Storing Away Christmas ~ THE GOD BOX


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©Lisa Risager (Wikimedia)

©Nevit Dilmen (Wikimedia)

The boxes sit all around me, saying, “Okay. When are you going to fill us with Christmas ornaments and take us back down to the basement?” They can no longer be ignored. Well, I’ll ignore them a little longer because these boxes have reminded me of all the other boxes in my life. And I want to tell you about them …

I am a woman. Women have many, many boxes in their brains. This truth was confirmed to me by the teaching of Mark Gungor, who leads marriage seminars. He uses the word picture of boxes to convey the various areas of our lives that are important to us. He goes on to say that all the boxes in a woman’s brain are connected by wires to all the other boxes. He is so right. Women do connect the house box to the husband box, which is connected to the boxes for children, grandchildren, meals, travel, extended family, memories, weather, books, church, and shopping.

Personally, I found this approach to life exhausting. One box could short-circuit all the other boxes. Then I realized I had one more box, immeasurably bigger than all the others. So, I disconnected the wires that ran from each small box to other small boxes, took those wires and connected them to the Big Box.

The Big Box is God, of course. All those small boxes are still open at the same time, but they are only seen as they relate to the Big Box. No one small box can ever stop me in my tracks again. Even when information from the wire of a small box is delivering unpleasant information into the Big Box—once it is in there, it doesn’t stand a chance of dominating my time and energy. The situation or the relationship is put into perspective. It’s now in the God Box, or—to use a more familiar expression—in God’s hands.

All the memories connected to these Christmas ornaments—I place them now in God’s hands.

I’ll go back to storing away Christmas.

But isn’t that just like God to take a few empty boxes—that came out of the house box—have them meet in the Big Box with the writing box … and out pops a post?

~A.R. (Alice) Cecil

Sorrow and Hope at Christmas


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"JOY - 1977" Tree Ornament

An ornament I received the Christmas my mother died, that I hang on my tree every year.

Ah, Christmas! Bright lights, hustle and bustle, joyous music and celebrations….

Yet, hidden behind all the glitter, many people feel the pangs of sadness and loneliness more acutely during the Christmas season. If you have ever experienced a great loss at Christmastime, the holiday season awakens that grief again each year.

I know. My mother died on December 19, 1977. My father was the pastor of a loving church at the time, and the people were sweet to us, though they also grieved the death of their beloved pastor’s wife. Our family found comfort in togetherness—my husband and I with our two toddlers, my sister, and our dad. After the funeral, we stayed and spent Christmas in our parents’ home, with everything around us to remind us of Mother. … But no mother. She was not there and would never be again.

At a time when we celebrated the birth of Jesus who brought new life, we learned first-hand the awful separation and finality of death. The first night after she died, I lay awake in the guest bedroom listening to Daddy sobbing his heart out in the next room.

She was too young to die—in her forties. But she was gone.

We wanted the children—still toddlers—to have fun, not just sadness, so we borrowed little sleds and took them out to play in the snowy woods. In the fresh, crisp air we all laughed like children, a wonderful relief, and exactly what Mother would want for us. Maybe she saw us. Maybe she was laughing for joy with us.

Mother always infused Christmas with music, anticipation, beauty, delicious tastes and scents, warmth and surprises. She loved decorating the house and the church, preparing special music and programs for Christmas Sunday, often sewing new dresses for my sister and me, baking cookies, taking us Christmas shopping, and finding time to care for people who were sad and lonely.


Christmas Carolers, figurines that belonged to my mother.

I love Christmas, too, but everything about it reminds me of Mother and of my loss. Even after many years, the bright lights, the biting scent of pine and cinnamon, the taste of frosted sugar cookies and cider, the making of fudge and fruitcake, the singing of carols, the ringing of Christmas bells, the decorating of the tree, the excitement of gift giving—all is sweet sorrow.

Did sadness mix with joy for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she carried her baby to the temple and heard Simeon prophesy her child’s death? He said, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary didn’t understand yet that Jesus’ death as well as his life would bring eternal joy in the heavens and cause his birth to be celebrated for centuries to come. But she would certainly experience heart-piercing sorrow and separation.


