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It was joy for this mother’s heart!  My younger daughter, Michelle, opening gifts at a shower for her first baby.  My older daughter, Debbie, mother of three boys, warmly giving words of wisdom for her sister.

And words of wisdom for the rest of us.  Here are a few of the thoughts Debbie shared with Michelle:

This child will grow in many ways over the next year/years.  You will not automatically become a selfless, joyful mother.  It will be years of becoming.  You will daily be given a choice to fully embrace this gift by giving fully of yourself in order to be filled again by the Lord.  Or you can daily move backwards in selfish frustration. (This is a choice everyone faces, not just mothers.)

Some pathways to selflessness, still being learned 6 ½ years in:

Prayer—seeking time alone when possible, praying often–especially in the crazy times.

Thanksgiving—seeing each child, each event as a gift, and giving thanks as an act of worship.

Joy—making music in my heart, laughing, singing, playing, having fun with my children

Not only do you get to raise a child in the Lord and get to be transformed to be more like the Lord, but in a way that is a mystery to me, you are bringing glory to God.

Debbie really touched and challenged me with this poem from Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard:

Song of the Water

Come, oh come, let us away—lower, lower every day

Oh, what joy it is to race, to find the lowest place

This the dearest law we know—“It is happy to go low.”

Sweetest urge and sweetest will, “Let’s go down lower still.”

Hear the summons night and day, calling us to come away.

From the heights we leap and flow, to the valleys down below.

Always answering to the call, to the lowest place of all.

Sweetest urge and sweetest pain, to go low and rise again.

That’s what being a mother calls for all the time—going without sleep, getting the last of dinner, foregoing my plans to be part of their plans,  giving up my time to read a book to a child.  It’s about sacrifice, unselfishness.  It’s about going low.

And that’s also the life Christ lived and called us to:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

 

What about you?  What has helped you to “go low”?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Today I welcome to Kindling a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild:  Elizabeth Corcoran.  Be encouraged by her wise advice.

Well, there are a thousand things I would teach them.  So much I still want them to know before they have to handle life on their own.  And Jesus knows, I’m trying.

But I’ve watched my kids navigate a tough few days, both for totally different reasons, and if there were one thing that I would want them to know how to do above all else, it would be this:

When hurting, when life throws you a curveball, when a relationship is painful or ends, how to find comfort in Jesus, how to let God tend your soul.

The tricky thing about teaching this is this is one of the most elusive spiritual disciplines I’ve ever attempted to master.  And I’ve been working on it for all of the 26 years I’ve been following him.

When Your Heart Is Broken

So I would start by telling them, when your heart is broken, God promises to be even closer in ways we don’t understand.  How can he be closer than he already is?  I have no idea, really, but he is.  He loves the brokenhearted in special and specific ways.  Maybe it’s because he totally gets the feeling of being brokenhearted; I’m not sure.

I would tell them that the word of God is the key to his comfort, especially, I’ve found, the Psalms.  There isn’t one emotion left uncovered in that book.  David and the other writers went through it all.  Bad for them, good for us.  Betrayal, unfaithfulness, sinning, being sinned against, being chased, having enemies, feeling far from God, searching for him and not finding him, searching for him and finally finding him.  Relational strife.  Love, loss of love.  Friendship, loss of friendship.  Life, loss of life.  You name it, it’s in there.

I would then tell them that there is a voice that whispers amazing things to you, especially when you’re hurting, but it comes after time and time and time in God’s word, learning what he would say to you, discerning his voice from yours, discerning his voice from the enemy.  (As my dear friend Charlotte once told me, “If {the words you’re hearing} are being said with condemnation, that’s not the voice of Jesus.”)   The Spirit of God brings Scripture to your mind, perhaps even words you don’t remember ever reading, let alone memorizing.  And that whisper is the Spirit of God speaking distinct and intimate things to your heart, things that only God could know would mean something to you.

A Different Kind of Comfort

And then I would tell them that it’s a different kind of comfort from the human kind, to not let that surprise them or mystify them or discourage them.  There are no human arms holding you when you are in the embrace of God.  He doesn’t magically and physically appear.  There aren’t gentle eyes looking back at you.  There aren’t hands to wipe away the tears.  It’s different, but it’s just as real.  It’s different but it can heal, even more than human comfort.

When you let it.  And I would say when you let it because there is a surrendering that comes when you go to God for something, especially when you go to him to have him put the pieces back together.  It’s an admission that you can’t do it on your own.  It’s an admission that you believe in an invisible God, that you believe he is good, that you believe he is loving.

