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I've sat through many well-meaning Sunday services that celebrated motherhood on Mother's Day. As a child, I remember lining up with all the other children, being handed a rose to pass to my mom. I remember Proverbs 31 being pounded into us as if only those who met every example of a virtuous woman was worthy of being praised, even then feeling the weight of expectation. I remember the crafts we'd make and the songs we'd sing and the general focus on mothers who had a child in the congregation. I remember the special bouquets for the oldest mom and for the mom who had most recently birthed her first baby.

I was too young, however, to remember if the congregation seemed a little thinner those weeks. I was too young to remember the women who would excuse themselves to powder their noses when the service got sentimental. I was too young to remember the broken hearts that were inevitably aching.

Thirty years later, I have gathered pain of my own through waiting for a baby, the bitterness of miscarriage, and suffering through a child's sin. I have also held my friends' hearts as they lost their own mothers, grieve the crumbling of their dreams, and mourn aspects of motherhood that are real and deep.

Good things should continue to be celebrated, yes! God created the gift of motherhood for His glory, and that we might know Him more. The honor bestowed upon women to be life-formers and life-givers and life-shapers is a beautiful thing. Rejoicing in the goodness of God through that particular grace is a wonderful, worthy thing.

Yet we must be incredibly cautious that, if we celebrate the good thing of motherhood (most especially in the context of a church service), it can often celebrate the created over the Creator, bringing the attention to a woman and her joy rather than the Author of all joy, and can often result in the collateral damage of ignoring or wounding a woman experiencing deep-set grief.

And so, for those reasons (and an abundance of others) I am so very grateful for my local church body. Motherhood was not overlooked this week, and I had several sweet friends wish me a happy mother's day with a smile and a hug. But there was a pursuit of unity that reached beyond the visible mothers and reached into those who were there for a greater purpose than to be acknowledged for the fruit of their womb. For those who came to church to know God more, they saw Jesus. This is the daily goal of our congregation, and worship is the theme in every ministry, including the Sunday service.

Rather than a trite sermon on mothers of the Bible, or how a woman should be honored by her children, our precious pastor spoke on Ruth in the most beautiful way. As he started into this small book of the Bible he focused on the first chapter. The chapter where everything was hard. Where everything seemed hopeless. Where everything was bleak and unlovely. And in that first chapter of Ruth we see how anticipation was met with brokenness, and expectation was met with grief, and even 'coming home' was a sorrow.

But, oh, the HOPE!

My notes from Sunday's service, complete with coffee stain and poor spelling.

When grief is a result of disobedience, there is purpose in the pain, and the brokenness is built to make us become more like Christ.

And when our sorrow is simply an outcome of our sinful, broken world, there is beauty even there, as God is actively involved in every small detail. God is at work in EVERYTHING. Our pain is purposed for His glory, and when we respond in humility we will be changed.

Yet we must remember that our pain is not our own. It is uniquely bestowed on us, yes, but as it is handed to us by a good, loving God, we are called to steward it just as wisely and well as any other gift from Him. How we respond to our pain is a reflection of how we respond to God's heart and our trust in Him.

We are called to steward our pain just as wisely and well as any other gift from Him. How we respond to our pain is a reflection of how we respond to God's heart and our trust in Him.

Additionally, we must remember that our pain is often not just for our own refining, but for the encouragement of others. Jesus often chooses to bless us with pain so that others may see us reflect Him in our grief. Perhaps this heartache you are experiencing was built specifically so that the individual who wants nothing to do with Jesus will be inextricably drawn towards Him, because they see your trust in His heart and your insatiable joy amidst the very real pain.

I saw several posts on social media today, capturing the grief many have towards Mother's Day. Yet in that pain there was so much beauty. I saw women come together to hold each other's hearts. I saw them encourage each other through shared sorrow. I saw a connection that was not there before, that was brought about simply because of shared pain.

Oh, that we would see our pain as a platform for the glory of God, rather than a scourge. Because that pain is real. The grief is legitimate. The sorrow is often overwhelming.

BUT GOD. He is good, and wise, and all-powerful, and loving and eternal in His faithfulness and constant in His promises, and He DELIGHTS in working growth and glory in purposed pain. No woman but one who trusts the Lord can praise Him amidst her pain.

