Romans 5:6

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

To My Brother’s Bride-To-Be


He and I have been close from the very beginning.  We have depended on each other through difficult circumstances, laughed our way through countless seasons and have encouraged one another to achieve our goals.  We have sought one another’s advice pertaining to vocational ministry work and have been the other’s sounding board for new ideas.

He gets me.  He’s been one of my best support systems, one of my loudest cheerleaders and best friends.  He’s made me laugh when circumstances made me want to cry.  He’s held my hand through tough stuff and let me cry on his shoulder. 

He’s been the best brother anyone could hope for.

But it’s the end of an era for me.  He’ll no longer call me first to get advice about something.  He will not ask my opinion first regarding ministering to a girl in the youth group.  And I won’t be his second favorite female (second to mom, of course).

You have taken on these roles.  He will esteem your opinion as most valuable, as he should.  He will seek your input on every situation, especially ministry.  You are now his favorite person on earth.  And that’s how it should be!

Stephanie, sixty-seven days ago you were introduced to the family.  But even before then, as I listened to Christopher speak of you, I knew you’d be the one he chose to become his wife.  In just sixty-seven days you have encouraged my family and me as we have made the transition from one child to two.  You have chosen to use your free time to help with family matters revolving around our grandmother’s failing health.  And you have assisted in cleaning and reorganizing with mom as she works hard to care for our grandmother.

You have revealed, yet again, how faithful the Lord is in answering our prayers.

Stephanie, you have been prayed for… for a long time!  As his older sister, I have witnessed him get hurt, but I don’t have to worry about that with you.  I have seen you both keep one another’s interest in mind.  I have watched you care for one another.  I have seen the sweet sparkle in both of your eyes when the other enters a room.

You have become his greatest encourager, his best friend, and his support system.  I have prayed intentionally that the Lord would bring you to him quickly.  I asked that his future wife would support his call to ministry and would be willing to help in any capacity possible.  I have prayed that his bride would appreciate his humor and love him even more for it.  I have prayed that he would marry someone who meshed well into our family, and would support our close relationships with one another.

Yesterday you said “Yes” to becoming Mrs. Christopher Cunningham, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  You are the answer to so many prayers.

Though it’s the end of an era for me, it means you and my precious brother are getting to begin a wonderful era in your own lives.

Marriage is such a wonderful gift.  Joseph and I are honored to walk along side of you and cheer you both on.

Welcome to the family, Stephanie!  You are so loved. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Learning to Listen

From an early age we begin learning the importance of listening.  Toddlers often struggle with understanding the necessity of listening to parents as they seek to guide them in each area of life.  Adolescents quickly gain perspective concerning the value of listening to their teachers in order to learn and retain vital information needed to graduate from high school.  Young adults, usually full of vigor -- believing that they truly can accomplish anything after college, must learn how to listen to authority in the workplace in order to become successful.

In every season of our lives, listening is critical to our progress.
The same is especially true in our spiritual lives.
There is something unique about the journey of each believer in Christ, but there is also a common thread that isn’t unique to us as individuals at all.  Our stories of being redeemed differ.  Some came to faith at an early age, and others experienced Christ’s love, grace and power for the first time well into their adult life.  Regardless of when we experienced salvation, there is an undeniable commonality: we need to spend more time listening.

This lesson has been one I have been striving to become more studious in since we welcomed Ada into our family.
Like the Israelites, I have a terrible habit of forgetting what the Lord has previously accomplished on my behalf when faced with a new difficulty.

Not long after I had returned to work from being on maternity leave with Ada, it all really started to sink in.  This journey had brought Joseph and me to a beautiful place of desperation. We had walked the difficult road of infertility and miscarriage, and we had been ushered into a new position of desperation needing the Lord to speak to us.  We were seeking Him for answers concerning the future of our family.  We were learning to trust Him despite not quite understanding all of the reasons He chose to entrust us with our story.
We needed to listen.

In the first few days after having Ada home with us, I distinctly remember a moment when the Lord spoke so sweetly to me through something I said to Ada.  As she was fussing, like newborns often do, I held her, patted her, and whispered in her ear, “Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

That was the moment.
The Lord was speaking the same message to me.  We were desperate for sleep, and often still are, but the Lord was reminding me that He was in it all.  We were simply trying to learn what it meant to be new parents, and all the while the Lord was reminding us that He was near, just as He had been throughout our entire journey.

 Walking through infertility.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Experiencing miscarriage.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Learning how to juggle being a new parent.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Leaving my child in the care of a trusted friend when I returned to work.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

In just a matter of weeks, Joseph and I will be welcoming Ellen into our family. The season we are in now differs from when we were preparing to welcome Ada.  Caring for a toddler while simply attempting to get everything taken care of is much different than preparing to welcome the first child. Through everything, the Lord continues to remind me of His promise to be near to us.

