Thank You, Sweet Momma!
“To give them… the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (from Isaiah 61:3–NKJV).
My Sweet Momma,
As I reflect on Mother’s Day and what it means to me, my heart is filled with gratitude for you, for all that you’ve taught me over the course of more than five decades.
I am who I am today largely because of you, and the most important things to me are valued best because of the encouragement you spoke into my life, the example you set, and the direction in which you’ve always pointed me.
As I think back, stretch my mind in an attempt to remember my past, you’ve always been there. My earliest memories include you, and even those times when you weren’t physically present, your gentle voice rang in my heart, and that’s where it rings still. I imagine it always will, even when, one day, I open my eyes to discover you’ve stepped through the veil to experience all you’ve taught me to believe. And although I’ll know you’re with Jesus, my heart will be broken by your absence here.
I understand that postpartum depression interrupted your joy as a mother early on–not that you loved me any less, but you battled guilt that you couldn’t love me more. The enemy’s desire to thwart our relationship by taunting you with lies that perhaps seemed sometimes like truth was only an opportunity, Sweet Momma, for you to appropriate that which you’d come to firmly believe. Even as an infant in my crib, your example of wielding your weapon, holding out God’s Word to ward off the enemy, established for me a wall of protection–yes, a shield of faith!–that I later carried into my own battles, because they surely came. You know that best.
And so, when a young girl who battled fear cried out to her mommy, “I’m scared,” you offered her a sword of her own, and she learned the importance of claiming scripture. Those five words wielded were powerful, providing light in the dark battle of her mind, where she struggled to find peace.
The Lord is my Shepherd … (Ps. 23:1).
Repeated over and over, emphasizing a different word each time–THE Lord is my Shepherd … The LORD is my Shepherd … The Lord IS my Shepherd …–I’d finally close my eyes, this scripture on my tongue. The fight over, peace settled and brought sleep.
And a bit further on, when I struggled for unknown reasons with irrational fear, you taught me the importance of playing music steeped in scripture. I can’t remember how many times I listened to David Ingles’ song “Garment of Praise.” Those lyrics enveloped me, calmed me, all those mornings I just couldn’t muster enough courage to go to school, so afraid I’d be sick on the bus or in the classroom. I’m sure you were sometimes frustrated with me, but that’s not what I remember. What I recall are these words straight from scripture, embedded upon my heart–
Put on the garment of praise
For the spirit of heaviness.
Lift up your voice to God.
Praise with the Spirit and with understanding
Oh, magnify the Lord.
Those words from Isaiah 61 were a melodic weapon that I held out many mornings, and I imagine you chose to sing them too, to ward off the discouragement my phobia may have caused you. As a mother myself, I now understand the frustration felt when plans change suddenly due to a child’s sickness or fear or sadness. But honestly, Sweet Momma, I don’t remember you ever complaining or venting your natural frustrations. I only remember your loving admonition: Claim scripture to overcome the enemy.
And some years later, which likely seemed like a blink of the eye to you, when parenting a willful tween-ager who struggled to choose right over wrong, you imparted the importance of establishing a quiet time. Pointing her to the example of Jesus, you’d say–
If He retreated to a quiet place to be with His Father, how much more should we? It’s a time set aside to both talk with and listen to God, when His Spirit will strengthen you to face the temptations of this world.
Although I bulked at times, chose my own way more moments than I can count, that encouragement made all the difference in my life, Sweet Momma. Because even though I sometimes failed to follow through, the discipline of spending time with God–in prayer and in His Word–was an anchor for me in the storms of life, a quiet stream where I could rest and where my Good Shepherd would always restore my soul. And oh, how often my soul needed restoration.
I was ugly to you on many occasions. To Daddy too. For that, I’m so sorry. Being a teenager often brought out the worst in me, but I shudder to think what I’d have been like if Jesus hadn’t lived in my heart. When I battled feelings of worthlessness, I’m sure I lashed out, but you always told me I was beautiful–made in God’s image.
When I struggled with what had become the enemy on my plate each day, battling a love / hate relationship with food, you did your best to help me. Guide me. Sometimes you’d even step onto the battleground with me, eat a certain way for a set amount of time, to try to help me fight my way healthfully through this disorder.
As a mother of a soon-t0-be-teenager, I know now. I, too, experience moments of fear, afraid she might listen to the voice of the enemy and to the voices of peers who tell her she’s not good enough. Thin enough. Pretty enough. You always reminded me, fearful though you must have been, that my worth came from my Redeemer, the One who’d died that I might live with joy, and you modeled that for me, even though you certainly weren’t fully free from your own battles. After all, no one ever is.
And with regard to me and Bill–all the emotional ups and downs our young love brought us, and, therefore, you–well, you were always there. You listened when I’d confess shortcoming, helped me navigate through seasons of jealousy. You were with us in heartbreak–when one or both of us struggled to hold on to a relationship we believed was worth fighting for, though there were seasons when we’d grow weary in waiting or in wondering or with our wounds buried deep. You were there for Bill just as you were for me–to listen and pray, pointing us to truth that enabled one or both of us to find our footing, to stand again on the solid ground of God’s Word.
As a woman, a wife, and a mother now of many years, I can’t possibly look back on any single season and not see your presence as part of my life’s path–with kindness, gentleness, and love. I know you’re not without imperfection, struggle with your own shortcomings. But even those things with which you battled (or battle still) have become for me evidences of your deep and abiding love for Jesus, pointing me to our Savior. Yes, to our Good Shepherd.
Sweet Momma, you’re an amazing wife to Daddy and an incredible mother to me and Katie, as well as to Bill and Garret. As a grandmother, you’ve continued directing your grandchildren, and even your great-grandchildren, to the Lord, and each is blessed to have you.
You prayed over and about the loss of our two girls, held me when I wept and thought I’d never be able to get up from the ash heap to walk again in joy. You reminded me then, as you remind me now–there’s purpose in pain, and beauty comes from brokenness, if we trust in God. And I hear again, as though a little girl–
Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness …
Yes, you continue to believe the best, pray that we’re blessed, knowing God will take care of the rest.
Your life is a shining example of the difference Jesus makes when one invites Him in and chooses to walk in obedience, even when it goes against the grain of the world. Your encouragement and support throughout my lifetime have helped me develop deep roots, and through every season of life I’ve discovered my greatest peace and joy in Jesus, the Living Water–all to God’s glory!
I love you, Sweet Momma–more than words could ever express. May this be a reminder to you of how very beautiful you are–and not just to me but to so many to whom you’ve been a spiritual mother.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Dear Jesus, please bless mothers and those who, even if they’re not a mother, have been a motherly, Christlike example. Comfort women who, despite their desires, have never received the blessing of children. Remind them that they’ve been created for a special purpose despite their pain, and point them to opportunities to mentor others. Be with birth moms who’ve sacrificed a part of themselves to offer the gift of a child to another. Please be near any whose hearts are heavy with sadness over the loss of a mother or grief due to the loss of a child. Sweet Savior, thank you for giving us the example in Your mother Mary, who said yes to God and changed the world.