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Monday, May 27, 2013

Mother's Day Devotional

My mother, Naomi, 2010, Heidelberg Germany

As many of you may know, in November, my mother went home to be with our maker. Although I grieved her passing, and my loss, I was sad yet joyful, for my faith is strong and clear and I know she was a Christian woman who had accepted the gift of eternal salvation. Some time after her passing I started thinking a lot about her, me, our relationship, the good, and yes, the bad, and just mothering in general. I especially thought about how she mothered me, was there a Christian foundation, and how I now mother my daughter and if there is a strong Christian foundation there.
I came to the conclusion that my mother has a lot in common with Tamar and Sarah (as I’m sure most of us Christian women do). I’m sure you all know the story in the old testament of Tamar, but in case some of you don’t I’ll just say she’s the kind of person who appeared to take matters into her own hands. It’s a racy story but the point is she handled a situation by tricking someone into helping her conceive. Now I think sometimes God guides us to tackle matters in this way but other times He does not. We need only look at Sarah to see an example of how you should not take matters into your own hands. She definitely should have waited on God!
With Tamar, the child she conceived is in the direct lineage to Christ, so although most people teach this story as Tamar taking matters into ‘her own hands’ I believe God guided her to do what she did. With Sarah, she was told she would conceive but her lack of faith guided her into convincing her husband to conceive with their maidservant. Thus leading to the lineage of Ishmael and eventually Isaac when she did conceive by her husband as God had foretold. We can see the mess this caused, even to this day, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, thanks to Sarah’s lack of faith.
What does this have to do with my mother?
We joked my mother was like the FBI, always taking matters into her own hands when it came to protecting her eight children (yes all eight of us, for she considered us all her children and cared for each of us, giving her all for each of us)
She was not perfect. Just like Sarah I’m sure her faith faltered sometimes. But no one is perfect. No one.
Sarah caused the Arab-Israeli conflict still going on to this day. Yet Peter uses her as an example of a godly woman, someone we should look to as Christian woman, someone to emulate.  Now doesn’t that give us encouragement that even in our imperfectness we can still become examples of godly women?

Let’s read 1Peter 3:1-6
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (NIV)

Clearly, Sarah was not perfect. But this does not discredit her good.  My mother was not perfect, but this does not discredit her good.
It was my mother who dragged her kids to church every Sunday, youth groups, Awanas and other church activities.  I say ‘dragged’ because we were unwilling. It is to my mother I owe my salvation. Of course I mean it is to God I owe my salvation and all the glory. But He used my mother, imperfect, human, to lead me to Him. And she was obedient!

Now to give my father credit for his obedience, my mother disclosed to me that my father admitted to her he’d been praying for her to be saved for years. You see my mother was raised Irish Catholic and was brining her children up in the Catholic Church. But my father is the son of a German Baptist Minister and was already saved. As you can see it was my mother who made the religious decisions for the family. In these times when submission is seen as oppressive instead of what it truly is, freeing, the weight is on us, the mothers.
My mother was eventually saved and we all started attending the Baptist Church where my father is still a member to this day. It was here, during a youth mission’s trip to a basketball game in Maine with Pastor Tom, where I accepted Christ as not just the Savior of the world, but as my personal Savior. I believe I was about 14, but I remember making the decisions clearly.
Now I look at myself as a mother, with a husband who doesn’t take any religious route in life. He does not mind I bring our daughter up to know Christ, but he doesn’t get involved. It is left up to me.
I face a lot of pressure, a lot of judgment, even from my own family members. But when my daughter stops me before eating and says ‘wait, you forgot to pray,’ or when she asks her daddy to pray with her before bed, I know I am doing it right. My focus is on God and His command to teach my daughter to know Him. I may not live in the limelight, or have some prestigious degree and high paying career, but God hasn’t called me to. He has, however, called me to introduce others to Him and His gift of Salvation and I am to start right here at home, raising my daughter in His word, and winning my husband for Him with my conduct.

It is very important that we as mothers play a role in the salvation of our children.

First, the job is not easy. Stephen and Janet Bly define the toils of mothering in their book, How to Be a Good Mom.

No job on earth takes more physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual strength than being a good wife and mother. If a woman is looking for the easy life she might try teaching tennis, cutting diamonds, or joining a roller derby team. There is nothing easy about mothering. It can be back breaking, heart wrenching and anxiety producing. And that’s just in the morning.

Trust me when I say I was THAT kid for my mother.

But the Job is an important one and we don’t have a lot of time.

Katrina Kenison, in her book, Mitten Strings for God, shows how short that time is.

