By: Patricia H. Rushford

The world is full of riches, but none of them can compare with the treasures that lie within a mother’s heart.

A joyful heart can overcome nearly all obstacles. Few people in this world have ever found the key to happiness. It is such a simple thing, really. We receive hints from people who encourage us to “stop and smell the roses.” Sometimes in fleeting moments we think we have found it, only to have the joy squashed out of us by the crushing realities of life.

Many try to uncover happiness by surrounding themselves with treasures such as newer cars, bigger houses, furs and jewelry, or by changing the people around them. “If only I had a maid . . . if only I had an obedient child . . . if only
I had a job . . . if only I could stay home and raise my kids instead of working…then I would be happy.”

The key is a simple one. It’s given to everyone. Your happiness depends on whether you decide to use the key to unlock a treasure house of joy or leave it hidden under the mat.

What is the key? Simply this: When life hands you lemons . . . make lemonade.

In Proverbs, wise King Solomon tells us, “Laughter is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (see Proverbs 17:22). Did you know there is medical evidence to prove that theory?

Research suggests that laughter releases morphine-like substances, called endorphins, in the brain that cause pleasure and relieve pain. Many in the medical profession now recognize laughter as a very real medicine–a mood
elevator and an analgesic.

Laughter is also a boon to physical fitness. A good hearty belly laugh will match jogging time for time. In other words, twenty minutes laughing and twenty minutes jogging can have the same physical benefits.

Having Fun

When was the last time you had fun? So often we adults fall into the role of proper, straitlaced, dignified, boring grownups.

In the spring of 1983, Gloria Gaither wrote an article for Today’s Christian Woman magazine called “She Sang Me an Honest Lullaby.” In it she tells about her childhood and a mother who knew about fun.

One thing my mother did for me was to remain a child herself. I always had the feeling growing up that mother belonged to us more than she did to the adult world. Oh, she was a classy lady and could function with grace in sophisticated circles, but I always felt that she had a secret conspiracy with us kids; when grown-ups’ backs were turned, she was really one of us again. We went along with her when she played at being grown-up and covered for her when we needed to. Like the time she was showing us how to light firecrackers in the backyard of the parsonage and the police came by to confiscate them . . . we never said a word to implicate mother, who was busy by then pulling weeds from the iris bed.

And there was the pajama party my sister had I had. It was late when mother called upstairs in her sternest voice, “You girls go to sleep now. It’s too late for any more nonsense!” Knowing that she usually meant what she said, we had all snuggled down and begun to doze when one of the girls felt water drops on her head. We began to stir again and whisper to each other. Soon we felt more water drops. Finally, someone got up and tiptoed to the open window. There was mother. Standing in the backyard in her nightgown, spraying us with the garden hose through the second story window. We all burst into giggles and ran back downstairs only to find a great dishpan full of hot fresh popcorn waiting for us in the summer kitchen. We all sat in a circle on the kitchen floor as mother turned out the lights and told us ghost stories she remembered from her childhood in the Ozarks.

When was the last time you gave up adult pride and let yourself slip into the hilarious, carefree role of a child? We have inside ourselves a parent and a child? I don’t think God ever intended that as we grow into adulthood, we
forsake the child. Didn’t He say, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew l9:l4 RSV). “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15 RSV).

For the sake of having fun, be frivolous for a change. It won’t mar your image. Go for a wild run on the beach with your hair flying in every direction. Create a sand castle. Write “I love you” in the sand. Fly a kite and let the wind take your soul along for the ride. Make a mud pie. Let a puppy lick your face. Climb a mountain. Drink your fill from an icy stream. Make a snow angel or a snowman.

Recently I saw a bumper sticker on a little 4 X 4 truck. It read, “The one with the most toys when he dies, wins.” How sad. Chances are he’ll have more toys than anyone could ever use, but is he really having fun? Real fun doesn’t cost
money-it just takes a little time.

Just as there is a time for being an adult, for being wise and grown-up in one’s thinking, there is a time to be a child.

