for all the spiritual moms on Mother’s Day

photo from

photo from

This is for you, the often overlooked one who won’t be officially included in this weekend’s celebration, but who has birthed many, many souls into being. You have done perhaps harder work than that which will be officially honored this Sunday, harder in that it is less recognized for the great personal sacrifice and deep loneliness you’ve carried in your birthing work. As you have ached to mother physical children, you have continued to nurture spiritual children. You have been available all hours of the day and night for the woman in distress, the teen on the brink of ending it all, or the 23-year-old who just had a devastating break-up, or for a peer crippled with the agony of discovering her husband’s affair. You have borne all of this, and more. You have cried along with them, and you have wept hidden tears for the husband you’ve always dreamed about or the children you wish God had given you.

You, like Hannah in the Bible, may have wept agonizing prayers of tears as the aching desires of your heart overflowed. Others have likely misunderstood you, offering you petty cliches that while true felt trite. Like, “Jesus is your husband,” and “God has given you more time to serve the church.” Perhaps what you needed first was an understanding embrace, or one willing to cry with you at the decades of disappointment you’ve carried. Yes, God has met you amidst your loneliness, and he has provided for you, but it has not been easy nor is that need all in the past tense. You know that because you don’t have physical children, more needs will arise and you’ll continually have to ask God for provision. You are in many ways a modern day widow, even if you are married, in that the society often overlooks you.

I want you to know today that you are seen. You are known. And you are invaluable to the kingdom’s advancing and the fabric of church communities. I pray that my daughters will have spiritual mothers like you available to them when I just can’t help them because I’m too close to their situation. I pray that whether my daughters have physical children or not, that they will, like you, spiritually nurture and care for many souls. I pray that in their waiting days – waiting for marriage, or for conception, or for grief of what’s lost to pass – that they will be able to think of at least one of you who will cheer her on by example.

I’m thinking of my friend who ministers to the sexually broken and hurting, courageously risking much to bring the hope of the gospel into these places of confusion and pain. I’m thinking of another friend who has helped develop and teach Jesus-centered curriculum to women and men across the world. And of another sister who is assisting in administration of a Christian counseling center, while she also pours into the lives of many women through personal counsel. Yet another woman comes to mind who has welcomed missionaries and missionary candidates for decades through her gracious and warm hospitality. I’m thinking of you in my church who bolster my heart with your words of encouragement and your endurance in the faith through your care for others and your support of us. I’m thinking of my clients brave enough to speak of how difficult it is to be single, to be childless, of how the world often seems to pass them by (Sunday mornings can be hardest).

I’m thinking of you, and I want you to read this as a heartfelt note of appreciation on behalf of all of your spiritual children who will rise up and call you blessed on the last day. Thank you for your hidden service, your poured-out love, your difficult endurance, and your courage to keep on going step-by-step. I pray that this Sunday you will feel God’s smile upon you in tangible ways. Might we who know 1-2 of these such women be part of God’s words of appreciation to you?

the God who sees (moms who feel invisible)

It was a shocking story to hear. Of a woman who slept with her boss, and then became pregnant. Upon discovery, her boss’ wife asked that she be thrown out (for, you see, this woman was working in their home – a maid, of sorts). Oh, the irony! For the plan had been formulated by her boss’ wife, and this maid was only doing what had been asked of her. Her boss’ wife arranged for their maid to sleep with her husband, out of hopes that the maid would get pregnant and that the child could carry on their family name. When that very thing happened, conflict and contempt erupted between the two women. The boss? He didn’t defend the maid, but told his wife to do whatever she thought was best. And so this maid was abused and then thrown out, utterly destitute and expecting to die. While pregnant with child.

You would think this is the end of that very awful story. But it’s actually just the beginning. For this woman was found by one who cared – she was met in such a way that gave her courage to return to this home … !! (for that home was her only hope of survival for her and her soon-to-be born son) What made the difference?

An encounter with the God who sees. He gave her yet-unborn son a name – “the God who hears” – and she, in turn, gave her God a name – “you are the God who sees.” She was heard; she felt seen. And her story was recorded to give exponential hope for untold women and moms and destitute and abandoned who wonder if there is a God who hears and a God who sees. Her name? Hagar. Her son’s name? Ishmael. The boss and boss’ wife? Abraham and Sarah. Genesis 16:13 records it here –

“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’ “

mother's dayAs we approach Mother’s Day tomorrow, I want to remind you and me and all of us moms that it’s not about how much recognition we get. You have already been seen; your invisible and secret and overlooked work is validated by the God who sees. He sees the invisible and untold sacrifice of sleep, sanity, bathroom breaks to yourself, time alone, friendships, meaningful conversation, money to spend on what you want v. what your kids need, dreams, career, mental capacity. He sees all that you may not even be able to name, and HE looks after you. He commends you. He meets you in the don’t-have-enough-they’ve-taken-it-all moments when you really want to lay down and bury your head in your pillow and disappear from the whines and demands and incessant asking, asking, asking, and never-having-enough’ing. He saw you when instead of disappearing and locking yourself in your room, you gave a hug; invited your child into your lap for a snuggle; fed the crying baby (again) at 3:42am; warmed up the mac & cheese for dinner; poured the Cheerios into the bowl; swept up the mess made by the Cheerios spilling out of the bowl; cleaned the markers from the wall; folded laundry for the only quiet 30 minutes of your day; mopped up the potty-training accident for the 12th time; put the fighting siblings in time-out for the 22nd time; woke up before you wanted to; went to bed hours after your strength gave out.

He saw you show up instead of run away. He saw you enter in to the emotional distress of your adolescent daughter as she felt hurt and left out and alone. He sees you when you don’t let your teenage son run away – and you pursue him with hard questions and consequences and he screams at you in anger for messing with his life (while inside he knows you love him). He saw you carry the load alone of parenting when your husband walked out the door with another woman. He sees you in the months of single parenting you endure because your husband serves our country in military service that requires foreign deployments when you can’t regularly communicate with him about the ups and the downs of your days without him. He saw you when you wept in losing your weeks-old child to miscarriage. He sees you who are secret moms – moms who lost a pregnancy, or gave up a child to adoption, and no one else knows.

There is one who knows. Who sees. Who celebrates you, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. He rejoices over you, and He will give you strength for the journey ahead. Ask him? Call out to him – be found by him, as Hagar was. And, yes, be celebrated this Mother’s Day … I do hope for you and me that we receive heartfelt cards and sweet handmade gifts that will be small reminders and reflections of the God who sees. But let’s not put our only hope there. There is a bigger hope to be had, and a grander validation and commendation in which to rest. You are seen by the God of seeing. Rest, rejoice, be comforted, find strength there, fellow mom!