A Mother’s Modus Operandi: “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”

Potted flowers Bloom where you are planted“Bloom Where You Are Planted.” This one phrase encapsulates the philosophy by which my mother lived. She and my dad moved 28 times during their 61 years of marriage—and I’m talking different cities, different states, different countries. My oldest brother, bore the brunt of it. I remember him telling me that he went to four different high schools.

Somewhere, early on, she adopted this modus operandi. As soon—and I mean THE VERY DAY the truck unloaded—as soon as the doors to the new house were unlocked, boxes were unpacked, beds were made, pictures quickly hung in their spots and a roast would be in the oven. I kid you not. Next up, her mission was to meet the neighbors, find a church, a bridge club and a garden club to join. Goal: Get planted. Then bloom.

Somewhere, early on, I adopted this modus operandi. And I didn’t even realize it.

A mother’s words and a mother’s modus operandi are very powerful. I attribute my love for adventure, my ease in making new friends, and my flexibility to my mother. She passed this invaluable approach to life on to me, her only daughter. I miss her.

I’m a mother, too. And I am the mother of a daughter. To be exact I am the mother to FIVE daughters. You heard that right. FIVE. No boys in the bunch. And I had no sisters. Only four brothers. (I learned how to throw a mean football, but couldn’t lace together a bow for the life of me. God has a sense of humor to be sure.) My girls are all adults now. What have I passed on to them?

A mother’s words and a mother’s modus operandi are very powerful. They are passed down whether we realize it or not. We’re doing it all the time. My mom passed on other lessons to me as as well—both in word and in deed. Here are a few classics:

Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. (Don’t worry)
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. (Don’t give up)
Don’t cry over spilt milk (Keep things in perspective)
If the shoe fits, wear it. (If it applies, accept the truth)
You made your bed, now sleep in it. (Take responsibility)
Make hay while the sun shines. (Do it now)
A watched pot never boils (Be patient)

You’ve, no doubt heard these yourself and seen someone model them. They date my mom, don’t they? I’m sure you have a list of your own, from your own parentals.

Now the question becomes, “What are the quippy little proverbs and phrases that my girls will quote after I’m gone?” Just asking that question causes a flood of phrases to enter my mind. I want to capture them. I want to write them down, wrap them up and give to my girls to “take home,”  to put in their treasure chests of memories. I want to be intentional about this. I want to replace the negative and destructive ones, they’ve no doubt picked up over the years, with ones that ring of real wisdom and are worthy to be passed on to their kids. I’m going to do exactly that.

QUESTION: What are the quippy little proverbs and phrases that your kids, or grandkids, nieces or nephews, students, or other children in your life, will quote after you’re gone?

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51 Responses to “A Mother’s Modus Operandi: “Bloom Where You Are Planted.””

  1. Hi Gail. I just started following you and yesterday I spent most of my time reading your blog, which I enjoyed very much. You are a good writer. This particular blog is an eye opener for me. I have three grown kids and last Friday night they went to a movie with my husband while I was out with my girl friends.I was out late and I got a text from my daughter which reads “where are you?”. So funny because this is the phrase that I text to them when they are out late. I have to ask them what else they will remember about me…hopefully not these ” Did you do your homework?”‘or ” Is your room clean?”.

  2. Love it, Gail! Made me realize two things. 1) I need to find a garden club. I’ve lived in Collierville, TN and made lots of friends but can use more with similar hobbies… Especially if they can help troubleshoot my hydrangeas. And 2) I’m going to stop avoiding the cliches I grew up with. As a kid I found them annoying and redundant but you and your readers are so right! They instilled in me truths that are vital to living a fruitful life and they keep the spirits of my family alive. I have two small girls and I think I’ll start with “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Couldn’t be more appropriate as this is birthday season and they’re receiving lots of financial gifts. Love your blog. Keep it up!

  3. This is such a powerful blog because we do leave our example for our children. One quality that my mother exhibited was to always see and tell the good and not criticize. It is a behavior I try to emulate. I use Phil. 4:8 as my model and want what I say to reflect this verse.

