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February 2012

Mary's wisdom is a mother's wisdom

Visitation, modern, fuzzyThere is an adage that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. I would add, after raising six sons and being a wife, the best gift a mother can give her children is to love herself.

This is a wisdom that was long in coming for me, and even though my children are all grown, I am still struggling to learn how to take care of myself.

As mothers, we have a tendency to sink into the mindset that if we can’t do everything perfectly ourselves, then we are bad mothers. Nothing can be further from the truth.  There is not a person on earth who doesn’t have limitations, and to acknowledge our limitations is not to admit defeat.

It is to be wise.

Women helping women is an ancient tradition welling up from the truth that raising children and caring for a family is hard work. There is no work harder, no physical labor more strenuous, no emotional effort more demanding. Without help we can quickly burn out and our children are the ones who suffer from that burn out.

God calls us to one thing – to love as God loves.

This has nothing to do with how many tasks, dishes or children we can juggle at one time; how long we can go without sleep, or how many burdens we can carry on our very human shoulders. 

Love is about nurturing the seeds of potential God has planted in each heart through our patience, our presence and our prayer. It is about respecting the dignity of the life God has placed in our care. It is about giving roots and wings and abundant offerings of forgiveness – not just to our children, but to our “selves.”

 “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? … Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”  Luke 1:39-43,56




With love, we unfold from bud to flower

Sometimes you just need flowers.                                                                                                                                     Rosebud2

A friend told me that years ago, and I realized how right she was when I received an unexpected arrangement from my son at a time when I really needed some cheering up.

The arrangement arrived in an iridescent, translucent vase of eggplant. The flowers were glorious in varying hues of purple — indigo, violet and plum  — looking much like a Van Gogh painting of irises.

Throughout the day, and the coming week, I couldn’t help but smile whenever I looked at the small but breathtaking arrangement. Every time a new flower opened, there seemed to be new beauty in the room; a reminder of the expansive love of God.

But as one week moved into two, there were still some buds that hadn’t opened, and while they enjoyed a delicate beauty of their own, it seemed sad that soon the flowers would need to be discarded and the buds would end their lives without having achieved their full potential and beauty. People are like buds, I thought.

Certainly, we are each created by God for some purpose; we are planted here like seeds with the potential to blossom with a beauty well beyond that of any flower. But life itself often becomes the obstacle to full growth. Our spirits may flag under the consistent challenge of moving forward, of “becoming.” We become staid, even stagnant in our growth, afraid or unable to take whatever risks we need to take to fulfill our purpose.

That is where people have an advantage over flowers. We are reflective beings who have the ability to recognize our own needs, and we have others in our lives who can nurture our unfolding. We are capable of love.

Before I disposed of my lovely arrangement entirely, I did something I saw my mother do a hundred times with the forsythia cut from our backyard garden. I pulled out all the buds, without too much handling, cut their stems under water and put them in a smaller bowl on my desk. My mother would have added a drop of bleach or an aspirin. I added a little anti-bacterial mouthwash, courtesy of the Internet, and made sure I changed the water every few days.  Then I waited expectantly, having learned that encouraging buds to bloom takes time and attention.

It is no different with people, whether we are nurturing ourselves or someone else.

We do the work and then wait with expectant faith knowing a loving God planted the seed.