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Thoughts of my son on Mother’s Day

For the second time since becoming a mother, I will celebrate Mother’s Day without my one and only child, my son in whom I am well pleased.

After he married, he lived close enough to our house for more than 14 years.  Not so now.  He moved miles away in 2011, taking his sweet wife and his three children, our only grandchildren.  I have not gotten over it yet.  I don’t think I will.

I’m aware that many moms do not get to spend Mother’s Day with their children.  Bear with me.  I am still trying to adjust to it.

My thoughts are on my son this day, the babe in my arms, the toddler waking in the middle of the night, the boy riding his bike saying, “Watch me, Mom,” the teenager taking the car alone for the first time as I stand at the window and pray for him, the man who took a wife with all its responsibilities, the young father who made me a grandmother.

I think of him with tenderness.  The struggles of parenting don’t matter any more.  I just remember the joy of being his mom.

His birth changed my life forever in ways he will never know.  But I will always thank God for it.

Bill and me, pregnant 1973My very first Mother’s Day picture was taken in 1973 while I was about 8 months pregnant.  The handsome man beside me is my Sweet William.  I was full, like the moon.  My belly was big, my smile was bigger.  My hair looked stupid – it was the 1970’s.

Big as a barrel and happy about it.  I loved wearing maternity clothes and sewed most of them myself.  People thought I was having a girl by the way I carried the baby.  One friend told me she could not imagine me with a boy; it had to be a girl.   Did she think I was I too prissy to mother a boy?

Yet a boy child is what the Lord gave us.

And what a joy that boy was, a tiny little found-faced creature.  I felt the weight of the world as the nurse placed him in my arms the first time.  How was it possible that the Lord Almighty had entrusted this tiny helpless human being, this everlasting soul to Bill and me?   I knew nothing about rearing a child except what I had seen my own parents do.  They did it so well.  So I tried to do it like they did.  I failed often.

I was cross too many times.  I expected a lot.  I doled out punishment when I could have given more grace.  I should have played more and cleaned less.  I wanted to be such a perfect mother.  But I was not.  I did what I thought was best.  It wasn’t always.

Oh, but I loved that boy with all my heart, and I prayed to be a good mother.  The Father took the feebleness of my efforts coupled with my prayers, and miraculously made a fine man from my tattered efforts.  What a great miracle that He took what little I had to offer and redeemed it to create something good and wonderful.

I wish I had understood more and acted differently when Travis was small, growing up, emerging into a teenager, becoming a man.  I wish I could undo some events and wash away others.  But alas, the days have gone by and I am left with the memories of them.

My son grew to be a good man.  He adores his wife, loves and plays with his children.  He takes his role as provider and spiritual leader seriously.  He loves the Father above and seeks to do His will.

I’m thankful for grace that accomplished much with what I gave to this son of mine.  I call him my Son of Consolation because he brightened my darkness and lightened my heart.  Truth be told, he has done more for me than I think I ever did for him.

To my son I would say:  Never could I have imagined the joy, the pain, the surprises, the laughter, the delight, the tears, the wakeful nights or the fun-filled days of being your mom.  You are a treasure to my heart.  Though the birth cord was cut when you were born, the cord that connects my heart to yours is never severed.

I love you, son.

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In honor of fathers

It took me a while to understand and to appreciate the fact that men are not like women.  If I had known it when I first married Sweet William, I think it would have made both of our lives easier.

But I love it that they are different.

As I think of Father’s Day and the men in my life, I am thankful.  So many have left their mark on me, have changed my life for the better, have shown me the face of God.

There are the pastor and choir director who encouraged this shy young musician to use her gifts in spite of her fear.  There is the uncle who gave me money to help buy my first car and sent me on a trip to New York City free of charge.  There  are the ministers who preach the Word that cut like a sword and healed the wound and helped me grow.  There are the deacons who take their role seriously, who visit the sick and shepherd the flock.  There are the teachers who challenge me to think deeply, to question what I believe, and help me confirm what “thus saith the Lord” really means. 

Men are focused.  I love it that they can stay on one task and not veer off until it is complete, unlike me whose brain scatters from one thing to another to another until I wonder how anything gets accomplished.