Dealing with Ada’s severe milk allergy.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Paying for all of the doctor bills.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Managing responsibilities at work and home.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Failing health of family members.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Do you see what I mean?  I was so attentive to listen to all the Lord was speaking to Joseph and me when we were in that place of desperation concerning our family.  And here we are.  Blessed to be experiencing a second healthy pregnancy and I forget so easily where He has brought us.

He is constantly speaking.  Are we listening?
He has never failed us.  Ever.
Often our stress is self-inflicted as we seek to figure things out for ourselves.
Listen to Him.  Whatever you are facing, He is there.

Financial trouble?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Family turmoil?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Broken friendship or relationship?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Unfulfilling career?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Medical problems?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Unsure of your next steps?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”
 

The list of woes we face could go on and on.  Rather than focusing all of our attention on all of the things we need to be taken care of, why don’t we put our trust in the One Who holds it all together (Colossians 1:17)?  The Lord is working on your behalf.  He is speaking to you regarding every situation and circumstance you find yourself in.  Listen.  Let us become a people marked by the manner in which we listen to the Lord rather than be known for complaining to Him about all He has entrusted us to handle.  Every hardship is an opportunity to grow in trust and to believe in He is all He says He is for us.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. – Matthew 11:15
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Reaction vs. Response

Life is hard.  It seems at every turn there is something unexpected that occurs.  Unexpected bills, unexpected illness, unexpected deadlines, and unexpected life circumstances have the potential to paralyze us with fear concerning how to move forward.  How will we pay that bill?  How will we survive this medical treatment?  How will we have enough time to accomplish all that is asked of us?  How will we get through this?
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The Lord knows the full effects of us living in a fallen world.  He knows that trials and tribulation are part of our day to day lives.  He knows things are difficult.  We have a choice when facing adversity and tribulation.  We can choose to react out of frustration, or we can respond in trust.
Each season of life brings opportunity for growth.  When presented with a difficult report from the physician, we can become angry and frustrated, or use it as a catalyst to increase our trust in the Lord.  When we simply don’t know where all of the money is going to come from, or how to manage things at home and work, God is prodding us to seek Him more.  The weight of carrying each burden on our own causes us to become bitter, unpleasant people, not resembling Christ at all.  He offers peace in the midst of everything (Philippians 4:7).

When we choose to respond with greater trust in the Lord and His plan, we declare that we believe His ways are better than our own (Isaiah 55:8).  We proclaim that though situations are difficult, His faithfulness and His goodness are steadfast.
By choosing to trust Him in the most difficult, darkest days, we become more like Him.  We become more compassionate toward the heartaches that others endure.  We become more aware that this world just isn’t home (Hebrews 13:14).  And we desire to see the good in all things.

Today, I am certain that you, or someone close to you, are facing something that simply seems insurmountable.  Be encouraged, believer.  The Lord truly does want to use this for your good (Romans 8:28).  Trusting Him doesn’t have to make sense. 
I pray that when you receive bad news, a difficult report, or face financial trials, you will respond in trust.  A life that constantly reacts in frustration will affect your attitude concerning every aspect of day to day occurrences.  Choose to trust.  Choose His peace.  Choose His joy.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Your Classroom: Your Mission Field


The day has arrived.  Summer break has officially ended and teachers have been busy preparing for the arrival of their students for this school year.  Tomorrow students will file into schools with great expectancy for all that this year holds for them.



Students and parents may never know the countless hours that teachers (along with their spouses and closest friends) spend in preparation for tomorrow.  They may never understand all of the decisions that were made surrounding just one bulletin board.  They may never appreciate all of the personal sacrifices of your time and your own money that you have made to ensure that this year is great for your students.



You certainly didn’t choose this profession to receive recognition.  The long days and even longer evenings grading papers and updating class websites and such wouldn’t create a long line of folks choosing to become educators.  Instead, you chose to teach because you decided to make a difference.



On my side of things as a teacher’s spouse, I believe you need to know that you make more of a difference than you know.  The excitement of the first several days will wear off rather quickly, but your enthusiasm in choosing to invest in the lives of students shouldn't plateau this week.  Even through your weariness in making sure that every demand asked of you is met with excellence, your motivation isn’t going to be found in test scores or the latest curriculum.  Your motivation is found in the sweet faces in your classroom.



