Thanks Mom

I don’t think it’s an accident that November is the month when we officially celebrate Thanksgiving because it was in this month that one of the greatest gifts for which I am eternally grateful came to be.  My mom was born on November 2nd (I didn’t give the year, but she’s turning ‘29’ so I’ll let you do the math!) and for me, and truth be told for so many others, the world has never been the same.  It’s hard to know where to begin when thanking mom and thanking God for giving her to me.  My mom has given me so much and taught me so much and continues to do so.  If I were to express my gratitude for every benefit I have received from God’s hand through her there is no way a lifetime of newsletters would suffice.  However, with that being said, let me take the next few paragraphs to at least scratch the surface of giving thanks to my mom and for my mom.

Thanks Mom For Loving God…It was a Sunday afternoon.  I was twelve or thirteen.  We lived in Lehigh and my mom worked in downtown Ft. Myers at an office close to what used to be the Chart House Restaurant (where Joe’s Crab Shack is today).  We attended church at Faith Chapel, just across theNorth Fort Myers bridge on new US 41.  We didn’t have enough gas to go back and forth from Lehigh to North Fort Myers two times in the day so the plan was to go to the morning service, spend the afternoon at mom’s office, and then go back for the evening service before going home.  However, after the morning service we discovered that the car had a greater problem than lack of gas; it had a mechanical break down.  (I would tell you more technically what the problem was if I could but my ability to discern the problems in a vehicle wasn’t great back then and, truth be told, is not much better now!)  We barely made it to the parking lot of mom’s office before the car “gave up the ghost.”  Dad would be able to “resurrect” it in the next couple days and we could get a ride home later on that night; but what were we to do in the meantime?

I don’t know what your answer would be, but my mom’s answer was to go to church just as we had planned.  We walked down to the local Kash N’ Karry (close to the location of the present day downtown Publix) and purchased some Ramen Noodles.  After our lunch, we walked across the Old Edison Bridge (some of you will remember that it used to be a narrow drawbridge) between Ft. Myers and North Ft. Myers.  We made better time than we thought we would and had a couple dollars left after our “pasta” lunch, so we went to Wendy’s and enjoyed a 99 cent Frosty before walking on to church for the evening service.

Most parents strive to give their kids great gifts.  They spend hours toiling over a Christmas list; planning the perfect birthday party; finding the best school; getting the class ring; buying the first car; seeking the right college; and the list goes on and on of gifts we long to bestow to help fulfill our child’s desires and development.  As good, important, and even right as these gifts may be, all worldly gifts are temporal and will one day fade.  Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  If fulfilling this commandment is the greatest goal which anyone could ever hope to achieve, then the greatest gift we could give our children is anything that helps them in pursuit of this goal.  Thanks mom for the walk to church, the Ramen Noodles, and the Frosty; not for the exercise benefit or for the nutritional value, but because to this day that day of you showing your love for God inspires me to love Him, walk with Him, and have my soul filled with the goodness of the Lord!

Thanks Mom For Loving Me…It was a Tuesday night; mom’s bowling night.  She seldom did much for herself but one league a week was her special outing.  One of the things I loved most about our recent move to Florida was the fact that there were several Christian radio stations available.  My favorite station then, as well as now, was 90.9 WSOR (it used to be run out of Ft. Myers but now comes out of St. Pete) and my favorite singer was Sandi Patti.  One day my favorite radio station aired a spot telling me that my favorite singer was coming to our town!  I was very excited but never dreamed that we could go.  I don’t think that I even asked to go because money was tight and the concert was, of all nights, being held on a Tuesday.  Imagine my surprise and elation when the night came and instead of getting in the car to head to the bowling alley, we were on our way to the Lee Civic Center (these were before the days of Harborside Convention Center or Germain Arena)!

