Mixed up in a pile of drawings from my grade school years, is a crayon portrait of my mother, and a list of facts about her.
“My Mom wears draw string jeans.
She likes turtle necks.
She wears pink glasses.”
I’m not sure what my little brain was thinking, or why I chose to talk about her clothes, but turtlenecks and pink glasses were not the reason I was drawing a picture of her.
I drew my Mom because she was my hero.
She was the one that painted pictures on shirts for me, and did my hair every morning, obliging me with my choice of spunky and colorful hair accessory. She was the one that shared her peanut M&M’s with me, and called me into the kitchen so I could watch the jiffy pop swell for amusement.
I loved my mom so much, that in all my years in public school, I never ate a single classroom snack or home economics recipe. For 9 years, I dutifully wrapped tasty looking morsels in a napkin, and presented them to her when I got home. She was worth the sacrifice.
Unfortunately though, the customary parent/child conflict of adolescence and early teens encroached upon her status as hero.When some ugly tragedies transpired in my life, mom and I hit some rocky territory. There was a lot of mutual misunderstanding, exasperation and turmoil. Looking back, I can see that her actions were only desperate attempts to reach me in my place of heartache and misery. What she meant for my good, I saw as abandonment and betrayal, and I carried those feelings with me for many years.
But as time went on, God began unfolding a picture of my mother, that completely unraveled the ancient hurts and ultimately led to the restoration of her heroic status in my repentant heart.
The picture God revealed to me wasn’t the “drawstring jeans”. It was a memory of climbing on the cupboards as a toddler, to retrieve chocolate chips, somehow knowing they were not for me and what transpired afterwards. When a customer pulled in to buy some fire wood, I ran out to “help” them, and as Mom slowly walked out behind me, the stranger made the comment, “Looks like you have been enjoying some chocolate.” All I could think, as Mom bent down to scoop me up was, “how did he know that?” And then, realizing that Mom was holding me, I thought “Uh oh… she heard him. I’m in trouble.” But trouble never came. Instead, it was a careful wet rag to wash away the chocolate smears I was oblivious to. On the picture God was unfolding , was that very real quality of mercy and grace.
In that picture, it wasn’t the turtle neck shirts. It was the many times I saw her in the kitchen baking cookies. I genuinely believed she baked them just so I could have tea parties with the construction crew remodeling our house. As I got older I became interested in making my own cookies. First it was an Easy Bake oven that took thirty minutes to make what she could do in ten. But she always saved that last bit of dough just for me to use my Easy Bake. When I got old enough to really use the oven, I asked if I could make cookies, and she said, “Go ahead.” I asked how to make them and she told me to follow a recipe. We had a measuring pitcher that was quite large that I thought was a “cup”. The cookies did not turn out but it never seemed to bother her that the ingredients had been wasted. She taught me that failing is not a big deal as long as you know why you failed and you know how to fix it next time. In that picture, it was her perseverance and determination.
In that picture, it wasn’t her pink glasses, an iconic attribute of my childhood memories of her. It was all of her crafts and how interesting all of the things she did were to me. It inspired me to do my own things… like melt all of my Halloween candy over the register into one mixture. Or build contraptions out of bark. I knew, somehow, that she would appreciate such endeavors. To this day her creativity lives in me. Every time I do something new or make something different I think, “I got this from Mom.” In that picture, it was all the things that her DNA, her influence and her investment, had impacted into me, that I was grateful to have.
In that picture was the day my feet were freezing in thin rubber boots on a cold winter day, when she lifted me off the Gater, carried me into the milk house, and stood me in a blue tub with my boots on, where she filled it with hot water to thaw me out. In that picture was the time I crawled to her bedroom in the middle of the night, vomiting every few feet, and her cleaning it up.
In that picture was the slow peeling back of the innocence of childhood, as I began to experience some of the harsh realities of life and started to learn bits and pieces of her own life, and the hurts she had endured. In that picture was her strength, and when it came time to face my own hurts, I rose above them because I had a living example of someone else who had.
In that picture were all the times throughout growing up that I wanted to be and do different things; become a teacher, do a work for God, learn piano, become an architect, an engineer, a carpenter, found a girl’s home, write a book, write another book, change the way society views a topic, pioneer a Bible college, work in a Bible College, start an orphanage in a foreign country, do foster care, become a designer… My goals and ambitions have changed and been reshaped throughout life and no matter how big or small my dream was, she always had this unwavering belief that I could and would do whatever it was. Because she never doubted it, I believed it was entirely possible to do. Some of those things I went on to do, some are still possibilities, some never amounted to anything or were pushed aside with the changing of tides and the direction of God, but none seemed impossible. Looking back I think I must have been crazy. But even to this day, in our conversations, there is still that steadfast faith evident in her words, that whatever I am doing will somehow be profitable.
In that picture is the year she got saved and her determination to get us to church, and all of the wonderful things that transpired because of it. My whole Christian journey started with a mother who knew I had hidden my own shoes so I couldn’t go to church.
My mom is still my hero. I may not be making crayon drawings of her, or scrawling out her wardrobe details, but I’m drawing her nature and character in my heart, listing things like self-sacrifice, work ethic, industriousness and wisdom. Her picture is the most beautiful portrait: She is valiant, overcoming, and determined. My mom is one of the most amazing people I know: a picture I will always cherish and… even though crayons didn’t capture it, a lifetime did.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.