Mother’s Day has come and gone. I’ve been trying to write a post for the past week, and it’s finally happening… after the day is over. :) That’s okay. There were other things more important than blogging.
Reflecting this year on Mother’s Day…it’s a day of much love and warmth for many people, and also of much sadness for others. There is celebration of what is, and of good times past. Then I think of women who long to be mothers, and are not. Of children who have lost mothers to death. Of sons and daughters who did not have a loving mother. Of mothers who did not want to become mothers, and how unprepared and inadequate they feel for their role.
When we were driving home from church we passed a small cemetery, with several people scattered around, standing before gravestones. This is a day of tears.
This is a bittersweet day for many people.
[a little note from Zoe, helped by a cousin, and fresh flowers picked on a walk together]
This was my 4th year of being a mother (including the first year when Zoe was still en utero). The morning of Mother’s Day this year was an early one, because of us hosting for lunch, but I had a few moments of quietness before the busy started.
These four years have flown. It seems not long ago that I held new-born Zoe in my arms, after 9 months of carrying her with anticipation and trepidation, a few seconds after her birth, after THE most painful experience I ever encountered in my life… and I fell in LOVE. Instantly.
[Here I go down Memory Lane… Warning: I have baby fever. :) Cute baby picture overload!!]
[Zoe at 10 days old]
[Zoe at 4 months]
[Zoe’, at approximately one year]
[Olivia, soon after birth]
[two weeks old]
[fiesty from the start :) ]
[from long ago]
What a privilege these four years have been. Incredibly life-altering, forever, because a mother is something I’ll always be.
It’s not just that my external circumstances and duties have changed, that my journals get scribbled in by curious little onlookers who want to write like mommy, that my days now revolve around caring for the needs of miniature little people, and scrubbing pencil marks off doors [like today].
But WHO I AM has been greatly impacted, bettered, softened, and sharpened. Truly, my children are changing ME and making ME grow up! I’d say in my later teens years and early twenties I thought of myself as a fairly unselfish, patient person (cough). Not perfect, but definitely with strengths in those two areas (cough). Now, four years into mothering, I think I must be one of the most impatient, selfish people around! Children show up the yet-to-be-redeemed areas of my life like a screaming fire engine!
I’ve been thinking so much of a lovely luncheon I was invited to in Pennsylvania by sweet Janelle, hosted by Jeane’. It was so lovely to see Rachel there too! Fan Smucker, a mother of four, who has “gone before us” on this mothering journey, spoke to the 11 women present about being a wife and mother. This was pampering and inspiration that spoke to me in the very depths of my soul! I have rarely had the opportunity to be in the presence of an oldER (not to be confused with ‘old’!) woman in person who is encouraging and inspiring younger women. Online, yes, and that is a huge encouragement as well. But there is something about being in the presence of a godly older woman, and in the presence of other young mothers, who are nothing but life-giving!
Since then I’ve been thinking about Unsung Heroes, my thinking stimulated largely by the luncheon I mentioned above.
The morning spent at the ladies luncheon felt like a Red Letter Day in my career as a mother. Truly, it was inspiring and encouraging beyond what I can even express! There was something that clicked, something I understood about mothering and servanthood like I never have before. I hope I keep having revealing moments like these!
This is an excerpt from my journal the morning after:
“My heart cannot stop glowing from the amazing time I was blessed with yesterday morning! Rarely, if ever, have I been in the presence of so many passionate, devoted wives and mothers. I cam away feeling so inspired and empowered, having so much truth spoken into my heart…”
Twelve women, all mothers. Leaving behind almost forty children. But all women that are passionate about being mothers, that love their role as a wife and mother, that embrace their husbands and children, that view their roles as noble and honorable and worthy. That are not ashamed or embarrassed to be “just a stay-at-home-mom”, but rather thrive and flourish in that role. Beautiful women, fashionable, attractive, but with an inner glow that radiated from their faces. Women that first of all loved their Jesus.
