Recently, I came to an unexpected and intensified awareness of a beauty I have known my whole life. I suppose we are all likely guilty of taking our blessings for granted, those beautiful life provisions that we’ve grown used to. I try to keep appropriate stores of awe and gratitude to guard against such things. Still, I often mistake the glorious for the simply ordinary. This particular glimmer of beauty that caught my eye reminded me that often the reason I miss the glorious is because much of the time it shines brightest as it operates within the ordinary.
My youngest son was finishing high school and I knew I would need to put together a grand celebration for him. I had some experience throwing graduation parties with our two older sons already graduated from high school. Two down, one to go! Unfortunately, even when things go as planned, these sorts of events bring enormous amounts of stress on me. Let’s just say that hospitality is something I would love to be good at, but I fall way short when I focus on the wrong things. I can prepare plenty of good food, make everything look beautiful and still completely miss what matters. I try way too hard to impress and to anticipate what I think everyone needs, uncomfortable and insecure the whole time. Well, my son needed a graduation party even though he said he would rather I didn’t throw him one. True to the aforementioned confession, he thought a party would stress me out. So smart and perceptive he is!
This time I would move slowly, intentionally toward what really mattered. And under no circumstance would I let this party be a burden when it was meant to be a gift. To say that there was no stress in the planning and preparation would be inaccurate. But I kept it together. I felt such relief the evening of the party to be finished with all the planning and preparation! I found myself watching the kids play and laugh and guests visiting with each other. These observations sucked me right into the mix and I became one of the guests, completely forgetting what my role as hostess required. This is when I saw it; I noticed my mom gracefully step into the role I had left vacant.
My mom thinks I am the best hostess! She sees how much I put into everything; how I try to anticipate every little detail. I’m sure she perceives that when I insist on taking care of everything, attempting to make it all perfect, I believe that I am serving others. But I am often making my family dance around the tension I’ve created which isn’t serving them at all. She always sincerely offers and desires to help out, even knowing that I will strive to have things just so. She inevitably lets me do my thing. That’s why on this night I saw a mother I did not recognize.
Maybe she just knew I needed something different this time, this night. Present, and always a mother to me, she stepped in and took care of the duties that went unattended when I unwittingly deserted my role. It could have been just a simple act of service in her mind, but to me it was powerful love. I cannot explain it, as I look for words to describe the impact of her attention to the details that night – making sure the kids were safe on the trampoline, remembering to serve the cake, making the executive decision as to whether or not to make more salad, etc. It all sounds rather ordinary, but to me it was glorious. I went to bed that night watching her in my memories of the evening. My heart welled up with such gratitude and admiration. I saw her as a beautiful woman, not just as my mom.
To me she is mom, to my dad – wife, to my kids – grandma. She enthusiastically and gratefully wears these titles and wears them well. But there is more to who she is. She is me, wanting to feel valued and to have purpose; she is my sister, who works so hard and is strong and brave and loves well; she is my young nieces, creative and curious and playful; she is my friends, navigating life’s journey with all of its wonder and pain. I’ve never known her to demand to be understood, but human nature insists on it deep down. What kind of extraordinary beauty does not exalt itself or demand to be recognized? The kind that lives a deep abiding faith. The kind that knows her identity as a daughter of the King. The kind that my mother possesses.
“Charm is deceitful
And beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord,
She shall be praised.”