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Sunday grace

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for the women, for the ones who touched my life and left their fingerprints.

For the women who lived before, fighting battles and suffering long that I might live free and equal, and be considered a person and not property.

For the women in Scripture who stood tall and brave in the face of adversity, who spoke prophesies and championed soldiers, who stood between kingly decrees and their children, who faithfully followed in terrifying conditions and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

For the women who taught me through word and example, who told Bible stories and expounded the Truth, who lived lives of grace and mercy, who were faithful to their husbands and loved their babies.

For the women who saw my untamed talents and the beginnings of my gifts and nurtured them in me, smiling their encouragement and applauding my progress.

For the women who authored books that made me laugh and made me think, who pricked my heart and seemed to know my story, who did not condemn but showed me how to move toward healing.

For the women who were my grandmothers, leaving their impression on my parents, passing along the inheritance and blessing of their goodness.

For my aunts who loved me and treated me like one of their own.

For cousins who have been like sisters.

For my dear mother, my mother-in-law, my step-mother, each one so different yet profoundly impacting my life.

For my one daughter-in-love who continues to teach me about loving  a husband and training her own brood to fly.

For the friends who have become like family and kindred spirits, and for daughters-of-my heart who have their own special place.

For the women, O Lord, who have been your vessels and have poured into my life, who opened their heart and welcomed me into their circle, who have laughed with me and cried with me, who have held my hand and hugged my neck, who have prayed for me and inspired me to take courage.

For these women, daughters of Eve, tough and tender, warriors all, leaving a legacy of love and devotion, being the beautiful crown of creation and housing the light of Jesus. They cause me to give You thanks on this Mother’s Day.

Thy have left their fingerprints on my life.

Sunday grace.

 

The second Sunday in May

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My email is full of blog notifications whose subjects are Mother’s Day. Advertisers on TV are promoting jewelry and other gifts for moms. It’s natural.

When one’s own mother has been dead and gone for over 30 years and the one and only son lives 600 miles away with no chance of being with either of them, Mother’s Day looses it’s luster.

I mailed notes this week to people I care about who are missing a mother this year. Death snatches those we love, and we are left holding our broken hearts and holding in the tears. What do you do with swelling droplets in the eyes when the rest of the world celebrates?

Friends face another sort of day with a mother whose memory is fading, who may not remember in the next hour the call, the gift, or the visit. The scenario delivers an all-together different kind of heartbreak.

It is always the same. Holidays take on different meanings depending on the circumstance we are in. I have celebrated joyfully, and I have prayed that the day would be over.

Death and distance change our view of life. What we had is a memory. We look back and cherish the communion and conversation, heart joined with heart.

Sometimes we look forward wondering how we can go on when it will never be that way again.

We can’t go back to what was. Life is a constant flux, a continual motion and swirl. Treasuring today may be the bravest way to face tomorrow.

If your mother is gone or her memory is not what it used to be, give yourself grace and occasion to cry. Remember the good and be grateful for her.

If your mother is living, go spend time with her if at all possible. Kiss her check and hug her tight. Pick a bouquet of field flowers. Touch her hand and look into her eyes.

Call her if she is far away, and talk to her about your life. She wants to know. Send a note recalling a memory that brings a smile to both your faces.

Tell your mother she did something right. Because we mommas are always wondering about that.

She’s your mother. She lived so much of her life with you in mind. She gave up a lot for you to have what you needed. She loves you like no one else can. She thinks of you always, and prays for you often.

Your voice is the one she wants to hear.

Though the apron strings may have been severed many years ago, her heart strings are still attached. They cannot be torn away.

She’s your mother. Thank God for her.

 

For all the women

Mother’s Day blogging is upon us.  I am reading them this week.  I’ve written my share.  What else is there to say?

As a mother of a grown up son, I long to hear the words, “well done.”  I want to hear that I did a good job, or at least that I didn’t leave permanent physiological damage.

We women are known for comparing ourselves with other women.  We wonder if we are keeping up, if we are good enough at this high calling, or are we failing at the most important task of our entire lives?

Looking back, I see lots of places for a do-over.  But life does not offer a rewind.

Perhaps that’s why we enjoy grandmothering so much.  We get a little bit of a chance to do things differently, realizing that some things we thought were so important just were not.

I miss my own mother on Mother’s Day.  I always will.  When she was alive, I tried to tell her how much I loved her, how I appreciated her role in my life.  I hope I did it enough so that she felt like she had done her work well.

