My mom gave us a wonderful childhood. She sacrificed so much through the years to stay at home with us. Some of my earliest memories are of us lying on our stomachs on the floor, each of us coloring a page in a coloring book. Watching old I Love Lucy reruns. Having toast and tea served to me on a tray when I was sick. Picking yellow dandelions for her from the yard and seeing them displayed proudly in a canning jar on the kitchen table she bought a garage sale and painted numerous times through the years. I remember hot oatmeal on cold Sunday mornings, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, sometimes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center of them on a hot summer evening. Home cooked meals almost every night, the kinds of balanced meals with meat, multiple vegetables, a starch, and always a pitcher of iced tea.
When we went to school, she packed our lunch every single day, and served us a snack after school where we slowly opened up about our day. She often gave me space after school because I was usually tired, grumpy, and not in the mood to talk just then. I find myself having to do the same thing with Madi. I now understand why my mom was so eager to hear the details of my day, and the restraint she had to use not to push but to let me have my time. I now know that motherhood sometimes hurts.
She had to do everything on a dime. Staying home on a steady but moderate pastor's income meant no fancy car for her to drive...in fact, it meant no car for her at all! My parents shared a car for my entire childhood. I learned a lot from that. She liked to look nice, and for her family to look nice as well, so she shopped sales with coupons. I used to get upset sometimes because some of my friends could just go out and buy a brand new outfit simply because they liked it. I was blessed to receive hand-me-downs from some families with great taste in clothes, but if we bought an outfit, it had to be on sale. I would sometimes get frustrated when my mom told me to wait. She would tell me it would go on sale. Of course, like any kid, I wanted it now. But she was right. Eventually there would be a "red dot sale" and she would go in with her store coupons and the item would be marked far down. I remain a faithful clearance rack and sale with coupon shopper thanks to my mom.
She decorated on a dime as well. That gold hand-me-down furniture came at a time when they needed it, but to make it work, my mom needed to do a little redecorating. It was the 80's and stenciling was the thing...so she and her friend stenciled pineapples around our entire living and dining room. I'm talking dozens of pineapples! She even cross-stitched pineapples and put them in the glass of a hand-me-down coffee table to tie everything together. Pineapples were in at the time, and they were the symbol of hospitality. She would eventually grow tired of those pineapples, but would remain one of the most hospitable people I have ever met.
My mom opened our home to countless people through the years, and still does. This is another way I have learned from her. She uses hospitality as a true ministry, and I imagine that many who will read this blog have been blessed to share an evening or meal or party in her home. And speaking of parties, she can throw a great one!! Once she gets a theme or idea, she just can't help herself. The details start flowing, and she finds herself a "partner in crime" to plan with. She works like crazy, putting in tons of late night hours. But whether it's a 50's sock hop, Queen for a Day tea, Southern brunch, or tailgate sports party, it is bound to be one of the most fun, detailed events you've been to in a while. You will leave with your stomach and heart full. She knows that a good party draws people together, and that we need to be together. She believes in celebrations. She believes in looking for a reason to celebrate! I love that about her. And I love that I am that way too because of her.
My mom has a soft sweet spirit, very full of laughter and joy. Interestingly, she is also strong and resilient. Proverbs 31 talks about strength and honor, and I have witnessed such in my mom. Full time ministry, though a high calling filled with many absolutely wonderful aspects, can be more difficult than most know. There are times you must navigate through deep waters with a quiet grace and dignity, drawing strength from the Lord and keeping much in your heart. I cannot tell you what I have learned from my mom in this area. She is a tremendous example of a gracious woman of dignity, and also an example of one who faithfully serves people alongside her husband in a quiet, encouraging way. Her strength and resilience also amazed me when she had her battle with breast cancer in 1996. She remained joyful and strong, probably for the rest of us. She kept serving at church, kept working her part time job, kept volunteering. I was in a school musical during that time and even though she was going through chemotherapy, she stood at the doors greeting and handing out programs for all six performances. I came across a picture of her from our cast party that year and she was wearing her wig and smiling at the camera. And she looked so tired. But I didn't see it then. Because she kept going and serving and giving.
As for giving, that might be the word that best describes my mom. Because she truly gives of herself every single day. Today a lot of women are in the "self" mindset; talk shows and magazines and other cultural influences are constantly declaring the importance of self this and that. My mom has pretty much been the opposite of that; and I think that is why she is one of the most content people I know. She has given her life to others, and I believe that is why she has been happily married for 38 years, has strong relationships with her kids and grandkids, and a wellspring of respect from the people whose lives she has touched through the years. It is because she daily makes choices to put others' needs and even wants before her own. And in return, she is blessed. She has joy in the outpouring. She rarely shows up at my house empty-handed; she may come holding a box of cereal and an orange juice because they were buy one get one free at the store and she thought I could use it; she will come bearing a new outfit for the kids that she got on sale, or an outfit she got for me because she remembers what it was like to be a young mom on a very tight budget. She will bring us leftovers from a big meal or sometimes even a freshly cooked meal. She even showed up with toilet paper the other day because it was on sale and she knows I am the world's worst at getting down to desperation level in the toilet paper department! I told her I had just picked up a big pack at Aldi, but she told me to keep it, I would need it!
She continues to make every holiday special, to plan celebrations, to be an unending help to our family by watching our kids, even volunteering occasionally to keep them overnight when they are free just so Jimmy and I can have some time to ourselves. She is the best Grammie any child could ask for. She remains a loving, supportive pastor's wife whose life is an example of a consistent walk with Christ. There is so much more that I could write, so many more details from both past and present that make her the woman she is, that make her the hero she is. I could fill volumes with memories and stories and reflections of a life that continues to be lived so fully, so graciously, so lovingly, so well.
But to sum her up, I go back to those Sundays after church on the couch, with the soft feel of her Sunday clothes and the scent of her nice perfume. The reason I wanted to snuggle up to her then, and the reason I want to honor her now. Because just like Trevor tells me when he stops and inhales Mommy's fragrance...she is beautiful. The most beautiful woman I know.
And today, I rise up and call her blessed.