Become like a child again?
Capture cloud creatures,
touch the breeze,
and bend rainbows?
Play hide-and-seek in giant oaks
and splash in rainy day puddles?
Or is it?
Perhaps we could regain innocence . . .
faith . . .
Trust ourselves. . .
Our world. . .
To God’s grown-up hands.

A kid needs a mom who still knows how to be a kid and have fun.

A Room Full of Memories

I’ve often felt that one of the greatest gifts I could give my children was to give them a heritage. I want them to know their ancestors and where they came from. Kids need a mom to show them that they play an important part in the history of a family. Many families have developed a family tree. If you don’t have one, you may want to start your family tree to go in the front of a memory journal.

Our family tree is filled with interesting people. My father was born in Sweden and sailed to America in 1928, at the age of eighteen. My mother was born in a farming community in North Dakota. Her parents were pure-blooded Norwegians who came over about 1909. We’re not royalty, just Scandinavian and proud of it.

My husband is a mixture of German, Scotch-Irish, English and one one-hundred-twenty-eighth Indian. His great-grandad and grandma participated in the Cherokee Land Rush. Later they headed west to the Oregon territory.

His grandmother’s family are descendants of the Fairbanks family-one of the first to settle in the colonies. They sailed from England on the Griffin, a year after the Mayflower, and built the Fairbanks house in Dedham, Massachusetts, the oldest frame house still standing in the United States.

The children’s grandfather was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1942. Grandpa Gene helped beach the battleship, Nevada, after it had been bombed, to keep it from sinking and blocking the channel. Grandpa’s brother, Harvey, was killed in the same bombing. My children are part of that colorful history.

Children are interested in their background. It is exciting for them to see their names on the family tree. Memories tell us who we are. But it takes time to build those memories. One nice thing about sharing memories is that moms don’t have to tell all the tales alone. In fact, sometimes it’s more effective when Grandpa, Grandma, or Great Aunt Flo do the honors.

Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson in their book Let’s Make a Memory suggest that a prearranged visit be made with grandparents and or great-grandparents (or uncles and aunts) for the purpose of such a talk on family history. “A tape recorder or video recorder may be used, with the grandparents’ permission, to record these priceless memories.”

I Remember Mama

When your children are grown, what would you like them to remember about you? There are several ways you can have a hand in what memories they hold on to. Building memories is one of the nicest things you can do for your children and yourself.

We can’t control all the memories our kids keep, but we sure can help make the ones that count. For a start, think back to what you remember most about your childhood.

I remember . . . riding in the front seat of my parents’ old Model T. I would stand between Mom and Dad and we’d sing a rousing chorus of “Yo Ho Ho, you and me.

Little brown jug how I love thee.” You might wonder what they were doing teaching me, their sweet, innocent baby, songs like that, but I never thought about the words . . . only the love. In fact, I didn’t even realize what those words meant until just now as I wrote them down.

I remember . . . standing out in the backyard with my dad. He was visiting for the day. Dad suffered from tuberculosis and had to stay in a TB sanitarium. We’d had turkey for dinner. Funny-I don’t remember much about the meal . . . only the love.

He made a wish with me and we each pulled on an end of the wishbone until it broke. I won. He said we had to bury it so the wish could come true and I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t. I had wished he’d get well and come home. He

How will your children remember Mama? Often, it’s not simply the things people do that makes a memory dear, but the way a person is. For example, when I remember family, I first remember what they were like. Were they grumpy and complaining, or were they fun loving? Did they seem to want time to pass quickly so death could alleviate their misery, or did they savor each moment as though it was the last?

One of the ways to develop good memories for your children is to learn the art of celebrating life.

Life is a Celebration

If an occasion is worth celebrating it is worth celebrating because God made it so. Whether it is birth, life, love, marriage, graduation, death, national integrity, material plenty, or spiritual salvation that we are celebrating-it is a
gift of God. Celebrate in such a way as never to offend the Giver!

Eugenia Smith-Durland

Have you ever thought of mothering our children as one of life’s celebrations? We celebrate birthdays, holidays, and the Fourth of July, but life is more than an occasional splash in the pool of existence.

