My mother’s “freedom celebration” was described by one of my cousins as a combination of “funeral, gospel sing and CHURCH!” She is correct in that description. Below is the tribute I shared at the service for my mother.
Today I rise up and call my mother blessed.
Most of us here today grew up in the church and most of us heard the obligatory Mother’s Day and Ladies Luncheon message about the Proverbs 31 Woman. But if we misunderstand the poetry of the passage that begins, “Who can find a virtuous woman…” we lay a misplaced burden on the godly women we know and the godly women we are.
The passage was never meant to be a daunting list of never ending chores and responsibilities that only a Wonder Woman could accomplish.
The opening line is best translated, “A woman of valor, who can find…”
In the Jewish culture the passage is known as the Eshet Chayil – The hymn for the Woman of Valor. It was never meant to be used as THE standard for the woman of excellence but rather to “highlight the glory of the everyday.”*
My mother was…IS…an everyday kind of woman – Eshet Chayil – A Woman of Valor.
Let me share with you some of my thoughts about this Everyday Kind of Woman, a woman of valor – my mother.
My mother was present in the life of our family. By that I mean she was “there.” Every family is unique and makes the decisions that work best for them. Mother’s choice, as well as her opportunity and her privilege was to be home. When we lived in Hattiesburg (MS) during my high school years, Mother’s habit was to fix our breakfast before we left for school. Every morning, it seemed, Mother prepared our breakfast and left it on the kitchen counter. Because I didn’t like mayonnaise with eggs, my egg sandwich got grape jelly which turned my eggs green.
A mother preparing breakfast for her kids – in our home it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
One afternoon I got off the school bus and walked into an empty house. Usually Mother was always there when I got home. I remember the feeling of something missing because Mother was gone. Soon she returned and everything felt right again.
Our mother being home – it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
I don’t know how many years my mother went along with us to church youth camp. Sometimes she was the counselor for my cabin and I got to see how all the other girls loved and appreciated a mother like mine. One year she was the camp nurse and even I knew that was a stretch for her. She just joked that she was inspired by the words of Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come unto me…”
The funniest role she fulfilled at youth camp was to serve as the lifeguard for the girls. Mother was a decent swimmer—as long as she stayed out of the deep end!
Camp Counselor, Camp Nurse, Camp Lifeguard – In our youth camp years, it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
Mother had a gift for making a house a home and in our ministry life we lived in a lot of houses but it was not until Mother added her decorative touches did it feel like our home. For a few years she worked part time showing other women how to hang pictures, put arrangements together and make their houses prettier homes.
To us, mother “pretty-ing up” our home was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
We had a lot of traveling ministers (evangelists) who stayed in our home. I remember this well because I always gave up my room for them. But if you were to ask those ministers what they remembered about Mother I can assure you it would be two things: her cooking and her praying.
In our home Mother’s prayers and her delicious southern cooking were just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
A few days ago a pastor in my area, Tyson Prater, wrote this tribute to my mother on facebook, “Don and June Clark were my pastors during my teen years in Clearwater. They would later become wonderful mentors as I entered the ministry. Sister June was always a great encouragement in those early sermons Pastor Don would allow me to preach. That was her -an encourager, strong in faith, funny, and always straight to the point. I have always loved and appreciated them both for all they did for me. She always sat on the front row every service, Pastor Don would say, “to keep him straight”, but I always admired her that she would be there for him.
When Jenn and I married and accepted our first pastorate I said, “I would like you to sit on the front row like SIS. Clark always did” and she has always been there just like Sister Clark. I pray for the family in the loss of Sister June, but I rejoice today with her because she has made it home…blessings and I love you all…and Sister Clark, ‘thank you.’”
My mother supporting my Dad – for her, that was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
When my son, Andrew, was first diagnosed with brain cancer, my mother, who lived 12 hours from me, called me. I lay on the floor of my bedroom sobbing and groaning on the phone with her. She prayed for nearly a half hour and then asked, “Do you need me to come?” I choked, “Yes, I need you.” Within two days Mother and Dad had packed and made the long drive to come stay for several weeks with us. She spent hours in prayer for the healing of my son.
Less than four months later Andrew had left our home for Heaven and Mother and Dad were with us again. One morning a day or so after laying Andrew’s body to rest, I woke up crying uncontrollably and Mother left the room where she had been sleeping, came into my room and crawled up into the bed with me. She lay her hand on my head and prayed until finally I stopped crying. When she and Dad returned to their own home, she called me each day. She knew I was grieving deeply and that my thoughts were consumed with questions and confusion. Each day she asked, “How is your thinking today?” I answered in a monotone, “I’m okay.” But she knew I was not. Mother prayed over the phone with me day after day until finally the fog covering my mind and my heart began to roll back.
A mother who pours her heart out before God on her children’s behalf, for me and for my brothers, it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
My dad, a Louisiana Boy met my mother, a Mississippi Girl, as he was traveling to hold a revival. A month later they held hands and said, “I do.” And just like that they were off on their big adventure with God and each other. He preached. She played – accordion and organ. They sang. Her soprano voice was limited to alto because he could only “hear the lead.”
Growing up, I heard my mother’s prayers from behind her bedroom door, at the stove stirring pots, from room to room with dust cloth in hand smoothing over bedside tables and bookcases. It may not have been 5000 that she fed her home cooked meals – pork chops, peas and cornbread - but it is one of the things people still remember. It’s the love she put in caring for her family that inspires me to lovingly care for mine.
Learning from my mother it was easy for me to consider her kind of love an “everyday” kind of loving. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
Her children rise up and call her blessed,
her husband also praises her:
“Many daughters have done valiantly, but you surpass them all!”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.
Give her credit for what she has accomplished,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.
Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
* Quote from Rachel Held Evans