Mothering is the most rewarding and sometimes the most heartbreaking of jobs.  We celebrate and we cry.  We hold close and then we let go.  We teach and instruct only to come to the place when we must keep our mouths shut.

It’s not easy being a good mother.

Yet is it the way God planned for children to be raised, nurtured, loved, trained, and set off on their own as young adults, just so the cycle will repeat itself.

God’s tender compassionate heart is reflected in mothers.  They don’t give up on their children.  They don’t turn away from them when they make mistakes, end up in jail, turn out badly.  They keep loving, keep praying, keep hoping for better days.

I am thankful for women who have poured their love into my life in so many ways. While some will have the title of “mother,” others will not, but their hearts still mother in ways only women can.  God made woman that way.  She is unique, a creature like no other.

William Ross Wallace said it well:

Woman, how divine your mission,
Here upon our natal sod;
Keep—oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Where would we be without the love of mothers, the love of good women?  Blessed are they.

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Stillness in trials

A young friend is dealing with harsh realities and the changing of her normal.  She is learning stillness in this trial.  Her email revealed her pain but it could not hide her faith.

As I consider her place, my thoughts go back to the year 1982, the Thanksgiving when my mother’s cancer diagnosis tookMother in 1982 over our lives.  She sat at the table that year barely eating anything because she had trouble breathing, but she didn’t want us to know it.  She didn’t want to spoil our holiday.  That was my mother.

Before the weekend was over, she was in the hospital having fluid drained from her lungs, the first of several times during the coming holidays.  It was the beginning of the end of her earthly life.  And it was the beginning of the changing of my normal. The changing of my world.

I could not imagine my life without my mother.  I was 32, and he was still my best friend.

That Thanksgiving ushered in a change in me, and it sent me on a search. I had to face all the things I thought I knew about prayer and faith and believing.  My mother was dying, and I could not change that no matter how hard I tried.

It was a journey of several months that took me to God’s words about faith, about trusting Him even when I don’t get what I desperately want.  I learned in that process that the greatest faith is trusting Him even though.  Even though the fig tree is bare.  Even though the cattle stall is empty.  Even though the fields do not produce a crop. Even then, He is God and He is good and He is deserves my worship.

It was one of the hardest trials of my life and a lesson of stillness, resting the results with the Father who loves me and knows what is best for me and for those I love.

I try to figure out what others need and pray that for them.  I ask for my needs when I pray.  I am specific and sometimes I am vague.  I often feel like my prayers are feeble.  Yet I find peace in this: God knows what I need before I ask; the Holy Spirit intercedes for me according to the will of God; and Jesus my Great High Priest, has gone beyond the veil of the Holiest place to provide mercy and grace for every need.

One of my favorite authors, Jan Karon who writes about a small town called Mitford, often quotes in her book about “the prayer that never fails.”  She is referencing these simple words, “The will of the Lord be done.”

Some may disagree, that instead we should utter commanding prayers and believe to receive what we want.  I think the pathway to stillness is trusting a mighty God who can do the impossible and who will do what is best for me, for Sweet William, for my Tulsa family too-far-away, and for other family and friends.

I still get specific when I pray.  More often these days, I finish with “Your will be done in all of it.”  In my feeble way of expressing myself, God sees the deeper needs and knows how to accomplish His purpose in it all.

Your will be done, Father.  If it was good enough for Jesus, then it must be good enough for me.

Today  I am listening to this:

Thoughts of women and Mother’s Day

I anticipate Mother’s Day with mixed emotions.

Being a mother can only be described as one of the greatest adventures of my life.  When I was pregnant, I wanted to be the very best mom with the near perfect child, and I really thought I knew how I was going to accomplish that.

Then the child was born.  Everything changed – my life, my focus, my time, my energy, and especially my ideas of what it is to be a mother.  

A child consumes you and changes you in ways no one can prepare you.  The cord that connects mother to child during pregnancy may be cut at birth, but the cord that connects a mother’s heart to the heart of her child can never, ever be severed.  Her love is bound to that child in such a way that even God showed a comparison of His love to that of a mother.

Isaiah 49:15 says “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb?  Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.”

So at Mother’s Day, I celebrate the privilege and joy of being a mother. 

But . . . the week before Mother’s Day I begin to miss my own mother once again.   She died early in 1983, and despite the year or more of deep mourning, I have adjusted to living my life without her – not really gotten over it but adjusted to it.   The months following her death, however, I could not picture how I would live my life without the woman who gave birth to me, who modeled motherhood, who gave me wise counsel, and who loved me like only a mother can.

But I did adjust.  I moved past my grief.  I allowed other women into my heart, both older and younger.  And I have become richer for it.

Still, on Mother’s Day, the memories of my own dear mother suddenly break into my thoughts like an unexpected visitor.  My thoughts return to my childhood, my teen years, my young adulthood, and my own motherhood and how I am becoming more and more like her as the years go by.  I cannot separate the happiness of celebrating from the sadness of loss.  It will always be so, I suppose.

Because of my loss, at Mother’s Day I remember women who are grieving their own mothers’ passing.  I know of two women whose mother died within this year.  Their hearts are heavy, like mine was in May 1983.  I hurt with them.  I want to acknowledge their loss and let them know someone understands how they feel this year.

Then there are the women who have miscarried and will grieve the loss of the child they should have been holding, either in their womb or in their arms.  I hurt with them also, because I remember that grief as well.  Having a hope of life snuffed out too soon is difficult to bear, especially at Mother’s Day.

In a similar place are the women who mourn a child they did hold, perhaps watched grow up, even to become an adult, but like a candle extinguished, life was cut short.  It never feels right for a parent to outlive her child.  I’ve not experienced this grief, cannot imagine the deep well of sorrow this brings.  I have friends who deal with it, who mention the child’s name and tell a story so others will remember.   I know the child lives in her heart if not on this earth.  For this woman, Mother’s Day may rip open the wound. 

There is still another group of women I think of at this holiday.  They are the ones who long to be mothers, but for reasons known only to God, they have been denied.  In some ways they have adjusted, like I adjusted to my mother’s death.  We must adjust, or we stagnate in an unhealthy place, where productive life ceases, where sorrow has made its permanent home and joy has moved out.

But if I perceive their hidden tears behind smiles, I think they have the same mixed emotions that flow through me, like high water flooding its banks.  They desire to celebrate in a way they cannot. 

” . . . The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces . . . ” Isaiah 25:8.

I wish all mothers a blessed day on Sunday.  You have been given the gift of life and of training souls for the kingdom of God.  What an awesome task.   May God be with you through it all.

I pray for cleansing tears for those of you who grieve the loss of your own mother or for the loss of the precious child you hold close to your heart.  Tears are healing.  We must give them release to flow.  There will be a brighter day and a day of reunion when God will wipe away all tears and there will be no more death.  Hope for it.

And for those who have been denied the title “mother,” I dare say you are nurturing people all along your pathway.  You may not even dream of how many are blessed by knowing you, are warmed by your love and concern, and are honored to call you friend, aunt, step-mother, sister, foster-mom, teacher, neighbor . . .  Their will be songs in Heaven for you, “Thank you for giving to the Lord.  I am a life that was changed.” 

We are women, all of us.  Placed in the heart of every woman is the desire to nurture, to love, to care for, and to protect.  God allows us to do that in so many wonderful and unexpected ways.  He brings people along to walk the journey with us on purpose, people who need what we can give, people who will be touched by our womanhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you precious women.  You are dear to my heart.  And even more so to the heart of your God.

Genesis 3:20 – “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

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A little story about someone I love

Because February is the month of love ~ 

mother2I think of those who have loved me much. Today, February 11, is the anniversary of my mother’s death 28 years ago.  I can’t help but think of her as Valentine’s Day approaches because we put her earthly shell in the ground on that day.  The only flowers that year were the ones around her casket.  It was a hard day.

But instead of feeling sad about my loss, let me tell you about this precious woman I called “Mother.”

Charline Lockard Rayhill was 27 years old when I was born.  That was considered to be late in her day when most women were in their teens or early twenties when they had their first child.

Mother was such a wise parent. I suppose she learned it from her mother, Bertha Ray Lockard, who had been a school teacher before she married and began raising three children of her own.  I am told Grandma Lockard had the wisdom of Solomon when it came to people skills.  And I’ve heard some interesting stories.  One of Grandma’s favorite quotes was “Consider the source,” when dealing with people who did and said stupid things.

It would only be natural that my mother would imitate her own mother’s parenting ways.