As a mother who wants the best for her kids, I felt it important to teach them how to celebrate something more than Christmas. I wanted them to:

Celebrate . . . the victory of a turtle in a race against time. Or a Dr. Seuss’s green eggs and ham.

Celebrate . . . the opening of a robin’s egg as the scrawny, near-skeleton creature announces its arrival.

Celebrate . . . as we watch a caterpillar spin itself into a tomb and rise again as a colorful, winged creature-free to fly.

Celebrate . . . and be like the sun, bursting forth in a fireworks display announcing its glorious coming. It warms the day and gives freely of its light. Then when the day’s work is over, it settles down in a brilliance not easily forgotten.

We live such busy lives. How many celebrations pass by unnoticed in yours? In all the children I have questioned about what they needed most in a mom, none of them ever said, “I need a mom who will show me how to celebrate life and take pleasure in each moment of the day.”

But now that my children are older, it’s those mini-celebrations they remember best.

The Making of a Memory

Memories and celebrations are wonderful, but how can we hold on to those memories? The mind can hold a vast storehouse of information, but it’s amazing how easily we forget. Below I’ve listed a few ideas that we’ve used to keep memories in our home.

Pictures. When our children were born we took pictures of everything. We captured all the intimate details of the first bath, the first goo, the first tooth, and even when they mastered potty training. We have pictures of each Christmas and Easter, of camping trips and picnics. We snapped pictures of every acrobatic trick from the time they learned to balance on the palm of Daddy’s hand (at around the age of one), through their gymnastic meets in grade school and junior high.

The pictures are available to the kids anytime. I remember one evening hearing the downstairs den exploding with laughter. My kids, then in high school, had pulled out the projector and slides and were showing them to friends.

Repetition of spending time with them. We made it a point to spend many weekends together as a family. The children remember, because we made a habit of having fun. We bought a tent trailer when the children were young and went camping nearly every weekend during the summer. Naturally, we took pictures that now help to jog our memories and remind us of the fun we had.

Tradition, especially during the holidays, helps to build and store memories. We try to keep the traditions brought over to this country from our ancestors’ homeland. Mine are from Sweden and Norway and our yuletide wouldn’t be complete without a proper Scandinavian food fair of lefse, lutefisk, fattiman, and krumkake, just to name a few.

Every year, a week or so before Christmas, we join our longtime friends on a Christmas tree hunt up in the mountains. Our two families stop at a park on the way up and eat a snack and warm up with hot chocolate. Then we make our way up into the snowfields and search for the perfect tree. Most of the time, our trees are never as thick or well-shaped as the kind that are groomed for such occasions. But they are special because we brave the elements and track them down in the wilderness, as our ancestors might have.

Spontaneity: Not all memories of the holiday times need to be based on tradition. Sometimes spontaneity builds the best memories of all. One Christmas the kids decided, on the spur of the moment, to dress in Joseph and Mary costumes. With a doll playing the part of Jesus in swaddling clothes, they gave us their unedited version of the Christmas Story. We took pictures to preserve the memory.

Journals. One sure way of storing memories, besides photos and the closets of your mind, is a journal in which you write those special events you want to remember.

Memories, if left to the imagination, often fade. It is a special treat to spend a rainy day rummaging through photos and journals of days gone by.

Memories Can’t Take the Place of People

No matter how sweet the memories, it’s important that we be there for our kids whenever possible.

Television’s Punky Brewster, a fourth-grader, was given an assignment by her teacher to make a family tree. Punky couldn’t do it-she had no family.

She lived with a foster father after her mother had apparently deserted her. That evening as her foster father tucked her into bed, Punky said, “I miss my mommy so much.”

“Yes, but you still have memories.”

“I know.” Punky sighed. “But you can’t talk to a memory. You can’t hug or kiss a memory. You can’t sit in a memory’s lap. Memories don’t even have laps.”

Building memories is wonderful but they can never take the place of a mother’s presence. Kids need a mother who takes time to be in the present to build memories for their future’s past.

Memories are all we have left of the time that slips away. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to making memories with your children is the idea that you can always do it tomorrow.

I don’t want to be a pessimist, but we really don’t know how many tomorrows we have left, or what they hold. So start building memories today.

