Monday, June 28, 2010

A Tribute To My Mother, Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956---Feb. 3, 2009): Martha and Mary

Today at the blog is a day set aside to celebrate the life of my mother, Teressa A. Richardson. For those of you who may not know, mom died at the tender age of 52 years old, having battled breast cancer, lung cancer, and finally brain cancer over a span of some three years. She would have been 54 years old this day.

Today, I’d like to set aside this day to honor mom, the woman who influenced me in so many ways to be the blog writer whose work you read daily. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: without my mother this blog would never have been created. In a sense, whenever I take up a challenge in a post and put words on the screen, it’s as if mom were here speaking them herself.

Preparing for this day was somewhat bittersweet. Some weeks ago, I began to brainstorm regarding what I would post at the blogs to honor mom. And then, I began to go over again and again in my head the type of woman mom was, the things she did, the songs she sung, the lessons she taught me and my twin sister (Danielle), and the funny stories she used to tell. I even have memories of mom’s joke e-mails. She was a senior accountant at her corporation, so she was always over a computer typing, double-checking numbers, sending e-mails, or setting up meetings. I remember the weekends when the corporation would perform what is called “inventory,” when the company had to see how many engines were in the plant (she worked at an engine plant), how many were in good condition (and good for sale), and how many were defective and needed to be rebuilt before they could sale. Mom would take my sister and I to work on random Saturdays, and we would sit at her desk (and the desk of a co-worker), and play card games, surf the web, etc. She always told us to behave ourselves because, should we have misbehaved, we might not have been able to return. According to mom, the more we behaved, the better the chances of getting to come visit her job.

The memories are many indeed...and even now, despite the heartbreak, I can still smile when I think of the three of us (Mom, Danielle, and me) together, laughing until our stomachs hurt. Usually, we were ALWAYS somewhere laughing until our stomachs hurt. To laugh until your insides hurt was a typical action in our insane family.

But mom was not only “mom,” “daughter,” “sister,” “friend,” “coworker,” and “boss”...she was also a Sunday school teacher. Mom bought commentaries galore in her lifetime. We have so many Bibles that there are enough there for twelve future grandchildren and beyond (I might be a little outrageous with the “twelve” there...). Whenever I would come home from school and classes, mom would be sitting at her dining table, pouring over the books. Even when she began to live with my grandmother (her mother) while battling cancer, she was still studying...and she was STILL pouring over the commentaries. She had so many that I had to borrow from her extensive collection! Suffice it to say that, while I attended seminary, mom “owned” a seminary of her own (lol). She told me, upon seeing my first set of books in my Master’s degree, that “I’m gonna read everything you read.” According to mom, her seminary education was coming right to her door through me!

One of mom’s favorite accounts in all of Scripture consists of the account of “Martha and Mary”:

“38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’[k] feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus[l] answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NKJV)

The account of the text given shows us that there were two sisters, Mary and Martha, who had two different approaches to Jesus’ arrival at the home: while Martha worked hard to serve, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear His teaching. Martha became offended: “Lord, DO YOU NOT CARE that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (v.40).

What Martha wanted Jesus to do was scold Mary. In her mind at least, she was doing the “proper” thing while Mary was “being lazy.” In Martha’s reasoning, Jesus had arrived, and it was time to get to work, transforming the house to spotless in order that Jesus may be pleased. What Martha didn’t understand though, was that what pleased Jesus, more than the condition of the home, was THE CONDITION OF THE HEART! Instead of rebuking Mary, Jesus turns and says,

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. BUT ONE THING IS NEEDED, and MARY HAS CHOSEN THAT GOOD PART, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Martha’s housework was really a “distraction” from what she needed most. Instead of scolding Mary, Martha needed to follow Mary’s example. Jesus’ response to her is that “one thing is needed,” that is, to sit at His feet and listen and learn. Martha, then, was worrying about things of no eternal significance. Her house cleaning would only benefit that day; but Mary’s learning would benefit her for a lifetime. We can easily see the significance of learning at the feet of Jesus over the daily fleeting pursuits that we can easily pour ourselves into.

