My great grandma taught me how to crochet when I was nine years old. She was 90 at the time, still living on her own in a little cottage on a lake, with a basement full of mysterious old things just waiting to be explored and the lake full of fish and frogs just waiting to be caught. When we visited, there were always mashed potatoes for dinner (my favorite) and vanilla ice cream for dessert, served in a little red and white patterned china dish. Her gnarled hands were deft with a crochet hook, her bright eyes sparkled while she talked and worked, and the house was full to bursting of the brightly colored doilies and afghans she whipped up at the drop of a hat. Friends and relatives would bring her odds and ends of yarn—leftover bits from this or that project—which she’d find a way to pair up in color combinations and creative stitches to make something new. From my great grandma, I learned resilience. I learned creativity, to make something of beauty out of whatever leftover odds and ends I can find. I learned to crochet. I still have an old toothbrush case full of her crochet hooks that she gave me.
My grandma taught me how to make a bed when I was twelve years old. She showed me how to tuck in the corners just so, to turn the top sheet back over the edge of the quilt, and when all else was perfect, to turn down the front corner invitingly, ready to welcome whoever was going to sleep there. She said when she got done making a bed it looked so nice she wanted to crawl right in and take a nap. My grandma is renowned for her hospitality. She lives in what was once a tiny square house, until a huge great room was built off the back, complete with the best fireplace in the world as the centerpiece. More people have stayed as guests, more parties have been hosted in that house than anyone could count. Those who enter as strangers leave as friends and family, met by the warm, cheerful, easy-going hospitality and laughter that emanates from my grandma’s house. From my grandma, I learned cheerful generosity. I learned to laugh at life, to not take myself too seriously. I learned how to make everyday life a thing of open hospitality, not perfect, but always ready to welcome others in. I learned how to make a bed so well that it makes you want to climb right in and take a nap.
My own mother taught me more than I can recount. And while I’m still pretty new at motherhood, every day it seems I do more things like her—even those things I didn’t like as a child and thought I’d never do. Our home wasn’t always well organized. Our birthday parties were not decadent affairs. And she never did learn how to do my hair perfectly for ballet recitals. But my childhood glows with the warmth of her love, her care, her laughter, her cooking, her daily ongoing, never ceasing, never ending, strong self-sacrifice and pouring out for her family. And it didn’t end with childhood, as all of her children, and now grandchildren, still rely on her regularly for care, support, love, and those practical questions of life, like how do I get stains out of this load of laundry that ran with a red crayon in it?? From my mother, I learned what good family life is like. I learned that it’s worth doing good, even if it doesn’t look perfect. I learned what sacrificial life looks like—and that it is incredibly beautiful and worthwhile. I learned more than I can recount.
And maybe more than anything, these women were faithful—faithful to God, faithful to their families, faithful to doing the job God had given them to do, no matter how insignificant it may have seemed. I don’t know why I was blessed with such an amazing legacy of mothers in my life. I certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. All I know is that those to whom much has been given, much will be required; I want to do all that I can to continue their story of faith. For the moments when being a mom seems hard or not worth it or an underappreciated role, I am inspired to think of the mothers who have gone before me, of the immense beauty and worth they have brought to my own life, and of the deep, deep appreciation I feel for them, and I am encouraged. Encouraged to know that I am building much more than just what I see every day—laundry, cooking, cleaning, another diaper, another snotty nose to wipe—but a legacy of faith that, Lord willing, could continue on for generations.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5)
By Sarah Williamson
Sarah is a wife and full time mom to three young kiddos. She grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, studied English and French at the University of Michigan (go Blue!), but now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she and her husband help lead an intentional Christian community group and serve college students with University Christian Outreach. In what spare time she can find, Sarah enjoys experimental cooking, gardening, playing Scrabble, being outside, and reading good children's literature.