things my mother taught me, or a reflection on mother’s day

tomorrow is mother’s day. i have mixed feelings about mother’s day, because while i want to celebrate my mother as much as i can, i have such a hard time finding ways to celebrate her. flowers are out, she’s fastidious about what she eats so chocolate is mostly out, and most of the cards i find in the store are just too cheesy or flowery to really convey what i’m thinking about.

i’ve been reading dorothy sayers still, slowly digesting each chapter, rereading as i need to truly understand. that’s something my mother taught me, but that’s beside the point. i’ve been rereading a chapter titled “creed or chaos,” a reflection on the creeds of the church, and what it means to embrace christian doctrine. as i read sayers’ words, i see my mother’s actions, her movements spread throughout my life.

if you read my mother’s and sister’s blog –, you will see doctrine in action. it is one thing to tell your children that they can have it all. that if they want to go to college, they can; if they want to be successful business owners, they can; if they want to stay home with their children, they can; anything they want, they can have. it is another to show your children that they can truly have nothing but Christ. that the glittering accomplishments the world holds up as trophies to womanhood, to personhood are nothing but dust and ash. that all the things we cling to as proof of our worth are nothing in light of the gospel.

and scripture is clear on what it means to embrace Christ – Romans 8:15 begins by making it very plain:

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spiritthat we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

by embracing Christianity, and all the creeds and doctrines and beliefs, we embrace both suffering and glory. and there is no guarantee of earthly glory. at all. in fact, over and over, we are told – what comes is more valuable than what we possess here. what we have here is ash, and when we receive the reward for our lives at the other side of this existence, then we will receive our true reward. that which glitters here is not gold there.

and this is something my mother taught me. lived it out, load of laundry after load of laundry. dinners on the table, prayers prayed for my broken heart, nights spent in solitude. that often, the sacrifices we are called to make are the little ones. the little moments of laying herself down, her wants, her desires, even her needs. and it doesn’t stop. she’s been laying down her life for us my entire life, and she is now, even still, laying her life down in a hospital room at my sister’s side.

she taught me that this life is worth nothing, only worth living if we can take every moment we are given and shine the light of Heaven on it. that the only things that are worth keeping and embracing are the things with eternal value. and that not only is it hard, it is a struggle, pushing aside the flesh, setting aside our desires. she embodies what i read this week in “creed and chaos”:

[christianity] is fiercely and even harshly realistic… that there are certain eternal achievements that make even happiness look like trash.

her joy in life has been pointing us towards the cross. both pointing us to Christ’s suffering, and pointing to the glory to come if we can embrace it. she’s not been suffering in silence, putting on an aggrieved face, and doing what needs to be done begrudgingly. she’s been embracing the suffering of this world, the hard, the painful, the unwanted, and doing it with joy.

and just so you don’t think i have a completely unrealistic view of my mother, i know there have been many many times she has not wanted to do what she has been asked. disobeyed, turned away, begged not to do what lay before her. she’s overreacted, missed God’s leading, spoken from hurt, made the wrong decisions. she’s been angry and sinned, and yet. and yet.

in spite of all of those things, what filtered through was this. in order to embrace Heaven, we must embrace Jesus. not just the victorious, triumphing over all the world resurrected Messiah, but the one who begged His father in the garden, as recorded in Mark 14:

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

i can think of little else of more value than this, than what she taught me, and teaches me still: everything is possible, but what we are promised is suffering. and after these pains fall away, we are promised Heaven.



so i’ve been posting a bit at, mostly about motherhood and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. i posted there this morning on gluttony, and i honestly feel like it’s worth sharing over here. i know it’s not my usual fare, but bear with my rambling thoughts. i’ll get back to sharing pictures soon (always check the flickr account, as i post without fanfare on my flickr feed.)

also found at:

you’d think by the title of this post, that i’m talking about thanksgiving. the holiday of overeating, jokingly referred to as “turkey day,” because what it’s really about it: gorging ourselves on turkey and mashed potatoes and passing into a tryptophan coma on the couch while watching football. that’s what thanksgiving is, right? followed by another day of “thankfulness” while people get trampled in stores for goods marked down to their actual cost of manufacturing, because everyone knows labor from political prisoners in china is cheap. that’s gluttony, isn’t it? turkey, stuffing and just one more slice of pie. gluttony is that woman who carries extra weight around on her hips, her belly, her heart. gluttony is the man who drinks just one more beer, eats one more order of nachos at the game and is still ready for more.

it’s easy to reduce gluttony to over eating, the hollowness of a belly that is never satisfied. but i think it goes deeper than that – further into our selves than our stomachs. deeper than our guts, into our hearts. i’ve been reading dorothy sayers a lot lately, and she wrote some quite profound essays on the sins of the body and the heart, made ever more profound as she was writing during WW2 in england. she was writing during a period that can be argued as the last time western nations have endured mass poverty and privation. i know there have been other countries, other times, but it seems to me that the availability of consumer goods was reduced in a way that we haven’t seen since.

in that vein, knowing that the availability of goods has increased significantly after WW2, certainly with the advent of globalization, i am attaching the following paragraph of excerpted lines. it was taken from an address to the public morality council at westminster, 10/23/41. seventy three years ago. let that rest in your mind while you read her words.

