As we approach Mother's Day, it felt appropriate for me to focus on motherhood – and the huge impact our mothers have on us. When I wrote about International Women's Day, which we also celebrated this month, I spoke about what a privilege it is to be a mother to my own daughter, but what a challenge it is to bring her up in today's society too.
I'm so grateful for the wisdom of the other women I have around me – who not only help me when I'm in those 'tearing my hair out' moments with my kids, but who also challenge me and push me not to settle for the mundane status quo. They continually urge me to seek hard after God and His purposes for my life and not to allow my insecurities to stop me from being all God wants me to be.
Those women include some great, close friends within my church, who I simply couldn't cope without (hence I view them as God's gift to me) as well as those I'm privileged enough to work with within my Christian publishing career. As women I think we often do a brilliant job of supporting one another. I mentioned in a previous post too that my sister also often 'tells it like it is' to me – while we may not see each other that often we speak words of truth into each other's lives, and we know we are always there for each other.
Today, however, my focus has got to be on the one woman who has not only influenced me the most but also inspired me the most too: my mum. What a testimony she is to a life of faithfulness in the midst of suffering. Now I know we can have a tendency to 'airbrush' our parents into perfection in our minds. I know my mum isn't perfect, and I know there are things in her past she isn't proud of – and moments in her present she wishes she could change her responses to (so she's just like the rest of us).
That said, I simply have to honour the way she has continued to hold fast to her faith through horrific illness, constant pain, the difficulties of living with a husband who (while a lovely man) doesn't share her beliefs and the times when she's not been able to get to church so has ended up very isolated.
My mum's determination to keep going sometimes puts my own doubts and fears to shame. Okay, lupus, one of the diseases my mum has, does cause depression, and there have been times when she's been so low it's been heartbreaking. But it's also been during those times that the closeness of our bond has been revealed, when she's felt able to reach out to me and share how she's feeling. We have both known what it is like to be hauled up from the pit by the other speaking the truth over us.
Looking back over my childhood I can see the fun times we had, the way my parents instilled the principles of taking responsibility for my actions and looking after money that have served me well since. But the most important thing my mum has taught me is how to cling to your faith when everything else around you is hanging by a thread.
That lesson – which she continues to model to me – helped me get through the darkest times when, just before I turned 30, I was experiencing marriage difficulties so found myself living back with my parents for a while. At the time, after ten years of marriage, if felt like my whole world was crumbling around me and I was in utter despair.
I walked along the seafront near their home (I'm not the type of person that feels close to God by the sea) and literally cried out to God. The crashing waves held His answer to me – I saw how small I was in the universe but also how all-powerful He is. It was a Job-like moment for me but I was also very aware of how much He loved me. That was, in part, shown by the way my parents cared for me during that time too.
It helped me see how, even though my 'suffering' had been partly self-induced and did not compare to my mum's physical suffering, she had chosen to accept God's sovereignty even though her everyday circumstances may seem to scream something else at her. That helped me bring some perspective into my life. Mum's quiet dignity still speaks volumes to me today.
My mum has always been a 'do-er' – something I know I've inherited. But ill-health, particularly in the last few years, has forced her to slow down. I know it frustrates her, especially because it is outside of her control (another trait I've inherited!) but she has never given up on the things that she's always been able to do – namely pray, and speak words of encouragement and support to her daughters. That has taught me a lot too.
I know that our lives come under the 'too busy' category. While I love to be busy if there is not enough time to simply 'be' – with God and with our family – then everything suffers.
Sometimes the regular conversations I have on the phone with my mum remind me to take some time out and slow down. Other times, especially when I'm tired or fed up with yet another instance of serving someone else (yes even pastors and their wives can suffer from service fatigue!) a quick phone conversation with my mum will remind me that I have nothing to complain about...
My mum is a fighter. She has remained a hospitable woman even when it has caused her great physical pain to do so – but she's also a prayer warrior. I know she has my back – and I try to have hers too.
I hope that one day I will have that same kind of relationship with my daughter. Because my mum is one of the most important people in my life.
I value her input and love to speak to her.
And today, in the run up to Mother's Day, I want you to know how much I love her. How much she has influenced me and made me the woman that I am.
Thanks mum xx