If someone asked me what my greatest achievement in life has been, I would have to say it is being a mother. The highest calling in life is to have the privilege of giving someone life and having the opportunity to nurture that life into adulthood. A mother is a child’s first contact with the world, and if that contact is warm, trusting, and nurturing it can make the difference in whether the child reaches their full potential emotionally as well as physically.
I remember when I first realized that raising my children was a calling, and that I would need the grace of God to do it right. I was in church, and the pastor’s wife relayed to me how God had given her wisdom in how to train her children up in the Lord. I went home and looked up every scripture I could find on child training. I then began reading the scriptures to my oldest child at the time. I wanted the children to know that what I was doing had a Biblical base; that I wasn’t just making things up out of my head. The first scripture I recall teaching the children was from the book of Ephesians, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” I would make a pointed effort to pray where the children could hear me, in addition to praying with them and teaching them to pray on their own.
Motherhood to me meant a responsibility to help my children reach their God-given potential as well as instilling in them an understanding of who God is. No parent no matter how much they teach and train a child can give them faith; only Jesus Christ can do that. There were many nights I spent singing, reading, and brushing hair before bedtime. There were planet and star stickers that I pasted to the ceiling, and the children and I spent many nights staring at the ceiling trying to count the stars.
There were also the days and nights spent calming a frightened child, breast feeding a newborn, and soothing chicken pox with calamine lotion. The time that Jaynae developed chicken pox I slept with her on the couch in the living room for two weeks. In between all the sickness there were the prayers taped to the bedroom walls to help Ima remember to pray for healing each time she was sick, and help Uyime recite scriptures when she had headaches also. The years of getting physicals for school stand out in my mind, as well as the years of disputing with school officials of my right to refuse vaccinations for my children.
When you give birth to your child, you risk your life, after the child is born your heart is at risk forever. As a mother I was there for each tear they shed in my presence and some of them they shed without my presence. When their hearts broke, my did too, when they were overjoyed, I became ecstatic also. My mind reflects on every dance practice, each dance recital, all the music concerts,(as well as the music practice), and all the violin strings which broke. Oh yes I remember every violin I had to purchase also. By the time the years of teaching them to drive and going to buy prom dresses arrived, I felt that I’d already lived three lifetimes.
I questioned why I was still here after the death of Jaynae, I didn’t want to comprehend my living and her lying in a grave. I was grateful that she’d had a wonderful life. Yet I had difficulty finding the meaning of mundane things in life after her passing. She had taught me so much; even though I was the parent. Even now, when I look at her life, she is still teaching me; she is saying, “Mom keep singing, keep living, keep hoping, I may no longer be with you, but you still have mountains to conquer.”
The main characteristic of a leader is courage. Yet, courage isn’t the absence of fear. In the Bible, all the heroes of the faith were confronted with dilemmas and they didn’t know how they’d be solved. However, they faced conflicts with courage, and let God be their guide, even when they didn’t know the outcome.
The greatest obstacle to being courageous is facing the unknown.Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.What can man do to me?” Even when we don’t know what people will do, we can be assured in what Jesus will do. Our faith in Christ stands on his word to us; and if our confidence is in God, we don’t have to fear anything that human flesh can release upon us. In other words,” God has our backs.”
The one thing that the heroes of the Bible had in common when it came to exercising courage, was that they faced situations and they didn’t know the outcome. When God told Abraham to leave his relatives and his country, he didn’t even know where he was going; yet he trusted God who assured him that he would lead him to a better country to dwell in. After David was anointed king, he had to wait decades before he could take the throne to rule Israel. While he was waiting his life was threatened many times because King Saul was determined to destroy him before he could become king. When Queen Esther went before King Ahasureus she didn’t know if he would receive her or kill her; yet she was willing to die to obey God and save her people from certain death. And then Mary, the mother of our Lord, was just a teenager and engaged to be married when God’s angel told her that she was going to have a baby, not an ordinary baby, but a baby whose father would be the Holy Spirit. Imagine the courage of that young girl, and the trust that she had in her God that he would take care of her and provide everything that she needed to bring her child safely into the world.
Courage cannot exist without fear; for in order to exercise courage, there has to be something we need extraordinary ability to face. Having courage means thinking outside of the box, and sometimes going against what popular opinions say. Think of all the people who changed things in the world; Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Edison, The Wright brothers, and the list is endless: none of those people would have changed the world had they been more concerned about staying in their place, and not causing a disturbance. No change has ever taken place without disruption or conflict. The most courageous man who ever lived was Jesus Christ. He came on the world stage and by living out who he was, he split history in half. Here are some characteristics of the courageous:
- Courageous people are not conformers.
- Courageous people are willing to take chances, even when the odds are against them.
- Courageous people speak their opinions when others keep silent.
- Courageous people are willing to defend the downtrodden and the helpless.
- Courageous people are selfless and greatly sacrifice for others.
- Courageous people are confident of their identity and are not threatened when others challenge them.
