A Grief That Can’t be Spoken


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Rose Kennedy, holding Joe Jr., presumably prio...

Rose Kennedy, holding Joe Jr., presumably prior to 1921. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


President John F. Kennedy and his mother, Rose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my birthday rolled around this year on November 22, I was reminded again of the significance of that day in history. It was on my fourth birthday in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and I remember it well.

I hadn’t heard the word “assassinate” before that day. The sorrow that gripped my family also gripped the nation. I didn’t like it. I wanted it to go away. But every day the television was awash in news stories as the nation prepared to bury our president.

Four days in history. Four days in mourning. Four days that shook our nation and the world, now commemorated 50 years ago.

My birthday link to the Kennedys left me with a fascination for this public family. I collected books and commemorative magazines over the years. The grief of the nation and the grief of the Kennedy family didn’t end with JFK’s death. Less than five years later we witnessed another horrific Kennedy assassination when Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s brother, was killed. Our nation grieved with the passing of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, JFK’s widow, in 1994. Then in 1999, the unthinkable happened when JFK, Jr. died in a tragic plane crash over the Atlantic. More sorrow. More grief.

There’s a song in Les Miserable called “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” that Marius, the sole survivor of the student revolt, sings after the heart-breaking massacre of all his friends. Two lines of that song stand out to me and aptly describe the grief of our nation. There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.” Haunting words in his unfathomable predicament—fighting his guilt while also embracing the newfound love of his soon to be bride, Cosette.

These words ring true to me as I think of the Kennedy family and their grief. How does a mother like Rose Kennedy live with the grief of losing two sons to the bullet of an assassin? She had already lost two of her nine children to tragic plane crashes in the 1940s. Surely this was “a grief that can’t be spoken.” Yet she survived and lived to a ripe old age of 104.

It takes an amazing amount of faith and perseverance to endure that kind of loss. As mothers we feel the pain of our children’s hurts and disappointments—from the pain of a scraped knee to the hurt and rejection of bullying words voiced in school. But we were never meant to watch our children precede us in death.

Thankfully I’ve never experienced that kind of grief. I can only provide prayer, compassion, and sympathy to those who have. Like Rose Kennedy, whose faith got her through the pain and heartache shared by the nation, we can turn to the God of all comfort when life turns tragically wrong and we enter into a season with “a grief that can’t be spoken.”

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31-33, NIV)

~ Ardis A. Nelson

“Thank You” ~ The Magic Word

Journeys To Mother Love

candy dish

When my daughter, Christina, was small I took her weekly to Suzuki violin lessons. After an intensive hour of tuning, fingering, bowing, ear training, phrasing and  performing the musical pieces, the bow was loosened and the half-size violin securely closed into its case. Then the teacher, Mrs. Sloat, would pick up a cut-glass, covered candy dish in which she kept treats for her students. She held the dish in the air with one hand grasping the knob of the crystal lid. She bent close to the little pig-tailed girl, and her elderly face was a picture of captivating anticipation.

“What is the magic word?” she’d ask.

“Please,” said my daughter shyly but eagerly.

Then the lid was lifted off the candy dish and Christina was allowed to choose and take two pieces. But that wasn’t the end of the session yet. Mrs. Sloat held the lid in the air above…

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Run, Run as Fast as You Can


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File:Gingerbread landscape.jpg

photo:Orsotron (Wikipedia)

Sunny days must have consistently won over rainy ones when I was a school-aged child because most of my memories are rooted in the long treks after the three o’clock dismissal. I would hightail it home, taking every shortcut through the backyards that stood between the elementary school and my front door.

“Run, run as fast as you can,” I would tell my feet, as I was distancing myself from those immature children who picked favorites and then picked on those they had deemed inferior.

There was no doubt whether or not I was on the list of the popular kids, but I never was ridiculed because I made myself invisible, an ability I learned from the dynamics in my home. This skill was utilized in almost every social circle. Go to school, do a little work; come home and see how my mother was doing; that routine suited me very well until it dawned on me that I could not remain invisible forever and survive.

One day when school was dismissed, the bright blue sky suddenly turned black and then proceeded to release every drop of its accumulated precipitation. “Run, run as fast as you can,” I told my feet. “Run to get out of the rain.”

At home I found my mother dozing on the day bed in the den while the soap operas told the sordid intermingling of the lives of beautiful people. I stopped in the bathroom and rubbed my wet hair with a towel. A glance in the mirror did not reveal a beautiful person, and I couldn’t blame the rain. Here at the onset of my teen years, I was faced with a great dilemma: I desperately wanted to fit in, but I was afraid.

