“Write an essay about the person in history that has most greatly influenced your life.” The teacher stated the prompt as she wrote it on the board. It was tenth grade, and I was quickly searching my brain’s data base for the subject of my essay. Although I wanted to sound intellectual and impress the teacher, I could not deny the fact that the person who had impacted my life the most was not a president or a Civil Rights activist. It was my mother.
Nothing has changed since then. My mom is still the person that has most greatly impacted me. You see, I was blessed to get the best. I know everyone says that, but mine really is the best. Although she raised four children and worked off and on during my childhood, she still found time to help anyone who needed it and to be very involved in our church. When her mother became elderly, my mom jumped right in and took care of her–despite their strained relationship. My mother gives until she has no more to give. She is one of the most selfless, humble, and compassionate people I know. She’s now retired, but she continues to volunteer at the church, go on mission projects overseas, teach ESL to immigrant women, and take care of grandchildren. She gets paid for none of it. And to top it off, she’s wise–really wise. I once told a therapist something that my mom had told me all the time growing up, and the therapist said in a matter-of-fact way, “I didn’t know your mom was a therapist!” My mother’s wisdom got me through so many trials in my life, and if she didn’t have the right words to say she pointed me to the Book that did.
So, now that Mother’s Day is approaching yet again, I wanted to share with you the blog post I started last May but couldn’t finish. These are five of the many things I learned from my wise and loving mother. I hope they bless you as much as they have me.
1. People Matter More Than Things
Throughout my childhood whenever things would break, my mom would recite, “Well, people matter more than things!” And that was that. Even if it was something of hers, or the new lamp in the living room. No matter what. People are more important. Relationships are more important. Things will come and go, relationships are what last. She is like a saint, but, no, she wasn’t just born this unattached to material things. She got this philosophy from Jesus. It’s how he lived and loved. And he is the love of her life (no offense, Dad, she still loves you!), and she imitates Jesus. He taught that “Heaven and Earth will pass away…” and that knowing God and loving others is all that lasts for eternity. And if we believe something, we live it. Even if it’s hard. Even if means we choose time with an elderly relative over going shopping or that we don’t scream at our kid when they break something. Relationships before stuff. Before comfort. Before me, me, me. I’m so thankful to have learned this truth, and it has been a huge blessing in all of my relationships.
2. It’s Not All About Me
My poor mother was a full-time mom, teacher, and shoulder to cry on for most of my childhood. My adolescence was plagued with social anxiety, so Mom became my resident counselor almost nightly. I often followed her around lamenting my lack of social status at the well-to-do Christian school that my parents scrimped and saved for us to go to. (Yes, we were those “poor” kids at the private school that had five rotating outfits and never went to Disney World over spring break.) I cried to her over and over again that “I have no friends!” And she patiently listened and asked, “Have you been a friend?” To which I would roll my eyes and whine, “Mahhh-ahm!” You see, my mom taught me to put others before myself. She told me to think about them instead of about me. She often said, “When you walk into a room, instead of wondering what they think of you, find someone who needs a friend and ask them about themselves.” Mom believes that if you focus on the other person–listening to them, encouraging them, asking them about their life–you will forget about you and your insecurities. And it worked. Focusing on others brought a confidence and freedom, and I gained a lot of new friends! (Nowadays, you might say it worked too well…I never meet a stranger and I love to talk! Ask my poor husband!)
3. God Comes First
My mama loves the Lord Jesus, and it shows. I often saw her with her Bible open in front of her, and it affected all parts of her life. She lives her faith. For real. And she taught us that God is number one. He is the Creator of the world, the Lover of our souls, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, the Counselor, Confidant, and Friend. We went to church every week, and to Christian school, but it wasn’t just “religion” to my family. My parents took time to read us God’s Word (and maybe also a Chronicles of Narnia book) as a family almost every night. We actually talked about God’s Word and how it affects our lives. Even when each of us hit our rebellious teen years, we had been taught enough about the awesomeness of God and His Word that we did not stray far from the fold.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
One of my favorite parts of the Bible is 2 Corinthians. It seems like Paul, the author, writes over and over about how we humans mess up. We are weak. Or forgetful. Or selfish. Or disorganized. Or rude. Or we ignore that person we knew in middle school when we see them at Walmart, because they were once that “nerd” that everyone made fun of. (Ugh, yes, I did that once. Not proud.) Paul writes, “We are like treasures in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). And in chapter 12, verse 9, God says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is one of the big life lessons Mom taught, and still lives out: Don’t worry about your failures or your imperfections. God is bigger than that. It doesn’t matter to him. That stuff is “small stuff.” Now, we can learn from our failures and do better next time. But my mother taught us not to dwell on them. What seems like “big stuff” to the rest of the world, really isn’t that important. Material success or fame or the approval of other people don’t matter. “Don’t worry about that, Lauren,” she still tells me. “God will handle it.” All problems are “small stuff” to our God, who cares about each detail but never worries. He’s got it all under control.
5. This Too Shall Pass
Finally, the phrase I have heard numerous times–especially when I had a newborn at home–is “This too shall pass.” I don’t know who originally coined that phrase, but my mom has stolen from them pretty often. But I’m glad. Because it’s true. And this truth has helped me get through some really tough times. Break-ups. Labor. Divorce. My first baby’s bout of colic. Migraines. Working two jobs as a single mom of three. Depression…Mom has always been there to remind me lovingly that this trial is temporary. And one day we’ll be in Heaven, and all of these hard times will be blurry memories. Keep perspective. It’s gonna get better. And then life will be hard again. And then it will get better. Rinse and repeat. But we know where our future is and the Creator of the universe has us in his hands. We don’t have to worry. The story ends well for those who follow Jesus.
As I finish this tribute to my heroine, I want to say that if you don’t have a Mama like mine: I’m sorry. If you met mine, she would give you a big hug and make you feel like one of the family. However, Jesus, the source of her joy, is there for you. He is a “father to the fatherless” and a comforter to the lonely. He will listen to your problems, and his Word (the Bible) will speak back to you words of hope. If you have any questions or would like to know this Prince of peace, please fell free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Bible says, “He puts the lonely in families…” (Psalms 68:6).
God bless you and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!