Through a Mother's Eyes
 Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
May 13, 2018

All Rights Reserved




I invite you to close your eyes & look up into the darkness & inhale deeply.  As you exhale, allow your eyes to gently roll down to their normal position.  Inhale again & exhale, relaxing completely. & Now begin to be aware of any outside light that is filtering through your closed eyelids & focus this light into your chest.  Imagine the sun’s light radiating its warmth through your skin & into your heart center, becoming a small candle flame burning warmly, within your spiritual heart & expanding more & more, enlarging with every breath filling your entire body with a bright white light. Now bring the focus your attention to the Source of this light in the center of your heart & begin to see & feel butterflies of light exploding from your center outward; Visualize several large angel-like butterflies fluttering around your body.  & As you watch these transparent white butterflies quivering around your being, notice that more & more are sent out from this white light center core, the Source that you opened.  

Watch them as them swarm around your body, giving your body gentle kisses of love, light & life.  As each kiss against your skin is received you are being energized.  They are helping you to heal & filling you with the wisdom & guidance to meet your every need. Watch the butterflies dart in & out of you as they pick up any pieces of dark, shadowy negativity & fly away with them to the sun where they are burned & transformed into pure energy. Feel the butterflies expressing all the love you desire & carrying that love to your mother wherever she is & to all those to whom you want to send butterflies of light this morning. See them streaming from your heart center & out into the world.  Your angel messengers of love & light, healing & peace.  & now it’s time to come back into conscious awareness of this time & place. Begin to feel your toes & feet, arms & hands.  Inhale a deep cleansing breath & know that you can call butterflies of light from your inner source at any time & send them to help & heal anyone, anywhere. Amen



All across the country, churches of varying beliefs & backgrounds stand united in offering praise & thanks for mothers today. It’s part of an unwritten agreement between all ministers: “On Christmas, thou shalt talk about Christmas; on Easter thou shalt talk about Easter & on Mother’s Day you better have something nice to say about mothers or start reading the want ads & that goes for Father’s Day too!”

Mother’s Day was started by Anna Jarvis in 1908 to honor her mother & to celebrate the women who had bravely crossed the battle lines during the Civil War to care for the wounded on both sides. It was also intended to honor women everywhere who struggle to keep their loved ones safe in times of war. It was originally designed to honor women who had stepped into the chaos & discord which was the aftermath of the Civil War & to encourage women to work to help end conflicts between people & governments & to encourage mother’s everywhere to unity & work for Peace on Earth. 

Anna Jarvis never married or became a mother herself. She formed her opinions & beliefs about Mothers by observing & listening to the wisdom of her own beloved mother. Anna was the 9th or her mother Ann’s, 11 children. Seven of her siblings died in infancy or early childhood. Her mother was a social activist & Sunday school teacher & member of the Episcopalian Church.  It was during one of her mother’s Sunday school lessons in 1876 that Anna said that she got her 1st inspiration for Mother’s Day. At the end of that class her mother said, “I hope & pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial Mothers’ Day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”— Ann Reeves Jarvis

At the encouragement of her mother, Anna Jarvis attended college & took a position at Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance company, where she was the agency’s 1st female literary & advertising editor. This holiday is the result of the extensive work of some dynamic women. Did you know that the words of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” were written by a woman? Julia Ward Howe wrote them trying to interject a sense of hope, the presence of a protector & a promise of peace for the men fighting on both sides of the Civil War. Julia Ward saw the damages of war on families as she accompanied her husband Samuel Greeley Howe as he helped create the Sanitation Commission; a private relief agency created during the Civil War in the spring of 1861 & sanctioned by the U.S. War department to support sick & wounded soldiers. 

Julia Ward Howe was a feisty, unconventional woman or strong of character, firm in her convictions & ready to do battle for her children.  As a mother what she saw made her despair. Through a Mother’s Eyes she witnessed brother fighting against brother & father against son. She witnessed men who came home a mess or who didn’t come home at all. She described what she witnessed as a mother’s worst nightmare.   