Dropping my wet clothes on the floor, I pulled on a casual outfit which included my favorite sweatshirt. In it, I felt secure. Then I slid onto the couch that sat adjacent to my mother’s bed.

As I was my mother’s companion for TV’s “Guiding Light,” I imagined myself to be my father’s silent confidant, ever ready to pour out words of encouragement and comfort whenever he would choose to turn and acknowledge me. Something sad was brewing in his heart, and I wanted to help him. But he never chose to confide in me. Where was he, so deep in thought? Was he replaying the time he spent in World War II and the unbelievable atrocities he saw there?

I felt powerless to solve my parents’ problems. So I determined someday to lift them up on the shoulders of my happiness. Such was the grand, warped plan of my childhood.

As I waited for that bright future, I found some semblance of relationship with my maternal grandmother. I was drawn to her orderly home and gentle, disciplined spirit. And she was religious. While the entire extended family went to church every Sunday, she was the only one who put voice to her faith; she was the one who lived out the gospel with steadfast endurance. Grandmother had no time for moping. She hit the linoleum running in the morning. She had her share of difficulties, but she never let them define her.

Time slowly passed and, with great delight, I left the teen years behind. At twenty I was preparing to leave for the city to fulfill my destiny. But first I visited Grandmother. I nervously chatted away, keeping the conversation light and funny. All that talking, however, took an unexpected, woeful turn. Out tumbled many fears with a hint of the underlying anger. Then, since I didn’t like what I was hearing myself say, I iced it over by backtracking with remarks that served only as a layer of guilt.

There is no hope for me, I groaned within my spirit. Grandmother, however, intently listened without interrupting, like a psychologist who is assessing her client’s situation. When I finished, silence filled the space between us and I wanted to flee. But then Grandmother spoke and her words revealed the strength behind her small frame.

“We must take up our cross,” she simply said.

Our cross? What does the cross have to do with my plans for a life where everything is tidy, happy, and successful? What was Grandmother talking about?

While I could not make the connection of Christ’s cross to my life, Grandmother’s statement sank deep within my soul where it lay dormant for many years.

Grandmother lived to see me marry a fine man and have one daughter. My plans for a good life were set in motion. I kept our home immaculate. During the holidays, it looked like a Christmas card. Every spring and summer the flower beds declared: “Care and love reside within.” Boundless energy undergirded the dream. As long as I worked hard and pretended to be happy, surely my heart would catch up with my outward persona. However, deep down inside there was a faint echo: “Not right! Not right! Something’s missing.”

Then the second daughter was born. After one month of caring for the baby that would not settle, she was diagnosed with cancer. Fourteen months passed, and the surgery and radiation treatments did not fulfill their intended purpose; the cancer was back and now in her bone marrow. Chemotherapy was the new, last hope.

“Run, run as fast as you can,” I read to the older sister. “You can’t catch me. I’m the gingerbread man.”

Run, run to be there for the five-year-old sibling. Run, run to take care of the house, to look after the baby, to keep all of her appointments. … Run, run, I was running out of steam.

There were many rounds of chemotherapy. She received a treatment every day for one week, every third week, for two years. After one of the toddler’s chemotherapy treatments, I was sitting beside her on my big bed that had been prepared for her body’s violent reaction to the toxins. Several hours of vomiting and diarrhea would soon begin. While she slept, I read a book about an encounter a man had with Jesus when he was in prayer. (The book came into my life because I was searching for something/anything to help me cope.) I put the book down and let the pent-up tears flow. I was so sad. More than sad, I was angry. In my mind in that moment, the sleeping child beside me was not going to have the chance for a full life.

“I’ve done everything I know to do,” I told the ceiling. “It’s up to you now!”

Of course, I was not calling out to the ceiling, but to our heavenly Father. The prayer was a two-pronged one: one prong for the recovery of my sick child and one for me. I was tired, and I was lost. I was confused, and my best efforts had failed. I was so tired. “Run, run,” I was tired of running. I could no longer outrun God.

At that very moment of the prayer, Someone else started running. “Run, run,” God the Father was running as fast as he could, for he saw one of his children turn and start coming toward him (see Luke 15:20, the account of the Prodigal Son).

Jesus entered my life that day thirty-one years ago. The experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is as real to me as the physical objects around me. The sick child survived and is now a grown, healthy, married woman. I no longer run aimlessly. God is the mainspring of my life. I now understand Grandmother’s response to the fact that the cross is the answer for my life. In order to bring glory to God, I have had to take up my cross daily and follow him. But with him, my burden is light because I am held up by his everlasting arms.

