On May 8, 1986, a brave, young woman labored with raw, joyful endurance to bring me into the world. And in that moment, I was given one of the sweetest gifts of this life: my mother.
Not many people know my mother, but my mother is one of the greatest people I have ever known.
I live in the big city, but I am, at heart, a country girl. This I got from my mother. An Independence Day baby, my mother was raised by a brick layer and a school secretary in an “unincorporated community” in Arkansas. Population no more than a hundred. She lived the first few years of her life in the attached residence of the only grocery store to be found for miles. My mother’s childhood stories always seemed rather fictional, until we drove down the winding, bumpy, gravel road to the land of ticks and chiggers. Then it all made sense.
On the most rural of farms, where A/C was a rare commodity and renovations and repairs were never-ending, my mother was taught the value of hard work, simple living, and faith in Jesus. Brought up in the church by God-fearing parents, my mother heard the gospel and was baptized. But it was upon encountering the gospel in a profound way in her college years that my mother’s life was forever changed.
My mother played basketball in high school, graduated valedictorian, and studied math in college, but when she met my father, her plans and dreams took a turn. Though they attended the same university, my math teacher mother and my music minister father would meet at church, their relationship beginning on a “college movie night” when, “mysteriously,” no one else showed up, or so the story goes. They would soon marry and move to Memphis for seminary. It was there that I was born.
Of course I don’t remember the hours of my birth. But I am convinced that in those hours, something profound happened. As motherhood arrived, my mother didn’t wish it away. She didn’t run and hide. She didn’t hope for something more. She didn’t merely survive. She embraced motherhood with every fiber of her being. For her, that meant she didn’t continue her education, pursue a career, or live a comfortable life. No, hers was a life of joyful surrender.
My mother is the strongest woman I know. She endured five unmedicated births and an unplanned C-section and grieved the loss of multiple unborn children. She homeschooled all of us from preschool through high school, often nursing an infant, while entertaining a toddler, teaching a first-grader to read, and persevering through grueling math sessions with multiple impatient children at the dining room table. She couponed and bargained like nobody’s business, and her insane thriftiness functioned like a second income. She rose early every morning, cooked and baked almost every meal from scratch, and managed a small kid-trampled home with skill and grace.
My mother loved to spend time at home with us. She passed along valuable life skills and taught us to find purpose and joy in every task. With meager funds at her disposal, my mother creatively planned simple and fun-filled vacations for our family. Birthdays and holidays were much the same: intentional and memorable. My mother knew how to love us well.
As each of us kids headed into adulthood, our mother became one of our greatest supporters. She was always there to listen. She would research info online for hours without our asking, spend entire days to help us with important projects, and cheer us on from the sidelines of cross-country meets and the audience seats of recital halls. She and dad were our biggest fans. As we made life decisions and attempted various pursuits, my mother prayed and encouraged and prayed some more. When her children started to marry and have their own children, her love was fierce but gentle as she trusted God for the next season of their lives. For at each of our births, she and my father had dedicated us to the Lord. They knew their children were ultimately his.
One of the greatest lessons my mother taught me was the art and privilege of being a submissive, devoted wife. Though imperfect, my parents’ marriage was beautiful to behold as my mother followed my father’s leadership in helpful and uplifting ways. My mother cultivated a peaceful and loving environment in our home that served as a refuge and respite for my father. Though not a highly trained musician herself, she creatively played significant roles in my father’s ministry, joining him in his passion and life’s work. My mother had abilities and qualities that could land her many a well-paying job. Yet, she chose to devote herself to her family. This was her ministry.
My mother never wished for a different life. She was deeply and undoubtedly content, and to the bewilderment of those she encountered, she believed herself to be the most blessed woman alive.
Where did she get her strange resolve? How did she live with such unshaken confidence?
On a daily basis, I watched as my busy mother set aside distractions, mountains of laundry, and endless sticky to-do notes to sit in stillness and peace before the Lord. I knew of her “quiet times” because I would find her there. She relished beautiful weather days because it meant she could enjoy God’s creation while she talked with the Creator. And she talked with him in ways I dreamed of. I knew this not because I listened in, but because she treasured her “quiet times” so much that I saw the great delight she had in them. And then, when her kids were grown and out of the home, she began sending her prayers in text messages. Now, with each little golden notification, I am reminded of an ever-praying mother and an ever-faithful God.
When my 95-year-old grandmother’s health was failing, my parents chose to open their home and provide 24-7 care. This selfless act was of the most sacrificial decisions my parents would make, and much of that sacrifice fell to my mother who cared for her sweet mother-in-law day in and day out while my father was at work. In those years of caregiving, my mother would perform some of the most difficult tasks of her life, and yet with grace and joy ever still. For her mission was the same as it had been for years – to do everything to the glory of God.
And this is how she lives. To this day, my mother gets up early, spends time with her Lord, and cares for her family with humility, boldness, and joy. She walks as one who is wise, redeeming the time. She speaks truth and grace to those who hear. She forgives time and time again. She worries not about tomorrow, but trusts the Lord with every moment. She lives by his Word without regard to the sneers of the crowd as she keeps her eyes on the Prize.
It is difficult to put into words the influence of one of the greatest people in my life. The resolutions of her soul have shaped her into a humble servant used by the Lord to make an eternal difference in my life and in the lives of many. I will never forget the things she taught me, nor will I ever be able to count them. My mother taught me to take God’s Word seriously and to feed on it ravenously. My mother taught me to sit at the feet of Jesus in quietness and trust. My mother taught me the character of Christ, and she lived every ounce of character she instilled in me. My mother taught me to love the Lord with everything, because he is worth it all.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.
Over the years, my mother was captured by this profound truth from Scripture until it began to flow from her tongue.
And this is her legacy.
So much more could be said, and as the years go on, maybe more will be written. But today, my heart is filled with thankfulness for my mother.
[Photo: My mommy and me, 1987]