By Jeff Keeling
Nearly six years ago, I gained a second daughter. Madison Smith was 19 when she became Madison Chandley, marrying the creative multi-instrumentalist Zach. The two became one flesh in a simple ceremony in Jonesborough, and soon thereafter, the ebullient Owen King Chandley entered all of our lives. A few years later, the spritelike Emmarie Lyn “Baby Sister” Chandley would join the household.
The lovely and talented Angela and I realize with daily gratitude that our cup runneth over in the grandchildren department. As I consider the approach of Mother’s Day, I consider it an honor to thank Madison for being, and continuing to become, a wonderful mother to my grandchildren.
While I consider it true that none of us is ever fully ready for parenthood, Madison and Zach faced more challenges than some do. They were 19 and 18, with college and career ahead of them, when they learned Madison was pregnant. It was then and there, in that frightening, confusing maelstrom of emotion and decision, that Madison immediately showed she had the inner character and strength to be a great mother: She chose life.
Frankly, I cannot imagine life without Madison as my daughter-in-law and Owen and Emmarie as my grandchildren, but the scenario could have played out differently, and friends and loved ones would have understood and supported Madison in that case. Instead, she took a path that puts both her and Owen in pretty good company, if you ask me.
Fifty-two years ago, another expectant young woman who faced a similar situation chose life. Jayce McLucas became Jayce Keeling, a great mother and wife for whom I am also thankful this Mother’s Day week. Owen and I have something in common – neither of us would be here had our mothers made a different choice.
Right in that line, too, the lovely and talented Angela made a similar choice, setting her path toward becoming a wonderful mother. So Owen, Zach – who entered my life when he was 4 – and I all share several bits of great fortune in common. We are here because our mothers, even as frightened young women facing difficult circumstances, had the courage and character to choose life.
And oh, how God has blessed, guided and multiplied the families that sprang forth from the roots of those decisions. The examples are immeasurable in number and richness. God has continually shaped and molded Jayce, Angela and Madison into loving, influential women and mothers.
It has been especially gratifying to see this transpire in Madison, with whom I grow ever closer – to watch the good far outweigh the negative in that messy journey called parenthood. We have enjoyed the growing recognition that we share many traits in common. We’ve been able to get a kick out of how our attention to certain types of household detail (finance comes to mind), our willingness to be the one who makes a decision for the group (otherwise we might all starve if we were planning an extended family meal out) and our more no-nonsense (or meaner) approach to adult-child interactions perfectly complements Angela and Zach’s styles. Let me be quick to add that our spouses’ styles are wonderful and deserving of nothing but praise – it’s just nice to have a kindred spirit when you typically end up acting as the heavy.
So, Madison Haley Smith Chandley, on this Mother’s Day week I salute you. Whether you’re painting Emmarie’s nails, building a Lego contraption with Owen, moving up the ladder at your day job, praying for your family or spending some precious, carefully planned time with your husband, in my book you do it exceedingly well. You’ve come a long way in a short time, and I pray God’s blessings on you as you continue the journey.