Five Ways My Mom is Ordinary

Mothers DayMy mom is really ordinary.

No, seriously. She is!

A middle class lady who grew up in Wisconsin, she eventually married an introvert from Georgia (my dad) and had five kids. We grew up in East Tennessee (one of the lovelier places in the country) living our ordinary lives. Now that I have children of my own, I can clearly assert that my mom is extraordinarily ordinary. Let me give five examples.

5. She Did Not Murder Me in My Sleep

Most mothers don’t murder their children so my mom is very normal to have not murdered me as a teenager. Despite my efforts to be a bull-headed and argumentative child, I never once feared for my life. You may say that failing to kill your eldest son is easy, but I beg to differ. She had many an opportunity to take a look at the arrogant boy in front of her and wonder what terrible mistake she had made in bringing me into the world.

Instead, she loved me. She discussed and talked and pushed and cared through many difficult years. She tolerated my lack of respect and laziness and foolishness patiently. She loved me well.

4. She Sacrificed Working to Stay at Home with Us

Mom chose the life of an ordinary house-wife. Life would have been easier for her had she worked and sent us off to school. The pressure through the 80s and 90s was constantly valuing the working woman and demeaning the homemaker. But mom stood firm in her ordinary-ness. She stayed home with us and ignored the fad of the day that said women must work.

3. She Pursued an Education for Us

My mom homeschooled us. We were one of the earlier families in our area to be homeschooled but certainly not the first. She had that very ordinary notion that her children should be educated and she worked to make that happen. She dealt with the ordinary pressures felt by the homeschooling community of the day such as the heavily over-blown notion that we would be unsocialized. By the time I graduated High School there was a thriving homeschool community in East Tennessee.

I have a particularly fond memory of going to Roane State Community College with my mom to start my first classes. I had no idea how this college thing worked and mom went with me and talked to the staff and basically held my hand through it. I wonder if she hadn’t been there that day how differently my life would be today. But, you know, this is ordinary mom stuff.

2. She Worked Hard for a Strong Marriage with My Dad

Mom and Dad have been married for almost 35 years now. They haven’t had the perfect marriage, but a sweet one. They are very dedicated and sweet with each other. Their marriage isn’t flashy. You won’t see Dad get up on a stage and sing some Sinatra to my mom. It is just a steady, kind relationship. Very ordinary.

Of course, half of marriages don’t make it at all in the first five years, so you could argue that 35 years is an accomplishment. You could even remind me that even those couples that “make it,” some of them don’t like each other. Mom and Dad clearly like each other. But I’ve never known anything different from this so I will confidently assert that their marriage is also quite ordinary.

1. She Showed Us Jesus

We attended church throughout my childhood. This is not an easy thing to do with three young children as I am discovering when I bring my four young children to church. We regularly listened to the music of Steve Green, Michael Card, Keith Green, and Patch the Pirate. The music in our home dripped with mentions of Jesus, grace, forgiveness, and the cross. All of these things were not unusual for a homeschooling family growing up in East Tennessee.

There is a particular song that has stuck with me named Answer the Call by Steve Green. As I look back on this song, it is the journey of my adult life.

I answer the call, I take my stand
I choose to live my days on Earth a faithful man
And to that end, I give my all
And in the strength and grace of God, I answer the call
The call to dedicate our lives to nurture our children and love our wives
A call to guard our heart and eyes, to press toward the goal
To win the prize!

Far from living up to these words, I see my own strange and difficult journey. A journey I may never have started but for reminders like this song.

As I look back at a childhood of a million ordinary things my mom did for us, I still know they are ordinary. There will never be a news broadcast saying that a mother fed her children dinner every day for twenty years, but just because a thing is ordinary does not mean it is not a very hard thing, even a commendable sacrifice.

The fact is that a million ordinary things over many years adds up to an extraordinary sacrifice that will pay off for myself and my siblings The debt that the generations of will owe my mom will grow to become incalculable in the decades and centuries to come.

So today I don’t Thank God for the several extraordinary things my mom did because those things had more impact in the moment, but less in the long run. Far more powerful is the endless tide of ordinary things. The legacy of my mom’s life cannot be adequately described by simply hanging onto the flashiness of the extraordinary but in the real power or a lifetime of hard, steady, and ordinary things.

I love you mom. Thank you for the ordinary things.

-Chip

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A Thank You to Older Men

father-and-son_fist-bumpLast week I published my challenge to older men. My generation of young men have been largely abandoned to find our own way and I hope to wake up the older men of our desperate need for them.

It’s not going well.

But that is not to say we have been completely abandoned. My story is one littered with the investment of older men in my life. I would be remiss not to properly honor them for their time and effort. This is my thank you to the individuals who have shown me the way. So, without further ado, I would like to say Thank You to:

Dad

We are all heavily influenced by our fathers. My dad was far more influential on me than I will ever know. I remember my sixth birthday. My dad bought me a chessboard and taught me how to play. We played nearly every night for months. He won every time, of course, but I caught on. About ten months later I finally, through concerted effort, was able to draw him. About a week later I beat him for the first time.

Today I mop the floor with him every time.

I think this is analogous of all my dad offered me. Unlike in chess, I don’t exceed his skill in most things, but I am so glad to have been taught by him. The most important lessons dad taught me was his fanatical dedication to my mom. He taught me this well and it has served me well in my own marriage.

He also worked for many years in a job he didn’t like to feed us. The determination and effort that took is truly an inspiration for me. To this day, I am irritated with men who won’t work really hard to care for their families. My dad showed me that you sacrifice for your family and I can’t imagine why anyone would do anything else.

Thanks dad!

Pastor James

Behind my parents, the most influential person in my life was Pastor James. He came to the church where I grew up when I was about 10 years old. You must  understand that I was born as a tiny attorney who wanted a very logical explanation for everything. I often would overwhelm and exhaust the adults in my life.

But not Pastor James.

He was very patient and would struggle with me through hard issues in scripture. Pastor James taught me to be a Christian Hedonist and showed me a God who was not simply right, but delightful. God stopped being just morally good but also experientially good. Heaven will be fun because the most fun and satisfying being ever will be there.

Pastor James taught me so many things. I remember in particular one Wednesday night when Pastor James was being accused of something (I don’t remember what). He stood in front of all of us and said, “I know you think you have dirt on me. But I promise you that no matter what you’ve got on me, I know of worse things I have done.” His response to the accusation was humility. To this day I still ponder that evening and am challenged to be gracious with those who accuse me.

Thank you Pastor James.

Mike M.

The fourth most influential person in my life was Mike, behind Pastor James and my parents. Mike invested heavily in me. he spent a great deal of time working with a teenager who needed logical explanations and arguments. He was very patient with a million questions and challenges. Mike also got me exercising for the first time in my life.

Mike’s influence on me was subtle. It was not as much a couple single events as much as a thousand little conversations. Mike’s time investment in me was enormous. It is humbling and challenging to me. Would I invest that much in a teenager? I’m not sure.

Thank you Mike.

In Summary

Anything I accomplish in my life will have the stamps of Dad, Mom, Pastor James, and Mike on it.The debt I owe them is profound. I hope that one day I will be able to serve a young man in the ways that these men (and women) have serve me.

Thank you.

-Chip