It has been a strange week, rather it’s been a challenging year or so.
A week ago, I was in Mississippi helping my elderly stepmother transition from her home to an assisted living facility. I spent almost half of February in Mississippi. My last two posts were from or about my trips to encourage and assist my stepmother.
Even further back, one year ago I was mourning my mother who passed away after a brief illness on March 2, 2019. I wrote about it last year in my post, Where do I start?
However, my church or rather my faith has inspired this morning’s post. My mother was a woman of faith – she had to be. Raising three boys single-handedly – all born within three years of each other and getting all three of to adulthood could be considered a miracle. But she had help, her faith. For the past several years, my church has asked parishioners to write a Lenten reflection to be shared daily. This past Tuesday morning, this year’s post landed in my In box and I re-read my Lenten reflection. It is my second piece of published writing. My first piece was published in 2017 – you can read (or re-read) it here.
I wrote the reflection while sitting in my stepmother’s hospital room glancing out the window at the vase of yellow daffodils. It seems as if the theme of yellow has been in my life subtly for several years. Below is my Lenten Refection.
God will provide
Last spring when our mom passed away, my brothers and I gathered to plan our mom’s memorial service. The church provided a funeral service planning document with the order of the service with suggested Bible passages and hymns. We had so many questions, what would mom want? What were her favorite hymns and Bible passages? What was mom’s favorite color? What kind of flowers would she want? And so on. We had no idea. It was overwhelming.
What I learned was that the funeral service in the Episcopal church is a Lenten service. My mom was a woman of faith – that comes from being a single mom and raising three boys, all born within 18 months of each other, and all four of us surviving adolescence. Once a year for 36 days our ages are sequential – this past year it was 57-56-55, until I ruined it on my 58th birthday.
My mom was resourceful. She had to be. Being a single mom wasn’t easy and there were times when we didn’t have things we wanted, but we always had what we needed.
One of the Bible passages we selected was Matthew 14: 13-21, the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. As a child the Bible story of Jesus feeding 5000 people with five loaves and five fish was shared with me in my Sunday school class. I had visions of loaves of bread and fish everywhere – it was overwhelming.
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21 New International Version (NIV)
Our mom’s ability to stretch her resources was legendary among the three of us (and our wives). She was always finding new ways to entertain her grandchildren at little or no cost.
One of her favorite ways was to pack us into her car and drive the forty or so miles from my childhood home in Sugar Land to Galveston and take the Bolivar Ferry from Galveston Island to Bolivar Point, and back. It’s a free ferry operated by the Texas Department of Transportation and it operates 24 hours a day.
It wasn’t the ferry ride that was the treat, it was feeding the seagulls with bread from the fantail of the ferry as we crossed from one side to the next and then back again. Both of my children have fond memories of feeding the seagulls on a ferry boat with their grandmother and every single one of her grandchildren do, too. Mom would bring only a few loaves of bread with her, but to the grandchildren it seemed like the bread would never end, nor would the seagulls. She was resourceful and she made the most of everything.
When I look back at mom’s life and what I learned from her, I know she made the best of what she had and tried to teach my brothers and I to do the same. I recently began to make an effort to regularly volunteer my time to the community and the organization I chose was Loaves and Fishes in Naperville. It wasn’t until I decided to write a message for the Gary Lenten devotional that I made the connection that I was honoring the memory of my mom by writing and serving.
I am blessed in more ways than I can share and more than I truly realize. Our community is blessed with abundance but there are many people whom are in need. Our church reaches many through it’s outreach programs and we do our best as a congregation to help those in our community who are in need. We are all doing God’s work feeding the many and showing that God will provide through our faith in Him.
In what ways are you giving back this Lenten season?
After I finished reading the Lenten Journal, I opened the daily devotional from Our Daily Bread and to my surprise I discovered the same story but from another chapter in the Bible – Luke 9: 11-17. I felt the presence of my mother. I felt lifted in time when I needed encouragement the most. You can read the reflection here at Our Daily Bread: Broken to be Shared.
Yesterday morning, I volunteered at Loaves and Fishes. It was busy day as people who are in need and hungry are just as worried of us who have plenty are about what the future holds. I’ve only volunteered a few days this year, but yesterday was the busiest day I had experienced as a volunteer.
View this post on Instagram
I know we are all worried. Friday afternoon my school district announced that we would be closing our schools and shifting to e-learning until March 27th. We have spring break the following week, 3/30 to 4/3, and we will be back at school on Monday, April 6. But there is a lot of uncertainty.
My students were excited about the news until the principal announced at 2:55 that students are expected to log on to their Chromebooks each school morning at 8AM to see the assignments their teachers had posted for them.
I am not sure what the future holds, but I do know there is abundance and God will provide. Like my mother I am a person faith and right now it is what I need most. Hope. I am off to worship service this morning to be encouraged. Today is going to be a wonderful day. I have faith that it will be. So, I had better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one small step after another making progress and forward.
Where will your steps take you today?