Is Quality Time Enough?

There’s no doubt about it–mothering takes time. A mother doesn’t have to be with her children every moment, yet there is a fact we must face–if we don’t spend time with our children, how are they going to learn from us?

Quality time is important, as most working mothers will agree, but it can hardly be planned. Do you have any idea what happens to a mother who decides that today she and her child will have four quality hours together?

That’s the time it rains on your parade. You’ve planned the perfect outing and your kids tell you of their plan (made months ago) to go roller skating with friends. Or perhaps it’s the time your mother calls to tell you Uncle Clancy is
having open heart surgery and would you be a dear, and take her to the hospital and wait with her.

Sometimes quality time comes when your mind is focused in an entirely different direction. For example, one day I was lying on the grass in the park, reading a novel. The children were busily playing on the slides and swings. My youngest came over and plopped down beside me. She was only four, then. In her hand she held a dandelion bouquet picked just for me. “Oh, how pretty,” I said as I laid my book aside.

“Mommy.” She sprawled on her tummy and snuggled beside me. “What makes flowers grow.”

Quality time can seldom be planned. Special moments are like seeds. They must be planted and watered before you can expect them to grow. Then be ready to stop and enjoy the flowers-when they come.

Children grow so fast. Spend time with them. Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned about time is that before I spend it, I’d better count the cost.

If time were diamonds . . .
would I gather each precious moment
to my breast?
And when they fade would I mourn
and wish them back?
Or would I simply sigh–thankful for memories
And move on to the next,
Knowing I had done my best.

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby

The idea of servanthood covers our entire way of life. It means to set aside all selfish desires and focus not on yourself but on the needs of others. I have to admit that submission, humility, and the idea of being least, have gotten some bad publicity of late. There’s a magazine advertisement that says, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” When I read the Bible and see the example Jesus set for us, I can almost hear Him sighing, “Yes, you have. But you’ve been going the wrong way.”

Being a servant mother doesn’t mean getting walked on, or never doing things for herself.

Serving means giving encouragement, love, compassion, tenderness, and comfort to our children and others (Philippians 2:1).

Serving means to “do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 RSV).

Serving means we must look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 RSV).

A servant’s attitude should be the same as Christ’s, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant . . .” (Philippians 2:6 RSV).

Now maybe you’re wondering how to apply this idea of servanthood in your family.
Here’s a suggestion:

Take out the basin and pitcher, or better yet, just use a little baby oil. Now, ask one of your kids to take off his shoes and socks (then make him wash his feet). Ready? Massage his feet with the warmed oil, about five minutes per foot.
Chances are (unless you kept him from an important game or something) the foot massage will have him ready to obey your every command.

Actually, all kidding aside, washing or massaging another person’s feet breaks down pride on both sides. It’s an intimate, loving gesture. And, oh . . . does it feel good.

My understanding of the benefits of becoming a servant-like mother came at about the same time I realized the need for God in my life.

Things Go Better With God

As I grew and developed as a mother, I came to realize one important fact: Without God, I could never have survived mothering.

Oh, I know there are skeptics out there who would laugh at me for saying that, but it’s true. In my children’s earlier years, although I believed in God, I didn’t really know I could lean on Him when times got tough. I thought if I
tried hard enough I could eventually become the kind of mother my psychology books and Mother’s day cards told me I should be.

A kid needs a mom who needs God. I am a better mother (not perfect) because I live in the strength God gives me. I love my children because He first loved me.

He gives me hope in hopeless situations.
And helps me see the rainbow
On the other side of rain.
He heals the thorn-infested wounds
That I might smell the roses
He gives me tears to wash away the pain;
Oh, but then . . . then . . .
He gives me joy so I can laugh again.

If in my job as mother I have done one thing right, it was to install in my children the truth of loving God.

You Believed in Me

There is yet another part of being a servant mother. Remember the cushion and altar in the room marked Servant’s Quarters? I spent a lot of time praying for my children. By praying for them, I believed God would hear my prayers and give me the faith I needed to believe in them.

“Mom,” my daughter, Caryl, recently said, “the most important thing you ever did as a mother was to believe in me.”

