It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and the media sure makes it a point to remind us through the many offers and specials. Personally, I’m not really into these commercial stuff and it is so easy to throw the baby out with the bath water and forget mothers altogether. This year, obviously prompted by the Spirit, I want to make it a special point to honour two mothers.
The first is my mother, Helen, who turned 74 in February. By the grace of God, she is in extremely good health – must have got the good genes from her mother, who at 90+ could still out-walk anyone! I appreciate many things about Mom but I believe the best thing she did was to be a stay-at-home mother to my sister and myself. This became her labour of love as she made many sacrifices over the years. With Dad travelling a lot and spending much time at work, it was Mom who was always there, looking after us, cooking for us and managing the household. Often, we don’t realise how important a role stay-at-home mothers play in the lives of children. As such, we minimise it all too quickly and in today’s mindset, trivialise and even condemn it.
More than just catering to my physical, academic and material needs, Mom played an extremely key role in my backslidden years. In her simple way and faith, she would say to me, “Henson, you must go back to church.” That was all she said, and then left me to my own devices and to God to deal with me in His time. Even to today, my mother would faint if invited to pray publicly. Yet, I know she prayed for me. Little did she realise how powerful her prayers were that one day her son would not only return to God and also respond to His call to fulltime ministry.
I may be closing in to half a century and a parent to seven children. But I guess, to Mom, I am still her little boy and will always be. Each time we meet, she would ask, “Are you ok? Do you have enough for your family? Aiyoh, you’ve lost weight. Are you resting and eating properly or not?” Yes, that’s my mother. She will worry and fret about us in her heart, sometimes crying herself to sleep. And yet, in front of us, she will appear strong so that we will not be unduly worried about her. My mother never wants to be a burden, but is ever ready to serve us.
As I write about my mother, recounting her love and sacrifice, my heart is directed to a second mother. This mother, as you would have guessed, is Serene, my wife and mother to our seven children.
I often quip about Serene that she never wanted to get married, to have children, to be a Christian, nor to stay at home. Today, she loves Jesus, is married to a pastor, has seven children and is a stay-at-home mom … and homeschooling, no less!
If there is someone who lives and displays the word “sacrifice”, it is Serene. Over the years, Serene has given more and more, and she still keeps giving. As a mother of many children, every moment of her day is spent looking after and serving them. Before anyone is up, she is already in the kitchen preparing breakfast. More recently, she has been getting up early for her own morning walk before making a detour to the market to ta-pau (takeaway) breakfast for everyone. After that, she goes on to the next thing, and then the next thing, and then the next thing. And after everyone is packed off to bed, she continues with marking, planning and scheduling. And before plopping herself onto the bed, she makes one last round to check if the children are all ok.
As one who understands and fights against allergies herself, she is constantly on the lookout for healthier options for the children. Thankfully, she is a natural when it comes to understanding labels, supplements and even medical terms. She would have made a great pharmacist, a doctor, even; and she is putting that gifting to great use in the family. Sounds good, but all this means even more work for her, instead of the convenience of eating out, pre-packed meals or instant solutions. But for the sake of the health and well-being of the children, she makes that sacrifice, over and over again.
As if that is not challenging enough, add homeschooling to the equation; and seven different levels in a go! More than just “mother”, Serene dons the hats of “teacher”, “administrator”, “disciplinarian” and even “counselor”. How she is able to process and consider the different curricula, to plan and administer seven different schedules, to teach, supervise, mark and grade each child’s progress boggles me! Many marvel and ask the standard question of her, “How do you do it?” I see her plow through each day, each week, each month and I can tell you that there are no shortcuts at all. To make time, Serene has had to give up many of her own comforts and desires. There’s that word again – “sacrifice”.
The most amazing thing about Serene is that she never started out wanting to do any of these in the first place! She would also tell you that many of these she does not particularly enjoy doing. What changed her then? Well, more accurately, who changed her? It is her relationship with Jesus that changed her convictions about everything – about having children, about staying at home, about homeschooling. On not-so-good days, I know Serene wrestles with the Lord about many issues only to submit to His bidding and call all over again and willingly offers herself as a living sacrifice to the Lord through the serving of the children.
In the same way I appreciate my mother for staying home for us, I appreciate Serene for being there for our children. In today’s context, where women are all too ready to return to the workforce, this is not something to be taken for granted at all. And yet, now more than ever before, children need their mothers (and fathers) in a world of declining morality and increasing perversion. Even so, Serene’s decision to stay at home, to channel her education and training into the lives of our children, is not always met with kind remarks. Then again, these do not see nor understand the good work that Serene is doing, investing into the lives of our children – the times of prayer, of bible teaching and reading, of devotionals, of spiritual guidance. But I do, and I am totally appreciative of what she is doing.
I could go on and there can be no end to my expressions of how much I love and appreciate these two mothers. They are both so different in their own personalities, giftings, generations and families. Yet, both have displayed the same selflessness and sacrifice in their own special way. In no way do I hold them out to be perfect and flawless. But through their weakness, I see a certain glory and power of God work in and through them, rendering every effort effective by His enabling grace. And so, this Mother’s Day, I salute and honour these two mothers!
Mom, thank you for all you have done for me and Helena. You have given so much and we have not said enough to express our love and gratitude to you. Each Mother’s Day when I hug and wish you Happy Mother’s Day, you will say the same thing to me, “Hiya, every day is Mother’s Day la!” I love you, Mom. Thanks for your love and your sacrifice.
Serene, I thank God for you! I know I don’t say it enough and at times, I am so absorbed in my own issues that I neglect the challenges you face as a mother to our children. As if seven is not enough, you sometimes have to mother me too – haha! Your life of sacrifice is one I look to, learn from and am encouraged to do the same as a husband, a father and in the ministry. Thank you for sowing and pouring into the lives of our children. Indeed, they shall “rise up and call [you] blessed!” Proverbs 31:28