Christmas and Work: A Tribute to My Mom, the Worker

December 21, 2016 • Life for Leaders

And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:7


The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622. Color on Canvas; by Gerard van Honthorst.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622. Color on Canvas; by Gerard van Honthorst.

When I laid out my plan for Life for Leaders in December, I was not expecting to write this particular devotion. But, between yesterday’s writing (on December 2) and today (December 3), something happened to encourage me to add something unexpected. You see, last night, on December 2nd, my mom died. Two months ago she seemed just fine. But then we learned that she had very aggressive cancer. The gift of this distressing news was that we all had time to share memories with my mom, to say our sweet goodbyes, to tell my mom that we loved her and that she was a great mother, grandmother, etc. She was able to let us know how much she loved us, too. My mom died peacefully, surrounded by her family, who sent her off to Heaven with prayer and singing the Doxology.

In this devotion, I want to offer tribute to my mom, the worker. Like Mary in Luke 2:7, a central part of my mom’s work was giving birth to children and then caring for them. She, along with my dad, raised my brother, my two sisters, and me wonderfully. She worked very hard at being a mother, harder, I’m sure, than I ever realized.

My mom was always there for me, always present when I needed her. My oldest memory of her is of being rocked back to sleep in her arms after I woke from a nightmare. I was probably around two or three, and can still feel her embrace and hear her voice singing quiet songs of comfort. Of course, it never occurred to me that my mom was losing sleep by being there for me, that she was working. She was just being my mom.

My mom would have said that her greatest work in life was being a mother to her four children and then a grandmother to her seven grandchildren. But she worked in many other ways and made a strong contribution. She began her professional life as a teacher, but only taught for a couple of years before you know who showed up. At that point my mom became full time at home, working to raise me and my siblings who would come soon. Plenty of work there, to be sure, both at home and in the community, where my mom did tons of volunteer work. She was a talented and accomplished leader in PTA, Girl Scouts, church, etc. When her children left home, my mom worked for several years in a children’s clothing shop, ultimately becoming the manager.

After my dad died in 1986, my mom’s work life took a most unexpected turn. She filled in for a while as the interim children’s director at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. During that interim stretch, she did such an outstanding job that, after a national search for a person with C.E. degrees and experience, the church ended up offering the position to my mother, who didn’t have the credentials or broad experience, but did have extraordinary capabilities as well as a giant heart. She served at the Hollywood church for seventeen years with abundant love and vision. She touched hundreds of lives and found deep fulfillment in this work.

When my mom “retired” about a dozen years ago, she didn’t stop working. She continued on at the Hollywood church as an active volunteer and then an elder. She invested much of her energy in family life, especially enjoying her work as a grandmother. She continued to be the utterly faithful, utterly compassionate, utterly loving, utterly encouraging presence I had known all my life.

To be sure, my mom excelled at the work that was common for women in her generation. She bore and raised children, cooked substantial and delicious meals, taught and disciplined her children, hugged and rocked us to sleep. She helped us know the Lord, both through her words and the faithful witness of her life. But my mom also demonstrated that women could be capable of much more than work focused in the home. She was an exceptional leader, manager, visionary, and “pastor” to hundreds of people. She was an exemplary servant, indeed, a servant leader, who offered herself fully to the Lord and to his work, whether in our family, the church, or the community.

I have been profoundly shaped by my mom’s life and her work, and will miss her dearly. But, mostly I am filled with gratitude for my mom and all she meant to so many others and me. She worked hard and faithfully in this life, and I trust she has now heard the words our hearts long to hear from our Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


Who are the people in your life – living or dead – who have had the greatest impact on you?

What did you learn from your mother (and father) about work?

How can we help women to exercise all of their gifts for the sake of God’s purposes in the world?


Gracious God, how I thank you today for the gift of my mom. It’s hard to believe that she is gone.

Thank you, Lord, for my mother’s faithfulness as a worker, whether she was teaching, mothering, leading, or loving. Thank you for all she taught me and for the difference she made in so many lives.

Help us, Lord, to give ourselves to your work, whether we’re raising children or leading companies, building homes or teaching students. In all we do, Lord, may we offer ourselves to you and be used for your kingdom purposes.

