by Elaine Maust
Meditation for Nohemi Martinez’s Quinceañera
June 24, 2007
On this important day, I hold three pictures of Nohemi in my heart.
The first is Nohemi on the day I met her. It was Valentines Day, Friends’ Day, at Jubilee. She was about 4 months old, a “chooby” baby, her mother called her, and the cutest little thing. With skin the delicious color of coffee with lots of cream and curly black loops for hair. The kind of baby you want to hold even if you’re just seeing her in the grocery store. In fact, this week Regina remembered that when she took her into stores, clerks would ask to carry Nohemi to the back so their coworkers could see how cute she was.
The second picture I have of Nohemi is the graceful confident young woman she is today. Poised and positive. Focused and hopeful. A young woman we are proud to call, our Nohemi.
But it was the third picture I have of Nohemi that has captured my imagination most. It is the picture of Nohemi that we haven’t met yet. Nohemi when she is an old woman. I picture her with short black and grey curly hair and black twinkly eyes. A woman who is satisfied with her life. I imagine her living in a little house, with a yard that she has made beautiful.
I imagine Nohemi having grandchildren and great grandchildren, maybe one a teenager who is named, Amy, after her. I imagine Nohemi as an old woman who is contented and at peace. I image her to be respected. A woman whose strength through every situation in life encourages and inspires others, so that she becomes the person most admired by her family and their friends.
Okay, you know, I can get a little carried away when I let my imagination take off. So, for balance I invited Nohemi to tell me what she hopes to be when she is an old woman.
Nohemi says that when she is old, she will be a strong believer in God. A woman who has the kind of faith that is something that a lot of other people wish they had. She wants to be the kind of woman who other people, all kinds of people, she said, look to for help.
Nohemi imagines a lifetime of memories connected with family. She hopes to be there for the important events in her family’s life. The weddings. The births of her nieces and nephews. And she looks forward to having a family of her own.
And of course, by the time she is an old woman, Nohemi says, she will have become a famous landscape architect.
Our pictures of Nohemi, hers and mine, are not so different, are they? So here is my question. How does a 15-year-old young woman grow up to be the old woman both Nohemi and I imagine her to be?
I know a little about how she grew from the precious little baby to be the beautiful young woman she is today. She grew through accepting life’s difficulties as challenges instead of whining or complaining. She grew when she gave her life to God. She grew by accepting responsibility instead of making excuses. She grew through embracing the best of her heritage, her father’s hard working can-do attitude and her mother’s faithfulness.
But back to my question… How will this fifteen-year-old whom we bless today become the gracious and strong hearted woman Nohemi and I both imagine her to be when she is 85?
Maybe you have heard of Oseloa McCarty. She’s one of my heroes. She is the woman from Hattiesburg, Mississippi who became famous by donating her life savings, $150,000, to the University of Southern MS.
Ms. McCarty knew that it is the small choices in life that make the big differences. She was a woman who gave a fortune by saving money she made doing laundry, one dollar at a time.
Her banker, Paul Laughlin, wrote, (Oseola McCarty’s Simple Wisdom for Rich Living) “Miss McCarty did not save a large amount over a short period of time; instead, she set aside a little bit, regularly, over a long period of time. She found ways to save a few dollars here and there, and rather than spending them, she had the discipline to put them to work for her in savings accounts. It is amazing what compounding interest can do over a period of almost eighty years.”
Ms. McCarty put away a little over time and accumulated a magnificent gift. I believe it is the small things, the small acts of kindness, the faithful decisions, the daily perseverance that over time will accumulate making the woman you dream of being, Nohemi. Like the title of Eugene Peterson’s book, Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Nohemi wants to be a landscape architect. In that role she will design magnificent gardens and attractive entrances to public places. “Making everything beautiful,” she says. But do you know how those drawings will be created? One line at a time. How will those gardens come to be? One daisy at a time.
In 1946 a tiny woman from Yugoslavia was on a train in India. She heard God call her to in her words, to “follow him into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.” (Something Beautiful for God, Muldridge). And so began the incredible ministry of Mother Teresa, who was recently named a saint.
Mother Teresa wrote (A Gift for God, from A Guide to Prayer), “Some people came to Calcutta, and before leaving, they begged me: ‘Tell us something that will help us to live our lives better.’ And I said: ‘Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other’.”
As you know, friends, there was only one truly extraordinary life. That was the life of Jesus Christ, God’s son, who came to earth to live and die. Extraordinary love. Extraordinary example. Extraordinary sacrifice.
All the rest of us are just human people. And even those of us who aspire to greatness, do best to live ours in simple faithfulness. Saving one dollar. Smiling at each other. Planting one daisy. Jesus said, (Luke 16:10) “Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful also in much.”
Ms. McCarty said, “There’s a lot of talk about self esteem these days. It seems pretty basic to me. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things you can be proud of.” And I would add, just doing the next right thing.
On this day I hold a picture of Nohemi in my heart, Nohemi with curly gray hair come to be. Nohemi as a woman whose faith is admired, whose advice is sought, whose life is respected. I imagine at that time her grandchildren and great grandchildren will ask her, “Mama, what is the secret of your remarkable life? Tell us how we can live our lives better.”
And Nohemi will say, “Plant your lives like I have planted my gardens, one little daisy at a time.”