1. She taught me to appreciate the little things.
My family was not rich. We could not afford toys or expensive meals. We didn’t starve, but my sister and I were also taught not to ask for anything we didn’t necessarily need. To compensate for our lack of toys, we would play “drums” on the kitchen floor with mom’s pots and pans while she cooked, or make our own little “guitars” out of tissue boxes, rubber bands, and toilet paper rolls. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing with soap and water in the bathroom or of making up wild adventures with my sister using blankets and strips of old cloth as props.
As a result, I grew up not expecting material things, and learned to be content with the blessings that I did have. Even when we began to become more financially able, the roots of our upbringing caused me to be very careful about buying “wants” versus “needs.” I learned to make wise investments, and to take good care of them so that they last for as long as possible.
Getting the latest gadgets or most up-to-date technology was never a priority and, until today, I am not swept away by the marketing schemes out there. For this, I am truly thankful, and even though I want to shower my children with certain luxuries that I never had as a child, I also know that I will never give them an excess of material possessions so that they will learn to see value in the simplest things in life.
2. She taught me to do my best for the Lord.
Mom never once compared me to my friends or even my sister. Throughout my growing up years, she only ever asked me one question when it came to performance: Did you do your best? Regardless of whether I came home with an amazing achievement or a horrible failure, her question remained the same. All that mattered to her was that I was giving my all for Jesus, because that is also all that the Lord requires of us.
Colossians 3:23 says: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Just as she taught me to do just that, she also put that verse to practice by not infringing her desires or expectations on me. She taught me to be my own person, to excel to the best of my abilities, and to be obedient to God above all else.
That is the kind of mother I want to be to my children. They do not need to be the top of their class or the best at everything they do because the world’s standards pale in comparison to God’s standards. The most important thing for my children is that God is master of their lives, and they seek to please Him in all they do.
3. She boldly prayed that my sins would find me out.
I can’t say that I liked this. What child would? I got into trouble for basically every sin I tried to cover up and could never get away with even the smallest white lie. Nevertheless, I am eternally grateful that she had the strength to pray such a prayer. Now that I understand how difficult it is for a mother to watch her child hurt and face the consequences for his or her blunders, I also realize that it was not an easy prayer, but one that wholly surrendered me to God. By praying that prayer over me, she was letting God hold me accountable for all the times that she couldn’t be there to correct my wrongs.
Through the many instances of facing unpleasant circumstances as a result of my bad decisions or actions, I learned the importance of honesty, integrity, and justice. I learned to become a person of character and substance, and I also learned that God is very close by.
He cares enough about me to that He would send people into my life who will correct me when I stand corrected, and support me when I need support, even when mummy wasn’t there. It will not be easy, and quite likely even painful, but I know with absolute certainty that I will pray that my children’s sins will find them out.
4. She disciplined me in love.
My mother believes in discipline, not punishment. She was firm with me and did not allow me to manipulate or disarm her, but she also always made sure that I knew that she was disciplining me out of love for me. I firmly believe that it was because of her methods of disciplining me that I truly learned to understand why it was important and why I did not resent her discipline.
For one, she never disciplined me in public. If I misbehaved while we were out, she would give me a warning that she will deal with me when we got home, and she would keep her word. This way, I knew that she meant business, but I was also never shamed by my wrongdoings because she made it a point not to humiliate me in public.
She also had a designated instrument and style of discipline: the deadly rotan—on the backside. Whenever I needed discipline, she would tell me to go get the rotan myself, and bring it to her. She would then put me over her knee and give me a proper spanking. Afterward, she would always ask me why she did that, so that I would affirm with my own mouth that it was because she loves me. Because she had this systematic way of discipline, I learned to respect her and her authority, but I never had to fear that she would strike me with her hand or some other object out of frustration or anger. Without hesitation, I know I will adopt her methods of discipline with my children.
5. She taught me to ground my security in the Lord.
We live in a world that is full of pressures that come at us from all sides. Especially as a young girl, the social expectations to be pretty, funny, athletic, talented, smart, and well loved by everyone all at the same time can be quite overwhelming. Mom saw through my insecurities and made it a point to teach me to find my worth in God and God alone. She prepared me for all the times people would disappoint and hurt me, and constantly reminded me that my security in God’s unfailing love is the only thing that will never fail me.
Over the years, God has truly proven Himself to be a jealous God who wants all of me and nothing less. The struggle to be fully content with only God’s approval is very real, and I know that I am not the only person who deals with such challenges. We can blame the media, and our environment, but when we take a step back and just think about it, it’s really up to us to consciously fix our eyes back on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.
I am thankful that I was taught to ground myself deep in God’s love from a very young age, because although I still look for acceptance from people and sometimes allow my insecurities to get the better of me, my mother’s persistence in reminding me of my identity in Christ is the one thing that has brought me through many difficult seasons in my life. For that reason, I know that my children can expect no less from me.
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