Walking our Faith: How to live a life in full (column)
The following is a journal entry from my mother, Adeline Marie Anderson:
“After Sunday School, a young woman came up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, but I want to tell you what an inspiration your smile is to me.’ Just when I thought at 88 years old, it was all over for me, my health is poor, I use a walker. I thought it was time for me to just sit back and let someone else carry the ball until that young girl spoke to me and then I discovered this verse: ‘Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock!”’ (Psalm 92:14)
“No, it isn’t over for me! My body is deteriorating, but I can still smile and smile I will!”
Adeline celebrates her 89th birthday on July 8.
At every stage in life, we can and should pursue the dreams that God has placed in our heart. I believe this is what gives our life richness and meaning, no matter how old we are.
My mother’s life reminds me of God’s promise: “For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Although she began life in humble circumstances, Mom had a purpose that would carry her through decades of challenges.
Adeline Marie Lucas was born in 1927, the last of seven children in a poor Hungarian immigrant family. Her father died when she was four, leaving her mother to become a baker, a cleaning woman, anything to feed a house full of children during the darkest years of the Great Depression.
There were nights when all the children had to eat were slices of homemade bread slathered with lard. And yet, her mother always seemed to find something to feed the ‘hobos’ who occasionally came begging for food.
Often there was not enough coal to heat the old house on Lorraine Avenue, so Adeline’s mother would heat a brick, wrap it in a towel, and place it between the sheets of each bed so that her children would at least be able to warm their feet.
At the age of nine, Mom went to church and heard visiting missionaries speak of working overseas serving God, and Mom knew at that moment that this was her calling.
Mom left school at the age of 14 to go to work as a housemaid to help the family make ends meet. At the age of 18, she got a job working as a secretary in Cleveland, and completed her GED at night.
This enabled her to go to Bible college in Missouri. There she was part of a team that brought food and God’s word to poor families living in Appalachia. After she graduated college, she went to Juneau, Alaska and worked in a children’s orphanage.
After Alaska, Mom married, raised four children, earned two bachelor’s, two master’s, and a doctorate, while working full-time in education, dedicating her studies and career to helping learning-disabled and underprivileged children learn to read.
“I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom.” (Job 32:7)
When she retired at the age of 65, she immediately moved overseas, where she became director of early childhood education in international schools in Kyiv, Ukraine; Bishkek, Kyrghstan; and Baku, Azerbaijan.
While she taught children overseas, Mom often traveled to remote villages on weekends to deliver medicine, food and clothing to the poor and elderly.
Adeline finally retired at the age of 79, only because she had a heart attack and needed to return to the states for open-heart surgery.
Mom once told me that she wished she’d spent more time in missions. Yet, as I write this overview of her life, it is clear that missions have been a thread throughout her life.
As she begins her ninetieth year, her life exemplifies the purpose God placed in her heart then and now: “Now that I am old and my hair is gray, don’t leave me, God. I must tell the next generation about your power and greatness.” (Psalm 71:18-19)
Mom and I lived together for twenty years after my father passed away in her arms in Kyiv. Then, a year and a half-ago, Mom told me that she wanted to return to Florida, to live independently, for the first time in her life.
Although she lives alone, she is surrounded by friends and family, and is very active in her church. She distributes food to fifty people in her community and shares God’s word.
Mom embraces the challenges and opportunities in this stage of her life because her mission remains the same: to help others in need and to share God’s love wherever she goes. As a result, God continues to strengthen her, even as she requires the use of a walker.
“Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4)
When I write about my mother’s life, I see a woman whose relationship with God is something I aspire to. She has created a full life, and one that fulfills the missionary calling she wished for as a child.
Our lives never reflect the smooth, straight and narrow path that we imagine. Yet when we look backwards, everything has fallen into place as it should.
“That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you with all my heart.
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