She worked tirelessly with the widows & orphans on both sides to help people to realize that the effects of war go far beyond the killing of soldiers in battle.  There is tremendous collateral damage in war. Many innocents are injured & killed. In 1870, she called for women to rise up, unite & oppose war in all its forms. She urged women to come together across national lines & to recognize that what we hold closest to our hearts & in common rises far above what could ever divide us. She asked women to commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts.  She later worked with Anna Jarvis & others to help make Mother’s Day a national holiday celebrating motherhood as a sacred trust of doing whatever needed to be done to protect & cherish all children & all life.

These thoughts by writer Anne Lamott certainly speak to me & I believe to the original intent of Mother’s Day. “Kids get you to love them & care about them so deeply that, once you become a Mother, you quickly realize you’ll never draw another complacent breath. Ask anyone with children & they'll tell you this. They will also tell you that your kids love you so much that it can’t be measured. They love you even more than dogs do.” Anne Lamott then describes a conversation she had with her young son saying, “The other day, my son Sam said he’d always love me more than he loved anyone else. & I said, "No honey, you won’t & that’s ok because right now you can't imagine how desperately you'll love your own kids." & he said, "I know that mom, but I’ll never forget that you were my 1st friend."  

I believe that Motherhood is a sacred trust & as with all sacred trusts, it will open your heart & soften you & teach you to pay a new & deeper kind of attention to life. Anne Lamott continues, “The good news is that you're going to fall in love in a way that reduces you to something from the Care Bears. The bad news is that once you really become a Mother, you feel that you now have so much to lose that you want to sit outside your house in a rocking chair, with a gun laid across your lap, like Granny Clampett, to protect your babies.  & you really won't be able to, because life is out there prowling around like a wolf; & it's going to drive you nuts. When baby first arrives, he or she will be very quiet & spaced out, like a little Hindu lama from Mars & you’ll think that you got a good 1. You didn't. The batteries just haven't arrived yet.  They're all the same: on a bad day, any baby can make Sean Pean look like the Dalai Lama.  When baby is 2 weeks old, he or she will look at its little invisible wristwatch & think, "Oh, has 20 minutes gone by?" & for just that reason, begin to cry & wail until you think the crying is going to drive you crazy.” As you can see, motherhood is a mixed bag. How do you view Mother’s Day? Is it a day of celebration or mourning? A time of praise & honor or a day of guilt & unresolved feelings? Writer Anne Lamott wisely concluded, “Understand at the outset that you’re doomed no matter what direction you go.” 

I believe Motherhood is 1 of the ways Spirit helps us to learn Nonresistance. Nonresistance means coming to terms with our mothers whether or not they were the type to read us stories, sing us to sleep, or bake cookies. Not everybody had June Cleaver as a mother. For every person who gets caught up in the warm nostalgia of Mother’s Day, there is someone else who likens it to tiptoeing through a minefield. For many people it’s a little bit of both.  Some people rush to buy flowers while others celebrate by simply scheduling an extra appointment with their therapist. 

Writer Robert Fulgum is married to an obstetrician. She describes the relationship that exists between a mother & her new born child as being a ‘scary kind of wonderful.’ & for many of us, it remains in that category for the next 50 plus years. Some people end up considering the mother/child relationship as only scary & others as only wonderful.  But most consider it somewhere between the 2 & when members of the same family discover they have totally different experiences & expectations around the holiday, conflicts can arise. So, perhaps celebrating Mother’s Day by singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic isn’t too weird for this holiday.  

Psychologists say you can tell IF a relationship is going to go well by looking at the 1st minute of interaction. Now if you think about the 1st minute of the relationship between a mother & her child you have to wonder “How good could this be?”  In that 1st minute, 1 of them is crying hysterically & the other is screaming in pain & cussing. So, after that initial minute many mother’s already wonder, “Is this ever going to get any easier?”  

A child spends the 1st 9 months of its relationship with its mother kicking her & trying to get out & get its own personal space. That’s followed by 2 years of not talking & mom trying to figure out why baby is crying, or not sleeping or whatever. Then comes 10 years of talking incessantly, followed by the teen years of either not talking or saying, ‘you don’t understand me’ & asking her to drive places. & finally, the last few young adult years struggling over ‘who’s the boss’ & asserting independence & to get out again.  Most of moms ask for the same thing each year for Mother’s Day; Extra sleep.