Did my life turn out to be perfect? Since that day on my daughter’s sick bed, have I lived “happily-ever-after”? I can only be honest and say, “No, of course not.” Am I perfect person? No, of course, not. But, there is a huge difference between the woman who was running to make a good life and the woman who now looks to God for the answers in her life.

~A.R. Cecil

God Had a Plan!


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Alice-72-rgbThe Lord took Alice’s artistic ability, love of the Bible and interest in people, and her life experiences, and He turned it all into a ministry of encouragement through her creative writing.

A.R. (Alice) Cecil, one of our Journeys contributors, always enjoyed the arts. As a child, she put on plays in the basement. As a university student, she earned a masters degree in Fine Art doing studio painting. But God had another plan! Alice says that, as a young adult, the visual arts gave her a way to express ideas and emotions. She adds, “I did not have enough life experience and maturity to be a writer. My journey from painter to Christian writer could have only been orchestrated by God.”

When Alice and her husband, Joe (a well-known physician at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky), started a family, Alice read to her young children often. And she came to appreciate children’s literature so much that she was soon writing her own children’s books and illustrating them. Gradually, though, the bits of text that ran across the pages of those picture books grew and grew until she was writing full-length stories.

Then, 26 years ago, after their fourth child was born with cancer, Alice and Joe came to personal faith in Christ. The Lord brought a new focus to their lives.

After her conversion, as Alice grew as a Christian and as a writer, she wanted to incorporate the truths of the Bible into her writing. She hungered to better understand both theology and human nature. Alice lists several Christian writers who greatly influenced her during this time: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Watchman Nee, Oswald Chambers, and C.S. Lewis. She also sought out mentors: a Christian psychologist and a seminary student earning his doctorate.

A strong desire grew within her to minister within the body of Christ through her writing. For a while she wrote a newspaper column. Then in 2012 her short memoir, “Run, Run, as Fast as You Can,” was published in the anthology, Journeys to Mother Love: Nine Women Tell their Stories of Forgiveness & Healing. This story tells Alice’s testimony of the relational challenges in her childhood as well as the sorrows that led a young mother to turn to Christ.

Alice has raised her four children and now has four grandchildren as well. Through all my communications with her she exudes joy and peace and patience (the fruit of the Spirit). And her writing demonstrates these fruits. This fall, her book of Christmas stories was released by Cladach Publishing, entitled That Was the Best Christmas!: 25 Short Stories from the Generations. Asked where she gets the ideas for her fascinating variety of characters, plots, and settings, Alice states that they develop from her desire to address certain aspects of the human condition with God as the answer. An endorsement from Judy Russell states it well: “A.R. (Alice) Cecil has a real gift to inspire and tug at heartstrings. Young and old will be inspired and enjoy.”


Each of the Christmas stories is set amidst historic events that take place during the years progressing from 1906 to 2013. The main character of each story is a boy or girl, man or woman whose heart opens to give or receive love, bringing personal transformation as they find opportunities to exchange the true gifts of Christmas, such as kindness, encouragement, forgiveness, peace, hope, and belonging. Alice (A.R. Cecil is her pen name) writes with a touch of humor and a warm understanding of both human relationships and the transforming power of God and His Word. That Was the Best Christmas! by A.R. Cecil is available in The Living Word bookstore in Louisville as well as through select stores across the country and online retailers. The paperback can be purchased at Amazon.com and BN.com. You can also read it in Kindle version.

To read Alice’s (A.R. Cecil’s) writing is to feel her heart and to be refreshed in faith and the joy of the journey.

~ Catherine

p.s. I based much of this post on Alice’s answers to interview questions I sent her. You’ll hear from Alice herself here soon, as she is preparing to post her personal testimony.

Can a Child of Unhappy Parents Become a Happy Adult?


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A mother holds up her child.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Recently I was given the honor of preparing and presenting my testimony at the Christian Women’s Club. The club gives each speaker 25 minutes. Reading the entire story straight from the book would take well over an hour. I would have to condense my story. Through this painful process of condensing, the Lord revealed to me a significant personal truth. Perhaps I have been the only one who did not see what was between the lines. I probably needed someone to say, “Oh, I see what you are saying.” And I then I could have responded by asking, “What? Tell me what you see.”

Since no one has been that brave, God decided to step in. I can picture him now, thinking this through: I’ll orchestrate a circumstance that will pull the personal truth out of the text! She has had a glimmer of this fact before, but now she is ready for a deeper revelation.

Our Lord knew I was ready for the bigger picture. So, I began: delete, delete, and delete some more (Oh, some of my favorite parts are falling on the cutting room floor!). Then, I added a few sentences to make up for all the deleted information. First a quote from the book: “As I was my mother’s companion for TV’s ‘Guiding Light,’ I was my father’s silent confidante, ever ready to pour out words of encouragement and comfort whenever he chose to turn and acknowledge me.” Now for the condensed add-on: “As a child, I was powerless to help my mother and father find happiness. So, I determined to someday bring happiness to them. I would lift then up on the shoulders of my happiness.”

