How to Raise a Miracle: Three Words To Transform Your Parenting

She was unlike any other mother I’d ever met. Her mile-wide smile made her molasses eyes sparkle. The labor and delivery of her son (her fourth child of eleven) took place in a mosquito-infested swamp. She was married to one man along with 11 other wives.

Her name is Eseza and she’s one of the most amazing moms I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.

day 3 (27)My husband and I boarded three planes, a subway, a van, and two cars to interview our Ugandan friend, Pastor Elijah Sebuchu, and visit his mother’s remote East African village. Before entering her cinder block home we walked past her “kitchen,” a fire and some pots set up under a crude palm-roofed hut.

Eseza welcomed us with hugs and bottles of water as if we were royalty. I turned on my digital recorder to begin the interview for the book I’m writing about Elijah, who sat close by translating her Luganda words into English.

day 3 (16)My heart ached as she spoke of the utter horrors of raising a child in the bush country of Uganda. Starvation. Disease. No medical care. Tribal massacres that forced her and her tiny children to flee their huts and sleep in a jungle creeping with machete-wielding soldiers, venomous snakes, and hungry tigers.

Listening to Eseza describe Elijah’s childhood was surreal, especially after getting to know him. I glanced over at the tall, polished, articulate, intelligent man beside her. A man who:

  • pastors one of Uganda’s fastest growing churches (270 church plants)
  • presented at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and The Church at the invitation of best-selling author, Dr. Rick Warren.
  • hosts a weekly radio talk show that reaches approximately 30 million Ugandans
  • serves as Founder and President of Hands of Love Foundation, an international organization that supports, empowers, and educates 1,800 of tomorrow’s finest Christian leaders
  • serves as Founder and Leader of a youth empowerment conference in Uganda that drew a whopping 7,150 delegates last year

The crazy contrast between this world changer sitting across from me and the terrible awful that permeated his childhood was perplexing. It made me wonder, and perhaps you’re wondering too as mother’s day approaches. And so I asked.

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“What’s the secret? How did you raise this internationally known man of God who is raising up pebble throwers and saving lives every day? How does a mother raise such a miracle?”

The next 20 minutes of our interview ranks among the top ten most impactful conversations of my life. This mom, who had endured tribal violence, starvation,  depression, torture from her husband’s wives, witchcraft, losing children to malaria, you name it … This ferociously strong, exceedingly exceptional woman proceeded to share other-worldly mothering wisdom unlike anything I’d ever heard. To this day, it is some of the most sacred parenting advice I’ve been given. And you’ll have to buy my book to hear all of it 🙂

My brain and recorder had collected dozens of golden nuggets for my book and I was full. Almost satisfied. But I had one final question before placing a period at the end of our interview.

“What’s the thing that mattered most in raising Elijah?”

She sat and stared in silence and we waited.

“I always prayed to God and laid hands on Elijah asking God to give him wisdom, patience, love, kindness, generosity. I always laid hands on him and spoke into his life, ‘you are going to be a national leader, touch many lives, be a giver, be generous.’ I always advised him and prayed for him. But if you want a person to receive what you are speaking to him you need to love that person. And I loved him most.”

A huge lump formed in my throat as I heard her say those three words.

“Love them most.”

day 3 (13)The glue that bonded all her pebble-throwing efforts to shape Elijah into a powerful man of Godly character was love. Love trumps all.

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

“Love them most.” It’s my mother’s day gift to you as you endeavor to raise children who put love into action. As for me, if I pray eloquent, powerful prayers for my children and speak all kinds of truth I learned at Bible Study, but nag and guilt them, and stare at my iPhone more than I look into their eyes, then my words are fingernails on the chalk board of their hearts. None of us gains anything. We are all bankrupt. It’s all held together with love. Not love the thought, but love the verb.

Need a mother’s day gift? Please consider honoring your mom and Eseza with a donation to help open Hands of Love’s infant orphanage which was built and named in her honor. These fabulous young pebble throwers are making it easy for you. Just watch the video and consider throwing this very significant pebble to save little lives in Uganda.Screenshot 2016-05-03 16.39.15

Click here to see some amazing pebble throwers in action!

Six Simple Ways Moms Can “Preach” the Gospel

Spring is in her glory in the Southeast right now. Last week, I waved to a crowd of happy children catching minnows and lizards in my friend’s side yard creek as I walked inside for  afternoon tea.spring-tree

I love how Spring brings out the inner Thoreau in each of us.

Three moms were deep in conversation and tea drinking when my friend’s four-year-old son abandoned his minnow net and suddenly burst into the kitchen. James looked distressed and headed straight for his mom to inform her of his brother’s less than kind treatment. I was impressed by my friend’s response.

First, here’s what she didn’t do:

  • React emotionally: “What in the world?! Not again!”
  • Scream: “That’s it! No tattling!!” or “Don’t interrupt me. Can’t you see we’re talking right now?!”
  • Coddle: “Oh you poor baby!”

