Archive for November 26th, 2009

November 26, 2009

thankful: my mom

Jules and KathyGrowing up, I never quite understood my mom. She was always busy in the kitchen or at a sewing machine, and I was always buried in a book or entertaining the thoughts in my head. I saw her more as an interruption to my days than as someone I wanted to spend time with. We were truly polar opposites. And because I was so close to my dad, I probably saw Mom as a threat to my time with him. Of course, I could never verbalize that or even process that thought in my head, but there was definitely a barrier between me and her. And it didn’t break down until I reached adulthood.
Now that I know my mom better, I see her life in a different light. Whereas she always seemed so busy and irritated by any interruptions, I know now that she was often overwhelmed by her daily tasks as a stay-at-home mom of three daughters born within 5 years. Her time in the kitchen was a creative outlet for her, but it was also necessity to make every dollar stretch as far as it could. And her time with a sewing machine was to keep us in clothing without being forced to take us all shopping (which was a complete nightmare) where she could get only a few clothing items when her own skills could create an entire wardrobe for the same amount of money. As I began to realize these were her talents and that she worked so hard to make us all happy, I dubbed her “Betty Homemaker” and started to appreciate all that she can do.
My mom and I finally became friends when I finally grew up. I learned to assess her life within its context, and I realized how talented she is and how little I had learned from her. Although I still don’t actively seek her knowledge, I’m fully aware that she is a treasure for our family. She was responsible for raising three girls much of the time while my dad was working long hours and being called in during the night. I don’t remember my dad being absent, but I do know that it was often Mom who disciplined me in the daily moments and who helped me with school projects. The fact that Mom was always home when I returned from school was something I certainly took for granted at the time but was something that allowed me to feel secure and stable in my life. And that was invaluable to me as I struggled through an emotionally tumultuous adolescence.
My mom is now my best friend. She’s the one I call first when something good happens or when I need a bit of advice or an opinion. She’s my greatest teacher, and she’s my most honest confidante. I know that Mom will give it to me straight, and I know that she will also steer me in the right direction. It was she who gave me the greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received: when I was miserable in a job and felt no respect for my boss, she told me that the experience was necessary to build character. I’ve never forgotten those words. And when I find myself struggling and uncertain as to how I can change a situation, I always hear Mom’s voice saying, “This will build your character.” It never fails to put things into perspective or to give comfort.
I celebrate my mom on her birthday this Friday, and I thank God for bringing us to a new relationship early in my adulthood. She is a champion with a servant’s heart, and I want her to know how much I love her and cherish her life. You truly are a treasure, Mom! Happy birthday!

November 26, 2009

thankful: my dad

SmittyI was the firstborn of my parents’ children, and, as I hear it told, my dad was overjoyed at becoming a father. He’s always been very much a “family man,” and because he had almost three years with me alone, our bond developed without distraction. For most of my life, my dad was the most important person to me. Something I’m sure was difficult for my mom. My relationship with my dad was always stronger than with my mom, and it wasn’t until adulthood that this began to change. Of course, that doesn’t mean that things were always good with me and my dad. Throughout my adolescence he and I were at persistently at odds. I felt suffocated by his high expectations of me, and he was constantly perplexed at my indifference to them. He could never understand why I would want anything less for myself than the very best, and I could never make him see that my own hopes and dreams held just as much merit as those he had for me. The biggest issue, however, was church and living the Christian life. I was disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the “church-goers” I saw every Sunday, and eventually I just refused to return. Because my dad was raised in a home where church-going was expected behavior and not to be questioned, we began to argue about the subject at every opportunity. And I became more and more bitter about everything related to Christianity, but much of it was a direct result of simply going the opposite direction from what my dad expected of me. At 19, there was simply no chance of me hearing what “was best for me” when it came from a father who only sees the world in black and white. I wanted to live in the gray areas.
At the age of 27, I finally began to analyze my life in terms of my own sense of self and my own faith, rather than the faith of my parents. God was very gracious to show me that Christianity is not about going to church or believing what other people say simply to please them, but rather it is a life of faith and relationship with Jesus the Christ. And although these revelations were in line with all that my dad had expected of me, I fully embraced it because I had come to it on my own. From that point forward, my dad and I began to restore our relationship as father and daughter, and for the first time we also began to develop a friendship. I learned that our struggles had always been so volatile because we are almost exactly the same in every way. We approach the world through logic, and we both strive for perfection. We feel compelled to set things right, and we want people to appreciate the same things that we do. It helps to know that we are so similar since most of the world doesn’t follow our lead or play by the same rules. We now spend a lot of time shaking our heads at the rest of the world and wondering how people can possibly live the way they do. [Of course, the rest of the world, and our own family, spends a lot of time wondering why the two of us are not more normal!] At this point in my life, as I begin to realize I’m staring down middle age, it helps to have a partner like my dad. I am thankful for friendship and for his unconditional love, which I know exists even when I fail to meet his expectations. I’m thankful, too, that he has learned to see things as I do and to question more than he once would. I know that I’ve influenced his perceptions of people and that he wouldn’t be as much of a minister today had God not used me in this way toward my dad. I’m enormously proud when people tell me what a great man my dad is, and I’m finally beginning to understand why he spent so much time stressing the importance of “a good name.” Everywhere my family travels, someone seems to know my dad’s two older brothers, one of whom was a respected educator and the other a beloved football coach. This has always made my dad very proud. But now, I experience the same thing: many people know my father and have nothing but praise for who he is and how he serves. The older I get, the more I experience that same kind of family pride. And I’m so thankful that our relationship was restored early in my youth so that I could enjoy this time as intended.

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