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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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His Power In My Weakness – Shirley’s Life Story

For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). This is a peculiar verse in the Bible spoken by the Apostle Paul. It clearly did not make sense to me when I was nine, but it is now one of the most precious verses I hold on to, today. I would like to address how this statement began to make sense to me.

I was raised in a Christian family I professed faith in Jesus early in life. However, living out this faith was not so easy! My world came crumbling down when my father had a massive stroke on December 29th, 2002. I saw my hero, my best friend – my Dad, battle for life in the hospital. Tears rolled down my face as I saw him lie there helplessly. The impact of the stroke left him in a coma for almost 21 days, and left him completely paralyzed on the right side. The nurses at the hospital told my mother to be prepared for the worst. What could be the worse, I thought? This was bad enough. As far as I knew, I had been faithful in praying, loving God, going to church and reading the Bible. Why would something like this happen to my Dad? Didn’t God love me? Didn’t he love my Dad? What wrong did he do to suffer this? All these thoughts made me angry with God, left me questioning Him and His authority.

The following year took a toll on the family. My maternal grandparents who always supported us, stepped up to really care for us when they saw the intensity of our difficulties. However, they themselves were so devastated at the news of Dad’s illness, it left them broken. My grandmother had a massive heart attack, and collapsed in my mother’s arms six months later. This devastating loss completely completely broke my grandfather, and he also died forty five days later.

The impact of all these events left me confused, frustrated, bitter and very angry with God. I just could not understand His purpose in all this. Every day became a struggle. It was difficult to carry on. By this time I was only ten years old, yet I was forced to take on some adult responsibilities such as helping to manage relationships, finances, and other needs of our family. Sometimes it was really hard facing judgments, and the world. I remember several days when I didn’t want to wake up and get out of bed. I just wanted to pull the sheets and cry all day. It was difficult to know and believe, that there was a God who love and cared for me the way the Bible claimed He did.

Months turned to years, and I spiraled into a deep sense of hopelessness. My studies were affected, and the only thing I could perceive was how unfair my life was. As this point my mother recognized that I needed something to take my mind off my immediate situation, and my aunt and uncle lovingly invited me to stay with them for a few months in Thailand. They invested many many hours, encouraging me to read the Bible and to pray. This time helped me clear my mind and to look at my circumstances from a different perspective. I went back with renewed hope. My mother continued to teach me to put my hope in God because God was real, and He felt our pain and was always willing to love us even in our sin. The fact that my Mom was telling me these things in the midst of her own struggles, made a deep impact on me. Watching her demonstrating her own faith in her circumstances had a great impact on me, reinforcing the lessons I had been taught –  lessons that are now etched in my mind, for which I am profoundly grateful. So at some point as an early teenager, I decided to trust my own life into Jesus’ hands again. I began to understand that God had a purpose for me in loving and caring for my family.

As God began to open my eyes about His love for me, I slowly began to yield to His power and authority in my life. I wanted Him to take control of every aspect, especially my broken past, and to transform me into the woman He wanted me to be. The Bible sometimes describes God as a Potter, and I wanted to be the kind of clay that He could easily mold into any vessel He wanted to make me to be (Jeremiah 18:6).  I am still a work in progress but I feel secure, because my life is under the care of a God who is deeply concerned with every aspect of my life.

I love the words of the song that my mother shared with me, called “Keep Me In Your Will” by Jessica King:

Remind me Lord, I am just a glove
In which you place Your hand.
Not my will but Yours be done
Though I may not understand.
The best laid plans I've made
Somehow always go astray.
Lord keep me in your will,
So I won't be in your way

Looking back at all those years of pain and hurt, I see God choosing to love me and use me in spite of my anger and brokenness. Now I am beginning to understand the meaning of Paul’s words that I mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Here is a YouTube link to my testimony:

Marriage – Love or Arranged – For Better, For Worse

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Choosing whom or what we worship is THE most important decision any human being makes. Jesus demands that choice of us. The second most important decision is choosing a life partner. Over the past few years, Peter and I have had a chance to talk to several young people about marriage and finding a life partner. The world we live in is messed up and broken and divorce appears rampant. Young people often seem afraid and confused and appear to assume that finding a spouse is a 50-50 hit or miss. How can anyone be sure? “Unless the Lord builds a home, those who build it labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1 We don’t need to worry if we need to get to know a person by dating them for long periods or if we meet them just once before we marry if Jesus is in the midst of the equation. Ultimately, life is not a sprint but a marathon. No one controls life anyway. Those who struggle much in the first 10 – 15 years may still have the most wonderful overall marriage while those who appear totally compatible and in love at the start might struggle in the long run. What Peter and I have found is that when we have Jesus looking out for us, though life may not be easy, it is ultimately a 100% hit because He gives the needed grace and Romans 8:28 is true!

