What Is Mine to Do?

cereus

 

Photography courtesy of Pert Roddy Garraway, who grows these beautiful plants.

In my observance of Lent this year, I worked with others in an online retreat reflecting on the question “What is mine to do?”  The question comes from Jesus when he said” “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” When his own  death was approaching,  St. Francis told us, “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.”

 

For me, the answer to the posed question is simply that what is mine to do is to practice serving. I am not sure why, but my friend’s photo of her beautiful Cereus reminds me of serving.  It may be because this exquisite blooming only happens at night, when it is unseen by many. It does not require the brilliance of sunlight to bloom on, offering its beauty and fragrance. for a brief time.

 

I have become aware of the difference in helping, in fixing, as opposed to serving. When I worked as a registered nurse, my connection to patients was best applied in service to them and to their families as opposed to a goal of repair.  I am aware that in my community relationships, my parenting, and my grandparenting, my calling to serve may be played out in many different roles – in offering hospitality, in gardening and cooking and sharing the beauty of art and music. My joy in any of these is heightened as I realize that this, too, is serving.

 

“Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.

 

When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.

Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”

–Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

Adventure of Grace and Joy

Grace

Days which lead up to Mother’s Day are a time of reflection and remembering..  I savor the model of mothering provided to me by my mother and grandmothers, express gratitude for their lives, and remember the simple tradition which marked Mother’s Day for me as a child:  picking a red rose to wear to church in honor of Mother.  Those whose mothers were no longer with them wore a white rose. It was a sweet gesture, and I miss it.

I cherish the images and thoughts of my sons as babies and little boys, and bask in the light of their lives as strong men of faith and integrity who have become faithful husbands and loving fathers. They love me and tell me so in word and actions. From the beginning, being a mother has been an adventure of faith and grace and joy.  I have often spoken of the fact that parenting has shown me more about God’s love and care for me than any other element of my life.  On Mother’s Day, our church’s order of service included a statement that affirmed this.

“It has been the amazing, often painful, often ecstatic adventure of being a parent that has most formed me. It is parenting that has made, unmade, and remade me into someone who comes up hard against the great religious questions that have always been part of the human quest:

Who in fact am I?.

What is a life well led?

What is most essential, permanent, and foundational?

What responsibility do I have to others?

How do I deal with evil and fear?

What is “the good?”

How do I love well?

How do I move in this wild and worrisome world with some grace and joy?

Wendy Wright,   Seasons of a Family’s Life: Cultivating the Contemplative Spirit at Home 

 

                            

Prayers, Old and New


In 2004, at an estate sale, I was drawn to a framed hand colored piece printed in County Wicklow, Ireland showing a mother looking out an open window at a young child running off to play. Printed below the picture is A Prayer for a Young Child. It was published in Songs from Leinster, by Winifred M. Letts.

“God keep my jewel this day from danger;
From tinker and pooka and black-hearted stranger.
From harm of the water and hurt of the fire .
From the horns of the cows going home to the byre.
From the sight of the fairies that maybe might change her.
From teasing the ass when he’s tied to the manger.
From stones that would bruise and from thorns of the briar.
From evil red berries that waken desire.
From hunting the gander and vexing the goat
From depths o’ seawater by Danny’s old boat.
From cut and from tumble — from sickness and weeping.
May God have my jewel this day in his keeping.”

I love the cadence of the old-fashioned words. I know how a mother’s heart yearns for her children’s protection and pours that out in prayer. As I read one of Amy Carmichael’s prayers, I was struck by the similarity. Even though she never had children she mothered those with whom she worked in India

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“Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children…

Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging.
Holy Father for our children,
And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.”

The opening and closing stanzas of
Amy Carmichael’s 19th century prayer for the children of the Dohnavur Fellowship in India

So today I am praying for mothers. I also pray for fathers. It is not always possible for us to protect our children from harm and hurt, from mistakes that they or someone else will make. I am glad to know that God reads the language of my longing, and hears the words of my heart.