I was thinking recently about the ways moms provide for their kids throughout their lives. One of the first and most crucial need they fill is hunger. In fact, for the first few years of life, most of the food we eat comes from Mom. As you grow older, you start to have more choices about the food you eat and more opinions about when, where, and how you eat meals. You might chafe against the "clean plate club" rule or wish you could go out for pizza with friends instead of being home for family dinners. Then one day you're out of the house and on your own for meals, and you remember how good your mom's Swiss steak and mashed potatoes tasted on Sunday afternoons or how exciting it was to see the fogged-up windows when you came home from play practice because you knew that meant it was spaghetti night. You look forward to coming home for visits to eat Mom's home-cooking again. It's something kids never really outgrow. But twice now, with Steve's mom and my own, I've seen that moms start to outgrow their ability to provide those meals. As with so many parts of the parent-child relationship (the last time you held your parent's hand, the last time your family all went somewhere together in the family car), you don't usually realize while you're eating it, that it's the last meal your mom is going to make for you. My mom's home-cooked meals are a thing of the past. The last time I visited her in her new little personal care apartment, she offered me a cup of coffee, but she couldn't even quite remember how to operate her Keurig.
If you were raised in a family like mine, it wasn't just physical food your mom provided, she also nourished you spiritually. You probably took for granted the daily bread she provided: everything from her little wooden music box full of Bible verses on small colored cards that played "Standing on the Promises," to the familiar sight of her well-worn black leather Bible with its onion-skin pages and the flat red pencil she kept tucked in its spine for neatly underlining favorite verses, to her helping you memorize Luke 2 and the first chapter of John. As you grew older, your spiritual diet started being supplemented at Bible Club and youth group meetings, and those new tastes started to seem a little more appealing than the same old spiritual food you got at home. You may have started to get a little impatient with mealtime and bedtime prayers, and you chafed at missing Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night because of evening church. Then one day, you are out on your own, deciding for yourself when and where to go to church and pray and read your Bible.
However, unlike all the physical meals your mom made while you were growing up, the spiritual food she provided continues to nourish you throughout your life. Over the years, you find yourself humming the hymns you heard your mom singing around the house and repeating the same mealtime and bedtime prayers with your own kids that she said with you. And your mom's ability to provide spiritual guidance extends much longer too. For as long as I can remember, every three months, I'd find a fat envelope in my mailbox containing a copy of "Our Daily Bread," a little booklet that contains short daily devotionals I've read steadily over the years. In April, my mom's emergency surgery and the aftermath that changed her life and ours ended that long-standing tradition. The picture above is of the last copy she sent me. For four months now, I've been on my own: I've had to forage around and find my own copies of "Our Daily Bread"; it's been fine, but the ones I've found are one-month versions, rather than the three-month copies she sent, and I miss finding those fat envelopes in my mailbox. Although she can no longer mail me those booklets or make me a meal or a cup of coffee, her ability to feed me spiritually has not ended. Last time I was down, she told me about how she's catching up on her daily Bible reading and thinks she'll make it through Revelation by the end of the year; she played hymns for me on her CD player. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she prays for me and for my kids and for the rest of the family every single day. Some days I think those prayers are the only things keeping me standing, and I hope and pray that for as long as I live, I will follow in her footsteps and "stand on the promises" as firmly and strongly as she has. Thanks for all the food, Mom.