Friday, May 09, 2008

A Tribute to my Mom

I cannot let this Mother's Day go by without writing a tribute to my own dear mother. It seems as if whenever you hear a sermon about mothers on Mother's Day or read a Christian tribute to women, the gold standard is Proverbs 31. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, you can check it out here.) And truly--what woman doesn't want her husband to praise her at the city gates? What mother doesn't want her children to rise up and call her blessed?

I need to let you in on a little secret though. My mom does not like Proverbs 31. In fact, when it's mentioned, she gives a little groan. And it's all because of verse 15 "She rises while it is still dark..." Mom: "Why? Why does she have to rise when it's still dark?" She just doesn't think that is necessary. Not long ago, she ran into a friend who said, "I was out walking at around 6:30 this morning, and I passed your house. It was all dark though." My mom said (afterward, to me), "I don't think people should go around peeking in people's windows to see if they're awake yet, do you?" And I happen to know for a fact that when we were growing up, she would get my dad off to work and us off to school and head back to bed for at least a few moments. (Really though, can you blame her?) I've heard, through the grapevine of course, that in college she used to run down the street on her way to class (late), a piece of toast in one hand and her toothbrush in the other.

Being a late riser aside, I have learned so many valuable lessons from my mom. She might not be the first one out of bed, but she gets more done in a day than most anyone I know. She taught me little sayings (and is now teaching them to my girls) such as, "When a job is once begun, never leave it 'til it's done. Whether the job be great or small, do it well or not at all." (And no, you better not come up with the "not at all" option with my mom.) She also taught me that when you're not feeling so well, just work it off. You'll still feel crummy, but at least your house will be clean, or you'll have that cake for the potluck made, or you'll have clean clothes, or all the Christmas decorations put up.

My mom also taught me never to go anywhere without wearing a little lipstick. That's so ingrained in me, it might even be my life's motto. There's just no reason to go without. Don't be seen out at the grocery store without your lipstick on. At my baby shower for Lucy, after the lunch and before opening the presents I just automatically went to the ladies' room to reapply my lipstick--hey, pictures were going to be taken. Then my mom joined me. All of sudden, people were wondering where the mother-to-be and her mother were. Yup, in the bathroom together, getting their lipstick on.

Another valuable life lesson from my mom: Why use paper when you can use china? We both have some lovely china dishes; why not use them? Everything will look nicer, and people will feel better about eating off them. When Lucy was baptized, I had a big party afterward at our house. I'd never had that many people over before. I got on the phone to my mom for advice and said, "Mom, I think with this many people coming, I'm going to use paper plates." There was a long pause. Then she said brightly, "So! How many place settings of your china do you have?" Mm-hmm. Our guests ate off of china that day.

I could come up with many, many more lessons I've learned from my mom: lessons in working, keeping a home, cooking, marriage, child raising, how to get along with people, how to live a disciplined life; however, there is one life lesson my mom taught me that is most important of all: prayer. As I mentioned in the post about my grandmother, my mom grew up without having a mom. No one to teach her valuable life lessons. No one to give her wise counsel. No one to mother her like she has always mothered me. So, she turned to the only One she could.

Ever since she was a child, she has taken everything to the Lord in prayer. Big things, like when she stepped barefoot on some hay, and a pitchfork went all the way through her foot. She overheard the doctor say, "I think we're going to have to take her foot," and she prayed with all her might. Today she has just the smallest scar where it was. Or when she was at Moody and called in to the Dean's office because her tuition was due, and she had not one bit of it. She'd been walking around downtown Chicago every day, looking for a job, but there was nothing. After her humiliating stop at the Dean's office, she went back to her room to pray and read her Bible. She read Psalm 81:10 "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it." She stood up, set out once again to look for a job, and found the best one she'd ever had--and enough to pay her tuition.

She took it to the Lord in prayer when she went to Grenada all by herself, as a missionary. She took it to the Lord in prayer when she came back to the States and was deciding on a teaching job. She applied in Pennsylvania and Chicago but never heard back from the job in Chicago. She was all set to take the bus to Pennsylvania, when the night before she left, the principal of the school in Chicago called her. She said she could stop by for an interview on her way through to PA. After the interview, she wasn't sure what to do, so she went outside to sit down and pray for awhile. She had to make a quick decision, and she felt the Lord leading her to take the position in Chicago instead. (I'm glad she did too because that principal turned out to be my dad.)

In the 90s, when there was a shooting at my brother's workplace and someone called to tell us to turn on the news right away, I looked around to see what my mom was going to do. First thing she did was hit the floor on her knees. She took it to the Lord in prayer again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through one round of radiation and two rounds of chemo.

She doesn't just pray about the big things either--my mom prays about EVERYTHING. She prays when she gets lost (she and I are both directionally-challenged. I blame my condition on her.) She prays about when she has people over for dinner. She prays for my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, my husband, my daughters, and me daily, I know. If you're my friend and I've mentioned you to her, I can pretty much guarantee she's prayed for you.

I used to kind of inwardly roll my eyes when I would tell her something or ask her advice, and she would say, "Honey, let's take it to the Lord in prayer." But then she would pray with and for me, and I learned from her--when you're a Christ-follower, that's what you do. When I'm frustrated, sad, lonely, unhappy, potty training one of my kids, joyful, needing wisdom, at peace, in turmoil, confused, overwhelmed, planning a dinner party, whenever...I pray. That's what Mom taught me.

My mom is a great lover of hymns, and there is one I've heard her sing many times around the house. Whenever I hear it, I think of her: she doesn't just sing this, she lives it. This has been her legacy to me.

'Tis to sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at his word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to know: thus saith the Lord

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

So, Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I honor you. I would definitely praise your name at the city gates. I'm rising up to call you blessed. I love you so. And you have my permission to sleep as late as you want to!




Ann-Marie said...

What a moving, wonderful tribute! (Nice to know late-riser mothers can be awesome, too!) I've only met "Louie" once, but I adored her! What a godly heritage you have - and I totally agree on the lipstick thing!!!

Happy Mother's Day to YOU, one of the most creative, funny, and multi-tasking moms I know!

Alice said...

Thank you!!! (I especially like the multi-tasking part...) :-)

Mae said...

I'm thankful for your Mom also, because when Alysa was at Moody she mothered here also and blessed her life.

Juliet said...

What can I have an awsome Mom. People who met her for the first time are impressed .

Happy Mother's Day!

Alysa said...

A tearful post, for sure! Your mom is a gem. This post makes me miss her - we must get out there this summer for a visit. Let's get it on the calendar. I must have a Lois fix! (And a Charles fix, too).
Love, Alysa