Mark D. Roberts

Today is my mother’s birthday. Since I’m not able to be with her, I figured I’d do the next best thing and put up a blog post in her honor. (Well, okay, okay, before I get a dozen rebuking comments, I realize that a phone call would be the next best thing, or a birthday card, or a present, or all of the above. I don’t think my mom would appreciate a text message or a tweet, however.)
Well, what to say about my mother on her birthday? She a fine human being, that’s for sure. She excelled in all of the “mom” stuff when I was growing up: cooking healthy, tasty meals, making my lunch, being a room mother, driving me all over creation for my activities, patching me up when I got hurt, washing my clothers, sitting through my Little League games, packing for camping trips, etc. I should add that she did all of that, not just for me, but also for my three younger siblings. As I think back on how my mom managed four kids and one husband in a busy household, I’m rather amazed. She seemed to take it all in stride, and was never too busy to be there emotionally for me and my siblings.
My mom modeled faithful Christian discipleship. I remember when I was young, sitting in church during the prayer of confession, and thinking that my mom never sinned. Oh, I figured she had sinned when she was young. But I just couldn’t imagine what my mom’s sins since I had entered her life. I expect my estimation of my mom’s sinlessness wasn’t quite true, but my naive evaluation of her moral state spoke volumes about her character. She lived her faith in a consistent way day in and day out in front of those who watched her continually. I’m sure my mom’s faithfulness as a Christian is one main reason why I am a believer today. I was not one of those unfortunate kids whose parents professed faith at church but didn’t live it out at home.
Speaking of church, this reminds me of one of the things I admire most about my mother. During most of my youth, she was a “stay at home mom.” This label is about as far from the truth as it could be, given how much she was away from home being a chauffeur, room mother, Girl Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, etc. Nevertheless, she didn’t work for money during my growing up years. As my siblings and I got older, my mom began working in a children’s store, and ended up being the assistant manager of that store. But work was never the main thing in her life. Family and church always took first place.
In 1979 my dad was diagnosed with serious cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy added several years to his life. He died in 1986 after a long, slow bout with liver cancer. As you can imagine, all of this took a great toll on my mother. I wondered how she would make it without my dad, emotionally and financially.
Not long after my dad’s death, our church found itself without a Children’s Director. The leaders asked my mom to serve as the Interim Children’s Director while they searched for the permament person. My mom had done lots of volunteer leadership in the ministry, and was glad to fill in as the Interim Director. Now this was a big job, full time plus. The children’s ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, where I worked as College Director at that time, was large, with hundreds of children and families, not to mention hundreds of volunteers.
My mom jumped into the job with gusto, and promptly began to get everything organized. She paid close attention to her Sunday School teachers, met with parents who were struggling with their kids, and pioneered some new ministries. She set the bar high for the new, permanent Children’s Director . . . so high, in fact, that eventually the church leaders decided to stop looking for some outside “expert.” They hired my mom as the full-time Children’s Director, a role she filled for seventeen years. During that time, the children’s ministry at Hollywood Pres flourished, even growing numerically in a time when the church was declining in membership. Even though she was not an ordained pastor, my mom nurtured dozens of “pastoral” relationships with children, parents, and lay ministers under her charge.
I admire my mom’s leadership abilities, her faithfulness and prayerfulness. I am especially impressed with how she was able to do all of this while still grieving over my dad’s death. In God’s gracious providence, her ministry gave my mother something wonderful to live for, a way to make a giant difference in the world, and also a way to help pay her bills.
I think what I admire most in my mother is not her work at the church, however, but her “work” at home. She and my father raised four children. All of us have turned out well, if you’ll pardon my bluntness. My siblings are some of the finest people I know. We are all in the business of serving people as a pastor, a teacher, a marriage and family counselor, and a sheriff. We have solid marriages and have produced or adopted some wonderful grandchildren for my mom, for whom she is a fantastic grandmother. (See photo below for proof.)

So, to my mom I say: “Thanks for being such a great mother, grandmother, and human being. Happy birthday! And in the words of Winnie the Pooh, to whom you introduced me so many years ago, ‘Many happy returns of the day!'”

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