Today is Mom's birthday. Mom was such a kind, humble and gentle woman. She was loved dearly by everyone who met her.
Helen Loetta Mitchelle Willingham was born January 6, 1932 in Poplar Bluff, MO. She was the daughter of a German dairy farmer and a homemaker (who later got her LPN degree and worked as a nurse at Lucy Lee Hospital). She moved once in her growing up years. Her dad (known to most as Pop) built a new stone house across the road. Big move, huh? Mom liked to say that she wasn't a hillbilly...she was a swamp lily! And what a beautiful flower whe was!
Mom was raised in New Home General Baptist Church. She knew the value of hard work. She had loving, Godly parents. She was the oldest of 4 children with 2 younger sisters and a younger brother. On Sundays her parents would invite lots of people over for Sunday dinner. Gram always had a huge spread on the table. Pop and Gram would often send potatoes, eggs - whatever they could spare - home with people. This was depression times and many people went hungry but Gram and Pop worked hard to garden, raise chickens, cows, etc and their family ate well. For some people the Sunday dinner was by far their best meal of the week!
When she graduated from Poplar Bluff High School, she went on a class trip to Washington, DC. That was the first time she had ever left Butler County. When she was 20 years old she met a Navy man who was on leave. A few short weeks, she married him and moved to San Diego CA where he was stationed. He got on a boat and she didn't see him for weeks and even months at a time! Can you imagine this naive young country girl living by herself in this big city? Thank goodness my Aunt Sis (Mom's younger sister - Marilyn) joined her later.
That was just the beginning of the incredible journey their marriage became! Dad was called into the ministry while serving in the Navy. Once he finished his service they moved to Indiana where Dad went to school at Oakland City University. When Dad graduated they had 3 boys and a baby on the way. I was born in Cape Giradeau, MO while they were pastoring a church in Chaffee, MO. Mom certainly had her work cut out for her! They ended up serving the Lord in churches, orphanages, and Bible colleges in southern Missouri, Florida, Jamiaca, Hondurous, and China. What an amazing life!
Through it all, Mom was faithful to pack up yet again and move one more time. It wasn't easy for her. She would have preferred to stay in one spot but she selflessly followed where ever God called them. Without Mom's help, Dad would not have done a tenth of the things he accomplished - although Mom would object to me saying that. Without a doubt, she was Dad's number 1 fan!
And she was my number 1 fan. What a wonderful mother she was. She loved her family. All Mom ever wanted was for all of us to be together. For their 50th wedding anniversary all of us (their kids, grand kids, and her sister and brother-in-law) got together at Lake Pomme de Terre in Missouri. We had a wonderful vacation together, boating, swimming, fishing but mainly enjoying each others company. I'm so glad we did that.
Mom would always send the sweetest notes in her beautiful handwriting. She would encourage and gently nudge her children and grand children with her notes that were lovingly and thoughtfully written. After she died I found letters in her file cabinet that she had written and then corrected, re-worded and obviously then re-wrote and mailed the final draft. I never knew she had taken so much care in her writing to make sure she made her point without offending or discouraging anyone. More than anything she wanted to encourage her children and grand children to live for the Lord.
I still have many of the notes and letters she wrote me. One she wrote me when I was 17. It was a short note and in it she wrote out 2 verses that she encouraged me to memorize and use them to guide my life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 King James Version
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
I memorized it in the King James version but I love the way it reads in The Message version:
Proverbs 3:5-6 The Message
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
I love you, Mom and I'm listening!