Portraits of Our Mothers

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The Washington Post headline read: “Survey: Half of women say they don’t have enough free time”. I confess that I laughed when I saw it on my Smartphone screen. No kidding? Half of us have enough hours in the day while the other half of us are just trying to make it through with our sanity intact? Whether it be for maintaining a household, rearing children (aka making sure they don’t destroy the house most days), focusing on a career or investing in the relationships in our lives, do women really have much “time to ourselves” to speak of? I wasn’t sure, especially since I was doing some quick reading during the halftime of my son’s soccer game.

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Portrait of Madame Emilie Seriziat and son (Jacques-Louis David, 1795. Oil on canvas) Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When thinking about our topic of alfresco activities in the month of May, I just couldn’t let go of this concept of time. What would we do with scads of it to spend as we choose? Did I really have to sneak in a little research time in-between quarters for the soccer game? As Mother’s Day approaches, I had to wonder if time is an activity in and of itself  – and not just for women in the year 2013. We modern woman have entered the workforce with a vengeance, going from working an average 8 hours per week (at a paying job) in 1965 to working an average 21 hours a week in 2011. A whopping 56% of employed mothers with children under eighteen say it is very or somewhat difficult to maintain a balance between work and their home life (USA Today). And in 2011, women reported spending an average of 13.5 hours per week with their children.

With those stats, why wouldn’t we think that maintaining careers, taxiing kids to soccer fields and dance class, popping dinner in the microwave and rushing through the occasional load of laundry makes us busier than mothers in the Regency Era? After all, Jane quoted that a mother would have always been present. That must mean a mother had little by way of responsibilities in 1812, right? Wrong. She had more to do than choose fabric for her next ball gown, that’s for sure.

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The Good Mother (Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 18th century. Oil on canvas.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most interesting books I read in college was A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785 – 1812 (by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich). Martha Ballard was a Regency Era woman, mother, and midwife living in eighteenth-century Maine. (If you want a picture of the hard-working Regency Super-Mom, this lady was it.) She ventured out on ice-covered lakes to deliver babies in the middle of winter. She managed to have nine children of her own while performing duties akin to that of a physician on a somewhat regular basis. She maintained her frontier home in rugged New England and fashioned a domestic economy as an herbalist and healer. (Career. Kids. Balancing work and home. Sound familiar?) I recommend this book for a candid look at the Regency from a fresh angle – maybe to see a connection between those mothers of 200 years ago and the portrait of a special mother in our lives today?

When I think about the portrait that my sons have of me as their mother, I’d hope they could say what Jane Austen did in her quote; I was always present. Maybe I was stretched a little and couldn’t give every moment, but I would hope I was always present in the moments I could give. That I was indeed a constant friend and cheerleader. That the influence I had brought them up to fear the Lord, to grow in righteousness, and to always treat gently the women God has gifted into their lives. I would hope that they remembered the time – the honest-to-goodness quality time – their mother spent with them in their youth… That I put the phone away on the soccer field and stayed present in the moment at my son’s game.

I pray the portraits we women paint as mothers in this life (whether in the Regency or in today’s world) showcase an abundance of grace and beauty. I pray that they’re portraits of our mothers, just as they will be of us some day.

Portraits of our mothers on Regency Reflections…

Author Kristi Hunter
Author Kristi Ann Hunter, her mother, and eldest daughter
Author Susan Karsten
Author Susan Karsten (far right), her mother, and youngest daughter
Author Vanessa Riley
Author Vanessa Riley and her mother (left); Author Vanessa Riley and daughter Ellen on Stone Mountain (right)
Author Kristy Cambron
Author Kristy Cambron and her mother

Who is a special mother in your life? How has she invested the gift of time in your life?

 Have a blessed Mother’s Day!

In His Love,

Kristy

 

Too Full for God

Vanessa here,

Do you have room in your heart for anything else?  A new job to help with the bills, a fundraiser to feed the starving children, a sale at your favorite crowded shoe store.

Have you stacked your life with carpooling, lil’ Ellen’s ballet classes, and you’re-the-only-one-who-can ministry work, making a buck, oh and quality hubby time between 7:00 and 10:00 on Saturdays, that you’ve lost the meaning of having quality devotion?

I have.

This year seemed to be one in which many things had finally come to fruition: My novel, Madeline’s Protector is being published. My hubby stopped being deployed, at least for a little while. My firm just signed its biggest client.

Then reality came a knocking.

