Not every lesson my mother tried to teach me went the way she planned. One such time happened when I was about 15 years old. Mom called my little sister, Mary (who was 12 at the time), and I into the room and told us to sit down…she wanted to have a talk with us. I remember vividly, my mind racing back and forth, wondering what in the world she wanted to talk to us about. Had something happened? Was someone sick? What is going on? It was a bit odd to say the least. She began to talk about how ladies should behave, and went on to say that she never wanted to hear about either one of us ever using “the finger” in public. Now, let me paint this scene for you accurately, my mother was a very strait-laced woman. We did not have talks about sex or menstrual cycles or anything that might cause discomfort on her part. For her to want to discuss “the finger” with us was ludicrous. Immediately, I thought, “Oh, some girl has flipped her off while she was driving.” My mind was in shock AND…I was 15. A 15 year old smart-ass, full of sarcasm, and way too quick on the draw. Every mother’s dream. I was not alone in my abilities. Oh no! My siblings had also been graced with such powers, and my little sister was no exception.
While Mary and I were both confused and surprised by this impromptu conversation, we sat quietly and listened to mom as she heralded the virtues of a “lady” she desired – demanded – to see us exhibit. As she ended her lecture on “the finger,” she nonchalantly added, “And how do they know that’s what that means anyway…it could mean HELLO!” My sister and I could hold ourselves no longer, we turned and looked at each other at the same time, and I blurted out, “Hello Mother!” while I gleefully flipped her the bird. Mary had struck the same pose and repeated after me. We both jumped up from our seats and ran through the house, middle-fingers held high, yelling…”HELLO!” Trust me…this is not the way my mother had intended this conversation to go. “No! No! No!” she protested, but there was no going back from this. “You said,” I most happily pointed out…”it just means HELLO!”
We tortured our mother with this for quite some time in the years that followed. We flipped off our brothers (who had not been privy to this conversation originally), and if we were in the car with her, sometimes we flipped off other cars. She really wanted to kill us, I’m sure, but we would always say, “It just means HELLO, mother.” As we got older, we stopped tormenting her with it as much. Yet, we never forgot, and every now and again, one of us would bring it up. She always seemed to smile about it and was able to see the humor in it (after the fact, of course).
My mother taught me many things, as all mothers do. Some lessons were learned at the end of a belt, and some came much more easily. Some things I learned through direct instruction from her, but a wealth more came by less direct methods. She modeled perfect morals – not a word could be spoken against her character by anyone. She was a bit judgmental and could hold her own with the most hateful…but…I’ll not hold that against her. I learned from her by just watching her and being around her. I picked up on her love and compassion for others, her desire to be with family and the importance she placed on it, the happiness movies brought to her, and so many other things. Most importantly, I knew how much Christ meant to her. The power of her faith is the most important thing my mother ever taught me. It made me want to have Jesus in my life – the way she did. I wanted to have faith like that, and if it ever be possible, more.
Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: “Many women are capable, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Thank you dear Lord for giving me a mother who loved You, served You, worshiped You, and feared You. I am happy to know she has received the rewards of her labor. I will always praise her as my mother and as a follower of You. Bless me with being able to show how much You mean to me to my own children. Help me, that my children may ever see You in me. Amen.
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