In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m so excited to share my ultimate mom crush, my own mom, with you all! My mom, Denise Harper, has been my number one fan and supporter over the years. She is the best mom to my brother, sister, and me and best Sugar to all of her six grandkids. She and my dad will be married for forty years next month and they are role models of what a loving, faith-centered marriage looks like. In addition to being a wonderful mother, my mom is a real estate agent and is fantastic at her job — it’s inspiring to see her continue to make strides with her career at this stage in her life. It was so fun getting to sit down and chat with her about raising us, her career, marriage and what she learned from her own mother. Continue reading below to see why I am so blessed to call this incredible woman ‘mom’.

Caroline: Mom! So excited to interview you for our Mom Crush series in honor of Mother’s Day. You’ve been my biggest fan and I can’t wait to share a bit about you with HoH readers. First tell our readers a little bit about where you are from originally and where you are today.

Denise: I grew up in Texarkana, Arkansas in a faith-based family with three siblings.  I met my husband John at Baylor University and we settled in his hometown of Corsicana, Texas.  We bought his grandparent’s house and still live in it today. We have three kids — Sarah, Caroline and Walt — and now have six grandchildren.  I am a real estate agent and truly love my job!

Caroline: You were (and are!) such an amazing mom to me and my two siblings all while having a husband who traveled regularly. What are your tips for remaining positive when raising three kids even in difficult or stressful moments?  

Denise: Patience, prayer and the support of loyal friends who have the same values.  Family and friends pick you up when you are struggling and love you through the good times and bad.

Caroline: What lesson(s) did you most hope to teach us growing up?   

Denise: Family is everything and nothing should get in the way of your relationships. Your faith is what carries you through day to day. Raise your children in church, love them even when they aren’t that lovable, and always let them know you love them unconditionally. Treat others with respect and kindness. Choose a partner who will love you and care for you, who has the same moral compass as you, and who has the same commitment to your marriage and vows.

Caroline: You had an amazing role model in your mother / my grandmother.  What life lessons did your mother teach you? What do you miss about her the most?  

Denise: This is a tough one because I could write a book about my mom.  She was my prayer warrior. She loved everyone and made each person feel like they were the most special person in her life.  I lost a brother when he was 19, and her unwavering faith through such a tragic life event was an inspiration to all who knew her.  Her faith never wavered and her way through her heartache was to serve others. I bet she baked a thousand pies for other people, which she had my dad deliver.  No matter what any of us were going through, we knew she loved us unconditionally. I think that is the greatest gift she gave me: to love without reservation.

I miss being able to call my mom and ask for her to pray for someone or something. I also miss being able to call her and ask how to bake something. I miss her wonderful baking — she always had pralines at Christmas and chicken spaghetti ready and waiting when we came into town. The whole family loved being together at her house — there is nothing better than memories of grandkids and great grandkids gathered together at their favorite place on earth, MaMaw and Papaws.  She loved sharing and giving, and I loved how she was always wanting to give away something to someone. I miss everything about her and feel so lucky to have had her as my Mom. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes. What a gift she was to all of us!

Caroline: How has your faith impacted you as a mom?  And in life?

Denise: Faith is the most important thing in my life.  It gives me the reassurance that God is with me at all times.  I can turn to him when I feel the most lost or vulnerable. I can feel his presence in all the decisions I make.  There were times when drawing on that faith and belief in a higher power helped me get through hard times. We all have days when it is hard to keep on, and knowing that we are not alone in those times is such a joyful feeling.  Our greatest accomplishment as parents is the knowledge that all of our children have that same faith-based marriages and families.

Caroline: You’re the best grandmother to all of your grandchildren who lovingly refer to you as Sugar. What are the best parts about being a grandmother?  

 Denise: Being a grandmother is the best thing ever! I always love the looks on their faces and the hugs they give when they see us.  With five of our six grandchildren living in other towns, our time spent together as a family are very special and we try our best to make those times count. Our yearly family vacations have been such a blessing to me.  We started this tradition when we realized our time spent as a family in Corsicana was typically short and pretty chaotic with only a few precious days of everyone’s time there overlapping and always with a lot of interruptions. Now, one week a year we rent a house big enough to fit the whole family – we have traveled to beaches and mountains, but usually escape the Texas heat for Colorado in the summer.  These memories together have been a true blessing for strengthening bonds and creating special memories. I love when the grandkids are all able to spend quality time with their cousins and when our children get to reconnect in a relaxed atmosphere. These trips emphasize the importance of family and time together.

Caroline: You and dad have a wonderful loving relationship even after 40 years. What is your secret to maintaining a healthy marriage over the years? How do you prioritize your spouse when juggling a family?  

Denise: Yes, 40 years this June!  It’s really hard to believe it’s been that long.   Your dad and I both had the same commitment to marriage.  We both knew it was for life. That is not to say we haven’t had hard times — everyone does. We just didn’t give up on our marriage or on each other.

Prioritizing my spouse has been the biggest struggle while raising kids and pursuing a career that I enjoy. It seems like there is always something in one of our lives that gets in the way from prioritizing each other.  I am so lucky that John is my sounding block to help me keep my priorities in line. He is my rock. He is the most honest, loyal person I know. I really would not be the mother or grandmother that I am today if he had not been in my life.

Caroline: You and dad have been working on the new Hill Country ranch house and we’re so excited it’s finally done! Can you tell us a little bit about the project and what the house and Hill Country mean to you?  

Denise: It was my husband John’s dream to have a place in the Hill Country, and it quickly became mine as well.  It is a place where you pull into the gate and all the stresses of everyday life just melt away. We bought our ranch in the Texas Hill Country about ten years ago.  It had a small old farmhouse on it with three very small bedrooms and one tiny bath. We loved the little house, but it would not hold all of our family at one time.  Our priority for the ranch house was to create a place for family and friends to enjoy together, so we decided to build a larger home. Building a house that is a 4.5 hour drive from home has not been easy, but the reward has been great. The new house is beautiful, thanks to you, and most importantly, it holds all of us.  We spent Easter weekend with the entire family at the new house and it was wonderful. The house is situated high on a hill with amazing views and peaceful, quiet surroundings. The grandkids love to just run around outside. I can’t wait for HOUSE of HARPER to share the final pictures with you all, it truly turned out amazing!

Caroline: You’re in such great shape — what is your secret??  

Denise: Well, this question came at a perfect time.  Once again, my husband John got me back on course. I have been lax lately with my workout routine.  He kindly reminded me the other day that I needed to get back to the gym to stay healthy and encouraged me to get a trainer for a jumpstart.  So this week I am back in! I have always been very conscious of my health and try to make healthy choices. Of course I don’t always succeed.  I think the key is always striving to do better the next day.

Caroline: What are your goals for the next 10 years?

Denise: I have been very lucky to have a career that I love and that gives me freedom with my time.  As a real estate agent, I have the luxury of setting aside time for family and travel. In my next 10 years I plan to spend lots of time with family and grandkids and at the Hill Country Ranch, and to travel often. We’re heading to Paris, France in June for our 40th wedding anniversary. One of the perks of having an American Airlines retired Captain as a hubby is that we have been able to travel all over the world and plan to continue that!  

Caroline: Any final words of advice or inspiration for our readers?

Denise: My greatest joy is seeing our family grow and flourish.  I am so very blessed to have the life I have and I do not take it for granted.  I hope to give back some blessings to family and friends and those in need. I love my life!  God has been so very good to me!