Revisions and more revisions to my master piece. (All the edits, including cuts were for the best.) So, now hubby wants me to go to bed at a decent hour. Doesn’t he know inspiration hits at 1:00 A.M. My client believes that they should be my only obligation. It get’s better. Their offices are an hour from my home, and they want this homeschooling principle partner to be onsite early in the morning, three days each week. I won’t mention their lack of understanding of how long something takes to develop and deploy software.

So I adjusted, code for reducing my devotion time and being less present with my family.  Surely, they won’t mind. I began dropping off/out of my net circles. There was no time to twitter or follow cherished loop threads. Thus, when I needed spiritual refreshment, I pushed away from God and those needed friends offering words of encouragement.

Yet, as I seek to get handle on this new normal, tragedy strikes. My younger brother is prepped for open heart surgery in Florida. He lives in Georgia near the rest of the immediate kin. He just visited a client when he started experiencing chest pains. With a torn Aorta, the odds of his survival were less than 25%. The doctor told him without the surgery, he’d die in less than two days.

All the cards of my life fell off the table. My hands trembled, and I choked backed tears as I tried to convince our mother that everything was going to be fine. I don’t remember what I said or did next, except speeding away from my ‘not-understanding’ client. I have flashes of begging Delta to let me an oversold flight to be at his side when he comes out of the five hour surgery.

While I waited for positive signs of recovery, him waking up, etc., I slept on a hospital couch. My 16th anniversary passed with just phone calls. My child’s upcoming birthday party went unplanned. Nonetheless, my client learned to survive. My book galley edits… Well, I’m thankful for the editing team.

The only positive, other than seeing Marc open his eyes and squeeze my hand, was finding time to increase my prayer time. After crying out to God  for days on end, I regained that sense of connection. I never felt His arms about me more.

Why must it take near tragedy to begin to re-prioritize? I know that others have even more on their plates. I can’t imagine the depths of the burdens each of you have weighing on your lives, the important demands nipping at your heels.  All I know, is that you must run and fall at His feet, collapse your weight into God’s warm embrace.

Sleeping in the meat-locker cold air in the hospital, sniffing the wonderful bleach-laced alcohol scents in the air, gave me the opportunity to see my life, how much I’d isolated myself from friends and family with the myriad of pursuits I’d packed into my life.

First, I must apologize to my friends and family. I’ve been on the edges of your lives, only dipping my head and nodding to appear as if I’m present and involved. Every second that we breathe is precious. Every moment has worth, not just the accolades or project deliverables.

I repent for all “my busy time.”  God made us to enjoy a Sabbath, every seven days.  I’ve made it into a seven-day work week. How can I give my best to my clients or to hubby and my lil’ girl, if my batteries are never recharged?

I need to say no. You can’t serve two masters or promise to deliver something that is not humanly possible.We all want to be the good guy, the go-to girl. I am going to have to find joy in slacking. Miss Eager Beaver is now going to be, Mrs. let-me-check-my calendar. It won’t be easy. Maybe there’s a 12 step program for saying no.

Lastly, no matter how “important” some deadlines or tasks seem, it will never be more important than finding time to commune with the Lord. He is the lifter of my head when all seems lost. He is the city on hill giving guidance to those stuck in the valley. I don’t ever want to have my heart so full, that I push God and dependence upon him out of the ventricles.

My brother is now recovering at home in Georgia. He’s a walking miracle. God has used this circumstance for all our good.

Be blessed and say no to all but God.

 

 

Faith

I recently finished reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. In truth, I was given this book many, many years ago (but who’s counting?) by a dear sister in Christ, and it took me this long to read it. Maybe because it is an older work (published in 1961), so the language was just a little off-putting.

But perhaps, there is a time and a season for the devotionals we read. I’ve found that to be so in my life. I’ll have a book on a shelf for a long time, and suddenly will read it, and it will really minister to me at that point in time.

Such was this book. It’s all about the “attributes of God.” Tozer lived and worked at a time (mid-20th century) when he felt the church was in apostasy because it had lost the sense of awe in God. It had brought God down to its own petty, human level.

For today’s post, I just wanted to share a paragraph of Tozer’s in his chapter on the Wisdom of God, one of God’s attributes. Here he is discussing faith (I have emphasized certain parts with boldface):

It is vitally important that we hold the truth of God’s infinite widsom as a tenet of our creed; but this is not enough. We must by the exercise of faith and by prayer bring it into the practical world of our day-by-day experience.

To believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction. Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart.

There is a better way. It is to repudiate our own wisdom and take instead the infinite wisdom of God. Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress. God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him. Here is His promise: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

I hope these words touch you as much as they did me on this beautiful Friday morning.

In Christ,

Ruth