Here’s what she did:

  • Acknowledged the wound: “Oh no! That must have hurt.”
  • Assessed the pain with a gentle touch: “Let’s have a look.”
  • Assessed the problem: “Did your brother mean to do that or could it have been an accident?”
  • Reengaged him with play: “Why don’t you go back outside? Try asking your brother to please be more careful. If he doesn’t listen, come back in and talk to me.”

creekStill rubbing his booboo, James pulled himself together and was able to return to the creek for more lizard encounters. My friend isn’t a perfect mom, but her intentional and kind response tossed pebbles of tenderness and grace into her son’s world at a time when he really needed some TLC.

We live in a world that undervalues these pebbles.

Today’s post goes out to an often overlooked group: moms who are training their kids to be grace givers—children who pay attention to those who are hurting and take time to toss pebbles of their own. When I witness a mom giving careful attention to one who is often overlooked or misunderstood, I’m reminded of Jesus.

While the culture of His day often ignored children and women, Jesus paid them attention. In His eyes, women had so much worth that they were given some of the most significant roles in the Bible. I’ll come back to that in a moment. Screenshot 2016-04-12 18.07.37Check out this clip of a son raised by a feminist mom who asks Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, an outstanding question: Does God favor a gender?

“God is a God of humankind,”Dr. Zacharias responds. Next, he poses another great question. “The greatest truth on which the Gospel hangs is the resurrection. If Christ be not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain. So, if God were a discriminator of gender, why did He reveal Himself to women? All of Easter hangs on the testimony of womankind, with whom He trusted the entire Gospel.”

marymag scriptureIt’s no mistake that a woman—Mary Magdalene—was reported as the very first eyewitness of the resurrected Savior, according to Mark 16:9. In fact, in all gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearance after His resurrection, all of the original eyewitnesses are women.

Jesus first entrusted womankind with the Gospel. And He is still entrusting us with that very same Gospel today. Moms, He trusts you with the Gospel in your own homes, with your children. By showing your children you’re not a perfect mom, but one who loves and cherishes them enough to take time even when you’re tired, you are extending the Calvary-purchased love of Jesus Christ.

To the mom with spit-up stains on your shirt, who’s umpired countless sibling squabbles, burned dinner then busted open a few boxes of mac ‘n cheese only to discover an empty jug of milk in the fridge. . . this one’s for you:

1. Take time to gather.

It’s not the food on the table but what’s shared in the gathering they’ll remember.

2. Take time to hear.

Profound healing takes place in the simple act of listening.

3. Take time to play.

An hour of play discovers more than a year of conversation.


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4. Take time to pray.

You’re shaping lives on your knees.

5. Take time to repent.

Two of the most powerful pebbles a parent can toss into their children’s lives are “I’m sorry.”

6. Take time to rest.

They need rest too. Your example paves the way to healthy habits. And makes you a happier momma.

Take time. Join the conversation. In what small ways to you “preach” the Gospel without words to your family?

What Worship and Water Fights Have in Common

You do the math. Three sweaty boys, plus one water feature, plus a 75-degree March day equals?

I sat in the designed-for-solace prayer garden behind my church and next to a playground. The boys were unsatisfied to simply splash in the garden’s water fountain. It wasn’t enough for them to toss a few rocks into its base. Nope. Instead, it added up to some major water play.

I couldn’t help but giggle as I watched:

First, the red-cheeked boys tried plugging the water flow with their finger. Then they sprayed each other with the spout. Then they began inserting different sizes of sticks into the opening of the fountain desperately hoping it would cause a rocket-like explosion. Much to their dismay, the mom in me intervened asking them politely to refrain from inserting said twigs into the church’s water feature.

I just love boys. They always seem to go all in.

boys-playing-in-waterAdjacent to the fountain, I noticed an empty bench. All at once, a thought came: I wonder if Jesus is sitting here right now watching these boys. Perhaps He’s smiling. Maybe even laughing. And maybe even getting wet.

It made me think of the other well where a thirsty Jesus sat with a woman at high noon. When Jesus met her at the well, she wasn’t frolicking in the water, but drawing water. He asked her for a drink. Then, God invited her to partake of the living water and promised she’d never thirst if she drank the water He offered.

well2Next, Jesus spoke words that have been written on my heart ever since I first read them.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” John 4:23-24.

As I read that passage many years ago, the Holy Spirit etched a prayer on my heart for my family:

        Lord, shape us into a family of true worshipers who worship You in the Spirit and in truth.

Whenever God gives me a prayer, my mind envisions one thing, and His an entirely better, higher purpose . As I slowly learn how to worship in Spirit and in truth, God is elevating and expanding my understanding of worship.

The same Jesus who gave truth and living water to the woman at the well thousands of years ago did the same with me by the water feature this week. My unexpected and spontaneous encounter with the Living Water taught me another aspect of true worship. Jesus and I caught those pebble-throwing boys in an act of true worship, a pure and holy moment of boys being exactly who God created them to be. When a child of God does exactly what he or she is made for, it glorifies God and makes Jesus smile. I believe this is one important aspect of worship.