A paper nativity scene I treasure, that my mother used to display every Christmas when I was a child. – C.Lawton

Years later, as Mary watched Jesus die a tragic, painful death, did she despair? Or did the memory of the miracles surrounding his birth and life give her hope? Life won out. His death brought our spiritual birth.

Now we know, because of his birth, life and death, we can live—and celebrate Christmas—in the certainty that death will not have the final victory.

That Christmas day, six days after Mother died, our bereaved family celebrated together with gifts and festive food, scripture and prayer. Then we drove up a snowy hillside to a flower-covered grave site. The contrast of the red-rose-and-holly-covered grave to the icy, brown hills spoke to my warring emotions.

There, feeling the pain of death’s separation, I looked up into the evening sky and noticed the first star twinkling. Yes! Our hope still shown! The realities of pain, suffering, and death are inescapable. But they will be dissolved into everlasting life and joy because of the hope of Christmas.

~ Catherine Lawton

A Grateful Lesson in Letting go of our Children


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Letting go of our children reaps a harvest in unexpected ways.

As much as I want it too, time doesn’t stand still. In fact as we age I’ve found that it actually seems to move at a faster pace. Kids grow up, graduate from college, leave the nest, and settle into a new life as they seek independence and start a career or family.

Whether our children choose to live nearby, across the state, or across the country, we will be faced with challenges to our parenting and our ability to let go.

It’s a timeless lesson in love and sacrifice.

My older son graduated from college a few years ago and, because of a lucrative job offer, immediately moved out of state. There was no time for transition between the two major milestones.

It was a crazy time for my husband and me as parents. We experienced the pride of his graduation and excitement for his new life. We packed up all of his belongings and settled him into his new apartment. Then we had to face the tearful goodbyes.

Those first few months were pretty rough on all of us. Our son expressed his dissatisfaction with being so far away from his friends and family.  It was hard for him at work—starting over as the low man on the totem pole and learning the technical aspects of his job and the organizational culture. I think if he hadn’t been bound by a two-year employment contract, he would’ve seriously considered moving back home.

He recently made an expected visit to our area, and surprised his father on his birthday. I don’t think he realized what a gift that was to our family—away from the normal holiday rush that soon awaits us. For that one day it felt as if he had never left home—like one of his visits home from college.

In our short time together, I was struck with his maturity and the dramatic change in his demeanor. He said someone at work told him that the first six months on the job would be the worst. Well, he survived that and is now applying for a one-year assignment in another country. That’s quite a shift for someone who had a hard time looking beyond his present circumstances as a new employee.

As we talked about his life in his new home state, I also noticed his maturity in other ways. He was making adult decisions, making new friends, learning more about himself, his likes and dislikes.

Then it hit me. Our letting go had given him a chance to find his own way. Letting go had been a process. In occasional conversations during this time, his father and I had offered our encouragement and support. We came to trust our son to make his own decisions and for God to guide him (and us) along the way.

We sacrifice for our children in so many ways when they are young—our time, commitment, and finances. We pour our love and our hearts into them, hoping and praying that they will become wise and godly stewards of their time and talents.

Through it all, I know this to be true: they grow up way too fast, but letting go always reaps a harvest in some unexpected way.

In parenting our children and preparing them for adulthood, we can be grateful for these unexpected blessings from Above.

What lesson have you learned in letting go of your children?

~ Ardis A. Nelson

Serendipity on Grandparents Day


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My grandson

Caden in a school program last year, dressed up as Andrew Jackson and reading a history report to an audience of parents and grandparents

One of the perks of living close to grandchildren is the privilege of attending their school programs. And once a year the local public schools host a “Grandparents Day” when they invite grandparents into their grandchild’s classroom for an hour to sit with them, meet the teacher, tour the school, and observe a little of the educational process. Yesterday my husband and I went to our grandson Caden’s classroom, along with many other proud grandmas and grandpas. We were impressed with the order and the creativity we observed, the energy and dedication of the teacher, the smiles on the children’s faces.

