The Other Mother



I don’t write about her much. My own family has always been fair game. When you grow a writer in the family there are no more family secrets. Everything and everyone is a story-in-the-making.

But my in-laws didn’t raise a writer. So they didn’t exactly bargain for the exposure that comes with being related to an author. I’ve tried my best not to push them into the limelight of the written word. The one exception I made was in Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? I interviewed my father-in-law for a chapter titled “The Missionary.”

If you read that book then you know that my in-laws, Gene and Gwen, were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They served in the jungles of Ecuador on the heels of the death of Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian.  Gene and Gwen have some stories worth hearing. Gene tells some of those stories in the chapter I wrote on him.

Gwen, however, she isn’t one to talk much about herself. Like her oldest son, Gwen isn’t much of one for sitting around, either. She’s a doer. Always has been, long as I have known her. She is forever doing for others. It is simply impossible to “impose upon” her. If there is something you need and she knows about it, it’s done.

Gwen has been a missionary’s wife, a pastor’s wife, a bookkeeper, a business owner, a bible study teacher, a retreat leader, a good neighbor, a thoughtful friend, an attentive daughter, a devoted sister, a faithful wife and the best of moms.

Whenever anyone tells me what a wonderfully kind man my husband is, and they do that often, I think of Gwen. I know that my husband is the man he is because of the way she raised him.

Gwen taught her oldest son the most important lesson any mother can teach her son – she taught Tim that in the eyes of God, men and women are equals.  Tim does his own laundry because his mother taught him to do that. Tim bought himself a sewing machine because his mother taught him to sew. Tim does his own ironing because he says to me, “You are not the hired help.’ That’s a lesson his mother taught him.

Tim is one of the most humble people I know. He never, ever seeks the limelight. Instead, Tim always seeks for ways to be of help to others. Everyone who knows Tim knows that if there is something they need, all they have to do is ask him. That’s because his mama taught him that serving others is the way we honor them and the Lord Our God.

I know men who treat their wives like the hired help. Men whose only concern is for themselves. Men who spend every free moment they have in their own selfish pursuits. Men who do not recognize or honor their wives. Men who think it is funny to belittle their wives and everyone else they deem less than. Mean men. Men who say the cruelest things and couch it in laughter. Men who think child-rearing is a woman’s chore. Men who never spend a whole day with their young children because, frankly, they are just too selfish. Men who live with little or no thought of serving others.  Men whose sole focus in life is themselves and their needs and wants. Whenever I am around men like that, I come away with a heavy heart.

I wish those men could have had mamas like Gwen.

Parents who indulge their children’s narcissistic bent do the world no favors. We need more parents who are willing to teach their children humility. Parents who insist that children speak kindly and honor others.

When our children were little, my girlfriends used to say to me that it melted their hearts to see the way Tim loved on his children. He has always been such a good daddy. When they were little, all four kids would clamor up in Tim’s lap. He would read to them or just sit and talk to them. My husband was a good parent because his mama  and his daddy loved him so well.

This Mother’s Day, Tim and I will be driving to visit our daughter Ashley. She will be undergoing a C-section on Monday to deliver our third grandson.

I have two daughters who now have the responsibility of raising up sons rightly. My hope and prayer for my girls is that they will emulate their Grandmama Gwen’s most excellent example. I pray  God will impart to my daughters the wisdom and strength to raise up men like the one Gwen raised so well.

My greatest hope for all my grandsons is that they will want to grow up to be like Pawpaw Tim. Men who realize that it is by serving others that we honor God best.

Thank you, Gwen, for raising your boy up rightly, and for loving us all so well throughout the years.

Happy Mother’s Day to my other mother.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press).


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 7 years ago

Thank you for honoring our mother with this wonderful expression of love! Happy Mothers Day sister!



about 7 years ago

A most worthy tribute! I have to think on that because I'm so weary of serving even though I know it's what I've been called to do. Yeah, I know there's a verse for that.



about 7 years ago

A fine tribute to a fine person and a fine couple. It is as much a Father's Day tribute as one for Mother's Day. Some years ago in a seminary class, the female pastor was talking about the congregation she served in a Midwest city. Her church was mostly female, and nearly every member of her church had experienced sexual and physical violence as well as a boat load of verbal abuse and humiliation. I commented that we could fix much of what is wrong with the world if we could fix a few things wrong with many of our men. I hadn't even put the period on that sentence when she shot me a sober look and replied, "You got that right." We are all in this business of making future human beings. We need the very best of both. No excuses. And congratulations to the entire Sinner and Zacharias clan. Welcome to the world, young man! Blessed be... !


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