We were in a garden of peonies, bursting pink and rose and ivory on dozens of bushes and the air smelled like my grandmother’s perfume. I was leaning over the blossoms even as my three-year-old fingered their soft petals and my mother-in-law, standing there, pointed to a blossom that hadn’t opened yet. Rolled tight into a pink ball, tiny ants crawling across its surface.
“Peonies can’t open without the ants,” my mother-in-law said. “See how they’re moving across the surface of the blossom? They’re opening it so that it can bloom.”
I just stared as these tiny ants, who appeared to be doing nothing, worked the miracle of unfolding one of earth’s most extravagant flowers.
And it reminded me of mothers, working tirelessly each day so that one day, our children might blossom.
As mothers, we live largely in the hidden years, in the years of the unfolded bloom. We spend hours doing tiny, mundane things like wiping noses and bottoms and tables and chairs and cupboards and floors, and getting on our hands and knees to look into the eyes of a child and disciplining and comforting, potty training and bathtub-scrubbing, mountains of laundry-folding and the days when the kids refuse to nap.
And then we walk wearily down the stairs and pick those little ones up and rock them and read them the same stories, over and over, until it’s time to make supper.
And that’s when we realize we’re still in our pajamas.
Life, for a mom, is largely ordinary and unseen and we wonder if anyone cares or if any of this counts towards anything at all.
But God sees. And there is nothing that delights him more than love done in secret.
It all counts
We live in a world that says it doesn’t matter if no one witnesses it – that unless it’s recorded on YouTube or tweeted, made into a status or posted on a blog, it doesn’t count.
But we also live in a world that is disillusioned by fame and hungry for unannounced sacrifice.
I listened to a talk, recently, by a former atheist who now speaks about the life of Christ and all of the years the Bible doesn’t talk about – the “hidden years” she calls them, leading up to his ministry.
God didn’t love Jesus just because of the way he served him in public.
He loved him because of the way he served him in private.
For all of the ways he served his Father in the quiet of the 30 years prior to his ministry. All of the little, ordinary choices he made as a carpenter – the ant crawling across the bloom of the flower, believing one day its work would be honoured, but content until then to keep working at what it has been called to do.
As mothers we have been called to serve our husbands and children. To do those small, unseen things that don’t get a lot of praise or exclamation, that leave us some days weeping into our coffee for the longing to be noticed.
But oh, how your Father notices.
And may you hear, as Jesus did, when he emerged from the water prior to starting any kind of ministry, God’s voice declaring proudly from heaven, “This is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
Even as the peony unfolds.
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