By: Brenna Miles   |   Posted: January 23, 2024

The heart of a mother reflects the heart of our Savior, Jesus. See true love in action by reading the stories of two moms.

True Love & the Heart of a Mother

The heart of a mother reflects the heart of our Savior, Jesus. See true love in action by reading the stories of two moms.

Written by Brenna Miles
Photos & Reporting by Sara Navarro
Patricia hugs her son Wesley

Each of his little breaths sounded like the low whistle of a freight train.

My little boy, nearly a year old, was cradled in my arms. I had laid my head back on my couch pillow, hoping to rest for just a few minutes. And yet, his coughs kept me awake and alert, even though my eyelids struggled to keep up.

Earlier that day, we had gone to yet another doctor’s appointment, hoping to find some answers. In the first year of his life, my son endured countless breathing treatments, painful coughing fits and high fevers that just didn’t make sense.

Those illnesses led to slow growth and development in that first year. And at the appointment that day, the doctor entered a new diagnosis into his medical chart: "failure to thrive."

I felt a wave of fear rush over me. Although the doctor assured me that he could bounce back, what if he didn’t?

At the time, I wasn’t sure what the future would hold. What I did know was that my son would thrive, no matter the cost. It was on that day that I fully grasped what true love looked like.

I realized just how much a mother’s love reflects that of our Savior, Jesus.

A Mother Loves Despite All Odds

Recently, I read the incredible story of a mother named Patricia and her son Wesley. Each word brought tears to my eyes as I was taken back to that day with my own son. I was reminded that us mamas have so much in common, regardless of where on this earth we call home.

One of those commonalities? Our gift of unconditional, sacrificial, motherly love.

Patricia lives in northeast Brazil. Each day, she rises with pride to care for her two sons, Davi and Wesley, despite all odds.

Patricia and her son Wesley sit together
Patricia and her son, Wesley, share a smile outside of their home.

When Patricia was a young girl, she didn’t experience the love of a father or mother. Her parents suffered from addiction, and Patricia and her sisters suffered from abuse.

Living in poverty, Patricia was forced to beg on the street for food and often slept on the sidewalk to avoid returning home. She felt alone and disappointed with the life she had.

"I felt that I had no value and that no one loved me. I didn’t know what love was."

At 19, Patricia became pregnant. Scared and alone, she thought it best to leave her baby in the maternity hospital. After all, the odds were stacked against her and her little one. Patricia didn’t have a spare piece of clothing and only had raw noodles to eat.

But when she looked into little Wesley’s eyes for the first time, her mother’s heart leapt, and she changed her mind. Patricia chose to love and care for her son on her own, no matter the cost.

A Mother Loves When It’s Hard

Life with a young child was difficult for Patricia. Many times, the family had nothing to eat at home. However, she fought for her son, doing whatever she could to provide, even if that meant going hungry herself.

"Sometimes we had nothing to eat at home, and I used to go to some relatives’ houses. But they mocked me, asking why I just showed up at their homes at lunchtime. So many times, I lied, saying that I had eaten even if I was hungry, as long as my son could eat something."

When Wesley was 3 years old, Patricia heard about the Compassion Child Development Center from other women in her community. Inspired by her desire for Wesley to thrive, Patricia visited the partner church to ask about the center.

At that time, the church was unable to receive any new registrations. So Patricia returned home and waited patiently for a call from the church pastor. As she waited, she did what any mother would do: She kept working tirelessly to make what money she could to provide for her son.

"I just waited for that day. In the meantime, I tried my best to provide for my son, working with everything I could. He was my reason to keep fighting for a better day."

Finally, the call came. As Wesley played in the backyard, Patricia received the news she had been waiting for. She ran out the door, scooped little Wesley into her arms and went straight to the center to register him for the program.

About a year later, volunteers at the center asked Patricia if she was aware of Wesley’s condition. She knew he was different; he barely spoke and didn’t look her in the eyes. The volunteers told Patricia that they suspected Wesley had autism spectrum disorder (ASD), something she was unfamiliar with.

Even in the confusion and fear she must have felt, Patricia worked with the volunteers to obtain Wesley’s diagnosis of autism and ensure he received the right exams. And as Wesley grew, she continued to advocate on his behalf, showing him the love she herself didn’t receive as a child.

"I will never let anyone hurt my son … I never had a mother who would protect me, but I decided to be a different mother for my children. I never received love, but I will give them love. I never received kindness, but I’ll provide them with kindness … And I know I can do this because Jesus changed my heart."

A Mother Loves Like Jesus

I can imagine how Patricia felt that day when the volunteers shared their concerns about Wesley. It was probably similar to how I felt leaving the doctor’s office with my own son: confused, worried, disheartened, fearful.

But Patricia and I share yet another common thread. As mamas, both of us wanted nothing more than to see our little ones thrive. So, what did we do?

We reached out for help. We worked to provide. We held our hurting babies. We played. We laughed. We hugged. We prayed. We did whatever it took, despite the odds and through each challenge.

Patricia and I loved our sons fully and unconditionally, often sacrificing our own needs so they could be happy, healthy and whole.

I know now that a mother’s heart reflects the heart of Jesus. He, too, loves us sacrificially and unconditionally. In loving us, he went to the cross so that we could not only thrive but also have everlasting life.

And there’s no truer love than that.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

It’s been about eight years since the doctor’s appointment that threatened to steal the hope I had for my own son’s future. And as I write, I can hear him in the other room, laughing, playing and thriving.

With each giggle I hear, I’m overwhelmed with love and joy. Without a doubt, I would go to the ends of the earth for that one little boy. And I can’t help but think this is how Jesus feels when he looks at us, his children.

As for Patricia’s son, Wesley, he’s thriving too! He has a sponsor and a village of others who care for and encourage him. And above all, he’s learning just how much Jesus loves him through the unwavering support of his brave and selfless mother.

Although motherhood can be unbelievably hard and downright heartbreaking at times, in the words of Patricia: "I know God gave me him to change my life and teach me the meaning of true love."

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)

Show a Child the Love of Jesus

Child smiles and looks to the side

You can provide the love and support a child in poverty needs to thrive.

Child smiles and looks to the side