Here’s our story! “I rather reluctantly packed my bags in June 1991 to make our first trip back to India since our emigration to the US a couple of years prior. I was still in the midst of doing my Masters in Computer Engineering at the University of Missouri – Rolla. I was not really interested in meeting anyone in India as I had my “list” of desires for my future spouse and returning to India was definitely not one of them! At that time, I only had a “Green Card” which God had miraculously gifted me allowing me to arrive in the US with my family just the day before my 21st birthday. Our family had waited for over 7 years for the immigration papers and I would not be allowed to travel with them after 21 – yet, I squeaked through! But now, if my spouse was in India, I would not be able to sponsor him as I was far from being a US citizen which meant either I give up my chance of living here in the US where almost all my family lived or I would have to return and wait a 3 year separation while I get my US citizenship. I was definitely not interested in going down that path!

But God had other ideas. The day before we were to leave, a friend from church at the university prayed with me and advised me to surrender all my desires to the Lord Jesus, to yield completely to His will and to see Him work! As I prayed that day, I realized that God was the loving Father who desired only the very best for my eternal future and if I profess to be a Christian, I must trust Him and live out my faith. I had to trust in promises like Romans 8:28 “God causes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.” So, I surrendered and told God that I would trust in His best even if it meant change. I then threw out my list of desires for a future spouse and life and my main desire now was for a man who loved Jesus more than I did – who would lead me towards a closer relationship with God. I also asked God if possible, that my husband should be equally or more educated than me. I also did ask God if possible that the first proposal be the one as I disliked meeting unknown people! Of course, I strongly felt dowry ( a rampant evil in India) was wrong and totally out of the question. So, Mom and I, accompanied by my little cousins Neetha and Priya, went to spend two months in Bangalore – Dad would follow for 3 weeks.

At the end of May 1991, our Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was suddenly assassinated. When we arrived in the beginning of June, India was still in mourning. Unknown to me, God was using even political events to change my life! Peter had just completed 3 years of his Ph.D in Physics at TIFR in Bombay. He had eagerly looked forward to a vacation with his uncles’ families in Malaysia that summer. His passport however had been sent for renewal but had not come back as the Indian Government had shut down due to the assassination. So, now he was forced to change course and came to visit his parents in Bangalore instead.

My cousin’s Grandma on their dad’s side Mrs. Ida Mony also came to spend time with them. She was a gentle, sweet lady with a beautiful smile. She wanted to visit a known family in Bangalore as they had been family friends of hers in Malaysia. She also suggested that their son Peter was visiting Bangalore and asked if she could take a letter with my information to them to prayerfully see how God would lead. My Mom and Grandparents thought it was a good idea. Ida Aunty came back with the news that though the son was not seriously considering marriage he was willing to consider and see if it was God’s will, so they would like to meet the next day.

Peter’s parents came on June 28, 1991 to meet my family and to talk to me. I still remember his Mom praying at the start of the meeting that if it was NOT God’s will, that He would block our human efforts which was exactly how we felt. They had also lived in Bangalore most of their lives with similar family, faith and community background to ours. They asked me about my life in the US and about my faith walk. They liked me a lot, we liked them too. They wanted their son, Peter to meet me the very next day! Peter was the first guy I was being introduced to in Bangalore, he was brought up with a strong faith and relationship with Jesus, he had a similar upbringing to mine, he was working on his Ph.D and his family was against dowry! We looked forward to meeting him.

Peter, his parents and sister’s family came over the next evening to a down pour of Bangalore monsoon rains. Thatha’s home was a very old, high ceiling, tiled roof building which would leak when it rained heavily. It was amusing the way drops started falling inside as we all sat and talked! Showers of blessings? The atmosphere was comfortable despite the rain.

Peter and I went to Thatha’s front office room to have a private talk. We asked each other the most important questions about our faith walk. Peter being the academician, of course had his list of points in his head that he asked me, while I just talked! But in just ONE hour, we both were convinced that as we and our families had prayerfully approached this, God had clearly led us to commit ourselves to marriage. His family left soon after. That night, his Mom called my Mom and said that they were very happy that we had agreed on getting married! Dad was on the flight from the US that night and we surprised him he next morning with the good news of his future son-in-law! He met them that week as plans were made for our formal betrothal ceremony and to discuss the details.

