It seems but yesterday I carried my babies on my hip to the driveway and buckled them into car seats. Now, I stand instead and wave (and pray) as my oldest drives her siblings away each morning to school. And I am filled with a strong sense that the days draw near when our nest will be emptied. My little birds will have flown off to nests of their own, and my mama’s heart will miss them so. But even if God calls them to live thousands of miles from our driveway, I want to never leave what’s been true since the first day I encircled each of them in my arms. I want to never worry in a way that forgets whose Arm it is that really encircles them.
I love this quote by Octavius Winslow, and return to it often when my heart is tempted to take a melodramatic, time-is-ticking-away plunge into worry.
“Christian mothers, your child may be far away from the sheltering home, voyaging on the stormy sea, or dwelling in some distant climate beyond your voice. But he is still within the reach of the mightiest power a mother can wield — the power of prayer! And although you cannot throw around him your maternal arms to shield him from the evil of the world, you can invest him with your wrestling believing petitions, and secure on his behalf the Arm which encircles the globe, and is mighty to save. Oh that the Church of God may be filled with such praying mothers!”
Winslow was born in England in 1808, the eighth of thirteen children. His first years were spent in a home of wealth, but then financial disaster hit, his father became ill, and his parents decided to start over in the New World. His mother would set sail for America with Octavius and his siblings — his father would settle their affairs in England and then cross the Atlantic to join them.
At the age of 40, though, Ocatvius’s mother received news that she wouldn’t be meeting her husband at an arriving ship. Mary, instead, learned that she was a widow. She was left penniless, newly arrived in a foreign land, with ten children to feed. Octavius, at the time, was seven.
How did she do it?
Octavius and others of his surviving siblings (three died as young children) grew to be men and women who were used by the Lord to affect their generation in profound ways. Many of his quotes strengthen and encourage me these many years after his death. And as a woman, I’ve wished I could know more about the faith of the mother who, under such strained and exhausting life-circumstances, raised children who deeply loved the Lord. I don’t personally know anyone who has loved the Lord Jesus so faithfully through so much pain — and I certainly haven’t lived through trials of her sort.
- I haven’t kissed three precious children good-bye and laid them in a grave.
- I haven’t mourned the loss of a beloved husband, unable from across an ocean, to lay him in his grave.
- I haven’t faced unexpected poverty in an unknown, foreign city.
- I haven’t raised 10 children by myself.
- I haven’t, in the midst of all this pain, nurtured three sons who became pastors.
I want to learn from her.
So, I was thrilled today to realize that I could download Octavius’s tribute to his mother, Life in Jesus, compiled from her journals and letters in 1862, free from Google books. I’ve not read much so far, but he begins by remembering his mother as a woman who was “so unreservedly consecrated to God … so rich in Christian experience, and replete with Christian comfort…”
I want my life to be unreservedly consecrated to God. I want all that I experience to be superimposed by an awareness of Christ as supreme, that I might rest in His comfort and follow wholeheartedly His guidance. And when my maternal heart desires to shield my children from the evil of the world, I want my heart to turn to and trust in my Father’s supreme, globe-encircling Arm.
Oh Father, give us hearts that pour out believing petitions before your throne for these the children you gave us to mother. Thank you that we don’t have to hold all their moments perfectly in our arms.
For you hold them all in Yours.