Men are protective.  I remember when my very young grandson, Ethan, was pretending to be in a battle.  He looked at me standing there at the kitchen sink and said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll save you.”  His DNA is infused with a warrior spirit to fight for and take care of those he loves.

Men are courageous.  It isn’t that they are unafraid.  It is that they are willing to go check on that noise in the dark or to tread foreign soil for freedom’s sake.

Men are tender.  I’ve seen them cry over a sad movie, trying to hide their sniffles.  The tough exterior is just a covering for a soft heart where gentleness resides.

Men are strong.  They exert their strength to lift heavy loads, to trudge off to work every day, to go the extra mile, to be there for their friends and families.

I come from a long line of good men.

My grandfather Charles Lockard was a minister of the gospel who paved the way for me disregarding the persecution.  Yet he was one of the gentlest souls I ever knew. 

My dad, John Rayhill, is a man who knows how to take care of the women in his life.  He prides himself that he never let my mother take out the garbage.  That was his job.  He was always busy with something but he was never too busy to stop for me or one of the neighbor kids who needed a bike tire pumped up or something repaired.

My husband, Bill Wright, is my hero.  He was a good provider until his health took him down.  He fought for our marriage when everyone else gave up on it.  He has endured so much pain and too many surgeries with courage.  He still tries to look on the bright side, and he makes the effort to be kind to the hospital staff and learn their names, making him their favorite patient. 

My son, Travis Wright, is funny and fearless.  He has an infectious joy that draws people to him.   He has been my Son of Consolation through many tough years.  He is a faithful husband and a playful dad.  He bravely left his hometown and moved his family to Oklahoma to pursue his dream (though I have not yet gotten over it). 

I honor the men who stand for God, who take care of their families, who protect their children, who are determined to do the right thing even when it is hard. Men who go to war so I can be safe, who fight fires and keep the peace.  Men who lead with courage and care.  Men who put their lives in harm’s way for the sake of others.

Thank God for fathers who show their boys how to be good men, who treasure their daughters and teach them how a man should treat a woman.  Thank God for fathers who love their wives and stick it out when it would seem easier to walk away.  Thank God for fathers who love and care for other men’s children who have walked away.  Thank God for fathers who discipline with love instead of anger, who set a high standard of living so that their children have a role model worthy of following.  Thank God for fathers who get on their knees and pray every day, who take their children to church instead of just send them.  Thank God for fathers who go to work, for fathers who know how to play, for fathers who teach right from wrong and walk their talk.

I love those men in my life:  my precious going-on-91 Dad, my Sweet William, my son of consolation Travis.  And there is still one more, our little man, Ethan, 10 years old.  He is watching these good men, listening to their words.  He will be influnced by their lives. 

May he follow their footsteps.

 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”    –Deuteronomy 4:9

The daughter I love

My son’s wife, Renee, celebrated her birthday in June, and I can’t let the month pass away without expressing my love for her. 

I call her my daughter-in-love, rather than daughter-in-law, because she is a daughter of my heart, not just joined to our family by a legal act of marriage.  I did not coin the phrase.  I heard about it, read about it, from Emilie Barnes, an author, speaker, organizer, and home manager.  I’ve read her books and admired her work, especially her love for the Lord Jesus and her family. 

When Travis came to the age where he began to seriously think marriage, I considered how this was going to eventually impact our own relationship.  We always had a close bond.  He was my only son, and I was his only mother.  We could talk about most anything.   Through the years, we have been each other’s support system.  I know he prays for me, and he knows I pray for him.

When I contemplated another woman taking first place in my son’s life, I had a decision to make.  I could be jealous and resent his love and attention to her and thus alienate my son’s affection for me and drive a wedge between us.  Or I could accept her as Travis’ choice, love her and hopefully become her friend, thus making the bond of our family even stronger.  I chose the latter for it promised a better outcome.

Travis dated a few girls, well, a lot of girls.  He was a good-looking boy with an outgoing personality.  There were a couple of times I wondered if one of them was going to be “the one.”  But they went the way of infatuation, or young love, I suppose.

Finally, he brought home a tall, dark-haired beauty named Renee.  On her first visit to our home, we had spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and strawberry shortcake.  I didn’t know it at the time, but strawberry shortcake was Renee’s favorite.  I made some brownie points that day.

