Updated May 2022. The moms mentioned in this blog are my own sweet mom, Marci Bonebright who is still a fun and influential person in my life, my mom-in-law, Elizabeth Willis, who is worshiping in heaven with my grandmothers, Sandy DeBruyn and Eleanor Bonebright. I will be reposting several tributes to these ladies in the next few days.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I try to take time to step back from the daily chores and reflect on the impact my mother had on me and that I have had on my own daughter. One of my earliest memories is going to church as a family. Learning to love Jesus was at the top of Mom’s priority list for her girls. Memorizing Scripture was a daily practice. Cooking… well, she says she just got out of the way when I entered the kitchen, except the time that she had to rescue me from the eggbeaters that wrapped my waist length hair in them all the way up to my forehead. Arriving to my pleas for help, she just calmy unplugged the offending appliance and unraveled my hair and sent me to the sink to wash out the cake batter. “Respond don’t react,” were words that she repeated to me often, especially after I became a mother. James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
In a college writing class, I was required to write a ‘descriptive’ paper. I didn’t even hesitate. My descriptive paper would be on a virtuous woman. My mother would be my muse. If you read Proverbs 31, and you know Mom, you would agree. There hasn’t a day gone by that she has not worked hard. She has supported her family spiritually, emotionally, and financially. She sewed so well that she even made my dad’s suits. I drew a picture of what I wanted for a wedding dress, and she made it without hesitation, exactly as I had dreamed. Her children call her blessed. She fears the Lord. She deserves to be honored and praised.
Proverbs 31:13-17 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
I have been so blessed to have a heritage of Christian women in my life. As early as I can remember, my Grandma Bonebright (my dad’s mom) involved me in and set an example of Christian acts of service. Whether it was taking a meal to a sick person, doing somebody’s laundry, or singing to Granny Thompson, Gram planned her life around meeting the needs of others as her service to Christ. She did not make a big deal about it. She did not preach to me about why I needed to serve. She gently and quietly just set an example of godly living and self-sacrifice. She often took my sister and me to visit “shut ins” We sang all of the sweet Jesus songs we could think of, always being encouraged to sing louder and get closer. I still remember the soft- hands of Granny Thompson reaching out to hold my hand. These served as her eyes, because her 101 years had robbed her of her eyesight. Even though her eyes were not seeing her physical surroundings, they were still the window to her soul, as the joy of the Lord beamed from the inside out as the light of the world.
As the MS set in, my Grandma Bonebright was afraid to go out in public for fear of falling or causing an accident. The last time I remember her driving was when I was in Jr High. She picked me up from school and headed out onto the freeway. We topped speeds of 20 miles an hour, and that was with me sliding over and putting my foot on the gas! Dear Grandma was transitioning from the servant to the one being served and needing care. A few of her friends were not too shy to come around. Some were afraid of hurting her or embarrassed at her inability to take care of herself as she once had. For those who could not get over their own uneasiness with Gram’s condition, they missed knowing one of the most wonderful ladies with a most godly, gentle and quiet spirit.
She taught me, from her recliner and wheelchair, how to cook, how to serve, how to love my neighbor as myself. I learned compassion, patience, and true joy of serving through practical experiences of lifting, transferring, schlepping wheelchairs, bathing and grooming, cleaning her house, shopping for my grandparent’s groceries and cooking their favorite foods until they no longer needed the foods and trappings of this earthly life.
One of the greatest blessings of building this kind of a relationship with my grandmother is that she knew me well. She knew my weaknesses, my strengths, my likes and dislikes, but more than any of that, she knew how to pray for me. I am confident that I was one of the main beneficiaries of her prayers. She did not always know what my every need was, but she daily placed me and my needs at the throne of our Savior.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
In several scriptures referring to older believers or wise women we see the word dignity. One of my greatest challenges is protecting the dignity of the grandmas. There is nothing dignifying about having someone else have to take care of your personal needs, dress you, bathe you, feed you, and tell you what to do. As I meditated on these scriptures and what I would be sharing, I thought about what dignity must really mean.
