Ten years ago this week, Steve and I were on an early morning flight back to the Midwest, my gut wrenched on what was awaiting us. Following a seemingly successful surgery for colon cancer, my mother’s heart stopped and she was unresponsive. For the next several days, we kept vigil at her bedside around the clock – as she had done for me many times – pleading with God for her to come back to us.
Days later, our hearts broke as we said our earthly good-byes to my 57-year-old mother. Ten years have gone by in a blink – 10 years without her chocolate chip cookies, her singing in church (or around the house all of the time), her political soliloquies and her laughter that came easily and often.
In my adult years, she confessed to me that she worried her life was small. No great academic accomplishments or career achievements to speak of, she wondered aloud about the scope of her impact.
Her four-hour visitation in our small town of 2,500 people and the testimonies of her three children proved otherwise. Her life spanned nearly four decades of ministry – first alongside my dad, a youth and music minister. Then, as a widow, single mom and as a wife again when she married my step-dad, serving actively together in the local church and in the community.
My mom might not have seen the impact she was having daily in our home or in the community. Ten years later, I see clearly the path of faithfulness she paved for my brothers and me – plus those she ministered to through her job, their country church, her involvement through school activities, and those she encountered at the local Wal-Mart.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16 (NASB)
Fruit that “remains” means deeds or actions that continue, last or stand. Watching my mother’s everyday faithfulness has cultivated a desire in me to persevere in these three things – joy, courageous trust and service.
A Legacy of Joy
My mom was a joyful person, passionate about her Lord, her family, Cardinals baseball, reading and politics. Yes, she often lamented how rotten this world was (if you knew her well, you heard this!) – but I believe it was her longing for all to be made right that fed her discomfort with worldliness. Her standards were high, but so was her grace.
Life handed her some punishing blows – young widowhood, single parenthood, my difficult hospitalization at age 20 and her cancer – but she never lost her deep, hard-won joy. Yes, she grieved wholeheartedly, but she continued to live a hope-filled life.
Mom spoke at a mother/daughter event at my college following my illness and recovery. By God’s grace, I found her hand-written notes several years after her death. This is what she wrote:
“During the dark times, the setbacks, the suffering, and discouragement – God gave us the relief of laughter and humor, the joy of friends, family, and knowing every day that people around the country and even the world were praying for us.”
I’m so thankful for a mom who chose joy, even in suffering.
The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish. Proverbs 10:28
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9
Mom could not see what God was doing in those dark times – but she lived with joy because her hope and her soul were secure. And I’m pretty certain that my wit and ability to laugh at myself comes from her.
A Legacy of Courageous Trust
My mom probably wouldn’t have called herself courageous, but it’s evident when I remember her tenacious determination to trust God when circumstances screamed for her faith to fail.
On one nerve-wracking drive to the hospital during my illness at age 20, I remember Mom glancing at my step-dad in the driver’s seat, saying, “I feel like Job.” That was one of the few times I heard her express her weariness about our trials and the unrelenting afflictions.
My mom left a legacy of joy, courageous trust
and service through everyday moments.
However, I never recall her questioning God’s character or His presence. Her confidence was evident in the ways she continued to talk about God, serve Him and trust Him with her prayers. The foundation of my faith in God’s goodness was built by my mom bravely clinging to it.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Psalm 145:4,7
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10
In her own words, again:
“Through the years – no matter what came our way – I tried to instill in my children that God was our refuge, our strength, our sword, and shield.”
Now that is courageous trust.
A Legacy of Service
As missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot recounted many times, when overwhelmed with burdens or loneliness, she relied on this wisdom from an 1897 poem: simply do the next thing (click here to read the poem).
Though grief was surely heavy and the future daunting as a young widow, my mom kept doing the next thing. She kept us in church. She surrounded us with family and faithful believers. She continued to pour into my brother’s love of sports and my love of theater. She sang of God’s faithfulness.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Psalm 37:3
As we got older, mom attended to the most pressing needs in front of her – whether it was adjusting to family life as four again after her joyous remarriage, to nurturing my youngest sibling, to starting a children’s choir or heading up VBS at church, to loving on her grandchildren, to caring for me in illness.
She was present because she knew God was present. During the speaking event, she shared this:
“We only know in an oblique way that there will be joys and sorrows and the mundane stuff of life, that we are in God’s hands and that He will guide us through. My challenge to you is something we all know, but maybe forget sometimes in the day-to-day hubbub of living – and that is to cherish each moment.”
Mom didn’t set out to “make her mark” on the world – she simply did it one day at a time. One conversation at a time with her children, my dad, my step-dad, a loved one or a stranger. One song at a time from the church pulpit. One prayer at a time for those she loved.
Mom’s legacy-making life was lived in the everyday moments. She may not have seen her lasting fruit on this side of eternity, but I feel certain that she is living in the abundance of the seeds of faith she planted during her 57 years on earth. Oh, that we may cultivate a life of everyday faithfulness!
No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus
I know I’ve shared this before, but it’s such a moving song about our legacy. “Let it be known, in You alone, my joy is found.”
Look for examples of each – joy, courageous trust and service – in this Psalm.
- What do you need most right now in this season – joy, trust or strength to continue faithful service to God?
- What is one “everyday” small act you can do this week to create a legacy of faithfulness for your loved ones?
Each week(ish), I offer you a “Monday Goodness” devotional. I pray it will encourage you to focus on God’s goodness, His Word, and truths to help you cling to Him in life’s impossible. You can find past Monday Goodness devotionals here.