Wow! Really? Why didn’t someone point this out to me? So, that’s what I have been doing all these years! I took on the responsibility for my parents’ happiness (and you can imagine how that life-long, self-imposed commitment played out!). Innocent children have an innate, unconditional love for their parents. They want their mother and father to be happy. They experience deep sadness when their mother and/or father is sad.

Recently I went to the downtown part of our city to take care of my mother’s business. She is in a nursing home and, since her money has been spent down, she is on Medicaid. I lingered in a large room with many other people who were also waiting to be escorted to one of the cubicles where they, like me, would speak with their case-worker. All of us, young and old, had a need for financial assistance from the government. At the end of the room were double doors that opened into a hallway. I could hear a voice from around the corner. It was a child’s voice. He was pleading with his mother. He kept repeating the same sentence. “I love you, mommy. I love you, mommy.” I did not hear the mother answer him. Was the child trying to console his mother? Was the mother displaying stress and sadness? (The reasons for being in that place are stressful and sad ones.)

I wanted to get up and go find the child, kneel down in front of him, and say, “I love you. God loves you.” If the situation I overheard was a sample of the child’s relationship with his mother, I cannot help but think: Where is their relationship heading? This child will probably turn from his mother one day in anger (and his anger may be expressed as depression. Once I heard a definition for depression, which spoke of it as being “anger turned inward”).

I am not suggesting we present a happy, go-lucky spirit with our children. That persona is unreal, and our children are as quick to pick up on it as they are the forlorn one. Rather, my message to mothers (and fathers) everywhere is that they can find true happiness in an authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no substitute for this road to true happiness.

I just wish I could kneel in front of every child in the world and say, “I love you. God loves you.” However, we can each kneel in front of our children and say those words. We can live out the life of peace and a quiet joy. I know without any doubt that God the Father loves me. He bends down to me every day and says, “I love you. I love you.” My journey would have been greatly condensed if I had understood this truth earlier, but it has been a long, rambling road with very much between the lines.

To young mothers, I want to say: “Recognize God’s love, respond to it, teach it, and witness it to your children. It is the only genuine gift you can give them.” I am still a mother, and now I am a grandmother. I am real with my children and grandchildren. They have seen me cry in sadness and display justifiable anger on occasion. However, they see someone who is able to accept life’s many bumps in the road because the Father’s love has been realized. I am sure they can hear the echo of the Father’s words: “I love your mother. I love your grandmother.” We can give our children and grandchildren the freedom of not needing to bear the responsibility for our happiness; we can witness the presence in our lives of God, who is the source of our true happiness.

~A.R. (Alice) Cecil

p.s. (I recommend a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the title: True Happiness.)

Unleash Power and Potential


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Seed capsules of Strelitzia nicolai

Seed capsules of Strelitzia nicolai (Photo credit: Tatters)

“Life with a biologist for a mother is never dull,” declares Carol O’Casey, author. “Consider the day I helped my then ten-year-old son Michael connect the dots between an orange and its seed. As he painstakingly struggled to remove each seed from the orange he was about to consume, he innocently wondered out loud where seeds come from and why oranges had to have seeds. Warning—don’t ever ask a biologist ‘why’ without expecting an in-depth explanation. I shared with Michael the literal definition of a fruit—the ripened ovary of a seed plant. Bad idea. The word ovary shuttered snack time and ended conversation. Michael’s taste for fruit soured for a solid week before his love of food triumphed and he was able to move beyond Webster’s definition. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.”

Carol O’Casey—mother, author, scientist, pastor’s wife—goes on to unwrap the wonder of seeds—using biology, literature, personal experience, and scripture—and applying this to the believer’s life of faith. She concludes, “Often times, in order for us to blossom into the abundant life God has in store for us [just like the potential in the seed], we must accept our own spiritual brokenness—just as germination requires the seed coat to be broken. …

Carol-author-color-webCarol O’Casey

“Have you settled into dormancy? Are you lacking the life-giving water necessary to initiate the germination process? Do you long for an abundant, seed-coat-busting life? Abandon your dry and routine life to him. Risk heat. Risk exposure. Risk growth. And take heart. Jesus tells us, ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24).’…

Mothers, whatever your age or that of your children, take Carol’s words to heart:

“Allow God to unleash his power in your life. Dream big. Grow great. Sprout where you are planted. And live. Abundantly.”*

~Catherine Lawton

*The quotations above are taken from the book, Unwrapping Wonder: Finding Hope in the Gift of Nature by Carol O’Casey. Copyright 2013. Used by permission.

