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It is risky business speaking of our dead children. We risk crying in public. We risk the discomfort of others. We risk crowds scattering before us like dust before an electric fan, everyone afraid of “catching what we’ve got.” We risk dirt flying in our faces as others furiously spade the earth to cover the ugly remains of our dead.
Perhaps, worst of all, we risk indifference. Oh, the painful silence of our dead children being acknowledged in public only to be ignored!
It is easier to hold our dead safely and quietly in our hearts where no one can offend or abuse them. But the truth is that our children did not stay in our wombs, and they do not now live in our hearts. They left our bodies to return to dust. They went before us in death, and we follow them into the grave.
This is why we speak of our dead children: because they lived and died and, we trust, live again in Christ. Our dead children are remembered and loved not only by us but by God who Himself lived and died and rose again that we all might live forever with Him in the flesh.
Thank you, Kristen, Audrey, Adrienne, and Melanie, for speaking aloud of your children that we might be comforted.
You can listen to their words here.
Do you know what I like to hear?
I like to hear the sound of your children crying and fussing in church. It’s not that I want you to be having a hard time in the pew. It’s that I am so thankful you are in the pew, period. Your children may be throwing an unholy fit on Sunday morning, but you are doing holy work in parenting and teaching and disciplining your children. Keep coming, even though they cry. Keep heeding Christ’s call to “let the little children come to Me,” and know that you are not alone. I may be childless, but I am praying for you and rooting for you and, yes, admiring you.
Do you know what I like to see?
I like to see your children in restaurants and libraries and concert halls and museums. I don’t mind when they knock over their milk glass or take too long in the bathroom stall or read too loudly in the fiction aisle or clap inappropriately in the middle of the Et in Terra Pax movement of Bach’s B Minor Mass or giggle at a Picasso. How else will they be able to learn and understand and appreciate and interpret the arts if they are never exposed to them? You are serving all of us when you take your children to these sanctuaries of beauty, and it is magic watching you apply measured instruction to the curious eyes, noses, tongues, hands, and hearts of your children. If I can be of any help, please ask.
Do you know what I like to hope?
I like to hope that I will someday be given the chance to mother children like you. But as I wait on the Lord, I am comforted by the sight and sound of your children. They remind me that your vocation, though blessed, is nothing for me to covet. You have your own challenges and sorrows and burdens to carry each day, and my empty hands have been made to help you.
I am so thankful that God has given us to each other.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Thank you to Jane Jensen, the second of our two submissions tied for third place, for reminding us that it is never a bad thing to have the ingredients for a chocolate cake pre-measured and ready to go.
The most important thing I learned from my mother is to be prepared. Our home was always tidy but there was cleaning to do before the weekends in case someone dropped in for a visit. Monday was wash day; Saturday nights our clothes were laid out for Sunday services. Shoes were polished, my offering for Sunday School was tied in a hankie and safely inserted in the pocket of my dress or coat. The Bible memory verse was recited to her and I’d better not embarrass her by flubbing up or forgetting.
Our clocks were all five to seven minutes fast so she could sit down and have a cup of coffee before going out the door. And heaven forbid if someone dawdled. She would not be late. My mother never drove so Dad drove us everywhere. “If that bell is ringing, don’t think I’ll walk into that church!” This was said in a no nonsense tone and we knew. If you had an appointment at 9:00 and you got there at 9:00 you were late because you had not gotten yourself prepared for what was to come such as questions for the doctor, or by walking in last you drew attention to yourself, another big no-no.
But Mom had a true servant’s heart. She gathered our favorite things to eat throughout the year for our big family Thanksgiving meal. Her grandsons loved black olives, there would be two cans. My brothers were hearty eaters so a big ham was purchased ahead of time, and the freezer held chickens ready to be fried and sometimes a turkey. At Thanksgiving she started making all her various cookies which were sealed in coffee cans and kept in the cold back porch until Christmas, unless her eight grandsons found them first!
I can still see on the counter a large glass jar that held the correct measurements of flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda. These were for a cake so that all she had to do was add the eggs and other wet ingredients. When the phone rang that company was coming, quick as a whistle she had a cake in the oven and the coffee pot was always hot.
