I found myself thinking about my mother on Mother's Day weekend. It was the first Mother's Day without her. She inherited eternal life last May 29. So it is no wonder that my thoughts and memories of her are close to my heart.
Last year on Mother's Day, I was with her. I knew she was slipping away. I knew she wouldn't last the summer, but I had no idea that two weeks later I would be saying good-bye to her for the last time.
As I have been thinking about her and thanking God for her life, I began remembering how active and strong her faith was. Of all the things that she taught me and all the things she sacrificed for me (as mothers do for their children), her faith practice is a strong legacy for me. I am grateful for that legacy. I want to share with you just a few practices of her faith that informed my faith just by observing these practices in my mother.
Daily prayer and devotion was not an option for my mother; it was a necessity. She learned this from her own parents and their nightly practice of family devotions. My grandfather would read a chapter from the Bible and then the family would kneel and pray. My mother's practice included that nighttime ritual with our family, but as my brothers and I grew older, we wanted to "do our own thing" with prayer. Our parents let us. Mom and Dad still practiced that nighttime ritual. I can remember coming home one time from college and after I had gone to bed, I could hear their low voices murmuring softly as they read scripture and prayer. That was a comfort to me.
My mother added an early morning reflection and prayer time to her routine. When I was quite young, I stumbled upon this ritual one morning. Her eyes were closed in prayer, but she peeked as I came into the room. She opened one eye, looked at me, and said: "Shhhh." I knew that if I wanted to stay I needed to be quiet. I did stay, that morning and that memory is still vivid with me decades later.
Another of my mother's faith practices was confession before communion. When I had just turned 4, my mother decided to explain communion to me and let me take it with her. She talked to me a long time, but what I remember is that it is important to be sorry for our sins and that communion is a moment of joy and restoration between us and God.
What shocked me in her explanation of communion was the revelation that my mother sinned! When I asked her about that, she took me in her arms and hugged me and told me that none of us is perfect and that we all do things wrong. I was shocked that adults could sin and that my mother wasn't perfect. I have thought about that a lot as an adult. I know exactly what my mother meant. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but thanks be to God there is forgiveness and restoration.
The most meaningful faith practice of my mother's was her practice of praying for us before something big happened in our lives. Before we left for camp, or school, or a trip, or to go out on our own, she would gather whoever was in the household and we would pray a prayer of blessing and safety. When I was in seminary, I spent some time in Africa, India and Pakistan. It was just after Christmas and my whole family was together. Sure enough, the night before I left, we gathered for a prayer of blessing and safety. Many times on that trip I thought about that prayer time, and I knew her prayers for my safety continued even though I was half a world away from her.
Years later, I asked her about the practice of prayer before one of us left home. She told me she learned that from her parents. The night before her brother left home for World War II, her mother gathered their family together to pray for Uncle William's blessing and safety. My grandmother read Psalm 91, a psalm my mother often read on those occasions when we were leaving. It is a psalm that is an assurance and prayer for safety and blessing. Then my grandparents prayed for my uncle.
My mother never forgot that moment, and neither did my uncle. When he returned from the war, he told my grandmother that the memory of that moment and the family prayers kept him going so many times. My mother promised herself she would do the same for her children.
I remember her quiet practice of her faith, and those experiences taught me so much about staying close with God. I am grateful to have witnessed those faith moments of my mother.
Who are the people in your life who have helped you find your faith? Who are those people who, without even knowing it, have shared their practices of faith with you? Who are the people who are watching your faith practices and learning from you?
I hope I am passing down to my own children the practices I have learned from my mother.
After my mother died last year, I received a great treasure. I was given my grandparents' Bible, the very one that I remember them reading from each night. To my great surprise and joy, there are treasures buried in those pages - items my grandmother kept. One treasure was a Mother's Day card to her from my mother and a poem that my mother had written for my grandmother Ruby.
My mother was not a great poet, but I understand in her words what she was trying to say to her mother:
"My prayers at night you helped me say
Teaching and guiding the Christian way.
Foundations built around Christ you gave
Helping us children on life's highway ...
A sweet, wonderful mother you are
To you Mom, I owe a very great deal
Your dreams of me I'll try to fulfill."
In thanksgiving for my mother and all the women who have been as mothers in the faith to all of us, I echo my mother's words.
To God be the Glory!