My mom was born on a farm in Conneautville, Pennsylvania and was number 4 of 6 kids. When she was 13, her dear, sweet friend Jackie invited her to church, and included her in their youth group. There my mom found much joy and love as she spent time getting to know God with people who so graciously received her. She will tell you to this day that it is there, during the 14th verse of the hymn they were singing, that she walked forward and made a decision that changed her life forever. In her words, "Jesus Christ changed my life." My mom has literally spent the rest of her life since then living to reflect this reality and sharing this truth with everyone she knows, loves, or meets. She is one of the biggest reasons God is so real and personal to me; because she was so amazing in introducing Him to my brothers and me, teaching us to love him intensely, call on him for everything, and trust him in every way. More importantly, she taught us to truly believe his great love for us.
When she was 18, my mom moved to Cincinnati with five dollars in her pocket and attended Cincinnati Bible College. God carried her through those years and provided for all her needs, bringing people into her life that would care for and encourage her during such a significant time in her life. She had a passion for ministry and sharing God's love with people, and was asked by a church in Markle, IN to be their Youth Director. So she spent the couple years after college loving and impacting the lives of the kids at this church. She still talks about this time as such a fun one in her life. She was completely acting on faith, trusting that God would care for her wherever he led her. It was during this time that the minister of a church in Wabash, IN introduced her to my dad. When she was 24 she moved to Wabash and married him in 1977. Thus our family began. When my older brother was a baby they opened their own business, Joy Christian Bookstore. They sold the store when I was in junior high, and my mom started working at my home church leading women, where she still works and serves today.
When she was 26, she was asked to speak at a women's event, and has been a phenomenal motivational speaker for the 32 years since. This is where my mom truly comes to life. Her sweet spot is in front of a room full of women with the opportunity to encourage and share God's truths with him. And she is hilarious! It is so much fun to hear my mom speak. She will crack you up and make you cry. She will highlight the lighthearted in life but be very honest about the extremely painful. My mom has walked a sometimes painful and challenging road in life, but she has never forsaken or forgotten the God who holds her, saves her, and confirms over and over that she can trust him. She, in turn, pours out this love and powerful faith onto others. My mom loves people. And trust me, they love her. If someone has a need, she is there. When someone needs encouragement, she provides it. When wise counsel is required, she is often the one sought. And when she sees that someone is in need of being seriously celebrated, you can count on my mom to be the one to make it happen. My mom is a woman of great wisdom and deep integrity. She works harder than anyone knows, and she loves deeper than many could imagine. She has an incredibly generous spirit, a crazy kind heart, and an amazing gift of hospitality. Trust me, you want to be a guest in her home.
Which brings me to the heart and soul of my mother's gifts. Being a mom. And also now a grandma. She was and is a selfless, excited, kind, caring, and truly generous mom. She points everything back to God, and centers everything around him. She never tires of reminding us of how loved we are, and how deeply she desires us to love others. My home was a place where you were expected to be kind, respectful, honest, and thoughtful. She invited us to be generous, passionate, humble, and grateful. This in addition to embracing the sheer joy of a life of laughter. My family loves to laugh. I'm not sure there is much that brings my mom more joy than seeing her children joyful. She has shared our sorrow when we have struggled, and she is our biggest fan when we rejoice. She is a master at making moments in life, both big and ordinary, super special. Just last week she surprised me by showing up in my classroom at school. The kids loved her and were in awe of her enthusiasm.
She used to play "monster" with us when we were kids, chasing us around the house until we laughed so hard it hurt. She would read to us endlessly, and she included us in the kitchen, where yet another strength of hers would shine. She sang us sweet hymns and lullabies when we went to sleep, and she never tired of telling us fascinating stories. Many moments were made into lifelong lessons. She made sacrifices so that we could make memories, and loved us the most when she modeled Jesus' way of humility and grace. She now showers that same love and blessings onto her grandchildren, my brother's kids, who adore her. I have always loved a plaque she still has on her wall that says, "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow, for babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my babies and babies don't keep."
There is no way to thank my mom for who she is, or express to her how deeply grateful I am for how faithful she has been to God. I pray daily that she might know and receive how priceless, unique, and wonderfully made she is. I pray she will be encouraged by those she serves, and blessed by those she shares her generous spirit with. She is in the process of writing a book, and it is anxiously awaited by hundreds of women across this country whose hearts she has influenced and encouraged for a lifetime. I am so humbled and grateful to call this lovely, beautiful woman my mom.
So on this day, her birthday, I celebrate her by pointing to God who gave her to me, and sharing her life verse.
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD
require of you?
require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
I love you so much mom!!! Thank you with all of my heart for first of all loving God and modeling this truth from the verse you love, and secondly loving your family so passionately and wonderfully well. We are truly blessed. Have a beautifully joyful birthday and know we celebrate you every day. We believe in you, we are proud of you, and we are ridiculously grateful for you. I am humbled to call you mom. Happy Birthday! You are loved.