Friday is for Fotos (and a bday tribute to my mom!)

July 23 was always an important day in my family growing up. But so were five other seemingly random days. July 23 is my mom’s birthday, and even though the rest of the world was doing their own thing on this summer day, the Tarter’s were celebrating. And we did this for every family member’s birthday. Birthday’s were (and still are) a big deal for us. It marks a beginning that will forever be etched in the mind of the one who gave birth to us. It’s a special day that no one else in the family can claim as their own (unless you are a twin of course!).

My mom always worked really hard to make our days super special, even if a birthday was only two days away from another sibling (like mine), or if a birthday was 11 days before Christmas (like my youngest brother’s). Regardless of the timing in the year, it was still our day. When we were younger, and had less money, simply having front seat privileges all day was a big deal. As we got older, we received more things. But it never changed the momentous nature of the day. Mom never forgot what she was doing that day when we were born. And she never ceased to try and make us feel like we mattered in this family of ours.

So today is her birthday. She gets to feel special. Over half of my family lives in Florida now, so they are able to experience the fun and food that will encompass her birthday celebration, while I celebrate from afar. There are many things that I could say about my mom and how much she means to me. As I have thought about her, and her impact on my life, this week the description that sticks out to me most is “servant-hearted.”

It’s not uncommon for my mom to “whip up” a meal for a family during a busy season, or to buy a gift for a new mother even if she hardly knows her, or to organize a gathering so women can hear the word of God. That’s just who she is. God has given her a heart for people and a desire to see them blessed and encouraged. And it’s a gift to me and the church.

Perhaps the most evident example of her servant-heartedness in recent years is something that very few people saw happening. When both of her parents (my grandparents) faced death she stayed with them all through the night reading the Bible to them, advocating for them with the medical staff, and singing to them. When my grandpa was very sick and failing earlier this year she cared for him every day by taking him to the doctor, making him meals, and in the end standing near his bedside as his life slipped away.

Was it easy? Hardly. But that’s not how my mom operates. She never would have dreamed leaving my grandpa in the end. She lives in light of the Gospel that changed her so many years ago and still changes her to this day. Sure serving people isn’t always easy, but it is joyful and she understands that. Ultimately she wants people to love Jesus and serve him all of their days. Even though the world might not see, she knows that God sees and that her ultimate service is to him alone.

I often find myself praying, asking God to give me a small measure of her desire to serve people. And I also find myself thanking Him for giving me a mom like this one. I have always loved my mom. But as I have gotten older my love for her has grown from one of loving her for what she does for me, to loving her for who she is and who God has made her to be. May she feel as special today as she has made me feel these 27 years.

Happy birthday, Momma!