Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Mom - in pictures and stories

*some of this was on my old blog... just didn't want some of you to feel like you had de-ja-vu!*

I think people don't expect my mom to be like what she's like.  Mom uprooted from her life in America and moved to a new country, learned a new language, started cooking everything from scratch and shopping in conditions that made other American families nearly stop buying anything fresh at all! In that setting, she raised six children.

Given those things, you'd kinda expect her to be a super driven mega-woman, a powerhouse of personality. Or maybe a very docile, domestic conservative Christian woman.

Mom isn't really either.

Mom - Growing Up

Let's start with the old photos I recently dug out of her personal photo album that she left with me:


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Hah! That's her on the left, with her sister on a family vacation. Yes folks, that's a halter top. Never mind that I was never allowed to wear anything like that and I can't imagine my mother ever wearing it either, I'm just impressed with her sassiness.

Mom says she was quiet, but the photos and scrapbooks I've seen show she lived a pretty classic American kid's life. She got her athletic genes from her dad, who spent his life directing YMCA's, which at the time were more than just a gym. She said as a kid she could outrun every boy in her class.  She was captain of the swim team in her high school and college. She worked at camps. She ran marathons. She did her MA in exercise physiology. Mom said that her next goal was to run the Iron Man triathlon, and then she met my dad and got distracted.The family is a pretty typical American family. Christians but not fundamentalist, hard-working, moral people. Beer at family reunions, church on sundays, camping trips in the summer. This photo kills me, they look so funny. There are four kids, the oldest had moved away by this time.


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Mom and Dad

My mom says that although she was pursuing a successful career, she wanted to be a wife and mother.  It was after college that she moved to Arizona, and while she was there she started attending a church that really discipled her, and she began reading her Bible regularly - pursuing a devotional life. This transformed her and her faith. It was a couple of years after this that she met my dad - also from a classic middle-class family, also with a newly-nurtured personal faith. They got married when they were 27 and had me on their first anniversary.

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The above photo is their engagement picture, and I love it, despite my mom's pants being way too high. :)


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They were a normal young American couple - married at 27 in Arizona, my mom working as an exercise physiologist and my dad doing PR work (journalism major) for a business. Once they had me and my brother they were the classic little middle-class American family living in the burbs of Iowa with a little boy and a little girl, going to church on Sundays and seeing the grandparents at Christmas.

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Repeatedly throughout my childhood I would find notes and cards that they had written each other laying on their dressers. Reading those expressions of romantic love imprinted itself on my mind, and I wanted that. I wanted to spend my life with someone that I kept on loving. Their physical affection  and teasing stuck out to me.

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And they laugh... and set out time for each other. Date nights were important to them (that's the benefit of having six kids - always a babysitter around!).


mom and dad




Thing is, I now know, as an adult, that they have had to fight to build up their marriage. I know now that they struggle to communicate, that it hasn't been easy at all. And yet their commitment and continued sacrifice for each other has paid off. Because of their faith and what they believe about marriage, they have fought hard to protect it during the waves of conflict, change, age, children, disappointment, busyness, and tough times. What they put into their marriage at times equated just plain work - but that seed blooms into intimacy, romance, and fun.

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Mom - On the Mission Field with a Growing Family
I guess that it must have been about the time that my brother was born that my mom says she was nudged towards missions. She talked about it with my dad and he totally didn't share any inclination that direction, so mom dropped it. She says she decided that God has to call a couple, and so she just prayed that God would put it on Dad's heart as well, and she committed to not ever talking about it (which would be pressure and not helpful). It was two years before my dad suddenly said that he'd been thinking about missions....

... and the rest is history. They headed out for training and then headed to Indonesia.Learned the language. Learned to shop in open air markets. Learned to cook from scratch, to dry clothes on the line, to take dipper showers, to dress appropriately for a Muslim culture, and to be far from family.

From childhood

They didn't plan to have a big family at all, but after each child sort of decided they weren't done yet... until they had five. Then they decided they were done. And then.. *surprise*... Matt came along... and then *surprise* .. Matt has Downs Syndrome. That was a huge adjustment for my parents, and quite difficult, but it's because of mom's years of intensive physical and speech therapy that Matt can do what he can do, and it's because of the home they've created for him that he is as happy a kid as he is.