She became a frequent visitor, and Sweet William and I began to see Travis falling deeply in love.  Actually, we were also falling in love with this sweet young woman. 

Travis told  me he wanted to marry Renee and had planned to give her a ring on Christmas Eve.  The bombshell dropped, but I had seen it coming.

I wrote a letter that Christmas Eve and gave it to Travis and Renee after Travis presented her the ring.  The letter is too personal to reprint here, but let me just share a small portion of my heart on that momentous day.

“Renee, I’ve been praying for you for a long time and didn’t even know who you were.  But I asked the Lord to guide Travis to the wife he needed, who would be a strength to him, just as the Scripture says.

“You have become very dear to Bill and me.  You are mentioned in our prayers right along with Travis.  And I feel almost like someone has said, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!”  I’m so happy with the prospects of having a daughter.  I welcome you into our family, our arms, and our hearts.”

Proverbs 31 says of a wife’s value to her husband, “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”  Renee has been that kind of wife to my son.

She has been to me like Ruth was to Naomi  in the Bible.  She is the daughter I never had.  I am thankful for her in my life, in my son’s life, and in our family.

I celebrate my precious daughter-in-love.  I love you, Renee!

Legacy

Sunday morning finds me at Little Flock Baptist Church where my Sweet William and I are members.  I love the worship, Pastor Rodney’s sermons, our Sunday School class, and getting to see so many precious Christian brothers and sister.

This Sunday, however, I went to first service at 9 am, then slipped out to visit Shepherdsville First Baptist Church, where my son and his family are attending and serving.  Travis plays percussion, and my two granddaughters, Elyse and Celeste, occasionally sing with the praise team. 

Elyse, the elder granddaughter, was going to play the keyboard for the worship songs, then sing a solo for the first time.  I did not want to miss it.  She was delighted to see that I had come to hear and support her efforts.  The day before, I told Elyse that I was her age, 13-years old, when I began to play regularly in our small church.  It was that experience as a young girl that set the course of a life of music ministry for me.

When it was time for the special song, Worship Minister, Sheila Lamonte, went to the keyboard, and Elyse stood close by at the microphone.  After a melodious introduction, Elyse began to sing My Everything.  If you will bear with this Grandmother and give me bragging rights for a moment, I will tell you it was beautiful!  Her voice was true and clear.  She sang with confidence and feeling.  I was moved to tears.

Do you know the feeling of being part of an experience while your mind goes to another time and place?  That happened during Elyse’s song.  I thought of my mother who died in 1983.  She had an astounding alto voice that bellowed and lifted the rafters.  She was anointed to sing, and hearts were touched when she did.

I’m not one who speaks to the dead or goes to the cemetery to talk to those who have gone on.  They aren’t there anyway.    But this morning in the pew at First Baptist, I spoke silently to my mother.  You see, I believe the saints in Heaven, that great cloud of witnesses, are aware of some things on earth, especially those involving their families.  So my mind said, “Mother, do you hear your great-granddaughter?  This is your legacy.”

Legacy.  It is what we leave behind when life is all said and done.  

My mother blessed others with her gift of music.  She traveled to little country churches to sing, and she faithfully served her own church for years. 

Mother wanted music to be part of my life.  She was determined I would have piano lessons and made me (yes, she made me) practice.  She encouraged me to play for others though I was a shy, backward child. 

It was only natural that I took that same path with Travis.  He took piano lessons which turned him toward a snare drum in fifth-grade band.  It eventually led to his high school’s marching band and the amazing percussionist he is today.

The beauty of my legacy is not just God’s gift of music to my family but that by His mercy we have come under the shadow and refuge of the Almighty, the saving grace of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The legacy goes on.  Gifts from God are honed into skills that are then used to worship the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. 

The Lord has given us great and precious promises.  His Word is filled with them.  One of my promises is in Isaiah 44:3b and 4.  I believe it and trust God will fulfill it in my family.

 . . . I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.  

Legacy can be a beautiful thing.  No matter your background or heritage, a new legacy begins with one individual who choses to follow Jesus and surrenders his life to the glory to God.