The Mother Within

The mother within me is full of gratitude and joy today!

Can you tell?

This past weekend, and yesterday in particular, was a wonderful time filled with ‘motherly’ and ‘grandmotherly’ activity, celebrating the amazing gift of motherhood (whether in person or by Skype or phone) with my eight adult kids and their sweet families.

LtoR: My d-i-l Erin and son Frank with their little guy, Frankie;
my daughter Grace (with her two red-heads, Rosie & Sophia),
me, my son Sam, and daughter Carrie (expecting her 2nd a few weeks)
my daughter Hannah, and Carrie’s husband Jason and their son Dominic

It began with the arrival of my daughter and grand-girls (who live two-hour away) and a time visiting my parents and celebrating Mothers Day with my mother …topped off by her delicious split pea soup.

Then on Saturday, I spent the day dress shopping with my three girls and some bridesmaids – for daughter #3’s upcoming wedding next fall.

The day concluded with the typical Stretar-family bonfire and made complete with a good playlist, lots of laughter, and exaggerated story telling.

My heart has been filled by time spent with babes and grand-babes alike,

a Sunday message with fellow Jesus-following moms and other fellow sojourners;

and concluded with a wonderful quiche and spinach salad brunch prepared by my girls and a showering of lovely flowers and gifts with five of my brood of eight.

And while my heart is indeed full..

I can’t let this mothers day go by without telling you about the woman that has shaped the woman and mother within me… my one-of-a-kind mama…

Nancy Sue Vandagriff Duncan.

She is mom to six. Three boys and three girls.

I took my place in the family as her fourth born.

She has left her mark on my life in countless ways…so to narrow her influence in my life on a 1000 word blog, is near impossible.

To thank her publicly, however, is both a privilege and honor.

And to participate in the One Thousand Moms Project @ A Holy Experience with @AnnVoskamp is also – the gift of God.

My hope in sharing a bit of my mother’s influence in my life is not only to honor her and the influence that all mothers past, present, and future have had upon the deepest part of our lives…

but to also pass along a bit of hind-sight-wisdom to every young and middle-aged mother who is still in the motherhood-trenches.

What I want my mom and all moms to know is….

You just never know how your day-to-day actions will influence the thoughts and patterns of your wide-eyed watching children! So Live with the end in mind.

And now, to my reading companions, may you embrace the role God has entrusted you with all soberness, love, and grace.

And… to my precious mother, I want to say…

“Thank you Mom” for being an incredible example of what “a woman who fears the Lord” looks like.

1) You have always been a lover of words – and you set the tone in our home with both audible and written words of Truth.

Every morning was the same…

I (we) would wake up to get ready for school and find you reading God’s Word. And whether you realize it or not, I took notice of how your Bible was underlined, marked, noted, or dated with what appeared to be ‘Living Words’ that were speaking to you. Little did you know that you were modeling a love for God’s Word in me while also teaching me that a relationship with God is personal and always growing.

I (we) grew up listening to Christian radio and listening to the transforming work of Jesus in the lives of people like Joni Erickson (Tada), Charles Stanley, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and countless others. Little did you know how God would use their testimonies of faith to lay foundations of faith and build walls of sustaining truth in my young impressionable heart and mind.

I’ll never forget the timely words of scripture you would mail me to encourage and strengthen my faith in Christ. It was you whom God used to remind me that “memories are a bridge not to the past, but to the future…” Reminding me that “our experiences” (just as those of Corrie Ten-Boom, and Joseph, and Esther, and Joni-Erickson-Tada, and Chuck Colson, and Mary & Joseph, and Paul and John and countless other heroes of the faith) “when we allow God to use them, become the perfect and mysterious plan for the work he will call us to do.” (Corrie ten-Boom, The Hiding Place). Little did you know how God would use your sweet, thoughtful, timely notes to teach me the power that words have to encourage the human heart.

2) You were a lover of God and people and gave Jesus access to your ‘little’ to bless others. You taught me what generosity, kindness, and incarnational love looked like in practical ways when…

You allowed a homeless man to use our bathroom on a regular basis by supplying him with a warm bath and other basic needs. Little did you know that you were expanding my heart for the poor and less fortunate.

You gave my best friend a baby shower because she lacked the love and support of her family. Little did you know how your actions were showing me what unconditional love looked like – and how your kindness toward those lost in life and lost in sin would (including me) would prepare me for a ministry to teen moms.

You invited me and my siblings to share our Christmas with family friends less fortunate. Little did you know that you were teaching me about sacrificial giving, genuine kindness and that it is better to give than to receive.

3) You gave me opportunity after opportunity to explore my creative interests and develop the talents God placed within me.

Thanks, for…supporting my interests in learning to play the guitar and violin; letting me demolish the dining room while I learned to sew; coming to watch my stint of acting and dancing on the Little Theatre stage, just to name a few. Little did you know how God would use these experiences to help me encourage others to pursue their God-given talents and passions.

4) And although you never admitted to being the “perfect mom” you were perfect for me.

Little did you know that you were teaching me about ‘trusting your children’ to God’s care when I rebelled and strayed away from God’s plan for my life.

And little did you know how much God would use a simple provision like $10 bill that you found in your Bible so I could buy a Pink Floyd concert ticket that would end up curing me from wanting the life of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll that I was being tempted by.

Time after time, you did not treat me as my sin deserved, but you showered me with motherly love. In this, you probably didn’t realize how God was using you to teach me about unconditional grace.

5) But the greatest gift you have given me mom is your unwavering, confident, abiding love for Jesus.

Little did you know… how God would use your faithful, quiet example of unwavering trust in your Creator and Savior, would impact your prone-to-wander #4 child, and help her cling to her Creator/Savior during times of testing and necessary seasons of growth and change.

So, for these things and countless more, I say thank you, mom. I am more than blessed to have YOU as my mother, and I love you more than words could ever express, this side of heaven.

Forever your #4,


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