But I didn’t expect to be “part of the program.”

A week or so ago I received a letter in the mail written by Caden and mailed from the school. The teacher had given the students an assignment to write a letter to a grandparent asking about their family traditions when they were kids. You can believe I found the letter delightful. I gave the request thought. We do, of course, want to pass on a legacy to our grandchildren and share our histories with them; but the challenge comes in finding the right time and means (and “the teachable moment”).

I kept my reply short and hand-written, giving a few details from my childhood, then mailed it to Caden. I did wonder whether the teacher would see it, and what she would do with it.

Then yesterday, as I sat at Caden’s desk in a third-grade classroom full of boys and girls and grandmas and grandpas, I was surprised when the teacher explained about the letters. She held in her hand the response I had sent to Caden. Then she called Caden forward to read my letter to the class! He did so—loudly, clearly and happily. This “blew me away,” as they say.

Here is what I wrote and Caden read:

Dear Caden,

Thank you for asking about my family traditions. When I was a girl my father was a preacher, so many of our traditions happened at church, with special services on Christmas and Easter. There was exciting music, lots of people, and the children had special parts. I usually got a new dress on those holidays. And my mother cooked delicious dinners. My favorite Sunday dinner was fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Every year I looked forward to two big events: Christmas and summer camp! We also celebrated Thanksgiving. I loved the smell of Turkey dinner roasting in the oven. My sister, Beverly, and I kept asking, “Is it done yet?” To help us wait, Daddy encouraged us to make lists of all the things we were thankful for. Even today, when I’m feeling impatient, it helps to stop and think of the things I’m thankful for. Today, grandchildren are at the top of my list!

Love, Grandma

Most days we don’t wake up with the thought, “How can I show the world I’m a Christian—and the difference faith in Jesus makes—today?” We just live life and let Him lead. And the same goes for passing on to the next generations our values, faith, and life lessons learned.

Sometimes the opportunities come in serendipitous ways.

~Catherine Lawton

Anonymous Graveside Flowers and the Eternal Now


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My sister (right) and me at our grandparents’ grave

My sister, Beverly, visited me this month and we took a trip to the town where our grandparents lived. We searched the cemetery until we found their grave sites. Grandpa died about the time I got married. Grandma died just before I gave birth to my daughter. As I was moving forward in my own life, their earthly lives were ending. So the generations go. Walter and Edith Inskeep adopted our mother as a small child. They provided a loving and secure upbringing for her; and they gave my sister and me unmatched affection as the grandparents of our youth.

For Beverly and me, finding our grandparents’ graves and their tiny, now-rundown house, was a pilgrimage. These humble, hard-working, faithful people poured unconditional love and encouragement into our early lives. Since Mother was raised an only child then died quite young (in 1977), we lost contact with the extended family of Inskeeps.

Maybe that’s why it meant so much to see that someone, after all these years, had placed flowers on their graves.

Every Inskeep grave we found had flowers. Seeing those flowers after almost 40 years, did something for my heart. Those flowers made me feel:

  • Comforted. When I am too far away to show honor to the memory of those who loved and prayed for and cared for me, someone nearby is doing just that.
  • Connected, somehow, with the living as well as the dead.
  • Concrete Immediacy. I cherish the memories and the photos of long-ago departed, dear loved ones; but the memories grow more and more distant and far away. Those flowers carefully placed by human hands at the graveside gave me a sense of Now.

I wished for a way to say thank-you to the anonymous flower tender. I pray that every time the anonymous person tends those flowers, God will fill their heart with hope and a sense of the eternal now and eternal connectedness for honoring the memory of such good people.

~Catherine Lawton

Compassion~ An Upside of Tragedy


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Yesterday, a woman in a rural area of Northern California, where communities and farmers have been stricken by the devastating wildfires, shared her video of help arriving. I’m used to people sharing videos on Facebook, and I often scroll right past them. But when a dear friend posted this video on my wall yesterday, I was compelled to watch it, and my heart was touched on several levels.

