Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 NIV
June 22 is always a bit of a melancholy day for me as it is the anniversary of my mom’s home-going. Five years ago today she went home to be with the Lord after a relatively short seven-month battle with cancer. Life without Mom has been difficult to get used to and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her terribly. But I know that all of our lives are in God’s hands and that Mom didn’t leave this earth any earlier than she was supposed to. His plan for her life was fulfilled in her death, but his plan for her legacy continues.
Legacy is an interesting concept as it is the only part of us that remains in this life when we are gone. When our physical remains eventually disintegrate, the last part of us is our legacy. How do people remember us? Were we of value to them? Did we make a difference in anyone’s life beside our own? We don’t have to look very far to find people who pursue power, wealth and fame, and then are remembered for their selfishness, corruption, or destructive life choices. Less notable are the quiet lives lived to the glory of God, and used by him to bless the lives of countless others. My sweet mom lived such a life, and I am grateful for the woman she chose to be. She was inspiring in so many ways, but during her memorial service the overall theme was faithfulness. Mom was committed to Christ, and made every effort to reflect him in all that she was.
While writing the manuscript for our book Held by God, my sister and I recognized how Mom’s faith, as well as that of our grandmother and great grandmother, influenced the development of our own faith. Through several generations of Christ followers, we learned truths about God that shaped our values, and ultimately led to our own decisions to follow Christ. The Christians in our family tree weren’t perfect people, but their examples showed us what faith in God looked like. We witnessed how their determination to walk with God was rewarded time and time again by his faithfulness. This taught us that we too could trust in him and in his plan for our lives.
Our great grandparents’ large family of ten included our Grandma Catherine, who learned about God from her parents and witnessed their hope of heaven as they lived out their faith. In the months preceding Great Grandma’s death, Grandma moved in with her mother to care for her. Great Grandma always had a passion for flowers and was an avid gardener. A few days before she died, she told her daughter that she could see lights and flowers above the doorway of her room. She asked Grandma if she could see them as well, to which she replied, “No, mama, you are looking through spiritual eyes, and I cannot see them.” Great Grandma reported that the lights and flowers moved closer to her bedside each day and were right next to her bed the day before she lost consciousness. After a few days, she passed quietly in her sleep. We have no doubt that God granted her a glimpse into eternity and allowed her to see in heaven the flowers she so dearly loved on earth. The story made an impression on us as children. It proved that God was with Great Grandma just as he promised he would be. It also showed that he provided exactly what he knew would bring her comfort and peace in the final days before her death, by showing her what was prepared for her in heaven.
Grandma also had a great love for flowers. Colorful petunias, iris and lantana encircled the perimeter of her little yellow house. The doorway was flanked by blue and pink hydrangeas that seemed to be forever in bloom, while the jacaranda trees dropped their fragrant purple blossoms all over the lawn and sidewalk. The house itself was built when our mom was very young. It had small rooms, heater vents in the hardwood floors, and original fixtures from the 1940’s. Grandma’s house was a picture of Americana and we spent a week with her each summer. During those summers especially, we witnessed Grandma’s life as a steadfast example of loving God. She routinely woke early to read the Bible or listen to Christian radio. Prayer and hymns were the regular pattern for her life. She made time for God and set an example for us to do the same.
Our mom also lived her faith by example. She worked as an activity director in a nursing home for many years and very much enjoyed her interaction with the patients. Mom understood that though their bodies no longer functioned well, many of the patients still had sharp minds with thoughts, ideas, and feelings that needed to be validated. She sought to bring joy and dignity to their lives, and they appreciated her loving care. Clearly God blessed her with that ability, and “doing for others” brought her much joy. In our own lives, she was the glue that held our family together, as moms often are. Mom expertly coordinated multiple schedules, helped with homework, sewed together drill team uniforms, or provided transportation to whatever important function was occurring. She was always supportive, never failing to be interested in anything that concerned her children.
She was the peacemaker in the family, patiently working to smooth out any conflict that arose. We rarely saw her angry. She had a calm, gentle, and kind spirit. However, that doesn’t mean that she was a pushover. She had high standards for our behavior and ensured that we always made an effort to exercise self-control. She was strict, but she provided unconditional love. Mom felt that the faith of her children was the most important aspect of their upbringing. She and Dad made sure that their three kids were grounded in strong Christian values. And while their early life was not always easy, they did their best to keep the family anchored in God’s Word.
Over the years, my sister and I learned to emulate the faithful women in our family. From Great Grandma we learned to trust in the hope of heaven. From Grandma we learned how to put God first. From Mom, we learned about having compassion for others, and how to be peacemakers. My sister Lori now carries on that legacy with her own daughter.
Mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers have pivotal roles to play in the lives of their progeny. In the New Testament book of Second Timothy, Paul makes reference to this role.
I am 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. 2 Timothy 1:5 NIV
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 NIV
Although not much is said here about Lois and Eunice, it is clear that their faithful rearing of Timothy influenced him to become a believer. Paul’s letters to Timothy were written to encourage the young pastor in his ministry to the church in Ephesus-a very pagan city. There were significant challenges for Timothy and he needed the anchor of a firmly-rooted faith in order to meet those challenges boldly.
Paul apparently thought Timothy’s Godly upbringing important enough to call it to his attention, lest he get discouraged in the face of hardship. The efforts of Lois and Eunice are recorded here to illustrate the important role that older believers have in shaping the future of younger believers. No doubt his mother and grandmother encouraged prayer and Scripture reading, imparted truth, taught discernment and modeled obedience. God used the steady faithfulness of these two women to help prepare Timothy for the ministry he would later call him to in Ephesus.
I am grateful that God blessed my family with a similar upbringing. Five generations of women—each mother teaching her daughter about Christ and leading by example. Each daughter learning from her mother, how to continue the legacy of faith.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26 NIV
On the journey toward Home,