This Friday, my mother turns sixty years old. (Funny how sixty was filed under "Granny" in my brain until my parents arrived there. My mom has been a grandma for almost 20 years but nothing about her seems old.) She texted me from Amsterdam this morning to say she's feeling just fine about the birthday - which isn't surprising. She's a trail blazer, a pioneer. Mom takes on new seasons without missing a beat... She's had lots of experience.
There's a lakeside cabin that's been in our extended family as long as I can remember. The cabin has indoor plumbing now, but trips there in my childhood included visits to a creepy old outhouse. Nothing stressed me out as a kid more than having to pee after dark. I was convinced there were bears just waiting for an opportunity to snatch me by the PJs. Of course, it was a different story when Mom came along. She led the way and seemed confident and so I was sure I'd be just fine. And that's pretty much how most of my forty years have looked. Mom keeps going strong and she leaves a path for me and so many others to follow.
Mom was 31 when she was ordained as a pastor, alongside my dad. She was raised in a church where women taught Sunday school and sang in the choir, but didn't ever pastor or lead. And yet when she was given an opportunity and empowered she rose, three little girls in tow. She has always carried the responsibility, voice and heart of our church equally and in partnership with my dad. And her example has become my normal. Women in leadership is a non-issue here - It's all my sisters and I have known. The path that was challenging for our parents to clear allows us to walk without the same kind of obstacles.
My mom travels around the globe every year, sharing wisdom and her love of Jesus from all kinds of pulpits. She finds family wherever she goes - it's her superpower. She's the ultimate gatherer. I'm old enough to know that not all of it is smooth and awesome - Travel isn't glamorous, really. But she knows who she is and she owns her path and calling like a boss. Because she is strong so am I.
She showed me how to fight with grace. She's a little passionate and a lot stubborn about things that matter. I've spent too much time nursing quitting thoughts, tempted to walk away from good hard stuff, but I'd never do such a thing - Helen Burns is my mother! She loves people past what's reasonable and encourages so hard it's almost embarrassing. She's intense like that. And she is completely happy if someone else receives recognition while she plays the backbone, the confidante. She's always been a cheerleader, and team wins are victory for her. Because she doesn't hesitate to be generous with her time and words and gifts, I find it easier to focus outside my own little self.
She taught me to read, and she passed on her love of coffee and chocolate and cheese. She demonstrated skinny dipping (in the dark, at that same family cabin while those bears likely spied from the woods) and she taught me how to dive. She's definitely the reason I enjoy teasing the people I love. I'll forever be running to take care of my home and the people in it like she does. She is extravagant in her care.
I doubt she'll ever be old. Even her grey hairs come in sparkly blonde. She laughs hard - mostly at our dad who is awesome and keeps us entertained. He says he's keeping her young since laughter is the best medicine. She dreams really big dreams that would scare regular people like me. Her world is only getting bigger and her life is picking up steam as she goes, and I am paying attention as always.
Her children speak well of her. Her husband also praises her, saying, “There are many fine women, but you are better than all of them.” Charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you, but a woman who respects the Lord should be praised. Give her the reward she has earned; she should be praised in public for what she has done. Proverbs 31:28-31