I want to take this time on your birthday to reminisce about some of the things I love about you most! Some of my fondest memories are from my childhood years with you!
Your love for us has been verbalized and lived out. Thank you for all the hugs and kisses, for saying "I love you", and for speaking words of affirmation into our lives. You have pursued our hearts, and you have earned our deepest respect and admiration with your gentle, loving heart.
Though your own mama passed away shortly before I was born, you've kept her memory alive with all the stories and photographs you've shared. I remember you telling us of all the fun family times y'all had growing up fishing on the lake, and then you taking us out as little kids and helping each of us catch our first fish! You loved your daddy so much, and I can't even begin to tell you what an impact it made on all of our lives when he moved in with us as his health was declining... we watched as you so tenderly cared for his every need, and we saw Jesus in you.
Throughout the years you've strived for organization, but you've let dreams of perfectionism go. As the framed poem on your wall went, your heart was truly that of a mom who "smiled at fingerprints on a newly cleaned window," and "picked up a crying child before wiping up the spilled milk."
You've made rainy days fun by pulling out the bucket of cookie cutters and letting us mix, roll and cut out sugar cookies. When there wasn't any thunder or lightning, we'd always beg to play in the rain, and you'd let us--even though you knew there'd be so much more laundry, wet towels and puddles in the entryway (who am I kidding, we'd track water through the whole house!)
All of us older kids remember the blue "survival kit" you kept under the front bench seat in the van for like 10 years! You were so creative and would plan ahead so we wouldn't be stuck out-and-about without something that we needed. You kept that thing stocked like a first-aid kit/diaper bag, with extra random things like twisty-ties and safety pins. And of course, it always contained 3-4 extra trash bags for the kitchen-sized trash can you kept right behind the driver's seat. Genius!
We went through countless kiddie pools, and eventually upgraded to a giant horse trough for summer fun! Of course with all the "swimming," we'd work up quite an appetite! We'd holler into the house "Mama, I'm hungry! You got any snacks?" and you'd come out with platters of pickles (our favorite), watermelon, pineapple, or sometimes even bite-sized ravioli (which we loved!).
You let us use up reams and reams of paper for our artwork, and would post them proudly on the fridge door and tape them elsewhere around the house. The gallon-sized ice cream bucket up-cycled into our "crayon bucket" was more crayon pieces than whole ones, as they were well-used! We were always losing every pair of scissors and using up all your tape, and I know you cleaned up millions of shredded remains after we'd make pretend "money" for our "banks".
You taught us how to write letters to express love and thankfulness to others. You taught us to make pop-up greeting cards, and always acted surprised and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over our creations-- even if you received 12 of them on the same birthday. "Oh, wow! Look, Daddy! Another pop-up card! How sweet!"
You let us make forts in the living room using couch cushions, sheets, and dining chairs. We saw you take joy in our childlike joy and laughter, and we saw Jesus in you.
I remember the smell of the perfume you wore when I was little, and it is still one of my favorites to this day because it reminds me of you. We girls always felt so grown up when you would let us wear it on special occasions. I remember us begging you to do our hair just like yours, and we would beam as daddy would tell us "You're beautiful-- just like your Mama!"
We have seen your tenderness as you have cared for us through sickness and adversity. We have seen your reliance upon the Holy Spirit for strength as we have worked through hard times. We've seen your faith in Christ, even in the darkest of days-- praising Him in good times and bad.
When we were little it was boo-boos and bike accidents, bee stings, and scraped knees, and you were right there to comfort us. As we grew older, it was heart-to-heart talks about the future, our fears, our dreams, liking boys, and mending broken hearts. You'd operate on just hours of sleep after staying up till 2 or 3 in the morning, listening, talking things out. You're a good listener and a wise source of counsel. You'd speak truths of Scripture to combat the lies. No matter the situation-- whether it was worries, fears, doubts, excitement, happiness-- you'd grieve or celebrate with us. "I really like him, but he acts like he doesn't even know that I exist..." yours was a shoulder to cry on. "I want to try, but I don't know if I can do it..." yours was a voice of encouragement. A hardened heart, and then your words sinking in "Jessa, you will never go wrong if you humble yourself." "Mama, will you forgive me..." and the warmth of your embrace spoke louder than a thousand words.
And then the day I will never forget, when I knew I wanted to know and have a personal relationship with the Jesus knew... your words spoke the truths of the gospel to a thirsty soul-- of our great sin and of the Savior's great love; of repentance and faith; of hope and reconciliation... and I saw Jesus through you.
You are a beautiful woman, and your beauty radiates from the inside out. People tell me all the time, "Your Mom seems so sweet!" And I say "She is! She's the sweetest person I know!" People don't always know why they are drawn to you, but I know that it is Jesus in you and flowing through you that causes people to love you so. You are gracious and kind. You are engaging in your conversations. You are patient and meek.
Thank you for your godly example. Thank you for always being someone who points us to Jesus. It warms my heart every time you text just to say "I love you" or "I'm praying for you!" If I searched the world over, I'd never find another woman as precious as you.
Mama, I know I should say it more than I do: I look up to you... and I love you more than you'll ever know! ??