A Letter to My Mother
I am not an exhorter. I dearly enjoy encouraging others, but it is not a gift of mine. I’d wake up at 2 in the morning to bring a pizza to a sad friend, but then I’d forget to text her back for four years. So I’d like to say I naturally bring a smile to other’s faces all the time, but in reality I think I am far too scatterbrained to be fully conscious of how I am giving appreciation to those in my life who deserve a lot of appreciation.
I am saying this because I owe you an apology. I know I’m not the only one who forgets to appreciate their mother’s love, but nonetheless, I don’t want to be one at all! Mom, I am sorry for not telling you everyday how much I appreciate you. There really aren’t enough words in the English language or gifts in the world to express my love for you, but I’m going to do my best to express it in this little letter anyway. I thought about sending it to you personally, but then I remembered how much you’ve encouraged my writing since I was 4 years old writing and illustrating books on printer paper and stapling them together as a gift for you and dad. So why would I not use your own encouragement to me, to encourage you?
Your selfless, compassionate, and unconditionally loving heart has always inspired me. But it was the summer before my sophomore year that I was truly captivated by who you are. You know I spent a lot of time struggling to love myself. I just couldn’t accept my athletic build and reserved spirit. But this summer, summer of 2014, I was going to be Miss Teen Indiana, crowned at the National American Miss Pageant in Indianapolis. I had spent years working towards this, and I wanted so badly to make you proud. You had spent so much time and money helping me to work towards my dream, and I just knew that the summer of 2014 was going to be my year. Of course many of the other girls competing felt the exact same way. Unfortunately most of those girls weren’t petite and quiet like me. They were perfectly outgoing with bodies like Victoria’s Secret Models. I couldn’t compare. I loved Jesus, but I wasn’t yet allowing Him to be my identity. I still wanted my identity to be found in recognition and other things of this world. But you noticed right away my self-deprecating attitude and decided to pour truth into me the entire weekend. You told me that I was beautiful just the way I was. You constantly told me how proud you were of me. You purposefully told my makeup artist to keep me looking natural because you didn’t want to take away from who I was. You stood by my side and just told me to smile, to be myself. And if the judges didn’t like me, then it’s their problem. You told me I was good enough for the crown even if I didn’t get it, either way it would be meant to be and I would still be a Daughter of the King. But the most memorable thing you told me that weekend was to love people. You didn’t just notice my negative attitude towards myself. You saw all the other girls doing the same thing to themselves, which I couldn’t see because I was obviously too self focused. So you began telling all the other girls how beautiful they were and how wonderful they were doing. I wasn’t outgoing, so you would introduce me to girls, and encouraged me to just love them. You told me that even though I was shy, I was good at making friends. I just needed a little push. Many of those girls are still my friends to this day. And that weekend ended up being of the greatest I’ve ever had. Did I get the crown? No, I didn’t win, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. But I did win something that weekend. I won Miss Personality, an award that the rest of the 100 contestants voted me for. Me… Shy and easily embarrassed me?? But when they called my name you gave me a standing ovation, and when I saw your face in the crowd cheering with such energy, I felt more confident than I ever had in my life. And since that day I have made much more of an effort to look past my selfishness to notice people’s hurts and love them in the midst of it. I really didn’t win Miss Personality. You did. At least, if it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have won that award. Your outgoing, bubbly, hilarious, generous, compassionate, and friendly personality came out in me that weekend, and I was able to love others because you loved me. Even when you didn’t know Him very well, Jesus used you to show me a little piece of His love for me. And I haven’t been the same since. It took some time after that weekend to come to a place where I love my body and my personality, but self-love began that weekend and it began because you allowed Jesus to use you.
Fast forward to this past summer. We were standing in our high school gym singing “Your Praise Will Ever Be on My Lips” at a funeral… a funeral that I never in a million years would have expected to attend. A funeral that crushed, burned, and ripped apart my heart. A funeral that left me questioning God in the depths of my darkness. I was a state away when I found out that Emma, Luke, and Lisa were gone from this earth. And I had to beg you not to hop in a car and drive all through the night to be with me. Obviously I wanted you to be, but knew it wasn’t reasonable. But the moment I got home the next day you wouldn’t leave my side. You held me every time I cried, and continued to hold me when the tears ran out. I was so lost and you knew it, so you just held me. You didn’t give me words you didn’t have. You didn’t give my anything but your presence, and it was just what I needed. But when we were singing that song at their funeral, something happened in your heart. I could feel it. I felt joy because I could hear you singing at the top of your lungs through the tears. I could hear something in your voice I had never heard before: it was the breath of life. It was Jesus’s breath. Five days later your grandson (and my nephew) was born, and you held me again as I cried at the unparalleled beauty of new life as I continued to mourn the loss of life. And as we sat in the hotel that night and talked about how we we’re doing, you told me truly that you wanted to start living every moment for Jesus. And since then, you haven’t been the same. You have fallen so deeply in love with Him. You just keep growing ands seeking, and He is changing you. You skip rather than walk. You sing rather than whisper. You pray rather than worry. You seek joy rather than dwelling in your struggles. You read your bible rather than remain angry at God. All of this makes my head spin with wonder at how He loves you. He is raining buckets of faith, hope, love, and truth over you and NOTHING in this world could make me happier. You constantly tell me “I want you to be happy” but mom! This is it! YOU make me happy! Your determination to know the Lord makes me happy beyond happy. I could have the most “unhappy” life, but have so much joy watching you follow the Lord wholeheartedly. I wish I had fancier words, but you amaze me. I still hurt at the loss of life in that tragic accident last summer, and I still wonder why God allowed it. But when I see new life in Jesus fill you, I thank Him for opening your eyes in the midst of heartbreak. I thank Him for bringing purpose to heartbreak.
So please know that I thank the Lord for you everyday. I thank Him for your heart. I thank Him that you’re my best friend. I thank Him that you constantly write me while I’m here in Belize. I thank Him that you used to write me letters when we lived so far apart and my heart ached with missing you. But I never imagined then that I would live thousands of miles away from you now. And now that ache I once felt is nothing in comparison to this one. Man I miss you so dang much. Yet you constantly send me an explanation of what the Lord is teaching you, prayers for me, and simple phrases about your day. It makes my world so much brighter. You make my world so much brighter. And every time I share my wild and insane dreams with you for my future, you don’t do the rational thing and tell me I’m out of my mind. You always say, “we’ll make it work.” I really don’t deserve you, and that makes me even more thankful that the Lord blessed me with you as a mother. It has never been easy to be my mother I’m sure. I’m rather sassy and often forget to shower, but you love me anyway. You’ve always loved me. Even when I wouldn’t get out my bed all day because I was overcome with grief, you’d drive all the way to my house to cry with me. You are the greatest mother of a friend I could ever ask for.
I’m so glad I chose your letter to be my last entry before outreach. I’ll be on another continent during Mother’s Day and I can’t afford to send you anything, and I’m not even sure I’ll get to communicate with you. But I wanted to show you how much I love you somehow. So here’s this. I’m not going to say I don’t hope it made you cry.
As you always say to me,
I love you to the moon and back,