If you would have known me growing up, your money would not have been on me to amount to much of anything. I was a self-conscious kid who was constantly teased for my small stature and my academic failings. I was regularly taken out of class in elementary school for special education classes to remediate my reading ability and other academic deficiencies. It also was deemed necessary that I meet with the school psychologist. I was the only student in my classes requiring these meetings. As I would return to my classroom from these humbling appointments, some of my classmates would snicker and say things under their breath. I felt stupid and odd. This opinion of my ability continued into the junior and early senior high school years. I was three years behind my older sibling, who was very bright and academically successful. Teachers would share their shock and disappointment of how poor of a student I was in comparison to my sister. I believed them all. This, then, became my self-identity.
Well, my mother, who very recently passed away at the wonderful age of 91, would have nothing of the kind. My mom believed and invested in me when few others did. The love and commitment that my mom displayed was nothing less than incredible. She had an unrelenting dedication to be there for me. I would come home from school beaten down and defeated. We would sit down and talk about my day. She would hug and embrace me when I would cry.
But a positive attitude was continuously pounded into my brain by my mom. Every defeat and challenge were to be seen as an opportunity to be thankful for the lesson learned. She would say, “life is tough, but rising above difficult circumstances makes us better people.” She would not stand for negativity. My mom trusted in the fact that the Lord had a reason for everything that happened to me and said it was for my good. She would pray, asking the Lord to sustain and guide me. Her constant prayer was ,“Lord just keep him afloat and don’t let him give up.”
She helped me move beyond my perceived limits. Many times, I could only hear the voices of the naysayers. Mom helped me adopt a vision of what I could do—what I could be. She would say to me, “Now, Jimmy, you have always said you want to go to college, and you can if you set your mind to it.” Honestly, when my mom reminded me of my hope and dream of going to college, I was unsure that it would ever happen. My teachers communicated a subtle message that it was in question whether I was college material.
Mom would constantly remind me of the gifts, abilities, and talents with which I had been blessed. She perceptively saw my potential and never relented in her stalwart support of the boy she loved. She encouraged me through selfless devotion. She tutored me, sat next to me while I did my homework, and purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica on payments our family could not afford.
She was a tough customer. The heart in this petite little Irish lady was principled and right-minded. She always held me accountable to follow through on the commitments I made, no matter the circumstances. She exuded kindness and empathy at the appropriate times, but she was an unyielding mentor and coach. I was never coddled but was encouraged to deal head on with the realities of life and to stand on and speak the truth.
The words and actions of my mother pointed me to the sacrificial love of Christ.
The picture is indelibly fixed in my mind of my turning the corner to my street after school, especially on predictably hard days, and seeing my mom waiting for me in front of our house. This is the lady who made all the difference in my life. This is the gift that God gave me to turn my life around. She alone played a role that no one else could have—as my confidant, my encourager, my advocate, and my champion.
As I teach and serve as an administrator and coach on the collegiate level, with those three little letters after my name, I can only thank the Lord for the unbelievable and life-changing gift of my mother. With undying gratitude from the deepest part of my heart, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. The Lord has welcomed you home, saying to you “well done, good and faithful servant.”
May we, on this Mother’s Day weekend, praise the Lord for the unmatched love, care, and devotion of our mothers.
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