All praise be to you! Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryThe Work of Midwifery and Mothering (Exodus 1:15-2:10)


Image Credit: By Gerard van Honthorst – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, Link

37 thoughts on “Christmas and Work: A Tribute to My Mom, the Worker

  1. Brett Oliver says:

    What a special woman of God your mom was – blessings of peace and joy to you and your family. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Christopher says:

    I join with others to thank God for your mom. I celebrate the passing of a godly mother and pray that God give your family the futitude to bear the lose of your mother. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. Jayantha Mendis says:

    By this article has given me courage to take guidance on what the spirit may linger to take course at all circumstances in life to effect kingdom expansion.
    Thanks and God bless you.

  4. Patrik Bergström says:

    What a beautiful tribute Mark! I am sorry for your loss and rejoice with you that she is now worshipping Jesus face to face!

  5. Joe Freeman says:

    Loved your personal, loving tribute to your Mom . Thanks for sharing from your heart. A Blessed Christmas to you and your beloved family. Your mother has made that ultimate trade-up, into God’s Total Kingdom-Care and sees all of you lovingly through Christ-colored-spectacles. Being prayerful for you and your beloved family. With Shared Faith in Him, Pastor Joe Freeman

  6. Ron says:

    A wonderful celebration of the life of the most important person in the world, a Mom.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing! May God continue to bless you and your family.

  8. Wendy says:

    So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute to your mom. May you find peace and comfort during this time.

  9. The first sentence of the fourth paragraph has a typo: “My mom would have said that here greatest work” should be “My mom would have said that her greatest work.”

    Mark, thank you for writing and sharing this. My mom is 81. She is doing well, but I’m very conscious both of the fact that she is getting older and that she has given us an incredible heritage of love and faith. Reading your devotion was very poignant.

    • Mark D. Roberts says:

      Ah, yes. Good catch! Thanks. And thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you’re mom is with you. I hope you and she have many blessed years ahead.

  10. Suzanne Getchel says:

    What a beautiful eulogy for your mother, Mark. She faithfully did the work that Our Lord gave her, which is evident in the children and grandchildren she leaves behind. May God give rest to her soul — and peace to yours.

  11. Dale says:

    Good word Mark. I appreciate you and the contribution your mom made to who you are…
    and now I’m tearing up.

  12. Carol Canfield says:

    Our deepest sympathies. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

  13. Dan Bolar says:

    A wonderful tribute to a wonderful Mom. Thanks for sharing Mark. Praying for you and your family. Peace and joy be with you.

  14. Deb Spencer says:

    What a lovely, moving tribute to your excellent mother! She leaves a legacy and an example to which I, and mothers everywhere can aspire. Blessings and prayers for you and your family ~

  15. Joe Arnett says:

    My sincere condolences on the loss of your mother. Thank you for sharing a great tribute to her life. May God continue to bless your work.

  16. Blessings to all your family…Your mom is, & will continue to be, a blessing…through you & so many other lives impacted for Christ…not by the talk, but by the walk she has exercised..Her walk is shown in many ways though your ministry, which has impacted the Whatley’s marriage and work…
    We share in your loss & we joyfully share in her work for Christ, which will continue till His return.

  17. Gwen Benty says:

    Thank you Mark that in your grief you were spirit filled to write such a testimony about your mother. In doing so you validated so many women in there callings to be mothers. God Bless you and your family at this time particularly.

  18. I appreciated your wonderful tribute to your Mother and was reminded of my own Mom and what a wonderful mother she was…raising seven children, I am her 84 yr old baby!!! What an impact she had on her family and the community and all who knew her. It made me again thankful for my daughter=in-law as well who is raising my two grandchildren with skill, dedication and tons of time and love. It’s the best job in the world..and most important. Most of these mothers are capable of doing all sorts of things but choose to make their contribution in this way. What a blessing!
    All can contribute in this way without being a mother. My brother, who just died after Thanksgiving at 90 had given all sorts of time to creating a strong extended family among his siblings and our progeny and many of his nieces and nephews paid tribute to him at his memorial service. He would have been very proud. Blessings to you as you celebrate your Mother’s life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *