Mom was younger than I am now when she became a mother, and, as I consider how very young I feel even now, I realize that she must have been afraid. There is a sense in which every new mother who knows the Lord echoes the words of Mary:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.
These are the words of a woman both exulting and acknowledging her inadequacy. Who am I, that I should be given a gift so precious and delicate? Who am I to have the earthly care of an immortal soul?
She gave me the gift of strength.
I admit that I did not always acknowledge or appreciate the enormity of my mother’s task. She seemed at times more like a teacher, a police officer, a secretary, a chef, a chauffeur, or a housemaid than a mother. I look back at those thoughts now and chuckle. I knew so little of what she did. A mother is called to be so many people, yet she is only one person. The calling is higher than the ability, but that did not stop her from trying to be all the things she needed to be. Now, as I juggle my own tasks and roles, I know a little of what she was trying to accomplish, and I marvel that she was capable of so much.
As a child, I also knew so little of what I needed. I thought I needed softness, but sometimes, I needed strength. “Honey, life does not revolve around you,” Mom told me during one of my adolescent melt-downs. “You’ve got to buck up and deal with it.” I steamed and fumed and thought she was the most unfair woman in the world.
And now I’m so glad she said that. I needed it. I needed to see that these were not just the words of a woman who wanted me to stop inconveniencing her with my whining. These were the words of one who knew what hardships awaited an adult woman, and knew I had to become strong to accept the tasks God would require of me.
Mom has known something of hardship herself. She and my father have been homeless together with young children; she bore and raised six children while Dad worked long hours to support us; she made a home and kept us fed and clothed on poverty-level income; she suffered from a debilitating chronic illness for years before any of us really understood what was happening to her. And my mom didn't rail at the unfairness of life. She found a way to dance in the storm.
She gave me the gift of sacrifice.
Recently, I learned that my entry into this world brought permanent pain to Mom, and that the birth changed my mother’s body in ways that cannot be fixed.
“But that doesn’t mean I’m sorry you’re here,” she said, with a quick smile, while pinching the stems off spinach leaves. “I would do it again. That’s the sacrifice you make when you become a mom.”
It still makes me sad. Part of me feels that I took something irreplaceable from my mom. But I know that that is not how it really is. I did not take something from her. She gave it up, freely. And now I see that being a mother is like being Christ. There is a very real giving up of one’s self and pouring it into another person unconditionally. It is a transferal of life.
She gave me the gift of servanthood.
“I didn’t realize how much Mom did,” my sister admitted. “Now I have my own daughter and I don’t know how Mom did it.”
I know how Mom would answer that. “Oh, God always gives you what you need. You just take things one day at a time, and He makes it possible.” Not easy, I know, but possible.
My mom has a very basic and practical view of life. She expects hardship and doesn’t complain. The only times I’ve seen her struggle to maintain her composure are when a loved one has passed away, or when her illness impedes her ability to be the mom she desires to be.
But, in this, God somehow allows me the privilege of giving back to her, just a little bit. Now I can be Mom’s chauffeur, chef, and caretaker. When her illness flares, she cannot climb the stairs or make dinner or do one more chore. “That’s okay, Mom. Can I get you some warm tea and a blanket? Lie here on the couch. I’ll get someone to help me finish that job you started.” It amazes me how often it takes many of us to fill in for the job done by one woman.
She gave me the gift of certain hope.
Some years ago, my cousins lost their mother. Whenever I face significant loss, I want my mother’s comfort. But if her absence was the reason for that loss…where would I go? I know it is in these times when the Lord reveals Himself as both Father and Mother, but I also know that this truth does not dull the pain.
“Mom,” I said at my aunt’s funeral. “Don’t leave. Don’t go away unexpectedly like that.” I couldn’t say die. I didn’t want to think of it.
“I know, honey, and I don’t plan to. But I’m not in charge of my time. We have to trust God.”
I have to entrust my mother to God, the same way that she learned, years ago, to entrust her husband and each one of her children to the same God. It’s terrifying, and yet there is a peace too.
“Our mother gave us the best gift possible,” my cousin said at her mother’s funeral. “She gave us the gift of knowing—for certain—that we will see her again in Heaven.”
It is the same gift that my mother has given me, the assurance of God, who has promised that death will not be an eternal separation. We trust the same Lord and serve the same Savior. No matter what the future holds, no goodbye will last forever. I will get to spend eternity with my mother.
She gave me the gift of herself.
This Mother’s Day, some of my cousins will only have memories of their mother to comfort them. Some of my friends will remember their children who were taken Home far too early. Some of my other friends will mourn the lack of children much desired. Some will ask God one more time for a husband and children of their own. Some will pray for the salvation of their prodigal children.
I will pray for each one of them, knowing that the road to and through motherhood is a difficult one. And, while I am praying, I will especially thank God for one particular woman who made me the woman that I am today. I am grateful for every moment with her.
Heavenly Father, bless my mother a hundred fold for all that she has been in my life, and may this coming year be for her a year of many joys and answered prayers. May she reap from all the goodness that she has sowed.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.