A Mother’s Day Reflection
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends….13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:1-8a, 13, NRSV)
Thank you for sharing your Mother’s Day with me. For me, Mother’s Day is all about love and legacy. Were it not for my Mom (and my Dad of course), I would not be here, and I was blessed to have a most phenomenal Mom!! I can’t share her with you, but I hope I can share her some of her legacy with you. Mom was always determined to enjoy life to its fullest. She had a magnificent sense of humor, and she wielded it skillfully and with great joy. Her sense of humor brightened many a tough time and never failed her, or me, thankfully! One of Mom’s favorite sayings was “life’s too short,” and she would deliver that with a happy, devilish gleam in her eye. It could cover a multitude of sins: like eating ice cream for breakfast! I’ll tell you that story at fellowship time. Mom was willing to try most anything and loved good fun and an adventure, especially with the company of family and friends. Nothing fazed her. Mom appreciated and truly adored the goodness and the beauty of the world around her, and she always taught me to appreciate all our blessings. Mom was balanced, grounded, wholly authentic and the quintessential eternal optimist. She taught my brother and me to find that silver lining in every cloud.
One way my Mom showered my brother and me with her love was by teaching us how to play nicely in the sandbox and imparting these important fundamental life lessons – usually at dinnertime:
Say “Please” and “Thank you”
Look someone in the eye when they speak to you
Pitch in and help wherever you can
You have got this
Everybody is always welcome
Count your blessings
The glass is always half full
Every cloud has a silver lining
Never judge someone until you have walked in their shoes
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
Stop and smell the roses
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Do I shower my girls with love?? While I like to think I do, I am not sure what they would say; but they will definitely tell you about my “Bad Mommy Moments.” We keep an “encyclopedia” of them, which has WAY too many entries and volumes. And yes, I am the Mommy at the root of all those bad moments. I am not proud of them, but indeed they are part of my legacy – and the sense of humor I rely on, especially when we need to get through those inevitable tough times. The first – that I remember – occurred when the girls were about 2 and 4. I blew up when I found Elizabeth giving Lindsay a haircut. (And WHERE was I when Elizabeth set up and got started?!?) The cut was horrifyingly awful, the situation was horrifying awful and I was horrifyingly awful!! Seeing Elizabeth so blithely sling the scissors within inches of Lindsay’s eyes undid me. I can always imagine the worst, and I sure did that afternoon. My behavior was not pretty; the girls were beyond distraught due to my overreaction, and a “Bad Mommy Moment” was born.
A few years later, I dragged my 2 crying, protesting girls onto the Log Flume ride at Hershey Park – because I wanted to ride and I could not go if they did not come with me. “I don’t want to ride!!” they wailed – again and again. I ignored them and just stayed in line. Both girls were visibly upset. People were staring, convinced I was an abusive parent for sure, and I remained completely tone deaf. I wanted to go on the ride! I rationalized this, saying to myself the girls need to learn to deal with and overcome challenges; this is just one of many. It will all be good. Future therapist bills dealing with the aftermath of this torture at the hands of their Mother? Not a big enough worry to get me out of line, because I REALLY WANTED to go on this ride!! Bless my girls, they hung in there with me. (Really, the poor things did not have much choice!) Once we started, their teary and terrified agony turned to awe and squeals of joy. The upside of this “Bad Mommy Moment” is that the girls have since become thrill ride warriors just like me, and now we don’t miss an opportunity to ride together!
When the girls were about 6 and 8, we, read Mom, decided to go exploring, and we hiked up a small California canyon on a very hot day. No planning at all. Did we tell anyone? Of course not! Let’s just go! We had flip flops, no water bottles, no hats, no sunscreen and no map. We hiked a couple of miles, crossed the stream multiple times balancing either on rocks or fallen trees and spent a couple of hours in lovely splendor and solitude. Lindsay, in particular, balanced and explored fearlessly, and it was a gorgeous little journey. Thankfully all went well, and when only 40 feet from getting back our car – Lindsay falls into what I promise was only a half an inch deep puddle and coats herself in mud. I just started howling!! We had hiked all that way to have this happen in the home stretch?!? It was just too darn funny. I could not help myself and, once I started, I laughed until my sides hurt. Lindsay did not find it at all funny… it was a long ride home!
