Beit Gamaliel

The House of Gamaliel: The confluence of knowledge and faith.

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An Amazing Mother

My mother passed away unexpectedly on December 27. We were asked if we had any words to share during the memorial service. I could think of a million things I wanted to say. I wanted to say something, but knew that I would never be able to deliver a thought without failing under the grief. I just couldn’t keep it together. So, the night before the funeral, I penned the following as a tribute to my mother. I have done very little good in my life. But the few things that I have managed to accomplish have very little to do with me, and a lot more to do with a gracious and merciful Creator, a father who loved God and doing what was right in His eyes, and a diligent mother determined to raise her children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)

As the service opened, Rev. Bill Roberts began his remarks by stated that we were here to celebrate the life of a godly woman. Those in attendance erupted in applause. It seemed to linger for minutes. I was humbled that those who knew my mother recognized her unswerving commitment to a godly and humble life.

I am so very thankful to all those who took time out of their holiday schedules and plans to share in our mourning. May God bless you for your sacrifice.

An Amazing Mother

Virginia BurroughsVirginia Burroughs was a good woman–a godly woman–and a wonderful mother. It’s not that she was a more wonderful than any other mother. All moms are awesome! They should get an award just for the ability to give birth! What Virginia Burroughs attempted to be was everything God intended a mother to be.

Two adventurous children raised by a determined single mother, Virginia and her younger sister, Barbara, would often explore there San Diego city block and beyond, with grand tales of the people they met and the trouble they created. They would climb to the roof of their apartment complex and drop water balloons on the unsuspecting passers-by. Yes, Virginia Burroughs did THAT!

But as with all of us, her journey would transform Virginia into a giving, kind, and uniquely gifted lady.

She met my father, Cliff, while she was working in Washington, DC at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My dad would eventually answer the call to become a minister which would be where my mother made her greatest impact. As a partner in ministry, my mother taught, played the piano and organ, led ministries from children, to teens, young adults and elderly, hosted countless events, supported missionaries around the world, and contributed her skills as a professional bookkeeper everywhere she went. But all of these things we know. This is the Virginia that we all remember. But as a mother she was even more.

My mother was my first nurse, my first bible teacher, and my first prayer partner, sitting on the edge of my bed every single night until I left for college with the words, “Let us pray.” She was my first reading teacher, math teacher, and music teacher, teaching me to play the piano which was my first major in college. She was my first art teacher. We colored, cut, and cropped, glued, formed, melted, molded, and sculpted, painted, poured, pasted, and presented. Her art work was more than a hobby, and won awards locally. She loved to paint, and shared her paintings with friends and families around the nation. Many of you have pieces of her art in your own homes!

She was my first tutor, my first mentor, and my first cooking teacher. As a young teen I was attempting to make a berry dessert. I gave her my grocery list and specifically asked her to pick up some whipped cream. When I discovered she had not bought whipped cream I was very upset: “Mom! You forgot the whipped cream!” She said, “We will just make some.” I didn’t believe her! But as the heavy cream and sugar began to form peaks under my hand-held mixer, I smiled at my mom recognizing suddenly viewing her as a worker of a strange and good magic! A woman who had special knowledge, and I wanted to learn it! Our love of good food and cooking was something we have always shared. Upon leaving for college she got me the large classic edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I have it to this day. In fact, her last request of me before hanging up the phone on Christmas Day was to send her my recipe for Turkey Chili. Mom and I share a dislike of turkey! We both agreed that Prime Rib would be MUCH more appropriated for the holidays!

She was my first tailor and seamstress. My mother made much of our clothing on her own sewing machine when we were young. She taught me to sew, knit, and crochet. However, with my attention span, I never produced much more than a yarn washcloth. She was my first psychologist and first counselor, helping me navigate the landmines of adolescent relationships.  She was my first defender and advocate. She was my first constructive critic and my first biggest fan. But most importantly, she was my mother and my first friend.

She was an artist and a musician, a mathematician and financial whiz. She was well-read, well-versed, and well-cultured. She was an engaging conversationalist. She was witty, soft-hearted, and compassionate. She was a teacher, preacher, and a confidant to hundreds.  She was an intellectual, a philosopher, and a theologian. She could speak knowledgably about hundreds of subjects, but enjoyed conversations about the Bible the most. Just two days earlier on Christmas day, she and I dialogued for thirty minutes about a misinterpretation about a specific scripture. She loved to talk about God’s Word. Her breadth of knowledge was vast—a  mile wide and a mile deep. She never sought out the limelight, but would never shy away from it if asked. She was humble, unassuming, and supportive to her husband, her family, her church, and every employer for whom she worked.

The words of Proverbs 31 read:

“Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”

If Proverbs 31 documents the traits of a virtuous woman, then a virtuous woman she was!

But the most notable trait that my mother had was her ability to see only good, and kind, and potential in people. Even when someone had outright wronged her, or her family, she never spoke or believed ill of anyone. She simply refused to denigrate another human being, or revel in someone’s misfortune. She only saw the good, often speaking blessing into the lives of people around her.

The apostle Paul writes, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.”

The apostle Paul and Virginia Burroughs believed and lived their lives with this reality, choosing to hold to only that which was true, honorable, and lovely? Everyone who has been around my mother knows that no matter how bad things may seem, “this too shall pass!” She knew that when all had been said and done, “ALL things work together for the good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes!” What faith!

My mother’s life demonstrates that one’s meager childhood and one’s tumultuous teen years do not have to end in bitterness and resentment. May I honor the legacy of my mother by choosing to see the world through her eyes of sincerity and goodness.

We laid my mother to rest the day after her birthday. I had bought her a birthday card and was preparing to mail it the morning my father called me to deliver the news of her passing. She never got my card. I close this post with the words from the card that I had wanted to give my mother:

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With Love on Your Birthday

Mom,

You’re an example for us all with the way you take time for what matters, reach out to others, and have faith in all good things.

So on your special day, please know how many people are grateful for you and what a blessing you are.

You’re a beautiful example of God’s love here on earth.

Happy Birthday

I love you, mom, and will miss you dearly!

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