MY THREE MOMS
Mother's Day, 2012
I am one of the lucky ones. I have been blessed with three mothers in my life. Not only did I have my biological mother who reared me and loved me for her entire life, and I was further blessed with an equally loving mother in law whom you also knew. You've heard stories about both of these remarkable women, whom I love and miss. But I don't believe I've ever told you about my third Mom, Margaret. I have told you about her husband, Roger Adams, the Baptist pastor who was one of the folks responsible for my answering my ministry call; Margaret was his wife. Margaret Adams was the quintessential 1950's and 60's pastor's wife. She played the piano, sang in the choir, and did all the things expected of a pastor's wife in that era. But the most important thing Margaret did was to extend the love of her Lord, Jesus, to everyone with whom she came in contact. It didn't matter if you were trying to see her a vacuum cleaner, or were a lonely GI a long way from home: you were welcome in Margret’s home. For Fay and I, both while we were dating and after we were married, that home became a haven.
Margaret was a musician, a cook, a seamstress, and a spotless housekeeper. Cleanliness was clearly next to Godliness at the Adams household. When the dishes were washed it wasn't enough to rinse them in hot water—they were to be scalded with boiling water from the teapot. Once, when I needed all the insignia sewn on a new set of fatigues, Fay and I went to the Adam's so Fay could borrow a sewing machine. Margaret quickly took over the operation and my uniform was ready just in time for us to join the family for dinner. Those dinners were wonderful occasions, not just because the food was good, but because of the love with which it was shared. It was a table covered with joy and laughter. Especially the time one of her daughters made tacos for the family. Margaret had no idea how to eat such a contraption, and when she was shown how to tilt her head and eat it she said: “They're won't be too many tacos served around here.”
As a pastor's wife, Margaret learned frugality. On one of our first visits, Fay commented that all the furniture had been painted black. “When your a pastor's family.” Margaret said. “You learn to be economical. Some of the parsonages we lived in were partly furnished, and I found that by painting my furniture black it matched everything, wherever we were. On another occasion, her 6 year old granddaughter said: “Grandma, what a pretty dress you have on! What garage sale did you get it at?”
It would be accurate to say that Margaret was a bit too conservative to be comfortable with the social unrest of the 1960's. I remember well the time when Fay, Peggy (Margret’s daughter) her fiance, Ken, and I were at their home watching the Pink Panther on TV. Margaret found the movie a bit to risque', and kept insisting we come into the kitchen for ice cream, or to play Monopoly, anything but watch that dirty movie!
Like all good mother's, Margaret could embarrass me from time to time; though seldom intentionally. One day Fay sent me to the Adams' home with a plate of fresh baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies—the ones my mother used to make. Of course Margaret just had to have the recipe,even after I explained to her that it was a secret family recipe that Fay was given by my mother. “Well I'm going to ask her, anyway.” Margaret said picking up the phone. “Yes. OK. I understand” she said and hung up. “Fay said the recipe is on the oatmeal box.” And, while Margaret never mentioned it again, Fay has made sure I will never live it down.
Margaret was about family—not just her husband and children, but the extended family that included who knows how many like Fay and I. She loved us all, kept track of us and stayed in touch as best she could. In her journal she wrote reams of poetry about her love of Jesus and her family.
One night, after a long, involved, and fun theological discussion it was Margaret who asked if I had ever considered the ministry. I recall giving her a rather blank look and wondering what just planet she was from. But she clearly recognized something in me that I had not yet seen in myself. Years later, when we stopped to see the Adams' on our way home from my first year in seminary, she was thrilled that I had finally answered the call she has seen so long ago.
Unlike so many folks who compartmentalize their life and faith, Margret’s faith in and love of Christ was part and parcel of who she was. She could not even imagine a Sunday without church or a day that didn't start and end with prayer. She clung fiercely to (Rom 8:28) “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.” When her husband was taken by ambulance the the ER and they were in the third of 5 days without insurance she told the hospital: “I don't know how, but you will be paid.” Many was the time Fay and I arrived at her home to meet with Peggy and hear Margret's beautiful voice singing hymns as she went about her work. As a child, Margaret was adopted twice. It was her second adopted father who made sure she had voice lessons. As a young woman she had her own radio show, singing in Cincinnati. She was offered a contract in LA, but not wanting to be a part of that lifestyle chose instead to enroll in the Baptist Missionary Training School in Chicago where she met her seminary-student future husband. Even inn her last years, as she descended into dementia, Margaret continued here witness. When Peggy asked one of the nurses din the care center where Margaret lived how they kept her calm. She was told “we ask her to sing a hymn, and that always calms her down. In December of 2008, at the age of 97, my third Mom finally went to be with Jesus. And on this Mother's day I miss her: but I rejoice knowing that I'll see here again, when we meet at Jesus' feet. See you then, my thee moms!