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Interestingly, God had led me to commit my life to a man who strongly felt that he was called at that time to live his faith in India. Because I had already worked this out with the Lord, I was able to accept it more easily. Peter’s family were not wealthy, he was still studying and on a student’s stipend and he had warned me that the beginning of our life would be really hard – again, God had already worked on my heart and it did not matter to me. He was also a more thoughtful, often absent minded academician. We had a lot of details to work out but as we both were still studying, we would get engaged and wait a year to be married the following June. It was a huge step to commit to an unknown man who I had just met for an hour to whom I would be leaving family, friends, life as I knew it and move 10,000 miles to a new city in India to live in hardship. My confidence only came in the grace of God who we trusted completely, who knew everything and who had led us thus far.

We had a beautiful engagement ceremony where before God with our pastor, parents, family and friends (about 200 people), where we committed to wait for each other. It was a time of much rejoicing and fun. Peter shared his testimony which I heard for the first time. We both also sang the meaningful song below together.

Jesus stand among us, At the beginning of our lives
Be the sweet agreement, At the meeting of our eyes
O Jesus! We love you, So we gather here
Join our hearts in unity, And take away our fears
So to you we gather, Out of many different lands
Christ the love between us, At the joining of our hands

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With that we committed to a life of faithfulness to each other. Peter left for Bombay soon after and I returned to the US at the end of July. We worked hard and waited patiently a whole year. As both of us were poor students on scholarships, we had very little money to even call each other with each minute to call across the world costing over $2.00! But God graciously provided for us. As both of us were in universities, this being the pre-Internet days, we were one of the few who had free chat access across the world. This may seem trivial in today’s digital age, but it was very rare and fancy in the early 1990’s. I had friends who had run up $1000 phone bills calling fiancés back in India. We chatted everyday for hours totally free!

Satan of course was definitely not happy with all the goings on – a sure thing in a believer’s life. He began stirring up trouble in the form of Peter’s closest uncle who did not even live in India but began questioning whether the way the whole process had happened was in line with God’s will. He even wanted Peter to break off the engagement and start over. Sadly, this suddenly created a lot of confusion and attitude change in some in his family. Where there had been such joy, now there was doubt and confusion. But Peter stood strong. The decision had been made prayerfully, with full approval and blessing from his parents who had met me the day before we agreed, so, irrespective of external opposition, he was sure we were in the midst of God’s will.

Though outwardly there was a lot of fun and happiness at our wedding in June 1992 as we were surrounded by over a 1000 family and friends, deep down I was very sad at the shadows that had been cast and the lack of approval I was receiving from his family. We realized that real life had begun! Marriage we have learned is definitely the Divine Refiner’s fire where He takes two sinful, broken people who rub each other the wrong way and place them in a “Covenant” relationship with each other and Him. He uses marriage to sand down the rough edges and impress Jesus’ image on our lives.

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Peter and I have had innumerable issues to work through and we probably will until the day we die. But, we are 100% committed to each other until death do us part. Our wedding vows had included the words “As led by God, I, ………. take you …….., to be my lawfully wedded spouse…………….till death us do part, according to God’s Holy law and in the confidence of the enabling grace of God alone, I give you my pledge.” Looking back we realize the enormity of the truth of those words and how much we have needed “the enabling grace of God alone”. There have been many, many times when we have walked through very deep difficulties or have found each other lacking or failing and unable to fulfill human desires and needs – when it would have been easier to give up on our marriage emotionally, spiritually or physically. At times, we have failed and even done some of that temporarily. But we thank God that He has held us and continues to hold us and remind us of the covenant of our marriage.”

We look back over the 20 years of marriage and think we could not have chosen better what we needed and we thank God, He did! Life together with all it’s painful difficulties has drawn us as individuals into a deeper and more intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus. We are trying to choose to give thanks to the Lord in everything. We also realize how important it is to pray as we navigate life’s choppy waters. Happily ever afters do exist only if we are willing to fall on the mercy of the future grace of God!

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Thursday June 27, 2013: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

We hear over and over again of marriages of precious friends breaking down with saddened hearts. We know that it is ONLY the grace of God that we both stand firm in this marriage covenant! Trials for 21 years has made our marriage extremely hard. God used His Word to remind us that it is in the brokenness of our lives, His grace is poured out and His love perfected. We stand today deeply loving each other in a marriage filled with God’s love, romance and commitment unlike what it was 21 years ago! We humbly fall before Jesus knowing it is ONLY His grace that has held us and our hearts are filled with eternal gratitude. So marriage is beautiful when we are in a covenant relationship with the God of this Universe! We were advised just 2 weeks ago to commit to read God’s Word and pray multiple times each day together and see how God works – so far that has been the best marriage advice we have ever received!

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