Sixty years ago, in a little hospital in rural Northern Ireland, a little baby girl came kicking and screaming into the world. I won't tell you what her mother's first comment about her baby's appearance was... lets just say her judgement was perhaps clouded by a few good hours of pain like she'd never felt before (although my grandmother always maintained it never hurt a bit! If only I'd inherited that gene!!) but the first words spoken about this new little life were not particularly complimentary!
Despite all that, the little girl was welcomed with open arms; the firstborn child of a farming couple living in a big house in the countryside, and the arrival of this child changed their lives forever. Parenthood does that to you. It changes the course of your life in so many ways, and little baby Anna Sophia no doubt changed the course of hers...
Two siblings followed over the next few years; a little boy, and then another little girl, and the idyllic country childhood was spent in the fields, under the trees with all kinds of imaginary play... there was "Bat club" and "Eggypeggy" language, there were copious tennis matches, and lots of make believe. It wasn't without its trials, no childhood is, but it was sheltered, and safe and remembered by those who were fortunate enough to experience it with a kind of fuzzy fondness that makes it hard to distinguish between reality and those ever-present rose-tinted glasses.
Needless to say, it was pretty idyllic.
Of course, the three little children grew up... the younger two perhaps more adventurous spirits dreamed of great adventures, of travelling abroad and seeing the world. Anna, however, preferred the comforts of home - contented with her little spot of Northern Ireland and never particularly desiring to move too far away.
Except then along came Bobby - an adventurous youngster with big dreams, and plans to move across the Irish Sea to seek work in London. They met on a christian holiday camp, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Two years later, Anna was crossing the Irish sea with him, newly wed, and waving goodbye to all the security and comfort she had known to follow this young aspiring engineer to England. It was all brand new - new country, new job, new home, new church, new accents. For a young woman who preferred to work away in the background, unassuming and quieter of nature, I can only imagine how daunting all the "newness" must have been.
But quiet and unassuming as she was, the young Anna never struggled to make friendships. She warmed people to her immediately, always a listening ear, always consistent and loyal and sacrificial with her time and energy.
And it wasn't long before she was to start that adventure which demands sacrifice more than any other.
In the summer of 1985, Anna became a mother.
It is said that some people are born teachers, some are born to be politicians, some are born to be businessmen and women. The signs are there from the youngest age... and no-one is surprised when the prophecy becomes fulfilled.
I think its fair to say Anna was born to be a mother.
I count it one of the greatest privileges of my life, and I know my siblings do too, that we were blessed to be the children of this particular young woman. My own childhood was filled with wonderful memories... the hours we would spend in the evening reading all those children's classics - "Little Women", "What Katy Did", "Heidi" and "Anne of Green Gables"... memories of coming home from school to the scent of dinner, Sunday afternoon walks, the clothes she knitted for my dolls. But more than what she did, I think the thing that stands out most about my Mum, was that she was always there. Many of my childhood memories are circled around my siblings, my wider family, my nextdoor neighbours and friends, but my mother's presence punctuates every memory I have. Always there... always with a listening ear, and just about the most sacrificial person you'll ever meet. I do not lie when I say my Mother has been my ultimate role model when it comes to bringing up my own children. She made mistakes, and owned them... listened to us, whatever time of night or day.... dropped what she was doing to run art overalls and forgotten pencil cases up to school... wore the same wardrobe for years in order to make sure we had clothes that fit us (and yet somehow always managed to look stylish - how?!?) She stayed home to look after us, and paid the cost of therefore allowing my Dad to move up the ranks of a more demanding job in order that she could stay at home with us. It certainly wasn't easy, with no family around to support, her own family hundreds of miles away... but she did it with grace, and sacrifice, and modelled to us daily the generous, sacrificial love that she herself had received from the Saviour.
|My Mum with each of my babies|
People often tell me I get my copious energy from my Father. It's true, I do. But my Mother is right up there with him... she'll just be quietly beavering away, baking up a storm for someone in need, meeting up for a coffee with a friend who's struggling, being the most wonderful grandmother to my children, and a "surrogate" grandmother to many of my friends children too... She volunteers every week for hours, doing often unseen jobs, and never complains about feeling over-used or taken-for-granted. She is a listening ear, and is the first point of call for more people than she probably realises.
And today, she turns 60.
Sixty years glorifying God through a quiet, well-lived, unassuming life that has pointed all those around her to Jesus.
Mum, if I am half the woman of God you are, when I reach sixty, I will have reason to thank God indeed.
Thank you for always pointing me to Jesus. I love you!
Happy Birthday Mama!
PS - Sorry for announcing to the world how old you are!