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Last weekend I was supposed to be in Nebraska, having a nice brunch with my seven sisters and three sisters-in-law, celebrating our mother, Bonnie Kreshel, and her 77 years on this earth. However, a massive snow storm blew through Nebraska, effectively shutting down our plans.
I woke up this morning, full of deep appreciation and love for my mother.
I hope you have a great mother, the kind that is self-sacrificing and kind and fun to be around. I hope you have enjoyed an intimate relationship with the woman that gave you life.
But just in case you have not had such a mother, I wanted to take this time and space and share my inspiring mother and her ways with you.
#1: Her Openness to Life
💜 I don’t know if you caught this, but I have seven sisters and three brothers.
There were ELEVEN KIDS.
Now, even though that’s amazing, I do know a lot of women who have given birth to eleven or more children. What makes her openness to life #1 in my book is how she RESPONDED to her role as mother of eleven.
My mother made it a point to tell me and my siblings that she had always wanted to be a mom. She’d smile at us and say, “You made my dreams a reality.”
Do you know how radically transforming it was to be loved and welcomed in that way? I wish every child could hear the words: You are literally my dream come true.
Think of how the world would change if every child was cherished like that.
💗 My mother was not only open to life in her home, she brought that mission outside of our home. I remember going into high school and seeing my mother standing outside of the school, passing out flyers with a message about the unborn. I think she had heard about a girl in high school that had either had an abortion or was thinking about it.
Either way, Mom brought the message of the sacredness of life to the students.
I remember watching her and thinking, “Wow. My mom is powerful.” I was super proud of her witness.
💕 Fast forward thirty years; my husband Russ and I were contemplating adopting a four-year old African American girl. I called my mom and explained the situation to her. We talked long and hard about it.
I gave her some time to think and pray about it and then called her again, saying that I wasn’t sure if I could handle a seventh child.
My mom, normally allowing us to make big decisions on our own, was adamant. I WOULD adopt little Malaysia.
I was a bit taken aback by her fierce conviction, but she was so emphatically passionate about it that I listened in a completely different way.
She told me that I needed to adopt that little girl and it would all work out.
We did and it has.
Months later my mom shared that she had seen (while in prayer) two little black girls playing together. She told me she thought we’d adopt another one.
Well, she was partially right. My sister Kelly adopted a little girl who just so happened to be born on Malaysia’s birthday.
So Mom’s a prophetess, too. Pretty cool.
All this adoption…..because we were taught the importance of LIFE.
#2: Her Sacrificial Living
Mom told us baby chickadees that she loved us. And then her actions would put all sorts of exclamation points and hearts all around her words.
💙 One time our family was eating supper, all tucked around our massive kitchen table, when it was obvious that either some kids had took too much of the main dish, or that there had not been enough to go around.
Mom made sure us kids all had food then declared that she wasn’t all that hungry. Later, I saw her frying up some eggs for herself.
She did that kind of thing routinely.
💚 There are plenty of stories of kids born into large families that have to share in the intense burden of their siblings, more or less becoming a constant help to the mother.
I was not one of those stories. In fact, Mom made sure that us older kids never felt the stress and burden of our large family.
Did we help out? Of course. Were we taken advantage of? Absolutely not.
Isn’t that forward-thinking? She wanted a large family and didn’t want her daughters (SEVEN IN A ROW!) to feel like they had raised a family themselves while they were children.
How did she do that? I mean, 11 kids = lots of laundry, lots of food prep, lots of everything.
I can clearly see, with the eyes of an adult, that my mom literally carried the heavy load herself. She stayed up late and got up early.
She did way more than I ever appreciated.
How did she do that? Well, in my honest opinion, I don’t think all of her strength came from herself.
#3: Her Faith
💓If God grades on a curve, we are all screwed. My mother’s faith in God is like a beacon of hope for the hopeless.
My mother has faith enough for all of us. She believes. 100%. In Jesus. In The Holy Spirit. In God the Father. She loves Our Lady. She appreciates the enjoys reading about saints and holy priests. She.believes.
Her vibrant love of God and all that is holy creates a gorgeous balance within her. She is living in this world but she knows it is not her true home. So she never got wrapped up in social status or finances.
She did get wrapped on in her relationship with Jesus. One time we were in the kitchen and I was sweeping the floor and we were talking about heaven. My mom said firmly, “I am going to heaven.”
I said, “Well, you don’t know that.”
She simply shrugged and said, “Yes I do.”
I thought about that for a long time. See, the Catholic faith is about FAITH. We know it is our belief in Jesus that saves. But we also believe that since we have free will, we can turn away from God and choose hell.
Mom knew she would never do that. She was IN His family, safe and secure. She didn’t live scared of hell. She lived in anticipation of heaven.
I guess you could say she lived in the joy of her salvation.
We always went to Mass as a family. We prayed the rosary regularly. We did those things but we also witnessed Love in Action:
💛 One day someone knocked on our door in the middle of winter. We were all shocked because it was a door-to-door saleswoman...our door was easily a half mile from the nearest door.
My mom took one look at the freezing woman and then went into our mitten bin and pulled out a hat, scarf and gloves and gave them to her.
She didn’t shame her. She just clothed her and sent her on her way, warmed and refreshed.
#4: Her Focus in People Not Things
💙Bonnie Kreshel loves people. She loves having lots of people over and there is always room at her table.
If and when there are kids around (and at her house there were and are always kids around) she will be the one that says, “Get out the Rummikub!” or “Who wants to play Scrabble?”
There can be piles of dishes on the counter but she will not even see it because she is playing a game with a child or two.
I thought this was normal until I was invited to a friend’s home. This friend had a mother whose main interest was her immaculate (I kid you not, plastic-clad) furniture.
It felt odd to be treated like an animal, like I would mess up her home any minute. I could not wait to leave. She could not wait for me to leave.
It was then that I appreciated my mother’s value system. People first. House Second.
💘 For many years we lived on School Street in Wilber, NE. Across the street was a family of six, the Rezny’s. I loved them so much. Yes, I had a crush on Russ Rezny. Anyway, Barb and Diane Rezny babysat me every so often and they got to know my kind mother.
It was a marvel to witness my mother mothering other mother’s children. She would sit and listen to Barb or Diane when they needed to talk. I didn’t know or understand the inner workings of that family. I just noticed that my mama, busy as she was, made herself available, literally to our neighbors.
💜 Later, years later actually, I was in college and called Mom about something. She mentioned that my baby brother Michael, sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, had poured half a gallon of milk all over himself.
I said, “Okay, I’ll let you go,” thinking she would need to rush in and clean up the mess.
She replied, “He’s fine. Think of how much he is learning.”
How many mothers do you know would say that? I can count only one. My mom has incredible perspective. She focuses on people first. She delights in people. I want to be like her when I grow up.
#5: Her Seeing Beyond the Now
It is super easy to get into the rhythm of family life: get up, eat, go to school, come home, eat, go to bed. Add sports into that and it equals a full life.
My mom made the time to FORM me.
💚 She took me to 4-H. Yes, I made the cookies and yes, I learned how to sew. But the best part of those years: I learned how to speak publicly.
Yes, I hated it. I whined and moaned with the best of them. But Mom would write my speeches and I would reluctantly present them.
Over and over.
Guess what? I now love public speaking and I actually get paid to do so! And I doubt I would actually ENJOY it now without those years of hard-earned experience. THANK YOU, MOM!
💕 My mom understood the value of reading. She knew that if I was reading, something magical was happening in my brain. She encouraged me to read. She read herself.
Books change us. They are a vehicle. Mom saw beyond the many tasks that could or should be done. She let me read.
💗 We always ate together as a family. No matter how busy we were, we knew that there would be food on the table in the morning for breakfast as well as for supper every night.
By making the effort to create a meal and gather us together, I was given more than the food. I felt like I truly belonged.
💛 One of the love-hate relationships I had while growing up was the chickens. We would butcher what seemed like one million chickens every year.
As I think back on that experience, I become grateful that we did such gross work. As I stuck my hand inside the cavity of those million chickens, scraping up the lungs and pulling out all of the guts and mush and nasty, I realized that college would be a good choice.
💝 One day I brought home a great little record, the hit single, “Afternoon Delight.”
It was my absolute favorite song. I loved it.
Well, my mama found out that I had purchased it and she made me take it back to the store. I wasn’t sure why, so I listened to the lyrics super closely.
