Treasured Memories

Newborn baby

Mary the Mother of Jesus can be credited for the Christmas story that will be told in churches around the globe over the next few days.

It was Mary who gave Luke the Apostle the details of Jesus’ birth – from her startling visit by the angel Gabriel, to Jesus’ arrival in the unlikely town of Bethlehem, and then the unexpected arrival of some shepherds with their crazy story about angels singing out in the fields. You can read the story in the Bible in Luke 1 and 2.

Luke made a few small editorial comments in this passage. One of them is this gem:

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 (NIV)

Mothers do that. We remember and we ponder. Details of each child’s birth are kept stored away, and these are not only thought about, but they are treasured.

While Jesus’ birth story is well known, public declarations of a birth story are not the usual thing. We mothers hold these details very closely to our hearts. I am thinking that often we hold it all just a little too closely, especially the painful memories. It is good, and often very freeing, to release those details for others to know.

The reason I know this? Because I lost my mum when I was only 16, it meant I didn’t have a conversation with her about my birth – apart from one snippet of information passed on to me when I was little (read what happened HERE). That’s all. And I would love to have known more about her experience.

So, what happened when your children were born? What about those who you ache for who were with us for a very short time, or didn’t even see the light of day?

Let me encourage you to take the time to record what happened at the time of birth for each of your children. Even the stories of those no longer with us. Your family will appreciate knowing what you know.

Your story or stories could take the form of a letter, story, poem, a series of dot points, or even a voice recording. If you are musical, perhaps you could compose a song; or if that way inclined, record a video. It is important to let them know the experience was costly. Tell whatever you are comfortable telling, maybe even the bad stuff, with or without the unpleasant details.

You may decide to deliver this information to a specific person straight away. Or to keep it for a birthday or anniversary, or on the eve of your grandchildren being born. Whichever way you choose to pass on the information, writing down your child’s birth story is a lovely affirmation and declaration of your love.

Your record of their birth story will become a treasured memory. And there may be a hidden bonus, because it could very well be a healing process for you too.

Have you ever told your daughter the details and circumstances of her birth? Have you ever told your son? What happened? If now isn’t the right time to tell them, how about writing it down for a special moment one day?

Honour My Parents? Really?

Love

Part Two of Living on Purpose

“Being a parent is the most important job anyone could ever do.”

I read that statement by Christian rock legend Larry Norman when I was six months pregnant with my first baby, and I was completely flabbergasted. I mean, really?

To me, important jobs were things like being a politician, a school principal, a doctor, or a commercial aircraft pilot. How did parenting rank with those?

The thought stopped me in my tracks. I was fluey, miserable, pregnant – and I was about to embark on the most important job of my life. It wasn’t a very glamourous start to my big new career, but then, being a parent could never be described as glamourous.

That moment was a turning point for me, as it gave me a new perspective on being a parent.

But here’s the thing. Recently, I have become aware of the other side of the story . . . If being a parent is the most important thing someone could ever do, then my sisters and I are the result of our Mum and Dad’s most important job ever. We are a living testament to their hard work, dedication and love.

Maybe it sounds like I am idolising them, but to be honest my parents were not perfect by any stretch. Dad was badly affected by his wartime experiences and suffered with undiagnosed (and so untreated) Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. My mother ended up with cancer when I was eight years old, and died when I was 16. Both had their imperfections and difficulties, which impacted on us four girls.

I could easily focus on the bad stuff. There is lots of it. But right now, today, I choose to forgive them for all the bad things. I want to remember them for the good: the happy home they tried to create; the life they gave us and how they loved us through all the good and bad; they taught us how to live in the world. I would like to think I honour their love, sweat and tears by being the person I am.

But what the heck, even if they did nothing that was good, I can still honour them for giving me life because I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. On top of everything, I know that “honouring your parents” – the sixth commandment given to Moses – comes with a blessing: “so that you may live long in the land.” (Exodus 20:12)

So, this is my most recent moment of truth: Treasuring my mother (and my dad) has a positive long term consequence for me.

What about you? Do you see yourself as the outcome of your parents’ biggest job ever? Is there anything you need to change as you consider your relationship with them? Can you ever forgive them?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this!

morris-girls
I’m on the left with Dad and my little sister. I still have that apricot-coloured dress mum made for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

morris-girls
We were all dressed up, on our way to a wedding that day.

Living On Purpose

Now for the big question:

What is the most important thing you will ever do while here on earth?

Our purpose in life not something we wonder about every day, and most people reflect on these things only later in life. But I’m thinking that’s a little too late. For me, it was only by mistake I thought it through quite young. It was when I was first pregnant.

