Saturday, June 29, 2013

Where's My Mother of the Year Award?

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble." ~ Psalm 46: 1

With orange juice spilled over the kitchen table, Playdough in the cracks of the hardwood floor and a pacifier floating in the toilet, I wanted to scream phrases like, "How much more of this can I take?" and "I am not a maid!" and most of all, as the characters in Peanuts do, the long and profound, "AAUGH!" As I wiped the kitchen table, dug out the Playdough and retrieved the pacifier, I muttered, "Surely I deserve an award for mother of the year."

When I decided to become a mother, I envisioned days of cuddling my newborn and bathing her as serene music filled the air. As she'd grow older, I envisioned playing Ring Around The Rosies with her and a group of her neighborhood friends. I'd be a loving mother, anxious to nurture and praise my child. I'd never raise my voice.

The truth was, as soon as I become pregnant with my firstborn, I realized this was not how I had pictured it at all. I gained an enormous amount of weight, had heartburn and felt the most excruciating pain as I prepared to push my daughter from my body out into the world.

Continually, with each passing day, I am reminded that motherhood, especially when it involves preschoolers, is not a glamorous profession. How could it be when it starts with a growing belly, timing contractions and later waking up to cries at two a.m.? (A mother's cries as well as the baby's.)

"It is the daily routine things that can drive me crazy," a mother I recently talked with expressed. "I get tired of having to make sure my four year old has brushed his teeth, make sure that there are clean clothes that I have laundered for him to wear and I am especially tired of making sure I stock the pantry with nutritious items to pack in his lunch for preschool."

Does anyone care about what we mothers have to go through? Do our seemingly menial tasks mean anything to anybody? Our husbands may come home with a promotion or an award and a paycheck. We don't get any of these to show that what we do is noteworthy and valuable.

I used to expect the Ed McMahon of awards to mothers to come to my door and present me with a plaque that read: "For All Your Remarkable Hard Work." Others in the neighborhood would crowd around my front lawn, beaming at me and applauding my daily, grueling commitment to motherhood.

There was a time in my life when I felt I really needed to be recognized and presented with a motherhood award. It was immediately after my adorable four-year-old son, Daniel, died following cancer treatments. I wished I could have sunk into a hole in the sticky floor and not had any responsibilities. Not only was my grief consuming and agonizing, but I had to care for my surviving children, six-year-old Rachel and fifteen-month old Benjamin. On top of that, I was six months pregnant. If ever I felt I needed support, help, an award, it was then. Losing a child, your own flesh and blood, has to be the most difficult aspect of motherhood. Three months later, adding to the demands of parenting two kids and the suffering over the loss of one, arrived a new-born Elizabeth. Where was that award? Could there be a more appropriate candidate for it?

As time went on and no one called to invite me to tell my story on Oprah or on James Dobson and there was no excited crowd with cameras knocking at my door with the engraved plaque, I began to reconsider this award idea. Would an award given by those who heard my story really be sufficient? Even my closest friends did not know the agony of my situation and if they were to list the detailed reasons as to why I should get this motherhood award, they would come up short. They would leave out the darkest parts I had kept secret, therefore unable to know what was really going on with me.

Those of us who do not have ill children or disabled children to care for would not know what kind of inclusive award to give to the mothers of these children. We don't see the day-to-day struggles that consist of severe behavioral troubles, extensive trips to the doctors', the constant administration of medicines and the fear the child's future may not be bright. We can't know all that goes on when we don't live with these children.

Only God knows our individual pain. The only true award of genuine value could be from Him as He knows all we have been through. Our self-worth lies in knowing who we are in Christ. We are loved and are precious to Him. We have been given a gift, the valuable role of mother, with all its triumphs and trials. We are servants and serving Him through doing the daily grunge-work for our kids. Jesus said that whoever would be greatest in God's kingdom must learn to be servant of all. Within the realm of mere humans, is there any greater example of servanthood than motherhood?

While we may at times, be hopeful the award is coming soon, the reality is no earthly award presented by a human could measure up to what we are really worth. If we truly believe God sees all and knows all, then we can rest assured the award in Heaven will be the best and worth the wait. "Well done, my good and faithful servant," will be glorious music to our ears. And we won't even have to be holding a mop to receive it!