I did and do believe in my children. I wish I could say I never doubted whether or not they’d even survive their teenage years, but I did. My children weren’t aware of most of the doubts, or that it was working through me who managed to keep me believing everything would work out. In the bleakest moments, when I paced the floor at night wondering if I’d ever see my runaway teenage son again, it was my belief and faith in God that allowed me to see beyond the past and present into a hopeful future. God’s promises gave me the strength to hold on–promises such as “Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (see Psalms 30:5 KJV) and “All things work together for good to those who serve the Lord” (see Romans 8:28 KJV).

In my weakness I learned how to lean on God to regain my strength and know that His grace was sufficient for me. When I realized He held the controls in my children’s lives, believing in them became easy again.

I don’t believe my children are infallible and will never make mistakes. But I do believe they are in God’s hands. As my paraphrase of Isaiah 43:1-3 (RSV) says:

The Lord has called them by name, they are His. When they pass through the waters He will be with them; and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm them; when they walk through fire they shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume them. For He is the Lord their God, the Holy One of Israel, their Savior.

How can I be so sure of these biblical promises? A few years ago, we received a call from the police in Montana.

“We’ve found a pickup your son was traveling in-totaled. It had been driven over a cliff and David’s trunk was found near the wreck. We found a lot of blood in the truck and around it, but no sign of your son or the boy he was with.”

For four days I had no idea whether my son was alive or dead. I had nowhere to turn but to the Lord. I spent my days in constant prayer. On the fourth day he called home.

“It was a miracle, Mom. People get killed in crashes like that, but all we got were a few cuts and bruises.”

“. . . they shall walk through the fire and not be burned. . . ”

Children need a mother who realizes their potential and helps them believe they can achieve it–even if some of her believing power comes from a higher source.

Sometimes a mother’s world seems dark and cold. If you are a mother who lives in shades of darkness, come back into the room. Remember the candle on the altar? Light it.

Now, kneel on the cushion and ask Jesus to come into your heart and be the light in your world. Then keep the candle lit in the altar of your heart as a remembrance. Whenever darkness closes in, look at that candle and know . . .
that all the darkness in the world can’t put out this single light.

Changing With the Seasons

Spring begins with the birth of the first child and lasts until the youngest starts school.

Summer runs through the children’s grade-school years, and fades into fall when your children hit their teens.

Winter comes when the nest is empty. It begins when the youngest child leaves home.

In Spring, moms will do well to direct most of their energies toward their growing children. Many of the mothers who experience feelings of isolation and disillusionment about motherhood are those who give up everything for the sake of rearing their children. Although some sacrifice is essential, especially during baby’s first year, being a mother doesn’t supersede who you are. Even during phase one, you can plan some activities. I would simply encourage you to grow as your children grow. Being a mom offers a perfect environment for personal growth.

In the Summer, while children are in school, you nay want to indulge in an extracurricular activity, perhaps take a class or two, work part-time, do volunteer work. This will give you a new frontier, offer a challenge, and still give you the freedom to be home when the kids are. Summer isn’t a time when the kids will need you less-on the contrary, in many ways they’ll need you more. But there are more blocks of free time when the kids are in school or playing.

In Fall, it’s important that you are there as a mom. You might think that if you had more time when the is were in grade school, you can count on even more free time during their teen years. Not so. Perhaps more than any of the seasons, it’s a time for understanding and unconditional love. Even though your teenagers will often seem too busy to even notice whether or not you’re gone, believe me, they’ll notice. This isn’t the time to take on too much a work. I was working part-time while my children were in their teens. At times even that seemed too much.

Yet there is still time, during school and when they’re gone, to pursue your other interests.

Then there’s Winter. The kids are gone and you can move into whatever gear you want: full-time work, part-time, hobbies, volunteer work. But whatever you do, if you’ve prepared the way, you’ll find the empty nest won’t hurt so much or feel quite so empty. This is a season for you to come into full bloom. Winter isn’t the end–it’s just the beginning.

Motherhood never ends, it just turns with the seasons.

(The above material is one of a series of pamphlets published by Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO.)

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