My mother had a penchant for storytelling. I remember the stories she told my brother and me when we were small to soothe our wounded hearts after some childhood disappointment. Through times when we experienced academic trials, difficulties with friends, and lost love, my mother always encouraged us. She could transform an otherwise ordinary moment with her unique humor and her special brand of mothering.
"Life is not always easy, querida. There will be struggles. Sometimes you may feel like you're going down Niagara Falls in an old shoe, but don't lose hope! No pierdas Ia esperanza! Reach out to God during the storms of life. He is faithful!"
My mom knew about struggles firsthand. In fact, it is her life story that has taught me the most about God's faithfulness.
Holding tight to God's promises
My family came to the United States years ago. We landed in Florida, but my mother was intent on boarding the first flight to Boston to see our extended family. We flew out of Miami on a perfectly beautiful January day only to arrive in Boston for the worst snowstorm in 30 years. For days, my mother sat at the window of our small, sparsely furnished apartment watching the snowflakes fall. We huddled around her, afraid of our new life and missing our family and friends in Cuba. My mother encouraged us by connecting our circumstances to that of the people of Israel whom God guided and protected through innumerable hardships in their desert journey. She told us, "Think of the snow as manna falling from the sky. God will take care of us and guide us. God is always with us."
Even without a word of English, my mother found work only two weeks after arriving in the U.S. With a humble salary, she managed to support our small family and put us through private school and university. My mother assured us that, no matter our circumstances, God would always be there for our family. Years later when our lives had improved and we had forgotten those early years, she would remind us of the days when we held tight to the promises in God's Word.
Courageous women in Scripture
I continue to recognize my mother's stories in the pages of Scripture, counting her next to the women in the Bible who showed remarkable courage in the face of great adversity. Undaunted by obstacles, these women remained faithful to God knowing God would never fail them. From the courageous Deborah and Esther, to the faithful Ruth, the persistent Naomi, and finally our Lord's mother Mary, the Scriptures are full of women who leaned on God with determination and resilience, and remained faithful. Through cultural challenges, loneliness, vulnerability, and the inexperience of youth, these women proved that God's grace is sufficient to provide safety in the storm.
As an immigrant single mother, she was a fighter. She had the spirit of one of my favorite Bible characters, Israel's prophetess and judge Deborah. Deborah ruled when God's people were held captive by the evil Canaanite army commander Sisera (Judges 4–5). During a time when the mighty Hebrew warrior Barak, whose name means "lightning," was too weak to step up to the plate and face the enemy, it is Deborah who calls him to task (Judges 4:6). Deborah places her faith and hope in God and God does not disappoint her. I can still hear my mother calling my brother and me to task: "No pierdas Ia esperanza" and putting the lightning back in our bones.
My mother clung to the promises of Scripture, like Jesus's teaching about the reality of trials. While his words are frank they are also full of hope: "I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world" (John 16:33 CEV).
My mother's wisdom has instilled this hope in me, giving me a source of strength during my own life experiences of loss and disappointment. Like Paul, she taught us that "tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-5 NKJV). This is not the world's transient brand of hope but one that is secure and reliable, a hope that "does not disappoint."
I'm thankful for my mother's tenacity and her example of faith in God through life's trials. Whenever I feel like I'm struggling, I pray that I, too, can reach out and hold on to God. Perhaps my story will be added to the great legacy of the Bible's courageous women, right alongside hers.
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