The woman who recorded this video was expressing her amazement and thanks for the people from nearby North Lake County and Humboldt County (Fortuna, Ferndale and Eureka)— who caravaned over the hills, south and east to fire-striken Middletown, bringing truckloads of clothing, toiletries, pet food, farm animal feed, hay for horses and cattle, as well as farm equipment and relief workers. Watch the joyful arrival here:


My friend shared this with me because she knew my husband’s family has deep roots in the village of Ferndale and I lived during my youth in Fortuna (which was part of my story in Journeys to Mother Love). When my husband and I go back to visit that rugged and beautiful region, we are reminded of the resilience and strength of the people there who have suffered many natural disasters (extreme floods and earthquakes) as well as lasting economic downturns. Those folk know what it’s like to lose so much and be so grateful when help comes. Now they are jumping at the chance to give back.

Experiencing this generosity of spirit truly is an up side of going through such loss as the fire victims have. I relate to this partly because of my own experience as a young child when our house burned down in the night. We lost everything and were “homeless” and dependent on others for a while. But, in spite of the effects of the trauma of barely escaping from a burning house, I am thankful to have experienced the overwhelming outpouring of love and generosity, from the community and from area churches, toward our little family.

This personal video posted on Facebook (with a public setting) definitely touched a nerve with me. I know, there is always more to every story. And we may never know “the rest of the story” of this particular person who took the video. But we can have our hearts lifted by her very real and immediate response to compassionate help arriving on the scene of her need and the needs of her community. And that gives us a glimpse of the goodness that still exists in this world.

The sometimes-uncomfortable but inescapable fact is that compassion is often developed in extremely difficult situations and life experiences.

My prayer: “Lord, help me grow stronger in grace and compassion, more resilient and giving, as a result of the batterings of this life. Thank you for the surprises of help and encouragement you bring along the way.”

~Catherine Lawton

The Blessing of ‘Imperfect’ Children


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What a challenge and a blessing, walking with Cameron from preschool graduation (above) to Class of 2015 graduate.

For those of us who have children with learning disabilities, educational milestones like a high school or college graduation are especially significant. It is a very proud moment indeed, one that celebrates the journey as much as the goal.

My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at the onset of high school, and was greatly challenged by a rigorous curriculum at a new school in our district. He persevered and recently received his diploma as part of the first graduating class at his high school.

What I’ve been struck with in hindsight is how eager I was to compare my son’s journey to his older brother. These two intelligent boys forged their own educational paths through different schools. The older one started school at a very early age and rarely needed any homework help or guidance. He was considered the ‘perfect’ child and made parenting easy.

His younger brother put in a tremendous amount of effort, but was hindered by his learning disability from keeping pace with his course load. Before he was diagnosed, we didn’t understand how someone so bright could have so many academic problems.

He challenged my husband and me. At times it was hard to not internalize his academic struggles as a reflection of our parenting. At other times, I began to think I had failed him miserably.

Like other parents with more than one child, I learned the hard way what it means to be proud of, to love and respect my kids for each of their unique gifts. In the process, I also learned a lot from my son. His struggles with ADHD helped me to come to terms with my own adult-diagnosed ADHD. We pursued treatment together and bonded in loving ways.

As graduation neared, I was reminded of a friend who told me she prayed a blessing over her son every night when he was young. She would recite Deuteronomy 6:24-26.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

I was touched when I heard that she recently sent the Deuteronomy blessing to her now adult son in a card as he celebrated the first birthday of his daughter. What a beautiful spiritual legacy she is leaving her grandchild.

Blessing and praying for our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Graduation seemed to be the perfect time for me to give my son the spiritual gift of a blessing. So I wrote this prayer/blessing:

May Cameron grow into maturity as a godly man, clinging to his faith when the challenges come his way. Lord, bless his hands and may the fruit of his labor serve to glorify you. When the time is right, bring a godly woman into his life that appreciates him for his uniqueness and heart of compassion. Lord, guide his footsteps and give him godly wisdom and discernment for the journey. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I invite you to likewise write a blessing to say or silently pray over your children. Even if your kids are now adults, it’s not too late. I know the faithful prayers of my mother made a difference in my life. Pray about what the Lord wants you to say.

