Unconditional love. It knows no boundaries and is felt deeply by us. The kind that we receive from a select few. God loves us this way, but it is at a much higher level than anyone on earth. The bible refers to this type of love as “agape”. It is defined as a love that transcends all things and persists regardless of circumstance. God made us in his image, and He desires a deep connection with us. He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins as the ultimate example of His love for us. The scripture that has been made famous for its presence at nearly every major sporting event tells us the story of His love in one sentence. If you replace the words “the world” with your own name, it will really hit home.
“For God so loved the world [me], that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”John 3:16 ESV
What about the love we receive from those closest to us? Who on earth loves us unconditionally? We usually get it from our dogs but remember they lick themselves….everywhere. Think about that the next time you get home from work and Charlie wants to give you a kiss. Most of the time we receive it from our wives, but due to the fact that we always want to fix her problems instead of listening to her, we usually end up on the couch. Our kids have a deep love for us, but I hear it seems to change in their teenage years. I am praying against that. What about our parents? They raised us from the moment we got here and for those of us who are fortunate enough to have a great relationship with them, we can agree they love us unconditionally. In my case I was blessed to have Pat Horton as my mother.
Strong and Resilient
Three days ago, Mom left this world to be with Jesus. She was suffering from congestive heart failure and much in line to the way she lived her life, I didn’t even know how bad she was until the end. Mom didn’t complain about things and she didn’t ever want any of us to worry about her. She kept her condition close to the vest until she had to go on oxygen a few months ago in order to keep her heart pumping. She was strong physically, mentally and most important, spiritually. Some of my friends referred to her as an “ox”. It’s not the most flattering thing to say about a woman, but it was true. You didn’t mess with Momma Horton.
Mom lived a tough life. Her first husband died of lung cancer when she was in her early thirties. She raised their two children on her own and eventually met my Dad a few years later. His wife died of cancer as well and they had five kids. My parents fell in love and did their own version of the “Brady Bunch” down on Bobrich Street in Livonia, MI. Six years later I was born and now the house had eight kids in it. Yes, my Mom raised eight kids. She probably did twenty to thirty loads of laundry a week. The boys in the family definitely did the “sniff test” on our clothes so we could help her out.
My Dad battled with alcoholism and they argued constantly. You could see how his behavior was wearing her down and eventually my parents divorced when I was thirteen. Mom didn’t have much and for eighteen months she had to walk to work because she didn’t have enough money for a car. Most of our possessions were bought at garage sales and I learned how to live a lifestyle that was based on needs versus wants. The funny thing is, I never felt “poor”. There was always food in the fridge, a roof over my head and clothes on my back which is a testament to her work ethic. She always put me first.
Positive and Kind
Mom was my biggest supporter and she attended every game I ever played in until I reached college. You would hear her cheering loudly from the stands and she was always snapping pictures with her camera. She loved sports and knew how they were played. Mom would talk to me about how I did and even though she didn’t have a lot money, she always found ways to help further my baseball career. If I needed a glove or bat, she got it. When I asked to go to the batting cage, she grabbed a roll of quarters from the bank and spent the whole thing while I wore out my hands taking hacks. She loved watching me play.
When I decided to attend college 1,600 miles away from home, she was all in. Mom wrote me a letter every day for four straight years. She sent me care packages every other month and flew out to see me at least once every year. When I didn’t get drafted by any Major League clubs after my senior year, she continued to support my dream. I always had a place to live every offseason and never once paid for rent or my own food. She believed in me when few others did and always tried to see the good in every situation. When others said it was impossible, she countered with “All things are possible with God.”
We loved spending time together and talked on the phone at least every other day from my 18thbirthday until this past week. After I got married, she would come to our house at least once per month and I always loved hanging out with her after everyone else went to bed. I was able to bless her with grandchildren and she doted on the boys all the time. Her friends tell me that a day didn’t go by without her talking about Connor and Bryce. After she passed, my wife told me that Mom was the most positive individual she has ever met, and it makes her want to become a better person. She had that effect on everyone.
One of the hardest days of my life was December 14th. I cried more tears on that day, than I did the entire decade. I miss her more than I ever thought I would. There are times where I think that I should have spent more time with her this past year, but I know that it’s the enemy trying to put guilt on me. The devil is a liar and a thief, and he wants to kill and destroy all of us. I refuse to listen to his mindless chatter and stand on the foundation that Pat Horton helped build in me. That rock is Jesus Christ and I am thankful that she was so strong in her faith because it strengthened me.
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV
My Mom’s example all the days of her life helped me become the father, husband and most importantly Christ-follower that I am today. Thank you for everything Mom. I choose joy because that is what you would want me to do. I will lead my family and be the man that Christ has called me to be. I know you are pain free and for the first time in years you are running and jumping like a child. That is what brings me the joy that you want me to have. I love you Mom.
Here are some things that I learned from my Mom that I want you to think about this week and apply to your life:
- Be others minded and live a life of humility.
- When times get difficult focus on Jesus and not the storm around you.
- Share your faith with others and then walk it out as an example for them.
- Practice generosity and be willing sacrifice the little you have for those you love.
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