Tag Archive | Relationships; loving; devotional

The Blessings of a Godly Mother

Her children arise up and call her blessed. Proverbs 31:28

IMG_2949Today is the 97th birthday of my awesome mom and how blessed we are to still have her with us. What an incredible and godly example she has been to all of us.

Mom was the 13th baby in a family of 15 children and is the only one still living. She was raised in a home rich in love and laughter, but extremely poor in material wealth. As far as I know there is only one photo of my mother as a child. That picture is a school class photo and her face in the picture is about one-half inch high. With such a large family and extreme poverty, there was no camera and no money for non-essentials like photos.

Her clothing was either of the hand-me-down variety or dresses made from flour sacks. Being the ninth daughter in the family left very little possibility of ever having new store-bought clothing.  Her mother was a good seamstress and always altered the hand-me-downs to make sure they fit well. One year, Mom was certain she had out grown every available coat and hoped desperately that this would be the year she would get a new coat. That hope was dashed when a kind lady offered her daughter’s outgrown coat, and it fit.  Mom found it difficult to be thankful for that gift!

She got one new pair of shoes at the beginning of the school year and they had to last the entire year. Summers, they went barefoot. Unfortunately, kids’ feet don’t always stay the same size for an entire year. She wore out and outgrew her shoes in the 8th grade, and there was no money for another pair. Her “make-do” dad cut the tops off of a pair of old-fashioned button-hook, high-top shoes. Mom wore those embarrassingly ugly shoes to school the rest of the year.

Her mother ran a cook-house for an orchardist during apple harvests. Mom and her sisters helped to prepare food, set tables, serve the workers, and wash the dishes. It was there she met the love of her life, our dad. He was a young, hard-working man who took a fancy to her and soon he had won her heart. They were married in January of 1935 when she was just 16. She wore a new store-bought dress that the hard-working young man had purchased for her.

Two sons and two daughters were added to the family and she was a wonderful parent to all of us. She loved and accepted us unconditionally and always put our needs above her own. She was a strong lady who made us behave and treat others with respect, but she was also fun and played games with us. She still has her sense of humor and loves a good joke. She taught us to laugh at ourselves and not to make fun of others.

At the age of 24, she committed her life to Christ and determined to bring her children up in the love of the Lord. I can never remember a time that I didn’t love Jesus and want to serve Him: I know the Holy Spirit used the love and compassion of Jesus, demonstrated so clearly in Mom’s life, to draw me to Himself.

She taught Sunday School for years. One morning a couple of rambunctious boys kept crawling under the table—being ornery and causing distractions. They didn’t realize who they were dealing with. She took the entire class under the table, and that’s where they spent the rest of the hour. At the end of the class, they decided it was not fun to have their class under the table and it never happened again.

Mom was a gracious hostess who loved to have company and it didn’t matter if the house was a mess—it was comfortable and lived in! Company was and is warmly welcomed and she makes sure they are well fed.  At 97, she still loves company and is always happy to see friends and family.

The past year has been difficult for her. A fall in November caused her a lot of pain and left her needing a wheelchair. Her body is tired and she sleeps a lot. She has told me she is ready to go and be with “George and Jesus”. As we see her failing health, we grow more appreciative of the time we still have with her. She cared for us so well and now it is our turn to care for her.

Last week two of my siblings and I got together to celebrate her 97th birthday. We celebrated early to include my Alaskan brother. As usual, she was happy to see us and when she was awake, she was willing and eager to play some pinochle. Yes, she still likes to play and is a fearless bidder. (Family members know that is an understatement!)

Today, she will celebrate with my daughter who takes remarkable care of her and with another granddaughter who has driven up from Oregon. I would love to personally give her birthday greetings today, but I know her hearing loss prevents communication by telephone. I will trust my daughter to give her a birthday hug and a kiss from me. Next weekend I will deliver that hug and kiss in person.

I feel tremendously blessed to have this wonderful lady as my mother and to still have her with us at the age of 97. She has been and is a loving, caring, and compassionate mother and grandmother to our family. I will forever thank God for the incredible gift of a mother, who gave us a happy, secure childhood and who taught us the love of Jesus!

Happy 97th Birthday, Mom! I love and appreciate you more than my words can ever express.

(The photo above was taken during the late 50’s when Mom was in her thirties, and was published in the Brewster Herald with a copy of her fudge recipe.)

