Dear Pastor, I’m not sure how to start this post.
Dear Pastors, were you surprised by the response to my letter? I was. Amy
Dear Readers, you did it. You posted this on Facebook and a movement was set in motion. Do you have any idea how many you have reached?! Thank you. Amy
Dear Jesus, What. Just. Happened? You amaze me. Amy
Let me back up and show you a little bit of what’s gone on since Thursday morning when I hit send and “An open letters to pastors” moved from being in my head and heart to being part of the public dialogue. I thought it might do slightly better than normal; it was written from a place of personal experience and a strong desire for things to be better, different, in the most God honoring “why do we settle for so little when we can have so much more” kind of way.
Prior to that post, the highest number of hits I’d gotten on one day was 172 –and that was thanks to a retweet from Patricia Heaton of Everybody Love Raymond— back in February. By mid-afternoon I was at 212 and thrilled to have broken my record because several people had said they’d post it on their Facebook page. All told, on Thursday the total number of hits was 525 and I thought the wave had ridden itself out.
Friday morning I got up to teach and was stunned that there were 600 hits by 5:45 a.m. I returned from a full morning of teaching to over 2,000 hits (just on that day) and twelve comments from people I didn’t know and who shared parts of their stories. If you haven’t yet, go back and read through the comments, but first you might want to take your shoes off because it’s holy ground.
Friday’s total: 4,667.
Saturday’s total: 8,184
Sunday’s total: 13,597
Monday ‘s (so far) total: 10,434
That’s more than 36,000 hits. But wait, there’s more! It was not only the total number of hits that floored me (literally, I had to lie down. I also ate an oatmeal cookie before noon, which was a gesture of celebration.). What humbled me was the global-ness of it. People in 109 different countries read this. Can you even wrap your mind around that? As a shout out to the hours I spent as a kid playing Risk, people in Madagascar read the post! And the Cayman Islands aren’t just in John Grisham novels! Greenland sparked a conversation in the office today (it is, by the way, a part of Denmark).
Sunday morning when I awoke and saw the total I started to cry, only the second time in this whole experience. It was a Paul moment (yes, yes, I know that I compared myself to Mother Teresa two weeks ago and now am comparing myself to Paul, but work with me on this). Paul wrote letters and they circulated and those letters were used by God. I wrote a letter and it circulated and it was used by God. Paul, who called himself the greatest of sinners, still used by God. Me, a great sinner, still used by God. To God be the glory.Another very cool piece of this is told by my friend LeAnne. You can read about it here.
I have wondered over the past four days why this took off. Why not some other message? Three simple reminders have emerged:
- There is so much more going on in people’s lives and hearts than meets the eye.
- People want to share their stories, and we need to create space for them to do so.
- The proverbs are right on. Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim (15:4). And Gracious words are like honey comb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body (16:24).
On Saturday I was reading in Psalms (this was the day the numbers were continuing to grow and I kept hitting “refresh”) and the Lord so graciously reminded me: And if your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life. (62:10b) Point taken Lord, thank you for the reminder. Wednesday will find us here at The Messy Middle discussing the book 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker. Come back and join in the discussion.
Until then, thanks for coming along for the ride.
Gayle Wilson says
Hubs quoted some in his preamble to our prayer time in church today :)
Hi Amy….I don’t think that’s even that half of it. Because when I posted it on my FB page, hoping at least one pastor’s wife would see it, another friend took it another step further and sent it to that pastor’s wife and other pastors in a FB message. She told me this yesterday and informed me that one of those pastors had sent it to other pastors. Today she told me that both of those pastors worked it into their sermons. I was really amazed and touched.
The message your wrote touched the hearts of people. I’m so thankful for things that the Lord lets us go through because I know it means he will then use us to help others. Bless you sweet sister!
Copperbluestudio (your name has me picturing you drinking tea or coffe out of really beautiful mugs!) — Wow. I’m really amazed and touched too. One of my friends has been really curious to know a bit of the path this has taken. I’m curious too and this is like a small puzzle piece you’ve put in place. Thanks! Amy
I was in the middle of blogging and begging when I read your article. It made more sense to stop where I was and post a link. I wish I would have had this before today. My daughter only told me this past week that this happened to her at their church last year and we all chose not to attend church today but went to brunch instead. My husband is a staff pastor and I had been trying to get those who make the decisions to err on the side of being sensitive. I will be sharing this before next year to be sure.
Brunch. What a lovely alternative. Ministering to and being being ministered to by family and food … and how appropriate. To next year and the year after that and the year after ….!Amy
Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) says
As they say in my neck of the woods, “Incroyable! C’est magnifique!” ;-)
Those are some impressive numbers!
But, you know, you start writing things that are really true, they have a funny way of getting spread around. :)
I keep thinking about how the majority of these kinds of holidays (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, etc.) were started or promoted in the first place by greeting card manufacturers to sell more cards. Seriously. And while there is a good side to the whole idea, I think somewhere along the line it got made into a THING. You called out the THING and laid it on the line, and found a lot of people nodding in agreement. I think that is awesome.
You rock. :)
Love from Paris.
Karin, thanks for the shout out (and some French thrown in, I love it!). xoxo back! Amy
I couldn’t leave a comment earlier, but am trying again. I shared your post through facebook and a blog post for the babyloss community that I’m a part of. For two years after my daughter’s stillbirth, I was a mom, with only a grave to tend to. While I’m lucky to have another child here with me now, I know the difficulties that come with holidays. So thank you for your thoughtful inclusion for all women.
Regierdesign! Thanks for adding another piece of the puzzle. There were several comments from that link and I’d guess more views than you or I will ever know. Amy
Super cool, Amy !!! Thanks again….for writing from your heart.
Thank you for clearly speaking the heart of many.
Sandy Boone says
Amy, I found you through a pastor friend who posted a link to your article. I am a pastor as well, and we look for good writing that really meets life on the road with Jesus. I’m thankful for your insides poured out to voice the darkness many experience … i.e. you brought the light of Christ into the darkness, incarnationally – with Jesus’ skin on. Thanks.
Thanks back! We try to do similar things! Amy
Christie Welch says
Hi Amy…I found you through the other Amy, Amy Lester. I am a mother now, but your post reminds me of the struggles I experienced when I was trying so desperately to become a mother. Mother’s Day was hard, but so many other things were hard too…baby showers, visiting a new mother and holding her precious baby in my arms, and even just seeing a beautiful moment between a mother and child.
Thank you for reminding us all that motherhood is a gift and a treasure, and that we must be mindful of the many who desperately want to be a mother but cannot, or those who have been mothers but lose a child. We cannot forget that some people choose not to be a mother, and that is okay.
This was my first Mother’s Day attending a new church, and I really appreciated that the mother’s did not stand. I have always felt that have a certain group stand in church is silly…you helped me realize that in addition to being silly, it can also be hurtful.
Christie, I love the connections that are being made! Did you know Amy was the one who was with me last Mother’s Day? Probably you did :). Amy
And Amy, did you know that I babysat Christie when she was a wee little girl? I love this connection!
What?! No, I didn’t. Double love it! Amy
Amy, I used your open letter to Pastors request as the opening tribute to mothers and then followed that with prayer…gave you credit for the words. Many ladies were moved to tears. Thanks for the help! jdajr
Jdajr, And thank you for taking the time to come back here and share how it was used! Amy
I stumbled across your blog last week as I was prepping for Sunday and as a pastor (and a dad) I was thankful for your work and insight. I have always struggled with Mother’s Day due to the many issues you raised-and your words helped me and our leadership team honor God yesterday-so I wanted to say Thank You! May God continue to bless you as you serve in His name…..
Chris, thanks for letting us know that this was used! Amy
Exciting to say the least! PTl
I know! Thanks Jim. Amy
Thank you for your post. It reached Hawaii so you can add that to your map! I am a worship leader here and we used your preamble during worship. It was a powerful moment that God used to encourage, comfort and bless.
