Monday was my mom’s birthday. If there’s someone who I should write about, especially on her birthday, it’s my mom. But what I’ve found this week is that my mom is a difficult topic. Not because there’s nothing to say but because there is so much to say. Maybe for most every adult woman there is a depth of complexity in her view of her mom as the years go by. I know there is for me. And trying to put it into words, I am for sure going to fall short of who she is and what she means to me. But I’ll still try.
My mom is courageous. Mark Twain has the famous quote that “courage isn’t the absence of fear but the mastery of fear” (or something close to that). When I think about my mom, courage is one of the best descriptions of her. Even as a kid I knew she did a number of things that took some serious gumption: going to Colombia with two little kids, taking on leadership roles even though shy, going again later to Kenya, things like that. My mom didn’t let her fear stop her. She went forward even though she was genuinely terrified.
My mom with Matt and I and Ebalia's family in Lomalinda
But now as an adult and a mom myself I understand more about the courage my mom lived. She mothered with courage. To be honest I think all mothers use a significant amount of courage every day, but my mom really did it well. She disciplined us when we needed it. She loved us always. She didn’t rescue us but let us learn from our mistakes (she told me once that she prayed that I would get caught every time I did something wrong) and yet was there to help us pick up the pieces. As a mom she held firmly to standards that it seemed no one else was holding to and I understand better now how much courage that took. And when it was time, she let us go. Continuing to love us with grace and faith.
She has allowed my brother and I to be our own people and she loves us for who we are, even when different than herself. When I dated someone I shouldn’t have, when I was barely coping with life; when I let my boys pee outside, when I didn’t call as often as I should, or when I called too much; when I am completely self-absorbed, when I am trying too hard to please others; when we make last minute changes to plans and when we ask for help; in all these things my mom has guided me with few words but lots of active help and unconditional love. And again, the thing that makes all these things so courageous is that I know they weren’t easy for my mom, even though she made them seem easy. They weren’t her natural tendency. Naturally, she was terrified and worried and wanted to tighten her grip and control. But she didn’t. She doesn’t. And she is able to continue to be both mom and friend, finding a way to show undying and unconditional love and yet let us go and do in our own way.
my mom with my second son, Finn back in 2004, I think
My mom told me recently that she and my dad want to come out this fall and stay with us for a bit, largely to help with the boys while we get the school year off to a start. I was talking to her on my phone as picked up some burgers at a drive-thru. I started crying right there as I handed the man my money. She offered before I could ask. She wants to come and just cook and clean for me. Read to my boys and help pack lunches and pick boys up from school. She won’t criticize my bad housekeeping. She won’t tell me all the ways I could do things better. She will listen. She will work. She will love. My mom just keeps on loving me and loving those I love most. And it overwhelms me.
My mom has shown me what courage looks like personified. Sometimes it is big and bold and obvious, but most of the time it is quiet and consistent and full of love. This is the courage of my mom.
My mom and my youngest son, Kade, this last winter
The source of my mom’s courage, though, is the aspect of her that I admire most: her faith. My mom has a faith in God that is not abstract but is daily, strong, practical, real.
My mom actually lives according to what she believes. The more I go through life, the more I realize that most of us “believe” lots of things that don’t change how we live. We nod and smile, sometimes enthusiastically even, and then go on living in our patterns of fear and insecurity and selfishness. We talk about how “hard” things are, and use that as an excuse not to change, or do the hard thing. My mom isn’t like that. I have watched my mom’s life actually, noticably, significantly change based on what she learns and knows about God and His love for her and His desires for her life. She actually acts on what God’s word says.
She loves unconditionally. She doesn’t point out all my weaknesses. My mom is humble. She wants to learn. She is willing to try new things. And then as things go, she does learn more and grow in new ways.
She practices what she preaches. She finds joy in helping others, in encouraging others. She doesn’t need credit but is happy to go unnoticed. She goes out of her comfort zone to show kindness, to build relationships. My mom forgives. She doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
My mom prays. She seeks God in her own life and in the life of others. I have no doubt that my life has been significantly impacted and altered by my mom’s prayers.
My mom has actually lived trusting God when she could see no way. She has over and over again obeyed God when it hurt, when it flew in the face of all her human heart wanted to do, and felt should be happening.
My mom is consistent but not merely religious. She is obedient but not legalistic. She lives with integrity but is not judgmental. She genuinely loves and trusts God. And as a result she loves and encourages whoever crosses her path.
And as I’ve gotten older and continue to seek God and try to emulate my mom, I have a new and continual sense of how much courage and how much faith my mom has. It’s hard to express a mother’s heart, and then even more to express a mother’s heart for her mother’s heart. But I do know that God gave me an unthinkably precious gift in the mother He gave me. Happy Birthday, Mom. Thanks for all of this and so much more. I love you so much.
My mom and I this last Christmas here in Malibu
Here are links to her incredibly good blogs that show a little of what I’ve described: