“Wait, listen, obey.”
Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936
English author and poet born in India
“Born in the purple, born to joy and pleasure
Thou dost not toil nor spin
But makest glad and radiant with thy presence
The meadow and the lin.”
“There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.”
The minute we touched off from Atlanta, my eyes started scanning the horizon for mountains. My mountains. East Tennessee and my home. I spent four days in New Orleans this past week at a seminar, and while it was a wonderful city to visit with lots of culture and history to discover, I found myself craving home.
It didn’t help that I had picked up Barbara Kingsolver‘s novel, Prodigal Summer, to kill time at the airport and found myself immersed in beautiful descriptions of the Appalachians. The novel is “a hymn to wildness” that “weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives amid the mountains and farms of southern Appalachia.” (I can’t describe it any better than the book jacket.)
Lately I find myself reading or re-reading all my favorite Southern authors and stories. I love the imperfect characters, the realness of their suffering and joys, and the redemption of poor choices and bad circumstances. I love the commitment to family and friends and the strength of people who often find themselves forging their lives in surroundings that are sometimes as harsh as they are beautiful. The familiarity of the scenes — the small towns, the mountain trails, the trees and plants, the hollers and backroads of America — all of this comforts me as I read some of my favorites.
I first picked up Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford over 10 years ago and quickly found myself with an extended family and a little town I could call my own, as the author hoped her readers would do. Loosely based on the town of Blowing Rock, NC, this series has been an amazing journey for me (confession: I even named my little cocker spaniel after one of the beloved characters, Miss Sadie, and I think she carries the name well, with her fiesty spirit and protective loyalty). I discovered more about compassion and grace from the people of Mitford than I have witnessed in many of my church families. You can often find the wisdom of Father Tim and other Mitford friends quoted on my blog.
Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series has been another blessing. “Filled with big-time eccentrics and small-town shenanigans, Big Stone Gap is a jewel box of original characters” (again, I can’t do better than the book flap). And I found myself quickly identifying with the main character, Ave Maria Mulligan, “the thirty-five-year-old self-proclaimed spinster of Big Stone Gap, a sleepy hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.” Another fiesty woman “who thinks life has passed her by, only to learn that the best is yet to come.”
Sometimes I have to remind myself that these characters and their homes are not real and their lives are not mine. But as I saw the mountains come into view through the small plane window Wednesday night, I smiled to myself. I know the real jewels and beauty hidden in the folds of these mountains. Real characters, real lives, real places. Thank God I’m home.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that?
We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.
We must believe that we are gifted for something,
and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”
“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall;
A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., 1809-1894
One of best regarded American poets of 19th cty.
Five years ago last month, my family almost lost the most important woman in our lives when the car my mother and my then-3-year-old nephew, Charlie, were driving in down Interstate 77 north of Charleston, WV (on their way to see me), wrecked. The car rolled six times, throwing Charlie out of his car seat and out of the car as it rolled across the interstate and trapped my mother unconscious and upside down.
While my family was rushing to the hospital that day — my dad and brother from Ohio, my brother from Kentucky, and me from Tennessee — hoping to arrive and at least stand by mom’s side before she might die, we all were consumed with emotions and memories. None of us were ready to lose her, and yet none of us doubted her salvation and future. My mother is a woman who exemplifies the qualities of a godly wife and mother as portrayed in Proverbs 31. She is a devoted wife; a diligent partner to her husband; she is a dutiful servant with a vision for ministry not only to her family but to society; she is a dependable mother, devoted to the needs of her family beyond all else; and she is a woman full of God’s wisdom who has made Christ a priority in the life of her family.
So many miracles happened that day — true miracles — and thankfully God answered our selfish prayers and granted us hopefully many more years with my mom. Mother’s Day continues to remind us of how blessed we are.
But Mother’s Day has lately been a tricky holiday for me, and I’m sure for many others. Some of you have lost your mothers — recently or long ago — and this day is therefore bittersweet. And others may have had mothers who abandoned them, mistreated them, or mothers who refused to stand by their side, and those people can find no reason to honor their mothers on this day. Some women have struggled through years of trying to have children but never conceiving and therefore find this day difficult.
For me, I love to honor and thank God for my beautiful mother. But I also am torn and conflicted each Mother’s Day because year after year I watch more and more of my friends and peers become moms while my chances for that tick away with little hope of it ever happening.
So instead I hope God can use me in other ways. And though I may never be a mother, I hope that I have at least been a mother-figure when needed in the lives of others. Motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you are a mother or a mother-figure, or whether you have a mother or many mother-figures in your life, use this day to look around you and thank them, and thank God for them.
I love you Mom! Thank you for loving me.