Wonder-cover-smThis book can be purchased at http://amzn.com/0981892981

Sometimes I Still Wonder


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Children dancing in a circle

I can’t help but wonder sometimes how my experience as an adoptive mom might differ from the one I would have had as a biological mom. I think my biggest curiosity is what it would be like to see my face in my child’s face or my personality traits within theirs.

Interestingly, God chose to make my daughter resemble me. From early on, people would look at her dark hair and eyes, compliment her and say to me, “I see where she gets it.” I would smile and say, “Thank you, but God gets all the credit.” This usually led to a confused frown and a great discussion about adoption.

In one such conversation, an adoptive mom told me I should enjoy the similarities now because when my children became adolescents, their “biology” would suddenly show up. She lamented that during the teen years, she would look at her adopted children in amazement because they seemed so different to her—as they exhibited traits she had never seen in them before.

To be honest this still scares me a bit. So far my children are my children. They have their own personalities, but I can see the power of their environment shaping them. They like the things we like, value the things we value, and live according to the rules of our house. What would it be like to one day look at my son or daughter and wonder, who does he or she get that from? Would I feel somehow emotionally separated from them?

And yet, I am reminded of the many biological parents who feel they don’t know their children as teenagers. Perhaps this mom assumed the change she saw in her adoptive children was a consequence of adoption when it was really just a consequence of adolescence.

For now, I am enjoying the similarities. God in his infinite goodness chose to bless our children with talents that fit right into our family, as if they were our biological children. My daughter likes to read and write and is very athletic. My husband and I enjoy many sports and both have graduate degrees in English. My son loves music and art, talents that are also shared by both my husband and myself.

So, as it has been with this entire journey, I am trusting God with the future. If that sweet adoptive mom was correct, my prayer is our family will have developed a strong enough bond to see our way through those turbulent waters. As my children discover who they really are through the process of adolescence and cope with their adoption and identity, hopefully they will know that God knit our family together not by accident but by design and our differences will become our strengths.

~ Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton

To Our Followers: THANKS and a TIP (Free Book Drawing)


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I and all the contributors to this blog appreciate everyone who has chosen to “follow” our posts by clicking the link on the right of this page. We want to say,

 Thank You!

Here’s a tip for all our faithful followers:

The publisher of our book, Journeys to Mother Love, is holding a drawing for free copies of their new releases during their 2013 “Fall Book Fling.” This week the drawing is for the Christian novel, Gadly Plain. I wrote a post about this book a while back. The next drawing will be for Unwrapping Wonder: Finding Hope in the Gift of Nature. After that, copies of three audio books will be offered. Last but not least in the Fall Book Fling will be That Was the Best Christmas! by one of our Journeys to Mother Love authors and bloggers, A.R. (Alice) Cecil.

Click here to enter your name in the current free-book drawing. Check back regularly and enter each drawing during Oct – Dec.

We hope you’ll continue to journey with us. Together we’ll share experiences of healing and forgiveness in our relationships; encourage each other, as we share heartaches, challenges and joys; and learn and grow in our capacity to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others as ourselves.

~Catherine Lawton

Mothering Inadequacies


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Rocio's Art

Ardis received this drawing from Roxio, one of the children she met in Spain.

I was 33 years old when I had my first child. Like many women, I felt unsure of myself and ill-equipped to be a mother. Unlike many, though, I believed I had good reason for my misgivings.

My mother had a nervous breakdown when I was six. She was still able to function in her role as a housewife, but it left her emotionally unavailable to me. For whatever reason, she rarely spent time with me in the kitchen or preparing me for my role as a wife or mother.

As I grew up and went out on my own, I wondered whether I would ever be a mother or have kids of my own. I never had a strong desire to be around children. I didn’t have the longing, like I hear some women express, to have children to feel complete.

After ten years of marriage my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. My heart was stretched in new ways as my love poured out on my newborn son. My life revolved around him—struggling to nurse, on-demand and nighttime feedings,  carrying him in a sling, etc. My love grew, yet my fear of mothering inadequacy hung over me, landing me back on my career path after the first year.

Then three years ago—thirteen years after the birth of our second son—my heart was stretched again when we opened our home to Pedro, a Spanish exchange student. This last summer, during my six-week stay in Spain, I was welcomed with open arms into Pedro’s family.  His home was my home.  His family was my family.

Although Pedro is an only child, I knew he has a large extended family and is very family-oriented. I’d heard their names, laughed at his family stories, and prayed for them in times of trouble.