“For me, it was only by mistake I thought this question through quite young”

Sick in bed with the flu one wet and wintry day, I read a magazine article about Christian rock legend Larry Norman – I was quite a fan! The article gave a behind-the-scenes look at his life, his career, his family, and what made him tick.

I was surprised to discover Larry Norman was convinced the most important thing anyone could do was to be a parent. “Oh my goodness, he must be kidding!” were my initial thoughts.

His pronouncement caught me short and changed my understanding of “rock star Larry”. But more importantly it radically shifted my appreciation of what Stephen and I were embarking upon.

I realised I had very matter-of-factly gone about the next thing . . . you know the pattern: go out with someone / decide to get married / get married / try for kids. But, I had not considered life beyond that much at all. Even though I was pregnant at the time, the next part of the pattern – raising children – had not factored very much into my thinking.

I was stunned at what I had read. Really? Raising this baby was going to be the most important thing I would do? The idea stopped me in my tracks and led me down a path of intentional parenthood. A journey I have never regretted.

I believe God has a plan for each of us. He has every one of us here on earth for a definite purpose. Many people call this concept, “destiny”. Interestingly, we can choose. It is up to us to decide if we want to step into that destiny God has planned. For many, being a parent is part of that destiny. For others it is not.

Those who are NOT parents have other – and good – “important things to do”. And it is also true that those who ARE parents have other important things to do.

But for parents, let me suggest to you that parenting is THE most important thing. Well – so says Larry Norman!

I’d love to know what you think. Have you ever considered that raising children is one of your most important tasks – ever?

The BIG Coverup

Toys

For some reason this day four-year-old Joseph was cross. And I was cross back at him. I was asking him to do something which I thought quite reasonable. I can’t remember exactly . . .  it may have been to put his toys away. But did he want to do it? No!

At this stage, there were three of five children, with the two youngest yet to arrive. I was pretty happy with how I managed things with the two older girls, but my response to Joseph was another kettle of fish.

To explain my dilemma . . . I grew up in a household with only sisters. This means I had quite big gaps in my knowledge of all things “boy” – and I knew it. All the information I had about boys in family life was gleaned from my girlfriends and the relationships they had with their brothers. I had noticed big brothers could be very loving and protective of their little sisters. But I also knew little brothers could be incredibly annoying.

And I had one such annoying little brother on my hands.

So…back to Joseph this day. I asked him nicely to “tidy up the toys” (or whatever it was). Then, I asked him firmly. Then, I gave him the normal ultimatum, and still nothing. He was already in tears, and I was close. I did my usual thing, and asked him to go to his bedroom so we could both calm down. Generally he was happy to do this, because Joseph loved being in his room.

But still he would not cooperate.

So I picked him up from behind, under his arms, to scoot him along to his room for his five-minute time-out.

Which meant his feet flailed wildly in protest all the way through the loungeroom.

Which meant he accidentally kicked one of the heavy, glass doors on the video cabinet.

Which meant it shattered with a huge CRASH into little pieces all over the carpet!

I am not sure who got the biggest fright, me or him. But he did go to his room and stay there willingly at least. After a little while I went in and we talked about it. I said sorry, and he said sorry as well. Then we went back to tidy away his toys together, and he helped me carefully vacuum up the glass.

I was mortified.

While I did talk it through with Stephen later, I never told any of my friends exactly how that glass door broke – we kept the cabinet for years and it always looked a little lop-sided with one door intact, and the other side open to the world.

It was just too hard to admit I was THAT mother, with THAT boy. And these dramas kept happening. I felt like such a failure!

Why do we do that? Why do we try and keep appearances, and pretend we have it all together? While all along, underneath we constantly question if we can do this motherhood thing.

We wonder if we are making the right decisions as we bring our children up.

And we are even a little ashamed at some things that happen behind closed doors.

But this is what I have learnt: If you sweep the shame under the carpet and ignore it, it does not go away.

In reality, it is only by facing those horrible moments, that we get past them. It is only by admitting our failures that we can take a step back and see objectively. It is only by reflecting on what happened to us as we were growing up that we can understand ourselves better.

So next time you feel like a complete failure, let me encourage you not to ignore what happened. Think about it. Reflect on it. Write it down, or tell someone you can trust. Tell God about it. Pray for wisdom and understanding.

By getting to the bottom of it, you may find that next time you are in that situation you have the freedom to operate differently.

And that has to be better for everyone.

For the record, Joe is now an endearing 20-something, who happens to love working with extremely difficult young people. Who would have thought?

What’s your take on this? Do you like to keep up appearances like me?