The Joy and Sorrow of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a day that has been set aside to honor mothers around the world. It’s a wonderful thought as mothers are the hard working backbones of family and society. Yes, it’s a precious way for children to show appreciation and gratitude for the many sacrifices their mothers have made. It’s a good time to slow down and show Mom that she means something to us. I applaud the reasoning behind this effort, though my Grandpa (Thatha) would say that it’s a day created by Hallmark to boost the economy!

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I approach the day with mixed feelings wrought by fire through my own tumultuous life experiences as well as those of orher dear friends. I would like to give you various facets of this celebration. I see it as a day that we need to remind ourselves that we stand only by the grace of God, giving Him ALL the glory instead of accepting praise and priding ourselves on our parental accomplishments. I see it also as a day to sensitively care for those who may not have this particular grace instead of just reveling in our own happiness.

In many cultures,women are often under-appreciated despite sacrificial hard work. This particularly happens in many developing countries like India where the “Amma” (or “Mummy” or “Mom”) is often treated like a doormat. She is expected to care for the needs of her husband and children, with little to no consideration or respect given to her. Many of these women do not have the means or the time to self-care and enjoy spas or movie nights with their girl friends, sipping wine and eating chocolate to wash away their cares. Many struggle to make ends meet and, might never have had even one small vacation their entire lives. They often do full day jobs, sometimes heavy manual labor, along with caring for their families, yet they go through life with absolutely no appreciation at all from anyone. So, yes, it is a wonderful idea to help husband’s and children learn to appreciate such women, setting aside a special day, to thank them with flowers, cards and gifts. However, it is far more important to weave dignity, freedom, equality and gratitude into the daily mundanes of life, continuously thanking these important women through respect, words, actions and kindness!

Broken situations

How do we deal with such a day if we had bad mothers who have harmed us spiritually, physically or emotionally while growing up or even as adults? What about the selfish ones who cared more for their own lives, careers, friends, hobbies, ministries or (p)interests instead of their kids? What about the mothers who abandoned their children as babies or even as grown ups? What about if we are orphans, foster or adopted children who lost our birth mothers – someone whom we may not even know and either long for or are angry at? What about those of us who feel disconnected and angry at our adoptive, foster or step moms? Maybe they do treat us unfairly especially when compared to their biological children. What about the proverbial mothers-in-law who are known to ill treat their daughters in law? The sinful world we live in constantly dumps pain on us and we may be deeply wounded, even angry by our circumstances or by people.

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When Mother’s Day Hurts……

In these situations, God asks us to surrender all this pain to Jesus who bore all our suffering, sins, injustices and pain on Himself as He was nailed to the cross two thousand years ago. We need to learn to forgive daily as He chose to forgive us. It’s not an easy process but as the Matthew West’s song Forgiveness goes:

Forgiveness will clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

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I would also say this is true for moms who have prodigal children who have deeply wounded them in their rebellion. It’s also for foster or adoptive moms in the trenches caring for children who appear to hate them. It’s for the step-moms who have been given a raw deal by being depicted as evil witches in most fairy-tales and being treated accordingly in real life. It’s also for moms whose children have moved far away and who struggle with loneliness and abandonment.

God gently nudges those of us facing any such painful life situation to choose to forgive and to chose to love like He did. We can ask Him to make this a joyful, Jesus focused day, resting in the truth that whether it’s a hurtful mother or a prodigal child, they are in the hands of the Almighty God who is the only one who can convict them of their sins and pour love into their hearts. So forgiveness is the best gift to give ourselves and them this Mother’s Day.

The grief of empty arms

For those among us whose arms are painfully empty and whose hearts are broken because of singleness, divorce, age, miscarriage, infertility, due to inability to foster or adopt, or due to death of a child – this day is often excruciatingly painful as we watch the rest of the women around us being celebrated and honored. Facebook or Instagram can really throw daggers into our hearts as we see picture perfect coordinated families with serene, smiling moms who sit oblivious to our deep, deep loneliness and pain! We might feel left out of life, having a black hole of hollowness in our hearts, perhaps even feeling like failures and rejects of society (as second class women) ,which can make us curl up into a ball of tears with sorrowful, shattered hearts. It could even make us bitter against God.

