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The Coffeepot Note & How Strong Moms Keep On

Dear Mom I love you note, found on the coffeepot. This note is why strong moms endure.

The note said without saying, Thanks for holding your ground, Mom. You were right not to give in to me. And I love you so much.

It was taped to the coffeepot Saturday morning. He said he put it there because he knew I’d find it.

Now I’m putting it here so you don’t give up or give in.

Because the night before I found the note, Tall One and I were in a tussle and I almost quit.

Strong Ones Don’t Give Up

Aw, Mom, why can’t we just play Brawl Stars? He brought his iPad too. C’mon. That’s what we want!

We had very different ideas about how our Friday fun night should look. When a new 6th grade boy visited, Tall One pushed hard for screen time, alone. Mom held out for tacos at the table and real games- board games- after dinner, together.

And I asked myself what I sometimes ask my husband, Why am I surprised parenting is so strenuous and effortful and just plain hard ?

Unlimited screentime would have been so much easier.

Strong Ones Stand On Promises

Honestly, had it not been for these verses swirling around my mind, I’d have given in.

  • And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
  • For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:36
  • Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

They’re a few of my go-to, keep-on promises from God. And you know what they say about what makes strong ones strong, don’t you?

They stand on the promises. They don’t sit on the premises.

Strong Ones Endure

Strength can be measured, physically and spiritually, by what will make us stop. What will make us throw in the towel, cry “Uncle!” or just be done?

But God strengthened me with his promises that night. I endured Tall One’s onslaught and stood my ground when the 12 year-old lashed out against the good. This mom endured that pain.

Because I’m learning that strong ones reframe their pain and so renew their minds (Romans 12:2). Strong ones know that it’s trials and pain that build endurance- the ability to stand up under a burden (picture big dudes gripping bendy barbells)- and that it’s endurance that makes them mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).

Add that to your go-to promises.

Strong Ones Rest

But, to be sure, strong ones rest. Athletes build rest days into their training plans. God rested the seventh day and commanded that we rest, for our good. You might even say, so that we can better endure.

I love how Timothy Keller explains this, and, fair warning, if you’re a driver like me, this might be hard to read:

Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don’t have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of Sabbath. Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave—not to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your medical school’s demands, not even to your own insecurities… In the long run, of course, a deeply rested people are far more productive.

Yes, rest. In freedom, rest. By grace through faith, rest in the God who supplies all our needs (Philippians 4:19) and freely gives us all things (Romans 8:32).

Let the record reflect that three games of Mexican Train, twelve hands of Apples to Apples (Tall One’s friend wanted more!) and five dirty taco bowls later, I did rest.

Strong Ones Know Their Real Home

But in this pilgrim life, rest is not the norm. The norm is work and work out. The norm is get up and press on. Strong ones know that comfort is overrated and don’t expect full satisfaction this side of heaven. They know that expecting comfort and ease now tends toward anxiety and disappointment and, well, being dissatisfied.

Knowing that truth is the only reason that this weary mom could hold her ground against Tall One’s barrage coming home Friday night after a very long work week.

Because even Friday night at home, I’m learning, is not really home.

The settled happiness and security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Strong ones know their real home. They know they are pilgrims on a narrow way. They enjoy fun times but they know such times are just “pleasant inns.” And they don’t demand the inn every Friday night.

The Strong Know God Knows

Pilgrims were sturdy souls. They were focused and strong. The hundred who settled Plymouth 400 years ago had every reason to quit.

But they were strong ones and strong ones don’t look for excuses because they know spiritual strength comes from endurance, and endurance must finish its work. So they push back against pressure to quit because their eyes are on the prize (James 1:12), even when it’s invisible to naked eyes (2 Corinthians 4:18). Oh, yes! Strong ones see that victor’s crown that awaits enduring saints and jubilate.

So whether your pressure is long term or short term, whether a difficult job or a strong-willed kid, whether it’s aches in your body or strains on your mind- please keep on. Will you join me and stand on the promises? Our labor is not in vain, we will reap and there will come God’s reward. God will strengthen us (1 Peter 5:10) to endure.

You might not be gifted with a note from a Tall One taped to your coffeepot like I was.

But you can know that God knows when you bear up for his sake. So keep on.

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

Revelation 2:3

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The Best Advice Mom Gave

He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world.

My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers

Good 

It wasn’t teaching me to whip up apple pie in a flash, and always from scratch. Real butter for crust, and always topped with cream, fresh-whipped in a frost-covered bowl. But that know-how has come in handy.

It wasn’t showing a sulky furrowed-brow little lass that A smile is the prettiest thing a girl can wear. Surely, no one was more qualified to teach that than a girl nicknamed Mary Sunshine. Some friends call me Smiles.

It wasn’t explaining that A quality product doesn’t need cheap advertising. Mom gave that sage advice on Sunday in May when I chopped half my new blue jean skirt off and wore my new mini to church. Dad was pastor there.