I knew I’d be meeting many of Pedro’s relatives. I so wanted to put aside my fears of inadequacy. I wanted to make a favorable impression on Pedro’s younger cousins. I wanted to be able to bridge the language barrier.

These children didn’t really know much of the story (told in Journeys to Mother Love) behind why I was there. They didn’t know how our families were connected in grief with the passing of their grandmother. They didn’t know or understand about the healing of my mother-wound. All they knew was that I was the American host mother when Pedro visited Seattle.

It was genuinely difficult for me at first to meet these young kids. I was very much out of my comfort zone. I watched as Pedro and his parents engaged them with tickling and other silly antics. Laughter permeated the rooms of their flat in Madrid. I, on the other hand, was paralyzed inside by my lingering fear of mothering inadequacy. Initially I stuck to what was safe for me, communicating with the English-speaking adults.

My saving grace with the children was the gifts I brought with me from America—Beanie Babies for everyone. My gifts imparted the sense of love and gratitude I had for this family. It was the start that I needed to overcome my fears of connecting with the children. In time, I felt more comfortable and was able to bond in more natural ways.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, God adopts us into His family. He has a way of putting people in our lives to help us heal the broken parts of us. My Spanish family has been that for me in so many ways. It started with Pedro, then to Rosa, his mother. It has grown to his father, his aunts and uncles, and his cousins. I met 26 relatives in all.

I do still have some doubts about my ability to mother my own children—especially as I’m learning how to parent a child with ADD. But in God’s goodness for the summer of 2013, I know I was loved by these children. I hope they will remember me in the years to come as they grow up. I know I will treasure the memories I had with them, and integrate that as a way to overcome any future fears of mothering inadequacy.

~ Ardis A. Nelson

How This Journey Started


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Estes Park in Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

In the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where the vision for “Journeys to Mother Love” began

Hard to believe, but more than a year has passed since the book Journeys to Mother Love was published and the authors started sharing this blog as well. How did these nine women, who live in all corners of this great country, come together in this way? Well, here’s the story.

As publisher and editor of Cladach Publishing, a small Christian press, I was invited to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, to give 15-minute interviews to authors. At the May, 2011 conference I spoke with three or four women in one day who had heart-wrenching personal stories that they hoped to have published as books. The authors were so passionate and full of the fresh touch of the Lord, and their stories so real and relevant for many women, that I couldn’t get away from thinking about them. By the third or fourth interview the thought came to me, with a gentle nudge from the Lord, that these stories along with others could be focused and compiled in a book that could help and encourage many readers.

When I spoke to those four women, two out of four got on board (Kyleen from Wyoming, and Loritta from Colorado). Then I sent emails to Christian writers groups across the country, with an invitation and guidelines for the mother-child, relationship-healing stories needed for this book. Varied, wonderful, authentic stories came back to me from Ardis in Washington, Alice in Kentucky, Ellen in California, Kerry in Pennsylvania, and Verna in Missouri. Then we had seven contributors!

As I worked on editing and compiling these stories, the thought dawned on me—again, with a gentle nudge—that I have a personal story myself of inner healing and relational healing. Putting some of my other publishing work on the back burner, I dug out old journals and diaries, delved again into memories of early traumas and experiences, and people and teachings that mentored and guided me through a long search for joyful wholeness.

It was an amazing experience. I had moved on to many new friendships, places, experiences in my life. But that period of inner healing was foundational to the life I was now living. And going back to review the steps, to recall those formative early experiences strengthened my faith and opened me up to sharing more deeply with others.

So we had eight stories from women of many ages. Then, as we neared the publication date for Journeys to Mother Love, I went to another conference and met a young woman with a tragic and compelling story, who had a strong testimony of forgiveness and healing. That was Treva, another from Colorado. She and I both felt that now-familiar nudge, and she agreed to work her story into the right length and shape for this book within a few weeks’ time. And then we were nine!

When the manuscript went out to readers across the country, comments came back, such as: “These stories will touch every woman’s heart” (from a woman minister in Wyoming). “Filled with authenticity” (from the leader of a street ministry in Salem, Oregon). “Arresting and unflinchingly honest” (from an author and speaker/ encourager of women in Arizona). “They teach us to take our pain to the right person, the great Healer who understands the mysteries of our hearts” (from a pastor’s wife in California).

So it was published, and many have read the book and shared it with others, finding their own stories in the midst of these women’s stories, and also finding hope for healing.

As I wrote in the Introduction to the book, “We, the writers of this book, represent four different generations and come from various backgrounds and places. What we have in common is this: We are all mothers and we all have mothers (whether or not they are still living). For each of us, coming to the place of freely receiving and giving love in the mother-child relationship has been a sometimes difficult journey. . . . We share these personal memoirs as testimonies of God’s grace. We simply and openly tell our stories in hopes that many readers, mothers and daughters like us, will be helped.”

