taking the words of Jesus seriously

You don’t need me to tell you that Mother’s Day is complicated for many. A two-second pause to contemplate the people in your life for whom the holiday might be painful would yield evidence enough that the day (and the church-backed events that it often brings) can be tricky. Instead, maybe we can ask why is that so?

My hunch is that the labyrinth of emotions accompanying this holiday has to do with the elevation and highlighting of a very specific relationship. And relationships are layered, sometimes strained, always unique. They are formed between people, and no two people are alike. A day to “celebrate mothers” feels not altogether different from declaring a day to “celebrate health.” Can you imagine? The pain that would come from those whose bodies have received diagnoses? From those who have learned from their faith communities to not trust their physical selves? From those trapped inside of addiction, or those raging against the institutions that compromise our wellness, or those who have been traumatized by diet culture? Health is complicated because it has to do with a relationship between a person and their body. “Celebrating health” would be an oversimplification of such a complex human experience.

So too with mothers.

Here’s a Mother’s Day litany that is also simplified for such vastly different connections and experiences that surround us. But, I hope it makes a little more room for a few more people.

READ: Calling All Mothers: Let’s Make Mother’s Day Count

Needed: A candle and lighter, something to represent bread and wine for communion (a cracker and juice, toast and milk, etc), and a little cup of dirt (plus a seed, if available). If reading with people, one voice will read all unbolded sections while the group joins in for the bolded sections.

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we are apart, I will always be with you.” –Winnie the Pooh

ONE: Right now, we push aside all the feelings we “should” have and people we “should” be, and we open wide our doors to what is

ALL: Welcome, old grief; 

Welcome, new reality; 

Welcome, fear; 

Welcome, worry; 

Welcome, exactly who we are right now

ONE: As we light this candle, we declare this space for remembering and honoring the children and parents we miss during Mother’s (and/or Father’s) day(s)

ALL: Be with us, saints; 

Be with us, Spirit

Song: Let It Be

ONE: For children who had to say goodbye to parents when they should have had so much more time

ALL: We hold you now: (name any names aloud)

ONE: For children who have watched the minds and bodies of parents deteriorate, no longer able to recognize or remember

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For children whose parents were unable to offer their presence or resources, children who ached to know a different kind of paternal or maternal love

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For children who have lost parents to suicide, disease, estrangement

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For children who wrestle with the complexities of their birth parents, adoptive parents, and foster parents

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For children who are navigating the milestones of life without their mothers or fathers there to call for recipes and family histories and old stories that have faded with years

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For LGBTQIA+ children who do not have homes to which they can return

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For children who were abused in a multitude of ways:

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For children who dread the holidays because of their voids

ALL: We hold you now:

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

ONE: For parents who birthed babies straight into the arms of God

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For parents who have lost young children to disasters that make this life seem too unfair for the human heart

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For parents who have raised their grandchildren or other relatives because of a lost life or reality

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For parents who have lost children to suicide, disease, estrangement

ALL: We hold you now: 

ONE: For parents whose children were unable to offer their presence or connection, parents who ached to know a different kind of familial love

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For parents who have received a gutting diagnosis

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For parents who are raising children, and working jobs, and running households by themselves

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For birth parents who wrestle with the complexities of hard decisions and limited resources

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For adoptive and foster parents who wrestle with the complexities of hard questions, identity narratives, and ethics

ALL: We hold you now:

ONE: For migrant and refugee parents who are risking everything (even separation) for a better life for their children

ALL: We hold you now:

“If I had lost a leg—I would tell them—instead of a boy, no one would ever ask me if I was ‘over’ it. They would ask me how I was doing learning to walk without my leg. I was learning to walk and to breathe and to live without Wade. And what I was learning is that it was never going to be the life I had before.” –Elizabeth Edwards

ONE: To those who are not biological parents, but who step in to mother and father so many around them

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To those who chose not to be parents in a culture that so often pressures otherwise

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To those who would choose to be parents, or parents again, but who grieve the loss of a dream

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To those who have redefined family to go past lines of biology, nationality, and economics

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To those who did the best they could with what they had when they had it

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To those versions of ourselves that we never turned into, and the versions of ourselves that we did

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To the voices we wish we could hear say “Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day”

ALL: We honor you now:

ONE: To the ears to which we wish we could say “Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day”

ALL: We honor you now:

Scripture: John 1:5

“Sorry, but you don’t really get a choice—you keep waking up and you keep breathing and your heart keeps on beating. And because your blood hasn’t stopped moving through your body, your stomach gets hungry, and then your mouth eats. This is how it goes. Your sad little heart becomes a force of nature. Despite the depth of its wounds, it just keeps going and then the rest of your body has to follow. You eat. You sleep. You sit, and stand, and walk. You smile. Eventually, you laugh. It’s like your heart knows that if it keeps going, so will you. And your heart hasn’t forgotten how good it is to be in the world, so it pushes on, propelling you along to the fridge, the shower, a family dinner, coffee with a friend. In doing these things, your spirit catches up with what your heart already knows; it’s pretty good to be alive. I guess what I’m getting at is that if you too are mired in the early days of unimaginable loss, the only thing to do is follow your heart. Then listen to your body. And keep…going.” –Jamie Wright 

Song: Great is They Faithfulness

ONE: Hear our words to those we miss

ALL: Meet us in our celebration and in our grief 

Communion

ONE: The body of Mary’s son, broken for us

The blood of God’s son, poured out for the world

ALL: Thank you Jesus for the bigger picture of resurrection

ONE: God’s family table is open to all who wish to partake, in your homes, on these screens, though separated we are one.

(Participants hold cup of soil—and a seed if possible—in their hands.)

Remind us, God, that our faith makes room for death, that our faith can hold endings, though they are excruciating and devastating.

(Participants push seeds into dirt.)

Remind us that in a backwards kingdom, end is beginning, last is first, and burial is birth…eventually.

ALL: Thank you for love that was, is, and is to come. Amen.

Go now in the peace that passes our understanding.

About The Author

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Britney Winn Lee is an author and community arts director living in Shreveport, LA, with her designer husband and big-hearted son. She's written "Deconstructed Do-Gooder: A Memoir About Learning Mercy the Hard Way" (Cascade 2019), "The Boy with Big, Big Feelings" (Beaming Books 2019), and is the editor of "Rally: Litanies for the Lovers of God and Neighbor" (Upper Room 2020). Britney is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, serves part-time with Red Letter Christians as the Editor & Communications Director, and is ever dreaming up ways to connect the church and the world. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @britneywinnlee.

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