My Mom raised 4 kids in Africa.
I will never forget the trip we took when I was 7 years old. We were moving to Ghana, West Africa where my Dad would begin laying the groundwork for a college. We were quite the crew. Our ages were 9, 7, 5, and 2. We had all of our belongings packed as neatly as possible in a limited amount of suitcases and in packs on our backs.
That trip seemed to last forever. There weren't as many "straight through" flights back in 1990. Through the long layovers in foreign airports, to the reptile infested house we stayed at in Ivory Coast, my Mom remained calm. She was probably feeling more terrified than she ever had in her life, but we didn't know it. We cuddled up next to her in each strange place, and dozed off, blissfully unaware of the chaos surrounding us.
When we arrived at what would be our home, we realized that our lives were changing forever.
No electricity. No indoor plumbing. Hard cement floors. Washing clothes by hand. Food over an open fire for the first little while. And, the beauty of a tropical paradise.
The amazing thing is, I just remember it being a grand adventure. When I think about my 4 children now (also 9, 7, 5, and 2), and think about what constitutes as a stressful moment in my life, it's almost amusing.
I am a better Mom because of the example I have to follow. I would love to share just a few of the lessons she taught me.
1. Mom taught me to remain calm.
She wasn't perfect. She had many moments of fear and anxiety. And yet, she clung to her faith and trust in God. She had complete confidence that we would be okay, and she portrayed that to us in her calm, peaceful manner.
2. Mom taught me to work hard.
My Mother is not only one of the hardest workers I know, she is also one of the most thorough. She told me often that "A job worth doing, is a job worth doing well." That thought echoes in my mind frequently. Sometimes I want to shut that one off! But, her consistent teaching stays with me.
3. Mom taught me that people matter more than things.
Our home was a place where people felt welcome and loved. She cared for them. She fed them delicious food on an extremely limited budget. And, she made them feel at home. And, everyone knew (our family included) that they were more important than anything material in the home. I hope I continue that legacy. Things just don't matter as much as people.
4. Mom taught me to put my husband first.
My parents are still madly in love. But, they have an amazing secret. Almost every day, without fail, they sit together, a cup of coffee in hand, and invest in each other. They talk. They listen. They engage on a deeper level than "Good Morning, I hope you slept well." Even when we were young, they would go out on the front porch for their "coffee break," and we were not allowed to disturb them unless it was an emergency. They had made sure we were safe and cared for, but that simple boundary spoke volumes to me. It said, "we love you enough that we are going to invest in each other. Their healthy marriage created the basis for a healthy family life. They were a team. And it showed.
5. Finally, Mom taught me to live a life of purpose.
In everything she has ever done, my Mom has had one driving force. She wanted to make a difference, even if it was through the lives of her children. We felt like we were her "purpose." She invested time and energy in training us in what was important. We had to learn to serve others. We had to work hard. We had to learn to see the big picture. And, we had to hear her quote Proverbs to us almost every day! Through it all, we learned that, while we were valuable and important, we must never think of ourselves as number 1. We had a purpose in this life, no matter how small the task seemed.
I'm thankful for the legacy my Mom has given me. And, I'm trying to walk in her footsteps so that I can make a difference in the lives of my kids...just like she did.
I love you, Mommy.
Happy Mother's Day.
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