If Not For Mom

Dear Mom,

I was thinking today about how fortunate I am that God picked you to be my mother.

If not for you, and the lessons you imparted to me through tasks like picking rocks out of the garden, scrubbing the kitchen floor, and running a co-op, I wouldn't understand the value of hard work (and probably wouldn't have been able to work my way through high school and college.)

If you hadn't refused to let me push problems under the rug, but instead, patiently and persistently, over years of real, rubber-meets-the-road teaching moments, helped me realize the importance of getting to the heart of an issue and solving it (a vanilla "I'm sorry" just wouldn't do; rather, "I understand it was wrong to do X, because..."), I wouldn't understand the essence of genuine conflict resolution (and I wouldn't have gotten so much practice debating--and I might not be at law school now :P ).

If not for you, and your insistence on teaching me to look at situations from the other person's perspective, trying to help me understand that inflection, body language, and circumstances color communication just as significantly as the words I used, I would have a much harder time relating to people who think differently than I do.

If not for your passion for health education, nutrition, and lactation consulting--and your willingness to share your knowledge with me (telling nutrition counseling stories at dinner, teaching me about phyto-nutrients, antioxidants, whole grains, eating the rainbow, proanthocyanidins, the wonders of Vitamin D, skin-to-skin care, tongue ties, and the wonderful heritage of GI flora ;)--not only would I be bereft of incredibly important health information, but I wouldn't be involved in the Duke Nutrition education program, I couldn't extoll the benefits of kangaroo mother care, and I wouldn't be able to impress all my nurse friends :)

If you hadn't handed me a violin, paid for and ferried me to years of weekly lessons--and critically--persistently, creatively, and sometimes firmly persuaded me to keep practicing, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to play my violin around the world, to perform incredible pieces, to make wonderful friends, to bring joy to countless people (including myself), and to praise God in the uniquely beautiful medium of instrumental music.

If not for your love of singing and innate ability to come up with a song for any and every occasion, I wouldn't know and love so many hymns and scripture songs :)

If not for you, I would have spent thousands of dollars at barber shops!

If not for the thousands of delicious, healthy, and economical meals you prepared (and had me help with) over the years, I probably wouldn't be a healthy runner today, I wouldn't be able to pull off the occasional culinary success in my own kitchen, and I probably couldn't have survived on $100 a month for food this last year (although Dad probably gets quite a bit of credit for that too, and if you hadn't sent me all that good granola, breadsticks, and other things, I would definitely would have blown my budget :)

If you hadn't taught me to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, allowed me to take two books with me during nap time (even when they were encyclopedias), and let me max out my library card, I might not have the love of reading (and the host of benefits that have come in its train) that I do today.

If you hadn't let me spend summers on Grammy and Grampie's farm, encouraged me to take advantage of opportunities to learn practical skills, and given me the gift of willingness to dive into a project, I wouldn't know how to make hay, milk goats, weld, garden, work on my car, build a deck, prune fruit trees, run a chainsaw, run a table saw, a jointer, or a lathe, pour concrete, lay bricks, or dig a ditch.

If you hadn't taught me how make potholders and scarves and pillowcases, I wouldn't know how to sew, knit, or embroider.

If not for you modeling and including me in your personal devotions (remember that worship binder you made for me, or when you taught me how to do word studies?), I could have missed out on the immense blessing that is having personal quiet time with God every day.

If you hadn't believed in me, encouraged me, stood behind me, corrected me, cried with me, allowed me to stretch my wings, even when you were afraid, and most importantly, prayed--earnestly and persistently--for me, with me, with others, in the middle of the night, when you were scared, angry, disappointed, joyful, whether I knew it or not, I simply would not be where I am or who I am today.

Mom, on Earth, you're my most dedicated advocate, my first and foremost educator, a superlative communicator, my favorite food creator, my preferred singing partner, probably the hardest, most cheerful, most selfless worker I know, the best rug-braider, bread-maker, dulcimer player, lactation consultant, prayer warrior, conflict-resolver, counselor and encourager; my mother, and my friend. I know I don't always show it by my words or actions, but I am exceedingly grateful that God gave you to me (or was it the other way around? :)

Thank you most of all for sharing Jesus with me. You are a shining example to me of how beautiful a Christ-motivated life can be. Seeing your continuing willingness to allow Jesus to work in your life, with the resultant fruit, is more inspiring than a thousand sermons on practical godliness.

For all of these things, and many more, I am, and will be by God's grace, eternally grateful.

Love always,

Your son


  1. ooh ooh ooh! I deeply and emphatically agree! I am just about to finish posting my "mom" blog but I defer to my wordsmith of a brother when it comes to adequately conveying how awesome you are, Mom. We love you to the moon and back!

  2. Joel, that was a tear jerker! Moms are nearly indescribable to the impact that they have on us children, but you did a fantastic at expressing that. Reading this reinforced in me the mammoth responsibility that parenting is. However, with God, raising Godly children is indeed possible. Thanks for sharing this with us, Joel!

  3. That is such a nice tribute to your mom. I had to laugh at your descriptions of growing up with a nutritionist, lactation consultant, dulcimer playing mother. All of those things describe my mother as well. Yes, I'm impressed by big words like kangaroo care, but I'm much more impressed by a guy who can knit as well you do. Now I know who taught you.

  4. Oh Joel, it's so fun to see the word pictures in your mind. You were born after one unforgettable ride on isolated South and North Dakota roads. That night you made me a mother and forever changed my world. If it weren't for you Joel, a huge part of my personhood never would have existed. No one on earth scares me, cheers me or comforts me quite like you do! By God's grace we will have an eternity to be grateful. Thank you for letting that begin now!
    Love you lotz,


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