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The Motherly Type

May 15, 2017

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Honestly, I am not sentimental about most holidays. It’s hard enough to remember birthdays (including my own) let alone all the in-between special occasions. But with the day approaching, an older single woman I spoke with over the weekend offered her opinion of the situation,

“I’m okay not being a part. I do not want anyone to go up and get me flowers on Mother’s Day. I am not a mother. I don’t want anyone’s pity.” The gesture is meant to help one feel appreciated and loved, but it actually does the opposite and ends up becoming a patronizing reminder of what one has not.

I did not feel empty-handed as we honored those who could stand and identify with one of the most amazing privileges about being a woman. I did not feel bitter while patting and burping another woman’s wide-eyed infant later on. But there was something bothering me…

In the last three months, I’ve had several people deny my capacity to understand motherhood.

“You haven’t been a wife and mother so you don’t understand.”

“Having your own children is different.”

“When you have your own children you’ll understand.”

“Oh, you’ll understand one day when you have your own.”

Excuse me, can I just hold up a great, big STOP sign for a moment? Because I can’t take it any-more.

Since when is birthing a child the only prerequisite for understanding motherhood? Are not single ladies wholly woman at their core? Motherhood is infinitely more than bulging bellies and birthing room shoutings. How many of us hold up Amy Carmichael and other single, Christian woman as having been true mothers to hundreds of children? Did anyone ever question their legitimacy?

A single woman does not, and cannot, fully understand the biological aspect of being a mother. The experiences of morning sickness, swelling feet, aching backs, little gymnast’s turning flips in the womb at 2:00am, hours worth of birth pains, and that overwhelming flood of relief and love when cradling a wrinkled newborn. These are beyond our experiential comprehension. In this way, we are not mothers. These things are exclusive and beautiful, but they are not all there is to motherhood. Why else would the Lord promise that the barren would become a “joyful mother of children” (Psalm 113:9)? There must be something equally and profoundly spiritual about motherhood.

On her blog, Anita Yoder spoke of this issue. “We are women. And being made in God’s image, we are life-givers. Because of His power in us, we give birth to miracles. Not biologically, necessarily. The miracles don’t always involve babies. But when our life goal is to accurately reflect God’s character, we will be nurturers in some way.”*

No, I am not a mother, and I am not asking to be identified as one. What I would like…is for the world to understand that I do understand what it takes me be a mother. I know the struggles of parenthood; of failing as an example, of educating, nurturing, loving, of serving, weeping, and joying in the triumphs. One needs not to have birthed their own children to understand their needs and demands and quirks.

So the next time you see me, dear Birth Mother, and you tell me how your little ones deprive you of sleep, how you have to work so hard to keep up, and how impossible it seems to be able to love those little ones any more than you already do…

…I get it.

_______________________

*https://lifeisforlivingbook.com/written/who-is-a-mother/

Dying to Know

April 1, 2017

Death has been haunting me…

What is death? What must it be like to die? What happens in those moments of taking your last breath and being swept away to places we can’t even imagine (good or bad)? It is too abstract a thing, I do not comprehend. All I know is life.

Last night I turned the final, sad pages of the World War Two centered novel, “The Book Thief”. Fourteen-year-old Liesel kneeling by her best friend, grabbing and shouting at him as he laid on the white, bombed ground…oh, Rudy…then offering the kiss he had always asked for and was never allowed. Everyone she loved was blown away. It was a depressing evening while mourning with Liesel. If I had that pen I would have willed Rudy back to life! But…sometimes people simply don’t come back.

And my Paw Paw…having separated himself from the restrictions and confines of the dialysis machine, now he lies in his living room hospital bed waiting to welcome Death like a new house guest. I say goodbye to him, most likely for the last time, but I don’t feel sad. I don’t comprehend the finality. I can’t process death when the lungs still intake and the heart still pumps. I sense something ominous at my heels as I walk out the door, but Paw Paw’s firm grip and easy laugh betray one into thinking that it’s all okay. Everyone I’ve seen laid up in a hospital bed has gotten well again. Why not he?

How is it that I cry and grieve over an imaginary, blonde headed Rudy from a novel, but move right on into the everyday with my own grandfather awaiting eternity?  I’m still not sure of the answers to those questions, but I suppose it has something to do with the depth of relationship with a given person (or even book character), of how death takes place, and how it is presented within a given context. My Paw Paw has lived a good, long life and is ready to be at rest. He is content and prepared, so we are too. Rudy, on the other hand, was snatched in his prime, unwilling, and without a choice in the matter. Not even the chance to say goodbye or to tell Liesel how much he really adored her. We waited the whole book for Liesel to give her permission to his boyish request, and in the end he never even knew that she kissed him.

I may not ever fully understand death until I experience it myself, which, in an odd way, I’m actually looking forward to. At that moment all of my questions will be answered. In the meantime, I have this life to live and I want to live it well. I want this jar of clay to be well-used when it reaches out to take hold of the life to come where everything is made new again.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

–Galatians 2:20

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you…

−Romans 8:10-11

So maybe I already do know what death is like…

…it’s good to be Alive.

Living By Faith

February 5, 2017

Hello, World.

I’ve been speeding right past you lately so I figured it was time we stopped to chat a while. I began full-time college courses this spring, as well as keeping my regular job schedule, thereby requiring this ‘house mouse’ to do some adjusting to the constant motion and alarm clock awakenings every day. Most days I wake up forgetting what day it is or where it is I have to be, but slowly a weekly rhythm is setting in.

In the midst of all of this, I did manage to finish a wonderful little book by Angus Buchan entitled, “Faith Like Potatoes”. Over the last year, the one big thing the Lord has been teaching me is to Simply Trust. When we went over the syllabuses the first week of classes and homework assignments were divided out, I felt as though I had to get everything done NOW. I was so fearful of failing to meet a deadline or of not managing my time well. Simply put, I was expectations driven. I so badly wanted to do well; but mostly, I suppose I wanted to be in control, confident, and not seem like a “naïve little Mennonite girl”.

During the second week, as I was reading through the afore mentioned book, and considering faith, the Holy Spirit used both that powerful book and my current schooling experiences to teach me what I really wanted to learn all along. “Faith Like Potatoes” tells about the conversion and ministry of Angus Buchan (and his family). Mr. Buchan is a modern day George Muller. His life of faith has taught me just what I needed to know regarding how to live by faith. I’ve found the answers I’ve been searching and praying for all these years. I’ve discovered the key to a faith filled life such as these wonder working brothers and sisters have experienced down through the ages. It was so simple I was ashamed of myself. Here I spent years reading and reading, wondering and asking, searching and grappling, when it was so simple and available to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. The key to having a life of radical, impossible faith that sees the working of miracles and hears the voice of God, can only be found one way.

 If I desire to have the mind of Christ, then I must be one with the mind of Christ through intimate, purposeful relationship!

Think about the people you are closest too. I can easily “read the minds” of those in my immediate family, and my closer friends. If they are trying to think of a word, I know what it is they are searching for and so say it for them. If I need to make a decision for them when they aren’t around, I can discern the answer accurately because I know them well enough to know what they would chose. Sometimes we are thinking the same thought at the same time without even saying anything because we have started to meld into one mind. THAT is what a faith-filled life of relationship with Jesus looks like. We no longer wrestle with the endless, “What is God’s will?” question. We’ll know His will because we are one with Him and so have the mind of Christ!

It isn’t just a matter of “having devotions”. It is purposeful, daily (as in, throughout the day), abiding in the Presence. It is the blending of two spirits into one, beautiful, symbiotic whole that functions in and of the other.

So I’ve been making more time. Deliberately. Not just something to make me feel as though I’ve met the quota for the day; but being still, taking time to listen, to read the Scriptures like they are fresh ink on Egyptian papyrus. Mostly just doing what any good friend should do in just being there.

Now…now I don’t have to do it on my own. Now…I can begin to truly live by faith.

*

You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

–John 15:14-16  NASB

I Too Am Weird.