And it’s an admission that the comforts of this world fall short – even the gentlest words and hugs and touches from mothers and friends – they can only do so much.  When you come to God for comfort, you are in essence saying, you are it for me.  You are my only true hope of feeling better, getting better, healing up from this.  You are it.

There is so much more to this.  So much more I haven’t even learned or experienced on my own.  But I would tell them that I have known the comfort of God when no one or nothing else could comfort me, that it is a true thing, that it is something they can have and own for themselves.  And that once they do, they’ll be changed, and they’ll be healed, and they will know it to be true.

 c Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2012

Elisabeth is mom to Sara (15-1/2) and Jack (14).  She loves spending time with her kids, her friends, reading and writing.  She is the author of At the Corner of Broken & Love: Where God Meets Us in the Everyday; One Girl, Third World: One Woman’s Journey into Social Justice; He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment; In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart; and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul.  All these books can be purchased on Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

Visit her website at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com and her blog at http://elisabethcorcoran.blogspot.com/.

You can follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran or friend her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Elisabeth-Klein-Corcoran/1301703500.

If you find yourself in a difficult marriage or have gone through a painful divorce and you’re looking for a safe place to find encouragement and hope, you may email at Elisabeth at elisabethkcorcoran@gmail.com and request to be added to her private Facebook group for women like yourself.

Elisabeth is a proud Member of Redbud Writer’s Guild (www.redbudwritersguild.com).

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Debbie, Josh, Michelle

I have received many wonderful Mother’s Day Gifts from my three children—and I have been grateful for each one.  But they have given me gifts they didn’t even know, and those have been the best of all.  I’m sure I could think of dozens, but here are 7 life-changing presents from my two daughters and my son.

1.  Gratitude

I never get over that God would entrust these little lives to me.  As Debbie and Michelle were born, and as Josh came as a 9-year-old, I have found myself overwhelmed that God gave me such gifts.   And as they have grown up, I have realized what transforming gifts they have been.  Thank You, Lord.

2.  Humility

I knew parenting would be challenging, but I had no idea how totally inadequate I was.  On the days of their births, and every day since, I have been over my head.  So humbling.  Gratefully I have had family, friends and books to help.   But most of all, God has been there every step of the way, giving wisdom, encouragement, strength, love and everything else I have needed.  The humility, of course, is still in process.

3.  Selflessness

I had children later in life, and I thought I had, for the most part, grown out of my adolescent self-focus.  But when I took Debbie, my lovely first child, home, I discovered I knew nothing about selflessness.  Any newborn takes more time, attention, care, patience—everything—than you can imagine.

But Debbie had 24-hour colic and rarely slept.  She required all of me.  For several months there was almost no opportunity for me to focus on myself.  Thank you, Debbie, for taking me giant leaps forward in learning to get over my self-centeredness.  Still growing, of course.

4.  Forgiveness

We all make many mistakes in our parenting.  I have made more than my share.  A few years ago my husband’s radio program was doing a surprise program on our family.  They asked  each of our children what they had learned from us.  Michelle said, “From my mom I learned to ask for forgiveness.”

You see, Michelle approaches life differently than I do, and too often I tried to squeeze her into the mold of my life.   So I often had to ask her for forgiveness.  Which she generously gave.  Thank you, Michelle, for forgiving and for teaching me to ask for that mercy.

5.  Perseverance

Rearing children is a long process.  Though supposedly we have completed our assignment in 18-22 years, those of us beyond that know we never really stop being mothers.  There are many normal days, frequent times of celebration and rejoicing, and always some difficult days.

Because Josh came to us from a difficult situation, he brought with him many challenges.  His challenges, of course, became ours.  We and he had many hard days and hard years as he grew out of that troubled boyhood into the man he has become.  Thank you, Josh, for helping me to learn to never give up, to be tenacious, to persevere.

6.  Prayer

I knew how to pray.  I had been a child of God, and serving in ministry, for many years when my first child was born.  Of course I knew how to pray.

But as each child revealed my inadequacy and my weaknesses, as their needs required more wisdom than I had, as life for all of us included pain and trial, I have learned to go to my Father.  To tell Him how I feel, to express what I think I—and my children—need, to pour out my heart, to beg and plead, to thank Him.  I find my prayers are best prayed with open hands—not holding on to my demands, but allowing God to take out and put in His best answers.  Thank you, Debbie, Michelle and Josh, for teaching me to really pray.

