By: Erica Baldwin
“Read the broken window one!” we’d ask Mom as she settled us into bed. Published in 1957, the family devotional book Little Visits with God featured simple stories with popular, decade-appropriate names like Dick, Dorothy and Sally. My brother and I were kids of the 80s, but we didn’t seem to mind the old-fashioned names.
Jerry was the main character in the “broken window story” – the actual title was Why We Can Always be Happy, but we never remembered that. The story goes that Jerry didn’t want to come to dinner because he’d broken the garage window playing ball, an area where he knew he wasn’t supposed to be playing.
When asked by his dad, Jerry confessed, apologized and promised not to play ball there again. His dad forgave him and told him God forgave him, too. The next day, Jerry was happy on the way to school and realized it was due to the forgiveness he’d received.
I always secretly liked that story because it seemed like the kind of trouble my brother would get in, not me. I was more likely to be acting out musicals with my neighbors (Annie was a favorite) or making up dramatic plot lines with my Barbies.
I don’t remember a single other story from that devotional. Maybe it’s because we read this one on repeat or maybe because it’s the first one in the book. What I do remember is the security of those moments before drifting off to sleep – and we needed it because our world had been rocked by tragedy.
Finding Our Footing
Just months before, my father was killed in a car accident. My mom, a widow at only 29 years old, faced the task of raising my brother and me, who were nearly seven and five years old at the time. For their entire marriage, Mom worked alongside my dad’s vibrant youth and music ministry. People were their passion, and church was their dutiful joy. The accident suddenly changed our future and my mom’s dreams of life to come.
We moved to live closer to my grandparents. We found a new church. I started sleeping in my brother’s room for company and comfort. Devotions were probably not an every-night occurrence, and I’m sure by the end of the day, my mom was drained. If we wanted to hear the “broken window story” again, she’d read it even if she’d done so a hundred times.
Bravery in a New Normal
As an adult, I’ve gained new admiration for my mom’s courage. I have a friend who is a young widow and single mom, and she finds herself crying in the lightbulb aisle and fighting to finish the day well with her kids because that was always her husband’s job. She shares honestly, and I’m thankful because it gives me insight into the heart and daily life of a widow. I see my mom with new eyes.
Mom kept us in church and continued to encourage my brother’s involvement in sports and mine in theater. She kept our lives joyful, even though there was a gaping hole in our family. Birthday parties, family gatherings, church activities – our lives were full.
My mom, in her shoulder-padded 80s dresses and Sandi Patty accompaniment tracks, continued to sing solos in church – a picture of bravery because she previously sang duets with my dad. In addition to Sunday specials, they were on the regular wedding and funeral circuit. She joined the choir at our new church in our new town, and in my adulthood I recognize how hard that must’ve been because my dad had always been her choir director.
With her signature head-nodding sincerity, Mom sang faithfully:
“Well, I tried Him and I found His promises are true.
He’s everything He said that He would be.
The finest words I know could not begin to tell.
Just what Jesus really means to me…
He’s more than wonderful, that’s what Jesus is to me.”
It was a courageous sacrifice of praise, and I still have a physical reaction when I hear the intro notes to the songs she loved to sing.
Lessons from Mom
My mom passed away 10 years ago, so I can’t tell her “thank you” or how brave I thought she was. In my childhood, I took for granted all the ways she made our lives normal and happy because in my mind, that’s just what moms do.
She told me later that she wished she would’ve been more engaged – but that’s not how I remember it at all. Mom’s everyday faithfulness kept us going, her loving disposition made us feel safe. These are a few of the lessons I learned from my mom that I hope it will encourage your heart as well.
● Hold tight to God in your grief. In her hardest days, she stayed faithful to God and church. I still smile when I remember her singing these words with forceful conviction: “You might as well get thee behind me, Satan, you cannot prevail. Because Jesus never fails.”
● Welcome comfort and help from others. When Mom was overwhelmed and needed space to grieve, my brother and I never suspected it. But Mom graciously accepted help from family and friends who loved us well in that season.
● Weeping remains for the night, but joy comes in the morning. As she carried sorrow, Mom simultaneously continued to seek joy and trust God’s daily mercies. Years later, God provided a mate for my mom – my step-dad with whom she could sing duets in church, at weddings and at funerals. A sweet gift from God, we had a dad again, and later a little brother.
● Moments of everyday faithfulness are the memory-makers. Though she wasn’t a fancy cook, she made awesome chocolate chip cookies and monkey bread. My friends from childhood and teen years remember her chatting with us often, showing genuine interest in their lives. She attended plays, ball games, and school and church programs. She hosted cousin sleepovers and never failed to celebrate our birthdays with flair.
Those “little visits with God” and nighttime snuggles meant more than Mom ever knew this side of Heaven. We could be sure of the Savior because she was. Thank you, Mom, for your courage.
More Than Wonderful – Sandi Patty and Larnell Harris
Erica Baldwin discovered the depths of God’s goodness when, at the age of 33, she was diagnosed with an incurable, life-threatening genetic connective tissue disorder. She gradually traded in her faith in the good life for hopeful trust in a good God. Erica lives in North Carolina with her husband and their nine-year-old miracle son. She loves spontaneous fun with family (like board games and bike rides), long coffee dates with friends, and salty snacks. You can find her sharing God’s goodness in the midst of life’s hardest trials – including grief, loss and chronic illness – on her blog ohhisgoodness.com, Facebook and Instagram.