No woman but one who trusts the Lord can praise Him amidst her pain.

Our greatest calling is to showcase Christ. And what better place to do that than in our pain, where all others fear to tread?

If you have survived Mother's Day you are probably still hurting. And sister, I feel your heart.

In the midst of our pain and as we continue to grieve, let us hold hands with our sisters in Christ and live in the victorious promise that every pain is purposed, and that we CAN trust the heart of our Good, Giving God. As we weep, let us worship. And in that, others will see Jesus.

As we weep, let us worship.

Listen to Dr. Jon Stricklin's sermon HERE.

I broke Chorale protocol to swivel in my seat and spy out my parents and children, even though the rule was to never draw attention to yourself, even before getting to the stage. Ah ha! I attempted to catch their eye, but I was only one black dress in a sea of dark apparel and I knew there was no way they'd see me. Ah well. I knew I was the director's favorite (as were all the other 192 Chorale members) and thus decided I probably wouldn't get in too much trouble for breaking several concert rules. So I stood up and stared waving. Huh. They still couldn't see me. I grabbed my standing buddy, hoisted her up as well and we both started flailing our appendages to get their attention. Being my sister-in-law, she didn't seem to mind my enticing her into such a serious Chorale faux-pas, and seemed happy enough that her nieces and nephew finally waved back. I made eye-contact with my parents, and blew kisses to the kids, who held their Hershey's kisses aloft in response.

There were roughly 1300 people packed the gymnasium, and the general hubbub of friends and families chatting while they awaited the beginning of the concert filled the room with an ebb and flow of rolling decibels. I settled back into my seat, nudging my belongings further under the chair in front of me, and checked my binder for the third time. Songs in order, check. Tissue tucked into a pocket, check. Last sip of water, check. Binder held in my right hand so that it is farthest away from the audience, check.

Oh! Can't forget to start recording. I booped my phone and fired up the voicememo app, tossing the device onto my scarf just in time to see Doc give the signal to rise. As a unified wave of concert black, nearly two hundred vocalists stood and stormed the risers.

Well, not exactly. The young ones (the current chorale members) did an excellent job rushing onto the stage in fury and formation. The alumni, however (some of which were over four decades older than the freshmen) were acutely conscious of popping hips, balance issues, and general aging, which resulted in more of a mildly aggressive flurry rather than a storm.

The energy on stage was something I had never before experienced. Even 15 years after my last Chorale concert I could still remember the way my sternum would tickle the back of my throat, and the tightness in my lower back as my seldom-used heels changed my posture just enough to make me aware of the way I held my shoulders. I anticipated the excitement, the joy, and the little flutters of nerves but this... This was something different.

Physically, there was an ease that had never been there before, simply because I knew far better who I was and why I was there. Mentally, on account of being able to use sheet music, there was a freedom from my old nemesis of a forgetful mind. Emotionally, there was elation. To be surrounded by a representation of 43 years of music with a common conductor was a platform I had never considered enjoying. And reaching through each feeling and thought, and draped over the wonder of opportunity being in that place at that time, was a weighted blanket of... Well, there's no better way to describe it than feeling completely curled up and tucked in by a rich velvet cocoon of home.

I knew far better who I was and why I was there.

And then we began to sing. Doc's familiar hands led us the same way we had grown to love, and he directed us with the gestures and gesticulations unique to his conducting and character. Though many of us had not sung in a choir for several decades, Doc had trained us so well that his direction was intuitive and natural. With just a twitch of his pinky he was dropping us to the barest mezzo-piano and growing the intensity without hardly adjusting our volume, pulling the purple richness out of every consonant and breathing gold into every vowel.

And the power! When we were called to drive the song in forte and fury I realized I was leaning over my toes as a tangible wall of sound blew me forward. Even now, thinking about the force of that unified sound I have goosebumps crawling over my arms. THAT. If I only keep one physical feeling from that night it'll be the undertow of musical strength crashing into my rib-cage, filling every one of my molecules with a palpable energy.

