Christmas lights twinkled down the wet streets of Burnaby, B.C., as my husband and I drove to our friends’ house for dinner. It was a rainy evening in early December, and I had just begun my maternity leave. I shifted uncomfortably in the car seat, my nine-months-pregnant belly pressing up against my ribs.

I was looking forward to this evening; a restful time for comfort food and gentle conversation with Mark and Muriel, who had been friends of my parents since I was small. As I looked out the window at the glittering lights, I sighed, my thoughts once again turning to my mother.

I was just 14 when my mother passed away after a long illness. She had poured her heart into my brother and I; our character, personality and talents had been carefully and lovingly guided by her hand, and the values she instilled in us would stay with us and continue to blossom as we matured into adulthood. Though we carried her love on with us, we were not spared from missing her deeply, especially on special occasions and during life’s milestone moments. So, with the birth of my first child approaching, I longed to share this life-changing experience with my mother. I did not know it at the time, but on this December evening, my longing would be met with a wonderful gift, one far greater than I ever could have hoped for.

A mother’s wisdom

In the winter of 1985, my mother learned that her friend was expecting her first baby. Always one to give a thoughtful, homemade gift rather than a store-bought one, my mother set about compiling a scrapbook for her friend.

She intended the book to be a manual for a new mother, but not dealing with the usual subjects of diapering, feeding and sleep routines. It was instead about the greater calling of a mother: how to raise children who know God’s love and who grow to be like Him. The first section of the book was filled with advice and encouragement, interspersed with relevant, witty comics carefully selected from the newspaper. In the second section, she copied out traditional children’s rhymes and decorated the pages with whimsical figures cut from recycled birthday cards and wrapping paper. Finally, my mother created nearly 20 daily devotions. Each devotion began with a lesson that my mother had learned through raising her own young children, and finished with scriptures to look up and practical ways to apply these truths as a mother. The finished product was a treasure store of all her accumulated wisdom. It must have taken her hours to complete.

My Christmas miracle

As dinner drew to a close, Muriel announced that she had a gift for me. Baby clothes, I thought to myself. With a gift-wrapped present in her hands and tears in her eyes, Muriel knelt beside me and began to share how my mother had given this scrapbook to her more than 20 years ago. I had had no idea of the book’s existence until this moment. She told me that when my mother died, Muriel felt immediately that she should keep this scrapbook "in trust" for me, sensing that it had really been meant for me all along.

Tears fell from my eyes as I opened the cover and saw the first yellowed page. There, in my mother’s handwriting, was her cheerful introduction to the book, and below it, a Family Circus comic with the children gathered around their expectant mother. I could not turn past the first page that night, completely overwhelmed at the treasure in my hands.

In the weeks that followed, up to the birth of my son, I would sit down each morning with a cup of tea and the scrapbook to laugh and cry my way through. I felt as though my mother and I were sitting down for a chat together each morning, to have those conversations we were never able to have, about child rearing and motherhood. It was all in her words, her handwriting, her wry humour . . . and the years we had been apart seemed to fall away.

Faithfulness to each generation

For me, this book is a miracle, and I am struck by its humble beginnings. The book was created with my mother’s simple artistic skill and the content came purely from what was in her heart. The scrapbook is not perfect; there are occasional errors that show she was putting the book together in the midst of the busyness of life. It was delivered without fanfare, and received no accolades or awards. But in God’s hands, this gift became one of extraordinary and lasting value.

My mother’s scrapbook reminds me that God loves to use the "small" things of this world to accomplish His purposes. This comes as a great encouragement to me as a mother, having left the professional world with its monetary rewards and recognition to be a full-time mom. I am reminded in those little, daily interactions with my son – a kiss of comfort, a word of correction, a returned smile – that a work of lasting value is taking place: the truth and love of God are being handed down one generation at a time.

© 2007 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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