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 Walking A Tight Rope in the Dark is a Good Thing

Life is hard. We live in a fallen world and people suffer.

“God’s in control,” says the resolute Christian.

Yes. He is. As Christ followers, we know that there’s nothing outside the realm of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful dominion. But when the dark days come and things are closing in around us, our humanity—our fearful weakness—causes us to crave control.

stressHere’s the thing. There lies a uniquely ripe opportunity for pebble throwing right smack dab in the middle of ugly suffering. I’d even say that the potential to throw especially powerful and effective pebbles is at an all time high because of suffering. Let’s break this down some more.

I’d like you to meet Jane, Alice, and Rhonda. Three kind, thoughtful, Jesus-loving women.

Jane and Alice are catching up after their Bible study one evening. Jane, who lives a perfectly ordered, peaceful, and pious life, pats the back of Alice, who has just miscarried late in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Jane quotes Romans 8:28 and assures Alice that God will use this horrible experience for good so there’s hope. “Just fix your eyes on Jesus,” she quips. “This too shall pass.” Alice isn’t sure why, but Jane’s words crash against her heart. They feel heavy and burdensome instead of light and hopeful.

Later that same week, Alice bumps into her friend Rhonda at the grocery store.

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photo credit: Anthony Albright

Several years ago, Rhonda lost three babies, each little life ended during the second trimester of pregnancy. As the grieving moms bond in the produce aisle, Rhonda leans into hear Alice’s quiet pain and remembers the hurt. With tears in her eyes, she hugs her tightly. “I know. It hurts. Go ahead and cry. Jesus has your baby. I know because I’ve lost three. I still miss those babies but we will see them one day. You’re going to make it to the other side of this, and it will get better. Just hold onto Jesus and He will walk you through it. One step at a time. One day at a time.”

 

Consider the impact of scripture-spouting Jane versus how things went with Rhonda. Both women were attempting to throw a pebble of kindness to ripple healing and comfort into Alice’s life. And Jane is right. God takes horrible things and uses them in the lives of those He loves, His children, to bring about His purposes. He does it all the time and it’s an astoundingly beautiful thing.

But Rhonda’s words carried more weight. Not the kind of weight that leaves another feeling heavy and burdened. Her pebbles made deeper ripples in Alice’s heart with greater effect. Rhonda has walked the tightrope of miscarriage and through that nightmare she has earned the right to speak weighty words of hope and significance into Alice’s life.

These are fictional scenarios but the reality is, I miscarried our third child many years ago. Our daughter’s heart stopped beating very late in my second trimester. There were well-meaning, kind people who spoke good words—Biblical words even—that had very little impact on me. Little impact other than making me feel like I wasn’t being hopeful enough. And then there was the call from my friend, Lynn, who had walked the wilderness of multiple miscarriages.

I will never forget my conversation with Lynn. She listened well and we spoke about things no one else understood. I can’t remember her exact words, but that one pebble-throwing phone call carried weight and its ripple effects were significant—so significant that her words prompted this blog post several years later.

 

My friend, Art, has an adult daughter who’s in a fierce battle with ALS. It has been a long, hard, and at times very frightening rollercoaster ride. But Jesus Christ has been their rock. I do my best to encourage Art, his wife, and daughter on their journey, with prayer, words of hope, and hugs. But recently, he shared an e-mail with some powerful pebble-throwing words. They came from a family friend whose high school son has a brain tumor. The family had just received inconclusive scan results. The mother wrote:

“We are a bit discouraged with the results . . . because in our humanness we want a sense of control.  We want to know exactly what is going on and what to expect.  I want to be able to walk down a big, broad path that is well lit and there is visibility down the road.  I want to be able to run and skip and be carefree down the path, but that is not the case.  Instead, God has called us to walk on a tight rope in the dark.  It feels scary and the road is uncertain.  But the best part of this path is that I am tightly holding onto my Savior’s hand. When He walks with me, He gives me, not only guidance, direction, and security, but He lavishes His peace because I am held by Him.  There is no better place to be.”

That last line bears repeating. A mom of a high school senior with brain cancer, who has no idea of her son’s outcome, says “There is no better place to be.”

Not because she likes the tightrope God’s chosen for her to walk, but because she’s held by the One who holds both ends of the rope. These weighty words lifted Art’s faith at a time when my encouragement most likely falls a bit short.

heart stoneIt’s hard to know the right thing to say. Sometimes just listening is better, unless your experience compels you to share a nugget of wisdom packaged up with a large dose of compassion. Shared experience uniquely qualifies you to be a pebble thrower whose words carry wisdom. I pray that your weighty words will ripple encouragement and hope into the lives of those who need them most.

What tightrope has God called you to walk in the dark? How might you toss a pebble by allowing your experience to ripple some light into another’s dark pain? please share below…

Ripples of Salvation

stack of pebblesWelcome! I’m so glad you’ve found Pebble Throwers, where you’ll meet everyday people whose small acts of love ripple into extraordinary things. Pebble Throwers vary in age and are often unaware that they are throwing pebbles. In fact, many don’t realize the tiny change that is taking place when their particular pebble is thrown.

lemonA first grader raises $44 selling lemonade and donates the money to an African orphanage. Her small “pebble” eventually ripples into paying for backpacks filled with school supplies for two African AIDS orphans. To those two children in Uganda, that backpack isn’t just filled with school supplies, it’s overflowing with hope.

I hope this blog will inspire and encourage you. I pray that what is shared might coax you out of your comfort zone for all the best reasons. And please do join the conversation and send me your own pebble throwing stories.

And now for our first story. . .

men-shoesLong before buying shoes was a self-serve venture, before Designer Shoe Warehouse and Pay Less, a pebble thrower named Edward Kimball walked into a shoe store. Kimball, a Sunday School teacher, didn’t need to buy shoes. But he did want to see the 17-year-old clerk, a boy from his class, who worked there.

As they chatted behind the shoe store counter, a pebble was tossed, the Holy Spirit went to work, and the young man—Dwight L. Moody—recognized his need for a savior. He surrendered his life to Christ just a few months later. Though the young man had only four years of formal schooling, Kimball’s pebble eventually rippled into 100 million people receiving Christ through Moody’s evangelism ministry. Those are some big ripples!

Do you ripplesteach? Serve food? Cut hair?

You might consider your work insignificant, but if one interaction can ripple into salvation for 100 million people. . . just think about it. It’s likely that Mr. Kimball had little idea that his conversation with an undereducated teenager would eventually touch so many lives. I don’t believe that’s why he did it. But the fact is that he did it. He showed that young man love and took time to listen to his needs.

pebble hearts

I’d like to challenge you to stop what you’re doing and offer up a pebble to God. Pause long enough to ask Him what tiny act of love He has for you? The ripple effects just might surprise you.

Father God,

Thank you that when You combine my faith and a simple act of love with Your all-surpassing power, anything is possible. Today, I offer up a mustard seed of faith that I have something within me—a small pebble—to offer another. Show me what it is and help me to obey and act. May the ripple effects point others back to you in ways I can’t even imagine.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’d love to hear about any pebbles thrown this week! Did you witness a pebble thrown? Did you throw one? Or were you on the receiving end? Do share!