But meanwhile, as you scrub the blue marker off the bedroom wall, know your humbling job as a serving mother is pleasing to God.

Article Source:
Article first written in 2004 by Alice J. Wisler

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why do Christians Avoid Grief?

Ever been given a pile of manure and called it "beautiful" or while holding your nose, said that the colors were "certainly a nice shade of brown"?

That's often the way we handle grief associated with death.

We don't want to look at it too deeply for fear that we might just realize something.

Something like just how crushing and paralyzing it all is. How much it stinks. How devastating having it around can make us feel. How we wish it wasn't near us, around us, in view.

So we push it aside and act like it's something not to be dealt with. We call it all sorts of names, even to the point of making others believe that the death of a loved one isn't sorrowful or often debilitating. We sugarcoat death and the impact it has. Why? So that we can continue on in our illusions of happiness and pain-free existences?

As a Christian, I have heard it all. When my four-year-old son Daniel died after treatments for cancer, there was an outpouring of empathy and sympathy. Cards, flowers and home-cooked meals filled my kitchen and dining room table. Sometimes I tried to give the gift-givers a little token of my heart. I thought it was only fair. They'd given me a vase of yellow roses or a pan of lasagna. So I'd present them with a bit of my honesty.

"I miss Daniel so much."

"I'm not doing so good."

"I feel abandoned by God."

Few let me speak and weep.


Most felt they needed to tell me a thing or two. They did.

"God doesn't give you more than you can handle."

"Just think, God needed another flower in His garden and He picked Daniel."

"Oh, honey, you aren't angry at God. Disappointed, but don't use the word angry."

"Daniel would want you to be happy."

"Haven't you been sad long enough?"

"Be glad you have other children."

"This too shall pass."

When the visitors left, I was left with a new image of myself. I felt like the ogre you see in horror movies. If I were really a Christian, I should be able to handle this and not feel so engulfed by sorrow. Perhaps if I were closer to God, I would be able to deal with this much better. If I were a strong Christian, I wouldn't ache and cry myself to sleep.

Time passed. I read some books on grief and loss. I listened to other parents who had also buried children. I felt the warmth of those who knew this journey and shared it with me and were not too tired to answer their phone at midnight or 1 AM.

My logic changed. I realized that I was not, nor had I been, shunned or disciplined for being sad. God was not punishing me for my anger or my woe or my helplessness. Experiencing a realm of emotions that were like heavy scribblings bouncing here and there, in fact, was normal. It was normal to miss my Daniel. It was normal to wonder why and ponder and ask the hard questions.

With time, I grew bold.

Now after 16 years, I am equipped. I have learned that most people are uncomfortable with grief. They will react with platitudes and trite phrases that do absolutely no good. I don't let them bother me. For my years have not been empty years of just surviving; I have done my time. I have grown, listened, heard, learned, studied, felt, and lived.

God is no foreigner to sorrow. Jesus suffered. He was shunned. He wept. He had religious leaders toss platitudes at Him. Words weren't all; they had to go for the death sentence.

When I read about His life on earth, words pop out at me, words like "grief" and "sorrow". When I read the psalms, I thank God for letting that book be available to me. What a comfort it has been to read my own fears and longings, my own heartbeat of humanity and frailty in the pages of the Bible.

Yet, many Christians still don't get it. They can't seem to enlarge their hearts to encompass sorrow. They run from it; they hide. They can't walk side by side with the visitor that unexpectedly rams herself into their presence---that uninvited visitor that appears and stays and stays long after any guest should----three days.

If we could view grief as biblical, as spiritual, as a very real and important part of living, then perhaps, we would open our hearts to more of what God has to teach us as His children. If we could realize that grief is not the enemy; rather, avoiding it is what traps us and captures us so that we are prisoners.

Can we?

I was going to end this article here, but I can't. It's because I can't leave the manure alone. Sure, it is putrid and smelly, but if that is all we see, then that is all we'll ever get. There is another way to look at manure. After it has dried, when spread over fields and flower beds, manure does its best to help things grow. From the stench of today come the robust and sweet-smelling flowers of tomorrow.

You really can't avoid that from our despair, beauty happens. That's what God does. But if you avoid the manure, you will never see how it can actually grow your soul.

~ Alice J. Wisler is the author of five novels, three cookbooks, and the new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. She teaches writing through grief and loss workshops. Read more here.