This post is written by Major Kris Wood: he currently serves with his wife, Mary Ann as The Salvation Army Corps Officers of the St. Louis Maplewood Corps. He has three children that bring the greatest joy to his life. His mother, Ruth Wood, lives in active retirement with her husband, Max Wood, in Clearwater, Florida.
I grew up in one of the oldest houses in the city of Oak Park, Michigan. I saw a picture of our house and the neighbor’s house after they were built and to the west of them was nothing but a forest of Oak trees. No houses were around. It is no wonder that we lived at the corner of Oak Park Blvd. and Forest. It was an old house with unique things like the coal shoot and the oil burner furnace. The coal shoot was a cast iron door built into the foundation of our house. We had paid someone to weld it shut after the coal burning furnace was replaced by the oil burner.
I remember the oil truck pulling up beside our house and the long hose that looked like the gas station hose was pulled to a receptacle at the side of our house, where the oil man would fill the large metal oil tank that sat where the coal bin had once sat. Time and progress took their places and the oil burner was removed and a “modern” natural gas burning stove was installed into our house. It was a huge change because what had once been the “furnace room” was now an empty room and my Mother quickly claimed it as hers. She did not care that the walls were stained black by coal dust or that there was always the hint of oil in the air; it was her room.
Looking back, I see that in that old house there was no place where my Mom could call hers. She had to share everything with my Dad and all five of us children. So, that room, with all of its downfalls became my Mother’s sanctuary; her sewing room. Every day after I walked home from school my Mom would be in the basement in her sewing room. The sound of a.m. radio was loud so that she could hear it over the sound of her old Singer Sewing machine. She listened to her station of choice as the different deep male voices would update the news, play music from my Mom’s era and add just a bit of humor to fill her afternoons.
The station would spin the tunes of Sinatra and Count Basie and intersperse cute little stories of family times and hayrides, picnics in the park and days at the beach. My Mom had her own little escape where she could be alone and enjoy what she enjoyed and allow her creative juices to flow.
When I think of my Mom, I think first of her amazing ability to create things. She could create beautiful afghan blankets, detailed needle point wall hangings and she could knit the cutest sweaters for every newborn baby in our church. All of these things showed her amazing skills but sewing was where my Mother excelled the most. Sewing was where things got serious for my mother. She was always making wedding dresses for brides and bridesmaids.
I have to confess that I had my share of time holding a dress pattern in place as my Mother pinned the pattern to the material she was going to use to make the dress. Sometimes I would even have to cut material for her as she held a delicate section together with her hands. Most of the time, my sisters would be her helpers but when a full wedding ensemble was being made in the basement all hands were needed to help. So, there we were, all holding corners of material, placing pins and needles precisely where my Mom directed them to be. Her ability to see the finished product long before it had taken form was amazing. Her minor changes in the patterns created the much needed personal touch that took a dress from being like all the others to being a uniquely crafted piece of art.
My Mom was an artist.
It is the ability of a Mother to see the finished product long before it takes form, to look at the uncut, flat and lifeless material and see not what others see but what will be. My Mother saw in me something no one else saw and something I never saw for myself when she looked at my scrawny, socially inept awkward boyhood life and saw the kind of man I would become. She saw in me a writer, a preacher and a teacher when I was terrified of people and felt that no one would care to read anything I ever wrote. She saw in me the sensitivity to God’s voice that would move my life to become a Salvation Army Officer, just as her parents had been Salvation Army Officers.
I felt inadequate and so much less than what others expected me to be but my Mom knew what I would be and became my biggest fan. Her encouragement was like that special little touch to the dress that made it something special. I feel that I am a unique and capable person because of all the encouragement my Mom gave me over the years.
Today, my Mom can’t sew anymore because arthritis has taken its brutal toll on her fingers, she does some needle point and cross stitch but only if she can force herself through terrible pain. She sits on her couch and does crossword puzzles and watches 24 hour news on the television. Yet, she still sees in people things that they don’t see in themselves.
She may be 85 years old but her ability to “mother” people has not lessened at all. She still is the voice of encouragement to the young man or young woman in her church telling them the great things God has in store for their lives. She is still helping to mold and shape lives as she looks to what people can be rather than what they are. Although her memory is not what it used to be, her vision is still perfect. She sees what God sees when He looks at people. She sees what people will be, not what they are.
I am reminded that God looks beyond the outward appearances of people and sees our hearts. He knows what we can be and He encourages us to move in that direction. He is our biggest fan as he gently pins and shapes and sometimes trims away the material of our lives that is no longer needed. He cheers for us as he guides us toward the person He has always known we could be.