[a Mother’s Day lunch Ben and I prepared for his family on Sunday]
[the red flowers were the seats for the mothers]
[decor: old records as chargers, burlap runner, pint-sized jars as glasses [because I didn’t have enough normal drinking glasses], and real live magnolias!
[fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade]
I suppose I hadn’t realized how inundated I’ve been with negative connotations about mothering. From comments at the grocery store about how busy I must be and how stressful it is to have children to all the undercurrents of feminism and careers and how woman needs to “find herself.”.. These are everywhere, and even in Christian circles mothering is often looked upon as something not as good as _______ [fill in the blank].
Fan Smucker, the speaker (which isn’t an exact term, because it felt more like huge doses of encouragement rather than formal speaking), gave one quote that grabbed me, and has had me thinking on it ever since…
is a noble calling,
and noble callings always take sacrifice.
But that’s what makes a
On the 12-hour trip back to the south I was driving for a few brief moments while Ben and the girls were sleeping.
(We left at 3am, lest I portray some unrealistic picture of my two daughters angelically sleeping the entire trip! Even leaving at that hour doesn’t usually give us normal sleeping time.)
And I was thinking about the Hero quote. Thinking about how different my idea is from God’s idea of a hero
Mine has normally been huge, world-changers – Hudson Taylor, Mother Theresa, Moses, Daniel, David, Ruth, Esther… Amazing people, with amazing roles. And quite frankly, I would have loved a large role to fill too.
[Ben’s Mother’s Day gift to me was several hours at the beach on Saturday as a family! Does he have good taste or what!?]
[my only picture from the weekend with me and my girls. ’tis very sad. the day was lovely, but too busy for pictures!]
But I’ve really been rethinking my former ideal of a hero. And I’m beginning to think now that a hero is not necessarily one who plays the Main Role in the world, or even one who is noticed by many people.
Rather, I think a real Hero is one who surrenders unconditionally to the call of God in salvation and in all of life after that, and then lives faithfully and unselfishly in whatever role God has called them to play. Some people will be called to more recognizable places; others will not.
But recognition is not what makes a Hero!
I think of the words ‘faithfully’ and ‘unselfishly’, because for so many of us our roles are not glamorous. Our days consist of much of the same thing, day after day. But if God calls us to it, then that makes it worthy, valuable. So often ambition to be a hero is marked by selfish motives – to be someone who is looked up to and admired, and spoken of as someone who is amazing.
I had wanted to be single for a long time so I could accomplish a lot of great things for God. Big things! Admirable things! And things that some people are called to.
But I was not called to that. I was called to be a wife at age 22 and a mother at 24, and to live my life in poured-out service for my family, primarily though not exclusively. This is something that I’ve found much fulfillment in, but honestly, I still need to fight the voices that argue that careers make a woman more well-rounded, and what about taking time for yourself?!, and the negative connotations about being “just” a stay-at-home mom (just try it for a day and see if you’ll say “just”. I’ve had grown men tell me a full-time job was MUCH easier than taking care of a child for a day!).
Until recently, I hadn’t realized how much negative I’ve heard about children. Could someone please stop me at the grocery store and say how wonderful it is to see two beautiful girls with their mom, instead of the “sure must keep you busy!” comments? ‘Children’ and ‘stressful’ are often used in the same sentence to describe each other. A mother who chooses to stay at home often feels like she has to apologize for not having a “real job.”
Sitting around the beautifully adorned brunch table at Jeane’s home that Friday morning, I felt like I was in the presence of amazing, UNSUNG heroes. Incredible women, all mothers, but more importantly, all life-givers. There is a difference.
There were former musicians, actresses, women involved in politics, teachers.
It was an amazing, dazzling array of talent and giftedness.