Seems that the “sky rockets in flight” was not actually about flying rockets. And when Starland sang about “workin’ up an appetite” they weren’t talking food.
Returning that record made me mad. I won’t lie. But another part of me was oddly happy that I had a mom with beliefs and she wasn’t afraid to use them.
💘 When I was probably in fourth or fifth grade I wanted to buy a ring for my sister Sherry except I didn’t have the money.
So I did the logical thing. I stole the ring from the Dime Store.
Well, my conscience would not hush up about the whole mess and I ended up confessing to my mama.
She handled me with grace and some skill. She did not shame me at all but took me to the Dime Store where I returned the ring.
I can still feel the relief of how good that felt. She helped me right a wrong but she didn’t make me feel wrong. Huge difference.
#6: Her Competitive Ways
💚 One day I asked my sister Katie, “Why am I so competitive? I love to win at anything and everything.”
She laughed and said, “Did you not ever play a game with Mom?”
She reminded me of our dear sweet “saintly” mother who never ever let us win a game.
Bonnie Kreshel’s competitive streak, hidden from the naked eye, was fierce.
She would not let me cheat on Chutes and Ladders. I’d be up on that last area and I’d land on the big ol’ slide. She would make me ride the slide of shame vs. cheat and skip over it.
When we played rummy, she would play hard. I was a terrible rummy player. But we kept playing. And eventually the tide turned. Us kids began to beat Mom. It was a glorious experience.
Winning at Scrabble took way more time, effort and expertise. But we did it. Sometimes.
Who knew how sweet that day would be?
As we have matured and grown and started our own families she confided in us that she never let us beat her when we were young because she knew there would come a day when we would earn it and actually beat her fair and square.
She was not a zomboni mother, smoothing the ice so it would be nice and smooth in front of us. Nope. She let it get a little rough so we could own our own journey.
What I see in all of my siblings: we work hard and we play hard. And we win. If you want to play pitch for fun, that’s fine. I will be gracious and kind. But I am gonna beat you.
#7: Her Ability to Release
If you have a child, you have most likely welcomed that child into your world. You have done the motherly sacrificing. You have loved well.
But can you release your child? Can you let your child actually leave you?
My mother was a rockstar at this. At first glance it might seem that, well, duh, Lori, she wanted to get rid of some of you. She had kids to spare.
Ha. And maybe there is some truth to that. But what I experienced at the hands of my mother in this department was absolute pure gift.
💖 When my friend Brenda was dying of cancer I noticed that many of our friends pulled back from the friendship. It wasn’t hard to figure out why.
The Valley of Death is not exactly the Yellow Brick Road.
At one point Mom pulled me aside and expressed her concerns. She knew that Brenda and I were getting closer each day and she worried about me.
I said, “Mom, if I was dying, would you want my friends to run away out of fear that they would be hurt or would you want them to come close and support me?”
She understood and released. What a mother. Truly, what a gift.
💕 During that same time period I thought it might be cool to be an exchange student. In Japan. Oh my stars. My mama had only positive comments about the idea.
I applied. Over the course of several months and interviews and such, I learned that I had been awarded the scholarship.
Guess how both of my parents responded? With pride and joy. “We knew you would win it.”
That’s awesome but what felt spectacular: how my mom let me go with open hands. She did not cling. She did not smother. She did not guilt me about anything.
She cheered for me, saying things like, “What fun you’ll have!”
Her confident attitude said, “I believe in you!”
💜 Finally, when I graduated from high school, Mom treated me the same way, confident in my abilities and excited for my new phrase.
As I became a mother, I couldn’t help but notice that welcoming children into my life was the easy part. Releasing them has taken courage. It has taken faith. Releasing my children stretches ME more than I thought it would.
How could she release us so well?
She wisely told me that her job as a mom was to grow children into adults that would be strong enough to fly. That was her job.
It was not her job to keep us in her nest, needy and weak. She believed in us and our abilities. She was excited to watch us fly into the world, strong and courageous.
Flying out of the nest meant she had done her job well.
Mama, you’ve done your job well. Thank you for everything.
I love you with all of my heart and soul. Happy 77th Birthday.
With love, Birdie #3, Lori Lynn