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!

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 style.dad & 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.