Which brought about some better lessons.

Better

Like, Better to bend than to break. My mom lives like a willow. She bends with the wind and rolls with the punches. With mud on a fresh-mopped hardwood floor and with a thirteen year-old’s mini. I can’t bend half so low.

And as vital as it was to instruct me and rest of her honest-to-a-fault brood, If you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all- this wasn’t the best. Though that wisdom from Mom has maintain the unity of the Spirit so many times.

Nor was it her steadfast prayer, her constant refrain, God, give me a pure heart. Which was, I think, as crucial for a preacher’s wife as for a farmer’s wife as for a teacher and mother and friend. I pray this now, too-for Mom and me.

As valuable as these lessons are, they’re not the best.

Best

The most precious advice mom gave is this: To have a friend, be one. Although she didn’t say just this way, I knew what she meant: Stop thinking of yourself, Abigail. Look around and love others. 

To an introspective, insecure ten-year old in a brand new school in a brand new town, her words hit home. She didn’t let me pine away the weekend, feeling left out and alone. Let’s have a hayride and invite your class. Be a friend, she said.

To a still introspective, somewhat more secure fourteen year-old in a brand new high school in a brand new town, her advice still struck a chord. Knowing nary a soul, before school even began, I marched in and and joined the low brass and met Tom and Chris and Pete and Sam.

Then, as a still introspective, and slightly lonely newlywed, I remembered what Mom said and a dinner group was forged with Shelly and Jay and Jen and Steve. Fifteen years and oodles of grace later, the group still gathers one Friday night each month.

When alone and unknown in a new church and alone and unknown in new job and more often now, well-known and let-down, Mom’s words to her introspective ten-year old, still echo through, her words about being a friend.

Plus these other two.

Three Musketeers Who Blow Self-Pity Away

To have a friend, be one is first. Then these two join forces with that advice. Together, they’re my Three Self-pity-busting Musketeers.

Don’t wait to be served, serve. Don’t wait for thanks, thank. To have a friend, be one.


Those three are all for one and one for all. And the one they’re for is healthy, happy, humble me. Because self-pity is the weak side of pride- wounded ego, not-getting-what-I-deserve- pride. And this self-pitying pride cannot abide humility.

It cannot abide the God-Man Christ, who took on the form of a servant. Self-pitying pride can’t believe he really said, It’s more blessed to give than receive. And that truly blessed is happy. And happy is what a giving, serving, befriending me is bound to be. 

So when Mom’s words come to me, by grace, I go. They come when I feel left out and I go invite a friend. They come when I start to feel unvalued and I go send a thank-you note. The woe-is-me monsters still come and want to throw me a pity party. But I’m learning to look outside of me and go. 
I don’t wait. I can’t. Because if I do, I know melancholic me will join that party. So I don’t wait for someone to comfort or reach out or thank me. I’m learning that when I want thanks, the best thing to do is give it. And when I want to be served, the best thing to do is serve. Because I know it’s more blessed to give than receive.

*   *   *   *   *
Four days ago, an introspective eight year-old burst in the front door and burst into tears. Between his massive  shoulder-shaking sobs, I gathered a blemish on his nose drew snickers from a big boy on the bus and that he missed recess because of late work and-horror of horrors- bicycle safety pre-empted gym class. 

The world conspired against Gabe Thursday.

Imagine my surprise when my wounded second-grade warrior entered the kitchen ten minutes later, hands full of comb and brush and spray and gel. And with “One pass to the barbar.”

Mom, I know you like me to do your hair. Can I fix it for you now? 

And so I was blessed by the best 40 minute “barbar” job a girl could ever get. And this regal treatment came from a son who was somehow learning that looking away from his pain to show others love is the best way to brush any terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad and lonely day away.

So thanks, Mom, for all your good advice. I’m still learning to live it. And by grace, the boys are, too.

Slowly and surely, we’re learning.

She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

Proverbs 31:26

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

Philippians 2:4-7

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The Carnation Conundrum: Mom’s Day Fodder for Mothers and Others

RAFAH - GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 22: Sheep feed on carnations flowers at a farm November 22, 2007 in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian farmers had to dispose of their flower crop due to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, preventing them to export their goods. According to reports Israel yesterday said that it would ease its trade embargo - imposed in June - allowing the export of fruit and flowers into Israel and Europe. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Should we give a carnation to each mother? 

That was all she asked. Simple question. But it got so complicated. 

Not that all involved weren’t entirely gracious in reply. Everyone was. But our email thread got tangled.

Maybe the kids could hand-out them out? 

No, that won’t do. Some moms might get overlooked. That’s uncomfortable.

Plus, some who aren’t moms might be mistaken and get a flower, too. That’s awkward.

Besides,”Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Why heap gifts on the gifted?

The gift could hurt all the ladies who have longed to hear but never heard a child call them Mom.

And cause pain for mothers whose children are prodigal or gone.  

