Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Belated Mother's Day Tribute to My Mother...

(Okay. This scanned scratchier than I expected. Mom and Dad. I'm on Mom's lap on the left and two of my sisters are on the right.)

I was away from home and computer on Mother's Day, but how can I not say something about my beautiful mother? (I had a nice photo to scan of Mom when she was younger, sitting with Dad and we three oldest kids, but the picture seems to have gone missing from my desk.)

God blessed me with the most wonderful mother on earth. She wasn't a perfect mother (who is?!), but she was affectionate, loving, and committed to her children. Mom was a positive, happy (even exuberant) soul and made our home, in spite of its struggles and problems and imperfections, the best place in the world to be.

Mom did not grow up in a Christian home (her parents became Christians in older age), but she says her Christian grandmother's warm influence was what opened her to the gospel. My mom adored her grandmother and loved staying with her at her big white farmhouse. Mom would stick to her grandmother's side as she worked, helping her and enjoying her company and conversation. They'd bake together in Great Grandma Goldie's warm and happy kitchen. And Grandma Goldie would take my mother to church. These were the things that drew my mother first to her grandmother, and second to the Lord.

"The wise woman builds her house..."

Mom has always been a homemaker, a home builder, a wise woman. She didn't develop a grand plan or strategy for this, she simply loved us honestly and well. Mom made everything special. Warmth emanated from her. There are so many little, seemingly insignificant things my mom did that delighted me as a child, and it was these very things that built in me the knowledge that I was loved. Without a doubt, it was the honest, everyday love of my mother in our home that introduced me, and opened my heart, to the Love of God. It is why I am a Christian today.

I could make a list of profound things my mom said or did. I could say that she read books to us (she did). I could tell how she made the spiritual life of our home special. I could list many things that are obviously or pointedly spiritual in nature. I could explain in detail how my mother's example of living the Christian life, faithfully and joyfully, influenced me greatly as a child and how it continues to influence me today. But, instead, I want to list some ordinary, seemingly nonspiritual things my mom did routinely that, I think, had just as much spiritual impact on me as the pointedly spiritual stuff. These were a large part of what prepared my heart to receive Truth and Love.

And this is how it is. It's good to remember that ordinary, everyday things have great power to influence the spiritual life of a child. As parents, we'll slip and fall and falter and fail (a lot), but love covers a multitude of sins. If love is our aim as we live with our children, the atmosphere we produce for them will nurture Life.

Here are some of the things I love remembering about my own mother:

~Every morning, I awoke to a cheerful mother and a happy spirit in the home. We were not allowed to be grumpy in the morning. Ever. My siblings and I remember mom saying, "There is no excuse for being grumpy in the morning!" And she meant it. And my siblings and I all laugh that we ended up being pretty cheery morning people.

~Before school we always sat together for breakfast. Even when we had something as simple as toast with jam or a bowl of cold cereal, we always sat down together. And, while we ate, mom would read the Bible to us first and then a selection or two from an old, old book called Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer (I loved those stories!) We'd take prayer slips from a little basket (for some reason I always liked getting the slip that said to pray for the president), and we'd pray aloud.

~I was allowed to freely play, long and hard, both inside the house and out. Mom, a great athlete, taught us to play volleyball and other sports and games. She also let us tear all over, on roller skates, at high speed, inside the house. And neighbor kids would knock on the door and ask if my mom could go outside to play.

~I always loved the surprise of warm cookies that had just emerged from the oven. It felt so nice to me, to come into the house to fresh-baked cookies after running, climbing, cycling, fort-building, playing hard in the outdoor air. Mom's cookie smelled and tasted so good.

~Mom was always throwing little parties for her children, both planned and impromptu-- Sunday afternoons watching Ma and Pa Kettle, always with popcorn. Sunday evenings watching Disney with friends after church, always with some special to eat (root beer floats, ice cream sundaes, or those fresh-baked cookies). Sudden surprise trips to Dairy Queen for no particular reason, and maybe we'd stop by the beach on the way home.

~Mom always made the house festive for holidays, and she'd decorate when we kids were at school. At the end of the day, the bus would stop in front of our house, and we could see that decorations were up for the latest holiday. We'd run inside where the house would be extra clean, the fire would be burning warmly in the wood stove, and Mom would hug us and welcome us home. It all felt magical.

~We had a wringer washing machine when I was a child, and we hung our clothes on a line. Sometimes Mom would let me help her put clothes through the wringer, and I felt entirely grown up and trusted.

~I remember an extra pretty, sunny morning when I was a young child, and I walked into the kitchen to find Mom smashing a boiled egg in a bowl with a fork. She added butter and salt and asked me if I'd like one, too. Yes! The back door was open, and we sat on the steps in the sunshine eating our eggs and talking. This might seem small, but the image of that warm moment remains clear, and it made me adore my mom even more than I did before.

~Mom always fixed my hair, and this mattered to me. She'd put it in pin curls or rollers at night (Dippity Do!) and style it in the morning. We would stand in front of the wood stove, and mom would take the comb to my hair and fix it in some style with rubber bands, barettes, or head bands, and then I'd go look in the mirror to see how I liked it. Of course I always loved it.

~At bedtime, every single night, Mom would make the rounds, rubbing backs and chatting cheerfully with each one of us before we went to sleep. We were told we were loved, and we knew it was true.

~Mom took us on picnics. We'd go swimming. We'd go to the beach often. We'd go on drives just for fun. We'd go berry picking. We'd eat meals in the back yard. There was so much.

These things truly and deeply mattered. Every day felt special around mom while we were growing up, and it's still this way! Mom makes me want to be a better wife, a better mother, a better person. Her love and her example continue to make me want to know God more and to love and serve Him better.