Words My Mom Said that Still Influence My Life: A Tribute
In Honor of You, Mom
Looking back on my childhood, my mom shared many life lessons through her words and actions. As an adult, I am realizing more and more the influence she had, and continues to have, on my life. In honor of her, I'm sharing five of the phrases she often said that still encourage and motivate me even now.
Words from My Mom:
- Bloom where you are planted.
- Do it right the first time.
- Make good choices.
- Leave it better than you found it.
- I love you.
Over 100 Million Words in 18 Years
According to an eight-year study at the University of Arizona, a woman speaks an average of 16,250 words per day. In light of this, it is interesting to consider that in parenting a child from birth to eighteen, a mom speaks over 100 million words (I did the math like this: 16,250 words per day * 365 days per year * 18 years = 106,762,500 words)! Once more, that was 100 million words! Actions may speak louder than words, but words still speak.
Check out this humorous video called the "Mom Song" illustrating the many words a mom says in a day.
A Lifetime of Mom-isms in 3 Minutes by Anita Renfroe
Rate the Mom Song!
Whew! I'm exhausted...but I still want to be a mom someday! This song quickly illustrates that a mom says many words. Some may be in the form of nagging ("make your bed"), some may be spoken through the mouthpiece of exhaustion ("I'm the mom"), and still some are spoken out of love ("you can do it"). Hopefully it is those words spoken out of love that are remembered most.
Phrase 1: "Bloom where you are planted."
"Bloom where you are planted."
This is a phrase I remember hearing at critical points in my life when I was about to embark on a new chapter of life. When I went to college, mom said, "Bloom where you are planted." When I moved away for my first "real" job Mom said, "Bloom where you are planted." And even just last week as I was questioning my purpose for this season in my life Mom said, "Bloom where you are planted." She wrote it on cards, said it over the phone, and prayed it over me.
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
A Daily Reminder
What Does It Mean?
When Queen Esther, a Jew, was living in King Xerxes' royal palace, she wondered why she had been taken from her home and chosen to be his queen. She had already lost both her parents, and now she had lost her home and had to hide her identity as a Jew. Brave Esther had secret conversations with her cherished Uncle Mordecai often. One time he told her to consider that maybe she was there for "such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). While I have never been in quite the same situation, I have been able to relate to Esther's angst and doubted my purpose during different times of my life. But Mom knew just want to say:
- "Bloom...": Mom often reminded me that God knows the longings of my heart. He hears every sigh (Psalm 38:9). Being confident of this, I could "bloom" by being open to what God has for me in that moment. When I enjoy the little things of life and share that love with others I am blooming. When I am confident in who God has made me to be, I am blooming. When I press on in the midst of a difficult situation instead of giving up, I am blooming.
- "...Where You Are Planted.": When Mom said this she meant wherever I live and whatever season I find myself living in. As a plant is in a specific spot, I am too. Instead of wishing to be planted somewhere else, I can rest in the truth that wherever I am at that specific time, God sees me. He has a plan in the midst of my time in that place and I need not wish I were someplace else. Otherwise, I might miss out on realizing the opportunities to bloom before my very eyes.
Phrase 2: "Do it right the first time."
When you hear your mom's voice in your head what do you do?
Learning Through Chores
Both my parents had realistic expectations of how we should help around the house:
- Daily: Make our beds and help with our rotating dinner job (dishes, setting the table, clearing the table).
- Weekly: Put away laundry after Mom took the time to wash and fold it and complete our rotating house cleaning job (cleaning our bathroom, vacuuming one floor, collecting the trash, etc).
Not unreasonable by any means. But, I'll admit that at the time, I didn't really enjoy any of them, especially those weekly rotating house cleaning jobs. Pulling weeds in the spring? Nah. They just grow back. Mowing in the summer? Count me out. Raking in the fall? Ugh. More leaves are just going to fall. Shovel in the winter? Arms. Too. Weak. You get the idea. But as a good daughter, eventually I would obey.
I knew what my chore completion expectations were, but it wasn't until the very last moments of the last day of the week that I would eventually get around to them. If I did not, I began feeling guilty inside. Why? Because Mom taught me the importance of hard work. Not only that, but of doing things right.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
What Does It Mean?
After a half-hearted attempt at a quick rub-down of the bathroom I remember Mom invited all three of us kids into the bathroom. She took the time to show us the appropriate way to clean. If we did it right, it really wouldn't take that much time. At that age, though, it felt unrealistic. I remember Mom pulling me aside and reminding me of this phrase I heard often growing up:
- "Do it right...": Mom set a standard of doing everything the best we could. She didn't set unrealistic expectations, but rather, wanted us to do everything right. I think part of her reasoning was rooted in the truth that as Christ-followers we are to work at everything with all our hearts, as if working for God rather than men (Colossians 3:23).
- "...The first time.": Why try to do something just to get it done? It is not worth it to do a half-hearted attempt and then have to go back and fix it. This is probably part of the reason why I spend time researching things and thoughtfully consider options before jumping in.
Phrase 3: "Make good choices."
