I want to dedicate this sermon to anyone who has ever heard the expression “Happy Mother's Day!” and responded internally with “Don't tell me what kind of day to have.” Mother's Day is another one of those holidays where there seems to be a lot of pressure to be and feel positive. Gratitude, love and tenderness are great feelings. The problem comes with that sign over our heads that says “this is how you should feel.” Even if you love your mother, even if you love being a mom, or love the mother of your children, you may sometimes find it difficult to embrace all the sentimentality of the day.
Now that's probably not the majority, and if you're one of the people who enjoy a good cup of sentimentality, Sweet! We are glad you are here today, and hope you brought enough warm fuzzies to share with everyone. I also want to make space for those who maybe don't feel like being “shiny happy people” today. What I am doing is reminding us that as Unitarian Universalists we can approach this holiday like any other, remembering that our sacred starting point is acceptance of each other wherever we are on our journey.
So whether you are overjoyed because of the flowers you sent Mom, or if you are someone considering writing a book like “Mommy dearest,” about your childhood,... if thinking about Mother's day makes you all warm inside, or if you greet it with a sigh, we are grateful for your joining us today.
Today in this sanctuary surrounded by our religious companions, we will shine the light of consciousness upon the work of motherhood. My hope is that we will gain a greater appreciation of the importance of this work, and that we will consider it from the vantage point of being a religious community with an emphasis on spiritual development.
Appreciating mothers on Mother's Day is not a new idea, and one might argue that motherhood has been venerated throughout history in every culture. However a mothers' work is rarely fully appreciated. ...Mothers, can I get an “Amen?” ... I'm not just talking about the obvious thousands of things that a mother does that go unappreciated. I am not just talking about an individual's appreciation of his or her mother. I am also talking about our collective consciousness, our societal understanding and appreciation or lack of appreciation for the work done by mothers.
I went looking online for a job description for this esteemed position. I found two. Here is an article published at ivillage.com, abridged for our purposes by Dana Ashwari
POSITION: Mother, Mom, Mama
JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work, in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required -- including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties are also required; frequently, on very short notice.
RESPONSIBILITIES: Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite your tongue repeatedly. Must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat -- in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must always hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final complete accountability for the quality of the end product.
POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required, unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.
WAGES AND COMPENSATION: No monetary compensation.
BENEFITS: No health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays or no stock options are offered -- however, this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life, if you play your cards right.
As I mentioned earlier in the service your assignment today, should you accept it, is to come to a deeper appreciation of the role “mother's work” has in our world. So let's talk for a minute about appreciation. Appreciation is what adults want their investments to do. When the value of a stock appreciates, that means that more investors are placing faith in its value. Similarly, when we see the value in something or some one, when we appreciate them, our experience of their value increases.
This is when I tell you that its up to you. You have already seen enough evidence that the job of mothering is important. You don't have to wait for me to give a convincing argument. You don't have to wait to find the right ansYour to a complicated equation. If You want to have a greater sense of appreciation for the work that mothers do, then let's decide right now, that You are going to appreciate this work
I will tell you that if You decide to move in this direction, You will get good returns on your investment. Whether you are a child, a mother, a friend or spouse of a mother, ... if you decide to appreciate the work of motherhood, your life is going to be richer. Also mothers' work is so important in shaping our society. When society fails to appreciate mothers this results in great sickness and suffering. When society appreciates mothers it yields a flourishing of health and happiness in the land.
So I hope you will accept the assignment. Young people, let me preach to you. First off I want to be clear that if you take on this assignment, you are going to benefit. I don't want you to consider this is just one more thing that you “should” do. I am telling you that you have a power that will affect your experience and influence many other people. Do you know what I am talking about? I bet you think “Mamma is the one with the power. Momma is the grown up. Mamma is in charge. I always have to do what she says, blah blah, blah.”
One of the most incredible abilities that we human beings have is the power to appreciate. When you think of appreciation, you may think of sentences such as “Thank you mom! Dinner was delicious!” or “Thanks for letting me stay over my friend's house, Mom. We had so much fun.” Yes, these words express appreciation.
Appreciation is also seen in action. Maybe you give Mom a gift of few wildflowers that you picked from down the street. Or you draw her a picture. Maybe you clean up your room, knowing Mom gets such a thrill when you do it without being asked. These actions express appreciation.
But appreciation begins before your words and before your actions. It begins with your attitude. It begins when you realize the effort your Mamma makes, not just the special extra things she does sometimes, but the things she does every day so that you will be healthy and that your life will unfold like a movie where you are the hero, and you live happily ever after. That's right, you may not always like her plan for you, but try to remember that she what she wants is for you to grow up healthy, happy and prosperous.
When you learn how to create appreciation from inside yourself, you benefit immediately. You will feel better, you will be happier and enjoy yourself more often.