That man, though. Dr. Paul T. Plew. The man we were there to recognize for his 43 years of faithful service to Jesus at The Master's University School of Music. The man who not only led us in music but also in character and upright living. The man who taught me that JOY is a choice founded on my trust in my God, rather than a response to my circumstances. The man who married Jason and I fifteen years ago. The man who remembers my children's names (most of the time) and checks in on us periodically to see how we're doing, and to see if we're "happy serving the Lord."

The man who will accept nothing less than honesty and transparency when he asks us where we've been "in the book in the last 24 hours." That man who cares more about a person's soul than their status, and calls them to excellence simply because he believes every Christian's purpose in every one of their opportunities and objectives is the glory of God.

There was a gymnasium full of people who had seen Jesus through Doc, and were the better for it to such an extent that they traveled as far as Cambodia to celebrate him that evening. Yet, when asked during a public interview, "What is the legacy... you want to impress on our hearts and souls?" Doc replied, "I want you to forget the name Paul Plew, and just remember, 'Give me Jesus.'"

I want you to forget the name Paul Plew, and just remember, "Give me Jesus."

And then that dear man spoke his heart for us, espousing his desired legacy in the midst of a growing challenge for the college and for churches who are in the midst of a broken world, urging us to live in such a way "that we will not be swayed by the culture, but we would be swayed by Scripture."

After a full evening of curated remarks and special musical offerings by some exquisite people who had grown under Doc's conducting hand and caring heart, there was a presentation of thanks by the school board. Much to the tearful delight of everyone present, the music program was given a new name: The Paul T. Plew School of Music.

As the applause quieted and folks sat back down, a board member stated, "Dr. Plew said earlier that he was content to see his name be forgotten..." As the bursts of laughter settled he continued, "It's gonna be a little tougher now. We've already made a plaque and stuff, so... I hope that's okay." Yes. Yes, it's absolutely okay.

"You can't stage this kind of affection." That was the sentiment as we all sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness and the Doxology followed by the Chorale benediction: You Are The Light.

"You can't stage this kind of affection."

And as the last note whispered away like a dust mote in a sunbeam, there was a collective breath. For everyone knew we had just experienced something special. Something that would most likely not be rivaled this side of heaven, yet would be echoed a million times over as the saints through the ages would one day be surrounded by the fruits of their faithfulness. And each faithful man and woman and child will take every accolade, and every praise, and every evidence of their love for Jesus and will carry them to the feet of their Savior with absolute joy, saying, "This was all for You."

May my legacy be one that showcases Jesus so well. For each person who sees Christ in me, and is thus spurred to know Him more and love Him more, therin will lay my greatest achievement and my eternal reward. After all, my purpose and objective in every opportunity is the glory of God. And thus His legacy is my greatest prize.

Slideshow Descriptions

  • My amazing SIL; she's pretty much the coolest.

  • Doc lifted up 5 feet so that everyone would see his pinky of power

  • 193 voices, all crammed on one stage, in front of one man, for one Audience.

  • Plew getting into the piece! (How Great Thou Art)

  • The renamed school of music

When I hit the submit button I thought that was it. I knew my mom would see what I had written, and I figured perhaps three or four other folks might read the post. (If you were to measure my popularity by my social media followers you'd probably shake your head with a smile and say, "Aw, that's cute.") I don't write to the masses. I write to like-minded friends (or so I thought).

The next morning, though, I woke up to a handful of notifications, alerting me of private messages, comments, shares, and responses. And I was surprised... even more so when I realized not all of them were positive.

You see, my goal in writing (both on an offline) is to encourage myself and others to know God more, in order to understand who WE are, and WHOSE we are. I usually pursue this through encouraging comments, analogies, comments about the character of God, and other uplifting conversation topics. Very rarely do I post a straight-up conviction or call to action.

My goal in writing is to encourage myself and others to know God more, in order to understand who WE are, and WHOSE we are.

I thought I knew my audience. I thought my post would serve to encourage folks to keep doing what they were doing. I assumed my post would serve as a pat on the back, an 'atta girl,' and would simply be a spot of joy in my friends' lives.

Nope. It made some folks mad! Some people felt personally attacked, and many were offended.