Hawaii! Love it. Thanks for adding this piece to the puzzle. Amy
Julie Woods says
it’s Tuesday morning here in sunny Scotland. I only found your post today, linked via RevGalsBlogPals (because I was preocupied…lol) and here it was Mothers’ Day back in March anyways… however, your litany moved me to tears… and spoke very deeply. I have grown up sons, and a very difficult relationship with my mother which has finally settled after decades of pain. Bless you for our words and the grace that flows from them
Scotland! (she said with a longing sigh and a tilt of the head — I have dear friends in Scotland and can’t help believing that every single citizen is wonderful and would offer me a cuppa if I stopped by). But as your comment points out, Scotland is not heaven and pain can exist even there. Thanks for letting us know how you heard about the post! I’m grateful that God can minister to us no matter how old we are or how deep the wound. Amy
(Interesting that Mother’s Day was in March. Out of curiousity I just checked with my Mary Engelbright calendar and indeed it said that May 13th was MDay in the USA, Austrailia, Canada, and NZ.)
Thank you, Amy. Your post struck home. My wife and I have been married 41+ years. We could not have our own children and adopted two boys from Korea. Huge challenges with our older son, and still 34 years later, major life challenges. And so I have been sensitive to the whole Mother’s Day and Father’s Day issue.
As a pastor I reflected that sensitivity in our prayers this year. Many of those prayer items you included I included in our congregational prayer. But now, reading your post, I realize that the one mistake I made was having mothers stand. How could I be so blind? Especially when I was consciously trying to reach out to those whose Mother’s Day is not happy, with lots of family gatherings etc., or for whom Mother’s Day is not.
I still have so much to learn. Thank you for writing, Amy.
exegete77, if I’ve learned anything in the past week, it is that everyone, and I mean everyone, has a story! Thanks for sharing part of yours! Amy
Here is a prayer I posted on my pastor’s blog for our congregation:
Heidi David-Young says
Thanks for your insight about Mother’s day and the beautiful litany you wrote about mother’s in all forms and stages of life. How can I get permission to use it next Mother’s Day in our church service? I’d love to begin our service with this litany having the leader read and the congregation respond with the parts “we remember with you, we stand with you” etc. I know it would be very powerful.
Bethel Lutheran Church
Yes, please feel free to use it next year! Amy
Thanks! We will!
Melissa Lester says
Amy, like so many others, I discovered your touching letter on a friend’s Facebook wall last week. I read it and appreciate the wise advice to be sensitive to the experiences of others. I referenced your words in a post on my blog today and thought you might want to take a look at “The Other Side of Mother’s Day.”
Thank you for starting a discussion that will help us better honor the women around us.
Thanks Melissa, I’m popping over now to check it out! Amy
Loren Pinilis says
Wow, that’s a ridiculous amount of hits. I’m glad that it touched so many people!
Hi Amy~ I’m a mom and a pastor and I appreciate so much your giving voice to something that I have also felt in my ministry. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, too, has always been a thorn in my side (you and your Paul-ness can relate :-)). I have offered a pastoral prayer on Mother’s Day much like the one you offer and I get a plethora of comments –
Some shock me and others awe me – which usually means to me that I was at least a little prophetic that day speaking truth with as much grace as I could muster with a lot of help from the Spirit. Thanks for speaking truth with grace.
Shock and awe … I get that :) … if you’ve poked around in the comments, know why :). Thanks for letting us know a bit about your experience as a pastor!
Amy, it isn’t over. You are still making a difference. I stumbled onto your post today and soon had tears running down my face. What a complex relationship with mothering I have. This so speaks to me. At 18 I was raising younger siblings and step sisters and brother. I vowed never to have children. I didn’t. I lived as a single woman until my late 40’s although I did help to raise two nephews who are like sons, but still don’t qualify me to stand in church on Mother’s Day Sunday. At 47 I became what we like to call bonus mom to 3 grown daughters and grandmother to 7. Such a blessing that God allowed me a family despite my youthful vow. I always struggle with how to handle that Sunday morning tradition that stings hearts around the world. If I stand I feel like a counterfeit, minimizing motherhood for “real” mothers. If I don’t stand, does that minimize unintentionally the relationship I feel with the daughters? I thought I’d get used to it or figure it out, but over 10 years later I still struggle and hope I’ll be ill on Mother’s Day.