And what about all the guys? (Dad’s Root Beer all around come June?)

I don’t bend over backwards to be PC. That’s why my carnation reluctance surprised me.

But it’s these words-Let all you do be done in love– not the avoidance of unease-that should guide. Because the God who is love didn’t promise pain-free. And the God of all comfort didn’t canonize comfortable. We are each called to honor our mother (and father).

Honor Your Mother

Every last one of us has a mother. So Mother’s Day is a holiday for all of us. We’re all called to honor our mothers. It might mean a grown child pauses to remember the good in a mom who is gone. And if Mom is with us, we let her know she’s valued. Honor is due.

Honor might mean carnations. Or a card or a call or a brunch. Or “one pass to the barbar and a bakrub,” unexpectedly came my way yesterday.

But some women deserve more than the honor that comes from being a mother. Sometimes special praise is due.

Praise Due

Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:30-31

The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. If you’ve been blessed with a spiritual mother, with a holy mom who hopes in God, let your praises roll.

Why should we? Why should we praise a faithful lady? Pastor John Piper gives some great reasons.

1) It honors God. We must not think here that in praising the woman we are giving to her what belongs to God. There is a sense in which all praise, just like all boasting (1 Corinthians 1:31), should be in the Lord. But since the Lord has made the world and is at work in us fallen creatures, it is possible to praise him indirectly by praising something he made or praising something that exalts him. If you praise the table manners of my sons, Noël and I feel honored. So God is honored through praises which come to his people for graces which he has imparted and which by their very nature exalt him. Therefore, when we praise a woman who fears the Lord, we praise God. 

2) It strengthens her hand in the Lord. There are always temptations to allure us away from the fear of God: temptations to fear financial insecurity more than we fear God (cf. Proverbs 23:17), to fear rejection by our peers more than we fear God, to fear the loss of time spent in good deeds more than we fear God…Again and again we must have our hand strengthened in God. We need to hear a saintly person say, “Well done. I love the way you fear the Lord.”

So hand out those carnations. But maybe they go to the mothers and some others. 

To Mothers and Others

Because, Who really is my mother?

Jesus answered that in a surprising way in Matthew 12:48-49. And when his own mother and brothers asked to see him, Jesus said, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mothers and my brothers!’ 

The Lord Jesus Christ-Son of God, Son of Man-turned earthly relationships upside down. Luke records this short exchange. In a way, it confuses my carnation conundrum more. 

“Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” a woman cried out to Jesus. And he turned and said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27).

What is this that Mary’s son-God’s son-says? Is he really saying what it sounds like he’s saying? That the obedient Christian –mother or not, even married or not– is of mother status? It does sound that way.

But back to the carnation conundrum. I wonder what Jesus would say.

If Christ would weigh in our Mother’s Day thread, would it sound something like this? 

“Mothers, be thankful. Honor your mother. Be glad in the kids I gave you and treasure good things in your heart. Savor your role as Keeper of the Springs. And always be leaning into me. Abide in me. Feed on my Word. Their eyes are wide-open, watching everyday, so live like you need me. Show your kids that you know you are not their Savior. But live so they want to know yours. Help them want to know me.

Others, be thankful. Honor your mother. Know that there is a better name than sons and daughters. My Father’s-our Father’s-family grows through faith in me, not by children born of the flesh. The bonds you have to me and my Body, the Church, are stronger and tighter, more permanent and precious even than family ties. Marriage is temporary. The married couples are pointing to Christ and his Bride all along. Whatever state you’re are, remain in me. 

Mothers, a last word to you. It is your day, after all. Be sure you know my better name, the sweeter name than Mom. Keep your heart-eyes clear to see motherhood as the sweet gift, and terrible God that it is. Don’t idolize your kids. A sensitive son or devoted daughter can never deliver the forever satisfying joy found only in me. So come to me.  Keep coming to me. 

And when disrespect and complaining cut you deep and when sweet “bakrubs and barbar” treatment comes, your prayer can stay the same: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

Far as the Curse is Found

We’re all- mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, single and married and adopted and orphaned- all of us wounded. Sin stains, disease maims, and words do hurt. The curse is still found far.

Far into lonely hearts of singles and aching arms of the post-abortive, the empty wombs of the infertile and broken hearts of moms of prodigals. It reaches into broken hearts of grieving moms who never saw their kids grow up and into wounded hearts of grown up kids whose moms never got to see them all growed-up. The Fall reaches far.

Its long reach means even a carnation can hurt.

There is no pain-free, awkward-less solution this side of heaven. A sword will pierce your own heart, Simeon said. Mary watched her Son die. And when he rose, he went away.

On Mother’s Day, I wonder if the Son of Mary might say, Pain is okay. Uncomfortable and awkward, too. But one day they’ll all be swallowed up. Until that day, praise the woman who fears me and honor your mother on Mother’s Day. 

A carnation just might be a splendid way.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4