There are so many people who have a front-row seat in someone’s life. If you pay attention, you can watch your very own how-to guide; how to do or not do certain things in life. Stuff that makes you say, “I want to be just like that” or “I never want to be like that.”

The best example we’ve had in our lives is our mom. She’s gone through the fire and she survived! She always thought about other people, which we viewed as a huge flaw for many years.

We felt like she let people walk over her. I wanted her to fight a little more. Get an attitude and tell people off. You know, put them in their place. She would NEVER do it. She always took the peaceful approach. She’d say, “God loves them just like He loves me, you can’t treat people bad.” We felt like she could fight a little and it would be justified!

It wasn’t until we were older that we realized she was fighting. Fighting for her 8 children, doing her best to not be a bitter, mean woman. Teaching us to pick our battles, and learn how to let some stuff go.

With marital and financial problems that seemed to be prevalent during my lifetime, I don’t remember seeing her depressed or being angry all the time. Even when she had the right to be, she always told us God would work it out, and to keep your heart and mind on the fact that He, our God, will take care of his children even when it doesn’t look like it or feel like it.

I had no idea she was teaching us how to persevere, how to endure, how to hold on when everything around me is screaming to let go. How to be soft but strong, while still being a woman. How to fight but not with my fist. Fight for my peace of mind. For my ability to look at myself in the mirror and feel good about who I am, knowing that I handled a disagreement or confrontation the right way — one that allowed me to walk away without question of my character, dignity, integrity, or Christianity.

It’s beautiful to watch people who I know didn’t like my mom, or talked about her, like she was the old woman in the shoe. They’d come back years later and say, you never acted funny with me, even when you knew I was talking about you. It’s amazing to see those people apologize years later. So many times, my siblings and I wanted to take some of her battles in our hands. We still have a ways to go I guess.

But we’re trying to follow her lead. Her road map is awesome! She’s taught me how to be my own woman. Now, granted, we don’t share all the same views; Tina and I are both definitely more feisty than our sweet mommy, but we’re working on being like the beautiful example of womanhood we had the pleasure of living with, Ms. Thomasina Atkins.

Yes, we were watching and we’ve learned a thing or two. If you have someone in your own life, look through different eyes at the example they’ve left and live, learn and grow.

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