Your unnoticed efforts are all made well worth it when a student truly knows how much you care for them.  The Lord has entrusted you with little lives to minister to through your teaching.  I am well aware of the laws that prevent you as Christ-believing teachers from overtly explaining why you teach and serve in the manner you do.  However, students are paying attention, and they see the difference of Christ in you.



Each student that enters your room has their own story.  We’d like to believe that each child you encounter is well loved and well cared for, but sadly we know that’s just not the case.  Your kind words of encouragement may be the only positive affirmation that a student hears.  Your belief in their ability to succeed could possibly be the only support that they receive.  



This school year will certainly come with its own set of challenges, but cling to this:  the Lord has given you each student, and even the difficult parents/guardians, because He trusts you with them.  He trusts you to stand in the gap for the students who have no one else to fight for them.  He trusts you to minister to the discouraged parents who are at their wits end.  He trusts you to reassure a student who has experienced more hardship than any child should that not all adults cause harm.  He trusts you to carry out your 180 days of the school year with excellence, because that’s what He has called you to do (Colossians 3:23).



When the demands of leadership and the school district seem to be too much because you just want to teach instead of spending valuable hours on paperwork, remember the reason you chose this profession: the students. 



Your attitude will shape their attitude about learning.  Your mission to love them and serve them through teaching has the ability to change their mindset.  Your investment in their lives will cause them to believe they are valuable, despite what they may be told outside of the four walls of your classroom.



It’s your classroom, and over this school year, your words and actions will determine the type of legacy it will leave in the lives of each student who enters.  I pray that you understand the difference you make stems from the difference the Christ has made in your life.



Here’s to a wonderful school year!


Monday, August 1, 2016

Morganne


At a Night of Ministry with Kari Jobe & Christine Caine

Through each season of my life the Lord has been gracious enough to gift me with the presence of people who have influenced me for the better.  This is a story of one of those people.
After working as a pre-school teacher for a short time while I was living at an inner-city ministry, I did what I said I would never do: go to work for my alma mater.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my time as a student at Belhaven University. I didn’t want to become an employee of the institution because so many graduates took that route, and ultimately I didn’t see it as part of my calling: ministry.

For those of you who know me well, you know that my journey to be in full time ministry has certainly been a winding road.  Through each job, the Lord has shown me the importance of understanding that even the simplest task can be ministry when we are willing to commit our ways fully to Him.  I could go on for a while about that lesson, but I won’t now.
I didn’t quite understand why the Lord had me go back to Belhaven to work in the admission office.  After much asking, He showed me.

Her name is Morganne.


I was in need of help from a work-study student and was in the process of interviewing new freshman students for the position.  I had no idea how to interview someone who was not that much younger than me, so of course my “interviews” simply became chats about life.  I wanted to know where they grew up, what they were interested in, and what they were passionate about.  After I spoke with a couple of students, I heard her in the lobby of the office.
When the receptionist told Morganne I that I was available right then I heard, “But I’m not dressed for an interview right now!  Are you sure?” in the best Wetumpka, Alabama drawl.

Morganne rounded the corner to come to my desk and immediately I noticed the massive arm sling and pillow like brace holding her shoulder in place.  “It’s from a tumbling accident.  I just had surgery… but I can do whatever you need me to do!”  Her enthusiasm was contagious, and we certainly needed more of it in the office.  She was a very determined freshman elementary education major and cheerleader. 
After we discussed her babysitting job experience, I just had an overwhelming peace in my spirit that the Lord sent her to me.  We talked more, and then I asked, “So, when can you start?”  After working out a schedule around her classes and cheer practice, it had been set.

Each afternoon Morganne would come help me with seemingly meaningless tasks.  But as she folded mail for me and complied supplies for admission packets, we were able to talk.  We talked a lot!  Many afternoons were simply spent with her sitting with me at my desk. 

In the beginning of her time with me as work-study, our conversations were about freshman boys (one in particular), her weekend plans with Sydney (the other one J), and how her classes were going.
As our friendship grew, the Lord continually showed me the importance in investing in Morganne’s life.  She has always been super cute, friendly, smart (gosh, don’t you hate that?), but I feared that others didn’t see what I saw in Morganne.  I wanted others to look past the cute exterior to see how much He planned to use her for the Kingdom.

