My plan for today was to share a photo of my mother and tell you that she's pretty special. She really is amazing, as anyone who knows her will agree. However, those simple words failed me as I stumbled across these photographs. As with most family photos, they may not look like anything special if you don't know the stories behind them.
If you've known me for long, you know that my siblings and I grew up without a lot of extras. There were eight children in my family and while we may not have had many luxuries; I grew up richly blessed. My mom told me, when I was far too young to appreciate it, that my siblings were the greatest gift she'd ever give me. As an adult, I appreciate that gift every single day. (As a child, there may have been a few siblings in the mix that I wished I could have returned.)
I didn't learn to cook from my mother. She pulled together meals with the most limited budget imaginable. Charity food boxes were a highlight of my childhood. The gift of food is something I will never take for granted.
We ate beans and rice with a side of jello more often than any other meal. There's a story of how my mom once fed my older siblings for a week using just a nickel bag of onions; boiled, mashed, baked, sautéed. (I'm not at all sad that I wasn't yet born to enjoy that deliciousness.)
Visiting my grandparents, reading at the library, trips to the park. These are the memories that stand out the most. My mom had a gift for making daily life exciting, even when it was really just her overwhelming enthusiasm that was contagious.
My mother could take the simplest things and make them special. The year she and my dad built a dollhouse for us, the furniture was a unique collection of DIY creations. (Trust me they weren't Pinterest worthy, but they were wonderful for this girl and her little sister.) I remember a bed made out of a band aid box, with an old washcloth glued to it, and a scrap of wood for a headboard. There's a lot to be said for learning to "make do" early in life.
When I was 8 years old, I wanted roller skates for Christmas. My mother managed to find a pair of skates, the old-fashioned kind with metal wheels. These were nothing like the skates my friends had, but they were skates and she was so happy to have found them. She cleaned them up and set them aside for me. However, the old skates needed new laces. She had no spare money for the laces, but she gathered all the change, mostly pennies, in the house and she went to the store.
She took her pile of pennies and a package of laces to the counter at the store and the young and impatient clerk told her that she wasn't going to take pennies. My mom started crying, but she held her ground and told the clerk that it was still good money and she needed those laces for Christmas. Thanks to help from the gentleman in line behind her, the clerk finally sold her the laces and she brought them home.
When I opened my gift of the skates on Christmas morning, I had no idea how much work and how many tears had gone into those skates. I was just thrilled to be tying on my first pair of roller skates.
For that memory and so many others, thank you Mom. You taught me to be grateful for everything. You taught me that finding joy in the small pleasures of life is far more fun than always looking towards the next big thing. You taught me that much of life's fun is in the anticipation.
I watched and learned through your example over the years. I know for a fact that Philipians 4:11-13 is more than a Bible verse, it is a way of life. "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."
You showed me through your constant faithful example that happiness is a choice. We can choose to be happy and find the joy in the little things or we can focus on what might be missing from the perfect picture. I love you, Mom.
If you are reading this today, my prayer for you is that you'll find a special moment to appreciate something big or small in your life. Thanks for sticking around as I spent a few minutes out of the kitchen to thank my mom for being the most selfless example of Christ's love that I have ever known.