To me you are Mom, my greatest hero. Would you mind describing yourself for those who haven’t met you?

I am a quiet, simple person, richly blessed!

Our Mother's Day campaign theme this year is #FindMomInTheMess. What does that mean to you?

For me, whenever things got tough, Mom was the one I turned to. She gave my life stability and direction. I lost my mom at age 36, and I yet I feel her near, still cheering me on! In all the “messes” of my life, Mom has been a strength and a pillar, and a fountain of optimism.

What is one mess your mom helped you through?

We moved to another country when I was a junior in high school and I struggled to fit in at my new school. My mom taught me to think less about myself and more about helping others feel accepted and important. It has been a powerful lesson for my life.

Brene Brown said, “The middle is messy but it’s also where the magic happens.” Do you believe that is true of motherhood? Why?

Nothing valuable is ever easy, but motherhood holds a magic that is nearly impossible to match. I think part of that happens because it is such an unselfish role. Happiness comes when we are focused on others and not ourselves. For me, though it was busy and demanding and often I felt unprepared for the job, it was still laden with MAGICAL moments—Reading at bedtime to your children (gathered in the hall with pillows, blankets, and twinkling eyes), stroking the tousled curls of precious granddaughter, rocking a sleepy eyed baby with a lullaby, kissing a hurt all better, listening to the lovely prayer of a two year old heart, watching a daughter become a mother, tiny hands stretched round your neck, quiet whispers “love you, mom,” teenage late talks after dates, moments of motherly pride for accomplishments of your children and grandchildren. All never-to-be-forgotten moments that only a mother could know.

When you were in the thick of mothering little kiddos, in what ways did you ‘find the mom’ you wanted to be?

I was happiest as a mom, when I let MY agenda go, and truly focused on being with, enjoying, and loving my kids. We played and laughed and learned together. We rolled down hills, we did parades, we made neighborhood videos, we chased and tickled and imagined. Those were some of my brightest, happiest memories, and my favorite Mom role.

Sometimes mothering can be lonely, and we’re all feeling that right now. What did you do then or even now to ‘find other moms’ who you could both rely upon and be lifted by?

I loved friends who were continually seeking fun and active ways to teach their children and guide them to goodness. We shared creative ways to build, encourage, and help our children grow into contributing and faithful adults.

Your beloved mother is no longer with us. Do you still ‘find your mom’ near, in moments or memories around you? What does that feel like?

Mostly I’ve tried to be like my Mom. She was so fun, full of life, happy, and creative. I’ve copied many of the activities she did with us, and I’ve often heard her words come to my mind when I was discussing a challenge with a teenager (and praying for the wisdom to answer well). Although I didn’t always appreciate her as I should, I know I stand upon her shoulders. Her dedication to motherhood has influenced my entire life. And in the important moments of my life, I have felt and knew that she was there for me!

You are an artist. How has art shaped your life?

Art has taught me to SEE. Art opens one’s eyes to see the details of nature and living. It teaches you to observe and notice all around you. That has tremendously blessed my life—to see the beauty of God’s creations and to notice the small miracles of living.

Could you share with us any advice you might give to a mom with young children?

Don’t give up on yourself. A family learns & grows together. Pray for ways to create strong and lasting bonds. Include God in your work at home. 

On a lighter note, do you have any funny or embarrassing stories on me, (Marilee)?

Marilee was a dancer in her teenage years. She had broken her foot and was out for a month, so she baked cookies for her dance team and wrapped them up in tin foil to take to the studio. Just to make it fun, she sent a big group text to her team—“You are the bomb! Look under Sarah’s car" without signing it. Most of her friends had her number but were all still in class. One mom saw the text on her daughter’s phone and didn't know who it was from so she called the police reporting a bomb threat. The bomb squad came to “disarm” the bomb and found cookies. Soon the police were knocking at our door. Everyone, but that mom, knew it was from Marilee, but they were all busy dancing, while we were getting a warming about faking bomb threats. Never did that again!

And another one we had to ask :) What is your favorite Gathre product and why?

I love the large stuffed floor cushions. They are simply beautiful. We also use our midi under our kids table every Sunday for family dinners. Saves the floor.

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would ENJOY it more. I would hug and laugh and praise every day.

Would you tell us some of the greatest lessons your mother has taught you?

Live your life courageously and find joy in the little things. She taught me that motherhood is a privilege and family life can be joyous and rich. She taught me to make God the center of our home.

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave your family?

A legacy of love. Love of life, love for each family member, love for God, and love those around us.

Do you have a wish for me, your daughter?

You are already more than I ever could have hoped. Thank you for blessing our lives. I hope you always look for the joy in life. We love you! (We love you too, Jess. You are both beautiful women, inside and out).

And a wish for our kids, your grandchildren?

I want them to know and love their Savior, Jesus Christ and that will bring hope and happiness to their lives.