by Tim VanderVeen given May 12, 2013
“The mother in our mind” Trying to come up with a service that will capture and hold the congregation’s attention, isn’t always easy. But, when it’s Mother’s Day I have to admit we have an amazing group of mothers and a crowd of fans who will almost jump at the chance to recognize and praise them.
I have to thank the mothers among us who bring the energy of the children and the hope for our future to our service every Sunday. It is a pure joy for me each week and especially on this day we set aside to show our appreciation to all of you who fill that role of mother in the lives of our most precious resource; our children.
I know there are some very special stories here as we explore what it means to be a mother.
I hope some of you will share your messages to the mothers who have given so much to make your lives better.
They say there is nothing more American than Mom and apple pie. But, for some of us while we may enjoy apple pie from time to time, “Mom” may not be what others might expect.
Some of us see an image of Mom that matches the stereotypical TV mom that was portrayed on “Leave it To Beaver” or even “Ozzie and Harriet” Or you might see yours more like the moms of “Married with Children” or “One Day at a Time”, or even “Family Guy.”
For some, none of these represent our Moms as we remember our fathers or grand parents who raised us.
My mother was raised by her aunt and uncle who later adopted her. Some of us are left with a void that never really gets filled; not by a traditional mother or by the parent we all wish we had.
Today we honor those mothers we remember and love; those mothers who will remain in our hearts and minds, and those mothers who might not fit the traditional description or mold.
As I worked on this service I had to push myself away from all references and examples that only reflected me and my mother. I wanted to show the diversity of those with maternal instincts. After all, we all know parents who fulfill the traditional role of mother no matter what their age, marital status, sexual orientation, or even gender.
The book we shared with the kids was meant to affirm that there are lots of ways to define a “Mom.” This week I met a man who is raising his 5 daughters, after having played a parenting role in the lives of 9 boys at one time. When I asked if he was the mother in the family, he smiled and said,
I guess I’m the mother-dad. I don’t think he’d ever thought of it that way before. He seemed proud to accept that role and his young daughter at the table beamed as she looked across at her mother-dad.
But, when we start talking about moms and trying to figure out what a mom is, we have to reflect on our own experience, our own feelings, and the color of the glasses through which we see the world will likely be a different shade of rose than those worn by the person next to us; even within our own family.
So, everything I say, and the nuggets of life I share, come from what I learned from my mother not only up to the time she died 6 years ago, but as I learn more about this extraordinary woman even today. Having said this, I have to admit I am constantly learning about other mothers and mother-dads who shape the values, lives, and dreams of the children they have shared their lives with.
During my work out in Washington State I created an after-school community service group with some of the students I worked with. We became friends with a group of young people with special needs, and the very special mothers who brought them out to share some fun times with us. I know there are fathers out there who support their kids in such activities, but it was a group of dedicated mothers who showed extraordinary caring, love, patience, and energy creating parties, picnics, and games for their children. The kids I brought learned so much from these special young people for whom life could be seen as a struggle. I learned so much from the amazing Moms who gave everything to improve the lives of their children.
A few months ago I drove a veteran down to the V.A. Hospital in Iron Mountain. As we drove down there he shared stories about his mother who is approaching 90-years. I’ve no doubt he is a product of his mother’s lessons.
He told me how she used to insist he keep working on his home work until he got it right. She would look at his work and then punch holes in it with a pencil to punctuate where corrections needed to be, or to just make him do the work over again. He didn’t tell me what she did when she decided the work was good enough or well done. But, he never forgot how she took the time to look over his work and then made him work harder to produce something acceptable.
Then he told me, once there was a group of people protesting the killing of wolves, or animals , or the wearing of furs. I don’t remember exactly. But, he said his mother put on her long mink coat, got into her Cadillac and drove down to the protest site just to drive them nuts.
You may remember that my mother protested the Gulf War, by marching in the winter, holding a protest sign, in front of the Federal Building in Grand Rapids back in the early 90’s. She was in her 70’s and alone except for her Methodist minister.
So both women set examples for their children and showed their true spirit and feelings.
I would imagine we all have memories of something someone in our lives did that made a lasting impression. They may have been our mother, or someone who served as a surrogate for her.
I used to write my mother often, first letters and then emails, to add to the conversations we had over the phone.
I often went with her to the Methodist church when I visited from out west. But, at some point I did not join her at the railing up front during Communion.
She never said anything, but I sensed some pain in her expression as she rejoined me in the pew. As I look back at it now, it feels like it was more sadness than pain.
We did talk about it years later and she shared that it did hurt to see me disengage from what had been an important part of our lives. After this discussion I wrote her this letter:
(Read “Our chosen Paths”)
She never again expressed how much she was disappointed, but for me the memory of a moment in my life when I was about 10 years old reminded me of the foundation of my mother’s love of her Christian beliefs and her love for me.
I was in Sunday school and the discussion of the Bible took us to 2 Timothy, 1.5; Saint Paul is said to have written to Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
That was the first I realized my mother Eunice had named me after a boy in the Bible named Timothy.
So from that revelation long ago, to the trails-end that finds me here today, many changes and much growth have taken place.
I always knew my mother was proud of me when I helped others and when I chose a path that took me closer to my dreams.
I know she would be pleased to see the opportunities I have here in this place, and to see the dear friends here who are bringing love, kindness, and passion to my life.
If I could say a few words to her right now I would say, “Mom, these are the kinds of people you had always hoped I would fill my life with, and this is the kind of work you wanted me to share with you.
I arrived by a different path, but am here because of you. Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.”