Our ‘imperfect’ children teach us that we are imperfect parents and imperfect people. However, if we are open to the Lord’s lessons throughout the challenges, we will also learn that we are perfectly blessed to steward them into adulthood.

~ Ardis A. Nelson

Who Am I?


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dogwood flowers

I am a result of both nature and nurture. But I have choices, and God is working in me.

We seek to know; this is a God-given desire. One thing we want to know is about ourselves. Why am I so much like my mother? Why is my child so different from me? Would I have been different with a different upbringing? Should I blame my parents or grandparents for who I am and what I am? Why is it so hard to change, even when I see things about myself that need to change?

Studies have revealed the very real possibility that we were 75% of the persons we were going to be when we were born. (Here we are talking in terms of our personalities and genetic predispositions where some traits are an asset and some are not.)

For instance, we came into this world as persons who are extroverts or introverts. The extrovert relishes being in the center of all that is fun. Or he may be the leader of a corporation. Then there are those among us who are introverts and like to spend our days pouring over books. And, how can we forget those dear individuals who are the natural-born peacemakers? Ask any mother: “Did your child come into the world with his or her personality already exhibiting itself?” And she will answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

We cannot change who we are in this regard. I know a woman who jokingly said, “I am a sanguine want-to-be.” She has a beautiful, analytic mind; she has the temperament of a melancholic. She might not be the life of the party, but sit next to her and she’ll have some very interesting things to say. She was joking; I don’t think she really wanted to change herself. In fact, her humorous remark came out of her analytical personality! Would any of us really want to change who we are? If we think about it, everything about God’s design for us fits; it is just right for the persons God made us to be.

However, if the influences in the childhood home or culture are unhealthy, then the strength of the personality can become a weakness. The extrovert, who had the potential of being a servant-leader in the home or at the office, can become the boss. The introvert can shut himself off from all people. And the peacemaker can become a doormat.

For example, the peacemaker may trade reality for denial. He may think this is a very noble approach, but the rest of us are left sniffing daisies, as he calls them roses. “This flower sure does smell sweet!” he will say, and we may feel forced to agree. (Have I just described the living room where the elephant got to claim most of the space?)

When receiving new life through faith in Jesus Christ, we are made ready to be transformed by the Lord’s working in our lives and hearts. God not only designed our personalities, he stands ready to shape them! “Our old self was crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6). The “old self” includes not only our own sin, but also any unhealthy influences on God’s intended purposes for us. We can experience increasing freedom from the power of harmful, negative influences that have hindered us from being what God created us to be: more than conquerors (see Romans 8:37).

Just knowing the dynamics of our past, heredity, or personality will not necessarily influence our lives for good or give us power to overcome the negative influences. There is a saying: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” This little knowledge—insights about our past and personality—can be a dangerous thing, if we stop there.

By the grace of God, we can flourish as God’s vibrant individuals by pressing on with the personal knowledge of the Lord. There will come a day when we will see that we are exceedingly blessed to be who we are.

~A.R. Cecil

Healing Grace Like Gentle Rain


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In Journeys to Mother Love I tell of how I lost my mother at a young age, and I hint at generational blessings as well as generational sins, “curses,” and weaknesses that needed breaking and healing.

When Mother died at age 48, and my dad went through his own bereavement and grief, it seemed the feelings from wounds he experienced as a boy threatened to overtake him again. A new grief will open past griefs and wounds that have been lying dormant but in need of deeper healing.

Feelings that came as a result of growing up with a mother who was beautiful and gentle but unable to show affection to her son, and an overbearing father whose domination turned to cruelty at times, resurfaced. During those months as a widower, my dad sought and experienced deeper healing by the Holy Spirit that gave him more freedom, joy, and wholeness, so he could move on in life and receive and share God’s love.

