This post is part of a series I'm calling The Mother's Project, where I will be highlighting the incredible moms in my life throughout the month of May. Check back later this week for more posts!

Samantha is my sister-in-law—the poor soul who married my brother, the man with four sisters. We like to think we prepped him for marriage. I mean, how can you grow up with five women and not pick up a thing or two? 

Samantha may have been the last gal to join the Horning crew, but she was the first of us kids to become a mother. The day Bella was born, everything changed. I wasn't even there and I could feel the palpable shift in my family. We watched our brother become a father and there was this little piece of each of us that breathed and cried (and puked up absolutely everything she ate).

Bella was not an easy baby. She had severe acid reflux amongst other issues and had to sleep on this very stiff wedge in her crib. But Samantha was such a determined mother. She barely slept for the first year of Bella's life, getting up with her to soothe her back to sleep on a stiff piece of styrofoam. She wrote down everything Bella ate, every time she pooped, how much she slept ... anything that might help the doctors figure out how to get this girl to comfortably eat and sleep. Samantha showed fierce commitment to her new role almost immediately.

She was so tired that first year. And discouraged. But she didn't let those big feelings and frustrations overwhelm the deep love she had for her baby. Bella could throw up on her for the tenth time in one day and Samantha would wipe it off, pick her up and say, "Bella, I just love you so much." And she meant it. (Don't get me wrong—I adored Bella from the start. But I wasn't about to say it with vomit on my shoulder. That's a mother's love right there.)

And that is still true. Samantha literally cannot go more than 15 minutes without telling her kids that she loves them. But she means it, each and every time. She loves people in a way that makes them feel known and understood, whether you're three years old or 27.

For example: I've never seen Samantha without her bringing me a treat of some sort. Usually it's a Philly soft pretzel or some kind of gummy bear (as those are my favorites). But it's consistent, 100% of the time. Her way of loving me is demonstrating that she cared enough to remember my favorite things and bring them to me. 

This love overflows into her interactions with her children. They ask for something and she takes her time with them, figuring out exactly what they need and why they might be upset. Her patience is impressive. She gets down on their level, looks them in the eye and follows confusing story lines or finds the root of the tantrum.

Isn't that what all kids want? To be understood? That's the beauty of Samantha, her earnestness in building deep relationships. She is a person who loves connecting with others. She is so determined to know them, inside and out. My nephew, Theo just turned one. And she can already see personality traits in him because she's taken the time to notice, to learn him. I can't wait to see her as a mother of teenagers. I can see her being one of those moms that doesn't have to force her kids into closeness because she has been cultivating it with them both from the second they were born.

I know her heart breaks to watch them get older, but it's so fun to see them all grow as a family—to see mini versions of Samantha and my brother learn to walk and talk and express themselves. It also fun to see Samantha grow as a mother ... she is just as fiercely committed as she was when Bella was born, but now, it's to helping her kids navigate the world as they learn about it. 

Bella and Theo, you two are a lucky little genius and monster ... you have a mom that will be your biggest supporter for the rest of your lives. She will guide you to truth and self-awareness and individuality and if all else fails, she will walk you toward Jesus. I pray that you will always appreciate her desire to know you. It's a really nice thing to be known, I promise.