Matt's birth


So... step by step, my parents became a totally unconventional couple that do crazy things and live in dangerous places and have a horde of children, one with Downs Syndrome. And... they love it.


little matt


My mom is a GOOD mom. She is very intentional - she creates chore charts and personal goal lists and meals for us to make (with her supervision) and in general keeps the entire house under control. I mean, intentional is a key word - she plans everything, but at the same time is so chilled out. Caleb was the outdoorsy one when I was a kid, and he would always come running indoors with blood pouring from somewhere, and mom would just tell him to go to the restroom and wash it off. I've seriously never seen my mom panic. In all the situations where other moms would freak out (kid climbing too high in a tree, kid jumping off of a waterfall, etc.. etc.. ) ... mom was totally nonchalant. 


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In Indonesia mom was busy with six kids at home, but she intentionally tried to reach out into the community as well - meeting our neighbors, encouraging us to play with the neighbor kids, going to Indonesian church. 

From childhood

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Mom and I

I've mentioned it before, but my mom and I had a rough road during the teenage years. In fact, three of the four of us girls were constantly annoyed with mom when we were teens - she really couldn't win, no matter what she tried! Her intentionality drove me crazy as a teen because I did not want to follow a chart, create goals, go out to a restaurant to have a mother-daughter chat, or in general give her any tenderness. Oh, and you know how I said my mom is driven? That also means stubborn and opinionated, which those same three girls inherited. Poor mom! Now I realize how hard that was for her, and I'm so glad it passed when I turned 18 and left for college.



Quickly, within a year, mom became my friend and confidant. All through college and dating Isaac I would email or call home and tell mom how things were going and get advice and lovin'. Mom came to Chicago and stayed in my apartment with me right before I got married. I remember the morning of the wedding when I got up and she was busy making breakfast for me. She sat down and asked if she could be the first to pray for our marriage. She prayed a blessing - a prayer from her heart for protection and sustaining love. That moment stays with me.


Now I know my mom and I are very much alike in nearly every way, except that she's atheletic and I'm artistic - in my interests I take after my Dad. Oh and I love to debate theology, and debating drives her insane. Every time we get together I end up rolling my eyes and her opinions about music, movies, and other things - I'm way more edgy in my lifestyle and faith culture.

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But here's the thing. My mom loves me. She loves us all, and my Dad. She is immensely committed to us, to nurturing us and praying for us. She is a woman of faith, willing to change. She is an incredible woman - I don't think I will ever live up to her legacy.

My mom sent an email to us kids after Christmas break last year that said this:

"It doesn't really matter to me what you're doing, how successful, what kind of grades or what you look like (like long or short hair, a couple too few or extra pounds, make-up or not, etc.) but to hear your hearts, your struggles and joys and that you are being faithful to walk through it all with the One who created you and gave you to us is just really really, well, I can't explain it, it's just really precious and all that I have ever wanted.

I have such joy in being your Mom."


Ain't she amazing? And look at the crowd of us that "rise up and call her blessed".

From end of 2009

5 comments:

Alice said...

Thank you for a good cry on a Wednesday morning. Your mom sounds awesome--and she and your dad are too cute for words...(even with the high-waist pants!) :-)

Togenberg said...

I love the pictures! esp the one with the pack of little silly billies piled around her.

Annette said...

Wow, what a beautiful post, I am wiping my eyes right now. Especially the part where she prayed a blessing over you on your wedding morning, how wonderful is that! And don't you just love looking at those old photos, I really enjoy that, you can laugh & cry all at the same time!

Mamaayanna said...

I love this post! great job. Lovely family!

I feel blessed like you with my mom.

I have not been around reading or writing blogs lately, but loved reading your story here. thanks

Oh and the salmon salad.My dad's secret recipe
(mainly the ingredients added by taste) I will ask and post soon. you were not the only one asking~

everydayMOM said...

That was an amazing tribute to your mom. It choked me up at times... you are so blessed to have such a special mom. I could relate to the "surprise" pregnancy and then my heart ached for her when she found out the baby had Downs. I know he's a blessing to her and your family, but as an older mom, that part really hit me. What a great family you have!