During that time, he was writing poems. In my experience, and others I know, poetry can be therapeutic and healing in many ways. I’ll share one of those poems here:


The Gentle Life

~ ~ ~

The fine, soft, falling mist

soaks finally better than the deluge.

So the life tender and gentle

in love of God

has force in it

that gets through hardest soil

for lasting good—

better than

the mighty in the flesh.

–G.H. Cummings

~ ~ ~

~Catherine Lawton

Mom’s Cooking


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photo by Shannon Fitzgerald

The Facebook post revealed a photo of blackberry cobbler just like Mom used to makeThat looks SO good! The ingredients suggested it would taste good, too. I decided to give the recipe a try.

Soon, in the grocery store blackberries were plentiful and picture perfect. Would twelve ounces of berries make 2 1/4 cups the recipe called for? I guessed the basket contents were close, and it proved to be the exact amount needed. The other ingredients were on hand, so I measured them exactly, mixed them as directed, and baked my first batch.

It turned out tasty and, to my delight, almost as good as Mom’s. I tweaked the recipe twice until it was almost perfect. Unless you’ve tried to reproduce your mother’s cooking and missed the mark, you won’t be able to appreciate the sense of victory that came with that final cobbler.

My mother let me watch her bake, but she never told me exactly how to make goodies like hers. She’d say it took “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” which made it impossible to translate onto a recipe card. Friends of mine have expressed frustration at the same lack of clear instructions from their mothers. Our moms had the magic “touch.”

Reflecting on her talent, I realized what a high standard she set and that I unconsciously compared my cooking to hers when I’d ask, Was that lemon filling too sweet or too tart? Was the crust flaky or tough? Were the vegetables done at the same time the roast was ready?

Today we eat differently than Mother did on the farm or I did growing up. Today people lead more sedentary lives, eat less fat and sugar, more fruits and vegetables. Therefore, our children may not remember us for our cooking prowess.

What will they remember us for? What will they try to emulate?

I hope our children will remember that we tried to follow God’s recipes and instructions exactly. And when there weren’t specific instructions, we did what the law of love seemed to suggest. I hope they understand that not everything we attempted met God’s high standards, that there were times we had to tweak our behavior, grateful that Christ removed our mistakes so God could be pleased with the results. I hope they agree that following Him leads to an abundant life.

I’m so grateful our children have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. They have excellent ingredients to work with and the same instructions to follow. Their results won’t be the same as ours; but if they keep following Christ, they will have abundant lives, too. I pray they become gourmet Christians in their generation.

~Ellen Cardwell



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Dads (and grandpas) have a lot of influence, too.



I’ve experienced many incarnations of “mom-ness” in my forty-two years. I grew up with a strong mom: She started a business and grew it from grossing $40,000 a year to almost $1,000,000. I am now a co-owner of that company, and it will help support my family just as it supported me growing up. In the nearly forty year history of our company, through boom and bust times in Wyoming, it has provided jobs for countless women and has made a significant contribution to the community.

My mom was incredibly dedicated to her career, but she managed to always make me feel I was important too. She taught me about hard work, achievement, and balance. I’ll never forget feeling sorry for myself because she wasn’t home after school to bake me cookies. One day I complained about this. The resulting conversation taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.

“Kyleen,” she said. “I know it would be nice if I was home all the time for you, but what you have to understand is that I work because it makes me happy. I am a better mom to you because I work.”

I didn’t fully understand her message until much later in life; but she taught me I could have career aspirations, and my own life, while being an excellent mother to my children. I didn’t have to choose one over the other, because it was more than possible to have both.

Despite my mom’s example, when my children were very small, I struggled with guilt as I left for work. But God blessed me with a husband who valued my career aspirations and felt relieved not to be the only one who was responsible for bringing home the bacon, so to speak. We split the responsibilities in our home fifty-fifty, and we hired excellent in-home nannies.

Yesterday my husband and I saw a video of Anita Renfroe’s “The Mom Song,” in which Anita humorously depicts the myriad of things a mom might say to her children in a day. We laughed the whole way through, and my husband leaned over to say, “I’ve said almost everything in that video to the kids at one time or the other.”

