As I sit down to write this, the warm smell of my mom’s banana bread is wafting through my apartment. I chose to make it out of necessity (that one overripe banana staring at me from the counter) but I can’t ignore how fitting it is to have that very recipe baking in the background as I type. Today I am reflecting on Mother’s Day and truthfully, nothing reminds me more of my own “mama” than the smell of cozy food being made in the kitchen.
All my life I have looked up to my mother with admiring eyes. Even now as an adult, I sometimes picture myself as a wide-eyed child staring up at this incredible woman whose strength, character and beauty seem to be too much for words. So many of the skills and characteristics I take for granted in my own life I have learned from her, and thankfully laughter seems to come easiest when I am with her. And, as so many mothers are, she is without question the rock of our family. Solid, unchanging, and always there to help plant you back on solid ground again. She loves and serves her family passionately, works tirelessly and has always been a beacon of strength, perseverance, courage, unending love, and support in my life.
Proverbs 31:25-30 describes a woman who is strong, dignified, joyful, wise, faithful; one who is hard working, diligent in caring for her family and her home. She is a woman who is adored by her children and husband, but above all she is pictured as a faithful, God-fearing Kingdom woman. I hadn’t thought of it until now, but even in her innate humanness, I see that Proverbs 31 woman gleaming in my mother’s eyes.
This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day – a day that often passed without a whole lot of hubbub over the years, my mom being a practical, sensible, non-fuss kind of person who has always preferred a hug and a favor to flowers, chocolates, gifts, or such things. She’s deeply practical, non-consumerist, independent, humble and speaks in acts of service and quality time.
This year though, instead of passing quietly by, Mother’s Day sits a little more like a lump in my throat or an ache in my chest. For the second year in a row, I find myself at home in Oregon, while my mom is 800 miles away, in my hometown. This year more than any other though, my arms ache to hug her and to give back some of those endless hours of caring and serving that she has shared with me. In the way that I as child would throw myself into her arms, trusting her to make things better, this year I have had to learn how to throw myself into the arms of Jesus in a new way, and trust Him to transform a situation that feels too big. She has faced some health challenges this year, which thankfully should be but a memory soon, but have still been a scary reminder of how far apart we are.
With the grace and strength of the mother I have always looked up to, she has faced each day with an unbelievable amount of faith and joy. I, on the other hand, have felt my little child’s heart panic and break with the thought of my strong mama being shaken the way she has been this year due to these health concerns.
I have shared my thoughts with God a few times; “I am not okay with this, God” “Why her, God?” “Why now, when I’m so far away?” Essentially, my heart was crying out the age old question, “Why do bad things happen, God?” I may not have understood, or liked the answer, but He was faithful to answer those questions when I asked them, and when my mom asked them. The same word has come up over and over again – TRUST.
At Clear Creek we have talked a lot about surrender recently; what does surrender look like? How do we surrender to Jesus? How do we let go? What does a Spirit-led life look like?
I don’t really know how to answer those questions, not fully anyways. What I do know is that surrender looks like choosing to trust. Surrender looks like Jesus’ life. It looks like choosing to declare faith, even when human circumstance looks different. It looks like drowning your sorrows in the Word of God. It looks like choosing to raise your heart (and maybe even your arms) in worship and to praise even when you feel heavy.
In the front of my Bible, I have Hebrews 3:15 written:
“As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart…”
I also have Galatians 5:25 written there:
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
I wrote these verses there as a reminder to listen to the voice of God, to cry out in prayer and to LISTEN in prayer. I’ve had to remind myself of this over and over again, if I choose to ask the question, to plead a case before God, I have also chosen to listen and obey His answer. God says trust, so I need to choose to trust Him.
This Christian life is not something you choose only once and live in forever. It is a day by day, moment by moment, choice to choose to obey, to lift praise, to walk different. Surrender is the same; a moment by moment choice. A choice that might look different each moment.
Moment by moment, surrendering homesickness, fear and lack of control has looked different. It could be raising my arms in worship, or bowing my head and crying hard, it could mean asking those hard “Why?” questions, or writing out gratitude lists. It could be letting people in to my uncomfortable, uncertain reality or simply saying, “God I need you, God I trust you.” … over and over again until I believed it.
I listened to a sermon a few weeks ago, and the preacher was sharing about hearing the news that their daughter was going to have lifelong health challenges and a nugget of wisdom was shared with him that rocked my own little heart; “Face the facts, but speak only faith.”
Face the facts.
But speak only faith.
That, to me, is the best example of what surrender looks like. Don’t run away from the reality. Don’t block out this real thing that’s happening right now. Don’t try to pretend that it doesn’t hurt, or isn’t frustrating, or confusing Face it, admit it.
But don’t give in to it.
Speak. Only. Faith.
That means, give into Jesus. Turn to the Word, declare it over your situation. When people tell you that things don’t look good, admit that it’s true, but then declare God’s redemptive power over it. Believe Him for the miracle, for the redemption, for the healing, for the revival, for the reconciliation.
God has used this distance between my mom and I to draw me closer to Him, to teach me to trust. He has given me an incredible community, a family, that has drawn near to me and walked through this tough season with me and my mom. They have held us up in prayer, helped Micah and I to declare truth over the situation.
But more than any other person, He has used my very own mother, in the midst of her own pain, to teach me what faith and trust and surrender looks like right now. Instead of throwing her hands up in anger or fear, she has run to the throne of Jesus and chosen faith each and every day. She has been a picture of what hope looks like. She has chosen to speak faith over this situation, into her family, into my heart. Telling me He is healing, He is speaking, He is moving.
And the thing is, when I lift my eyes from staring down the problem, it’s impossible not to see Him healing, speaking, and moving in our situation and in so many others. God is at work, and He is bigger than even the scariest or most painful of situations. He is bigger than the 800 miles between her arms and mine. He is bigger than the diagnosis. He is bigger than the heartache. He is bigger than the struggle or the fear or the loss or the challenge. If we accept the facts, and then lift our eyes and declare His strength, it’s impossible not to see Him.
Today, and every day, I celebrate my incredible mother. She is strong and courageous and I know that this morning she got up and prayed her prayers and heard the same response she has heard every morning since this journey began; “Trust”. And just like Hebrews 3:15 says, she keeps her heart open to the healing salve of the Holy Spirit in her life.
She is a picture of grace and faith, in a world that seems so scary to my little childlike heart, and I am grateful for her.
This one’s for you, mama, and really for all you mama’s out there choosing to stand in grace, and truth, and surrender for the sake of your family. I hope you (every one of you) know that you are strong in Him, you are wise, and kind, and an example to all who know you. And I hope you know that you are deeply, fiercely loved.
Happy Mother’s Day.
An excerpt of this post was posted on the Clear Creek Church blog.