[my “flowers” – I tell Ben I’d rather have a Starbucks drink than a bouquet, and he believes me! This makes me very happy. :) ]
And the incredible thing was these women whole-heartedly and open-heartedly received their husband and children into their lives. They glowed when they spoke of their husbands and families (no mean husband jokes here!), and they adored being a mother. They did not feel inferior about being “just” a mom of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 children – rather, they flourished in their roles. And I thought to myself how incredibly blessed their families were, to have women in their homes who were so intelligent,so gifted, and so unselfish and loving.
I see this same spirit in the lives of several single women I know; Dani, Krissy, and Beth. This life-giving spirit. Their life focus is not in careers or money, although one in an incredibly brilliant college student, another a web designer, and the third held a good job as well. But they are living their lives as poured out for Jesus by pouring them out for children that no one else takes the time for. They live so unselfishly, so faithfully in the roles God has called them to.
I think of my mother, who is a mother of six children, who has her own home business, who has a beautiful gardens and grounds, who taught school for more than 20 years in both private and home school settings. She has lived her life poured out for the lives of her husband and children. She is a team player with her husband, and a cheerleader for her children. While I was home for almost 3 weeks we were working together cleaning one day, and she sort of apologized that her walls weren’t always clean and spotless like some people’s walls are. I was flabbergasted that she even thought of such a thing, and responded that as kids we didn’t think about whether the house won Best Housekeeping awards or not, but we knew Mom’s efforts were about raising and loving a family, and we knew that and appreciated that so much. Unsung? Perhaps. But a True Hero.
I think of the Children of Israel who were slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. I’m sure thousands of men would have wanted to be a Moses, and thousands of women would’ve wanted to be his cheering sister, and lead all the slaves to freedom. How would you like it if your life plan included being born a slave, living a slave, and dying a slave? That’s anguish. That’s not easy. But those slaves, during that period of time, were fulfilling God’s will. (these thoughts come from “The Cat & Dog Theology” seminar). H.a.r.d. stuff.
What if fulfilling God’s will means being in an accident so an unbeliever finally surrenders? Or what if God’s will for you means losing your mother at age ten, or your daughter at age two? [disclaimer: I’m not wanting to start an argument about what God wills and what God allows; please follow through with me here.] What if it means packing up your family and moving to the other side of the world (or what feels like the other side of the world), or staying where you’ve always been when you’ve always desperately wanted to do something big? Or having ten children or no children?
How conditional is my surrender? How UNconditional is my surrender? I think a Hero can have so many faces. What makes a Hero in one person will not the same in another person. A true Hero is fully surrendered to God, and to the glory of God, even when the purposes are not fully discloses and understood. It’s not about us; it’s about GOD.
I don’t think a Hero is about doing some big thing, or even about doing the thing you always thought you’d have to do to succeed in life. I think a Hero is about faithfulness, whether we are called to Asia or Canada or a little town in the United States. It’s not about our marital status and how many children we do or do not have ~ it’s about being faithful and poured out for the lives of other people, no matter where God has placed us.
It’s about a heart of surrender to the Lord, a heart that is willing to sacrifice anything – dreams, goals, ideals, plans – in order to follow what is is HE is asking of us.
So really, what makes a Hero is not so much what a person does (which makes me breathe a sigh of relief!), but who a person is, inside, in their heart of hearts, even when no one sees (and that makes me stagger at the weight and the freedom of that!). And the question I feel God asking my heart is, “Are you willing to be an Unsung Hero? Unsung, but nonetheless a Hero?”
A true Hero is one who lives a life os complete abandonment to the Lord; regardless of role differences, regardless of public or private or no recognition. A Hero may be sung or unsung, but the unsung are no less of a Hero than the sung. Perhaps they are even more of a Hero, because it’s harder to be unsung.
Today, the challenge of God to my heart is to be one who is fully surrendered, who is consumed with the glory of Jesus, and not the status of my own life… And not just be surrendered, but to embrace the life that He has called me to…
I am honored to be one of the many.
And yes, there are many sung and unsung heroes that I am so privileged to journey with in life! If I’d name names the list would be endless! Thank you, beautiful women.