The flowering trees have been so spectacular this spring that I have been driving around town with my mouth gaping open and my camera at the ready. Oh, how it lifts my spirits to see that much color and brightness splashed across a landscape which had for too long worn the bleak and barren shawl of winter. How could I not take a photograph of that magnificent magnolia tree glowing in the morning sun? Or at least try to capture those resplendent weeping cherry trees reflecting in the river?
Each of these trees, gloriously laden with blossoms, seem to me to be a mama tree, and without my even wanting it, a sentimental joy creeps into my heart when I drive around a curve in the road and see a new one full of flowers. Each reminds me of years gone by when “having my hands full” wasn’t metaphorical. Those were the years of having five of our six children nearly simultaneously; of being hugely pregnant while having babies filling my arms and toddlers spilling out of my lap. It was a crazy kind of joy, like trying to hold a Miss America-sized bouquet of flowers while simultaneously pushing five young children on only two swings in a city park.
As my mind wanders back to those exhausting, but satisfying years, and again, without my even wanting it, a sentimental sorrow also tip-toes into my heart, sits down, and wraps a bittersweet arm around my joy. I have only one preschooler left to fill my lap, and this May the third of our six children will graduate from high school and head out into the world to spread her unique joy and beauty, as have her two older siblings before her. Oh, and did I mention that our fifth son will also graduate from eighth grade, closing a nearly 14-year-long chapter of my life called home schooling? Fortunately, he will be attending a Catholic high school near our house, but in letting him go I am also losing an entire way of living family life, a way that I have loved dearly. My pride in each of my children is greater than I can put into words, and I know they will do well out there in the big world, but honestly? I don’t really like the season of letting go. I just miss them.
As I prayed for the spiritual and emotional strength to be able to paradoxically celebrate two graduations and then Mother’s Day on the same weekend this May, I came upon this verse from the Book of Jeremiah: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8). As I read this, my personification of a flowering tree as a pregnant mother grew into the much more inclusive image of a tree in all seasons representing motherhood in its many seasons. Friends with grandchildren have shared that I have no idea what joy the next generation will bring into our family life, and I am sure that they are quite right.
Maybe spring is just the most obviously motherly season of the year, what with its showy flowers and all, but scripture reminds me that it is not the only motherly season. Once the blossoms have dropped from that enormous magnolia tree, it is still going to provide hours of entertainment for my neighbor’s children as they glide through the air on a tire swing hung from its lowest limb. Even in the winter the vast branches of the weeping cherry trees by the river provide shelter for birds and squirrels. Although the emotional letdown feels overwhelming, all will not be lost when our children have all grown. If we mothers will root our lives in Jesus Christ, if we will trust in him, be confident in him, and seek to nourish ourselves from the Living Water, then our motherhood will be a gift in every season not only for our own children, whether they are living at home or not, but for generations to come as well.
Copyright 2012 Heidi Bratton