  4. Beth,
    My favorite is: “When God Closes a Door, Somewhere He Opens a Window.” I remember hearing that from Corrie Ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place. Her mom probably passed it on to her.

  5. My mom always said:

    “Keep on truckin'” or
    “Don’t burn the candle at both ends” or
    “When God Closes a Door, Somewhere He Opens a Window”
    Wow, I didn’t think I had anything but these really stuck out to me during some hard times. Thanks for jogging my memory! I hope I can have some wisdom to pass on to the next generation!

  6. “Keep on truckin'” or
    “Don’t burn the candle at both ends” or
    “When God Closes a Door, Somewhere He Opens a Window”
    Wow, I didn’t think I had anything but these really stuck out to me during some hard times. Thanks for jogging my memory! I hope I can have some wisdom to pass on to the next generation!

  7. Love this post. My children are small but I can say, “We take care of each other because….” and they will finish, “we’re family. Family takes care of family.” And if I ask who put our family together, they will say, “God.” My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years and have an 8 year old and a 6 year old. Late start, God timing however is perfect. God used adoption to make us a family and we’re constantly aware of His blessing and the importance of family.

    Another that we say is, “Do we use our hands….(whatever that’s being used) or do we use our words?” They will always answer, “Words.” “Does God use His hands, etc… to discipline us or does He leave us His Words?” “His Words.” And so, the lesson is that God wants us to use His words and ours. My friends now are using this with their children instead of using spanking/corporal punishment.

    Having two elementary age kids, there is always the chance one of us will start to get exasperated. That’s when I will say, “God allows us sometimes to just start over, let’s just start over today.” We’ll all calm down and get a fresh start. Sometimes when our son on the Autism Spectrum will get upset he’ll say, “Let’s just start over Mom, we need a start over.” And we do and life is great and we go on.

    It’s those things we do and say consistently that do, infact, stick. Just think, the things that were of utmost importance to God, He said consistently and repeatedly and we infact, remember those the most and call on those when we have a need. What a great example of a parent.

    Thank you for the reminder!

  8. Great to see you blogging again, Gail! Wow . . . I don’t know if my kids are old enough to have heart many nuggets of wisdom yet – it’s mostly “I don’t respond to whining,” or “Please clean up your toys”!!!! I just asked Madeleine if I have ever given her good advice, and she said, “Yeah, yesterday when we did that thing on the boy who ran away” (lesson on the prodigal son). Me: “What was the advice?” Mad: “I don’t remember.”

    Guess I’ll have to do better at this!

  9. Patty Gibson – my dearest friend. Thank you for leaving a comment. I love that one of your dads. I’m going to remember that one! And your mom surely lives out that trust in the Lord. Give her a big hug from me. Hope you enjoyed your day off.
    I miss you. Gail

  10. Beautifully written, sweet Gail! Your parents were treasures as are you and Mike. I recall my dad, who was a lover of quotes, saying “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” Mom often reminds me that, “The Lord knows.” I will ask my kids what they remember most from all the many things I’ve said to them.

  11. As the mother of a 2 year old (and one on the way) I have yet to come up with some phrases that I am sticking with… but you all gave me some great ideas! Gail and Michael – what a blessing to have 5 children – Wow!!! Before I had kids I was always worried about what my kids would be like and do when they were old enough to make their own decisions and now, I realize, that even today as I shuffle my son to and from time out, in and out of the bath and even when I am wiping his bum, the words and expressions and feelings I express are making an impression on him that will impact how he does act and behave as a teen and adult.

    I can’t think of anything that my mother said, specifically, but her gentle loving spirit and calming ways have made me who I am and I hope I can pass on half of that to my kids.

  12. Glad to see you posting again! I only just “found” your blog a couple weeks back… read the Tsi story and then was disappointed to find nothing since. You definitely have an engaging voice and thoughts worth sharing!

    My mom taught me a great deal in the 18 years she was with me. Probably one of her most far-reaching lessons is summed up in her frequent commitment not to “give organ recitals.” Though plagued with chronic illness, she was one of the most joyful and content people I’ve ever known.

