Bittersweet

Julie Farren

Expectations are a dangerous thing. They can bring disaster upon your relationships, experiences, or whatever. I remember attending a women’s conference where the speaker described the difference between an expectation and reality. The space between the two she labeled as the “misery factor.” That description always stayed with me. I guess you remember the things that resonate with you the most. I know I have suffered many times from the misery factor, and the expectations that we have in our relationship with our moms are certainly no different.

Holidays like Mother’s Day and others can be bittersweet for some. agriculture-environment-flower-33044We may have moms who have passed away… or moms who do not live nearby; and there may be some of us who do not have good relationships with our moms. The expectations we have can be a barrier to happiness. So, celebrating a day that focuses on our moms and the relationship we have with them may not be all that encouraging and enjoyable.

What I have found to be true in God’s family, though, is that He can provide exactly what we need to fill in what is lacking or missing from our life. Some of the relationships I have through my faith are stronger and dearer to my heart than that of my blood family. In other words, I have spiritual mothers and sisters that fill the gap for me. When we are open to receiving what God wants to give us, it can be overwhelming to experience the goodness of His provision. I am reminded of James 1:7; “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights.” We have a loving heavenly Father who desires our best and will fulfill our needs but, in His timing, and according to His will. It may not always look like we think it should look, but it will be exactly what we need and when we need it. We can trust Him in this. Our deepest emotional needs can only be met in Jesus, and it is wrong to expect any other person to fill that need.

When my mom died suddenly last year and with no warning, my expectations of having more time with her went unmet. I had always imagined that I would be at her side in her last days, hours and moments, holding her hand, praying over her and just being there for her. My expectations did not turn into reality. She died in her sleep with no warning. I thought of all the things I wished I could say… but now would not have that opportunity. That was hard, I’m not going to lie. But in the midst of my grief there were so many blessings mixed in that it started to amaze me just how good my Heavenly Father is to me. And I realized, His blessings are always surrounding us, but sometimes we don’t notice them as much as we do when we are emotionally raw. This realization bolstered my faith.

And in the aftermath of her death, God has brought spiritual mothers into my life. Joanie sends me a message every week encouraging me and cheering me on. My mother’s best friend, Ann, continues to pour out her love into my life. I know my mom would be extremely grateful for these precious ladies to be loving on her daughter.

I can imagine mom in heaven dancing and praising God and joyfully experiencing all the wonders of His presence and love. Someday I will be there with her and we will dance and sing and be full of joy together. I imagine we will plant a beautiful rose garden together and enjoy the perfect cup of tea! I look forward to that day. That is one expectation I believe will be fulfilled. In the meantime, I live in faith and hope, enjoying the provision of my Father in heaven who loves me more than I could ever know.

 

Adorned by Grace

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 7.50.30 AMDebbie Garner

“Two heads are better than one, even if one is a pumpkin head,” Mom would say. And then we would both laugh.

This was often her remark when we put our heads together to solve some minor problem. It was a bit self-deprecating considering her nickname of “Pumpkin,” being so named because of her love of the holiday pie. But it was really meant as a humorous acknowledgement of my help and that we were a team.

Her expression still pops into my head when I am problem solving.

From infancy through elementary school, Mom was faithful to take her three children to Sunday school; she wanted us to know about God. I remember her speaking of how she taught nursery age Sunday school when she was in High school. After moving to Ramona, we lived across the street from our church, so attending regularly was easy. I have poignant memories of sharing Good Friday and Easter services with her.

Mom had a difficult childhood but chose to make ours the best she could. She loved us well. She struggled with depression, especially after my brother passed away, but she never spoke against God or blamed Him for the events in her life. In her later years, Mom valued her daily Bible reading and was very interested in the truth of salvation and anticipation of heaven.

My three children received generous love and attention from my mom, their “Grammy.” She truly seemed to enjoy their company, whether for the day or overnight. They remember how Grammy colored with them and made her special tacos for their dinner.

My children noticed the bright colors and sandals that Mom wore and the organized way she kept her belongings. When my girls and I are out shopping and see a certain type of shoe on display, they will say, “Grammy would love those shoes.”

My mom spent the last ten years of her life with daily pain and multiple hospitalizations and surgeries for abdominal problems. We all came to dread a phone call telling us that Mom was in the ER again. But then she would recover with our thanks to God for her continued time on earth.

Mom wasn’t a perfect parent, and neither am I. However naïve, I know we were both intent on correcting the failures we felt our mothers had made, only to find we owned a different set of mistakes.

God doesn’t ask any of us to be a perfect mother. He understands humanity and actually expects imperfection. His desire is that we live out our love for Him and teach it to our children. He always looks at the heart and by the Holy Spirit can transform our honest efforts, however inadequate, into something of great value in the lives of our children.

Proverbs 1:8-9, …and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

What a beautiful truth: a daughter adorned by her mother’s Godly wisdom. Righteous living passed on from generation to generation.

