My wife, Becky, and I made a recent trip to see my elderly mother whereupon she revealed a surprising something about my beginnings.


“You were a high-risk baby,” Mom said.

“And he still is!” Becky added, puffing at a strand of hair.


“No,” I protested, “She said, ‘high risk’ – not ‘high maintenance.’”

Since my chaplain history includes five years working in the High-Risk Pregnancy Unit at Sutter Medical hospital, I appreciated my mother’s ordeal and her doctor’s order for bed rest so she wouldn’t lose me during the pregnancy.


For weeks on end, she struggled to keep life within her. And with all her strength, determination, and prayer, she fought for my life.


My mom’s grit to hold and bring forth life is a phenomenon mirrored in nature. It is a phenomenon I contemplated last Sunday morning as I went for a walk on a sunny but blustery Sunday.

Recently, Mother Nature took her best shot at drowning a few of us with an onslaught of constant rain. There aren’t enough words in my thesaurus to describe “constant” – ceaseless, relentless, continual merely scratch the surface. While our home sustained some expensive damage, I’m grateful it wasn’t anything like the destruction seen in the tornadic storms of the Southeast.


However, as I took mindful steps through the streets, I saw evidence that life was prevailing. The wind pushed back blankets of cloudy doubt that winter had piled on.

In a nearby yard, I couldn’t help but admire families of pruned roses huddled together in obscurity. Normally, they are the queens of horticulture, but during the winter they lie in pretense, as if somehow they won’t be gorgeous.

Like a pregnant mother, they await the incubation of beauty. Their pruned bases — knobby and snarled — refuse to disclose their identity until summer when their beauty will ensnare the heart of one in love.

In the yard of another neighbor, I saw the nakedness of a single tree, barren, save for one last leaf holding firm.  “Winter, you have no influence here!” it declared. The leaf waved me past like a shriveled old soldier motioning me away, all the while holding vigil for the arrival of a new and younger guard coming in spring buds.

Meanwhile, families of daffodils employed a different strategy against the stubborn winter. Determined to risk suffocation in the unseasonal wind, they must be the first to flaunt their beauty before a greening lawn. Like pajama models walking down a green catwalk, they stretch out their arms and yawn at their imagined sleep.

I glanced at my watch and realized my parishioners would soon expect me in the pulpit, so I set a quickened pace back home and up my driveway. But I paused to note one last sign of life’s stubborn determination.

Growing through a crack, a blooming weed declared its ugly self to be a part of God’s creation.

As I reached to pull it, I stopped short. Life is so absolutely determined to prevail. How can I dare halt that process? Even in a weed.

I stared at the weed and then back up the street. From these horticultural witnesses, I’d heard testimony of the amazing way God nourishes life and calls it from the most impossible places.

And with that thought, I went inside and found the number for a florist. Some roses for Mom from her high-risk son would be nice — the low-risk kind, minus the thorns.

Finally, to all you mothers who raised high maintenance kids such as myself, I wish you each a “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Chaplain Norris Burkes began his chaplain career with both the active-duty Air Force and the Air National Guard until his retirement in 2014. He later served as a 

board-certified healthcare chaplain at Sutter Memorial, Kaiser, Methodist and Mather VA hospitals and continues to work with area Hospice. His column is syndicated to more than 35 accredited news outlets in multiple states, with being one of his newest additions. Read past columns at

*Views expressed in published guest commentaries are those of the author or submitting organization and do not necessarily represent those of Folsom Times or All Town Media, LLC. 

Norris Burkes
Author: Norris Burkes