happy birthday, mom

Dear Mom,

Months ago you emailed and asked me, "How do you know I love you?" Caught up in my crazy life, I never did send you a reply. I figured I'd take your birthday as the opportunity to finally answer you.

How do I know you love me? A sure sign is your steadfast love – tangibly expressed through hugs (even when I’m not cuddly), notes in my lunchbox, scavenger hunts through the house on Valentine’s Day, and just always being there for me. I know I was the "strong-willed child" that Dr. Dobson wrote an entire book about (you could’ve written the sequel). I know I wasn't always an easy daughter, and yet you always made me feel loved. Safe. Secure.

While I know you look back on my early years with some cringing and regrets, please know that I don't. I understand that you'd just gotten saved and didn’t have it all figured out yet (and we all still don’t!), but you did pretty darn good with the little bit that you knew. And your hunger to learn and grow continues to be an inspiration to me. I know you love me because you weren't content to stay as you were -- blaming it all on your personality or shrugging it off with, "that's just the way I am" -- but you ardently sought to increase God, and decrease you, in your life.

I know you love me because of the unbelievable way you not only released me to do what I felt God calling me to do, but also confirmed and supported that calling. When I wanted to go on my first mission trip, I didn't have to convince you. You readily got behind me. When I came back and said I wanted to do it every summer, you didn't sigh for all the things that would mean you'd lose (like spending our birthdays together) or all the hard work it would entail to raise the money. You said, "That's great! Go for it! Let's get started!" When I returned from Botswana and told you I felt called to Africa, you nodded in agreement. You already knew and it wasn't a surprise. When I decided to head off to South Africa for a year, you helped, pushed, and prodded, even though deep inside you knew it would probably be longer. And when I told you I loved Niel and wanted to spend my life with him in Africa, you said you'd known since you first met him. I know you love me because you put the call of God on my life ahead of your own desires for me.

I know you love me because I've heard you pray. You pray with more fervor and passion than anyone else I've ever met. Inside you is truly the heart of an intercessor. You wholeheartedly "stand in the gap" on my behalf, regardless of what is going on in your life, and I am forever grateful for it.

I know you love me because of the ways you've always sacrificed for me. Sacrificed yourself. Your dreams. Your wants. Your money. Your time. Your energy. For me...

Yes, I know you love me.

And I hope you know I love you, too.

Happy Birthday, Mom!