 

Seat of Honor

adult-cute-daughter-701014by Anne de Martimprey

In Mark 20:20, the gospel records the audacious request of a mother, who comes kneeling before Jesus asking that her two sons have the seat of honor, one on the left and one on the right of Jesus. She wanted the very best for her sons and was willing to ask for it. Can we blame her?

As mother’s we desire the very best for our children. In our culture we angst and fret over their care. We want to protect them from everything possible. We read books that compare breast milk and formula, we debate in our minds about immunizations, we spend hours of time making, freezing and managing home-made baby food, or loads of money on organic applesauce/kale/chia seed pouches. We want our kids to have the perfect amount of attention, the best balance of learning and play time, and the enrichment of many experiences and activities.

As mother’s we put ourselves in a mental, emotional hamster wheel of ideas, hopes, fears, regrets and guilt over our children. We get so worn out that by the end of the week we joke and say, “hey, I kept them alive!” but the truth of it is we want so much more than to just see our kids survive. We want them to grow, to flourish, and to reach amazing heights in each of their unique gifts and abilities. We want them to be stable, well-rounded, fun-to-be-around individuals, who are productive and successful in life. We want ALL the best for our children.

But I think we get confused, just like the mother of James and John did. We want our children to be set high and honored, but we lose track of the road that actually leads them there.

When the disciples hear of how James and John tried to gain access to the best seats next to Jesus they are scornful and angry. Jesus calls all the disciples together and says, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Not unless our children learn to be servants will they ever be honored in the Kingdom of God, and that is the only honor that in the end matters at all. So if we truly want the best for our children, we don’t just give to them, we train them to give to others. We don’t just love them, we teach them how to love others. We don’t just protect them, we show them that safety is not our highest ideal, because sometimes serving someone means stepping out of what feels safe. Love gives up it’s own rights, it’s own comfort, it’s own honor, for others. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what he wants from us.

So would the mother of James and John have been as eager to request seats of honor with Christ had she known that honor in the kingdom of heaven would mean persecution, danger, hunger, loneliness, exhaustion, jail time and eventual martyrdom for her sons? And what of us? Do we truly desire the very best for our kids? The best by Jesus’s standards is a servant of all, one who gives up his life for others.

BREATH OF LIFE

by   Mary Baumgardner

Mothers’ Day …For many mothers and fathers, too, this is an exciting occasion. It’s a day of remembering that moment when your newborn took their first profound, miraculous, God-given breath. You heard it. Couldn’t catch your own breath. Then spontaneously you let out a burst full of relief, excitement and gratefulness. Your little one is alive—you heard the cry heralding new life that went from the darkness of the womb to light. (Reminds me of the moment of our salvation.) Not only were you amazed at all the intricacies that had shaped your baby’s frame and form, you realized that your precious one has personality, a will, intelligence, conscience and, moadorable-baby-baby-feet-266011re importantly and astoundingly, was created in the image of God and given a spiritual life—endowed with never-ending life at the moment of conception.   Seeing the result of God’s exquisite skill and workmanship of the physical and spiritual life, so miraculous nothing can surpass it. How can one not worship our Creator whose extravagant love places a newborn in a mother’s cradled arms!

There is another side to the celebration of Mothers’ Day. There are many women, myself included, who have conceived but have not experienced our baby’s first breath. May have been by miscarriage or some other reason that in a few short months or even at full term their child died. Isn’t it just like God to gift a human life with spirit and soul at conception. Important? That means that if God waited three months, six months, or at birth, before their untaken breath, they would not have had an eternal spirit and soul. What an enormous blessing to know that even from conception our little ones will be waiting for us when we reach Heaven.

Psalms 139:15-18, My [child’s] frame was not hidden from You when [my baby] was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes [saw my little one’s] unformed substance; And in Your book were written all the days that were ordained [my child as few or as many], when as yet there was not one [new born day]. How precious are Your thoughts to me [even when I think of the one I gave back to You] O God! How vast is the sum of them!   If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You [and so is my little one].   NASB. Emphasis, mine. In place of “I, mine, or me”

This article causes some difficulty in my breathing and brings back tears I attempt not to shed. There is always the grief somewhere deep in the heart of missing the wonders mothers experience. Our loving Father knows the tears we’ve shed. Psalms 56:8, “You have…put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” God has never forgotten.

BUT, oh the preciousness of knowing that my God’s love for you and for me is a perfect love and has a perfect plan and purpose for our lives that gives us untold numbers of reasons to offer Him our highest adoration, praise, worship and love.

I saw a plaque at the home of a friend recently, a quote from scripture, that “our children will rise up and call us blessed.” For years it was difficult to read. I now see the priceless blessings of loving younger women whom the Lord brings along my path. And you, who wonder where those blessings are, they are there. Look outward and see.

