Mom’s love extended far beyond her children. Her love for the four of us (me, Russell, Claude and Sharon) was exceptional. It included discipline and sometimes punishment. Thankfully, her love was not namby-pamby feel-good stuff. She had a balance of blessing us and rebuking us. The first is important and the second is sometimes necessary.

I am reminded of her deep, patient love by something she did for many years. It wasn’t an easy or convenient job. She knew it was important. She knew she was serving her Savior in love. She showed Jesus love by the way she loved her children and by her love for hurting prisoners. The following is a portion of an email she sent me in February 2007.

“In yesterday’s mail I received seven letters from prisoners, some first-timers, some my old friends. I expect it will take most, if not all of today, to answer them all.  Our motto is to get the answers out as soon as possible, for these men, have usually been hurt by so many people already.  Some work for one or two hours to earn the money for a postage stamp.  Do not be afraid to ask me questions, I love them from anyone.  It tells me people are thinking when they ask questions.  You can share with whoever you like.  It is all God’s story not mine, and He should get all the credit, He was watching out for me before I even knew He existed.”

You can hear her heartbeat of love for her Savior and for the hurting. She was their companion in a difficult place. She understood God watched out for her and loved her even before she acknowledged Him. She realized her story was really about God and His plan and purposes. It drove her, I believe, to love more deeply, with patience and extra mercy and grace.

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner.” – Hebrews 13:3

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)

Be like Shirley. See your Savior and those the Savior is watching out for in a new light. She had an eternal perspective. She worked for and did it for Jesus. The answers she gave her prisoners were likely bathed in prayer and sprinkled with truth from God’s Word.