In honor of all mothers, past, present, and future, That’s What She will be devoting the month of May to stories that celebrate the women who sacrifice generously, serve tirelessly, and dream limitlessly. To introduce our series, our beloved sister Katie shares a story from the beautiful country of Guatemala.
We both kneel down next to the small coffee plant poking out of the Guatemalan soil. At this level, I can look into this woman’s soft eyes instead of a couple of feet over her head when we are standing next to each other. She explains to my husband how she and her children cared for the discarded beans during their months of picking coffee on a coastal farm; from the beginning her unwavering resolve to do whatever that was needed to care for her family made a strong impression on us. Her husband had passed away several months ago from an illness and she lives for her children now. And while her spirit permeates a gentle sweetness, there is a resolute strength that can be seen in the ever-so-slight upturn of her chin, and heard in the hint of pride in her voice as she tells us how her neighbors laughed at her for thinking she could get these now few-inch high plants to grow in their soil.
As we rise from our crouched position, I catch sight of her children, standing tall together in front of the small adobe house that they call home. The oldest, a daughter, as thin as a rail, holds a chubby baby while the next in line – also a daughter – quickly comes to help her mother gather the coffee plants after my husband tells her that we will purchase them all. Afterwards, we are invited inside for a quick and simple refreshment of coffee. As the youngest son peeks at us with a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile, the oldest daughter resumes her role of helper to her mother. I marvel at the peace and gentleness that holds this family together, a family whose smiles remain even in the midst of extreme poverty, fear, and loneliness. The conversation continues, and this mother relays to us her quiet confidence in God’s ability to provide all they need. As we walk away some time later I rub my own swollen pregnant belly, and pray that I too will have this mother’s strength when my own life calls for it.
Several years later a soft smile plays on my lips at the memory of this gentle woman as I listen to the sound of my own dear children chasing each other with the hose outside in the hot sun. They have grown long, thin, and strong just like the now full-grown coffee plants that we bought so many years ago. I listen to their laughter and melt into this moment of joy. The journey of motherhood, while so very rewarding, has never claimed to be an easy one, and inevitably those who participate in this journey will experience every emotion life can offer. My heart stings for a brief second at the thought of our two other little ones who should have been out there on wobbly steps, joining their siblings in a water fight. Indeed, I can now add my own dark days of loss to the long list of the joys… but I too can now speak of the faithfulness and love of a Father that will not only never leave us, but will even chase us down wherever we are found.
I lean back in my chair as familiar words wash over my heart in all those deep places still fresh in their healing…
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NLT)
There it is… His gentleness. Always there, arms open, even as my own heart rages against the trusting embrace that He continuously offers. Always there, gentleness pouring from His kind eyes in place of the expected punishment in light of my own unsteady heart. Always there, His steady hand extended, waiting for me to place my own hand there and let Him gently lead me through this magnificent journey of joys and fears. Motherhood in all its glory is no mystery or stranger to our Lord, and I am learning that His gentle embrace, encouragement, and care is always, ever, only a whisper of His name away.
My gaze wanders again to these coffee plants that now provide us with sweet fruit and shade from the bright sun. They too, have seen harsh days of dry soil and a hot sun – circumstances out of their control. I think of the care that was required to get them through those days of drought and into these days of abundance… gentle, steady, caring hands that watered them daily, that pruned them when needed… care that they could not provide for themselves.
And I see it.
Are these not the same hands that our Father extends to us and our children during those dry, hard, seasons when circumstances out of our control rage against us, when growth is limited and we do not even know what we need? Is it not His own gentle touch and care that sustain us and encourage us to keep standing at the end of the day? Is it not ultimately our complete trust in His strength that becomes the deep, quiet strength that I have always longed for? His gentleness that allows us to be gentle in return to those around us?
Whatever season you are in, fellow mother-friends, be encouraged that you have a gentle Shepherd-Father who is leading you and your young ones one step at a time. Lean into His strength and let His gentleness feed you, hold you, and guide you. For you are greatly loved.
Katie Eleiott Ficker moved to the rural highlands of Guatemala 12 years ago. These years have held her most important adulthood events including marrying her favorite farmer and becoming a mama to three beautiful children she wouldn’t trade for the world. It is here that she has also experienced the never-ending love of a Father who never lets us go no matter how dark life can get. Amidst home-schooling and working as a nurse educator, she writes to remember the beautiful moments in this life and the goodness of the One who gives them.
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