    I once quipped to friends (during my all-knowing pre-children days) that I think we spend the rest of our lives recovering from our parents. I never imagined then how that flippant expression would come back to haunt me when I had kids of my own! Now I only hope I can give them half as good a foundation to “recover from” as my own parents gave me!

  13. I liked the way you translated those proverbs, Gail! And my kids have heard all of them. But what they remember are the ones that are sort of ‘inside’ jokes in our family:
    “Be what you is, because if you ain’t what you is, then you is what you ain’t.” Pretty self-explanatory, it’s a quote, but I don’t know from whom.
    And one of our own: “It only stinks if you think it does.” By which I meant that half the unpleasantness of life is in your own interpretation of the sensory input. As a family, we raised livestock and cleaned a lot of ‘modular exhaust’.
    The rejoinder to this, which the grown kids still say whenever we drive past a particularly foul-smelling abattoir, is, “We think it stinks, Mom!”

  14. I think I need to go get a second cup of coffee. The only phrase that came to mind, which my two sons like to quote is something I said often, especially in demanding times.

    “There isn’t enough of me to go around.”

    I suppose there IS a good life lesson in it. But the funny thing is, I end up passing on ALL KINDS of things inadvertently to my children.

    Your mother sounds wonderful.

  15. Very funny Sandra!

  16. I am SO glad to see you posting again. I hope to see another post soon!

    I’ve always thought my mantra was, “This, too, shall pass.” But my daughter told me some time back that the “proverb” that most sticks in her head from her nurse mom is, “Don’t touch the bathroom doorknob with your bare hand.”

  17. I’m thinking about how I can capture all of these sayings. They are wonderful. Some are old favorites we’ve heard for generations, some are brand new to me. I love @idelette’s “Let’s make room for our ‘friends.'” Given the context of South Africa, it’s especially meaningful.

    Before next Friday, I will make a list of these and put them up. And, yes, @Ary, the challenge to be intentional is so important.

    Keep them coming. Thanks for weighing in.

  18. Just discovered your blog, I love this post! Bloom where you are planted has been my Email signature tag since last year – we moved to a new city and it was hard to get rooted! And I am so challenged to be intentional about what my children will remember …last night I was thinking maybe I am too harsh with them. I feel a bit like Ken Davis, I laughed when I read his comment! This is so timely, thank you Gail.

  19. Thank you for such a soulful post. I love hearing your heart.

    I grew up in Apartheid South Africa and now one of the most important values for me is including others. In preschool my children (6, 4 & 2) learned a song that goes: “Let’s make room for our friends.” I always ask them, “Are you making room for your friend/sister/brother? I hope they remember that about me. And how I try to introduce them to many different cultures. I truly desire to open up the world to them and have them be shalom makers.

    As for my mom, I will always thank her for her selfless Love. She truly showed me what it means to Love. I could only wish my children would remember that about me.

  20. “You can do anything you set your mind to” was what both of my parents told me, but Mama especially. That has given me the courage to do so many things in my life.

    Great post, Gail – looking forward to reading more of your writing.

  21. Awesome Gail. Glad to see you posting and I agree with Micheal, you have a great voice.

    My niece and nephew, who lived with me during part of their lives, will likely recall their frustration as teenagers when they would let me know how stupid I was and my response was “take heart, as you get older, I’ll get smarter”. They might even remember my oft repeated line “I have broad shoulders and a duck’s back” when referring to other people’s pettiness.

    Apparently, according to my nephew, I possess something called ‘the look’ that he lives in fear of seeing. It means, ‘you screwed up, now fix it’.

    Looking forward to your next post. :)

  22. Got two for you:
    1. The proverbial, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” :)
    2. I believe an original: “Only boring people get bored.”

    I’m never bored! :) This was neat to reflect on since my mom is in heaven. Thank you!