January 6, 2017

Caution: I Am Weird

I fast because I’m hungry

I run because I am thirsty

I die every day because I want to live

I lead because I follow

I give everything away to become rich

I am weak and broken so that I will be strong

I see more when my eyes are closed

I’m in love with someone I haven’t seen

I love the unlovely

I am honored when people mock me

I embrace these foolish things to become wise

I will walk whole heartedly out on any limb He requires,

because even if He lets it break, He can teach me to fly.

-Lygon Stevens

Book: Cairns from the Mountains

Documentary: The Time to Live is NOW!  (link below to view)

https://dod.org/programs/the-time-to-live-is-now-the-legacy-of-lygon-stevens/

 

Let it go

December 1, 2016

Surrender.

This word has been chasing me for weeks now. What is surrender? How do we surrender? What needs to be surrendered?

My last time at Bible clubs for an indefinite amount of time. The little foster girl (who I would give anything to make my own) wraps her slender arms around my waist and I pull her in tight. We simply hold each other, and everything stands still. Kissing the top of her soft brunette head, she looks up at me with her fun-loving smile, “I’ll miss you, Miss Samantha.” I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to surrender. I want to keep holding her here with me where she’s safe and loved and happy. I don’t know all the reasons for God choosing to take me away from her and all the rest, but by faith we know His will is always best because He is always good.

*

“It is possible to ‘commit it all to the Lord’ and not be surrendered.” –Aaron Lapp

This statement was presented during special Meetings a few weeks ago. It confused me. The more I thought about it the more confused I became, and the more frustrated. Back in our dorm room, I throw my hands up and declare to anyone listening, “Why is this so complicated?! How are we supposed to practice this thing of surrender and yet still actively seek God’s work in our lives? One source tells us ‘surrender’, another to ‘seek and find’, another to ‘fall asleep’. It’s so contradictory! How shall we then live?!”

Our deacon’s wife (and long-time mentor) gives me a look I know all too well. A look that says, “There are no easy answers.”

Bummers.

With the above quote scribbled on a scrap of paper, it haunts my work station during the droning working hours. What does this mean? What is commitment? What is surrender? And how do we know if we are accomplishing either of them? How can one be committed and yet not surrendered?

First I needed some things defined. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary offers these insightful definitions:

COMMIT: To give in trust; to put into the hands or power of another; to entrust.

COMMITTED: Delivered in trust.

SURRENDER: The act of yielding or resigning one’s person or the possession of something, into the power of another; the surrender of a right or of claims.

To commit is to entrust, to pass the responsibility over onto another. You still have something of a vested interest, but it is no longer something you yourself are taking care of. In the parable of the talents the master went away and entrusted (or committed) his wealth to his servants. The money still belonged to the master, but he had given the care of it over to others. Maybe Mr. Lapp’s comment is saying that we are trusting the Lord, but not enough to let go entirely. We don’t feel that those things which we have committed to His care are safe enough to come out from under our radar. We will trust everything to God, but certainly He needs our help to make sure it all comes out okay, right?

Commitment is often closely followed by Trust.

Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. –Psalm 37:5

TRUST: Confidence; a reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person.

Resting our mind on the Lord’s unchanging integrity. He is faithful. He will always be faithful because that is who He is! Have I truly committed (enTRUSTED), whatever it is, to the Lord if what I have committed to the Lord still occupies a place of worry?

So committing is trusting. What about surrender? It must mean release, which will take our faith in to even deeper waters. Especially if it means surrendering the things we desire the most. To surrender means that you give up all rights. You let go entirely and lose all claims. Such is the case with us when we come alive again in Christ. We surrender, release/resign, all who we once were and take on a whole new identity.The above mentioned quote is saying that, we may trust something into the hands of God, but we have not relinquished control of it. We are still clutching and making silent demands about what we think will ultimately make us happy. The more I ponder the idea of being committed and not surrendered, the more I am coming to believe that surrender is the place we need to be in everything, and committing is simply the first step in that direction.