Choices, choices. Each day is filled with many. From the minute to the life-changing...choices matter. I know this, because Mom told me so time and time and time again. (Okay, this is not the only reason why I know this, but it is part of the reason. Life experience has helped a little along the way.)
I remember both my parents intentionally teaching my brother, sister, and I about doing the right thing, even if no one is watching. It's called integrity. We even played a game, I think it was called Kids Choices. I tried to find it on Amazon, but didn't see it. I remember it came in a yellow box. Anyway, I digress. There were cards with scenarios a typical child might experience. Then, the card listed choices. Everyone else had to choose which choice they think you would make and if their guess agreed with the choice you would make, you moved your token on the board. My parents used this as one small tool to teach the importance of choices and why we make them. The reason why we made our choices were based on who God is. God is honest, faithful, loving, kind, and so I should be too. Of course, this is never fully achieved in life, but it is our aim.
Living So That is a fantastic book about just that. I have read it with Mom and would highly recommend it to anyone seeking to grow in faith.
What Does It Mean?
Most of the choices I make happen almost instantly inside my head without anyone seeing them. What am I thinking about? Where is my focus? These choices matter just as much as the outward ones that affect other people. So, as a reminder before hanging out with friends or heading off to school, Mom consistently reminded me to:
- "Make...": The subject in this phrase is missing, it is an implied "you." As if Mom were saying, "Marissa, make..." Make is the verb, the action word. I have the power to choose. I decide. It's up to me.
- "...Good choices.": This implies that I have the wisdom, even as a child, teenager, and young adult, to discern between what is good and what is not. It is built inside of me through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the "good choice" is not the fun one or the easy one in the short-term, but in the long-term it is best.
Mom's urge to "make good choices" resonates in me even now as I am learning to make "faith-filled" choices in the midst of a messy life.
Phrase 4: "Leave it better than you found it."
Now this one, this phrase is a bit of a challenge. It isn't enough to just "do it right the first time," I must also strive to "leave it better." Oh boy. Fortunately, Mom showed this through her actions, so I saw an example before me. I remember her saying this after staying for a week with my grandparents for a holiday. I cannot remember the exact holiday or how old I was, but I remember her asking me to help clean before we left. In fact, we did this each time we stayed at somebody's home. We took the sheets off the bed, gathered our towels and trash, and asked if there was anything we could do to help. This is one small way Mom taught me to "leave it better." The same is true of any job I have had or any relationship. If I encourage someone else, or lift someone else up, I have left them better than I found them, so to speak. When I volunteer, give a smile, or go above what is expected, I am leaving "it better than I found it."
What Does It Mean?
I remember Mom saying this throughout my childhood:
- "Leave it better...": Mom meant to always look for ways you can help, even if it is small. Any small act of kindness is not wasted. You never know what seeds you may be planting.
- "...Than you found it.": I can walk into any situation or place and notice myself and my needs, or noticing others. Then I have a choice to keep it that way, the way I found it, or do something.
Phrase 5: I Love You.
Three Simple Words
Now this one is dearest to my heart. These three simple words mean the most to me. Just thinking about Mom looking into my eyes saying, "I love you," brings a little moisture to my eyes. I knew Mom loved me no matter what because she showed me and wrote it on paper, but most importantly, because she told me. I didn't hear it every day, but when I did hear it, it stirred something in my soul. I think it is the deepest longing of our souls to be truly and unconditionally loved.
Love in Another Language
"I Love You"
zhuh tah-door (the j sounds like the g in age)
Ich liebe Dich.
ish leeba dish or ick leeba dick
Wo ài ni.
wuh eye nee
It Seems to Me...
Like is a feeling.
is a choice.
What Does It Mean?
In any language, "I love you" is a bond meant to ever-last between a mother and child, literally connected together at birth. I may not always "bloom" where I am planted, do it "right" the first time, make "good" choices or leave it "better" than I found it, but I will always be loved by Mom. Like and love are very different. Like is a feeling. Love is a choice. I cherish the times my Mom said those three simple words:
- "I...": My Mom, the one whom kept me safe in and out of her tummy. The one who laughs and cries with me when I don't know what to do. The one who always wants what is best for me. This woman, she is the one speaking to me.
- "...Love...": In this phrase, love is the verb. It is not a noun, a thing, it is an action. My Mom chooses an "agape" kind of love. Agape is a Greek word often translated "unconditional love." It is the same word used in the past-tense in John 3:16 describing God's love for the world. For God so "agapaō" the world that he sent His one and only son. That is the love of which my Mom means when she says this.
- "...You.": What a special word. Me. She says it to me. Her first-born. The one whose stubbornness caused her many a frustration. The one who was the first to move away from home on her own after graduating from college. The one who fell in love with and married a man she didn't have much of a chance to get to know. That one. My Mom loves me.
Let's Honor Our Moms!
Join the conversation to honor our moms! In the comments below, share some of the phrases your mom often said to you--those things you still hear in your head years later. If you aren't sure, share one of the important lessons your mom taught you. I look forward to reading your comments!
Thank You, Mom, For Teaching Me To:
- Bloom where I'm planted.
- Do it right the first time.
- Make good choices.
- Leave it better than I find it.
- Say, "I love you."
I love you, Mom!