Monday, April 13, 2009

Reflections on Mom -- Leaving a Legacy

I'd been wanting to share the reflections on Mom I read at her funeral, and now that it has been one whole month, it seemed like a good time to do so. Some of the following will be a bit repetitive from blogs I've written in the past month or so, but I want you to be able to read my reflections on her. I miss Sue Benzing intensely, and thoughts and memories of her shadow my day, making me smile, and making me cry. If you have time to read it all, here is what I wrote:

My mom was a beautiful woman. I thought it would be fitting for me to reflect on her character qualities today.

First, Mom was fulfilled in her God-given role as a wife and mother. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she excelled in the home; her family was a top priority to her. This was not only evident in her life and conversation, but also her prayer-life. While looking through her prayer journals, I was struck by the overwhelming amount of space she dedicated to praying for her children. She always LOVED being a mom. She waited for a long time before the Lord gave her children, and she found joy in that role for many many years. We NEVER heard her complain about her kids, or the amount of time she spent with us, every day, as a stay-at-home wife and homeschool mom, we all agreed about that. Mom and I always got along very well, which I know sounds like I’m trying to say I was her favorite, but the truth is, Mom got along well with all her kids. We probably all felt like her favorites. Her kids all remember times spent cooking for a month in anticipation of our littlest sister’s arrival, making “post people” in the basement for craft fairs, cleaning the house from top to bottom every day whenever the house was for sale when we’d move – Mom taught us to work hard together, and to find the pleasure in being together during those times. I once remember Mom telling us when we moved “You will always have your brothers and sisters, they are friends you take with you everywhere.” which was a great lesson for us, and one I’m so glad she specifically stated.

Secondly, Mom was a lifelong learner. She loved reading, a love she passed on to all of her kids. I cannot begin to imagine how many thousands of books she’d read over her lifetime. Mom loved telling me about books she read and enjoyed, and of course, reading out loud to anyone who listened. She was interested in absolutely everything – anything she read an article on, saw a special on, whatever sport Dad happened to watch on tv, NOTHING was boring to her. In fact, I cannot imagine my mom ever being bored, which is actually quite a virtue. I remember when she had her eye surgeries, and she had to sit for hours and hours with her head straight down. Even then, she did not complain or just waste the time away. She listened to every book on tape I brought her, and even read when she had energy. She was also a woman of the Word, who read her Bible every day faithfully for years. One of the things that we have found precious is the journals and notebooks Mom had written in. We found prayers here and there in notebooks, and whole journals just for prayer, and taking notes in church and her devotions. It is humbling to see how much she prayed for her children (and what she prayed, of course, is even more humbling, because you see what she saw that perhaps you did not see back then). My sister Anna read from Mom's Bible at the funeral, and remarked on how much Mom wrote in it, and how special it was to have Mom's thoughts on the Word as a legacy to us. For example, John 14 "Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Mom wrote next to this passage -- "To be comforted". What a gift God has given us through Mom's writings, speaking to us still.In her quiet time this year, she wrote in August "I can walk before the Lord in the light of the living until God's plans for me are finished. My life won't end one minute before God wants it to." She had been reading Psalm 56 "In God I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." What a treasure these words are to my soul!In September she wrote "No matter how things look, God is in control". Writing this to assure her own soul, and speak truth to her own heart is priceless. It speaks to my heart now, telling me to trust in God's sovereignty.On the Monday before she had her stroke she wrote "God knows and plans everything."These writings are so sweet to my eyes, and honey to my heart. It is a peek into her very soul, showing the intimacy of her walk with Jesus. What a legacy for us! I hoped by sharing them, you would be encouraged to trust God and be comforted, in whatever affliction you are facing. I also hoped to encourage my sisters in Christ to deepen their walk with the Lord, spending time in His Word every day.

Third, Mom was a happy servant in her church. This was so in all the churches we attended growing up, and most evident, perhaps in her service here at Calvary. Everyone thinks of Mom as the nursery director who loves all the kids, making timid ones adjust, the naughty ones obey, and everybody certain that she was happy to see them. I never met a child my mother couldn’t love. She also was a joyful helper to her friends, making food for special occasions, throwing baby showers, and always always entering into their joy with them. Sometimes we would get frustrated with Mom for spending SO much time and energy making someone’s day special – “Mom, you do NOT have to cater that person’s wedding for FREE. You can LET them pay you!” Mom did not think of herself, though. She was only too happy to bless others. Mom also loved hosting in her home, and no number was too large for her to say yes to. “Teen group progressive dinner? Sure! Open house for Bill’s coworkers? Great! 400 people for Gretchen’s wedding? Not a problem!” She embraced our missionary friends, and loved “adopting” their families for holidays and family occasions. She even loved hosting a whole slew of teenagers, which says a lot for her patience and forbearance as well, but honestly, Mom truly enjoyed their company. I’d like to share a little passage from a book I’ve been rereading by Elisabeth Elliot called “A Path Through Suffering”; I think it illustrates Mom well:

“The maturing dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals and has reached its crowning stage of dying. It stands ready, holding up it little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may waft it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be shared. The delicate seed-globe must break up now; it gives and gives until it has nothing left. Think of those whose lives have had the most significant impact on yours. Are they not men and women who were continuously giving themselves, loving sacrificially, and thereby giving us life? The maturing process in the Christian, as in the dandelion, is for one purpose: the giving of life. It gives and gives until it has nothing left – for itself. But it has given life – to new dandelions. So we in whom Christ dwells are the bearers both of His death and of His life. We are transmitters of life to the world.”

Once my friend Misty and I contemplated the beautiful things my mom owned, displayed around her home. Misty said to me “You know what’s different about these things than most people’s nice things? Your mom doesn’t have these just to display and make her house look nice, she uses them to LOVE people.”

I think a word I could use to summarize Mom’s character would be “selfless”. Whether it was caring for her family, pouring herself out in prayer, embracing strangers (which she would just call “new friends”), serving at church or helping a friend – she did so without a thought of herself, only love and joy for others. She related to the Lord in the same way – without selfish wishes for her own advancement, but only desiring the glory to go to Christ. With that in mind, I want to close by sharing a prayer from Blaise Pascal that I think reflected my mom’s heart toward the Lord. May it be our prayer as well.

“Take from me, O Lord, that self pity which love of myself so readily produces, and from the frustration of not succeeding in the world as I would naturally desire, for these have no regard for your glory. Rather, create in me a sorrow that is conformable to your own. Let my pains rather express the happy condition of my conversion and salvation. Let me no longer wish for health or life, but to spend it and end it for you, with you, and in you. I pray neither for health nor sickness, life nor death. Rather I pray that you will dispose of my health, my sickness, my life and my death as for your glory, for my salvation, for the usefulness to your church and your saints, among whom I hope to be numbered. You alone know what is expedient for me. You are the Sovereign Master. Do whatever pleases you. Give me or take away from me. Conform my will to yours, and grant that with a humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may dispose myself utterly to you. May I receive the orders of your everlasting, provident care. May I equally adore whatever proceeds from you.”


Anonymous said...

Your mother was a great example of what a woman should be. Even though I haven't seen her often over the past few years, I have thought of her and she will be missed.

Melissa Yocum

FranR. said...

I love to read your posts. They are so comforting to me. I lost another dear friend last week, Becky P., who lived just down the road from your parents. God has been good to me, to give me two sweet, sweet friends with which to share Christ and His goodness to us. I will pray for you, Josh, and your baby that your family will continue to honor Him and find joy in Him. Love Fran

Anonymous said...

Gretchen, I continue to think about all of you.
Thats a really special post. Yes, your Mom was VERY entertaining and could make anyone feel so welcome in her home! I too, like Misty, loved her house and the things she had out! -sioby :)

Jana said...

Thanks for sharing those wonderful and amazing thoughts of your mother. What a sweet Christian Mom!!!!

Anonymous said...

I really can't believe its been a month. I mean, I guess I knew that sub-conciously, but I checked the dates just to make time flies and stands still at the same time.

You know, this sounds horrible, but I didn't actually note half of mom's virtues until just lately, as I've gotten older, I've realized more and more things about her.

For instance, her patience. I thought thats how all moms were, but since getting older I realize it must have been a daily choice for her to be so patient with each one of us.

Stuff like that just hits me sometimes, she was so wonderful. I miss her a lot sometimes. I think of all the things i would tell her if I could, all the funny things Mercedes says, all of the little stupid questions I have about housekeeping or cooking or things like that.

ok, sorry I realize this comment was pretty aimless and just went around in circles.

I love you Gretchen,

Gretchen said...


I know what you mean. I have actually consciencely thought "Oh, I need to ask Mom about that" before I realized I couldn't. It's amazing how much one person -- when they are such a special and important person -- impacts your life in every way. As much as I miss her, that ache makes me realize all the more how great she was and how THANKFUL I am to have had such a good mom.

Love you, too, Elms,

Staci said...

Not only was this post a wonderful honor to your mom, but it was a charge to all of us who are mothers (or plan to be). I can only pray that when I am gone my kids will "rise up and call me blessed" the way you have done.

I have had several times when I have wanted to ask her about things or at least share a funny story about the kids. She shared herself so much with so many of us.

Staci said...
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