2017 was a wonderful year in so many ways.
But if I'm being honest, it was also a hard year.
In 2017, my mom lost both of her parents.
Of course, this would be a difficult situation for anybody...losing both parents in one year.
But it was especially difficult for us.
A strained family relationship can make loss seem so much greater.
Mom wasn't only grieving for the loss of her parents, but for the absence of a normal functioning family.
Grieving the loss of the chance at reconciliation and healing.
Someday I will tell her story in it's entirety.
But not today.
Today, I want to recognize some of the difference-makers in her life.
Mom can remember going to Vacation Bible School at a very young age with her Aunt Peggy's mother, Mrs. McIntire.
Mrs. McIntire always made Mom feel like she was thrilled to have her there. Mom still thinks of her when she smells koolaid...all these years later.
Mrs. McIntire was difference-maker.
When Mom was about five, she remembers starting to go with her grandma to her adult Sunday school group.
They met at each others' houses.
Mom has fond memories of spending time with her grandma's friends...serving punch and cake and just visiting with them.
These women were difference-makers.
Mom went to church every week as a child with her Grandma Hannah (great name, huh?).
When she was in second grade, she remembers wanting a Bible with her name on it for Christmas.
She got this gift and remembers reading it every night, loving every minute.
Grandma Hannah was a difference-maker.
When Mom's family moved to Adrian her seventh grade year, the Johnson family took her to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.
It was during this time that she went on a "Youth for Christ" hayride and committed her life to Christ.
Hal & Fern Johnson were difference-makers.
Throughout Mom's middle school and high school years, her friends' mothers became wonderful mentors to her.
These women helped her get through school.
They taught her about honesty and hard work.
They taught her character traits and Christian principles that continue to serve her well, over thirty years later.
Fern Johnson, Darlene Greenwell, Lila Gunn, Jeanie Brewster, Thelma Six, and countless others were difference-makers.
Mom got married in 1980 to my dear ol' dad.
Dad has supported Mom through many insecurities that came from a difficult past.
Together, they have raised two amazing children, if I do say so myself...ha...just kidding.
Because of the difference-makers in Mom's life, she has an amazing story of grace and generosity and love for others.
She and Dad have adopted another daughter and provided for countless other foster children throughout our lives.
She has a heart for children who have been mistreated.
She has served in the Church for in every way imaginable...for all age groups and many ministries.
She sees a need and meets it.
My mom is a difference-maker.
Despite a painful childhood, filled with neglect and abuse...she is a difference-maker.
Despite anxiety and insecurity that comes from her past...she is a difference-maker.
Despite the odds being seemingly stacked against her...she is a difference-maker.
THAT is the power in kindness and compassion.
THAT is the power in really seeing people.
THAT is the power in serving others.
THAT is the power found in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We CAN make a difference, friends.
Last week, I wrote about my grandmother's time (for the last sixty years) as the organist for Adrian Christian Church.
This got me to reminiscing.
I have so many memories in the church and one of my favorites is visiting with "the quilting ladies".
For the first 25 years of my life (at least), there was a group of ladies who met every Tuesday to quilt in the basement of our old church that used to sit smack-dab in the middle of town.
Before I was in school and in the summertime after I started school, I can remember going to the church with our grandmother and great-grandmother on quilting day.
I can still hear the chatter of the quilting ladies and picture them sitting around working diligently on their masterpieces.
I can picture so many special women who have gone on to see Jesus before us sitting around those quilts.
When I think about these women, I think of patience...
I think of attention to detail...
I think of friendship.
When I think about these women, I can see in my mind some of my most precious spiritual mentors through my young adult life...
I can hear their laughter as they shared stories of the good ol' days...
I can still smell the food they brought to share a meal together each week.
Looking back, I realize how much I learned just watching these ladies work...week-in and week-out.
The quilting days of Adrian Christian Church have come to an end.
But it just takes a second for me to close my eyes and be transported back to that church basement, back to a simpler time...spending time with some of the most wonderful ladies I was ever privileged to meet.
What a sweet, sweet memory.