After just a few short weeks of knowing her, I knew something great was going to transpire soon. But until then, I committed to chatting about cute clothes and cheer.
Then it happened.  There was a huge shift in her priorities and the Lord allowed me to witness it.  Belhaven and being in Jackson wasn’t about being popular or even well liked.  Morganne’s sole desire became simply to know God more intimately.  After we walked through her dating here and there, it always came back to the one guy she told me about when we first spoke.  Hamilton was the one.  She told me.  And let me just say, that when Morganne has something in mind, all systems are GO!  Her confidence in the Lord’s call on her life and on Hamilton’s was inspiring.  Rather than pursuing fleeting relationships, Morganne’s heart was only seeking the Lord.  When I would say, “Morganne, are you sure?  Have you asked God about this?  Y’all are such good friends.” Morganne would simply say, “Yep.  I just know I’m supposed to wait.  I’m going to be Mrs. Hamilton Harper.”  That same zeal encouraged me as Joseph and I first started dating. “Syd, this is a date!”  “Morganne, we are just going to dinner to catch up.  I want to hear about his summer in Africa.”  The next day I had to tell her she was right.

Nine months after Joseph and I started dating, we were married.  And my sweet Morganne and her best friend, Sydney, drove from Alabama to support us and help at the reception.  Morganne’s relentless encouragement towards us still means the world.  Sometimes “God things” don’t always make sense.  Morganne never questioned Joseph and me after we were engaged just eleven weeks after we started dating.  “When you know, you know, Syd!”
Morganne with me minutes before I walked down the aisle
As my time at Belhaven ended, I’m blessed to say that my relationship with Morganne didn’t.  We endured the effects of almost going into a GiGi’s Cupcake sugar coma together, and made time to hang out when we could.

Joseph and I have watched Morganne become a woman with purpose.  When she invited us to hear her share her testimony in front of her peers at church, I knew the mission of her life wasn’t simply to teach children and encourage others with her bubbly personality and her “everything happens for a reason” mentality.  Her life’s aim became influencing people for the purpose of showing them a better glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
Morganne has chosen joy despite difficult circumstances she has walked through.  That contagious joy overflowed to Joseph and me when we were walking through infertility, then our miscarriage.  She opened up her apartment to serve us and to love us well during those difficult days.  She’s prayed and warred in the heavenly places on our behalf.  She’s both laughed and cried with us when we needed it the most.  Through it all she has continually helped me refocus my perspective.
Celebrating at Morganne's wedding shower when I was VERY pregnant with Ada

Today as Morganne celebrates another birthday, I celebrate the gift she is to me and so many others.  I celebrate her willingness to confidently proclaim what the Lord has shown her.  I celebrate the courage she has to stand out.  And I celebrate the story the Lord has given her.
Morganne meeting Ada for the first time
Part of her story is that what she declared as a freshman student came to be.  I was honored and privileged to stand with her as she became Mrs. Hamilton Harper.  Their wedding ceremony was nothing short of glorious.  It was a true testament of my banner “at just the right time”.  Hamilton and Morganne are world-changers, a couple driven by the purpose of the Lord, and ones filled with an inspiring faith.
Oh, glorious day!
Just when we think the Lord has brought someone into our lives to minister to, He shows us that He brought them to us to change us. 
Morganne, you have taught me more about steadfast faith than you can ever know.  I never imagined that the Lord would allow our relationship to go so far beyond being a work-study student, but I am honored that it has.  You have reminded me of the importance of simply being kind to everyone.  You are a precious gift to me and my family.

Happy birthday, my dear!  You are so loved!

Celebrating the Harpers!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Celebrating the Child I Never Met



Our journey to parenthood took longer than anticipated, as many of you know, but the lessons learned pertaining to His faithfulness are too numerous to mention.  Therefore, making our journey well worth it.

This week, our first baby would have had their first birthday.  I choose to celebrate their little life because of all the Lord has taught me through them.

Celebrating someone I have never met, but whom I prayed for, hoped for, and experienced my first pregnancy symptoms from isn’t rooted in me wanting to harp on the topic of our miscarriage.  Rather, my celebration stems from my thankfulness.  Though losing our baby was the most difficult, most painful experience Joseph and I have faced, I am thankful that the Lord entrusted us with the story.

Rather than adorning our home with balloons and lighting a candle on top of a cake for our little one this week, I am celebrating by choosing to remember His goodness to us.

I celebrate by remembering the joy I felt seeing a positive pregnancy test for the first time.  After being told that my dream of becoming a mother may not come to fruition, I was elated to finally see a positive test.  The joy that washed over me was like none other I had experienced.  I let out a sigh of relief and tears of excitement as I shared the news with Joseph.

I celebrate by remembering my first pregnancy symptoms, though some weren’t so glorious.  I felt like I was living a fairytale during the first days and weeks of our first pregnancy.  Joseph and I were so thrilled by our news!  We had become weary while waiting for our prayers to be answered, and our news became the beginning of a different season for us.

