Women of Faith #2 Marks of Motherhood
History of Mother’s Day
Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”
Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service.
Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other gifts. This faded in popularity and then merged with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.
These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day”.
Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering, meanwhile, both worked to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.
Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.
By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity. By 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.
Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar. Ironically, Jarvis never married and never had any children. - History Channel.com
Now before I share with you the wisdom of Proverbs 31 let me share some wisdom garnered in the school of motherhood a little closer to modern life.
Lessons on Motherhood.
#1. There is no such thing as child-proofing your house.
#2. If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they ignite.
#3. A four-year-old's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
#4. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, neither the motor nor the ceiling is strong enough to rotate a 42 lb. boy wearing Pound Puppy underwear and a Superman cape.
#5. A ceiling fan is strong enough, however, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 room.
#6. You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on because a ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
#7. Windows will not stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.
#8. When you hear the toilet flush and the words "Uh-oh," it's already too late.
#9. A 6-year-old can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year-old man says they can only do it in the movies.
#10. If you use a waterbed as home plate while wearing baseball shoes it does not leak - it explodes.
#11. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 1 inch deep.
#12. The words Play Dough and Microwave should never be used in the same sentence.
#13. The TV show, McGuyver, can teach our children many things we don't want them to know.
#14. No matter how much Jello you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.
#15. VCR's do not eject PB&J sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.
#16. Always look in the oven before you turn it on because plastic toys don’t like ovens.
#17. The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earth worms dizzy. It will however make cats dizzy.
#18. Cats throw up twice their body weight when made dizzy in washing machines.
#19. Quiet does not necessarily mean "don't worry."
#20. The fire department in San Diego has at least a 5 minute response time.
Look in Prov 31:10. Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The word virtuous means excellent and this passage is giving us the qualities and characteristics of an excellent woman, a Wondrous Women from God’s viewpoint. Which of course is the only one that in the end counts. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an alphabet poem, which means that each verse started with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. The most famous alphabet poem is Psalm 119 where the letters are written out. They are not written out here but the verses still conform to that pattern and the passage makes more sense in its reading if we realize the kind of poem it is.
The Mark of Work Prov 31:13,17-18, 27
Marks That Cannot be Hidden
Diligence in her Work
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Investment in Her Work
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Compassion in her Work
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Is the Mark of Work Seen in Your Life?
You may not like it, but you better believe it, motherhood means work and a lot of it.
But in that work there is great joy. All things worthwhile are hard and being a mother is one of the most worthwhile things God has allowed humans to experience so yes it will at times be hard. I am convinced that one of the greatest plagues of our time is not sin and immorality but laziness and apathy. It is seen in all areas of society, and with each new generation it get worse. Yet the elements which most often describe an excellent woman are those which deal with work, caring and involvement.
When you find a woman who is hardworking, diligent, compassionate, you will also find a woman of true beauty, and she will have a reason to rejoice.
She rejoices because what she is investing herself in is worthwhile, Her husband, her children, her community and herself. These investments in those you love will pay a valuable and lasting dividend. They become the marks of excellence, the way to recognize a virtuous woman.
Getting noticed as a woman
Among the interesting motto T-Shirts created lately is one that fits our times: "A woman has to do twice as much as a man to be considered half as good. Fortunately, that’s not difficult." - Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997)
Well I don’t know if I fully accept that, but I do believe that doing what God calls excellent will make you stand out in a world of mediocrity and apathy.
Let’s return to Proverbs 31 and look at another set of mark for recognizing an excellent woman.
The Mark of Encouragement
These Marks Change Lives
Her Husband Trusts and Needs Her
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She increases his influence and confidence
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
Her Home Depend on Her
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Do You Realize the power of a Mother on a Family?
Proverbs 31:1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. Really you mean this didn’t come directly from God, yes it did but it come through a mother, as much of God’s word does. There is no King Lemuel mentioned in the Bible but here, but many believe that King Lemuel is Solomon. The name Lemuel mean “unto God” and may have been the name that Solomon mother called him, pointing his life toward serving God.
How God Works
When God wants an important thing done in this world, or a wrong righted, He goes about it in a very singular way. He does not release His thunderbolts or stir up His earthquake. He simply has a tiny, helpless baby born, perhaps in an obscure home, perhaps of a very humble mother. Then He puts the idea or purpose into the mother's heart, she puts it into the baby's mind and then--God waits. - Edward T. Sullivan
An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy. - Spanish proverb
The qualities you show your children are the qualities you give your children.
What qualities are you showing when you hold your child close and cherish each moment of their life because you know that each moment passes quickly and you will never have it again?
What qualities are you showing when you discipline out of love not anger? … when you make it to your child’s athletic events, school plays, performances and any event where your child would be looking for you to be there? … when you bring your child to church and worship with them?
