Quick note: Our Power of Moms New York Retreat is this Saturday. My stomach is full of butterflies, but I know it will be a wonderful event with outstanding deliberate mothers in attendance (outstanding doesn't mean perfect...so there's no stress, okay?). We most likely won't be getting back to New York for quite awhile, so if you or anyone you know is thinking about attending, please visit this link. Thanks!!
I've been thinking a lot lately about this book I've been wanting to write. Most of my quiet time lately has been spent on technical computer work, taking care of emails, and handling lots and lots of "stuff," and as important as those things are, they don't really fill you. (You know what I mean, don't you?)
About a month ago, I decided to get up at 4:30 a.m. every Monday and spend two hours actually writing this book that's been burning inside of me.
That great idea lasted for exactly one Monday.
It was just too early for me, and then I turned into a bit of a monster by the afternoon, and I thought, "Well, I can't become a monster in order to write a book about motherhood."
So then I stopped writing . . . again.
Lately, however, I've been thinking that I can at least start writing Section Two of the book (I've organized it into three sections, and the second one is where I'm sharing stories about my mother).
You see, I can't be with her as much as I'd like, and whenever I talk to my sisters and dad--who are with her--I hear how she's starting to close off more and more and how when she's on the phone with someone, she can never remember who she's talking to. I never call her during the week because I know she won't know what to say, so I just hold my breath and wait for those Thursday visits. But since I wasn't able to go this last Thursday, the anticipation is killing me, and I think if I spend a few minutes recording stories about her, I'll be able to handle this time apart.
(That was a long introduction to this little story, but I wanted to explain what I'm doing.)
So here we go with "The Casserole that Changed the Heart of an 11-Year-Old Girl":
My little brother used to play with a couple of boys who lived a few streets over from us. They mostly played video games together and ate scrambled eggs and toast from the trays my mom would prepare for them after school (my brother was a picky eater, so eggs and toast were a common staple).
We didn't know their family very well (or really, at all), but the boys were quiet and respectful, and they liked being at our house.
One early afternoon, my mom went to the boys' house for some reason and had a conversation with their mother (can't remember the details, and my mom can't really fill in the gaps anymore). In their short interchange, she confided to my mom that things were dreadfully wrong with her marriage.
She started to cry and explained that her husband had threatened to leave her, and she didn't know what she would do with her children, and her whole life was a mess.
I've theoretically put myself into my mom's situation a few times. What would I do if a neighbor came to me with that kind of a problem?
Most of us don't want to get involved in something so hard and so personal. We're all busy with our own lives, and challenges like that are obviously built up over the course of many years. Replying with, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I hope things work out okay," doesn't cut it. But you can't just insert yourself into other people's lives and try to fix things for them.
Well, my mother handled it beautifully, and here's how:
She put her arm around our neighbor's shoulder and said enthusiastically, "Now here's what we're going to do. You're going to work really hard today and get your house all clean and shiny. And I'm going to go back to my house and make you a nice dinner that you can serve to your husband when he gets home."
"Oh, I can't possibly let you do that," she responded.
"He doesn't even need to know the meal was from me. Now what time does he get home?" my mom replied insistently.
"Okay, I'll be here at 5. And once he gets home and sees how beautiful the house looks and gets to eat a nice hot meal, then you're going to have the boys go play outside, and you're going to sit down together and have a good talk about how you can make things work and how you can take care of your family."
For the rest of the afternoon, my mom and I (an 11-year-old girl, at the time) prepared a special casserole and baked some homemade bread, and my mom relayed the story to me.
Then we put everything into a cardboard box, including my favorite tablecloth--the
one with the cherries on it. I remember protesting, "But what if we don't
get it back?"
"We don't worry about those kinds of
things, April," she'd responded.
(But, yes, we did get it back.)
Once the box was ready, we carried it out to the car. I held it on my lap, and the warmth from the casserole settled into me as we drove over. I remember feeling worried, though. Worried that this casserole wasn't enough to save a whole marriage. But my mom was so happy and so confident that God would help take care of them, so I didn't say anything.
Once we got to the house, I waited in the car, and my mom took the box up to the door. It was a quick drop, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what ever happened to that family.
But that really isn't the point of this story.
The point, to me, is about what happened in the hearts of at least two of the people involved.
It must have done something for that struggling mother to know that someone cared about her. We all know how a simple act of kindness can restore your faith in the world--and your faith in yourself.
And I can tell you with 100% certainty what it did to the 11-year-old girl sitting in the car--because I clearly remember that experience nearly 25 years later.
For one thing, I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like my mom. She never told a soul about that dinner, and she didn't do it for praise. She did it out of pure love. Watching her mix the bread dough and working side by side with her as we assembled that casserole, I could see she was happy when she was serving. It's just who she is. I wanted to make that who I was, as well.
She also taught me that it's okay if we can't solve everyone's problems. We can't do everything for everybody, but we can do something for someone.
This is just one of hundreds of stories I could tell about my mom. People often comment on the special bond we have. And I've had dozens of people ask me what exactly she did to build a family who adores her so much.
There isn't one answer to that question. It was more of a process, which is why I'm trying to write about it--grabbing stories here and there that represent the kind of person she was (and still is).
If I had to pick one word to describe her, I would call her an angel. And when you grow up with an angel in your home, who knows God and who serves Him and who loves Him with everything she has, it fills your heart with a desire to do the same.
I'm far from that ideal, but her powerful example is one of the main reasons I try so hard to live right and to strengthen other mothers. She is my hero.