Monday, March 26, 2012

My Mama and the Storm

My mama is the kind of devout, sanctified-church-raised Christian who "gets the Holy Ghost." She claps her hands. She cries out. She dances. She might run. Whatever she feels the spirit moves her to do.

And my sister and I, who are not particularly demonstrative or particularly religious, look at each other. Sometimes, I make a dry comment which irritates my beloved best friend who tells me gently, "You don't know her story. You don't know why she gets happy."

Last night, someone posted the words to the song "I Told the Storm" on Facebook. Every time I hear that song, I think of my mama's praise. My BFF is right; I don't know her whole story. But I know a few of the things she has come through and it is enough to make someone "shout."

My mom was born to a single mother in the rural South in 1949. Now, having felt stigmatized myself as a single mother a half-century later, I can't imagine how hard my grandmother's life and the lives of her children were. But my mama has told me about the nights when there wasn't quite enough to eat, the days when someone else fed them, the clean but patched and repaired clothes, the condescension of her step-grandmother who once told a social services caseworker that my grandmother and my mother wouldn't amount to much, because my great-grandmother hadn't been worth anything before she died.

My mama has told me, for my book, about her work in an industry that was physically and emotionally demanding, exploitative, and exhaustive. She has told me about her unrealized dreams of being a teacher or a hair dresser.

And she didn't have to tell me about the ups and downs of negotiating a four-decade marriage. I witnessed enough. I adored my father, love him still, but being a good father didn't always make him a good husband. That is not my story to tell, but my mother endured much.

I have seen my mother sacrifice so much for her family, for us--her hard-headed, smirking, dry-commenting children. I've seen her weather storms--money problems, job loss, caring for and losing a sick parent and sibling, settling arguments, rescuing cash-strapped children, diabetes etc, etc. So when I hear, "I Told the Storm," I think of my mama.

And I cry.

But these are good tears. Because I don't know her whole testimony. But I know she has survived with her smile and her spirit intact. She's still clapping her hands. She's still crying out. She's still dancing. She's still running. She still has faith, not only in her God, but in the worth and goodness of people. And she's telling her storms just what the lyrics say:
Wind stop blowing
Flood stop flowing
Lightning stop flashing
Breakers stop dashing
Darkness go away
Clouds move away
That's what I told the storm

Death can't take me
Job can't make me
Bills can't break me
Disease can't shake me
You won't drown me
My God surrounds me
That's what I told the storm!

My mama has that kind of joy another old song refers to: unsinkable joy that the world didn't give and the world can't take away. I believe part of Psalm 30:5 is inscribed on her heart: "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

Y'all, I adore my mama.
I can't even explain how good she has been to and for me.

I Told the Storm Lyrics:

Even though your winds blow I want you to know
You cause me no alarm cause I'm safe in His arms
Even though your rain falls I can still make this call
Let there be peace now I can say go away
I command you to move today
Because of faith I have a brand new day
The sun will shine and I will be okay
Thats what I told the storm
(the storm, the storm)

I told the storm (oh yes i did)
to pass (ohhhhh..)
storm you cant last (go away)
go away (I command..)
I command you to move today
(oh storm)Storm (when God speaks) when God speaks
Storm (you don't have a choice in the matter, you have to cease)
You have to cease (yes thats....)
thats what I told the storm (what I told the storm)
(repeat once more)

I told the storm
(No weapons formed against me shall prosper I dont have to worry about a thing)
I told the storm
(Im more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ, and he's gonna bring me out alright)
I told the storm
(It's amazing grace thats brought me safe thus far, and grace is gonna lead me home)
I told the storm
(I stood on solid ground and told my storm and you need to tell your storm today)

Vamp 1
(Oh wind) Wind stop blowing
(Flood stop flowing) Flood stop flowing
(Lightening stop flashing) Lightening stop flashing
(Breakers stop dashing) Breakers stop dashing
(Darkness go away) Darkness go away
(Clouds move away) Clouds move away
(That's what I told...) That's what I told the storm

Vamp 2
(Oh death) Death can't take me
(Job can't make me) Job can't make me
(No matter how the fares of this world...) Bills can't break me ( may seem to way me down)
Disease can't shake me
You won't drown me
My God surrounds me
That's what I told the storm
(repeat vamp 2 one more time)

That's what I told the storm (repeat until end and fade)

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Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...