I can still remember walking into the arena and finding our seats.  The lights went down signaling that the first song was about to begin.  The music ensued.  From the first couple of notes I recognized it as the song “Make His Praise Glorious!”  As the long instrumental introduction continued to crescendo, the backup singers appeared on the platform, and then the long awaited moment, Sandi herself came to the stage and began with the lyric “praise the Lord of heaven, praise the Lord of earth, praise Him for His mighty power, praise Him for His worth!”  (To this day I could quote you the rest of the lyrics, but I won’t take the space to do it.)  The concert went on for the next two or three hours.  Afterwards, mom and I headed for the exits and then she did something that put the icing on the cake of the entire evening.  She stopped at one of the product tables and bought me one of Sandi’s cassette tapes (yes, this was before the days of CD’s!—but remember, mom’s still only ‘29’ this year).  The Civic Center seemed so huge to a little boy, but not as huge as my mom who loved me; Sandi’s voice was strong as ever, but not as strong as my mom’s devotion to her son; the cassette would serve as a reminder of the great music of the evening, but the music would not stand out near as much in the corridors of my mind as the sacrifice my mom had made that night.

Thanks Mom For Loving Our Family…It was a Wednesday evening.  Normally our family would be in mid-week service, especially since I was the one doing the preaching!  But the Tuesday night before (which just happened to be New Year’s Day) my wonderful wife and I began to notice that something was different in her pregnancy.  Benji wasn’t due until the eleventh of January but the Master Physician had different plans.  We went into the hospital and after doing a lot of walking and going through a few medical tests we were told that we would be staying because our baby boy was on the way!  Benji came at 5:50 pm on Wednesday night, January 2nd of 2008!

My love and I were alone (except for the doctor and nurses) when our baby boy was born (a moment we will treasure forever) but not too far outside the labor room my mom and dad were waiting patiently; okay, maybe not patiently, but they were waiting close by.  One of my favorite pictures ever is when my sweet mother and my loving father held in their arms their newborn grandbaby, Benjamin Dewey Strunk III, wrapped in a swaddling blanket and capped with a blue hat.  The look on that new grandmother’s face was priceless!  There she was: snuggled with her grandson (her pride and joy from the start) and surrounded by her husband (with whom she will celebrate 40 years of matrimony this coming July), her son (whom she encouraged, oftentimes through his doubt, that one day he would be blessed with a godly wife and offspring), her daughter-in-law (whom she had often prayed for her son to be blessed with) and all in the presence of the Lord whom she loves and serves and Whom her family loves and serves—what could be better?  To this loving matriarch; nothing, absolutely nothing!  Thanks mom for loving our family and cherishing what God values over what this world values!

Thanks Mom For Loving Others…Pick most any day of my mom’s ‘29’ years.  In a world that’s filled with selfishness and looking out for number one, it’s seldom that you find a person who truly believes that the universe does not revolve around them and who loves and serves others with no ulterior motives.  I realize you may think me slightly biased here, a fact which I readily met, but my mom is such a person if ever I’ve known one.  I’ve seen her work at a youth center in Pine Manor (not exactly the best part of town if you’re familiar with Ft. Myers) making sure that the kids have a safe place to be, food in their bellies, and learning morality that many of their parents haven’t taught them and which the culture of the day certainly doesn’t support.  I’ve watched as she has, for nearly the past 20 years, poured her life into children at Christian schools, not only instructing hundreds of students (many of whom see her as their mother too—hey, I’m glad to share her!) in academics and Christianity from a book perspective, but teaching them even more through her godly example of a faith-filled life and a heart of love.  I am blessed to witness her ministry to the less fortunate, both inside and outside of the church, as she seeks to help bring food, both naturally and spiritually, to those in need.  I, as well as many others, who may not know about it this side of glory, have been the beneficiaries of her dedication to lift up needs in prayer, recognizing that true power and indeed every good and perfect gift comes from our Father who is above.  If I ever need reminded that we are to love and serve and consider others before ourselves, I’ve never had to look very far up the family tree.  Thanks mom for loving others!

…Did I mention my mom’s birthday is this month?  And did I mention she’s turning ‘29’?  (Only dad’s ‘29 ½’!)  It’s funny, but on a day that I should be giving her gifts (and I will certainly try to get her something special) I have always felt that I’ve been the one who got the gift on November 2nd; the gift of a mother who loves God, loves me, loves our family, and loves others.  Thanks mom for loving and being faithful; I am so very blessed to have you as a mom and to be called your son.  I love you and I thank God for you!