Mother was a strict disciplinarian while being a totally loving parent.  She had the proper balance between the two.  She let me know what was expected of me and then expected me to follow her instructions.  I can remember a few times when as a little girl I was misbehaving or talking during church.  All mother had to do was look at me with her dark brown eyes, and I knew I’d better straighten up.

 Mother’s love was so unconditional I never questioned it.  I knew from her words and her actions that she loved me even when I did something wrong or hurt her in some way.

Mother loved my dad.  She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to him or fail to express her opinion even when it differed from his.  But she was loyal to the death and would defend dad in a heartbeat.  She showed me what it really means to be a good wife, one in whom her husband trusts.  She did him good all the days of her life.

After I married, she became “Mom” to my Sweet William.  He has told me how he loved talking to her early on Saturday mornings.  She was a good listener, and they became buddies.

When I became pregnant, mother said she was not going to act like other  grandmothers did, being silly about their grandchildren and showing off pictures all the time.  Little did she know what her baby grandson would do to her heart.  She became so enraptured by this tiny boy child that she became “one of those grandmothers” she said she would never be.

Mother loved to give gifts.  One year at Christmas she bought and wrapped many small scatter pins (what we called them in the 1960s).  My stocking was full of little Christmas packages that year.

No one enjoyed telling a funny story much better than my mother.  She used to tell “The peanut butter story” to the family again and again upon request.  Her sister, Doris, would laugh at it every time as if she were hearing it for the first time.  Mother always tried to pull off a joke on April 1st, telling some tall tail, then laughing and saying, “April fools.”

Mother opened her arms and her heart to others.  There were the ladies of her Tuesday morning Bible study who came faithfully each week.  They loved her like she was their kin.  Even the young men whom my dad taught in Bible study or counseled, more often than not gave her a big bear hug.  She was a spiritual mother to many, giving away her love and her wise words.

Ah, I wish everyone could have a mother like mine.  There would be fewer dysfunctional homes and far fewer people spending their adult lives trying to overcome their childhoods.

I loved my mother.  I knew she loved me.  That’s what every child needs.

Hanging with the MOPS

 I went to a MOPS meeting this week, and spent some time with a group of beautiful young women. Their common bond is mothershood.

MOPS, an acronym for Mother of Preschoolers, has been around for 40 years. According to its website, MOPS is “a place to find friendship, community, resources and support” for mothers. It is a place where women can connect with other women who share the challenges of raising young children.

It was my privilege to be invited into their inner sanctum as the guest speaker this particular week. I observed their faces, listened to their chatter, watched as they cared for their precious little ones, shared their food and fellowship, and remembered when I was a young mother of a preschooler. I needed the support of other mothers just like they do. And I needed the guidance of older women who had been where I was and had gleaned wisdom along the way.

This group has chosen to let the woman described in Proverbs 31 lead them this year, taking small bites of this chapter at their bi-weekly meetings. This day they were focusing on verses 11, 12, and 23.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. . . . Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

I referenced the book by Shaunte Feldhahn, For Women Only, and her professional survey results revealing what really goes on in a man’s mind. I chose to focus on a particular chapter, the one that discloses a husband’s need for his wife’s respect and trust.

These women listened attentively, took the words to heart, and wrote down ways they plan to implement this important area of the husband-wife relationship. I could see they wanted to be good wives and well as good mothers.

Later this week, I just so happened to observe a large cage of small finches.   There were about 20 of them fluttering about in what was their permanent home. Small basket like containers were  hung high in the cage for nesting purposes. One small bird had latched onto a sprig of plastic greenery meant to make the cage look natural. The tiny bird kept picking up this oversized stem of tiny white artificial flowers and flying up to the nesting basket, trying to pull the stem into the hole of the basket.

I watched as she struggled and dropped the stem over and over. She was never deterred from her purpose. When the stem dropped, she would swoop down and grab it again, maneuver it in a clear area, then fly back up to her basket with stem in her mouth. I found myself rooting for that little bird to get that stem in the basket, even though I knew it was only plastic and would never settle in like the natural materials she needed to make it comfortable for her and her soon to be babies.

It made me think again of the MOPS group. They have the nesting instinct that comes with having children. They will do whatever is necessary to make the best home for their fledglings, even if they have to struggle, even if they drop the ball – or the twig – sometimes and have to try again. And just like I felt about the little bird, I will be rooting for them to succeed. 

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