7.  Love

Of course we love our children.  As we carry them for 9 months, when they are first placed in our arms, or if they come to us some other way, we are amazed at the intensity of the love we feel for them.

But life tests that love.  Especially when they aren’t always lovable.  When they are whiny and crabby.  When nothing you do satisfies.  When they are disobedient, even defiant.  When they make increasingly bad choices.  And especially when they yell hateful words at us and reject us and what we stand for.

When those things happen—and they did—God reminded me that unconditional love , by definition, keeps loving no matter what they say or do, or even if they don’t love in return.  Thank you, my wonderful children, for being God’s instruments for me to learn to receive and live out His unconditional love.

Debbie, Michelle and Josh, thank you for being God’s good gifts to me.  And as each of you has entered into this wonderful parenting and journey, may God surprise you with the transforming gifts those children will be to you.  I love you.

What about you?  What gifts have others given you?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Arrowhead Mountain

For many years I lived at Arrowhead Springs, in the San Bernardino mountains.  Right above me was a giant natural formation in the shape of an arrowhead on the side of a mountain.  The area is filled with healing hot springs and legends of flaming arrows striking the mountain.  It was the major landmark in the area.

But for me the formation looked very much like a great shepherd, extending robed arms, saying “Come to me.”  Which, of course, is what Jesus has said to us in so many ways.

As Children

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  (Luke 18:16)

We think we need to know so much, or be so holy, or have it all together.  But no, we are to come in ignorance, immaturity, just as we are.  We are to come to him as children.

To Fish

Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says to come to Him and He will put us to work.  And what work it is:  To fish for those who need to know Him, to draw them into His Kingdom, to offer them new life.

Surprise!

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  (Luke 19:5)

Talk about surprised!  Zacchaeus was short so he scurried up a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus.  Jesus stopped right under that tree, looked up at Zacchaeus and called his name.  He said, “Come down so we can go together to your home.”  He says the same to us, wherever we are when we encounter Him.

In the Storm

Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  (Matthew 14:29)

When the earth shakes, when the money runs out, when illness comes, when a loved one betrays…when the waves overwhelm, Jesus calls to us Come.  In the midst of the storm He holds our hand and holds us up.

When You Are Thirsty

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  (John 7:37)

But there is more.  He says that the water He offers is living water that will satisfy our every thirst, our every need, our every desire.

For Some Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  (Matthew 11:28)

He sees us rushing about, so busy, and He invites us to rest.  Yes, physical rest.  But He also offers rest for our spirits—rest from striving, anxiety, fear, manipulating, trying to make it all happen.  “Sit awhile with me.  I love you and I’m in control.  I will make it happen.”

To Life

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  (John 11:43)

They said he would smell—he had been dead 4 days.  But Jesus called Lazarus out and gave him life.  Some of us have been dead for years, and our lives really stink.  Jesus calls us to come and live—new life, abundant life, hopeful life, empowered life, eternal life.

For Your Reward

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  Come and share your master’s happiness!’“  (Matthew 25:21)

We all like to hear “Well done!”  As we walk with Him, living in the power of His Spirit, becoming and doing what He created us for, we anticipate the invitation from our Savior:  “You are such joy to me.  Come share in my happiness.”

His arms are stretched out, waiting, beckoning you:  Come, my child.  I have so much to tell you, to give you.  I have wonderful surprises ahead for you.  We will love our life together.  Come.

What about you?  In what way is Jesus inviting you to come?

© 2011 Judy Douglass

Thanks to Lynn Koehn for the original idea.

en español: Ven a mí

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As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #2 child, Michelle.

My husband and I are fairly goal oriented.  We both like to plan and check things off a list and feel like we have accomplished something at the end of the day.

We are both intentional.  Most things we do have purpose and lead us to accomplishing things than matter to us.

We are both somewhat competitive.  We love sports.  We make up games to keep us motivated for things we need to do.

These are not the only things true of us—we have a relaxed side as well.  But these are true.

When Debbie was born, it did not take us long to realize she fit right in—we saw glimpses of the same values and tendencies from an early age.

When Michelle was born, it did not take us long to realize that Michelle was not like this at all.  She was a lover of people, not accomplishments.  She was an artist, an actress, a listener. She wasn’t in a hurry and she hated competition.  She loved the journey, and the destination usually didn’t matter. (See Enjoy the Journey.)

This caused frustration between Debbie and Michelle.  Debbie wanted everything to be a contest; Michelle refused to engage that way.  Debbie wanted active play; Michelle preferred quiet play.  Debbie wanted a neat room; Michelle was content with clutter.