My heart goes out to each dear one in the midst of this kind of struggle, and I am praying for you right now. I have been there and I understand the pain. I pray that God would pour His love, comfort and grace on you in a special way, and fill your hearts with His peace and joy. The world does not know about this, but there is a kind of peace and joy that can only come from knowing and resting in Jesus (John 14:27)! Can I encourage you dear ones to continue praying and trusting Jesus to do the very best for your life? He loves you more than you can imagine, and can fill you in ways that will surprise you. May I encourage you to trust that God can redeem your unfulfilled longings and suffering. Your pain and grief can be a beautiful display of Jesus to others? Would you consider today becoming a mentor to someone? Your wisdom and grace through your suffering might be the very magnet to draw a young person towards Jesus! You are loved and needed! God has promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you – can I encourage you to trust in His promises today? I’d also encourage you to step into orphan care – the pain of your losses can help you empathize and really help orphaned and vulnerable children. You can be the very one who can comfort them with the comfort that you have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

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Those separated by distance or physical ailments

And, for those of us who are separated by distance from their mothers or their children, those whose children have gone to serve their country in extremely harsh circumstances, those whose moms or children are serving as missionaries in far away lands, those whose mothers or children are sick, etc. In all these varied situations, you dear one are called to live by faith, entrusting your loved one to the Lord who provides for all their needs. I encourage you to pray for them and release them into His hands knowing His peace and joy can give you rest. Can I encourage you to step out and care for other lonely or sick kids or parents during this season – in giving you will receive? We are blessed as we bear one another’s burdens.

So, this year, let us remember that we may want to give or receive many types of gifts. However, the very best gift that far surpasses all else is a gift that is available to ALL women, of ALL nationalities, with ALL types of socio-economic or family backgrounds, with ALL types of life situations, and for ALL ages and stages of life – the gift of JESUS!  God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, one day, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11).

So, let us pray for all the women in our lives today and encourage them in their walk with Him! He created them fearfully and wonderfully, and He holds them in the palm of His hands. He wants each of them to be His very own precious, adopted daughter. He wants to wipe away their every tear, and give them the riches and glory of heaven beyond imagination. So, isn’t that the very best gift we can give our biological mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, step mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, godmothers, spiritual mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, friends, acquaintances, bosses, and coworkers?  And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3). And, pray for them that this will be their own heartfelt, lifelong prayer: More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God (Philippians 3:8-9).

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I pray that this year we can all look at Mother’s Day a little differently. May we (like our Savior) not make it a day that is all about us and our happiness, but about caring for others who might be struggling around us. Also, may God give us the wisdom and grace to throw out the temporary weights which often burden us in this life and fix our eyes on Jesus and the eternal weight of glory, rejoicing always in all our circumstances! God be with you! Instead, I choose to wish you something eternally worth celebrating, Joyous Child of God Day!

P.S. This video that I just found exemplifies what I have written – watch it and cry with me: The Beautiful Mess of Mother’s Day

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Anne of Green Gables

I devoured the Anne of Green Gables book series when I was a mere fourth grader in Sophia Girls High School in Bangalore, India! I could not put them down, even going after school between library days to get the next book in the series. I was after all following in my Mom’s footsteps as she had recounted to me how amazing the story was. Lucy Maud Montgomery writes a vivid, beautiful, heartfelt tale of a little orphan girl’s life as she blossoms into womanhood with love, intelligence, character and wit! I absolutely loved it and re-read it many times over!

