Recently I re-read a book I was given over 20 years ago called Bright Legacy. The book is a compilation of word “portraits” of ten outstanding women, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Amy Carmichael of India, Catherine Marshall, and Madame Lafayette, to name a few. What do they have in common? All are outstanding women who were chosen when ten women writers, such as Elisabeth Elliot, Madeleine L’Engle, Kitty Muggeridge, Ingrid Trosbich, and Rebecca Manley Pippert, among others, were asked the following question, “Would you write about someone you particularly admire, a woman remarkable for her generosity, love, and faithfulness?"
As I read once again about these remarkable women, I saw several common themes in their life stories…selflessness… a genuine love for people, including their families…a willingness to give up lives of comfort to follow God’s call…and a deep desire to live a life that honored God. They were not saints, but fellow believers “who though flawed in heart and mind have nonetheless given their all to God and emerged as individuals who can light the way ahead.”
I read of Mother Teresa’s four vows:” To follow Christ with undivided love in chastity and in total obedience; To love unconditionally without seeking returns or results; To love in chastity and in a spirit of total surrender; To love in poverty.” Several other quotes of hers that I loved were, “To God Almighty, how much we do does not matter, but how much love we put in that action,” and, “If we could only remember that God loves us, and we have an opportunity to love others as He loves us, not in big things but in small thing with great love.” I read of Amy Carmichael’s If statements…”If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another, if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” “If I make much of anything appointed, magnify it secretly to myself or insidiously to others, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” So convicting! I loved Catherine Marshall’s prayer, “The light of God surrounds me, The love of God enfolds me, The power of God protects me, The presence of God watches over me, Wherever I am, God is.”
I was inspired and encouraged to live a life that matters. Then, I asked myself, “Who would I write about, if I were asked to name “someone I particularly admire, a woman remarkable for her generosity, love, and faithfulness?” The immediate answer was my mother, Carola. Her life was a testimony of all these attributes! I found a card once that said, “Some people get to read about their heroes… I get to call mine Mom."
was the oldest of five children born to an immigrant Norwegian Lutheran Pastor and his wife,
grew up in a small southern Minnesota town,
was Valedictorian of her high school class,
was a good sister and friend,
loved to laugh and sing,
became a Registered Nurse,
served her country as an Army nurse in the Philippines and Okinawa, Japan,
obtained a bachelor degree in Home Economics,
returned to Japan as a single missionary,
met and married my father, a Lutheran pastor, in Japan, and birthed a son and daughter there, far from any immediate family,
exuded love as the mother of her four children,
went to Brasil with my father and four young children to serve as missionaries there,
returned five years later to live half way across the United States from her family,
worked as a nurse in various capacities at Bethany Home for the Aged,
cared for the aged residents with love, dignity, and respect,
baked bread weekly to share with other staff,
was a wonderful cook and baker,
a gracious hostess,
faithfully volunteered at church as a Sunday School director and teacher,
sang in the choir,
played the piano,
worked as a camp cook and camp nurse at a Bible Camp and Retreat Center in Amery, Wisconsin,
delighted in being the grandmother of seven grandchildren.
But more than any of these things, she was the embodiment of love. She loved her Lord, her husband and family, her fellow church members, her co-workers, her neighbors and friends. My earliest memory of my mother was listening to her singing us to sleep with lullabies like “Jesus Tender Shepherd hear me, guide thy little lamb tonight, through the darkness be Thou near me, keep me safe ‘till morning light.” She modeled generosity and hospitality…we often had visitors for dinner and extended stay house guests. She worked tirelessly and strove to live a life that honored her Lord and Savior. Was she perfect? No…but honestly was one of the godliest people that I have known. I never heard her yell, except when she saw a mouse! My sister had a friend who said, “When your mother smiled at me, I felt like she was giving me a hug.” Her faith was rock solid and never wavered. At a surprise birthday party given by her three sisters for her 75th birthday, she gave a little speech, saying how blessed she had been in her life, and ended by saying,” I will say what our mother would often say, “I hope to see you all in heaven with me someday.” A year later, she and my father died as the result of a car accident, leaving behind her a legacy of “generosity, love, and faithfulness.”
In II Timothy 1:5, we read, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother, Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Mothers and grandmothers can leave an amazing legacy of faith.
Who are your heroes of generosity, love and faithfulness?
With mother’s day approaching, have you thought about the kind of legacy you would like leave for your children and grandchildren? Even if you are not a mother, what would you want people to remember about you?