- a formal, stately, or grave bearing: he entered with dignity
- the state or quality of being worthy of honor: the dignity of manual labor
- relative importance; rank: he is next in dignity to the mayor
- high rank, especially in government or the church
- a person of high rank or such persons collectively
I like the second definition and the word origin. It implies that dignity does not come from being “haughty” or even “private” but in being worthy of honor and accepting of one’s role in life, like Paul being content in whatever state. I will probably continue to try to protect our grandma’s dignity, because I think that is honoring to her and to God, but also because we live in a sinful world that despises being inconvenienced or uncomfortable.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
One time I heard Grandma Willis(my mother-in-law) “teaching” in her sleep. What an amazing and encouraging teacher she must have been. In her conscious and subconscious, she loved the little ones that came to her. As each of her students brought her work, she told them how hard they had worked and how beautiful this or that was. She also guided them gently and lovingly in correcting their behaviors or schoolwork. God can use even these moments to teach us, moments that we might, as humans, worry about her mental or emotional state. Not only did I hear her teach, but I heard her pray. I have never heard anyone beseech God on behalf of her family the way Grandma Willis did.
What a joy it was for me to have my own daughter be able to experience this relationship with her grandmother. So many times, we wonder why God allowed a saint like Grandma Willis journey for 100 long, hard years on this earth. My daughter, Jordan called me from Virginia her first year in college. Hearing from her was like water to my soul. She explained, (paraphrased) “I know what Grandma’s ministry is. Her ministry is to pray for me, and I need that a lot! I am so fortunate to have someone so close to God, be so close to me.”
Not too much later, we went to visit my mom’s mom in Washington. Before we left, Grandma Sandy grabbed Jordan’s arm and pulled her close. She said “take a look around this room and know that there is not a day that goes by that you do not have a lot of people praying for you. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to you because my kids and grandkids need A LOT of prayer, but you do get prayed for every day.” Now Grandma Sandy is interceding for us in Heaven
So many times, we are just too busy to even notice when there is a learning opportunity. We often don’t engage our aging fellow believers in conversation for fear of being uncomfortable or weighted down by their burdens, or we may even think that they don’t have anything meaningful to share.
A while ago, I decided to start making notes on the amazing treasures that Grandma Willis had to share. I would like to share a few of them with you:
One time, when I stopped to see her, I commented that the trees outside her window were beautiful… She replied, “Yes they are, when I see the trees, the remind me of the strength of the Lord.” She was like a tree planted by the river. This experience led me to Psalm 92: 12-15 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. 13 For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. 14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. 15 They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Another time she told me: “Every day when I wake up, I wonder what the Lord has planned for the day.”Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
On her 90th birthday she prayed… “Lord help us to do more and better for you each day”
She later told me, I don’t know why the Lord chooses to keep me here on Earth, but I guess my work is not done.
Proverbs 31:27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness
I too, have questioned what the Lord has for me to do… On one particular day, He gave me this verse: John 6:29 (NLT) Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
My daughter, Jordan, called me with relief one day. It is so wonderful when your children ‘get’ the lessons you have been trying to teach and live. She said “I understand James 1 so much better because I see you and daddy put it into practice by taking care of Grandma.” Practicing true religion is taking care of widows and orphans in their distress and by keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.
I can never remember a time in my life when I did not have an older believer, often a widow, that I was participating with in ministry. Whether it was my grandparents, Alma, or my mother-in-law, I have seen the impact of their seemingly invisible ministry and, I have to say, it grieves me when we see them as “no longer active” in their walks with the Lord or we dismiss them as old and not as useful anymore.
My challenge to you is, if you are not seeing this, if you are not experiencing this, then go looking. Seek out those who have gray hair, drink in their wisdom. Go for a walk, take them to coffee or treasure hunting, LISTEN to them. You would be surprised how much they may be ministered to, if only you allow them to minister to you.
Proverbs 31: 30-31 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
None of us can, on our own, live up to the standard set in Proverbs 31, but with God’s help, we can be who He created us to be and use the gifts He has given us.
Take time to read Proverbs 31 for yourself. Who do you picture? Give honor to that person this week.