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Mothers and Not-Mothers

Odd title, I admit, but just keep reading, and I’m hoping you’ll “get it”.

Mother’s Day is almost here. It is a wonderful time to celebrate our mothers and if we are really blessed, to have someone celebrate us as “mom”.

But for some, Mother’s Day can be painful. Okay, I hate to be negative about holidays. I dump on Valentine’s Day and now Mother’s Day.

Woman, what is wrong with you?

Well here goes. I personally know how hard Mother’s Day can be. My husband and I lost a child in December of 1892 —just kidding, we’re not that old, but on December 4, 1979 (still a long time ago for some of you) our first son was born prematurely. He lived for only for fifteen days. That did not make for a pleasant Christmas. Did not make for a pleasant Mother’s Day the following May. And you know when you go to church, how they make such a big deal over Mom’s Day. “If you’re a mother, would you please stand?” kinda thing. Well, okay, I was a mom, but what’s a mother without a child? What do you call that person?

Whew! This is hard to write, but for some, you know what I am talking about.

The next Mother’s Day was tough as well, and the next, and a couple more…because now, guess what! My husband and I struggled with infertility. Fortunately it was not one of those “forever” struggles, and about five years after we lost Michael, our daughter was born. Can I just begin to tell you how much she meant to us? I mean, I could actually hold this baby! Wow. And I got to take her home! And I got to tuck her in at night. And…well, some of you know the sweetness of a newborn baby.

But…sometimes our dreams die and they are never revived. Can I just say how I hurt for those of you going through this? Not just for the ones who have lost a child, but for many who want a child and the months go by, each one bringing hope, and every month that hope fades a little more. It can be a harsh cycle of hope, hope dying, grief (yes, grief), then hope again and so on. And there are those well-intentioned folks who will tell you, “You can always adopt,” or any number of things that I won’t get into right now. And by the way, we can’t “always adopt”. That is another huge discussion that I may let a friend of mine weigh in on.

And I know there are some who choose not to have children for whatever reason, and I will respect that. You may be freer to minister to others. Perhaps you may carry a genetic disorder for a disease that could be fatal, and you don’t want to risk passing that on. (For the argument about Paul’s letter in which he says: “Women shall be saved in childbirth”, please don’t take that out of context because believe me it can have a whole other meaning than a surface reading can give you. Maybe we’ll take a look at that some other time.)

Then there are those who have lost their mother. Some at a very young age, and some of us when we were older. My mom passed away over fifteen years ago and I still think about what I need to get her for Mother’s Day, then the realization….oh, wait. Never mind.

I think that all women should be honored at Mother’s Day. No, really. Whether or not you ever have children or adopt children, you should be honored. My pastor’s wife feels the same way, and every year she makes something for each of the ladies who attend church on Mother’s Day. Her reason?  She puts it something like this: All women have an ability to nurture. All of us can influence the next generation.

And there are countless ways to do this whether it’s working with kids in church, loving on your nieces and nephews, taking a younger woman under your wing as a mentor or caring for a neighbor (maybe even an elderly neighbor setting an example for your own as well as other generations).

For those of you struggling with issues of infertility,  or a lost child, let me leave you with these verses:

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

So what about you moms who are struggling to get things done, struggling with children who do things you “never would have done” and so on? (Because I know what that’s like too.) Perhaps you feel like you “should be thankful” for your kids, or you “should be better” at this or I “should be like other moms whose kids always look nice” or whatever “should’s” you tell yourself, I’d like to let you in on a secret. If you are seeking the Lord, praying for your children, and asking God for guidance, I believe you are a good mom! Yup, you heard me. God sees our hearts. He really does understand your desires, and He will honor you by helping you get through each day.

I pray each of you today would feel God’s arms around you and let Him love on you. Take a moment to be the kid. Today you are the one with the skinned knee or cut finger and you need some “Daddy-time”. Take that hurt to Him, and let Him “kiss it and make it better”.

One other thing and I’m done. About six years after our daughter was born we had another son. (I don’t mean to leave you as a P.S., Sam. I just couldn’t figure out how to work you in.) And I do know that our little Michael waits for us in heaven, is having a blast, and we will see him again. Have hope and find joy and comfort in the Lord, sweet ones.

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Miracles Come to the Old and Young

Do you ever have trouble believing a promise of God or believing He will see you through a particular situation? Perhaps your circumstances seem impossible to bear right now, maybe impossible for even God to handle. Just because it’s the “most wonderful time of the year” does not mean the problems disappear. On the contrary, for many the holidays just intensify the hurts, despair, and those impossible circumstances. The good news is God delights in doing the impossible.

