What Kind of a Mother Was Mary Anyway?

When Willem, our first baby, was only a few weeks old, I remember being struck for the first time with the realization of his complete dependency on me.  As I saw his tiny little body sleeping in his big crib, I thought about the possibility of him being left there alone and he couldn’t do a thing about it.  My thoughts went further to imagining him waking up crying and no one coming to answer his cries.  My thoughts continued even further, horrified at the idea of him being left alone, with a dirty and wet diaper, hungry, and crying for someone to come and meet his needs.  The weight of my responsibility to take care of him overwhelmed me at that moment.  I realized for the first time, how helpless and how reliant a baby is on the adults in his life to take care of his physical needs in order to stay alive.

Today, when I pause to think about it, I am still overwhelmed by the responsibility I have to meet the needs of my kids.  Physical needs are still a part of it, but as they get older, they are capable of feeding and dressing themselves.  Even little Mia is quite capable of helping herself to food left under the table or in the cupboard or in the fridge if it is left open.  But right now, I feel the weight of responsibility for meeting the emotional needs of my kids.  I am a mom who takes very seriously my role in making sure my kids feel safe, loved and secure.  I want them to leave the house knowing that someone at home has their back no matter what.  Whatever may be thrown their way in this cruel world, they have a deep knowledge they are loved and cherished for who they are.

This responsibility weighs heavy on me because it is quite impossible for me to fulfill these needs all the time.  Having 5 kids means they need to take turns having special time with me.  Because Cor and Mia are still so young, they often get priority on mom’s lap because they need comfort more often: when bang their heads on something or when someone steals their toy or when a rushing older sibling side swipes them on the way past, causing them to fall to the ground. At these moments of distress, they come crying to me for comfort.  But once one child sees another on my lap, they all want a turn.  You can imagine what this looks like: 2-5 children draped on my lap while the youngest one’s clamor to get as close to me as possible.  It is like a competition and the winner is the one who gets to stay sitting with me.  This leaves the others wanting.  Wanting special time with me where they can recharge and have their emotional tanks filled once again.  Knowing this, leaves me feeling guilty for not being able to fill all the tanks as often as they’d like me to.

Yesterday in church, we had the privilege of witnessing the baptism of a tiny baby girl.  The promises declared on this little child moved me to tears.  I don’t remember the minister’s exact words, but I do remember the phrases, “set apart as God’s covenant child” and “marked as God’s own.”

Because my children were sitting in church with us, I didn’t catch most of the sermon, but I do remember hearing about Jesus being born as a dependent child, relying on his father and his mother to provide for him.  The Son of God was born in a human body, just as vulnerable and helpless as the rest of us are born into this world.

This got me thinking about the kind of people God chose to being Jesus’ parents.

I wonder what made Mary God’s choice to be Jesus’ mother?  Was it because she would be a stern parent who knew how to keep Jesus in line? I mean he was free from sin, but being a little human boy, I’m sure he needed reminders as to how he was to behave every once in a while.  Or was it because she was a warm and gentle and a loving woman, always looking to the needs of others instead of herself?  I can imagine being a good mother to Jesus weighed heavily on Mary.  I mean, she was the mother of the Son of God, she must have have thought she’d better get it right or God would be disappointed in her!

And what was it about Joseph that he was chosen to be Jesus’ father?  Was it because he offered the strength and security that was needed in order to keep Jesus alive and out of harm’s way?  We often talk about Mary, but Joseph’s role as father was just as important as he provided for Jesus and was responsible for his safety.  Because of the many threats, this must have weighed heavily on Joseph as provider.

But in reading the story of Jesus’ life in the Gospels, the story is a lot more about God and what he’s doing than what Mary and Joseph did.  The stories tell of God keeping his promises and even though human errors were made, God’s plan came true.  Jesus lived to adulthood and became the sacrificial lamb, dying on a cross, so we would have salvation.  This didn’t happen because Mary and Joseph were exceptionally good parents.  It happened because God made it happen.  It was his plan and his promise to his people, us.

When I contemplate these things, I feel some relief to the pressure I feel to meet all the needs of my kids all the time.  Of course, like Mary and Joseph, I have been given children to take care of.  I can’t neglect that responsibility.  But there is much more going on than just what I and my husband are doing as parents.  God has his hand on our covenant children, he has marked them as his own, and he has a plan for them.  His Holy Spirit is at work in their lives as they learn more about God, his Son, Jesus, and the amazing story of their redemption.

I am always amazed at how our kids simply believe.  We tell them about God and Jesus and they believe it. Even though at times it seems impossible to believe such a story, they accept it with a child-like faith.  I know this as Janelle sings praise songs she makes up such as, “God, I love you.  You love me.  You are wonderful.  You made everything.  I love you.”  What beautiful words from a small, 4-year-old girl who doesn’t know much about the world yet, but she knows about God’s love for her.

I also see it in the comfort Willem receives when we pray together before he goes to sleep. Often he lays awake in his bed and comes asking for me to pray with him.  After we pray together, he never comes out again.  Talking to God and being assured of his presence,  allows him to rest and relax and doze off to sleep.