Debbie and Michelle

It also caused frustration between Mom and Dad and Michelle.  I thought we should be on time ; Michelle took her time.  Dad loved coaching his girls in soccer; Michelle was on the team for her friends.  We knew our girls would do well in school; Michelle was bright and excelled, but she was not driven.

I was talking with a friend who was a counselor about our struggle to be good parents to Michelle when she approached life so differently.  She gave me a great analogy:

“It’s like your family speaks German.  You, your husband and Debbie are fluent in German.  Michelle speaks French.  She has tried really hard to learn German, but it isn’t her mother tongue.  The rest of the family tries to speak French with her occasionally, then quickly reverts to native German.

“It’s okay for Michelle to speak French.”

That was a turning point for me.  I accepted that Michelle didn’t have to be like the rest of us.  I began to change my language with her.  I quit chiding her to hurry, she quit playing soccer, I found an art teacher for her, I quit telling her TV (which she loved) was junk food for her mind, I took her to art festivals.

It took time, but I really began to let her be who God created her to be.

I began to believe:  It’s okay to speak French.

What about you?  Do you live or work with someone who approaches life differently?  How can you encourage them to speak their natural language?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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So your kids didn’t appreciate the clothes you got them last year.  Or that movie with a good message.  Or even the fun—and expensive—family trip to Disney—everyone wanted to do something different.

Tired of trying to choose the best Christmas gifts for your children?

They probably have more things than they need, and won’t really appreciate your gift if it isn’t exactly what they want.

And wouldn’t we rather give them something lasting and meaningful?

When I was fairly new into parenting, I found myself making some wishes for my children.  If I could choose three things to give them that would help them have a great life, what would they be?

I did come up with three fairly comprehensive concepts to wish—and pray and hopefully give—for my kids.  So here they are:

Gift#1 A Relationship with God

Knowing God is foundational for life and the relationship that makes all others possible (1 John 5:20). A relationship with God offers forgiveness of sin, power for living, love, joy, peace, patience, wisdom, an eternal family, courage, comfort, perseverance…I could go on and on.

Gift #2 A Good Character

A good name is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold (Proverbs 22:1).

Character influences reputation, which affects our relationships with people, our confidence level, and our ability to achieve.  Character helps determine the contributions we will make in life and will contribute to peace of mind and a clear conscience.

Good character qualities to seek to grow in our children include integrity, responsibility, humility, generosity, discernment, kindness, self-discipline…and a sense of humor.

Gift #3 A Useful Life

What is a useful life?  One that utilizes gifts, abilities, talents and opportunities for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Why is this important?  God has created each of us for a purpose.    He has given us what we need to fulfill that purpose, and he expects us to use them, multiply them, be a good steward of them.  (Matthew 25:14-30).  So we need to help our children discover who he has made them to be and what he has designed them to do.

As our children grow into useful lives, they will sense their value, enjoy life and know they are contributing something significant.

 

My children are all grown now, with children of their own.  Though they continue to grow—and I continue to pray—there is plenty of evidence of wishes come true, of gifts received and lived out. I am grateful.

What gifts are you hoping to give your children?

c 2011 Judy Douglass

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Michelle

As parents we have responsibility to love and nurture and provide and teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #2 child, Michelle.

From the day she was born, Michelle has not been in a hurry. She slept much of her first year (I don’t wake sleeping babies). She cuddled, laughed, listened a lot and talked enough.

She played quietly, explored, created, painted, invented, rescued.

But she never rushed.

I’m more of a destination person. She’s more of a journey person. I like to get there. She likes the getting there.

Probably the words she heard most from me, after “I love you.” and “Please forgive me.” were “Hurry up, we’re late.”

“We will be late to church, Michelle.” “Carpool is waiting, Michelle.” “We need to get to soccer practice, Michelle.”

Nothing hurried her. But I know I frustrated her, discouraged her, hurt her.

Over time, I began to hear the Lord whispering, “What’s your hurry, Judy?”

And he reminded me of those famous sisters, Mary and Martha.

Martha was focused on getting dinner ready. She rushed around, fretting that Mary wasn’t helping her.

And Mary? She was enjoying Jesus. Listening, learning, reflecting.

Slowly Michelle’s ability to live in the present, her not hurrying to the future, began to rub off on me. I still like to get things done, and I usually have a long list. But I have learned to let things go, to stop for people in my life, to leave tasks for another day.

I don’t get as much done. But I enjoy the journey so much more.

C 2011 Judy Douglass

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