Mom always felt as if this account was of importance to her. “God’s trying to tell me something,” she would always say. No matter where she went, whether it be to a church service or a bookstore, she always managed to find something on the “Martha and Mary” account. Martha and Mary were everywhere, and some days, she would point out a Martha and Mary book and then laugh. “The Lord just keeps letting me run into this account. What is it that He’s trying to teach me?”

The funny thing is, that when mom was diagnosed with cancer, she began to wonder about her life’s work. “I just wanna make sure that I’m doing what the Lord desires I do. I don’t wanna live my entire life and stand before Him, not having done what I was supposed to.” I used to tell her, “Mom, you won’t. You’re seeking to do what pleases Him most, and believe me, you’re either doing it now or you will get to do it.”

And when she died, I felt as if she had died too soon. I still believe that regardless of the quality of life a person lives (whether in Christ or not), fifty-two years old is still too young of an age in which to die. But my grief over her death was also due to the plans and dreams that I had for us. We had discussed my twin sister, Danielle, and figured that she would marry first (between the two of us). Then, mom and I would travel the world. She always wanted to see other countries, get a chance to travel and witness for Christ. She had such a heart for missions, and winning others to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For her, that was the most exciting thing in all of life itself---to tell others about Jesus. And she did that: she told everyone she could about Him, even a store owner who responded, “I’ve had greater people than you tell me about Him, and I’ve not given in yet.” This same grumpy, old man who was lost and in need of Christ is the same man mom told about Jesus and the gospel. She was fearless for Christ, even in the face of doubt and rejection.

But even though mom died young, she died having done what she was placed on earth to do. I’m convinced that the “Martha and Mary” account was mom’s daily reminder of what was important. Mom had “Martha” traits: she was a parent raising a set of twins; a coworker; a boss who had people to oversee; a daughter, who financially provided for her parents with every paycheck she ever received; a sister, who needed to spend quality time with her brother, sister, and three nephews; a choir member, who often helped to organize the choir for Sundays. Even when she was tired, she would still open her mouth and sing at least one song for Christ. In addition, she was the financial secretary, managing the church finances, as well as a Sunday school teacher, who had souls to instruct from the Word of God. Mom studied for every Sunday school lesson, and taught every class with God-given energy that everyone knew came from above.

Having “Martha” traits, however, didn’t take away from the “Mary” portion: In addition to being a diligent worker for Christ, mom also realized her need to hear the Lord in her daily living and the importance of time spent hearing the Word of the Lord. I would wake up on Sundays to the smell of breakfast pervading the house (from the kitchen to my bedroom and beyond) as well as Sunday preaching on the television screen. That’s how all Sundays started. And if you happened to wake up one morning with no television on, that’s because she had the radio turned on to songs of worship. From the time we’d leave the house to the time we’d return, mom would have worship music on the radio. I was never asked to go to church on Sundays: I was going to church, like it or not. Mom took my instruction in the Word as part of her parental duties (not optional) to “bring me up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NKJV). And church was always important. Sundays were set aside for worship, Tuesday nights were set aside for Bible study. No questions asked!!

I miss mom today; and I’ve missed her every day for the last almost year and a half since she departed this life. But I know that when she left us, she had fulfilled her mission on earth. It turns out that the “Martha and Mary” account was one she took to heart, and implemented in all she said and did...and the fact that I am here today, studying the Word of the Lord and researching to the glory of God, testifies to just how important being a “Mary” really was to her. Sure---she was a “Martha”; But she learned how to be a “Mary”. And because she was a Mary and sacrificed much to “sit at Jesus’ feet” (study the Word, hear the Word, teach the Word to her children), she lost no time at all. On that cold February morning when she left us, she was, in that sense, the “oldest” woman in all of human existence.

If mom were here, she’d challenge you to be a “Mary.” So that’s what I’m gonna do: challenge you, my readership, to live as “Mary.” There are many things you will do throughout your lives that will have no eternal significance. But I say to you, that only what you do for Christ will last. And since our work for Christ is the only thing of eternal significance in this world (second to receiving eternal life), then we should be busy kingdom-building. How can we start today? By “sitting at Jesus’ feet,” hearing His Word, learning more of His Word. I tell you today that if we learn from my mother’s (Mary’s) example, death will take from us no time at all.

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