When pine trees and baking supplies started making their way into my home as a young child, I, accompanied by my stealth-like snooping skills, made my way to my mother’s best kept hiding places. I was a peeker. A present-peeker to be precise, and Christmas mornings were filled with anticipation not because of the surprise that awaited, but because I already knew what the wrapping cloaked. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the toys I had already previewed.
As a wise single mom, my mother would intentionally start purchasing gifts months ahead of time, so her budget could handle blessing her three children. This gave me plenty of time to seek and find. I would climb over dressers and toss sleeping bags that shouldn’t have been touched till summer all in an effort to spoil her surprise. I never once wondered “Will we get anything?” What I didn’t understand was the amount of sacrifice my mother made to ensure that we never considered questions like that.
Now as a mother of four, I marvel at all she did. Breaking up my children’s tiny-bodied, big-voiced arguments, instructing them in life skills like using a toilet, and trying to teach young hearts about maturing faith can leave me feeling exhausted, but my husband is in the thick of it with me, tagging in when I tap out. My mother held to Jesus and persevered. As her children slept, she pushed through exhaustion to correct the homework I finally did, sew the flags my sister spun, and figure out how she could afford to buy her son’s first instrument, who (unbeknownst to her) would one day play at Carnegie Hall.
She may have been a single mother, but she offered us a home that felt complete, whole. She changed my sister’s diapers and attended my brother’s games. She pulled me away from parties and lifted us up with prayers. She showed us all what it was to be at rest when the world demanded we strive, and nurtured an imperfect situation into a life that did not lack.
Sneaking through my house as a child, I wasn’t aware that our most precious things were not things at all, but memories, people, and faith. I was too distracted by the deluge of bows, desserts, and carols to see my mother draw strength from the baby depicted in the old wooden manger she put on display through out the holidays. She offered me the luxury of being so busy with childish things that I forgot to be thankful for her unwavering determination to create a home that offered sanctuary from the harshness of the world.
The memories she has given me offer riches greater than any reindeer-papered gift could ever give. I have them tucked away into the treasuries of my heart for the days when I need hope. I will always be grateful for the worn Bible that often laid open upon her bed, her constant presence, and the way she offered children who had experienced deep sorrow a place of peace.
Do you know a single mom who could use some encouragement today? How could you be the one to offer it?