For example, if I’m looking for a job, I go forth in search of it, doing what is within my power and then committing (trusting) the rest to the Lord. I could go home, wait by the phone, and wring my hands waiting for the call to interview, or…I can totally let go and choose to not worry because I know He is faithful and will provide as He sees fit. (To which I testify that He has never failed me in this area!)

*

After a moment, I release the little brunette from these clasping hands so she can go home. After helping to take some of the other children home (that wonderful pack of boys with soft, Spanish undertones in their voices) I wonder how long it will be before I will be with children again. My arms are now empty, but it will not always be so. God’s plans are never unto death. His agenda is always for life!

All to Him I freely give. All to Jesus…I surrender.

Planting Hope

November 20, 2016

A response to the severe drought and resulting fires that we are currently experiencing here in the south. Some days the valleys are so thick with smoke that we cannot even see our beloved mountains. But, as the character ‘Maggie’ said in Patrica MacLachlan’s book “Skylark”:

“Rain will come. It’s just the time before the rain that is hard.” 

That statement of trusting acceptance and confident hope is what inspired this poem.

(Note: If the non-rhyming meter seems new it’s because it is! I am experimenting with the style of a wonderful poet I’ve recently discovered, Mrs. Lucy Shaw: http://www.lucishaw.com.)

*

Dry.

Land so dry.

The skies are filled with smoke.

Fires rage in the nearby hills,

But still she wields her spade.

Slipping on her worn, leather gloves,

She takes the bulbs,

The daffodil bulbs,

And faces this drought-

Defiant.

A firm, swift thrust

Ploughs the spade in earth;

The dirt,

Dry as powdered bones.

Dust rises to meet her eyes

While smoldering forest breath

Mingles with her own.

On her knees

She lifts the bulbs,

Placing them in careful rows.

Then,

Taking handfuls of the aching earth,

She carefully covers their pointed heads

Deep inside their grave.

She fills the bucket with liquid gold

Striding, cautious,

And resolute,

Bringing the rain that will not come.

She soaks the surface of fresh dug ground,

Now so foreign to damp refreshment

That the water pools, seeping in slow.

Her labor of love,

Now complete,

She closes her eyes and dreams of Spring.

The yellow trumpets will sing their song,

And the skies

Will applaud with rain.

She grabs her spade and turns away,

Knowing that those bulbs,

Those daffodil bulbs,

Where her way of planting Hope.

-Samantha T.

 

 

When You Lose Your Man to Another Woman

November 15, 2016

He’s tall and handsome, with a quick wit and adventuresome spirit. I’m quite proud of my man. Or at least, the man who was once mine.

It all happened so quick I didn’t have time to prepare, though to be honest, I saw the signs. I could see that he had eyes for someone else. What’s a girl to do? We’ve always been together! I love him. It’s as though I’m losing my best friend.

But then, a brother is about the best friend a girl can have.

It has certainly been an adjustment now that “little” brother is dating. I’ve resigned myself in martyr fashion to the shift in my position. Now I sit in the backseat so they can be together in the front. I’m no longer his first confidant when he has big news or a funny story. Now the kayaking trips are planned for the two of them. We don’t dream together as much as we used to, since now his dreams are reaching in a different direction. The trail has formed a fork and he has met a new companion to walk along with, while I head discreetly down the other path. Now and then our trails converge and we walk along together again, but I know the “other woman” is on his mind just the same.

I wasn’t sure how I would like walking alone. The sunlight doesn’t seem as bright on my path as it does on theirs. The water seems to taste more bitter. The birds not sing as sweet. But is it truly so? After all, I am not walking alone.  As their relationship unfolds, I’m learning to be comfortable with this new path, though it be a path more solitary. I’m learning that the birds sing the same melodies here as there, if only I would tune my ears to hear. The waters taste just as sweet if I would draw them from the Source. And the path need not be solitary if I learn contentment in my one True Companion.

I’m learning to appreciate the “other woman”. We’ve had times together of our own and found pleasure in each-others company. And she does have a lovely smile. I suppose if I have to, in effect, give up “my man”, I could give him up to her.

So Welcome, Kelsey. And thank you for making my man an even better man by your coming.

You’re in for one wild ride…