In the beginning this holiday had rich meaning. Over time, much of that meaning has been forgotten & lost. The most difficult part of celebrating this holiday for many people is the commercial profiteering that often takes center stage. It was originally intended to be a day of reflection & Mother’s uniting & advocating for Peace. It was a day of prayer & giving thanks to God for keeping our sons & daughters safe, especially those who are serving in the military & in a war zone.  

Mother’s Day came to national prominence largely because of the work of Anna Jarvis. In 1908, 3 years after her own mother died, she organized a day in her church in West Virginia to reflect on Mothers, specifically, Mothers of soldiers who had fought in the Civil War.  She did this in hope that it would help people of both the North & South to see what they had in common & to help heal some of the continuing scars of the Civil War. 

She purchased 500 white carnations to be given to mothers, which became the symbol of this holiday. Jarvis valued the symbolism of the white carnation, which she described saying, “Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity & broad-charity of mother love; its fragrance, her memory & her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies & so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their Mother Love never dying. When I selected this flower, I was remembering my own mother’s bed of white pinks.”— Anna Jarvis

By the next year, celebration of Mother’s Day had spread to nearly 45 states, Mexico & Canada & in 1914 it was drafted into law by Woodrow Wilson. Anna Jarvis expended tremendous time, energy & money to start the holiday. But clearly its rapid rise to prominence was incited by an unmet need within people to recognize & honor their mothers. But even more interesting is that Anna Jarvis died nearly bankrupt having spent the last of her money trying to stop Mother’s Day from being celebrated. 

By 1920, the greeting card & candy industry, as well as Florists had capitalized on the holiday. Florists began selling white carnations to honor dead mothers & red carnations to celebrate living mothers & naturally increased the cost of the flowers. In Anna’s mind, Mother’s Day had become a commercialized farce of what she & her mother had intended it to be.  Shortly before her death in 1948 she told a reporter that she was sorry she started it in the first place. 

When Anna Jarvis was no longer able to care for herself, she was placed in a nursing home. Ironically, her care was paid for by the florist, greeting card & candy industries who had benefited from the holiday.

Rather than stopping the celebration of Mother’s Day, perhaps we can honor Anna Jarvis & the other mothers who sacrificed so much & struggled to create this holiday by returning it to its original meaning. I think we need a day to reflect on & recognize mothers whose children have been injured &/or killed in conflicts & wars. A day when Mothers around the world unite in a consciousness of peace & support each other’s efforts to keep their children safe. We have an organization called “Mothers Against Drunk Driving”, & a national celebration of Mothers’ Day should be about more than Hallmark greeting cards that rhyme.  Mother’s, lets teach our children what this holiday is really supposed to be about. 

My mom accomplished 1 of the paramount responsibilities of all mothers. She ingrained in me motherly phrases that play through my head like a tape recorder & that often slip from my mouth. Phrases like:

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

“Don’t hit your brother or sister!”  

 “Keep your hands to yourself”

“Play nice! & Share!”

“Give that back. It doesn’t belong to you.”

“& Say you are sorry.”

“If you can’t be nice, go to your room.”

 “Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log. Do something to be helpful!”

“If everyone was jumping off a cliff…” 

(& the classic Mother phrase)

“Just wait until you have kids”


There is something my mother said that deeply influenced my mothering behavior. She said, “There was a time when I discovered that I loved you so much that I would protect you with my life. I wished that I could take any sickness or pain away from you & suffer it myself to spare you. & that feeling never ever goes away no matter how old you or I get. Even when you have your own children, you will still be my child, that will never change & someday you will have all of these same feelings yourself about your own children.”

My mother would have gone to war for me & in many ways she often did.  In fact, since I am now a mother I realize that since the moment she became a mother, my mom has been involved in a continual war of worry.  Always fighting against the fear that something bad would happen to one of her children.  As Anne Lamott said, “Life is out there prowling around like a wolf; and it's going to drive you nuts.”

I can say a lot of things that my mom isn’t. But I could never say she didn’t fight for me, cry for me, bleed for me & die for me more than a few times & I am thankful for my mom.  I believe she has spent most of her life trying to do good things for me & maybe the greatest thing she did for me is that she made me believe in mothering.

God bless you & have a Happy Mother’s Day.



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