(I started this entry last week on Mother’s Day. But the week’s flying, and a few bad days with our internet connection have delayed it being posted. But I think it’s worth it even a week late.)

I found Renee just the other day sitting on the floor in front of the long mirror in our bedroom. She had a curling iron in her hand, an unruly bloom of frizzy auburn hair on her head, and an adorable look of defeat on her face. I guess Renee’s always been at the mercy of a difficult head of hair, and the rainy days we’ve been having here in Nairobi haven’t helped.

But as we went to church last Sunday, I thought she looked nice. The hair, ironed into submission, lay neat and wavy down to her shoulders. It was Mother’s Day. It’s a holiday that doesn’t show on the Kenyan calendar, and could easily be overlooked if you’re not careful. But we remembered… or should I say Renee did. She reminded me gracefully sometime the week before. The kids made cards and breakfast and we bought her bunches of daisies.

At church, the Day was remembered in the sermon. And in the sermon was the obligatory salute to that woman of virtue from the book of Proverbs – that nameless woman known only by the chapter in which she resides. And there she was, getting up early and laboring tirelessly, cooking bountifully, buying property and whatnot. She’s strong and dignified, both blessed and a blessing, and perhaps, at the end of the day, nothing but a poem. I don’t know if there ever was such a woman, or if the passage in Proverbs 31 is a fiction. But I’ve heard the chapter read on more than a few occasions as an extraordinary ideal to aspire to, and I imagine it’s left many women feeling just plain ordinary. I know one woman at least.

I thought about Renee much of that day, and how not ordinary she is. You might not know it unless you knew her, or if you only saw her there in that singular moment like I did, on the floor with a curling iron and a disappointed face looking back from the mirror. Sometimes, I think Renee doesn’t even know it. I suspect that she might mistakenly gauge her life by the hairstyle she can’t quite control, or the dinner that didn’t come out quite right, or the unfinished or unrealized dreams she tucks away inside. Instead of the many other things that make her remarkable, like being a mother.

I was there for the miracle of the births of our two children. I wasn’t there, however, when Renee prayed with each of them, years later and in God’s timing, as they turned their hearts to the Lord. I remember one night while I was far off on flight duty in Sudan and I got a text message on my phone: “Amelia prayed to receive Christ tonight” it stated plainly. I stared at the glowing orange text and smiled. All of a sudden all my skills and experience and hard labor as a missionary seemed very small. And I texted back this reply: “This is how a mom changes the world.”

She gave them life, and better still, pointed them to the True Life. Over the past couple of years it has also impressed me to watch my children read. And it struck me that this too they owe to their mom. No matter how long our children live, or where life takes them, they will always and forever have a reminder, in every printed word, that it was their mother who first taught them.

What incredible gifts; life, faith, knowledge. Are there any greater things that one human being could give to another? And Renee shrugs her shoulders. Sometimes thinks she’s not important. Sighs at the reflection in the mirror and wonders why I call her beautiful. But she is. One day our kids will see what I see, and perhaps Renee will too.

(Happy Mother’s Day sweetie.)