cheeks and simply said “Yes.” I don’t know how long we held each other on the floor, covered in Ezekiel's unfolded baby clothes, and the sun still radiantly warming our backs. But it was an embrace that brought the healing salve of redemption and restoration. We were put back together, not as we once were, but as we were always meant to be.
I can’t say that after that moment, everything became perfect, but I will say that we both committed to walking through the process of restoration. You see, in that moment, it’s like we both willingly invested in buying an old renovators dream house. We gave all that we had to buy it, but knew it was going to take a lot of work to make it look like it could in all it’s planned glory. But we were committed to the journey in that moment to do whatever it took to bring it to the place it was meant to be. We were on the same page.
I’ve heard it said by Kris Vallotton that “Forgiveness restores the standard.” God had never intended for my mother and I to have a broken down relationship, and when forgiveness came into the middle of it, the standard was raised and we had a new start.
The month that followed was glorious and full of redemptive moments, conversations, prayer, arguments, wrestling with the truth and sheer joy when my firstborn son entered the world.
Zeke was born after 8 hours of intense labor… We had burned some CD’s and jokingly called them “Births Greatest Hits”. It was all of my favorite worship songs to bring the presence of God into my labor. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Ezekiel Benjamin Andrew (God makes strong, the son of my right hand) was born to the anthem, “Our God Is An Awesome God”. It was a glorious moment when he entered into the world, and just moments after he he was laid on my chest, the enemy tried to take his life. He was what was known as a “flat baby” and they had to resuscitate him and take him to the ICU to watch over him. He was supposed to be in there for days, but in a matter of hours coupled with fervent and effective prayer from family and friends, he miraculously turned around.
The brought him into the room because he was hungry and hadn’t had his first feed. The moment they put him in my arms, he looked up at me with his intense eyes and it was as if they were going to bore a hole straight into my soul. I sobbed with joy and delight. My son had come into the world and was given a momma who knew how to engage forgiveness come hell or high water. I’m not gonna lie, I was proud of myself in that moment. I wasn’t perfect, (still not) but I had done my best to pave a way for this little world changer to step into a home that knew how to engage forgiveness and activate love. I bonded with my little boy and didn’t ever want to let him go. He fed for the first time, and perfectly every time after. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days and never took him off of me. It was too surreal… I was a mom.
So many waves of emotions hit me, some of them hormonal, some of them simply God. I mean, I was a mom now! Whoa! Laying there with my freshly born baby boy, I went back over the happenings of the past seven years with my mom in my head and heart and had this epiphany…. Would I want my kids to treat me the way I treated my mom for the last 7 years? NO! Do I want them to forgive me for all the blunders I had ahead of me yet to make as a mother? YES! Again, I began to repent…. And then I began to pray for the relationships I was to forge with my own children. “Oh God may they be filled with love and forgiveness, repentance and restoration!”
Then it hit me… Zeke’s day of birth, July 31, 2005. The day Zeke was born after 8 hours of labor was exactly 8 years to the day that I gave my life to Jesus on that altar call in Spokane Washington when He made all things new. And exactly 8 years later, In Sydney Australia, as my son was born, God had once again made all things new between my mom and I as I birthed the next generation of our family. God is a redeemer! We just have to get out of the way and forgive to allow the standard to be restored. All things had been made new as a new generation was birthed onto the earth.
The crazy thing is, the number 8 in the Bible represents a new beginning and a new order. I love how God is in the details!
In my house to this day is the Ken Duncan print called “Forgiveness”. It’s the print of the adulterous woman looking up into the eyes of Jesus as He takes her hand and lifts her out of the dirt. It was given to me a few months after Ezekiel had been born on my birthday by a group of friends that knew what it meant to me. To this day, it serves as a constant reminder to me as to where to live my life from. I have to be reminded to live my life on my knees with a repentant heart, and to remember who the lifter of my head and redeemer of my story is. It is Jesus, always and forever.
Living in the restoration of our relationship today still astounds me - our God truly is a redeemer. I love this woman more than I could ever say and her bravery to step into the fullness of her freedom blows my mind. She is such a amazing example to every generation. I personally love watching her step into the fullness of her calling as she becomes a mother to more and more in our church and beyond.