Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day

My youngest brother texted me a nice message this morning as I was waking up, and I’ve received generous gifts from both my children. But the gift “that keeps on giving” is watching their lives unfold in good and sometimes unexpected ways – a true fountain of continual joy!

They turned out well thanks mostly to good genes and their own efforts, only minimally from my halting but committed efforts to raise them with good values and healthy self esteem. Here’s one of my favorite photos when Peter was 3 and Amanda 5:

Precious Blessings!
Author’s Photo

Amanda used to make up poems and songs and loved to draw. She’s an accomplished writer and gifted artist today. Peter was very creative and always building complicated structures from blocks, Legos, sticks, even paper grocery bags. Now he works in construction sales. His room showed military order, while Amanda focused on creating beauty in hers. Both have happy marriages to wonderful people. I can take absolutely no credit for any of this. I believe their own choices in our pre-mortal existence set their path early. Mostly I tried to get out of their way and only wish I could have provided more creative opportunities for them.

My two grandchildren continue the magic. Alex is a deep soul, loves stories, good conversation, playing the guitar and singing in a college group. Taylor has her Dad’s easy going personality, with the work ethic of both her parents. She loves nature, is a good student, and is discovering a real talent for art. She gave me this wonderful pen-and-ink drawing for my birthday last month:

Butterflies Set Free
Author’s Photo

Families are a “slow tango” to borrow a phrase from movie critics – a long period of cultivation but bringing a rich harvest, one I expect to keep reaping throughout this life and the one to come.

Here are my “kids” all grown up:

Amanda and Peter
Author’s Photo

Whether or not you have children, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. After all, we all had a mother and can nurture the children around us, as well as the child within ourselves. Take a walk through your album of blessings, and I think you’ll agree we all have much to celebrate!


Mothers Are Forever

Each year I reflect on how my mother contributed to my life and also on what being a mother has brought to it.

My mother was a gifted portrait artist with a long and illustrious career. She was also a dedicated mother of seven, raising six to maturity. She had strong, traditional values, high standards, and boundless energy. She also provided an example of self-discipline, a beautifully run home of peace and order, a great caring heart, and a love of the highest things in life.

At her funeral in 2005, friends and family remembered all these qualities and her many achievements. But I remembered one thing above the others: She empowered me to be fully an individual, a sovereign being in the universe – a subtle but important gift. Both my parents sent the message that I could do anything I wanted in life and they meant it. As a divorced mother of two small children, that helped get me through long years of employment and finally discover my soul’s work – a teacher of eternal truths.

Jim and Cloy, self portrait

Jim and Cloy, self portrait

And also through my parents’ example, I found many ways to make my children a strong priority. I didn’t work jobs that required overtime or odd hours. I limited my social life to one night out a week. I spent time on their level, fully focused on the moment. We rode the city bus around its whole route, sitting in the back and talking to strangers. We walked to the local gas station after 10 o’clock on summer nights to buy ice cream treats, watching our shadows lengthen out before us. We had reading time, talking time, singing time, and prayer time. Many precious memories.

My son Peter is a very clear thinker with a natural sense of order. While my brain often wanders all over the map, he goes straight to the heart of any matter with the precision of a surgeon. He’s a faithful steward and provider over his family, steady as a rock – much like my own Dad. But he also has a killer sense of humor and delights in making me squirm. I’m not nearly as quick on my feet so I’ll need eternity to get revenge.

My daughter Amanda is a combination of my mother and my ex-husband: abundant artistic talent coupled with her Dad’s craftsmanship and love of an orderly, functional home. She carefully paces her activities, once remarking to me as I rushed about, “When we hurry, we lose the joy.” She cares for her husband, her dog Dudley, and her home with precision and affection. She also spends hours each week in her studio and with fellow artists systematically developing her talent.

I don’t know what my kids will say about me at my funeral but I know what they’ve given me: a glimpse into the eternities – how traits, talent and even energy are transmitted through the generations, combining in new and fascinating ways. As I watched my siblings, nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren at my mother’s funeral, for a moment I could actually see her vibrant energy coursing through all of us. I believe in the Christian promises of eternal life, but I also testify that those who’ve gone before live in us now and in all their descendents.

So put on those spiritual glasses and look back at your moms and dads. Then look downstream to your children and grandchildren – it’s a beautiful, energized stream of life that never ends.

Amanda and Peter, Author's Photo

Amanda and Peter, Author’s Photo

Moms and Sparrows

Bird feeders are a tradition in my family.  My grandfather was an expert on the birds of eastern Iowa.  We had a feeder right outside the kitchen window growing up and delighted in watching cardinals, blue jays, chickadees and sparrows come to feed.  My daughter gave me the feeder she could no longer use, and I hung it above my back patio.  I enjoy the dapper juncos who come only in the winter and the sparrows, wrens and mourning doves who come in the warm months with their lively chatter and carefree life.

Last July I noticed something new.  While perched on the feeder, some of the sparrows were putting seeds directly into the mouths of the birds next to them.  Then I realized that those were their fledgling babies, and they were teaching them how to find and eat their own food.  What a treat to witness this annual event – and what a testament to devoted motherhood.

© Sander van der Wel 2010 Courtesy of Flickr.com

© Sander van der Wel 2010
Courtesy of Flickr.com

On Mother’s Day, I remembered those sparrows and then my own departed Mom. I was thankful for the many wonderful meals and good talks we shared.

I was asked to speak in church for this occasion, so I rolled out a favorite fictional woman: Dorothea Brooksa frustrated idealist who never had any great achievements.  She was a lead character in Middlemarch, an English novel set in the 1800’s and then a PBS Masterpiece Classic.  The narrator ended by saying:

Dorothea had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better that she might have done if she’d only been better and known better.  Her full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the earth but the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable.  For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts and all those Dorotheas who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in unvisited tombs . . . . 

My mother was the opposite, a celebrated portrait artist whose hundreds of paintings graced many homes and public buildings, blessing countless lives. But her children don’t remember all those paintings nearly as much as her vibrant spirit, high standards, and great heart. She truly was the heart and center of our home. Right after her funeral when the family was gathered with Dad at their house, God’s Spirit suddenly opened my mind. I could actually see her vibrant energy literally living on in all of us as well as our children, each in our own way.

I think most of us leave very little mark on the outer world and are more like the humble sparrow feeding her babies one seed at a time.  But I also think we leave indelible hand prints on the lives and hearts of our descendants and thereby make a very real contribution to “the growing good of the world.”