Just when I figure out how to mother a kindergartner, it seems I have a first-grader standing before me instead. I have just learned how to love and live with a nine-year-old when the nine-year-old vanishes, leaving a preadolescent in his place. They don’t stand still long enough for me to have my fill of them ever, at any stage. “Stop!” I want to shout. “Let’s just do it this way for a while, let’s stay right here.” But the movement is inexorable – up and out, away, into the future.

But the responsibility is on us!

John Angell James depicts this responsibility in his book ‘Female Piety.’

At a pastoral conference, held not long since, at which about one hundred and twenty American clergymen, united in the bonds of a common faith, were assembled, each was invited to state the human instrumentality to which, under the Divine blessing, he attributed a change of heart. How many of these, think you, gave the honour of it to their mother? Of one hundred and twenty, above one hundred! Here then are the facts, which are only selected from myriads of others, to prove a mother’s power, and to demonstrate at the same time her responsibility.  

I sincerely hope and pray, even in my imperfectness, my potential for good is not discredited and I can live up to the responsibility God has given me; a responsibility far greater than prestigious degrees and high paying careers.  And in the face of adversity and the judgment of this world, that I have the resolve to keep the Faith.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My mother and her namesake, my daughter, Naomianna  (named after my mother Naomi and my mother's mother Anne)

Gifts of Love

On Saturday May 18th, my home church here in Germany, held a Mother's Tea. It's a lovely idea, each table has a host and each host can decorate their table any style they'd like. It turned out perfect, with four different hostesses all decorating their table differently. We shared a wonderfully fancy potluck lunch and had a guest speaker, Alice Burge, missionary and wife of missionary Gene Burge.
I volunteered to open with a devotion about my mother and motherhood in general. I will share my devotion on my next blog post, but first I want to share something profound that occurred to me while I was getting ready for the tea.
I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror (we only have one, and it's a medicine cabinet mirror so I don't know why I need to state 'bathroom' mirror as if to differentiate between multiple mirrors in my home! ha) trying to put on a necklace. This necklace was given to me just one week ago by my husband and daughter. They gave it to me Saturday, May 11, on my birthday, which was one day before Mother's Day. My birthday present hadn't come in yet (this is typical w/ mail coming to Germany) so my husband decided to give me my Mother's Day gift on my birthday. (yes, it was a celebratory weekend for me! not to mention Friday May 10th was mexican mother's day and since my husband is mexican and therefore my daughter.. i think i can cash in on that one too!)
So, there I was, standing in front of the mirror trying to put my necklace on. I say trying because it has a tough clasp, the opening is at a weird angle and the opening is small. Every time I had put the necklace on in the last week, I had to get the chain under my hair and around the back of my neck (I have very long 'tangly' hair as my daughter calls it because of the movie 'Tangled' - aka curly) then I have to  squinch my face to look down and try to clasp it in the front. As I stood there putting it on I thought, you know, this has been going on for a week now, maybe I should just get a new chain.. keep the charm but replace the chain. But then I stopped in my tacks and smiled and thought.. awww, how could I replace any of it? This was a gift given to me in love, by the adoration of my child and spouse. They didn't give it to me hoping to make my life difficult. They gave it to me to make me happy, to tell me they loved me. So now, every time I put the necklace on and it gives me an ounce of trouble, I will stop in my tracks, smile and think of how kind their gift was.
That's when the epiphany hit me. How much more does my Father in Heaven love me! More than my spouse loves me, more than my daughter loves me, He Loves Me. He gave me this life as a gift. He gave me the roles of spouse and mother, among others, as gifts. He gave me these gifts because He loves me! Is it difficult sometimes? It sure can be difficult to be a spouse, an Army spouse at that. And it sure can be difficult to be a mother. But the Bible tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV) God clearly doesn't want to harm me! He didn't give me this life BECAUSE it was difficult. He gave me this life and these roles as gifts. He who formed me in my mother's womb, He who knitted me together and He who knows the plans He has for me, to prosper me and not to harm me, He Loves Me! And when things get difficult, that's when I can stop in my tracks, refocus my gaze heavenward, thank God for my gifts and ask Him for guidance, renewing my faith and strength in Him.
Then I thought to myself.. isn't it amazing... when I'm in the word every day, reading my Bible every night, spending time in prayer each night and welcoming, err BEGGING, that the Holy Spirit come into my life, guide me and reveal things to me...  that God answers my prayers. He does not turn His face away from me... and very regularly I face epiphanies, where new things are revealed to me, by Him, through the Holy Spirit.
God is great, and to Him I owe all the glory! Thank you God!
Keeping the Faith... Rachel

the girls praying 

The Tables

The food

Naomianna munching

Miss Rose (pastor's wife)

Alice Burge (our guest speaker)


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