These marks of encouragement truly change the life of your family and you, as a mother, are the agent of that lasting change.
Illustration: Favorite Child
I really enjoy this writing by Erma Bombeck, a wonderful writer but also a very insightful mother.
“Every mother has a favorite child. She cannot help it. She is only human. I have mine--the child for whom I feel a special closeness, with whom I share a love that no one else could possibly understand. My favorite child is the one who was too sick to eat ice cream at his birthday party -- who had measles at Christmas -- who wore leg braces to bed because he toed in -- who had a fever in the middle of the night, the asthma attack, the child in my arms at the emergency ward.
My favorite child spent Christmas alone away from the family, was stranded after the game with a gas tank on E, lost the money for his class ring.
My favorite child is the one who messed up the piano recital, misspelled committee in a spelling bee, ran the wrong way with the football, and had his bike stolen because he was careless.
My favorite child is the one I punished for lying, grounded for insensitivity to other people's feelings, and informed he was a royal pain to the entire family.
My favorite child slammed doors in frustration, cried when she didn't think I saw her, withdrew and said she could not talk to me.
My favorite child always needed a haircut, had hair that wouldn't curl, had no date for Saturday night, and a car that cost $600 to fix. My favorite child was selfish, immature, bad-tempered and self-centered. He was vulnerable, lonely, unsure of what he was doing in this world--and quite wonderful.
All mothers have their favorite child. It is always the same one: the one who needs you at the moment. Who needs you for whatever reason--to cling to, to shout at, to hurt, to hug, to flatter, to reverse charges to, to unload on--but mostly just to be there.” - Erma Bombeck -James S. Hewett,
Let’s look at the final mark of an excellent woman. It is one that comes not from herself but from those her life has touched. The final mark is the Mark of Praise.
The Mark Of Praise
These Marks Bring Fulfillment
The Praise of Her Family
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
The Praise of Her King
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
The Praise of Her Friends
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
The Mark that Matters Most Is The One Those Close To You Give
To be praised, to be counted as a blessing by your family, your friends and your King Jesus Christ is the highest mark that anyone can attain. It means your life counted, your hard work paid off in dividends of lives touched and changed for the better. Perhaps even changed for eternity.
Let me share one last story about a Mother today….
Conclusion: The Influence of One Woman’s Life
John Todd was born in Rutledge, Vermont, into a family of several children. They later moved to the village of Killingsworth back in the early 1800s. And there, at a very young age, both John's parents died. The relatives wondered what they would do with so many children, how they could parcel them out to other friends and relatives. One dear and loving aunt said she would take little John. The aunt sent a horse and a slave to get John, who was only six at the time. The slave, Caesar, came and put the little boy on the back of the horse. On the way back an endearing conversation took place:
John: Will she be there?
Caesar: Oh, yes, she'll be there waiting up for you.
John: Will I like living with her?
Caesar: My son, you fall into good hands.
John: Will she love me?
Caesar: Ah, she has a big heart.
John: Will I have my own room? Will she let me have a puppy?
Caesar: She's got everything all set, son. I think she has some surprises, too.
John: Do you think she'll go to bed before we get there?
Caesar: Oh, no! She'll be sure to wait up for you. You'll see when we get out of these woods. You'll see her candle shining in the window.
When they got to the clearing, sure enough, there was a candle in the window and she was standing in the doorway. She reached down, kissed him, and said "Welcome home!" She fed him supper, took him to his room, and waited until he fell asleep. John Todd grew up to be a great minister of the gospel. But it was there at his aunt's, his new mother, that he grew up. It was always a place of enchantment because of his aunt. It awed him that she had given him a second home. She had become a second mother to him. Years later, long after he had moved away, his aunt wrote to tell him of her impending death. Her health was failing, and she wondered what was to become of her. This is what John Todd wrote her:
"My Dear Aunt,
Years ago, I left a house of death not knowing where I was to go, whether anyone cared, whether it was the end of me. The ride was long, but Caesar encouraged me. Finally, he pointed out your candle to me, and there we were in the yard and you embraced me and took me by the hand into my own room that you had made up. After all these years I still can't believe it--how you did all that for me! I was expected; I felt safe in that room--so welcomed. It was my room.
Now it's your turn to go, and as one who has tried it out, I'm writing to let you know that Someone is waiting up. Your room is all ready, the light is on, the door is open, and as you ride into the yard--don't worry, Auntie. You're expected! I know. I once saw God standing in your doorway--long ago!" -James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 377.
The greatest mark of Motherhood is the mother who shows her children the love of God. She shows it in all the work she does, all that she wisdom she teaches and all the love she shares. Mothers, this morning we thank you for all that you have done just by being a mother and my God give you strength as you do the work He has called and created you to do for Him.