I am thankful for the sacrament of baptism.  Although the sacrament is carried out with ordinary things and by ordinary people, when it is sprinkled on a child’s head, with words of God’s promise and blessing spoken, it becomes an experience that reaches deep within the soul, assuring us all of God’s amazing grace and love.

“To be washed by Christ’s Spirit means
that the Holy Spirit has renewed me
and set me apart to be a member of Christ
so that more and more I become dead to sin
and increasingly live a holy and blameless life.”


Treasures on Earth

Willem and I read a very special story together this week called, “The Man with the Violin.”  It is based on the true story of Joshua Bell, a famous American violinist who decided to play a free concert in a metro station in Washington D.C.  Surprisingly, only 7 people stopped to listen to him for at least a minute.  Thousands hurriedly rushed by him to get to their next destination.  As they rushed, they missed an extremely talented musician playing difficult, beautiful music.  It said at the back of the book, that children often tried to stop and listen, but their parents pressed on to get to where they were going.

manwiththeviolinThe book is from the perspective of a little boy who tries to get his mother to stop and listen to the music, but she doesn’t pay any attention.  The boy notices the man with the violin and he is moved by the music, but the adult accompanying him, does not notice and does not stop to listen.

Willem and I had a bit of a discussion after we read the story where I explained to him that sometimes people rush too much and forget to stop and enjoy beautiful things.  He asked why people do that.  I told him that often we are busy and we feel the need to get to places quickly and rush around to get there.  He bluntly replied, “like you do sometimes?”  Yup.  Like I do sometimes.  Quite often, actually.

I told him that we all need to try to slow down and enjoy wonderful things like cuddling, reading together, and simply enjoying each others company.

For the past week, I’ve been reading and thinking about Mary and the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.  One of the verses that jumped out at me is from Luke 2:15-20 (emphasis mine).

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

There must have been some hustle and bustle because of the birth of Jesus, especially as more and more people heard the news.  I’m sure Mary and Joseph received a fair amount of attention if people recognized who they were.  But Mary took time to seize the moment and to soak it up.  To watch closely and think deeply about the moments she was experiencing with her husband and her baby boy.

I can relate to this.  There are many times when I just want to stop time and let the moment hold still so I can treasure them and remember them.  Times when I’m holding my six year old boy, snuggled up to me close as I wonder how long I have before he doesn’t do it anymore.  Times when I’m holding my baby girl to offer her comfort from a recent fall.  Times when my 3 year old boy furrows his brow in concentration as he explains something to me.  Times when my daughter and I giggle with hysterics about nothing at all.  Times when my sweet baby boy snuggles close to me and pops his thumb in his mouth because I am a source of comfort to him.  Times of laughter with my husband or when we pass a knowing glance at each other when our kids say something amusing.

I can’t stop time.  But I can slow down, no stop, and pay attention to the beautiful moments.

If you are a parent, do you notice every time you stop and sit, the kids come rushing to you, clamoring on top of you with books in hand or begging you to do something special together?   This can be a source of annoyance (all I want is a bit of break!), or it could be a time to take hold of the opportunity to snuggle, to breathe in their hair, to hold their little hands, to have a meaningful conversation or to just be with each other.

We all know the right answer to the question, “what is most important?”  Most of us would say: family, faith, relationships, community.  How often do we really put these things first?  What else is filling our time and is it really more important than the people we love who crave our attention?

I want to be one of the 7 people who stop to listen. Who slows down enough to recognize talent and great musicianship. Who takes the time to treasure and ponder the beautiful moments.

He Knows My Name

Tonight I stand humbled and amazed.  I am feeling so much better than a few days ago.  Thanks to so many people generously offering meals and relief from looking after the kids, I am feeling rested and more able to handle things once again.

I’ve been updating many people on the health of our crew throughout the day today, and one text from my friend blew me away.  This is what she wrote in response to reading my blog post this morning, “a week ago as a family we wrote down 26 names/families we would pray for during advent.  Hunse family was on day 8, which was yesterday.  Amazes me that on the day you needed prayer and strength, your name was on our lips all day…”

Of course, I burst into tears when I read that.  I was overcome with amazement at how much God loves me.   He knew last week that on day 8 of advent, our family would need more prayer than usual.  He knew a trial was coming and he put people in place to pray for us.  When I read that text, I felt as though God wrapped his arms around me and told me I was his and he was taking care of me.  Wow.

I am reminded of a song, “Who am I” by Casting Crowns.  Jonathan and I sang it together at Ethan’s baptism and his parent’s 40th anniversary and it’s words were special to us then, but I am reminded of them again today.

This has been a very different advent for me this year.  Four years ago, my mom died on Christmas day, so the weeks leading up to that event are always filled with mixed emotion.  This year, I was so excited for the Christmas season.  I was looking forward to decorating, to baking Christmas treats and to feelings of coziness in general.  This is the type of Christmas I remember as a child and want to relive.  The comfortable Christmas.  But as a friend and I talked about today, Christmas is a bit more real than that.

