Sunday, May 21, 2006


Reflecting on my own mother in my blog entry prior to Mother's Day, I didn't dwell on my own motherhood. My patient husband and I hazarded a difficult journey to become parents. God finally entrusted to us two wonderful children, the answer to our many prayers. I reread the passage describing Hannah's cries to God for a son*, and in doing so, I relived the sorrows and joys lining our path to parenthood. How many times had I clung to the thread of hope in this passage?

Infertility was a topic just surfacing in our culture when my husband and I sought to begin our family. The expectations we took for granted turned into doctor's visits, tests, calendars, medications, and surgical procedures. We submitted to the arduous process of applying for adoption. Our only pregnancy ended in miscarriage after we enjoyed two months of hope, and we held each other and cried. But we never gave up nor cursed God, because we did trust Him and His Word, though we often doubted the ultimate outcome and lacked understanding regarding our empty arms.

In His grace and mercy, the Lord blessed us with a son, whom we brought home from the adoption agency the very week our miscarried child would have been born. Later, He also granted us a daughter through adoption. Years have passed since then. Not only do I praise the Lord for what He taught us during the waiting period - among many lessons: compassion, patience, appreciation - but I thank Him for a husband who never let me down during the years of my longing for a child while surrounded by married friends starting their families; I thank Him for empathetic friends who had stood in our shoes; I thank Him for the two birthmothers who loved their babies enough to choose for them life and a Christian home with a mother and father; and I thank Him for the adorable babies He brought into our family. This imaginative boy and lively girl at turns overwhelmed me with my own inadequacy to parent and amazed me at how they, by the grace of God, grew up and turned out wonderfully in spite of my many mothering mistakes. We truly have been blessed, and what began as mourning turned into dancing. My blessings as a mom far surpass what we dreamed of years ago when we petitioned the Lord.

*"...I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief...I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him."
I Samuel 1:16b,27, New International Version

The entire story of Hannah and her answered prayers is narrated in
I Samuel chapters 1-3.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mom, You're "The Top!"

You have never been partial to your name; I love it because it's uniquely you. I don't know anyone else in the world with the exact same first, middle, and last name. Likewise, no one else is exactly like you. I have been so blessed to have you and no one else, as my mother, confidante, and friend. My life bears your unique imprint, and most of the good qualities that emerged in Karen the Adult began with your careful nurturing of and unselfconscious modeling before Karen the Child.

I think of that lovely, lively tune, "You're the Top!" (Even that era of music reminds me of you and the days when we gathered around the piano and sang the songs you and Dad loved so well.) You were the best pianist I knew, and I renewed my admiration when you decided to take lessons again-not that you needed them-and played in a recital, after I was an adult! Years ago you shared that gift with the preschool children at our church when I was an elementary school student, which made me proud to tell others, especially since I never have practiced enough nor have been a competent enough player to accompany anyone. You were accomplished and disciplined, something I hadn't thought about till I sat down to write this. Maybe that is finally getting through to me, so that I can follow my writing call as you followed your call to music.

You and Dad always surrounded Gary and me with books and read to us and in front of us. Your story about my turning the pages of your magazine as I sat in the playpen is not so amazing concerning my early interest in reading as it is a tribute to your expectations of your children and your trust that we would do the right things. In this case, you expected me to "read" the magazines and not to tear them up! I guess later you feared you had created a monster when I was often deaf to calls for dinner because I was reading, or when you may have caught me reading in bed when I was supposed to be sleeping (which may be a confession, since I don't know whether I ever admitted that I sometimes used a flashlight undercover to go undetected). But, hey! It served me well as I accomplished the educational goals you and Dad had hoped for!

How many times as a child did I dream of being the loving, fun, and gently guiding mom such as the one I had? I was so thrilled when our son began the fulfillment of that dream! You gave me such encouragement through the years with both our son and daughter. I think of one note, which I guess was a printed email, which I saved and reread frequently, because our son struggled so in school. You had astutely pointed out the right things we were doing and gave us hope that God would triumph in this and other areas of our son's life. We experienced the joyful fulfillment of that answered prayer last year, when he graduated from high school. I know that much of the strength and stamina I brought to that struggle you instilled in me from an early age, being that kind of mother yourself.

As parents, you shared with us many important beliefs and values, which I don't remember ever seeing you contradict in the life you lived. The most important, of course, were the tenets of the Christian faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the old saying goes, I read the Bible in you and Dad every day, as I saw the loving faithfulness of your marriage, the love and commitment to your children, the loyalty to your church home as well as to friends and neighbors, your ability and willingness to work hard at everything you did yet to make life as much fun as possible, your community spirit and involvement, and your careful choices as to how you would spend your leisure time-so as not to displace the priorities you had set.

Forever, because of you, my dear mother, these wonderful sensory impressions will set off an association of precious memories-the cookie, cake, roastbeef dinner smells of a kitchen marinated in love and homecooking from scratch; certain songs from your young adulthood which you played and sang with our family (I Only Have Eyes for You, Beautiful Doll, Deep Purple); a young woman sitting in the floor playing dolls, paperdolls, Matchbox cars, or board games with her children; a family around the dinner table laughing, talking, or blowing out the candles on one member's birthday cake; decking the halls with mistletoe, garland, and a tree full of colorful ornaments; the family car loaded down with three weeks' worth of luggage and four travelers headed West. I see similar memories replaying in the family my terrific husband and I have made, and I know so much of the stability, the joy and fun, the dedication, the work ethic, come from you, Mom. No words are adequate, but you truly were and are, "THE TOP!"