Let's try it right now. Think of one thing that you appreciate about your mother. Don't tell us. Just think about it. Close your eyes a minute. Picture enjoying yourself because she is with you or because of something she has done for you. Notice how you feel when you remember this event, this thing that you appreciate about your mom. You feel good don't you? Appreciation immediately brings powerful energy to your body and your soul. And that energy goes out in all directions, and positively effects everyone. Eventually that good energy of appreciation that you expressed is going to come back to you and make your life more wonderful again later.
Now, we don't expect you to be happy and grateful all the time! And I'm not saying that if you say “I appreciate you Mom, that she'll let you do whatever you want. You know it doesn't work like that! No, you appreciate mom now, you enjoy this experience now, and later more good times will come to you as a result.
I also want you to know that you are not responsible for your Mom's feelings. Your momma's a big girl. She gets upset and gets happy for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with you. Her attitude and her ability to enjoy life are up to her.
She isn't a machine with a button you can push to make her feel or act a certain way even though sometimes that may seem to work. ... Although you don't make her happy or make her sad, your love and appreciation for her are a powerful gift.
Remember when you give someone a gift, you can't control what they do with it. But I want you to trust me on this, when you appreciate your mother, it helps make things better. Better for her, and better for you. Sometimes the good stuff won't come back to you right away, but it will come back to you.
Now what about adults? All of what I have said applies to us too. So w/o further a due, I invite us to practice stepping further into appreciation of the work that mothers do. I hope you don't mind me reminding you or stating the obvious. All of the work, from nursing babies in the middle of the night to trying to be a pillar of stability for your teenager when their world is turbulent, all that work is done to contribute to the quality of their life and to the quality of life for humanity. You want to help your child to be happy and prosperous, and you want them to be ethical people who are a blessing to this world. Am I right?
So Moms, here's one way you can appreciate the work that you do. Decide to become more mindful of your intention. It is an easy trap to fall into the illusion that you have to do what you are doing; that you have to get up, that you have to get home, that you have to go shopping. You do not have to fall into this trap. It's normal, yes but it is also mindless. It means we have forgotten the importance of what we are choosing to do.
It's understandable, sure. We all do this sort of thing. But Moms. if you want to become empowered, happier and more fulfilled, remember why you are doing what you are doing. (repeat) It doesn't matter how many times you forget, or need to remind yourself. When you hear yourself think “Ug, I have to get in the car and sit in traffic,” stop. Do you want to see yourself as a victim of circumstance? It will take some doing, but you can remind yourself, that you are choosing this next action knowing full well what is involved because you are trying to help him or her have a quality of living. You are choosing to do something to contribute to their having happy childhoods, and to help them become ethical, educated, and healthy people.
And like I said to the young people, you can't control what happens to your gift. Your mothering is a gift to your child, and to this world. The more you can give from your heart rather than a sense of guilt or obligation, the more likely you will experience fulfillment. Become aware that you are giving. Offer your gift in the name of Love. Give it to God or to your biggest and best picture of what is and can be.
Now it's your turn to practice. Take a minute to remember your intention for your children. Picture your children finding fulfillment. See it. Incorporate their wishes, their preferences into your visualization. Picture them doing something that they will find fulfilling. Imagine them being able to contribute to this world in a way that strengthens and nurtures them. It doesn't have to be grandiose. You could imagine them living a good and simple life. Visualize what their face will look like when they are content and fulfilled. Now, notice the energy in your heart. Embrace whatever feelings arise. Celebrate and give thanks for what you have helped to create. (pause.) This is just a tiny slice of what their fulfillment might look like.
When you remember why you are doing what you are doing, things will be different. Remember, like all forms of spiritual growth, the goal is progress not perfection.
Lastly, what can the rest of us do to grow in appreciation of the value of mothers' work? Again, my suggestion will simply be one of many things we can do. To those of us who are not mothers, one thing we can do to appreciate mothers' work is to share it. Dare to upset the balance and order of how things work at home or here at the church. To begin with, notice the children. Notice if you feel an inner resistance to get involved. Notice if you have the thought that you are too busy. Notice if you are thinking that adult activity is more important or real than what the children are doing.
Continuing with the example of this congregation... Why do you come to church? If you come here because your job and family exhaust you and you want inspiration, we hope you find it here. But if you have courage, you will notice that you want more too. Also, inspiration can be found here because this congregation is a cooperative effort to serve something larger than ourselves.
Thinking about and caring for the young people will help us to appreciate mothers' work.
Our visualization: First picture yourself working away in isolation. Notice how you feel. Now imagine or remember a time when you felt connected to family or a whole community. Imagine loving a young person, and getting to be a part of their life. Imagine what it feels like to know you have played a part contributing to this child's future, to know that your efforts will make a difference long after your done.
I hope we will allow these visualizations to continue to work on us. May we choose to grow in appreciation of motherhood, and the important work mothers do in this world. So Be it.
Happy Mother's Day Y'all.