Monday, May 4, 2015

Tougher Than You Think

Thumb Mom Nov 2012 1024

Dear Mom,

Later this month, you will begin the 90th year since your birth.  This weekend you will celebrate your 64th Mother’s Day.  I am writing about you today because your story has so much to say to the many moms I know.  I’m inclined to believe that you all have much more in common than you think and my hope is that these words will both honor you and encourage all.

Some time back, you shared very vulnerable feelings with me.  Speaking of your younger years, raising four kids and managing a busy home, you told me that you often felt you didn’t do enough.  You were especially concerned because dad worked so hard and you were afraid that you weren’t carrying your share of the load.

I remember how proud we all were when you got your GED long after I was grown.  You had left school before completing high school and that seemed to eat away at you.  Though you read constantly during my young years and wrote intelligently, you struggled with feelings of inferiority because of that missing high school diploma.  I wonder how many moms I know today feel those same struggles.  In most cases, it’s not the lack of a high school degree, but of a college degree that leaves them feeling somehow “less than.”  How quickly a woman who is an amazing example to her family, loved by her kids and cherished by her husband, can think she doesn’t measure up because she lacks a certain diploma or certificate.

I look back to those years of my childhood and find myself a bit awestruck at the work you did.  Here are but a few examples:
  • You prepared three meals a day (without a microwave), often making biscuits from scratch each morning.  Our home had at least three freezers and we needed them to keep the meat which we raised, along with some of the vegetables that grew in your two gardens.  Our storeroom was lined with shelves containing more vegetables (which you canned), along with a wide variety of jams, jellies and preserves which you prepared from our orchard.   Almost every day, we sat down to fresh food which you had prepared, knowing that most of it was grown a few feet from our back door.  
  • When you and dad bought the acre and a half that was our original land, you worked diligently to harvest and sell the abundant apples, peaches, plums, and crabapples which were growing there.  Don’t I remember that you were able to pay for the land with the proceeds from that first summer’s fruit?  At the time, we lived in town, two and a half miles away; how many hot days did you travel out to work in that orchard?  I was about five at the time, Vicki was tiny and Carol Beth was a baby, if my math is correct. How did you keep up with us while climbing up and down ladders to pick fruit?
  • Not long after we moved out to the farm (in the house that dad built), you and he added a holstein cow to our lives.  A short while later, it was two holsteins, then three.  Cows don’t take vacations  and must be milked twice a day.  Day after day, you and dad got up in the morning, put on your barn clothes and headed out to milk the cows…and feed the chickens…and gather the eggs and (occasionally) feed the pig.  You came back to finish up breakfast and get us kids up for school.  In the late afternoon, it was time to go back to the barn again and repeat the process.  Dad was at work then, so you trained us to help.
  • A memory that makes me smile is that of blue jeans on “creasers.”  I don’t know if that was the official name for them, but they were used every wash day.  I can “see” them hanging on the clothes line, stretching out the jeans as they dried, then being gathered at the end of the day.  Most of those years, you chose to use an old wringer (versus automatic) washing machine.  Clothes were placed in the wash tub, run through the wringer, then rinsed and run through the wringer again.  It was quite an operation to keep all those clothes clean for your family.
  • I remember evenings with milk customers dropping by to purchase a gallon or two or three; it was all part of the work you did.  I also remember churning butter and the terrible (smile) necessity of having lots of homemade ice cream in the summer to use up some of the abundant cream in our refrigerators.  
  • Before I leave the domestic chores, I recall how you took it in stride that some of dad’s customers…once he was repairing their cars at his home-based garage…came from the ranch country many miles away.  They had no choice but to wait while their vehicles were repaired.  If they were there at meal time, they were always encouraged to join the family for lunch.  I remember that, “for fun," you once counted how many unexpected lunch guests ate at your table in a month.  I think the number was over thirty.  You took it all in stride.  
  • I could go on and on, but I want to mention that you were doing other things besides the load your carried at our home.  You were active in our local church, teaching and helping week in and week out.  We were some of the first to arrive and last to leave at events like Vacation Bible School.  
  • After I was grown, you did your share of caring for kids who needed a safe place to live for a time.  I pastor a number of people who have helped carry the burden of fostering and/or adopting children.  I watched you do it long before it was so common.  

Mom, I imagine that some of the younger moms who have taken the time to read the above descriptions are beginning to feel just a wee bit insecure right now.  They can think of their own moms and the load they carried, then be left quite certain that they aren’t doing enough.  What I want to say to them, as well as to you, is that, “You’re tougher than you think.”  Many, if not most, of you will live to see your children rise up and bless you.  Rather than beat yourself up over what you haven’t done, take a few minutes to assess what you ARE doing.  Realize that the rest of us are pretty amazed by you!

This weekend, we plan to focus on this topic at Stone Ridge Church.  Our services will celebrate with families during parent/child dedications, as well as rejoice in our moms.  I can’t wait and hope you can join us.  Can’t make it?  Catch the podcast!