  23. I loved this post so much! My mom has been gone to Heaven almost 2 years and everything that brings up memories of her makes me happy. One of my favorite “momisms” from her – “Going along with the crowd may make them love you for awhile, but remember, you have to love yourself forever.” I heard this one alot in Jr. High! My gram used to say “You are never so smart that if you would stop talking and listen you couldn’t learn something…no matter who is doing the talking”. Thanks for your blog; hope we hear more soon! :)

  24. These comments are really powerful. You are giving me so much to think about and ponder.
    Now the question is: Are you living these out?
    @Candy, are you saying your prayers?
    @mattdevries, are you making a difference in the world?
    @CherylSmith, do you keep extra potatoes on hand?

  25. Oh Gail I’m so glad you were dared to post today. Because these quotes are priceless. And like Michael- I love your writing. Isn’t our God kind to give us this never ending kinship? Wow

  26. Mine will always remember “Wherever you go, there you are,” “Nothing good ever happens after midnight,” and “Don’t forget to say your prayers.” Hopefully they will realize I was right.

  27. I will have to ask them in the next few days just what they will leave with…the oldest is waiting on word right now that she got into Christ for the Nations for her next move – the one away from home.

    I HOPE they take away, “Love always hopes, love always endures ” and Phil 4:8…”Is that a good report?”

    Awesome post, lovely read! It makes me miss my Mama…and she’s just in Cleveland, TN but during this time, that is a long way from Dallas, TX!

  28. My mother taught me a lot, but two of her lessons have been the most important in my life. She always told me that pretty is is pretty does–that focused me on the importance of my inner person rather than my outer one. She also taught me the value of truth. When I was about eight years old, I lied to her about where I was going and she found out. She discipined me in a way I had never been to that point. She switched me and grounded me for two weeks. Believe me, that discipline worked because I love truth.

    My husband and I taught our children to choose life and blessings and not death and cursings (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) and to pray for travel mercies whenever they go anywhere. We also taught them to think things through.

  29. You can ask my five little ones about these phrases, often heard daily, in our household:

    “We are truthtellers” = Don’t lie!
    “We are different” = We are different, unlike the world

    And my favorite, every morning as I leave the house:

    “Make a difference in the world.” (I love the stories when I come home from work when one of them tells me how they “made a difference” that day.)

    Great post Gail!

  30. Hi Gail. How blessed you are to have such a relationship with your mom! I was not so blessed, but am hoping that my own two daughters will be filled with love and blessings because of my words.

    My favorite is “Rejoice in the Lord Always.” To me, that means you can always find something to be thankful for, joyous about.

    Great post.

  31. Wow, I’m blown away.

    After I posted this, I went to lunch with my dear friend, Shelia. (You must check out her blog. She’s an amazing and thoughtful writer: http://anam-cara.typepad.com/anam_cara/) Then I came back to all these WONDERFUL comments. I’m loving all of them.

    What wisdom!! (Except Ken Davis’ of course. … Ken, we need to talk.)

    Thank you to all of you. These are fantastic. Thank you.

  32. I suppose that I learned about leaving a legacy from my mom and dad, but especially my mom. I just published a book about her, her life, her crazy escapades, and the lives that have been changed because she decided to do the right thing over and over again (Rich People Shop Here).

    What sayings will my kids remember? “Find your Joel” might be one of them, a reference to finding good honest, accountable, Godly friends who have your best interest at heart.

    I really like this blog, Gail. Keep going!

  33. I think this is so lovely Gail. Homemaking is an ART that should always be kept alive, just as you are doing now with this blog- for in no other age than the present one is there a need for this.

    It made me smile when you asked at the end how we shall be remembered. Not having made a family myself I think my nieces will remember me, as one of them said, “My aunt wrote better than Dan Brown, thank goodness.”

  34. When I asked if friends could stay for dinner, my mom always responded with, “Sure! I’ll just add another potato to the pot.” Her other favorite was, “If you’ve been here once, you’re no longer a guest. You’re family.”

    I’ll have to ask my own kids what phrases they attribute to me. Could be a scary discovery but hopefully they’ll remember some of the positives!

  35. Great post, Gail! The main thing I hope our children will remember is our #1 family rule: “Honor God in all you think, say, and do.” We say that a lot around here.