The truth is, we both have. My husband has “mom-ness,” too, although he would prefer to call it “integrated maleness.” I just call it awesomeness.

I honor and applaud all mothers … those who work, those who stay home and those who are dads.

~Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton

When Your Mother Believes in You


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Here I’m making sand castles on the beach with my mother when I was a young child. She always encouraged my dreams.

Having a child defines us for the rest of our lives…. Each mother-child relationship teaches us our limitations and our strengths. It changes us in constantly unfolding ways and entwines us in the unpredictable mystery of another life….

Our mothers are our first teachers, and we teach others the same lessons we learn from them. As a child, when your mother believes in you, you believe in yourself, and when that happens there is nothing you can’t do. As a mother, that is the greatest gift we can give to a child.

–from She Walks in Beauty : A Woman’s Journey Through Poems by Caroline Kennedy

Grace to Mothers (and Fathers) Grieving Aborted Babies


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Sunset sky

Mother’s Day is painful for many people, for the bereaved, the childless, and those who suffer from post-abortion grief.

A few years ago I found my mother’s birth family, including three cousins, living not far from me. Recently I visited one male cousin the same age as me (he’s a Baby Boomer and Vietnam Vet, if that gives you an idea of our age).

Though he’s been married more than once, he has no children. Speaking of that fact, he got a little misty-eyed. Then he pointed to a memento sitting atop his TV: a ceramic baby booty. He said it represents a baby he fathered that the mother didn’t allow to come to birth. I know there’s always more to the story, and it’s true I don’t really know much about this “new” cousin’s past. I don’t know what that young woman years ago was going through, either.

I saw the tear in my cousin’s eye, though. And I heard the wistfulness in his voice when he told me he believed there was a child of his that he would meet in Heaven.

I was touched by the emotions of this man, over something that happened several decades ago.

A huge number of abortions have occurred in the years since abortion was legalized in America. If you believe as most Christians do, that babies and young children who die before the age of accountability go to Heaven; and if you believe that unborn babies are persons with eternal souls; then you believe as I do that all those aborted babies will be in Heaven. Perhaps they’ve been growing and developing in the nurture of Jesus and loving saints. Then, what a host of beloved children are waiting there.

My cousin obviously believes and hopes to meet his one child someday in the heavenly realms.

One of our Journeys to Mother Love contributors, Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, has written movingly about her post-abortion experiences and healing. To my cousin and to Kyleen and to the many women and men who chose abortion when they felt trapped, hopeless, and helpless … the Lord of mercy and grace has healing, hope, and restoration for you. And He is taking care of your child. May that thought give you comfort this Mother’s Day.


This video and the book it is based on, express the emotions that lead to and result from the choice of an abortion:

Forgiving Yourself — and Your Children


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istock photo

At a gas station many years ago, my preteen daughter ducked her head out of the car window and popped me a question.

“What would you say if I came home pregnant?”

I was glad for the pump to hang on to and the exercise of filling the tank to divert my eyes. Since she was too young to be sexually active, I didn’t faint at that prospect. However, this was a moment I knew would eventually come, so I said, “Well, my darling, not much … because that’s exactly what I did.”

You see, that pubescent girl was once the precious baby I had carried as an unwed mother.

It was time for me to share a major mistake I had made in my youth, which she accepted without comment. (Later we could talk about the deeper ramifications.) There is never a text book time or place to share these kinds of things; but when the question is asked, it should be answered appropriately, according to the child’s level of understanding.

At the gas pump, I had a choice to deny the truth, dodge the question, or in terror of the same thing happening to her, lay down the law. I’m so glad I did not lose the opportunity to show the grace and goodness of a God who redeems every circumstance, because …

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28*).

God’s ability to turn our darkest moments into good tells me that He is God and I am not. Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-century mystic wrote, “Though the soul’s wounds heal, the scars remain. God sees them not as blemishes but as honors.”