Thanksgiving Memories

As I think of my most memorable Thanksgiving, my mind quickly travels to a tiny apartment in Tampa, Florida. My new husband and I have been married just five months and although we are quite happy, we are also very broke. He is an Airman, Second Class, and together we are bringing in a little over 200 dollars a month.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we plan to go to the base to eat the reasonably priced holiday meal that the Air Force offers to servicemen and their families. I do not recall the exact price of that meal, but I believe it was around three dollars—definitely not big bucks.

The day before Thanksgiving we receive a notice that we are overdrawn at the bank and it takes every penny we have to cover that overdraft; to ignore it would not set well with the military brass.

Thanksgiving Day arrives and we will not be eating out and we do not have funds to buy more groceries. We will not be having turkey in our tiny apartment. We are over 3,000 miles from home and will not be with other family members. I am suddenly seized with agonizingly brutal homesickness. I recall the many Thanksgiving feasts at my grandparents’ house with aunts and uncles and cousins. I think of holidays with Mom, Dad, my siblings and their families—my adorable little niece and nephew. I miss them dreadfully. I think of all the scrumptious food that will be piled on their table. I am not thankful.

We attend Thanksgiving service at our church and the pastor gets up and talks about how we will all be going to big feasts with our loved ones. His sermon makes me even more homesick. I am not thankful.

We return to our apartment where I pull hamburger out of the fridge and make a meat loaf for our Thanksgiving dinner. My husband thanks God for our food, but I am not thankful. Do I think of the millions of starving people who would welcome our meat loaf and slim trimmings as a feast? Nope! That thought never enters my mind. My focus is not on what I have, but on what I don’t have. I am homesick, eating meatloaf for Thanksgiving dinner, and I am not thankful.

Decades later, I look back and am very grateful for that memorable day and the lessons learned. I gained a deep appreciation for my family of origin. I had always taken their love, their provision, and their sacrifices for granted. I developed a deep compassion for people who are alone and broke during the holidays. It’s a sad and difficult place to be. I also learned that if I focus on what is lacking in my life, I lose sight of the many blessings God has given. When looking only at what I don’t have, depression and self-pity quickly suck away all chances of happiness.

As Thanksgiving 2013 approaches I am thankful that family will gather at our home and thankful that we can provide enough food that they will go away as stuffed as the turkey. I’m thankful we can welcome a few guests who are not family. I am grateful for health, for family and friends, for food and shelter. I am grateful for a God who loves and accepts me in spite of my faults and failures.

And if the day should come that I would be far away from family and friends, eating meatloaf on Thanksgiving, I believe I could, with a genuine heart, thank God for it and invite some lonely person to join me. Yes, I am thankful!

Loving When It’s Difficult

The Fruit of the Spirit is Love—Galatians 5:22

Although we hate to admit it, loving others can be a challenge. While love may seem relatively easy for some, for others it is gut-wrenchingly difficult. We try to love, focus on our feeble futile efforts, and give up in despair. Fractured relationships and broken homes provide ample evidence of the challenge to love.

How do we obey God’s command to love when it is difficult? Can we will ourselves to love? Desperate to make love happen, we put immense effort into trying to make ourselves lovable and loving. We perform loving actions, sometimes through gritted teeth, but that isn’t real and doesn’t last. In moments of anger we lash out with harsh or unkind words, and unloving actions follow. Trying to produce love in our own strength is futile. While we may be able to temporarily perform loving actions, we cannot motivate ourselves to love on a long-term basis.

Galatians 5:22 identifies love as a fruit of the Spirit and fruit grows best on a healthy tree. When I was a freshman in college my dad purchased a pathetic looking apple orchard. The grossly misshapen trees were overgrown and the apples so little and worm infested that the previous owner hadn’t even picked the crop. To my all-wise teen age eyes, my dad had made a foolish mistake. Why would he spend that much money on such an obviously sick orchard? Because he knew exactly what was needed to bring forth healthy fruit. He pruned ruthlessly, he sprayed regularly, he watered often, and he thinned to provide room for the apples to grow. To my surprise and his joy, those same trees produced an abundant and healthy crop the next year. My dad knew healthy trees quite naturally produce good fruit.

In John 15, Jesus likened Himself to a vine and promised His followers would bear much fruit if we remain in Him. Because love is a fruit of His Spirit, staying connected to Him is essential. As we draw intimately into His presence, He lovingly prunes us, removing that which drains our spiritual health and vitality. His refreshing living water nourishes our souls and then His love can flow in and through us to impact others.

Take time to draw into God’s presence. Jesus came to reveal a God who not only loves, but is the essence of love. As we bask in His presence and surrender to His Holy Spirit, the spiritual fruit of love will result. He alone can empower us to love with a pure heart.