A dozen balloons were released in celebration of my mom’s life. God used the relationship between my mother and me, both the good and the bad, to teach me about life and living, from a Biblical perspective. These lessons and her sacrificial love are her legacy. They are richly engrained in my heart and I will pass them along to my children, grandchildren, friends, and other family. With God’s help I will model them for the rest of my life.
Mom taught me:
To Forgive. There are no perfect people, and this was especially true with my mom and me, because when you have a meaningful relationship with anyone, mistakes are inevitable. I am thankful that I can offer and receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is like a “giant capsule” that contains the best medicine on the market. This attitude and act of forgiveness completely changes, repairs, and restores life! But you can’t buy it- it’s free. Seeking forgiveness and being forgiven changed both my mom’s life and mine FORVER. It put us on a path of healing and restoration (mom even had her failing eye sight restored), and moved us into a partnership of service, for the glory of God. God did exceedingly greater than either of us could have anticipated in our lives… and forgiveness and restoration between us was instantaneous the moment we prayed and followed God’s leading. She became my best friend and remained that way until she died.
To be brave. When I was on 13, my brothers and I missed our flight from California back to North Carolina after visiting our father. My mom, who was scheduled to pick us up in Atlanta airport, didn’t know this and she drove 4 hours to the airport and waited. After learning of our missed flight, she drove 4 hours back, putting her home at midnight. Then she received the call that we had landed. Scared to death that her children would be left alone in a major airport, she got right back in the car and drove straight through the night praying and quoting Scripture to keep her children safe (especially concerned for her teen daughter).
When mom was fearful or worried, she would sleep with her Bible held close to her chest.
Fast-forward 40 years: The doctors told mom that her treatment was ineffective and that hospice was where she should be. They explained every detail of what this meant. Mom replied with courage, “Stop talking. Let’s get on with it.” She boldly knew she was making the decision to die. Four days later she did.
Because of her example, I feel empowered to be brave and tackle the hard stuff– like I have never felt before. I have a calling. It has never been easy, but I continue to take the hard road.
How to pray. My favorite spot to pray with mom was sitting beside her on the front porch or in the living room. Sometimes, I would pour my heart out and share some very intense information with her. I thought for sure she would respond with a shocked expression or disbelief. But she never did. Instead, she sat calmly, almost emotionless, while I finished my story.
“Have you prayed about this?” and I would reply that I did.
“Then you be still and let God fight this battle for you,” she’d say. So predictable. She never seemed shocked at my “stuff” or like this was something impossible for God to handle. Her face and voice were steady and sure. Always ready to listen and help.
Isn’t God like this? He isn’t shocked at or problems or surprised when we come running. He doesn’t respond with, “Oh, I can’t believe that happened.” Instead, He expects us and calmly says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
To praise. My mother taught me to worship with hands raised, and often through tears. She reminded me that every prayer to God should include moments of thankfulness and praise to Him.
That praying for wisdom is real. I’ve prayed for wisdom before, but not like I did the week prior to my mother’s passing. I cried out to God for 3 straight days asking Him to not only give me wisdom to know what to do, but to provide my mother with the same knowledge so we would be in agreement. He gave my mom a beautiful dream—a vision, if you will, of what was to come that gave us both peace and answered the question about what to do.
This changed everything for me. Today when I ask for wisdom, I pray with confidence and expectation. I say, “God, I need the same kind of wisdom you gave us seven days before my mother passed into her new home and into your arms.”
Humility. The first step to wisdom is humility, And TRUE WISDOM is seeing things from God’s perspective. While washing her feet during her final months, I also realized I had never washed another person’s feet before. I was brought to humility.
That a changed heart is visible by onlookers. When God changes a person from the inside, the evidence overflows and spills to the outside.
To be my own children’s best cheerleader. My mother was my cheerleader. She encouraged, supported, and loved me so much. Ha… she responded to my blogs and/or Bible studies like I was the smartest person—and we all know I am not. But that’s not the point. In her eyes, I was smart and capable. “Beautiful,” is what she called me, and that’s because beauty really is in the eyes of the beholder. She saw my inner soul.
As I really get to know people intimately and honestly, I also see their heart and soul. Funny, but now I see so many more beautiful people than I’ve ever seen before.
The grace of God. What seems “ugly” God made lovely. He brings beauty from ashes. It was during a hard season many years ago that triggered this more intimate, special, and loving relationship with my mother.
To gain understanding, I must be willing to let God open my eyes. I understand my mom’s heartache of betrayal and loneliness. He opened my eyes and revealed truths about my mom’s years as a single mother that I had never realized. I recall that during those years, our church family was so supportive. I want to be that supportive person to those who need it.
That whatever God calls me to do for the season, I can do. Caring for my mother was so unexpected. She became the focus of my life, and my plans revolved around her needs. Yet, while caring for and suffering with my mom, I was more blessed than in any other time in my life with her. God called me to care for her, I was obedient to His calling, and God provided me daily with an unexplainable strength.
Every mother is worthy of respect and honor. This has nothing to do with a mother doing everything right or agreeing with you on every issue. No matter what…your mother gave you life, and for no other reason, she deserves to be honored.
Peace is real. “Why do I feel calm?” I wondered. Then I remembered just how many people were praying that I experience peace during this difficult time with my mother. God was abundantly answering those prayers.
That friends are awesome! I have NEW friends because of her… Beth at the pharmacy, Jim with Meals on Wheels, and her friends from church- especially Dot. Mom loved my friends too.
Mom, I no longer physically hold your hand or fix your hair. But every single day, I think about these truths and I see how God intricately designed our relationship. I love you, Mom. And I love you, God, for working so perfectly in two imperfect people. (Pictured are my oldest daughter, my grand daughter, and my mom.)
Tell the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. Psalm 78:4
Debbie is co-founder of Shine! Ministries and a partner with The Polished Conference. She is the author of one Bible Study, “Shine! Radiating the Love of God,” available at Grace-publishing.com or amazon.com. She would love to speak at your next women’s event, teen event, or at the college where she brings an inspirational message to teachers in training called, “A Christian Perspective for an Inspirational Classroom.” For more information visit her website: www.debbiepresnell.com or visit her page on facebook: shineministriesnc. Contact her directly at email@example.com.