Last year, I wrote a post for Father’s Day about the life lessons I’d learned from my dad. Writing a post about my mom is harder in some ways. It’s not that I learned less from her than from my dad. Instead, it’s that the things I learned from her are so much a part of the warp and woof of my life, it’s often hard to consciously reflect upon them.

To put it simply, my mom has always been the glue of our family, a sort of spiritual force holding us all together. Our ideas about God and family and relationships often originated from the tone she set in our home. She held us together more with the force of her character and her actions than with her words, although she taught us with words when necessary. More than that, though, she modeled what it means to love God and others in the context of daily life.

I learned to think deeply about God from my dad, but I think I learned to love Him from my mom. She knew how to connect God’s Word to the daily struggles of life. She taught my brothers and me to be unashamed in identifying with Jesus.

Because she believed that the church is God’s hope for the world, she actively volunteered and worked at church. We spent a lot of time there, not out of a sense of legalistic obligation, but because she loves the church and wanted us to love it also. And all of us still do. I’m the only one of her sons who works at a church, but my brothers and their families love the body of Christ as much as I do. Mom taught us to see church as an extension of our relationship with Christ rather than as just another activity.

Mom taught us about joy and laughter. My kids sometimes roll their eyes at the silly songs I compose around the house, songs about making their beds or doing the dishes. They say they don’t like those little songs, but they always say it with a laugh. I said the same thing when my mom sang them — I was embarrassed or felt awkward and please could she stop? Today, all I remember about them is the laughter.

She didn’t only laugh at her own jokes. She laughed at ours, and encouraged us to be creative and funny and joyful. I remember stepping out of the car once on a very windy day. I could hardly stay upright and my hair must have been standing on end. I looked at Mom and jokingly shouted, “Auntie Em! Auntie Em!” Mom laughed at my dumb joke, until she nearly cried with laughter.

When I preach, people sometimes comment on my humorous illustrations. Mom was my first receptive audience. She taught me that life is too serious not to laugh. Laughter is a gift from God, a grace that soothes the pain of a fallen world. 

I learned from her that you can find joy and comfort even in the midst of failure, and that losing isn’t as bad as refusing to try. In 3rd grade, I made it to a county-wide spelling bee. I lost in the final rounds by misspelling a relatively simple word, one I should have known. Later that night my mom presented me with a poem she had composed about my adventures in the spelling bee and how brave I was. My dad told me to treasure it, since she rarely wrote in verse. In fact, I still have the poem. It reminds me that we learn as much from failure as from success, and that life is boring if you only play games you are certain to win.

I’ll end with this: I learned from my mom that love really is the glue that binds families together. And love isn’t always dramatic or loud. Usually it means being present and available. Despite having three sons and seven grandchildren, she rarely misses a significant milestone. She and my dad travel around the state and country to be there for birthdays, class presentations, soccer games, and other events. She calls me and my wife when she knows something important is going on, just to let us know she’s praying. She learned to text and use social media, largely so she could view and share pictures of her family.

As I’m sure is true with many moms, her love for our family is a reflection of the love of God. When I say I learned to love God from my mom, I think I really mean that I learned how much He loves me. It’s a gift that’s hard to quantify, but one for which I’m forever grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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