Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Thanks, Mom!"

I very much enjoyed watching the Sochi Winter Olympics these past two weeks while braving winter weather and snowstorms, snuggled in a warm blanket in front of a cozy fire.  Besides cheering on the amazing young athletes and hearing their compelling stories, I appreciated viewing the series of commercials run by Proctor & Gamble where the athletes thanked their moms for their support. Moms---and Dads---do deserve a great deal of credit for encouraging (and often paying for) the success of their children, and I thought those tributes were heart-warming and wonderful. Who couldn’t share the excitement, relief, and pride of the mothers of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who had been cheering their ice dancing prodigies on from their childhood to Olympic gold? I could personally relate to the tearful pride of many of the parents, as I’ve proudly, and tearfully, celebrated collegiate national championships in cheerleading and soccer with two of my nine children, as well as countless games, tournaments, and competitions with the others.

But, although we as parents are grateful for their appreciation and certainly share some of the credit for our children’s success, they are the ones who put in the hours of work and practice. They are the ones who have the skills, abilities, and drive—by the grace of God---to achieve their dreams. It’s an interesting dynamic, isn’t it?

I recently was asked to speak about God’s spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1) at a women’s meeting at our church. I shared a testimony from my younger mom days when I was feeling a bit depressed, staying home with then four little ones and having no real ministry or impact ( at least to my mind).  My husband encouraged me to “seek the Lord” and pray that He would speak to me in this time of feeling down. In prayer I felt led to read Isaiah 8: 17-18. Verse eighteen reads: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts.”  The message to me was that my children were my ministry and that as I devoted myself to them, the Lord would use us as signs, witnesses, testimonies, and blessings to His people.  This verse has given me great encouragement and peace over the years as I have quietly served my family, while my husband has had the more public ministry to our church.  Soon after I received this verse, a young woman in the church came up to me and said, “You know, Melanie, you and your children are such a testimony to me.”  Years later when I was experiencing a difficult pregnancy with our youngest, an elder in the church told me he had been praying for me and he had a scripture verse to encourage me: it was the same verse in Isaiah I had received years before!
Fast forward twenty years, and I can boast in God’s grace that all nine of our children (and their spouses) not only love the Lord, but are actively involved in ministry. The Lord has more than fulfilled His promise to this once young, struggling mother. All of my children truly are blessings to the people of God. Although I am gratified and grateful for the times they say, “Thanks, Mom,” I’m even more grateful for God’s blessing and what He has done in and through them.
Just a year and a half ago, we had five sons living at home and a constant revolving door of young people. Now with all our children, but two college-aged sons, happily married, we’ve entered on a new season, caring for my elderly parents.   In less than two years, we’ve gone from a home like a youth hostel to one more like an assisted living facility—but that’s a story for another time. My beautiful mother has Alzheimer’s and I’m finding our roles are reversing as I assume more of the caregiver/mother role with her. It’s sad and difficult to watch her decline—especially when I owe her so much. She, and my father, instilled in me a love for literature, stories, history, and travel, and most importantly, a love for the Lord.  My mom has been one of my biggest cheerleaders in my writing career. As an excellent proof reader and editor, she contributed more than anyone to making certain that my books were well-crafted. For this reason, I dedicated my first book Inklings to my parents. I’m saddened that my mother can no longer take on that important role for me with any of my future writing. However, I would like to once more take this opportunity to publically thank her for all she’s done to mold me, by God’s grace, into the wife, mother, teacher, and writer I am today.
“Thanks, Mom!”