Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Birthday To A Best Friend

Today is the birthday of one of my best friends. This woman is not supposed to be an ally or even someone spoken fondly of--but expected to live up to her stereotype as a fierce "frienemy." But my friend can't be more far from the mark. The woman I'm speaking of is my mother-in-law, Lisa "Mom" Stevens.
The purpose of this post is to convey the esteem I have toward Mom, and hopefully we can all learn from her celebrated example.
I started dating Lisa's son, my husband, last summer 2008. I knew I really liked this man, but didn't know how comfortable I was about getting serious with a relative stranger so early on. Right before the semester ended, Adam invited me to go visit with his family for a week in WA before I went home to PA. Completely uncertain, I said yes and traveled home with Adam. During the whole ride, I couldn't stop thinking what everyone would think of me and especially how the Mormon woman of the house would judge me. That's what boyfriends' Moms did, right? I entered their home, greeted by Dad Stevens, but no Mom was in site. Two intimidating men + one uncertain girl friend = a very awkward situation. About an hour later, Mom's car pulled up. There I was--a measly 19 yr. old girl dating her beautiful boy, standing in her living room. I stood, frozen. She came through the door, met my eyes, threw her arms around me and squealed, "She's so beautiful!" I was immediately rushed upstairs to the room she had set up for me with a tote bag full of all kinds of girly goodies and was debriefed on all the activities she had planned for our girl time.
No one has ever greeted me like that. And I was speechless.
And that's how our relationship started and continues. I am continually speechless and in awe of Lisa.
During that whole first visit I was completely overwhelmed by her kindness, openness, and generosity. I was without question her friend. Amongst other things, we went shopping, where she bought me everything in my hands and, as a stood completely helpless, asked if I wanted jewelry too. I frantically texted Adam, telling him that Mom was buying me way too much stuff and he needed to tell her to stop. He just laughed and said, "You just have to let her do it, she loves doing this." No one has ever enjoyed taking me shopping, let alone buying me things. The joy and simpleness of life I learned from the home she ran made me fall in love with Adam. I had never felt so accepted and appreciated in my life and there was no way I could deny my future children that kind of love when I had been so blessed to partake of it. Dramatic? Hardly. To the naive eye I'm just an over-zealous, over-exaggerator trying to prove a point. But to those that have been touched by Lisa, you know exactly where I'm writing from and where my emotions are flowing from.
Mom brightens people's lives. She touches them with hope and simplicity. From my 1.5 years of friendship with Mom, I am convinced that her message, as that of President Gordon B. Hinckley, is that life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured--but it's up to you to make it happen.
Mom tries to make the best out of every situation. For every moment of happiness, there is a party. For every special occasion, there is a phone call, a surprise visit, or a care package. She never ceases to try and make you feel as appreciated and special as possible. Because of her, I knew that eternal happiness was in my grasp, and all I had to do was accept it for its simplicity and promise of a full life.
Mom has known sacrifice. She is a faithful woman. She forsook her family's esteem, and, with faith, joined a cause she knew was greater than her. I believe great blessings from heaven come to someone who possesses a spirit of sacrifice. I don't know it like Mom does, I only know that I am a selfish beneficiary of that sacrifice, as will be my posterity and those to come. I respect her, I unconditionally love her, and I only have fond memories of her. She is my bff to watch girly dramas and shop till I drop with--anytime and anywhere for any amount of time.
But what's the amazing part is that it's never about Mom. My addiction to shopping is finding the skirt that snugs my butt and accentuates my waist, but Mom's passion is watching your face light up when you find the perfect pair of pumps or when tears come to your eyes from a thoughtful Christmas gift. It could be shopping or skate boarding--if you enjoy it, Mom is there to do it with you.

So, this holiday season, when Mom makes you fashion-show your new jammies or really get into Christmas bingo, know that it's all because she wants to make each year memorable and special, and no matter how rebellious we are, we always remember how funny last year was and how excited we are to get together again.
But for now, let's honor this day as one to cease stressful, complicated living and celebrate the blessings we have and continue to enjoy because we, by chance, have known and been known by Lisa Stevens.
I love you, Mom. Your generous gifts, frequent calls, and unforgettable outings are understood far beyond the obvious--I know you act on love and that love changes me. Each correspondence leaves me feeling optimistic and confident that I can let come what may and love it.
I think my favorite memory with you was your presence as you stood in the bride's room of the Manhattan temple with me as I put my wedding dress on. You were one of 3 women who had that experience with me, and the spirit testified to me that, because of my marriage in the temple, you would be my eternal Mom and friend. At that moment, there was no age difference or discrimination--in the Lord's temple time did not exist and I experienced a taste of the unity of heaven. I felt unbridled respect and godly love for you and my family. I felt that we were daughters of God that had merely come to earth at a different time equal to a blink of God's eye and that we would share memories into the eternities together.
I believe I have a friendship like those Christ teaches about--friendships that enrich our lives and are based on unconditional love and sacrifice.
Happy Birthday, Mom. Know you're loved, appreciated, and revered as a women that has sacrificed her time, energy, resources, and very life for the happiness of everyone but herself. If that isn't an example of a true Christian than I don't know what is.

4 comments:

About the Stevens said...

Britney,

As I finished reading your wonderful words so eloquently put describing my mother Lisa Stevens. my heart is full, and the spirit has truly touched me and I feel the need to reply.

As I reminisce of the times I've had with my mom my face lights up with so many great memories. Mom was the person that always helped us with our school work, took us school shopping, made trips and every other occasion fun, and loved to embarrass us at any occasion.

My mom is a very strong woman, and sacrificed and still chooses to sacrifice so much to truly emulate true Christ like love. I've never to this day met anyone that sacrifices so much to see joy in the eyes of others. My mother truly is a special person, and am proud to be her son.

brett and alyssa said...

that was beautiful! amen to wonderful moms and rare wonderful mom in laws!!!

The Rider Family said...

Britney that was amazing thank you! we were all sitting here reading your post out loud and you had us all in tears! You seriously wrote EVERYTHING we all wish we could say! We love the memories that you shared and we all are so blessed to have such a wonderful Mom in our lives! What an amazing gift for her birthday! love ya mindie and Amanda

Ailinh Harris said...

Wow, reading this made me love your mom and I hardly know her! You're such a sweet and thoughtful daughter. I hope Porter brings home a girl like you some day.