I am visiting my mother in IA this week. Is a brief three-days together. Mom lives in an assisted living complex, 14 miles from where she and my father lived and farmed for 67 years. My father died six years ago this month.
No matter the length of my stay, Mom lets me know before each arrival that there is “the list!” It contains the standard items any one of us three siblings do with her (not “for” her) during a visit: take clothes to the cleaners, stop at the post office, assist in selecting yarn for crocheting more afghans, pickup prescription meds, and a stop at the grocery store for purchasing snacks she keeps in her apartment’s under–the-counter frig.
Last June, when I visited my mother, the list included spring cleaning of her one-bedroom apartment. This made me chuckle, as Mom’s private living space is white-glove clean. I know, as her daughter, that part of Mom’s DNA is this annual ritual of rigorous cleaning. In the past, in our three-story farm house, this meant: washing windows, changing every inch of bedding, mattresses turned, curtains washed, starched and pinched onto a curtain stretcher, waxing wood framing, floors and furniture, treating scratches, replacing lining in drawers and cupboards with new paper, and much more.
I also remember the annual opening of Mom’s cedar chest, a high school graduation gift, and her vivid sharing of the details surrounding the day she received it. Over the years, the chest took on the holiness of the Ark of the Covenant. Each item contained inside was gently removed and the associated stories unfolded. What I recall is not the chore of cleaning, but the stories recited. (Okay . . . I am sure there were times when I rolled my eyes and wished I was in town with my friends.) Each year the ritual of spring house cleaning and the litany of stories were repeated. It is what connected me to my mother, and the women before her, gifting me with a sense of identity and belonging.
So there I was, 64 (almost 65), with my mother who is 94 (going on 95), in her tidy apartment. We carefully lifted up doilies to dust under lamps (one belonging to my great-grandmother), pulled out furniture to wipe off floor moldings and vacuumed close to edges. A small stepladder helped me reach the display of items on top of the cabinets that remind my mother of her life with dad and days on the farm. It felt like all the times before, the cleaning and the listening to stories – Mom’s stories of old. This ordinary time was sacred time.
Mom sat in her rocking chair, while I finished the dusting. “Mom, what is this?” I asked as I gently lifted and wiped off a small basket tied to her lamp. I did not remember ever seeing it before.
“Oh, that is my prayer basket.” Mom stood and took it into her hands and sat again. I found myself sitting as well, watching the contents tumble onto her lap. First she read the poem tucked inside:
“I have a little basket I put prayers in each day. Then I hand it up to the Lord, knowing God will hear me pray . . . Once I put your name in the basket I cast aside my fears, for I know that God is with you.”
Matter of fact, Mom began to read the words from several of the little strips of paper, prayers she had written and placed in the basket. “Here is one for Katelyn when she was 2 and diagnosed with her brain tumor. (Katelyn is now a young adult.) I wrote this one for Kai when he left for Palestine last September. I asked the Lord to keep him safe.”
My eyes filled with tears. Without asking, I knew that all who are dear to her (her children, grandchildren, spouse and friends) were named and in that basket. Quietly she placed all the prayers back into the basket and tied it once again onto the lamp that gives her light as she works on an afghan each night; the same light that allows her to read her prayer and devotion books by day.
My mother’s quiet, consistent, lifelong trust in God fills me with awe and gratitude for her home-grown faith.
God’s Story found in Hebrews 11:1-2, 39-40. From The Message:
1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 39-40 The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. God has a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
- What rituals or practices connect you to your household, family or friends?
- Whose stories do you never tire of hearing?
- Describe the images or stories that the phrase “HomeGrown Faith” conjures up in you.