Mom always thought of others and was often the first or second to bring a meal or cake to someone who had experienced a death. She would think ahead to what we wanted for Christmas gifts or birthdays and made us feel special. When I turned 18 she had the place, food and decorations all in mind before I asked. All I had to do was write the invitations.
She lived well into her 80s, nineteen of those years without Dad. She knew where he was and where she was going, trusting in our Lord and Savior, Jesus. She was well prepared.
Thank you to Cindy Roley, one of two who tied for third place in our anniversary writing contest, for helping us to see that the faithfulness of her mother is the good fruit born of God’s faithfulness to her in Jesus.
Loraine Lois Engel. Isn’t that a lovely name? And what a beautiful girl she was with a lithe build and green-hazel eyes that emanated light and life! Small wonder that my dad was smitten with her and sought her as his wife and life partner.
I was the first-born of three children into this family, the eldest and the only daughter. How blessed am I to have enjoyed this position throughout my life! I remember my mom singing to me, reading to me, coloring with me. Indeed, often in parenting my own children, my prayer has been that I might be more of the sweet and encouraging mother she was – and remains to this day. Now, those memories continue to encourage me, as I, more and more, have the blessing of helping her.
From her, I learned, not only of my value to her, but also of my value to my Lord and Savior. Whenever trials of illness or accidental injury occurred, my mama’s response was always to comfort me and encourage me with words from my heavenly Father; she read Scripture to me. I learned respect for myself and respect for others from this woman, my mother, who obviously had a special relationship with her father. I know that, not only from witnessing her grief, when he died of cancer at the age of 60, but also, from the relationship she has with her heavenly Father, to whom she has faithfully born witness to her own children and succeeding generations.
Mom has suffered many trials and much heartache, throughout the years – all born with an unwavering faith in the omniscience and omnipotence of her Triune God. Her faith in the faithfulness of her Savior never wavers. The many trials she has endured include the betrayal of friends, one of her children suffering polio, the death of loved ones, her own mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, knee replacements, the straying of loved ones from the faith, the stripping away of reason and sensibility in the governing of her beloved country, and the continuing struggle and heartbreak of remaining wife to a man, who no longer is able to faithfully and convincingly respond to her tireless ministrations for his health and comfort. How she grieves not only the day-to-day comfort and security of the love and support afforded her by the physical presence of her husband in their home, but especially the inability to take care of his many needs herself! What a powerful gift she lives out for all around her to see, as she travels almost daily to his place of residence to faithfully serve him, thus demonstrating his continuing value by not only caring for him, but also advocating for him. She bears witness to having respect for the life that our Lord continues to allow and faithfully fulfills her commitment to the vows she made to my dad before the Lord, over sixty-six years ago.
My mom is a servant, a nurturing wife and mother, living out her faith, which is made possible by the Holy Spirit of Jesus that lives in her. She is a blessing to all who witness her faithfulness. I think of her when I ponder Romans 5:1-5, where we read, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV)
Perseverance in faithfulness to my family, my neighbor, and, most importantly, to the Triune God, in response to His abundant mercy in my life, is the most important of what I have learned from my mother. What a great gift she is to me!
Thank you to Heidi Poyer, our first runner-up in the anniversary writing contest, for reminding us that some things just need to be said.
The most important thing I learned from my mother? Easy question. It’s what I’ve heard her share many times, with strangers and kinfolk alike:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
Looking back, no single crystalizing moment comes to mind, no great and memorable episode to share. Yet I know that Christ crucified for my sins is the most important thing one can know, and I know I must have learned it from my mother, because where else would it have come from?
Of course, saving faith is a gift that comes from God alone. But in my case, my mother was one of the primary delivery people. She was the one who (along with my father) had me baptized, took me to church, enrolled me in Lutheran school, and made sure we did devotions after dinner. Our home was outfitted with religious art and reading materials, and young me turned to her when questions about God came up.
By her words and actions, I grew up knowing that not only is it true that Jesus died for me, but it is also important. Along those lines, I suppose I do have a memory to share after all.
