Nobody wants to see me down like I wants to see me up. (“The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” 1964)
Happy Mother’s Day to each of you. I know for some, it is a difficult day, one of loss or pain. But my prayer for you is to find joy and love, whether you are a mom or not. Though my parents are gone now, I have much to be grateful for. This is a tribute to my mother, my greatest influence in my life whom I was fortunate enough to have for my first 34 years, though she is always with me. Today, Mother’s Day gets to be mostly my day and my own kids pay a little respect. We’ll have good food, and some fun, and a lot of family around. Each day is a gift of life, so celebrate your own, or your mother’s, or your children’s lives this Mother’s Day.
The more I know, the less I knew my mother. The more I learn about her life, the more I realize I didn’t have to know her life’s history to understand life’s important principles. Through her integrity, not the details of her past, I learned how to navigate life. It makes me sad that I didn’t know the extent of how hard it was for her as a child. What I know now is that she was a tremendous overcomer who chose not to dwell on hardships but on the blessings of life amid the hardships.
My mother rarely spoke of her childhood though she did share a few memories. She was a child in the lean years following the Depression. Money was scarce. She would occasionally mention how everyone had so little, but they were fortunate to have plenty of food, growing up on a farm. Years later, when my mother looked at certain printed fabrics, they stirred memories of dresses her mother made from the twenty-five pound flour sacks that served as fabric to make their clothes. She would laugh and say, “Not that material, honey.” And I knew what she meant. No flour sack dresses for her girls. From an early age, her life was hard and filled with many losses. Before the age of nineteen, she lost her father, her mother, and her brother. By the time I was twelve, she had also lost a baby daughter and her young husband. With the loss of my father, she was forced to become mother, father, and provider for her three children. In spite of such losses, she knew where her strength came. She had the Lord. She never complained, but would tell us when God provided. She would say, “I was wondering how I was going to pay that bill, and here’s a check in the mail!” She often marveled that God took such good care of us, saying quietly to herself, “I always knew that he takes care of the widows and the orphans.” (Jeremiah 49:11) Throughout her life, her wisdom and her love were her gifts to us.
When I said I can’t, she said you can do anything you set your mind to. (I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me–Philippians 4:13) When I said I am nobody, she said no one is any better than you, no one any less. (For there is no partiality with God–Romans 2:11) When I said where are you? She said I am here, and she always was. (I will never leave you or forsake you–Joshua 1:5) She taught me to pray the Lord’s Prayer when I was two years old and planted my first Bible verse in my heart, John 3:16, in the King James poetic verbiage. Though I was an insecure and shy child, my mother instilled in me Truth that built a core of strength and joy. In the truest sense of the words, my mother was my first and living glimpse of Christ Jesus.
She also said many things that baffled me. When she was battling breast cancer, she sat in her favorite chair and told me of some difficulty she was having with the insurance company. She dismissed it by saying, “Oh well. At least I have my health.” At first I thought she was kidding, but she meant it. There she was, bald from chemotherapy with sores in her mouth, unable to eat or enjoy most of life. However, she got out of bed that morning and got dressed and was able to shuffle around the grocery store that day. So, in her own eyes, she had her health. I thought then that I must never forget this lesson. It is all perspective. Do I see my circumstances or do I see God? Do I see the storm or look Jesus straight in the eyes and walk on the rough seas? Many times in my mother’s life, she could have chosen to be bitter, but she rose up and allowed God to use those very struggles to make her the finest woman of integrity and common sense I have ever known. (Her children will rise up and call her blessed—Psalm 31:28) Her legacy and her example carry me to be a better mother.
Though strength and honor were her clothing, (Proverbs 31:25) her beauty and grace shined as significantly. On her final trip to the hospital, wearing an oxygen mask to help her breathe, she asked me to get her purse. She took off the mask, pulled out her compact mirror and put on her very pink lipstick. I cannot tell you how funny it was, but no one dared laugh. She was determined to go out looking good—which reminds me of her most often said beauty advice: If you don’t have time for makeup, then sunglasses and lipstick go a long way! Now here was a woman in every sense of the word—beautiful, brilliant, strong, and joyful, yet fearfully marching on, knowing her Lord watched over her every step.