So that’s the story of how Journeys to Mother Love came to be, the result of a series of gentle nudges. And the story and the journey continue.

~Catherine Lawton

Sending Your Child to College


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Several of my friends are in the throes of sending their son or daughter away to college (and some are sending grandchildren). In emails, on FB, and in person they are expressing their angst and emotion. This brings back memories of sending my first child to college 600 miles from home. My husband and I were pleased and proud of the young man he had become, the choices he was making. But we asked ourselves, “How did we get to this point so soon?” “How will we adjust to the lack of his presence in our home daily?” (I remember the first time we drove the 600 miles to visit our son in college. I told my husband, “I can’t wait to see David.” He answered me, “Yes, and hear him and feel him.”)

To help me deal with the emotions of this “letting go” of my firstborn to be part of a college community and pursue his education, I did what I did the day I sent him to kindergarten.

Again this time I wrote a poem (if you want to call it that):



Big college dormitory

Do you understand the story

Of our son who’s gone to stay

Down your hall so far away?


Will you give him tender care,

Help him when life deals unfair?

Do you know his special needs?

Will you see that he succeeds?


Keep him of his manners mindful?

Foster choices that are rightful?

Listen late into the night,

Till his headlights come in sight?


You may have a useful function

At this restless child-man junction.

Our advice has had its say;

Now he has to find his way.


He can call for sympathy;

Bring home friends and laundry.

You’ll be there to watch the flight test

Of this fledgling from the home nest.


We’ll pay and pray and intercede

Until he’s properly degreed;

We’ll watch as God unfolds his plan

For  our  big  college  man.

C. Lawton

Our son has now earned three degrees, traveled the world, married, and is fathering three children himself. We’ve had more opportunities to “let go,” but what a joy to watch God’s plan unfold.

~ Catherine Lawton

Light Shining into the Darkness


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Gadly Plain view

In relationships between husband and wife, father and daughter, mother and child, it can come as a shock to realize that—though we love and are loved—though we share a bond that unites us—we are each of us separate, individual, sometimes even, painfully, alone. Most of the time we seek and find comfort and consolation in the knowledge that the other is there, or will be there, and we aren’t alone. But if you have ever lost a close loved one to death then you know the feeling of finality, separation, other-ness, of no-more-ness that can choke the consolation out of your being.

This feeling is described well in the new novel, Gadly Plain by J. Michael Dew. The 12-year-old girl named Spring-baby loses her father to death and emotionally she falls into a chasm of sadness that “bullies her, keeps her wilted, sober.” At least she shares grief with her mother. But then her mother abandons her (because “Mom needs time for Mom”).

When the author was nine years old his own father got sick and died. The story of Gadly Plain is his artistic expression of his own inexplicable trauma and the answers he found after many years of searching for meaning in the whole experience of human history, personal life and death.

Mr. Dew is a believer and the creative vision he shares in this imaginative story is honest about human weakness and suffering, but rooted in truth and hope. The book begins with a quote: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11).

The story itself is as earthy as a body in a casket, a girl in a tree, a donkey in a pasture, hay in a barn, an old lady smoking in a bathroom, a young woman driving aimlessly across the countryside, and a faithful farm hand giving a reassuring hug.

I challenge you, as a mother or a daughter, to face your own aloneness, watch and listen for the messengers the Lord of hope may be sending to you; and to help you do that, read the book Gadly Plain: A Novel.


~Catherine Lawton

Motherly Instincts


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English: American Robin in Nest lies on the eg...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observe the natural world and you can see that God places instincts in mothers — of all species — to nurture and care for their children. I watched a robin nest in one of our apple trees this spring. The mother robin vigilantly sat on the nest and watched over the eggs, then the two hatchlings. She kept them fed and warm and safe. As they grew to fledglings, the mother robin would perch nearby and scold me with loud chirps whenever I came near the tree in my gardening work or stood on tiptoes to peer at the speckled little robins.

2013_0625Image0073I saw the same motherly instincts at play recently in Rocky Mountain National Park. In a grassy meadow in the early evening a herd of elk cows grazed. At first glance I didn’t see the babies. Then I noticed the perky ears and heads sticking up from the tall grass where many newborn calves lay waiting for their mothers to have their fill of grazing and come feed them. … The calves started calling with cute little sounds that said, “Mommy, I’m hungry.” Then a mother elk responded and moved in among the grassy nursery of calves.


2013_0625Image0088She smelled and kissed one baby after another until she recognized her own child.


