"This is my anthem,
this is my song.
The theme of the stories
I've heard for so long.
God has been faithful,
He will be again.
His loving compassion,
it knows no end
All I have need of,
His hand will provide
He's always been faithful,
He's always been faithful,
He's always been faithful to me."
It's Sara Groves' "He's Always Been Faithful," that sings through my heart today as I consider the lives of those people who have had the greatest influence on my life. And what stands out to me as a theme, or thread, running through each of their experiences, is a well-tested trust in the constancy of God's love, especially in the face of fear, hopelessness, and despair.
Mary Baker Eddy asserts that,
"The lives of great men and women are miracles
of patience and perseverance.
Every luminary in the constellation of human greatness,
like the stars, comes out in the darkness to shine
with the reflected light of God."
I can't think of one person I look to for inspiration, who has not walked through the fire of their own self-immolation, carried their own cross towards the crucifixion of the ego, and willingly shed the skin of their own catepillar-selves without a clue about what would follow their chrysalis shrouding.
Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Corrie Ten-Boom, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Mary Baker Eddy, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, my mom.
I know that I have written alot about my mom on this blog. But I can't help but feel that she deserves to be recognized for the luminary in the constellation of human goodness she is...and always has been. She is one of the most inspiring women I know...or have ever known. Like most of us, she has her frailties...frailties she would be the first to point out, and that we, her children, would be the first to chuckle with her about. But what she doesn't realize, is that it is her persistence and perseverance in the face of those very human frailties, which make her the person I most want to write about tonight as I think about human greatness, and the people who have most inspired me.
Many of you know that my dad passed on at the end of my senior year of high school and the impact that event had on my life's trajectory. Getting through those days, weeks, months and years was tough on all of us. Mom was widowed with eight children under the age of 19 (the youngest were toddler twins). No residual income, no insurance, no pension, no job....no family support. But she had eight children. And it was her joy, courage, and unfailing trust in God's care, that inspired us to not lose hope. She knew that we were watching her, and she made sure that what we were watching was a woman whose humility and grace, were worth following.
There are countless stories on this blog about her courage in the face of fear, her generosity when we had nothing to give, her kindness in the midst of rejection, her humor when despair was palpable, and the fierceness of her love for us...even when we were less than loveable.
But tonight, on the eve of another Father's Day celebration, it is a moment of supreme strength in the face of "dragons" that I want to put on record.
Dad's passing was sudden. He left for work very early one June morning, and less than an hour later the sheriff was at the door delivering the news. My sister reached me by phone just as I arrived at the law office I was clerking in for the summer, and I "lost it." By the time I reached the farmhouse my parents were leasing in Pennsylvania's "Dutch" country, an hour away, I'd been able to think through the implications, and I was a total wreck.
I knew my parents financial situation. It wouldn't have been hard for anyone to figure out that raising eight children on my dad's salary alone was already a stretch. And without dad's salary...well... it didn't take long to realize that college was out of the question...at least for that fall...and that the rest of the picture seemed beyond dire, at best. I was making minimum wage at both my waitressing job, and as an entry level clerk in a law office, and mom hadn't worked in almost 20 years. I was pretty sure that my dad had neither life insurance nor a pension, and I also knew that there were always more bills to pay each month than his paycheck was able to cover...even with the extra work he took on each week. How would we do it?
My sister Nancy and I were the only two of their children who were actually employable at the time, and we were both still just teenagers. I was terrified, and I was expecting to find my mom just as terrified as I was, if not more, when I arrived.
But I didn't.
She was so focused on us...on her children...that she was poised, calm, and generous. She lavished us with comfort, assurance, and gratitude for our presence in her life.
The very thing that I thought would scare her the most...having eight children under the age of 19...was the very thing she seemed most grateful for. And what gave her the most strength to face the dragons of fear that breathed fire at her heels.
Through the longs weeks, months, and years...37 years now...of facing the demands of her life, she has always let us know that we were always her greatest asset. I don't think that any of us has ever felt like a drain on her resources, a demand upon her bank account...but the greatest treasures in her life. She has given, and given, and given to each of us...everything she loves, values, and cherishes.
When my siblings and I have needed help, she has always been there. Hers is the voice I hear in my head when I sing lullabies to my daughters at bedtime. Hers is the number I call when I am most needing to know if there is hope of forgiveness, mercy, charity, or redemption in my life. I know she will always tell me the truth...even when it hurts.
I remember a day, soon after dad's passing, when the thought of what it would take for us to keep our family out of the "poorhouse" made me want to run away from it all and never look back. Our old station wagon was in need of repairs, there was a stack of bills coming due, everyone needed something...shoes, food, soap...and I had just finished a 75 hour work week and it was barely enough to chip away at the rent for that month.
As I came through the big kitchen of the farmhouse, feeling helpless and hopeless, I saw my mom sitting at the table with her head in her hands. When she heard my footsteps she sat up and the smile that lit up her face was genuine. She wasn't putting on a happy face for my benefit, she was happy. I made her happy. We all did. Something about that smile made it all possible. If she could do it, so could we. And we did.
On Father's Day the girls and I will pack up the car for camp. On the way we will make an even more important stop...at my mom's. We'll spend time with her, in her home. It is the best gift I give to my girls each year. Time with someone who lets you know...everytime you are with her...that you make her happy, that being with you, loving you, listening to you, is the most wonderful "thing" to enjoy in heaven, and on earth.
And I can't help but remember that first Father's Day, 37 years ago, when I realized that I my mom, was the strongest person I knew....she still is.
I love you momma,
Kate Robertson, CS
Here is a little poem that swept through my heart just after I finished writing this pose:
where would I
your example of
you who are so
I could ever
eight small children
bills piled higher
stack of wood
keep us warm
how would you
now I remember...
you would inspire us
be devoted to,
and sacrifice for eachother
as much as
you would for each of us...