One time, my mother was chatting over the picket fence with our next door neighbor. He off-handedly remarked that he didn’t believe in God. My mother was scandalized that anyone would say such a thing. Without hesitation, she bluntly and emphatically replied that he was going to hell, unless he believed that Jesus died on the cross to take away his sins.
It is not the only time my mother explicitly shared her faith, but it is representative of her style. I was quite young at the time and I probably am not even remembering it right, and also there is a lingering feeling of awkwardness associated with the memory.
I like to think there’s a lesson in that awkward feeling.
I’m often tempted to shy away from sharing my faith with others because I kind of wish that when I bear witness, I could do it just right, compassionately and with eloquence. However, I would do well instead to follow my mother’s example. She is familiar with God’s Word and shares it as it comes to her, with a strong conviction that it does not return empty, but accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).
My mother’s willingness to make a faithful confession to anybody at any time is one of the qualities I admire about her the most. She is a nurse, and not a theologian, but when religion does come up, she can be counted on to make sure that salvation through faith in Christ alone gets shared.
It might not be artfully expressed, and there’s always the chance that the person she is talking to may get uncomfortable, or dismiss her Jesus talk as silly. My mother won’t let any of those things stop her, because some things just need to be said. Christ crucified belongs in the center of your life and the tip of your tongue, and she will make no bones about reminding you of that.
My childhood was not all sunshine and roses. Neither is my adulthood, for that matter. But I have always had the most important thing, the only thing that matters: the assurance that Jesus is my redeemer.
My mother taught me the faith. In doing so, she gave me everything.
Happy Five-Year Anniversary, dear readers! What a joy and help you all have been to us over the years in sharing the many blessings and burdens which accompany this life together in Christ.
We very much enjoyed reading everyone’s recent submissions on the prompt, “The most important thing I learned from my mother is…” Thank you to everyone who participated. As promised, we will be publishing our top picks this week. We ended up having a tie for the third-place slot, so we will be sharing four posts total instead of the originally promised three.
Today, however, is reserved for honoring our contest winner.
Congratulations to Alison Andreasen, daughter and poet, on winning a copy of He Remembers the Barren and for beautifully depicting through rhyme the precious gift your mother has given to you – a childhood marked by the loving and faithful proclamation of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the “Sustainer of our life and hers.”
By Alison Andreasen
Childhood- the stage, the age-
Noted time of joy and play.
Messy hair, skinned up knees;
Signs of life and being free.
She had bruises, scabs and scars,
Not all from climbing trees-
Abuse, desertion, wounds, and tears
Marked this tender bloom.
Time gone by, stage antiquate,
Bloom now grown, somewhat assuaged.
Memories linger, scars remain.
Babes of her own now in her care.
Lesser pain, lesser fear,
Fewer bruises, fewer tears.
Who to credit with this difference?
The mystery unrevealed to us.
Despair, depression ran its course,
Dependent she became on Him-
The Father never known before,
Sustainer of our life and hers.
He protected, nurtured, loved
The wounded woman-child.
On His promises she clung
And rested in unfailing love.
Always there, all-knowing, kind,
Forgiving, patient. Sacrificing
Son to save His precious child;
Showing love to generations.
Never had she felt so free:
Joy complete; life replete.
Control -the thing outside her grasp,
And for it now she felt no need.
One word she taught me- “childhood.”
Relationship- her disposition.
No need to cling to false control-
Live trusting, clinging to His Word.
Child-hood; the state of being,
Trusting, resting, then receiving
Gifts of life and sustenance,
Flowing from His providence.
Given care as His creation,
Redeemed by Brother to us all,
Made Holy everyday by Spirit,
By Grace, no work of our own doing.
In thankfulness we live and breathe.
Mercy showered gently,
Undeserving grace bestowed,
How free it makes us- free indeed!
May we all live fully knowing
Who is owed all thanks and praise.
May we all be open, waiting,
When the final call is raised.
Then home He’ll bring us, His dear children;
Home from every tribe and nation.
We’ll rest and feast and sing rejoicing
For our Father’s gift- salvation!