Friday, April 1, 2016

LOVED: Birthday Reflections for My Mother

April 1st is my mother’s birthday. Every year, it seems, I wonder what I should get for her. Sometime in March, I usually resolve to get her a card, but that seems a bit cheap. Then I think that maybe I’ll put a check in the card, but that seems really tacky. But, like most sons, I end up simply making a phone call. Mom always seems glad to hear from me on her birthday, but I tend to feel like, well, a bum, for only making a phone call. Today I decided to put in writing, for the world to observe, some reflections about my mother. My goal is simple: to honor a woman who has done more for me than I could ever begin to describe, let alone adequately repay.

L – Life – I know it is clich├ęd, but my mother gave me life. Certainly I mean in the physical sense. She carried me, gave birth to me, cared for me and raised me. But, I mean more than that when I say she gave me life. She gave me a thirst for life by her own openness to trying and doing new things. She took motorcycle trips with my dad when they were a bit younger. She went camping, water skiing, and on fishing trips. She once took my sisters and I to “the hill” on the back of our farm for a picnic….of course, the hibachi grill she brought to cook lunch ended up starting a grass fire! But, even then, we fought the fire together. Needless to say, my mother gave me a thirst to experience life in all its fullness, and for that I am forever grateful.

O – Optimism – In our day of DINK (Double Income, No Kids) households, it may be hard for some to imagine clothing and feed a family of five on a (lower) middle class income. But, that is precisely what my mother did. And she did so with tremendous optimism. By observing her interactions with my dad (and some of his wild eyed plans), she taught me to approach life with optimism. Though we often chided her for saying, “The timing is just not right” when we wanted to make a purchase, the truth is that my mother also believes in “giving it a shot, because things will work out.”

V – Values – We learn a lot from our parents directly, to be sure. But, I learned many values from observing my mother. I learned the value of hard work, the joy of doing a job the right way, and the simple pleasure of sipping a cup of coffee on the back porch.  She was (is) a meticulous trim painter, who spent countless hours on a ladder helping my dad doing odd jobs. She got up early and often stayed up late. She often described herself as “scrubby Dutch.” I am not exactly sure what that means but I know she would say it when she had us helping her do some cleaning and my sisters and I were not exactly meeting her standards.

E – Encouragement – My mother has been a great encourager to me. She always has been. Often that has taken the form of optimistically encouraging me to pursue my dreams and goals. Other times her encouragement was a bit more….blunt. I recall her standing at the door to my bedroom on more mornings than I can count quoting from Proverbs 6. She seemed to take particular delight in verse 9: “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” Truth be told, I cannot recall a single time my mother telling me that I would fail or that I was a failure. She was – and is – a constant source of encouragement, for which I am forever grateful.

D – Desire – Finally, my mother gave me a desire to know God. Specifically, to know who God is for us in Christ and to know His Word. Again, she did not teach that by telling me I should be reading the bible more or by chiding me toward greater Christlikeness. Rather, I saw her sitting at the kitchen table – nearly every day – with her bible open and a cup of steaming coffee next to it had a cumulative effect of my wanting to know the God that she knew. For that, I am eternally grateful.

So, on the occasion of my mother’s birthday I want her to know that she is LOVED….and that I am so grateful that she first LOVED me.