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In the mid 90s, after immigrating to the US, I had the opportunity to get the video series from our local library in Paramus, New Jersey and was absolutely fascinated. It was awe-inspiring to see the vivid descriptions come to life as Anne lived her exciting life out with full drama on the exquisitely beautiful Prince Edward Island. Megan Follows acted wonderfully bringing to life the character of the little orphan girl who grew up before our very eyes on screen. She displayed the charm, wit and intelligence that Ms. Montgomery had woven into Anne’s character, giving many a young girl the dream of living life to the fullest, just like her. Even more was the desire to bring up a daughter just like her! I definitely fell in love with Anne Shirley as a kid and dreamed of the day I could visit her home on Prince Edward Island in Canada. It intrigued me even more for my middle name is Anne too and I always imagined (with the flattery of Anne) that my Mom had named me after reading this amazing story! Yes, I am an ANN with an E!

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Even as a young girl, visiting Shishu Bhavan (Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangalore) always touched a cord deep in my soul – I just knew I wanted to help those precious children. But, orphan care was even more etched into my brain and heart after I read and then saw the beauty of family enfold in this precious little girl’s life. I saw the impact that even a very unlikely family like Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an older brother and sister duo, could have on a vulnerable little girl’s life. I watched as she longed and waited for a feeling of permanency even if it meant just working hard to serve a family as an unpaid maid – the setting of the book clearly showed how little she was valued as a person in society, she was just another unworthy orphan girl! I saw the fear and sadness in little Anne as she faced the uncertainty of a future with the Cuthberts – something I have taken for granted with the expected permanency of my family. I saw Anne willing to do anything so she could just stay with them – yet failing miserably repeatedly as her angst at being looked down on as a “red head” caused her to blow up many a time! It was real and funny, yet taught us many important life lessons. She was modest and boisterous, sufficiently aloof to be desired yet bold enough to face the world on her own. Anne through her stay with the Cuthberts had the opportunity and the tools to hold life by the horns and face it with grace and dignity coming through as a winner! She chose not to mope about her past misfortune but to focus on her future hope! Anne took on the young men of her generation and pummeled forward making a mark on her world as well as on the hearts of many of her readers and viewers. Anne Shirley was an incredible role model for young girls for generations to come!

Anne of Green Gables was one more piece of the puzzle of my desire to adopt one day. The series gave me a glimpse of the beauty of adoption (though technically, Anne was permanently fostered by the Cuthberts). At that stage, I hadn’t even comprehended the eternal and awesome beauty of God adopting me into His family through Jesus with a promise of living with Him in His heavenly home as His precious and beloved adopted daughter forever. That truth eventually did seal the deal for me, leading my husband and me to adopt an older child! And God in His Grace brought the adoption of our son to fruition for His glory too! As I look back on Anne’s story and my son’s story, I see gratitude being the basis for living life well – gratitude to God first and then gratitude to parents. I also saw the reality of the privilege of teaching a child about the God who loves and cares for her when she came not knowing about Him at all. I saw the beauty and the privilege of changing the course of a hope-less orphan child’s life when she was given the status of foster daughter! Anne lived a full life of joy and grace bouncing off that true heartfelt gratitude! Well done Lucy M. Montgomery!

Of course this is yet another fictional, happily ever after story – those are the ones that catch our attention and fill us with awe and wonder. But, life doesn’t always follow art; the reality of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children has shown us that gratitude is hard fought for. That kids who were orphaned often struggle with loss, brokenness, trauma and lack of control which turns their worlds upside down. It takes an act of God through Jesus’ death to redeem them, and then fill them with a His value, joy, forgiveness and purposes which then takes them into the fullness of life! In fact, every one of us can relate for we are all spiritual orphans who need redemption from our Heavenly Father and only through that hope we can live purposefully for His glory! Just like Anne longed to live on Prince Edward Island, we too long for the beauty of Heaven – her adoption by the Cuthberts allowed that to happen just like ours will happen through Jesus!

I have introduced this book series and TV series to my children because it’s a beautiful story of redemption and hope! In fact, much to my delight, my family bought me the DVD set just this past Christmas! I love it! If you haven’t ventured into Anne’s world, it’s never too late!

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Here are a few opinions to add voices to mine: Eight writers on how Anne shaped a generation of young women.