I would like to explore the lives of three people to demonstrate this truth. Note: You will find links to Biblegateway by moving your mouse under each Bible reference.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older couple who suffer from infertility, are promised a son. As I have said in a previous article, among the Hebrews of Biblical times having a child, especially a son, was HUGE to them. Even today, a childless couple may suffer a certain degree of shame and often a lack of understanding from others. For example: “When are you going to have kids?” “Don’t you want children?” “If you really want kids, you can take mine for a while.” or “Why don’t you adopt?” Okay, that may be a topic for another day. (In the meantime you might want to read this link: http://www.infertilitysurvivalguide.com/issues/chapter14.htm)

Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story begins in Luke 1. This is a godly couple who had been unable to have children. Let me repeat, they are a GODLY couple. Zechariah is a priest whose division is serving in the temple at this time. It is their turn to perform the tasks required according to Jewish law, and “it happened he was chosen by lot to burn incense”. Just the fact that his division or clan is on duty was not a common occurrence. And for him to be chosen as the individual to burn incense did not happen every time they served. Notice people are praying outside as he minister, and an angel appears to Zechariah promising the priest a son. Zechariah questions the angel, not understanding how this could be. That seems to be understandable as he and his wife are well-advanced in years. Apparently the angel has a real problem with Zechariah’s attitude however. He introduces himself as Gabriel who “stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19, NIV). He tells the priest “you will be silent and unable to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words…” (Luke 1:20, NIV). Notice this messenger from God had name picked out as well! Seems Zechariah should have taken the angel at his word. But still the “not speaking” thing seems a tad harsh. Perhaps.

Now let’s jump ahead a few verses to another individual whose life is about to be upended. She is betrothed to a man named Joseph, and as I’m sure you realize this is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She also receives an angelic visit from Gabriel who tells her she has found favor with God and will bear a child and name him Jesus.

Take a moment now and notice the similarity between the two situations–Zechariah’s and Mary’s. First of all, an angelic visitor comes to both of them, and secondly, they both receive the promise of a baby when that seems impossible. Thirdly, both receive a name to give the child.

So how does Mary react? Is she perfectly fine with this? Nope. She is troubled by the angel’s greeting. And then *grimace* she questions Gabriel, asking how in the world she can have a child since she has not been intimate with a man. Whoa, wait a minute. She questions the angel? What is Gabriel about to do to her? Take away her speech too? If you’re reading along you see that Gabriel does not even reprimand her, AND he explains how this will happen. He then goes a step further, offering her encouragement as he relates the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. He gives Mary an example of a miracle proving “nothing shall be impossible with God.”

So why the different treatment for these two individuals? Did the angel just not like Zechariah? I doubt it. Did Gabriel feel sorry for the young Mary, and was he just in a bad mood when he visited poor Zechariah? I don’t think that was it either. Was there some difference in the faith they displayed? Ah, maybe now we’ve got something. After all, that is the reason angel gives for Zechariah’s loss of speech.

So now let’s look at the differences in their stories. There are at least two that should be obvious. First of all, Mary was a woman, probably a very young woman barely of the age to have children. She was also, as she said, a virgin. Had a virgin ever been pregnant in all of Biblical history? While this had been predicted by the prophets, no, it had never happened. What about Zechariah’s circumstances? Was he in a better position to have children? Well, he was married. Did married couples have children? Uh, yeah. Did OLD married couples who were past the age of child-bearing ever have kids? Hmm. Might have to think about that one.

What about Abraham and Sarah as just as one example? (See Genesis 17 and 21) Both were well on in age, but they were promised a son, and while it was some time later, God delivered on His promise. Now think about this: did Zechariah know this Scripture? Well, let’s hope so. He had been a priest for many years and part of his education was to learn the books of the Hebrew Bible. He also knew about the doubts of both Abraham and Sarah and how the Lord proved faithful.

Maybe this explains the difference in the angelic response to their questions. But I certainly don’t have all the answers. Perhaps you can come up with some other reasons, and if so I would love to hear your thoughts.

One more thing: I love the part where Gabriel tells Mary she is “highly favored”. Is there any way that you and I can apply those words to us? Are you and I “favored” of God? To find an answer to that, I encourage you to read: Colossians 1 and 2 and Ephesians 1. Among the words and phrases used to describe Christ-followers are: reconciled to God; without blemish; having fullness in Christ; forgiven; triumphant; holy; dearly beloved; redeemed, and much more. In the Holman Christian Standard Version of Ephesians 1:5 you also find that He adopted us “according to His favor” and in verse 6 He “favored” us with His grace.

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