Many of us miss our loved ones more intensely at Christmas.  Some of us struggle with our loved ones being ill at this very moment.   The magical Christmas seems all too false when we are faced with the reality of our own brokenness and the pain and the loss we feel.  The birth of Jesus was anything but peaceful and comfortable.  The pregnancy seemed scandalous to the unknowing witness, Mary gave birth among livestock,  and Jesus’ life was in danger at a very young age.

I am reminded that the purpose of God sending his Son to earth was to redeem the brokenness.  It was necessary for Jesus to come and suffer many things so we could experience eternal life with him, without the tears and the hurt and the pain and the sorrow.    Without that hope and that promise, we are left with only our brokenness and our longing for something better.

This advent, I’ve been sick and my kids have been sick.  I’m not doing the Christmas baking and the elaborate decorating.  I just have to rest and heal and take care of the family.  Fortunately, almost all of my gifts have been purchased, so all I have left to do is wait.  Wait for Christ’s coming.  Wait for healing.  Wait for him to restore.

He Knows my Name by Tommy Walker

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call


A Light in the Darkness

This has been an insane couple of days.  I am in disbelief as to how deep I’ve had to dig to keep going without giving up.

Since Friday night, I’ve been to the emergency room once, the after hours clinic twice, the pharmacy three times, and the x-ray place once, the ultrasound place at the hospital once.  Right now we have 4/5 kids with fevers, Jonathan might have another recurrence of mono, I have pneumonia, Mia has a chest cold and a UTI, Cor has a bad cough and an ear infection, Willem, Janelle and Ethan have fevers with little other symptoms at this time.  We are a total mess.  Three of us are on antibiotics and I somehow have to keep track of who needs what meds and when.

It has been difficult to say the least.  Trying to take care of sick kids when I myself am sick is rough.  In order to care for these kids of mine, I really need to be 100% or my patience and stamina goes right out the window.  Unfortunately, I’ve encountered a few people along the way in the health care system that don’t seem to understand children very well.  I’ve lost my cool a few times and boldly “spoke my mind” to a few individuals.  I’ve never done that before.  I’m always polite and respectful to strangers, but when I feel my role as mother is being negatively scrutinized, I lose it.

Tonight I took all five kids to Mia’s ultrasound.  As we waited 40 minutes to get in, Ethan was getting sicker and sicker by the minute.  After 30 minutes, he began to cry and finally couldn’t control his wailing because he felt so awful.  When Mia was finally called in, the technician was less than impressed with the crying and I was less than impressed with her.  Fortunately, there were some very lovely individuals who sympathized with my situation.  A kind man in the waiting room encouraged me by telling me about his four kids and his five grandchildren, a nurse walking by us gave Ethan a cold cloth for his forehead (which made him cry harder), a caring technician stayed with Mia while I dealt with a wailing Ethan and a crying Cor outside the door.  Of course, Janelle was also feeling sick at this point, but she at least she was quiet about it.

As I sat in the chair trying to comfort Ethan, the tears flowed down my face.  It felt so unbelievably hard to be a mom right then and there.  I felt bad I couldn’t be with Mia as she cried through her ultrasound.  I felt sorry for Ethan that I didn’t have any medicine to make him feel better.  I felt sorry for myself for being sick.  I had to dig deep to get the strength to walk back through the halls of the hospital with 5 kids in tow and one crying all the way back to the van.   More of my tears flowed as I drove out of the parking garage.  Sometimes, it does feel more than I can bear.  But during these times, all I have left to do is cry out to God for help.  And forgiveness for kind of yelling at the technician.  And he listened.

When we arrived home, fortunately my sister had been here today, and she had made us dinner.  I was able to give Tylenol to all who needed it and I got the kids set up with some food (Ethan had gone to bed already).  As supper progressed, Cor started crying inconsolably, and I noticed he was trembling.  I had a feeling his fever was pretty high.  So went on the the hunt for the thermometer.  104F.  I stripped him down to a diaper and his crying got stronger and more persistent.   I was waiting for Jonathan to come home with more Tylenol for everyone and just before he stepped in the door, Cor vomited all over the place.  This was not looking good.  I knew I had to take him to the hospital.  I hadn’t eaten supper, Jonathan just came through the door and I had kids with fevers all over the place.

I geared up once again for a 6 hour trip to the emergency room.  On my way, I had a moment of enlightenment, and called the our doctor’s office to see if the after-hours clinic was running.  It was, so I took him there instead.  Within an hour and a half, I was home again with antibiotics and Motrin for an ear infection.  I survived the drama once again.

These are the times when I most need to remember to be thankful.  Thankful for my friends and family who have sent emails, made phone calls, checked in to see how we are doing, brought meals, made meals, did groceries, cleaned, offered to look after the kids, and prayed.  What would we ever do without the beautiful people in our lives who live out Christ’s love daily?

God has listened to my prayers and to the prayers of my friends and family.  In the times that are so difficult, when it feels as though I can’t go on, he sends encouraging words from strangers.  A cold cloth for a feverish forehead.  An offer of help from a kind nurse.  After-hour clinics.  A free sample of Motrin.  Antibiotics.  Emails with offers of help.

Tonight I go to bed feeling weary, but well cared for.  I feel overwhelmed, but thankful.

Isaiah 9: 2

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.