    As a mom of three young kids, I use lots of little proverbs, including the ones you mentioned. Here are a few other quips that my kids know so well they often finish for me . . .

    “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” (Be prepared)

    “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” (Be kind)

    “Friends will come and go, but family is forever.” (So get along with each other, already!)

    I look forward to your upcoming posts on this topic.

  36. I am a single woman in her late 30s who is still forging relationships with the little ones in my life so I hope to have something to leave behind. I would first and foremost tell the children in my life to have faith in God because He will get them through the difficult times. I would also tell them to “get a good education.” I am all about education, education, education–and I am going back for my third graduate degree. More education is always good in my book.

    By the way, I am happy you finally posted something. I have wanted to comment on your blog for a while. I first heard your husband on AFR (I love his podcasts, by the way), and then I found you and your whole family. I admire your positive and upbeat attitude about life in general.

  37. I too moved many, many times while I was growing up. Dad was in the Air Force and like your brother I attended 13 different schools by the time I graduated High School. I remind myself that I gained opportunities that others may never get. I got to see the world!

  38. “What’s mentionable is manageable….and EVERY feeling you have is mentionable.” – one of my faves from Fred Rogers

  39. “For every problem under the sun,
    either there is a solution
    or there is none.

    If there is,
    search ’till you find it,
    and if there isn’t
    then never mind it”

    Taught to me by my dad, and passed on to all my children.

  40. I’m going to ask interview my children this weekend, and blog their responses to this question! I might ask my mom too, sometimes, we learn from our kids… has my mom learned from me?

    Great post…. fabulous!

  41. This is brilliant. It is so you! Plus, as I told you on the phone, I LOVE your writing. You have a great voice!

  42. Great blog! I have six!! 3 and 3 and I can’t get my wife to even consider moving, ever! blessings, th

  43. “Make good choices.” We’ve tried to emphasize “choice” in our home. You can choose to do the right thing or the wrong thing, and in choosing you are also choosing the rewards or consequences. You can choose your attitude – how you react to what happens around you. Choice is big.

  44. I follow your husband on twitter and he mentioned your blog. I’m glad he did. What a great read! Brought back so many memories of my own parents and grandparents sayings. Thanks.

  45. Sadly the phrase my four kids will probably remember is one I wish I could take back – “The Lord helps those who help themselves”.

    I wish I had learned and was able to teach them “Wait on the Lord”. Like me all my children are “doers” – they make things happen. As I’ve grown wiser I’ve learned the difference between my agenda and God’s agenda – learning to step into the networks, activities, and relationships that God places in front of me instead of working at trying to make things happen.

    It’s not too late – I have six grandchildlren and because of their influence on my children (their parents) I’m able to demonstrate God’s love in a whole new way. My kids see a different man/father and that is now my “secret weapon”.

  46. The one my kids will quote comes after their statement, But everyone is doing it. My response is: If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?
    I enjoyed this post, it made me laugh and think, what do I want to pass along. My children are adults but I have a granddaughter and I think it is time to work on passing along better words of wisdom.

  47. Great blog Gail, My children will remember phrases like…. Don’t make me come in there! How many times have I told you? Do you think money grows on trees? What if you were in an accident wearing those underwear? Stop that or your face will stay that way!…… You know, profound stuff like that.

  48. Your husband was right … good post! Maybe he should get you a book deal. :)

  49. Great post Gail. My mom always says, “te peinas o te haces rolos?” Which is spanish for “will you brush your hair or will you wear rolls?” (it makes more sense in spanish – LOL). It basically means, we have to MAKE decisions, and hard ones at that, but we have to do it. No sense in becoming idle because of a fork in the road.

    I have 2 children (a girl (6) and a boy (3) and I hope I leave them with a powerful example of how to approach life. I’m always saying, “strike while the iron is hot” (seize opportunities), “grab the bull by the horns” (face opposition head on) and “sometimes you win and sometimes you lose” (self explanatory).

    It’s great to see when your children model your Modus Operandi.

  50. Oooh, I’m going to have to think on this one.

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