by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

Imagine a quaint French tearoom … in Texas. Live jazz piano background music. Servings of hot tea, bite-size desserts and chocolate-covered strawberries. A lovely and charming lady surrounded by family and friends telling what they love about her. This describes the recent scene of my mom’s 80th birthday party.

Mother’s Day just around the corner seems a fitting time for me to recognize and honor the woman who has inspired and taught me most about life, courage, persistence and my own spirituality.

Most folks reading this do not know my mother and never will. But her story may sound familiar to some. By society’s standards, even today, she was a child bride. Unhappy at home with her mom and stepfather, she was easily wooed by a handsome young man in uniform. Her teen years were spent as a wife and mother of two. By 1967, she was the mother of four children — three of them grown. She had been married two-thirds of her life.

She struggled with a troubled marriage and health problems. What was next for her? When her marriage ended in divorce, she hit the road, taking me and little else. We often joke how she did manage to pack her ice cream freezer. There are certain priorities that a multi-generational Southerner from Georgia never forgets. This most definitely would include the ability to make homemade ice cream for her guests.

Our road not only took us westward. It would be a life-finding journey for my mother that would bless my life more than I have space to say.

Shortly after her divorce, my mom began studying Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy’s explanation of Christ Jesus’ healings and teachings. These ideas gave her comfort, hope and practical ideas about prayer and healing. It’s not that she didn’t know about God and prayer before. She had been a Bible student all her life, attending a couple of different churches. But now she was starting to gain a new view of her identity that proved to be health-giving and life-regenerating.

How can I summarize her next 40 years? My mother found a new life for herself, step by step. She never gave up, no matter how rough and bumpy the road got. Her belief in herself grew as her trust in God grew. Over the course of these years there were many firsts and accomplishments. From owning her very own car and house, her first bank account to college and a career. And there were also the intangibles of happiness, peace of mind, satisfaction and better health.

Her life has taught me that it’s never too late. Beginnings and first times can happen throughout life at any age. Happiness is not bought with money. Home is in your heart. Joy is God-given and can’t be taken from you. Never give up. I could go on and on!

I don’t think any words are truer than these of Mary Baker Eddy: “The lives of great men and women are miracles of patience and perseverance.” In my eyes and to many who know her, my mom is among the greatest of women, whose life is most certainly a miracle of patience and perseverance. God-given qualities she learned were hers as her identity grew from a struggling single mom to a whole-souled woman reflecting the motherhood and fatherhood of God.

Her achievements against great odds have instilled in me a conviction that anything is possible. Perhaps the greatest gift a mother could ever give to her child. So it’s time for me to say “thank you” to my mom for life lessons that have left indelible marks on me and many others, too. Happy Mother’s Day!