As pebble throwers, our doing is an act of worship. It pleases the Father when His love spontaneously flows to another through a small act of kindness. But for pebble throwers who belong to God, just being is worship. Brother Lawrence embraced this truth. God is pleased when he watches one of His children being who He made them to For example:

Those sweaty boys may not realize that God shaped their water fight into a moment of true worship, but the ripple effects were significant. He used them to remind me that true worship is being. Come to the well and dive into the conversation by leaving a comment below.

How do you define worship? In what ways do you worship God by doing exactly what He made you to do? What ripple effects do you see as a result?

Why Page 747 is My Favorite Page in the Bible

I smile when I open my Bible to Ecclesiastes chapter two. Not necessarily because it contains a favorite verse. I smile at what greets me at the bottom of the page. eccliastes scribbles

At some point during my daughter’s toddler years, like many small children, she began practicing the first initial of her name. She drew capital M’s everywhere. I’m sure her preschool teacher encouraged this, as did her mother. One day, while flipping through Ecclesiastes, I stumbled on some of her preschool “homework:” a series of pen marks that vaguely resembled two M’s.

crayon scribblesI don’t remember if at first this discovery ticked me off (it most likely did.) But through the years, I’ve grown to cherish page 747. Along my rollercoaster journey of throwing pebbles—small acts of love—to ripple good into my kids’ hearts, I crave reminders that every once in a while, something goes right. On the uphill days of parenting, page 747 is a blessed reminder.

Please hear me. I am not saying I condone children scribbling in the Bible.

My baby girl wasn’t writing in my Bible to be naughty. She was repeating an action. She saw her mommy take a pen and “crayon” to underline and make notes in the Bible. Though I speak to my kids of the importance of cherishing God’s Word, nothing speaks louder than my actions. The daily pebbles I threw as I opened and read my Bible rippled into her preschool-aged heart and mind and resulted in change. She “caught” the habit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy heart soars when I see one of my teenage children with their Bible open. There was a time when we shared daily devotions together. But as they’ve grown and schedules have changed, it’s become their personal privilege and choice to open their Bibles and draw near to God, so He will draw near to them.

To keep things real, I confess that not all habits my kids have learned from me are as holy as this one. dishwasherI watch too much TV. I complain about the humidity and the unemptied dishwasher (among other things). I drink too much coffee and not enough water. I’m far too attached to my iPhone…

You get the point.

I have miles to go in the department of setting a perfect example. But if I can point my children to the example, the Word-made-flesh, then at least I’m getting something right. And I do believe it’s the main thing.

pebbles in heartAt the end of the day, if my children’s TV-watching habits are less than optimal and they’re a tad over caffeinated, but they love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength . . . I’m good with that.

As a pebble-throwing parent, how do you toss pebbles that ripple good habits into your children’s lives? Is there a contagious habit you need to stop? Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

Are You a Piggy-back Parent?

Parenting is not for sissies.

I just finished wading through a parenting decision that threatened my peace. It was a confusing time and though friends offered great advice, I lacked clarity in determining the next step. With each passing day, the need to make a decision loomed and my anxiety increased. My moods swung, my muscles tensed, and my sleep was interrupted.stress

One morning, as I brought my anxious feelings to God, He allowed me to see a snapshot of myself. It wasn’t pretty. I looked like a busy, fretful mess. Immediately I knew that my worry and need to control were getting in the way and robbing me of His peace. I took time to name my feelings, agreeing with Him about my anxiety and fear. I laid down my decision, surrendering the process to my gracious Father.

A few tissues later, another mental snapshot came. This time, God motioned me to stand behind Him. As soon as I did He lifted me onto his back and I grabbed on like a little girl hanging onto her dad piggy-back & girl silouhette

I rested my head on my Almighty, All-knowing Heavenly Father’s shoulders and the spiritual atmosphere around me shifted. My anxiety left. Next, I glimpsed the last and final image. I got to see what—or rather whom—was in front of God. Our child was standing closely in front of the Father. Both of His strong hands were resting on our son’s shoulders. Perfect peace enfolded me.

Since that morning, I’m often reminded that it’s not my job, or my husband’s, to control our children’s lives. It’s God’s. He’s got them. My job is to hold onto God, and even my ability to hold on is accomplished through the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Are you a piggy-back parent? We can toss pebbles of fear that ripple the waters of our households with disorder and unrest or we can choose to release our emotions to the One who calms the raging seas of our hearts and minds. Piggy-back parents grab onto God during the storms, rather than fearfully attempting to micromanage their circumstances.

Earlier this week, we reached a decision. I have peace. And because God is a cherry-on-top-of the-ice-cream-sundae kind of Father, He left me a gift in my e-mail inbox yesterday:

piggyback“About Benjamin he said: ‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders’” Deuteronomy 33:12.

What God revealed in mental snapshots during my prayer time, He confirmed in His word. Because He’s just that good.

Do you struggle with fear and control as a parent? Join the conversation below by sharing how you throw pebbles that ripple peace into your homes.