Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.

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Frankly Phyllis

Frankly Mom

Now and then I get a fresh, unexpected peek at my mom and it thrills me. Recently, I visited childhood neighbors who kindly asked me to stay at their home when I was speaking in Chicago. Beverly, my hostess, was the woman next door -- a woman my mother thought walked on water. Beverly was lively, involved in politics and culture, always dressed to the nines, and president of the local Garden Club, with gardens of her own that would have rivaled Martha Stewart's. She entertained elegantly with ease, always said the right thing, sent over cookies when I had mono, and had two beautiful children who my mom was certain made straight As.

Mother wasn't the jealous type. She didn't envy Beverly; she admired her. When Bev's family moved a few miles away after I left for college, my mother truly missed having them next door. My mom was 15 years older than Bev, so they only saw each other occasionally in the years to follow. I'd hear about Bev and her husband being in the newspaper, and I enjoyed their Christmas cards to my folks. When my sister and I threw a 60th-anniversary party for our parents, Bev and her husband came. But living in different neighborhoods changed the nature of their friendship, and each woman had different friends by that time.

The morning I was to leave Bev's home at the end of our recent visit, she poured tea and we chatted while looking out at her lovely gardens. I thanked her for what she modeled for me as a teenager, recalling her sage advice right before I left for the University of Illinois. I'd gone next door to say goodbye and she was ironing. Just before I left, ironing harder, she casually said something that few had the courage to tell their daughters back then. I can't print it here, but this educated, distinguished woman of culture relayed a stronger version of "Watch your back. Boys will be boys." She didn't remember that day, but it brought up other memories of those times when our families' lives were more closely woven together.

At one point Bev smiled and said, "Your mother was perfection," continuing with examples of how my mother impressed her. It was heartwarming, reconnecting with this wonderful woman in her sunny breakfast room, but her description of my mother put me over the top. My mom was shy and placed herself in the shadows of just about everybody. She was authentic, without pretense, gifted, and beautiful. She would have blushed at that assessment from, of all people, Beverly.

Frankly, I see two lessons in this little story. First, people notice positive things about us whether they say so or not. My mother lived her life simply, caring for her family, expecting nothing in return as she lived out her Christian faith, but she would have been deeply touched to hear her neighbor's observation and, perhaps, it would have helped her feel a bit bolder about sharing her love of Christ with others.

Second, people need to hear about the ways in which we admire them and see Christ at work in their lives. Words such as "I thank God for the things you've taught me," or "I watch you and think, 'How in the world does she do it?'" go a long way!

This Mother's Day, give thanks for your mom and for the women who've played a "mom" role in your life. If your mom is this side of heaven, don't wait for a neighbor to remind you how wonderful she is. Be specific with your words and give her just the lift she needs. And if your mom, like mine, is already enjoying eternity with the Lord, take time to remember the ways she touched your life and the lives of others.

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