In 1974, my family moved from a Victorian farmhouse outside of Ames, Iowa to a split level house in the town of Huxley, twelve miles to the south. Mom chose the paint colors for our new house. I was always embarrassed when she told people she painted it “yellow for the streets of gold” with green trim for “growing in God.” Who thinks like that? My mother! My mom has always been an original. On a hot summer Sunday, after hearing our pastor give a sermon challenging the congregation to pray passionately for our town, my siblings and I marched behind mom on a prayer walk around the border of our town. I remember grumbling about dehydration. While mom prayed for our town, I prayed no one I knew would see me walking through fields and the back streets of Huxley, as she sang hymns and prayed like it was the battle of Jericho! This event caused my siblings and me to pay closer attention to the Sunday sermons, in an effort to thwart any possible Sunday afternoon spiritual excursions that could involve us.
On another occasion, mom joined a group of women from her Bible study, picketing the bar on the main road that went through town. It had go-go dancers and attracted a rough crowd on a regular basis. The battle was fought with cardboard and paint, and the sight of women wearing double-knit pant suits walking back and forth in front of the bar. It wasn’t long before the bar discontinued the dancers.
It was a normal occurrence for people to show up at our door asking mom to pray with them. She’s always taken the Bible literally, and when it says, “where two or three agree in prayer, God will hear” she believes it. She has always had a child-like faith, and she has seen more prayers answered than anyone else I know. As a child this was strange and even a little spooky! But sometimes I just wanted her to be mom. I didn’t want to share her. I didn’t want to hear more Bible stories. I didn’t want to pray about everything, I just wanted her to be “mom.”
On January 24, 1988 I became a mother for the first time. I was young and felt very much unprepared to be this little boy’s mom. As I looked down into his wrinkled face, I knew I wanted to be the best mom I could be. Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t all moms aim to be the best mom ever? We want our kids to love us and feel lucky they were born into our household. Yet it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was far from what I considered “the best.” As much as I tried to be organized and playful, I was exhausted and falling apart. Mothering is not easy and each child is a new experience. There is no manual sent from heaven with instructions on our children’s quirks and personality traits. Parenting is a “figure it out on your own” experiment. As a young mother, I found myself going back to The Bible for answers and strength just as my mom had done.
As a teen, I thought I would do things differently than my mother. And yes, I have done some things differently. But, honestly, the bulk of my parenting has lead me back to the example my mother set for me in her faith. I have found wisdom and peace by reading God’s word, and I’ve found comfort and strength in day to day prayer. When my kids were little they’d worry about skinned knees or a sick pet, and my response was to pray with them. As they grew older their prayers became more serious. We’ve prayed about school, peer pressure, the need for good friends, and jobs; each concern bringing an opportunity to share what God’s word says and the privilege to pray together. It’s been exciting to see how God has answered these prayers.
My approach to teaching my kids about my faith may not be exactly like my mom’s, my house paint has no subliminal meaning, but the way my mom has lived her faith in front of me has been an example more powerful than words. Did my mom do it all correctly? Nope! But, she did a lot right and above all her example of her faith has changed my life for eternity.