To my mother on your eighty-fourth birthday:
I want to take this opportunity to recognize and honor you.
For you have loved me with the love of Christ.
For like His children I have many times been undeserving and disobedient.
Like Christ, you have continued to love me unconditionally.
Mama, you have modeled for your children and grandchildren the life that Christ has called us to live -- helping others, living unselfishly, and always caring more for the needs of others than those of your own.
God commanded us in Exodus 20:12 to "Honor your father and your mother, that you may live a long time in the land the LORD your God is giving to you."
Though I have failed to honor you as I should have, you are nevertheless fully deserving of honor.
Looking back to my childhood, I see in so many ways that you were deserving of honor.
You demonstrated for us how a woman lives a godly life and you modeled for us the character of Christian mother. You always made sure that Susan and I were in Sunday School and Church. When summertime rolled around we were in Bible School and when there was a Church camp, you drove us across the state to participate.
You encouraged me in confirmation class and I joined the church when I was 10 years old.
When I went away to school, hardly a day went by that I didn't receive a letter from you sending me news, encouragement, and just letting me know that you loved me.
You taught me the value of my cultural heritage and an appreciation of history in our town, county, and state. You took Susan and me on a trip to Virginia where we visited many historical places, encouraging us to learn from those who had come before us. You supervised my Boy Scout troop in cleaning out the trash from Miss Ida's house to make way for the Bedingfield Inn. I remember you encouraging me and helping me to write a history paper in high school about a village being started in Lumpkin named Westville.
And not only have you influenced your own family by living you faith, you have influenced countless people in your church and community. You have cared for the needs of the sick and disabled in your church. You has served in many capacities but none more important to the children of your church than that of Sunday School teacher.
Thank you for correction and punishment when I misbehaved.
Thank you for not disowning me when my hair was too long.
Thank you for your forgiveness when I got into trouble.
Thank you for loving me when I didn't show thankfulness.
Thank you for the unmerited favor you have given to me.
Thank you that when I thought that I needed a van you made curtains for it and helped me decorate it.
Thank you for the example that you set for me of empathy, energy, thoughtfulness, compassion, encouragement, drive, enthusiasm, and love.
Our grandmother Gatewood's words are true:
"I need no picture of my Mother's face. So full of loving kindness, strength and grace.
Her home a haven and refuge sweet. And she's the center and charm of it."
I love you Mama.