We are blessed to have God’s breath of life in us and privileged to pass His life on to others whether to our own children or others.

Beautiful Mama

by Cathy Nelson

mothers day

 

Everyone knows my mama is beautiful

Not because she wears stylish clothes

Or has manicured nails or painted toes

But because she shines Jesus wherever she goes.

Her mama taught her how to be dutiful

But it was Jesus who made my mama beautiful.

 

Everyone knows my mama is kind

When goodness in others is hard to find

And people are worn by the daily grind

Even if your own choices led you into a bind

My mama didn’t mind

Because Jesus had taught her to be kind.

 

Everyone knows my mama can serve

No task was too trivial or person too small

If you needed her help, she would give you her all

Even when life would throw her a curve

Her focus on others would never swerve

Because Jesus taught Mama how to serve.

 

Everyone knows my mama can love

If your background was rough

And your life had been tough

Mama would take time to understand

And then she would lend you a helping hand

She put her own needs aside and put other’s above

Because Jesus had taught her how to love.

 

Written for my beautiful mama, Virginia McDougall,

who went to be with Jesus September 12, 2012.

 

THE ENERGY REQUIRED TO BE STILL

I’m currently in the midst of a messy middle in my life. Here’s what I mean by that: I’m not at the beginning of a hard situation, but I am not at the end either. You know that feeling of wanting to be “through” something, of wanting to just know how it’s all going to reconcile, how it’s all going to look on the other side?

And what I’ve been reflecting on lately is that sometimes being right where we are is the hardest work. Sometimes it takes more energy to *be still* than to spring into frantic action. Being “present” is all the rage, a buzz word even, but we don’t always acknowledge the spiritual, emotional, mental, physical discipline required to stay present, especially when the present is uncertain or unresolved. For me currently, being right where I am, today, this week, is the invitation, instead of trying to figure a way out.

But, let me be clear, I don’t like this. I don’t like it one bit. Because it takes so much energy to stop, surrender, let go. More than expected, even.

Whatever “middle” you’re in today, I understand the urgent temptation to want to push through the process, grasp for control and certainty, and resist the invitation (maybe even the mandate) to be still. It doesn’t matter if the messy middle is financial or relational or professional or physical, the interminable-ness is exhausting and makes us edgy.

So here’s what’s helping me:

— Taking life in 12 hour increments.

— Welcoming all the crazy feelings. I cannot say enough about this. Instead of driving away all my frantic thoughts and insane solutions, instead of judging myself for being so out of control and adolescent, I make a point to welcome it all. That doesn’t mean I act on any of it. I just acknowledge all the ways that I want to jump forward, which seems to relieve some of the pressure.

— Resisting the urge to make anything urgent. So much of what I think must be decided and figured out, doesn’t. It needs to unfold.

— Remembering to be good to myself, like I would a friend. Understanding. Empathetic. Patient.

— Beginning again. If I get too far ahead of myself, I recommit to the present. This moment. Now. Over and over again. This is what it means to give myself grace.

Here’s another bit of gold: Your issues are not your identity. THANK GOD. Something runs deeper in us than any circumstance. So WHERE you are right now, WHERE I am right now, is not WHO we are. Isn’t that everything. Our messy middles don’t define us. And maybe if we can remember that truth, we can hang in a bit longer, commit to being still for another three seconds. And then another. And then another.

I lit a candle this morning, a reminder to myself to be still long enough to let God sit by me. Right here in my messy middle.

Love you all,

Leeana

 

Having Peace in Hard Times

by Georgia Phipps

Recently I have had to deal with sexual harassment at school from 2 fellow class mates. After I confronted the 2 individuals, they acted like I was one who had done something wrong. One responded, by asking why I was so offended, and the other was angry.

The second person then continued to be very rude-constantly criticizing everything I did. He made comments about why I didn’t want to spend time with the class after school, and acting as though I owed HIM something. I will be honest, it has been difficult to deal with him in a loving Christian way, and he still is being impossible to deal with.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.16.47 AM

I was very nervous to talk to the two young men at my school. I was afraid of the backlash from the class, afraid of the rest of my schooling being very hard. I was afraid that no one was on my side. It turned out that another girl in my class felt the same way, and we talked to the two boys together.

I have always found encouragement in my parents. My mother sent me a text saying that she was praying for me and told me to stay strong and make a difference. She sent the text just an hour or so before the incident occurred.

After the 2 boys said some awful things to me, I thought back on that text my mom hadbsent. I was thankful for that encouragement.

There is a bible verse that has put my mind at ease. Numbers 4:24-26. It talks about giving peace, and that the Lord blesses me and is gracious to me. That His face and countenance are on me. A great passage for hard times.

I first thought, how is the Lord blessing me?

It gave me a chance to stand up for my values and beliefs, which before hand I hadn’t had the opportunity.

It reminded me that Jesus is always on my side, and I am never alone.