“But on the whole, England in wartime is not a place where the majority of us can very easily destroy our souls with Gluttony.  We may congratulate ourselves that, if we have not exactly renounced our sins, this particular sin at any rate has renounced us…

Let us seize this breathing-space, while we are out of reach of temptation, to look at one very remarkable aspect of the sin of Gula.  We have all become aware lately of something very disquieting about what we call our economic system.  An odd change has come over us since the arrival of the machine age.  Whereas formerly it was considered a virtue to be thrifty and content with one’s lot, it is now considered to be the mark of a progressive nation that it is filled with hustling, go-getting citizens, intent on raising their standard of living.  And this is not interpreted to mean merely that a decent sufficiency of food, clothes and shelter is attainable by all citizens.  It means much more and much less than this.  It means that every citizen is encouraged to consider more, and more complicated, luxuries necessary to his well-being.  The gluttonous consumption of manufactured goods had become, before the war, the prime civic virtue.  And why?  Because the machines can produce cheaply only if they produce in vast quantities; because unless the machines can produce cheaply nobody can afford to keep them running; and because, unless they are kept running, millions of citizens will be thrown out of employment, and the community will starve…

The point is that, without any legislation whatever, the whole system would come crashing down in a day if every consumer were voluntarily to restrict his purchases to the things he really needed.  “The fact is,” said a working man the other day at a meeting, “that when we fall for these advertisements we’re being had for mugs.”  So we are.  The sin of Gluttony, of Greed, of over-much stuffing of ourselves, is the sin that has delivered us over into the power of the machine…

But what will happen to us when the war-machine ceases to consume our surplus products for us?  Shall we hold fast to our rediscovered sense of real values and our adventurous attitude to life?  If so, we shall revolutionise world economy without any political revolution.  Or shall we again allow our Gluttony to become the instrument of an economic system that is satisfactory to nobody?  That system as we know it thrives upon waste and rubbish-heaps.  At present the waste (that is, sheer gluttonous consumption) is being done for us in the field of war.  In peace, if we do not revise our ideas, we shall ourselves become its instruments.  The rubbish-heap will again be piled on our own doorsteps, on our own backs, in our own bellies.  Instead of the wasteful consumption of trucks and tanks, metal and explosives, we shall have back the wasteful consumption of wireless sets and silk stockings, drugs and paper, cheap pottery and cosmetics—all the slop and swill that pour down the sewers over which the palace of Gluttony is built.”

i am by no means exempt from this. i have too many clothes. i tend to keep the pretty bits of things i collect and buy more without using that which i have. i carry extra weight around, a product of emotional eating – trying to fill that which cannot be filled by food. or fabric. or sex, or wine, or money or any of the other things i have been told by my culture, my world, my society will fulfill me. ease the ache of hunger. christmas is approaching, and it is the holiday for gluttony. can you deny that if gluttony is more than a plate over piled with food, if it is consumption without fill, then christmas is its high holy day? i can’t. and i want more than a room full of shredded wrapping paper, and a child asking if that’s the end of the presents. i want more than perfume and diamonds and whatever else i’m supposed to want. i want what Jesus promised me: to be filled. where did He promise me this? when He said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt 5:6)”

if i hunger for anything less than Him and the righteousness He brought when He came, i cannot be filled. when i eat, trying to ease the hurt of seeing a beloved family member slip closer and closer to Heaven, i cannot be filled. when i buy more and more, trying to feel better about myself, my station in life, my abilities, i cannot be filled. when i seek pleasure, seeking to fill the void in my heart from loss or doubt or heartache, i cannot be filled.

it is only when i hunger after Him and His righteousness – the promise that His coming so many years ago is what makes me enough that i can be filled. when i stop and ponder and ruminate and grasp and wrestle with the idea that He makes me whole – His shed blood, His laying down of Heaven for this broken place, His arrival on a starry night in Bethlehem is the only thing that can ever truly satisfy, then i don’t need to buy another thing. it’s all been bought already, on a cross not of His choosing, but of His sacrifice and of His willingness to obey even unto death.

does this mean i won’t be buying christmas presents this year? of course not. i’m still frantically knitting, and planning a canning day this weekend, and trying to find the perfect gifts for those i love. but they have to mean something more than “you wanted this new and shiny thing, so i bought it for you.” our lives and our money have to mean more than being part of a machine that not only enslaves those who make the goods we purchase, but enslaves us – the purchasers. they have to mean more than that, because WE mean more than that. we mean so much more to a Father who sacrificed for us, doing anything it took to get us back. we are more than a sales number, and so we must respond in kind.