I was twenty-one years old and still living at home when my mom had hip surgery. Grandma came to stay and help out for a week or so. Of course my dad, my sisters, and me were perfectly capable of taking care of Mom. But serving her family was what Grandma did. So she came and cooked us meals and chatted with Mom and folded the laundry.
After about four or five days I began to feel a little impatient with Grandma.
You see, I was one of those idealistic, sometimes arrogant, often annoying, young women who had all kinds of dreams and ambitions to do great things for God but had no clue about what that actually meant. I was headed for the mission field (because missionary life is exciting, right?). I was going to teach women. I was going to write books. I was going to change the world for God.
I loved my grandma. She was sweet and kind. But she didn’t seem to have a vision beyond the boundaries God had set for her. She certainly didn’t “dream big.”
Grandma was, in my not-so-humble opinion, overly attentive to the cost per pound of pot roast or how much laundry detergent we had left. She got excited by the blue jay in the backyard. She clucked and fussed when one of her grandchildren got a slight temperature.
And this annoyed me. I didn’t have time to enter into these simple joys or concerns. I had bigger, deeper, things to think about. I quickly grew tired of her conversation, uninterested in her world. It seemed small to me.
A decade and a half later, I understand that it was my world that was small, my ambitions that were misguided.
Today I see that my Grandma’s delight in God’s creation, her diligent seeking of God through His Word and prayer, her faithful service to the Savior in her allotted sphere of influence—these things are the very definition of greatness. As Zach Eswine writes, “Every moment of obscure service makes the hall of fame in heaven.” It was Jesus, himself, who set the standard: “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mt. 23:11).
And being a servant often means paying attention to the price of pot roast.
So while I dreamed my dreams of doing “great” things for God, I was, in fact, in the presence of true greatness. I know that now. And while I still long, more than ever, to do great things for him, I define “great” differently. I define it like Grandma.
This past Thursday marked one year since my mom went home to her Savior. On the morning of the day she slipped earth’s bonds, my cell phone rang: “She’s fading fast. Come quick.” I drove to my sister’s house and walked into Mom’s room. She opened her eyes and smiled.
She always smiled when she saw me. When I came home from school or play I would open the door and simultaneously call out her name “Mom!” The cheerful response would always come back to me, from some corner of our little house:
“Here. I’m here!”
Mom was the most here person I have ever known. Her happy, contented, comforting presence made me and my siblings want to be around her, to talk to her. In fact, I thought nothing of interrupting her at any time day or night. She never grumbled or told me to go away. I always felt as if she was just waiting for me to come and unload my troubles or tell her some exciting piece of news. No one got more excited over my joys or concerned about my trials than Mom.
This same “here-ness”—the Bible calls it “hospitality”—attracted a menagerie of children and adults to her home and company. She became a grandmother to all the neighborhood children, a confidant to young women and care giver to the elderly. No person, big or little, was ever an interruption. They were her ministry. Her mission field.
I’ve thought a lot about my mom this past year, of course. I’ve realized, more than ever, what a deep and abiding impact she has had on my life. And I’ve wondered at this. What is it about my mom that has so deeply marked my life and soul?
Because what’s so extraordinary about my mom is how un-extraordinary she was. She was an average woman who kept a modest home and made simple meals. She rose early every morning to read her Bible and pray. Then she made breakfast, packed lunches, went to Publix, sorted socks, swept the porch, dusted the ceramic birds, listened to her children. She rejoiced with those who rejoiced and cried with those who cried.
She didn’t need position or recognition or accomplishments to make her happy or give her satisfaction. She simply delighted in her Savior and sought to obey him by being faithful to serve where God had placed her.
She didn’t excel at anything in particular. Except faithfulness.
“Befriend faithfulness” the Psalmist exhorts us (37:3).
That’s what Mom did.
And that is what I long to do. I want to be faithful, like my mom was, for the rest of my ordinary days. I want to seek God each day through prayer and His Word. I want to be “here” for my husband, for my children, for the women in my church and on my street whom God calls me to serve. And when my ordinary race is run I want to hear those words: “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt. 25:21).
Mom isn’t here anymore. And I miss her more than ever. But she is there. In heaven with her faithful Savior.
And I am quite sure she is smiling.
Surprise your loved one on February 14 with a gift from the 52home Valentine’s Day Collection.
Have joy-filled weekend!
Nicole for the girltalkers
We cannot save our children. Which is why, when I see a rebellious teenager of Christian parents, my first thought is not, “Wow, those parents did a really bad job.” For all I know they are better parents than I will ever be.
The truth of God’s power to save, of His exclusive power to save, should be a source of immense comfort and hope to us as mothers. It is not our job to save our children! God has not placed this unbearable burden on our backs. Salvation is God’s and it is His alone. Not only should this flood our souls with comfort, it should fuel them with hope. Our God saves! Our God loves to save! “You have reason for hope as parents who desire to see your children have faith” writes Tedd Tripp:
“The hope is in the power of the gospel. The gospel is suited to the human condition. The gospel is attractive. God has already shown great mercy to your children. He has given them a place of rich privilege. He has placed them in a home where they have heard His truth. They have seen the transforming power of grace in the lives of His people. Your prayer and expectation is that the gospel will overcome their resistance as it has yours.”
But we must also watch ourselves, lest this hope-inducing truth morphs into a subtle “let go and let God” approach to mothering. We cannot save our children, but that doesn’t mean we are free from responsibility. God has called us to a significant task: we are to teach, train, and discipline our children so that they will obey, honor, and walk in the ways of the Lord. This is gospel work. It is hard work. And we must persevere in this work. We must be faithful, despite our failures, despite the apparent lack of fruit in our children’s lives.
And, then, when we have spent our strength doing diaper and discipline duty, we must turn and “leave all with the God of all.” For we are mothers, and only mothers. Servants who have only done our duty. We have planted. We have watered. And God—and God alone—can save. He will give the growth (1 Cor. 3:16).
If you only ever buy, read, and re-read one book on parenting, let it be J.C. Ryle’s Duties of Parents. It is short and sweet—just the right length for tired moms. It is clarifying, provoking, and encouraging. And even though it was written over a century ago, it is as relevant as ever. Here’s a thought or two:
We must not expect all things at once. We must remember what children are, and teach them as they are able to bear. Their minds are like a lump of metal — not to be forged and made useful at once, but only by a succession of little blows. Their understandings are like narrow-necked vessels: we must pour in the wine of knowledge gradually, or much of it will be spilled and lost. “Line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” must be our rule. The whetstone does its work slowly, but frequent rubbing will bring the scythe to a fine edge. Truly there is need of patience in training a child, but without it nothing can be done.
Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen, — that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still. These persons…would like [their children] to die the death of the righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his life. They desire much, and have nothing. And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.
I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and that He never laid a command on man which He would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We have only to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, and we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.