I knew I had just written history’s all-time, lifetime-achievement Mother’s Day message.
No new pastor before or since had ever shown such sparkling wit and penetrating insight.
I knew every other pastor would read my work and lower his eyes in blushing shame. I knew publishers would be lined up at my door, begging for just one more paragraph. I knew I was in trouble because I had next year to plan for and I’d swung for the fences on this one.
Funny, you say?
Give it some thought. How long has your pastor served your church? How many years has he stepped up to deliver holiday-themed messages that have kept you sniggering long after he’s gotten serious? Kept you dabbing at your eyes and clearing your throat?
Un-hunh. Wull, it ain’t as . . . easy as it looks, pelgrum.
As challenging as it is to constantly generate fresh, inciteful, engaging material for every special day, that pales next to trying to describe the importance of mommas. Seriously. Your pastor deserves a homemade pie, a pound of his favorite coffee, and a great book just for trying.
There are no adequate words that do my mother justice. As adept a wordsmith as I work at being, I’d always be leaving something out. Ida Jane Wise married into this merry band of Boones, picking my quiet, hard-working dad, one supposes, because he seemed the safest choice of all the rest of the Boone men she encountered. I guess she momentarily overlooked the fact he was directly descended from Daniel.
To be fair, my father hadn’t any more clue of the marital adventures awaiting him, either. Ida Jane was disgustingly cheery no matter the obstacle. If she ever faced one that scared her, I never knew about it. When told at 91 she had a kidney tumor, she never hesitated: “Take it out, then. The other’n works just fine!” At five-foot-zip, my mother was fearless. She was a human lie detector with the aural acuity of a wax moth. Trying to sneak back into the house after dark was like trying to smuggle daylight past a rooster.
My mother’s faith in God was legendary. Never a morning passed that you’d not find her sitting quietly with her coffee, worn Bible laying open as she spent time with Jesus. Like as not, there would be tiny tear-pools in the polished maple wood of our dining table where she’d been once again praying over and for her children and extended family.
I began my quiet time habit early on, even before understanding it, by observing her.
Ida Jane wasted no time mooning over The Cooking Channel. Well, yeah, it hadn’t yet been invented. Though never trying to be a gourmet chef, she could make hearty, healthy, filling meals out of less than anyone I ever knew.
Wherever we lived was ‘home’, a place of solace, joy, music and flowers where neighbors were always welcome, and coffee always on. I always wondered upon moving who’d take care of all the roses and shrubs my mother planted. Lighthearted: “Not my worries. I’ve left this place nicer, greener and more lovely than when we moved in. That’s what matters.”
It’s a life philosophy I adopted.
My father never came home to a messy house or a sloppy yard, even during my three eldest siblings’ early childhood during The Great Depression. Whether a tent or a boxcar, Ida Jane always made the best of what she had, fixing what she could, doing without what she couldn’t.
Nothing in life gave her any reason to believe it would be easy. That would lead one to think she became sour and cynical, approaching each dawn with the assessing glare of an air crash survivor scanning fellow survivors for possible nutritional value. You didn’t know my mother.
Can you say, “Reveille” played on the piano? When Mother was up, the house was annoyingly, cheerfully up as well.
So, no. After decades of Mother’s Day messages, articles, and posts, I’m no closer to getting a handle on the woman God gave me as “The Mama” than I was that first Mother’s Day Sunday of my preaching years.
I know what you’re thinking.
“What about your wife? Your kids’ mother?”
If I’m still challenged in discerning and articulating the worth, the impact of Ida Jane after all these years, what makes you think I’d do any better trying to offer tribute to the woman who dared to partner with me 44 years ago next Thursday?
Brenda, whom most of you know as Babycakes, is unique in all womandom. Well, yes, in a way all women are thus singular. Yet the one who became my wife back in 1974 is unlike any other from the standpoint of grit, determination, and sheer will to ‘make it work’.
- She watched me wave bye-bye to several well-paid careers in favor of following God’s leading into pastoral ministry.
- She suffered what every pastor’s wife weathers, watching and hearing her mate be savaged and shredded by pride- and tradition-bound church members not particularly keen on growing.
- She saw her big, muscular hubby instantly brought down to certain death by a previously-unknown disease.
- And though God intervened with miraculous, medicine-defying healing, she how has a permanently-disabled little man where a big, healthy one once was. I can and do still do what I’m able; just not as much, and not for as long.
My children’s mother never signed on for that. At any point, she could’ve done what other stressed-to-the-breaking-point wives have felt forced to do.
She didn’t. Hasn’t. Won’t.
You could say it’s the spirit of Ida Jane all over again. You wouldn’t be far off.
What does being The Mama mean, then?
One day two of our three, Jennifer and Cass, were home from school. Nate was expected in from football practice any time, so I and the girls were all kind of doing our own thing while Brenda ran to the store for last-minute dinner fixin’s. True to form, Nate slammed through the door in a credible proximation of a young ‘nado. He dumped books, etc. on the sofa and proceeded with the patented search of all adolescents everywhere. Not finding his mom anywhere on the premises, he stormed good-naturedly back into the living room.
“WHERE IS EVERYBODY?”
Three pairs of eyes went, “Really?”
That’s what ‘The Mama’ means. Get used to it.
Yes, you did, too, say it trying to sound like John Wayne.
You’ll have to take my word about the wax moth until you do your own search. It’s enlightening.
Oh, yeah. And you need to cover for the 23,417 things your pastor will be feeling pressured to do while he’s supposed to be enjoying the pie, coffee, and book. That, too, is enlightening – and humbling. Pray for him; hold him up. Love on him and let him know you’re glad God brought him to your worshiping fellowship.
And be sure to take special care of The Mama of his kids and household. Nothing you do could mean more.
© D. Dean Boone, May 2018