Trillia Newbell interviewed me about being a PK. Except she did something really cool. She didn’t ask me about what it was like to be John Piper’s son. Trillia asked about what influence my mother, Noel Piper, had on me. I loved answering her questions and having a chance to brag on my mom some. Here’s an excerpt.
Most of what I’ve read about your book and in your book focuses on your relationship with your father. But I’d like to know more about how your mother shaped your life and experience. Could you tell us about your mother, who she is and what she means to you?
This question makes me smile simply because no son can write what his mother means to him in a few short sentences. My mom is the oldest of 10 kids, raised in the strict Southern Baptist home of a small town doctor in Georgia. She is as steady as they come and a remarkably strong woman. You have to be to raise four boys in a home that in no-way resembled Lord of the Flies. And she has a big heart. When she was in her late forties the opportunity arose to adopt a baby girl, and my mom never hesitated in saying yes (credit here it’s due: my dad said yes too). So when I was 12 I got a new baby sister. Now, in her mid sixties, my mom is an empty-nester for the first time in 42 years. That is a lot of mothering.
She is brilliant (an author of two adult non-fiction books, and a handful of kids books) and taught me to love reading and stories, mostly by her example. She has an eye and heart for missions the world over, and has visited dozens of countries as part of missions trips. This also speaks to her ever-readiness to drop everything and serve. On top of all that she is eloquent and a very good teacher. Although, I didn’t appreciate that nearly as much as a child when I was home schooled for a couple years. On the one hand she set aside certain gifts and desires for a time for the good of our family – writing, traveling, raising a girl. On the other hand, she accepted the opportunities to do those things with fervor when God gave the opportunity. So she’s an example of sacrifice and stewardship, patience and action.
How did she shield you or assist you in your struggles with being a pastor’s kid?
From my perspective, the thing my mother did that was the greatest benefit to me was the constancy with which she ran our home. My father’s schedule and responsibilities as a pastor, especially as he was asked to travel more as a speaker, were rigorous. But our life kept on chugging ahead, no beats missed. For a child, to have that steadiness and regularity is a huge benefit. I recognize this much more now, as a parent myself, than I did then.
She never complained in my hearing – not ever – about my dad or about the difficulties of ministry. She didn’t bad mouth people in the church, even those who deserved it. My mom is not an emotive person, prone to expressiveness, but she is a doer, a server. She set a tone and an example in that way.
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How has your mother most influenced you?
She taught me to love reading which also led to my love of writing. She is insatiably curious, always learning about one thing or another – foreign countries, bird watching, heroes of hers, and so on. It set a tone of learning for me, always being interested in new knowledge. And she showed me how to be flexible and roll with life’s punches, be ready for change, and keep calm in conflict and crisis. In parenting and marriage that sort of steadiness is something I’m still learning, but her influence is priceless.
Tell us a funny story about an interaction or event you experienced with your mother.
It’s not specific to me, but when my three older brothers and I were little, my mom was on a first name basis with the urgent care nurses. We visited the office so many times with broken bones, gashes, busted lips, concussions, and so forth. Being the trooper she was, my mom would wrap us up, buckle us in, and drive on over to urgent care all in a day’s work. She would walk in with one of us busted up and bleeding and they’d say “Oh hi, Noel. What happened to the boys this time?” I suspect she was mildly relieved that my sister didn’t necessitate the same number of visits.
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