57: Early Mornings with God and Mom

57: Early Mornings with God and Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Early Mornings with God and Mom

Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift from your Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday.

~Og Mandino

Growing up, I went to church with my parents, attended Sunday school, and participated in youth groups and service projects. Although these activities supported my faith development, a daily routine I shared with my mother created the foundation for it.

In one of my early memories, a soft glow floated down the hallway from my parents’ bedroom when I opened my eyes in the morning. The smell of coffee lingered in the air. During some months, it was still dark outside. I slipped out of bed, grabbed some books from the shelf close by, and padded down the hall in pajama feet.

After Mom saw Dad off to work at his sand and gravel business, she returned to bed. In her housecoat, she stretched out to read her Bible, daily devotions, and Sunday school lessons.

Mom smiled when I entered the room, calling out, “Hi, honey!” I climbed into bed with her, flopping down on my dad’s pillow and snuggling up to her side.

While she finished the page and marked her place, I flipped through a book, my brown hair splaying across the pillow like my mom’s wavy locks did on hers.

Mom tugged a thick book from the pile on her bedside table. “Now, where were we?” she asked, as she opened the book of Bible stories for children.

I took out the marker and pointed to the page. “Here, Mom!”

After she finished the story, if we had time, she read from a book of children’s prayers or one of the Golden Books I lugged from my room.

As I listened to the sound of her voice and the rhythm of the language, my hands ran up and down the ridges of the chenille bedspread. Words and pictures became stories, and stories became windows to understand a world that sounded different to me, a child with hearing impairments since birth.

We talked about the pictures as we looked at them. Mom listened patiently to my observations. Sometimes, my words didn’t sound accurate — a concern greater than typical developmental errors for young children — but she didn’t correct me. She simply repeated the word, and then said, “Let’s say it together!”

The early morning quiet time I shared with Mom throughout my childhood gave me a significant lifelong routine. Reading together, interacting with Mom, and observing her daily life taught me about faith. She believed, no matter what, that things worked out — though not always in ways we first imagined. I gained confidence in a world understood through language, scriptures and stories of the Bible, as well as through people who acted on their faith. I began to believe that I, too, could live successfully in such a world.

My mother followed her early morning routine until she died. During my college and career years, my quiet time took a less predictable path. Most days, I grabbed devotional time whenever I could and sometimes fell short. As years passed, I gravitated toward early morning again, by then recognizing more fully this piece of my mother’s legacy — starting with a calm routine set a positive tone for the day. After life-altering surgery in my late forties, I began writing in the early mornings as well, not waiting to see if opportunities occurred later in the day.

Now, at age sixty — wrapped in a purple prayer shawl — I consistently read the Bible and daily devotions, much like my mother, and follow up with writing reflections. Sometimes, I use her Bible, engraved with her name “Marybelle Parks” on the front, and inscribed by my older sister who gave it to her for Christmas in 1955. The Bible embodies her presence because I left her penciled earmarks and notations and scraps of handwritten notes, prayers, and church programs stuck in it, just as they were when she died more than twenty years ago from cancer.

Mom gave me a foundation in language and faith, but more than that — the lifeline, the routine to anchor me. She lived her belief that faith nourished through all times and sustained through all times. Over my own lifetime, as I experienced handling tough situations, I grew in my understanding of a personal relationship with God — a pattern of ongoing reflection and conversation — and the realization that without it, life could well be chaos and restlessness, with no feeling of safe sanctuary. Whether life seemed happy, mundane, puzzling, or troubled, the comforting routine centered me.

My mom knew a firm faith meant gratefulness, spiritual growth, and willingness to witness by example. By sharing her routine and acting as a model, she gave me the foundation to nurture my faith through the joys and jolts of life. Thanks to her, I keep it growing strong every morning.

~Ronda Armstrong

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