After years of hiding my soul’s scars, it was such an utter relief and joy to relinquish the protection of my own reputation. In all the years I ministered to women, I only rarely and selectively offered full disclosure, for fear that others would think less of me. (My righteousness was in my works, not in Christ.)

A close friend shared with me a few years ago that when her son was getting married and would then gain possession of his birth certificate, her husband, the father, wanted to somehow have the young man’s birth certificate changed to reflect a full nine months from the wedding until the date of the boy’s birth. This saddened her for it spoke much more about her husband’s lack of confidence in a God of forgiveness and restoration than about hiding timelines from a son conceived out of wedlock. Chances are pretty high that their son had already figured it out, anyway.

So long as we mothers have not forgiven ourselves for our past misdeeds and sins, we’ll certainly never be able to fully forgive our children for their blunders. At times, our children’s choices may leave us stunned. When your children mess up, don’t reach for the hair shirt or beat yourself up for failing. Our children are free agents and must make choices of their own. But God is there when we can’t be. And while it is appropriate that we pray for God to keep our children from evil, or at the very least take them out of the circumstances, He often permits them to travel through the storms. But remember, He also is able to deliver them—safe, though scarred; secure, though shaken; and wiser, though wounded.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture” (Romans 8*).

Mothers, both you and your children will make mistakes. Bring them to our heavenly Parent, who is in the business of forgiveness and restoration. He makes no mistakes!

*Scriptures quoted from The Message

Alice Scott-Ferguson is a Scottish-born freelance writer, author, and motivational speaker who lives in Arizona. She writes from her heart as a wife, mother, grandmother, and Christ-follower. Among other books, she is the author of Mothers Can’t Be Everywhere, But God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood, from which this post is extracted.

If Your Child is a Prodigal


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Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_SonDo you know the pain of mothering a prodigal?

If ever a situation poured self-recrimination, regret, and remorse on a mother, it is this one. Whether or not we have contributed to the child leaving home, faith, church, and even in some cases, God, our child has made a decision that we must respect. — We must not chide ourselves over our children’s autonomous choices.

Mention of the mother is missing in the most famous account of a prodigal, told by Luke in his gospel. Most likely she was there, though. Author Henri Nouwen explains that he sees the mother in the hands of the father in Rembrandt’s painting of The Prodigal (above):

“The father’s left hand touching the son’s shoulder is strong and muscular. How different is the father’s right hand! It lies gently upon the son’s shoulder—to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother’s hand.” (quoted from The Return of the Prodigal, Image Book, 1992)

One mother admitted that it was easier for her husband to accept their daughter’s return than it was for her. Her struggle exemplifies the unrealistic responsibility mothers tend to assume for the destiny of their children. “What will people say about me as a mother?”

The prodigal may represent one of the hardest trials of a mother’s heart. But after we have cried an ocean and wailed into the dark silence of the night, hope in God. He is the heavenly Parent and is willing to wait, knowing that we all must come to an end of our own self-sufficiency before we become truly dependent on Him and not ourselves.

Let the prodigal process have its way. It is far more important for your wandering child to find the Father, than for your child to make you look good.

Henri Nouwen says that we are all prodigals if we are looking for our approval and acceptance from anywhere other than God. That includes mothers. Are we looking for the commendation of the church, family, or community that we want to impress with our perfect family, while our prodigal causes us shame and embarrassment? Then we too are being profligate in terms of our relationship with our heavenly Father, since we are looking for our identity outside of Christ. When our self identity is extricated from that of our child’s, then we are freed to love enough to let them go. We can let our reputation slide and learn our own utter dependence on God while we wait for our prodigal child to learn it as well.

We have no need to pretend in order to gain either the approval of God or man. We have no need to hide our pain or the less than perfect places and people in our lives.

“Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am not going to go back on that” (Galatians 2).

Alice Scott-Ferguson is a Scottish-born freelance writer, author, and motivational speaker who lives in Arizona. She writes from her heart as a wife, mother, grandmother, and Christ-follower. Among other books, she is the author of Mothers Can’t Be Everywhere, But God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood, from which this post is extracted.