More stories to tell another time: I made Lindsay spend 2 full days walking on what I later learned was a broken toe, because we had territory to cover in Hershey Park and then Washington DC. They could have gotten me for cruelty on that one…. Elizabeth called from college, her freshman year, to tell me that she had her ear cartilage pierced. I hung up on her, because I was too disappointed to be rational. And I regularly made the girls wait in the car while I said, “I will just be a few minutes”. I made it worse, “It will not be long.” The conversations would stretch endlessly. And I am sure there are still “Bad Mommy Moments” to come.
Makes no sense that in spite of indelibly scarring my daughters’ psyches with these “Bad Mommy Moments” and others, I do deeply cherish this magnificent gift of being a Mom! What a blessing to be graced with miracle of bringing my daughters into our world. For those of you who are parents, think back when you first became a parent: did you too have that moment of sheer terror, realizing that you were now irrevocably responsible for the well-being of this beautiful little soul in your arms?? I feel it is a divine, and downright daunting, privilege to be a Mom. It is God’s way of tapping us on the shoulder, saying, “Pass it on.” My girls are loving, strong, independent, fearless and fine young women who set wonderful examples for me most(!) every day. They make me laugh with great joy, and they can also frustrate me to pieces, but we’ll skip that part today! And I still question, who EVER really thought trusting me to be a Mom was a wise choice?!?
So, in addition the blessing of being a Mom and a daughter, let’s also look at what Mom means on a very fundamental level. To me, Mom = Love. If a Mom is love, one can have more than one Mom. And I hope many of you have known the blessing of having a someone “who was like a second Mom.” Once a Mom, you are a Mom to all God’s children, not just your own. Mom is connection. Mom is a nurturer, a mentor, and Mom encourages you to dream big. Mom is there to cushion your fall if necessary and lend an ear too. Mom is safety, security and acceptance. Mom teaches us how to be who we are. Mom loves us. And in a perfect world, Mom is lots of love, and unconditionally. Mom connects us. Mom is community. For me, our church is like a second Mom. Mom is love, caring and connection for us all.
Does Mom have to be gendered? Not in my book. And after hearing Lori’s sermon of 3/15 “Women of the Bible Speak Out” and reading Nicholas’ Kristof’s Op-Ed in the 4/1 NY Times “God and Her (Female) Clergy,” I would say definitely not. It truly is time to rethink our traditional or stereotypical ways of thinking and approaching “how things are done” in so many aspects of our world today. And if we agree that Mom = Love, and we know that Love is not gendered, but rather universal, then Mom is universal too. Mom is human. We can all be a Mom. Forget the gender and simply remember, Mom is Love.
In this 21st century digital age of technology, omnipresent screens and 24/7 connectivity, I feel a Mom’s personal love and caring connection takes on greater importance and urgency. I worry that while we are all more connected, ironically, we are more disconnected. I fear we are watching the deterioration of direct conversation and human connection. We may be constantly connected electronically, but are we connected humanly? Are we texting instead of talking face to face? When we only see the type on the screen and not the expressions on someone’s face as they speak, can we really understand the emotions they may be experiencing? In these days of omnipresent electronic connection (or is it interference?) can we read body language? Getting involved with other humans can be joyful and exhilarating and jubilant and fun, but it can also be difficult, messy and hurtful. The screen is always lit brightly and present, presents few challenges and does not talk back, unlike our friendships and relationships, which require nurturing, devotion and hard work. I feel now more than ever, for our families, our communities and our world, the Mom connections, the human connections and the love connections become that more critically important to our overall well-being and happiness, as family members, community members and as fellow humans. We need, and I feel our world really needs, a loving mother to look out for it – especially in this screen age of disconnection, isolation and partisanship. Please, Moms everywhere, look out for our world and spread the love!
As my legacy to you today, I would like to leave you with excerpts from my Mom’s 2 favorite passages. The first comes from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann:
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. … Be yourself. … Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding (as it should). Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. … With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
And together we heard earlier the iconic verses on love from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 13:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. … And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
I thank you for celebrating Mothers everywhere today with me. I hope and pray that the power of love can overcome the love of power, and I pray that the power of love will keep us humanly and divinely connected. Moms can make this happen. This church can make this happen. I may be naïve, but I will still strive for that. Let’s all go out there, connect, care and be a Mom. Spread your love. Leave your legacy and sprinkle it with you sense of humor. Add in happiness, laughter and smiles, and you have a perfect tribute to Mom. With lots of love to you all, and wishing you a happy Mother’s Day! Go share that love! We can make this world a better place. AMEN.