All my childhood and all my adult life I’ve been surrounded by people. As a child it was a host of brothers and sisters; even though all huddled together in a small space, we weren’t very close emotionally. It doesn’t seem possible that you can be surrounded by people yet still be lonely; that’s another post, I’ll continue.
When I went away to college it was my roommate, whom I didn’t get along with very well, and as a teenage mother I had a little one with me when I wasn’t busy trying to get through classes, mid-terms and finals. Then marriage and the birth of three more children filled my living quarters to the brim and I had an unlimited amount of company for numerous years to come. The children grew up, went away to college, and one of them, yes my precious Jaynae passed away. The feelings of loneliness were only beginning to surface. The marriage fell apart even though it had been hanging by a thread for at least a decade; and suddenly my very place in life no longer existed. I was minus one child and no longer had a husband to speak of; it was for the best for over time he added less and less to my life. Yet one child had died, I had two more to take care of.My need to see them succeed kept me going. Someone had to be there for them. I was there for them for their whole lives; after they left home to pursue their endeavors my question is now, “who will be there for me?”
The first step in coping with living alone is to prioritize yourself. This includes focusing on what you want to do with your life economically, physically, socially, and spiritually. Reorder all your other commitments to focus extensively on yourself. This may include going back to school, taking the yoga classes or the dance classes, and delving deeply into what spirituality means to you. Make your physical health a major priority. Often being alone is the only time that we will have to focus on ourselves; being alone can be a mixed blessing. For it is when we feel the most desperately alone, ( and yearn for company), is when we need just that, and that is to be alone. When my ex-husband finally walked out on me, it was the best thing he ever did for me. Once I dropped my youngest daughter off at college, it seemed the heavens opened up and began speaking to me; to direct me as to the steps to take to rebuild my broken life. As long as we are surrounded by people and the demands they place on us, it is difficult if not impossible to find our place in life and what makes us happy.
Next, turn off the television and social media and read more. As tempting as it is to focus on the electronics that are at our fingertips, don’t do it: electronic devices don’t make us less lonely; they make us feel more isolated and alienated from human contact. If contact with others is what we really need for a time, call up a friend and get together with them or contact the long lost relative you haven’t spoken with in years and reconnect with them. But don’t rely on social media and artificial means of communication to be your sole source of human connection. There is something unique about the human voice, human touch, and connecting with people that makes us uniquely human. No electronic application will ever replace someone’s kiss or embrace, or a human’s voice speaking words of affirmation or comfort.
There is nothing like a good meal to warm your heart and bring an atmosphere of comfort into your environment. Make it a habit to cook healthy, nutritious meals for yourself; even if you are cooking only for one. Cooking good food for yourself says that I care about what goes into my body; it says I am worth the time and the effort to create a good meal just for me, even if there is no one to share it with.There is also joy that comes from making a nice meal in that the creation of it alone is a pleasant past time and can pass what otherwise would be lonely hours.
This next step goes along with the previous one; create a comfortable living environment that is clean, free of clutter, and that expresses who you are. A living quarters that is clean is self-explanatory in why it is good for your well-being. It is stressful walking into a room that is piled high with dirty clothes, or a room that has papers lying all over the bed or couch. It is easy to allow things to pile up when you are the only one around to see it. If you have a room that is less than orderly, close the door on it, and keep it out of your view until you have the time to clean it. Remember to fill your living space with the things that remind you of who you are, and this includes photographs of loved ones, pets, and your passions. Pictures of loved ones creates a homey space even when people are not around, and images or objects that are important to you helps you to embrace your passions even when you don’t have the opportunity to engage in them.
Please remove people from your life that cause you to feel negative or incapable in regards to yourself. Negative people take up energy in our lives that could otherwise be used positively. Energetic and positive people keep us motivated and focused on the things that matter in life. Enjoying life, (every moment of it) and the people that God places in our life is what’s important. Negativity brings you down, and makes living alone a burden instead of a journey. Surround yourself with others who have a forward moving mindset in life, period.
Become a giver of your time to others who are less fortunate or who may live alone and have little or no significant others in their lives. It is all right to volunteer your time to a cause that helps others significantly.Giving to others increases our awareness of how much we have been blessed. In regards to America, I can’t think of a nation on earth that has been given as much as the United States. Even the poorest among us is rich, because even the very poor unless they are homeless, have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, clean water, and food to eat. Most of the world’s population can not say that. Charity often begins at home; sometimes there are people within our own families who would benefit from something that we have to offer. Start looking for opportunities to give at home, first.
Lastly, make every effort to maintain strong relationships with other people in your life. This could include relatives, but many times it encompasses friends. Friends are the greatest source of relationship encounters because we choose our friends. Family members may or may not be our friends. Friends can be found at work, at places of worship, and in various recreational activities or social functions. Family is important, so make great efforts to strengthen family bonds to make them stronger, if possible. Remember that in order to dance effectively with someone else, it is vital that we first learn to dance alone. It is living with and accepting who we are as individuals that we enrich the lives of those we come in contact with.