Loretta, hearing a bit of your story, “complex” is apt! I’d also add “redemptive” :). Vows we make at a young age can be so binding until they are redeemed. Bless you sister!
I just saw your letter on facebook and added it to my blog for this year. Wow, you gave such a great understanding. Thank you
And that you for commenting … I know it can be kind of a pain to do, so I appreciate it.
Amy, I am an Episcopal priest and struggle every year with the complexities of different peoples experiences of motherhood, and Mother’s Day, and how to approach it with great sensitivity without ignoring it completely. Thank you for your letter and your thoughts. May I use your prayer/litany in our services this Sunday? Just so your know, every woman over the age 18 (I know women have children under that age all the time) receives a flower and an acknowledgement for their role in shaping the lives of those around them. Again, thank you.
Chris you may! Did you see the post I did this week that has 10 ideas for pastors?
Why on earth do you discriminate against moms under 18? That seems very odd to me. Can you explain?
I don’t think I discriminated against any one. Maybe you misunderstood the intention of my post. If we had a mother under the age of 18 we would certainly give a flower to her. The point is we give flowers to all the “women” flowers on mothers day. Age 18 is the legal delineation between age of minority and majority. I guess we discriminate against girls on Mother’s Day, but I would rather err there than exclude women who are not mothers in the strict biological sense.
I see the value in what I do on Mother’s Day, as opposed to ignoring it completely as some prefer. If you would like to listen to what I said in my sermon, I will be happy to provide you a link to listen. I think that you will find that if anyone felt uncomfortable on Mother’s Day in church it would have been a man. It just so happens that one of the readings for this last Sunday was about an unnamed slave girl found in Acts 16:16. I reflected about how ironic it is that we honor mother’s on this day, but that the biggest human rights issue we face globally is the abuse against women in the forms of sexual assault, reproductive rights, sex trafficking, and discrimination. The fact that 2 million women go missing each year is appalling.
If I have misunderstood you and you think that every female (mother or not) should get a flower on Mother’s Day no matter their age, I would like to understand why. I think that children should be mothered (and fathered :-) )as much as they can before being expected to act like parents.
I hope this clears up my thoughts.
PS – Amy, I did use the litany and adopted it for our use. The response was overwhelmingly positive and people greatly appreciated the sensitivity. I’ve directed a few people to your blog for copies and comments.
I did add a petition “To those who are like mothers to others – we value your Christ like love”. Thank you.
The only negative comment I received has about the petition “To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren…..” The person wrote “perhaps this thought could have been omitted – increases ‘guilt’ of those who have not had children, for whatever reason.” I’m going to think on it for next year.
Hi, Amy! A friend of mine just posted your open letter to a pastor on Facebook. (Still circulating.) And as a single woman in her upper-20s who always dreamed of really getting to know her grandkids and watching them grow up–who attends a church where the mothers were asked to stand up on Sunday–this really struck a chord with me.
I would like to mention one group of “moms” which was left out. While I don’t have human kids, I have 3 adopted cats and 1 foster dog. They’re not a substitute for those kids I’d really like to have some day, nor are they a hobby for until I have kids. And I am pretty small scale. I have a friend who doesn’t want human kids but has adopted 2 cats and has fostered over 50 kittens…most of them so young that they require bottle feeding every 3-4 hours. So, when people talk about the mothers who pace the floors, worrying about their children, waking up to feed them at incredible hours of the morning, and even going to work exhausted because of their kids–my friend is single as well–just because the kids aren’t human doesn’t really change anything.
Back to what you did say, I’m considering boycotting church on Mother’s Day. It sounds like a splendid idea.