It is Mothers Day on Sunday, which seems like a great excuse to write about what I’ve learned from the woman who profoundly shaped the person I have become: my mum.
It is interesting to look at this photo, in which I guess I am about eight, Liz is around 6, Danni 4 and Nat is probably 2. Mum is in her mid thirties, about ten years younger than I am now.
As I look back on the photo I glimpse in a fresh way what it must have meant for a young Tasmanian woman who grew up in the midst of a large extended family, church networks and family businesses to move to Sydney in search of adventure, find a man who wanted to change the world and begin a life that was far removed from what she was used to.
Into that foreign world came four blond haired, blue eyed bundles of energy, of whom I was the first. Growing up right on the edge of Sydney, with a house that fronted onto the bush was an idyllic setting for childhood.
It is only now that I realise that mum must have felt alone a lot of the time because there was no public transport that reached Wideview Road, Berowra and Dad often was away, mostly with the car. I have fond memories of regularly walking the 1.5 kilometres to Berowra Village shops, with mum pushing a pram packed with at least two children. I remember getting sick of walking, something that mum must have felt fairly regularly.
A trained early childhood teacher, mum threw herself into fostering a love of of reading and of creativity in her kids. One of the best places in the house was the “useful box” under the kitchen bench which was full of all kinds of cardboard and plastic containers and other materials that could be used, with glue and sticky tape, to make anything. The understanding of the power of words and the assumption that there is always an opportunity to create something new became foundational for all four of us.
Being the eldest, I was often pushing the boundaries. I remember having an extremely strong feeling world and a drive to explore and understand. Apparently the most common question I would ask in my first 5 years was ‘Why?”
I almost laughed out loud as I just reviewed the photo again and saw for the first time that mum is firmly grasping my right arm which, for some reason, is raised in salute. I imagine that mum often had the sense that she needed to keep a close watch on me. I know it wasn’t simple.
Life has changed a lot since the Berowra days, but through all of my 46 years on earth I have known two things about my mum that have been vitally important for me as her son.The first thing I have known about my mum is that she cared deeply about me and has always been ready to do whatever was in her power, for my sake. I know that not everyone can say that about their mothers, but I wish they could. There is something deeply grounding in knowing that no matter what happens there will be one person on earth who is always in your corner and who hurts when you hurt.
Mum’s heart was always big enough for all of us kids, for Dad, and for many, many friends around Australia and across the world. Since I have known her, mum has cared deeply for people. My mum is a constant reminder that maturity is not a distancing yourself from your feeling world. The shortest verse in the bible is “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35) and mum, like Jesus, has often been deeply affected by the pain of others.
The second thing I have known about my mum is that she loves Jesus and talking to Him is what gives her life it’s focus. Every day of my life I have known that my mother has been praying for me, for my Dad, my brother and sisters and friends around the world. There is something immensely comforting about knowing that someone is conscious of what is happening in your life and praying about it every day, I wish every person on earth had that.
From my earliest days I remember how central prayer was to everything Mum did. In the midst of a mission organization that was often focussed on doing things, mum was constantly praying and calling people to prayer. For several decades mum wrote a weekly “prayer grid” which was basically a devotional which came out of her own faith journey and a list of things to pray for on behalf of the hundreds of full time workers.
My mum is a constant reminder that life only makes sense when you are talking to God.
Mum’s deep and loyal attachment to her family and her commitment to prayer has been tested over the last decade like never before in her life. Through a horrible transition for my Dad from the international leadership of Fusion to retirement, my mum remained steadfastly at his side, feeling deeply every blow that he endured, yet never wavering in her commitment to him, to her family, and to Jesus.
Since stepping out of direct ministry, Mum and Dad have made praying together for family and friends around the world a major part of their life together, and morning and night they work through a long list, bringing people to God. It has simply been a continuation of what both their lives have been about since early adulthood.
Mum has never stopped caring and has never stopped praying, and on this Mothers Day weekend, I, for one, am deeply grateful.