Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Homily

Sharing the homily I wrote for today's church service (Mother's Day 2016)

When Colette asked me to give the homily on this Mother’s Day my first thought was AHHHHHH I’m not sure I can handle another thing to do!  Then my second thought was, WOW, maybe this is my chance.  I’ve been struggling lately and trying to think of a way to move forward.  I feel like life is just a juggling act at all times and my balls are all in the air – family, work, home, church, friends – and at any moment one of them may drop.  The last 8 months or so has been pretty challenging – between changing jobs, Mom’s surgery and recovery, a family vacation that wasn’t as we expected it would be, and just a rough winter with illnesses both in my immediate family and extended family.  It’s been an act of survival with all of us just keeping our heads above water.

I’m blessed.  I have an amazing husband who loves me unconditionally, two beautiful girls that are the light of my life, two parents who have been there for me supporting me through everything and taking care of my family more than grandparents should have to, wonderful friends, and a job that I love.  But, being everything to everyone is hard…amazing, but hard.  The thing with mothers is we are everything to everyone and often that comes with not taking good enough care of ourselves.  I know that I’m a good mother, but there are days I definitely second guess how good a mother I really am!  I neglect myself physically and mentally more than I’d like to admit to.  I’ve struggled with my weight for over half my life and though I’ve taken steps this last year to improve myself physically, I haven’t done as much as I should.  And the reasons for that come down to being a mother and a wife and a daughter and having too much on my plate, which I know we all struggle with.

I have faith that God won’t give me more than I can handle, but just like that saying, I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!  Living in a house with 4 adults is wonderful and challenging at that same time.  Mahir and I have been blessed that ever since we brought Leyla home from the hospital that her grandparents have been there for us and for her and for Hannah.  Parenting is sometimes difficult because all 4 of us discipline and when we don’t all agree it becomes quite the ordeal!  Mom and Dad make it easier for us to be able to work and not throw our entire paycheck to daycares or after school care.  Mom prepares meals so that after a 12 hour day of commuting and working, I don’t have to worry about that and we can all eat together each night.  But the blessing of having my parents with us is also a worry of mine – a worry because I am the only child and I will take care of my parents in their later years – something I have no problem doing and after all they have done for me and my family, I want to do – but something I’m not ready to face as taking care of them in their later years also means I won’t have them in my later years. 

For me, just because I have faith, doesn’t mean I fear things any less. In fact, my fear was so amplified at times that I was having trouble getting through some days without crying. As much as some people would say that medicine shouldn’t be used, taking the step to see my doctor and get on my small dose antidepressant has allowed me to get through the day without having my mind in a million different places worrying about more things than I should.  And I still worry, I mean, who doesn’t?  I worry that I’m not being a good enough wife, mother, daughter, and friend.  I say yes to more things than I should!  But I believe, because of my faith, that at the end of the day no matter what has happened and no matter where I have failed in my life on that particular day, that God, as my ultimate parent, loves me unconditionally, and I have a chance to start fresh the next day, with him giving me the forgiveness I need and strength to continue to try.  I have faith, maybe not as strong a faith as many of you, but I do have faith.  It’s another thing I need to improve, but the motto I have recently begun to keep in the forefront of my mind is “Progress not Perfection”.  As long as I am doing better than I was the day before, even an ounce better, then I’m doing OK. 

Going back almost 20 years, If life wasn’t hard enough as I moved out and started college, deciding what I wanted to do for my career, ultimately changing majors completely from engineering to business, It became more challenging when I met my husband when I was just a sophomore and a very young 19 years old.  My Mom was always worried I’d come home from way up in Maine with a Mainer that would move me up into the woods – never did she imagine that I’d come home and tell her that my boyfriend was a Turkish Muslim.  I prayed daily in my dorm room that if Mahir and I were not meant to be, for God to put obstacles in our way that would not allow us to be together.  While the idea of me dating someone that was not Christian was a bit of a surprise to my parents, in the end, love won, and my parents began to approve.  Obstacles were put in our way through the next 5 years of our relationship, including over 2 years where we only saw each other a total of 6 weeks, but none of them were permanent obstacles.  On June 1st of 2004 we were married on the hill across the street from this church.  Yes, we have our differences because of the two religions that we practice and the cultures we both come from.  Mahir’s family and his culture, though they are different, they all want the same things as we do.  His mother is a wonderful woman who loves her sons unconditionally, just like my mother loves me unconditionally, just like I love my daughters unconditionally, and above all, just like God loves all his children unconditionally.  Ever since the beginning of our relationship, Mahir and I have always agreed that there is one God and whether we call him God or Allah, he is the one we follow.  We may not agree on some of the smaller stuff, but when it comes to raising our daughters knowing both religions and to be good people, that we agree on, and that’s the most important. 

The last several years, particularly since the bombing at the Boston Marathon and different terror attacks throughout the world driven by Isis who claim to be attacking in the name of Allah, have made it very difficult to be a Muslim and to be the wife of a Muslim.  Mahir has much thicker skin than I do and can just shrug off the statements about “ALL Muslims being terrorists,” but I have a much harder time and often find myself correcting those who make those statements.  The words people use are very hurtful to me because I love an amazing man who happens to be a Muslim.  The words are hurtful to me because they are inaccurate and the last thing I want is for those words to be spoken to Leyla and Hannah and have them be hurt by that hate.  The overwhelming message of the Quran is that peace is found through faith in God.   Anyone claiming to be performing an act of terror in the name of Allah is not obeying the wishes of Allah or the words of the Quran.  They are the same as those of all other religions who claim that their acts of terror and hate are in the name of their religion.  We need to stop blaming all Muslims for acts of terror by ISIS just like we don’t blame all Christians, Jews, and Sikhs for acts that their extremists have carried out.  Labeling a particular group in such a hateful way is teaching our future generations more hate than we’ve seen in a long time, and that is scary.

Facebook and Pinterest and all the social media crazes out there have added to the pressure of being a mother, telling us that being the perfect parent means having an immaculate house and a perfectly behaved child.  This makes many of us feel like we’re failing.  That if we put the kids in front of the television or tablets and order takeout and have piles of laundry everywhere and an explosion of toys all over the house, that we’re doing it wrong.  But in reality, those are the parents that are not being realistic with themselves.  They’re not willing to show their imperfections.  And God wants to see our imperfections.  He wants us to show him that we need help and that we are willing to learn from our mistakes and carry on trying our best. 

On this Mother’s Day I want to praise all of you fellow Moms out there – moms, grandmothers, and godmothers.  Thank you for what you have done for your families and what you continue to do.  Let’s keep supporting and uplifting each other, because we know the struggles we each face.   To my own mother Barbara and my godmother Regina, you both have shown me the strength, commitment, and love that it takes to be amazing mothers, and I can only hope that someday I am half the woman that both of you are.   I love you. 

And now I would like to leave you with a prayer I found while putting together this homily:
Dear God,
Thank you for blessing me with my beautiful, wonderful children.  Thank you for equipping me for motherhood, even though I don’t feel equipped on most days. Thank you for giving me grace in my faults, and for teaching me to give grace to my children in their faults. Thank you, Lord, for the awesome privilege of raising your perfect gifts.  Please, Jesus, help me to be kind, patient, gentle, and loving; slow to anger, and quick to forgive, just like you.

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