Mother’s Day Gifts

(I wrote this as a gift to my mother for her birthday. I didn’t send it then. So it became her Mother’s Day gift instead.)

 

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Dear Mom,

I hope that you don’t mind that instead of sending you a card with someone else’s words I have chosen to write you a letter. I know that are very few things that you “need” and less that you might tell me you want. So rather than a plant you have to fret over as it dies (through no fault of your own), or a geegaw that you have to dust–not even another owl picture or mug, I’m giving my time and my heart.

Much love, T

Gifts from My Mother

I considered flowers, but decided against, knowing they would just die. What do you get a woman who wants for little when her birthday comes again?

This year I opted for time and thoughts. Perhaps I could put pen to paper and express my gratitude for the gifts she has given me.

You see, this amazing woman has a tendency to blame herself for all the bad that happens in our lives. She will say things like, “Oh, I guess you got that (bad habit or problem) from me.” Or, “That’s my fault, isn’t it?” She’s quick to assume the blame, but I’m not sure she’s aware of how gifted we are because of her.

I have two siblings. They will have to share their perspective on their own time because this is just about what I am thank-full to have received from my mother.

From a very young age, I knew my mother wanted me to succeed. She wouldn’t let met settle for less than my best. Okay the downside is that I became a bit of a procrastinating perfectionist, but I am getting better. She would groan when I waited to the last minute to start whatever project was being required of me, but knowing how to use that last minute burst of creative energy has saved my butt on more than one occasion.

Whenever kwe moved to a new town, Mom always sought out the church with what seemed to have the best choir. From this I received the awareness of the importance of praise and worship. Church never seemed to be about the dogma, theology, tradition, or practice. We were in church to praise God by lifting our voices in song.

Additionally, these churches also had strong programs for children and teens. Looking back, I can see that this was also a gift. Mom was surrounding us with godly teaching and wise mentors, without cramming spiritual nurture down our throats. It was like placing all the food on a buffet and allowing us to choose what we wanted…and when.

Mom was involved in community theater and at one point got me involved in a production. I never felt the bug bite, but I was hooked. Being on stage became very natural to me. As I grew and realized my call to preaching and teaching ministry and I was well-prepared to feel comfortable in front groups of people. Add to this: my husband and I met and fell in love during a drama production in college, and you might begin to see why I truly appreciate this gift.

There was always a crossword puzzle to be worked when cooking and cleaning was done. It became the obvious gift as we were growing up and each one brought many expression of thanks. Mom was always working with words and hungering after knowledge. She had her personal research library right beside her chair and she seemed to delight with each opportunity to dig for some answer. My love for learning seems to be a direct result of this. One time in Sunday School a teacher asked one of my daughters what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply, “A student like Mommy.” I could say the same.

But her love for words didn’t stop there. Many nights my siblings and I would be shuffled off to bed just as the Scrabble board was being set for a game between her and Dad. She tells the story that she started playing while I was in her belly–I was pre-ordained to love the game. I’m not so sure about that, but I know that I have a love for words, and also the strategy that goes with winning that game. One of the greatest joys in my life these days is the times Mom and I spend stretching our brains for hours and days playing Scrabble and laughing together. Honestly, I don’t think I get enough.

Growing up I didn’t appreciate my mother’s organized and patterned lifestyle. I often complained that it cramped my style. Truth be told, She held up a standard that I never felt I could measure up to. Her house was always clean. Our clothes were laundered and pressed. We were well fed. Like many, we may have wished for more, but we always had what we needed. Being able to distinguish between wants and needs may not sound like much of a gift, but it has carried me through some sparse times with a deeper appreciation for what I have, which has resulted in deeper peace, trust, and ultimately joy.

I was recently asked to lead a Bible study for widows. I agreed, but wondered how I could identify with them. What could I bring? Though clearly not the same, I have known grief and loss, and I have seen the amazing example of courage and perseverance in my mom. I watched her draw from resources I didn’t know she had as she walked with my dad through his battle with cancer. I was amazed by her strength when he died. When she struck out on her own and moved to Arizona, traveled around the world, and then bought a house, I wondered briefly if perhaps aliens had abducted the woman who raised me. In the back of my mind I could hear the refrain of the song from the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” I ain’t down yet! In my life I’ve only had a few opportunities to unpack parts of this gift, but I know that this courageous and strong woman’s example will serve me well long into my future.

I could go on and on, but perhaps I’ll save some things for the next time I need to send a gift. As I was trying to figure out how to close this, I remembered a time as a teenager when I was exasperated by something Mom wanted me to do or some opinion she held–the specifics elude me, but they aren’t the crux of the story. What I remember clearly is how I stomped away with a sigh and a slam of the garage door. I went out to where my dad was working. I rolled my eyes and questioned quite dramatically, “How do you put up with her?”

My dad laid down his tools and calmly, but sternly replied, “That woman is your mother and you will show her respect.”

I didn’t get it, but I did it–or at least I tried. Years have come and gone since that scene in the garage. Respect may have started out because of position/role, but it has clearly transitioned into a deep appreciation for who this woman is and how much she has gifted my life.

And this I know with every fiber of my being, I love her more and more each day.

Thank you for blessing my life in so many, many ways.

xo, T.

Advent 8: Reindeer Games

This morning I was singing along with the radio when the Rudolph song came on. And I got stuck on how the other reindeers wouldn’t let Rudolph play because he was different…weird.

I get Rudolph. I get how that must have hurt.

I am in Arizona visiting my mom. While we are together we play Scrabble practically non-stop. In the week that I have been here we have played over 50 games. We laugh and talk, philosophize, and try to solve the ills of mankind.

We often say that you can learn a lot about life from the game of Scrabble. You have to wait your turn. It helps to be flexible when someone takes the place you were about to play your hundred point word. There are times when you win and there are times you lose–but it’s all about playing the game.

I play Scrabble because I enjoy it. That’s why I play any of the games I play. It’s for fun. But it isn’t that way for everyone.

You know the kind of folks I’m talking about. Their face has probably popped into your mind’s eye. They are cut-throat. They can’t loose. They sandbag. They count cards. Winning is everything. It’s like a drug for them. And the worst thing is that they make you feel less than worthless when you lose.

Worse than Rudolph.

So what do games have to do with Advent…other than they make for a great Christmas gift?

It has a lot to do with how we treat people. In one of my favorite books, The Red Sea Rules, one of the lessons from the account of the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea is that it’s not always about us. God put them in that place, in that time, for his glory to be revealed. Jesus picks up on this when he raises Lazurus.

It’s not always about us.

One time I had the joy of playing Scrabble with my former choir director. She was in an assisted living situation and her memory was not what it once was. I could have easily ran the score up–but what purpose would it have served? What mattered was the time we could share together.

It is so easy to get focused on ourselves: where we need to be, what we need to do, and what is important and urgent for us. To say this affects how we “play the game” of life is quite an understatement.

Take stock of your attitude and relationality. A wise mentor gave me a good guide to go by for this: would you rather be right or related? Can you let someone else win the game?

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