2013_0625Image0087And then it was dinner time.


I’m thanking the Lord for the instincts he has given mothers — both human and animals creatures —to nurture, feed, and care for our young.

~ Catherine Lawton

When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Window


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Open Window Season

(Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

In the movie with Julie Andrews and James Garner, One Special Night, Garner’s character’s wife is dying of Alzheimer’s. Julie Andrews’ character’s husband has recently died. By the end of the movie, both are widowed; and circumstances – filled with both humor and pathos – bring the two together for a sweet, “second chance.” I am reminded of a Julie Andrews line in The Sound of Music: “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

A subplot of One Special Night deals with Garner’s two young-adult daughters, how they grieve differently and separately and both feel they need their mother. By the end of the movie they have learned to appreciate each others’ differences and find in each other something of their mother, to give and receive from each other the acceptance, wisdom, support, and caring they would have had from their mom.

This reminded me of my sister, Beverly, and me at the time our mother died. Both in our twenties, we dealt with her illness and death somewhat differently. I remember feeling that I was losing all the motherly love and support for which I still felt a strong need. I said to my father, “What will Bev and I do without Mother’s prayers? We depend on her prayers.”

Daddy’s reply was, “You girls can start praying for each other more, depend on each other more.”

It took a few years for me to appreciate, and for my sister and me to realize, his prophetic words. Gradually we did come to see something of Mother in each other, to “bear one another’s burdens,” to be a real, spiritual and emotional support to each other. We both miss Mother. But we are together in that missing. I thank God that our loss and grief didn’t drive us apart but brought us closer.

There’s no doubt God closed a grace-filled door in our lives when he took our mother. But he provided a window of sisterly love through which his love and grace and sweet fellowship flow like sunshine into my soul.

~Catherine Lawton

A Match Made in Heaven


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Sanctuary of A Angustia, Betanzos, Galicia (Spain)

When I submitted the manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home,” I knew that the story between me, Rosa and Pedro, my Spanish family, was far from over. The healing I received when my mother passed away created a beautiful bond between Rosa and I that will last the rest of my life. What is so unique about this relationship is that Rosa and I don’t speak the same language, we live 5,300 miles apart, and we have never met. But that is about to change.

Next week, almost three years to the day we welcomed Pedro into our home that first summer, I will step on Spanish soil and meet Rosa, my kindred spirit and sister in Christ. It will be the beginning of the trip of a lifetime for me—six weeks in Spain.

Over the past two years, since Pedro was last in our home, Rosa and I have continued to communicate via email and online translators. We have both looked forward to the day when we’ll meet in person. Rosa has been learning English to facilitate our communications. I have been writing and blogging more about this story and our relationship across the miles.

One of the key pieces of the story that materialized shortly after my mother died was the role that Pedro’s music played in our relationship. As I mentioned in “Walking My Mother Home,” Pedro played the piano while he was in our home. I also mentioned that my oldest son was a gifted pianist. This is significant because Pedro was placed in our home precisely because his musical interest matched with my two sons’ musical abilities. It was a match made in heaven.

Pedro played the piano every day he was in our home. My son played Beethoven, Chopin and other classical composers’ music. Pedro was interested in cinema and played American movie soundtracks to films like “The Sound of Music” and “The Sting.” I didn’t know it at the time, but interspersed with his music, he played a few of his own compositions.

A few months after Pedro returned to Spain, he sent our family a song he composed and dedicated to us: “Seattle”. This song, and others he started to send me, were salve to my aching heart as I grieved over the death of my mother. His music has become a staple of my life as he writes songs that mark the special occasions in our lives—my own personal soundtrack so to speak.

One thing led to another and I soon found myself partnering with this musical protégé. Our joint love for music soon developed into my becoming Pedro’s music manager, the creation of a professional CD of his music, and worldwide exposure on iTunes and other online music sites. That exposure paid off a few months ago when Pedro’s music was noticed by a Spanish film production company. The trailer to Pedro’s debut movie score was released earlier this month. None of this movie business was even a possibility when I booked my flights to Spain, but now in God’s perfect timing, I will be in Spain for the release of his short film, “Thirst for Love”, in July.

The focus of my trip from the start was meeting Rosa and being able to connect with her one-on-one about our mutual experience of losing our mothers—from different parts of the world. I know God will honor and bless us as we take this next step of healing and support in our relationship. We will fumble through our language barrier at first, but I trust our non-verbal communication and love will override those obstacles.

Pedro spent two summers in my home immersed in American culture and language as part of a short term exchange program. In the summer of 2013, it will be my turn to be the exchange student. And I’m going to meet Rosa…. Truly a match made in heaven.

~ Ardis A. Nelson