I celebrate the child I never met because through them the Lord reminded me that He certainly does hear our cries. Psalm 116:2 (NLT) “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Through our first baby, the Lord encouraged our hearts by reassuring us that He is far superior to any reports that we had received by medical personnel.  Though I heard the report that I may never have a baby, my heart never allowed me to believe it.  I knew that the Lord was near to us and heard us.

I celebrate our first baby because our marriage was strengthened and our relationships with other believers grew deeper.  The love from others that Joseph and I experienced through walking through our miscarriage is unexplainable.  Family members and friends grieved with us and loved us well.  Joseph and I learned how to seriously press in to the Lord more and how to handle tragedy together.

I celebrate our first baby because I learned contentment through knowing of them, even for a short while, then losing them.  Through our first pregnancy, the Lord fulfilled a promise.  I don’t take that lightly.  After our miscarriage, Joseph and I had to come to a serious place of contentment and surrender.  We had to be fine with knowing that it was a possibility that we may never become pregnant again and that the baby we would never meet may be the only one we’d ever have.  Arriving to that place wasn’t easy for me.  The days after our miscarriage were difficult, but full of the Lord’s grace.  God sweetly ushered us into a place of truly experiencing His peace.  I learned of His sufficiency like I had never known before. He was enough.

The baby clothing and cutesy things I had been storing up in hopes of one day bringing a baby home began making their way to the homes of children who were welcomed into the world by our friends.

As I relinquished those material possessions, I’d hear the Lord say, “I’ve got you.”  I cried a lot, not surprising to any of you who know me well.  I cried over mourning for the child I’ll never meet, but I also cried because of the faithfulness the Lord chose to bestow upon us.  He continually reminded us that He entrusted us with all that we had experienced.  The decision to become bitter about it or to choose to strive to glorify Him in it was completely up to us.

I celebrate the child I never met because of how I experienced the love of the Father through them.  Through anticipating their arrival for only a couple of months, I gained greater perspective pertaining to Psalm 37:4.  “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  After the miscarriage, I learned to truly desire the Lord and Him only.  I learned what it meant to only want to be in His presence, to long for Him to move, and to want to please Him.  When He became my heart’s desire, He honored His promised and daily renewed me and filled me with Himself.

I celebrate the child I never met because they are a part of our family’s story.  In His mercy and grace over us, God chose to bless us with Ada.  We found out she would be arriving just three months after our miscarriage was confirmed.  She is seven months old now, and being her mom is far better than I ever imagined.

But what if God had chosen not to bless us with another baby?  I would have still celebrated.  It’s not up to me to determine the circumstances in which I praise the Lord.  My obligation is to praise Him despite my circumstances.

Even now, with Ada here, the Lord continues to whisper over me, “I’ve got you.”  I’m constantly reminded of His presence as I speak the same over Ada when she’s fussy. “Shh, shh, shh. Sweet girl, I’ve got you.”  And He nudges me so gently, “And I’ve still got you, Sydney.”

It’s easy to become weary in our current situation and wonder if the Lord is paying attention to us at all.  Pay attention.  He’s beckoning you to hear Him say, “I’ve got you.”

Some reading this are still in their season of waiting, and have grown weary there.  Listen to Him!  He’s got you.  In the moments of wondering how you’re going to get everything done--- laundry, dishes, paying the bills, preparing meals, and your long list of to-do’s at work --- hear Him whisper, “Shh, shh, shh. I’ve got you!”  When you wonder if anyone sees your efforts at work, or if they care He says, “I care. I see.  I’ve got you.”  When your mind lingers in that place of simply wanting to know when your life’s goals will be met – marriage, kids, career, etc.--- rest knowing that His plan for you is far better than you know. 

In your seasons of waiting, wondering why you experienced tragedy, why you haven’t known joy like you’d hoped, choose to celebrate.  Lamentations 3:25 (NIV) “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him…”

Choose to celebrate Him, the giver of good gifts even when your circumstances are less than desirable.  Choose to honor Him in how you handle difficulty.

Though I have chosen to celebrate our first child, I still have moments when the memories of our miscarriage overwhelm me.  This week has been difficult.  I will probably always wonder about their personality or who they would have looked like.  But I will always be grateful, because I know that without them, without experiencing losing them, we wouldn’t have Ada.

Be encouraged knowing that the Lord loves you enough to see you through whatever difficulty or trial you find yourself in.  There will always be a reason for you to be downtrodden, but He is a greater reason to celebrate through your circumstances.  Your prayers may not be answered the way you hope, but you can know for sure that your prayers are heard.  He knows what He’s doing.  Isaiah 55:9 (NIV): “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

You are loved, Baby Charlton, and you are worth celebrating!
“I never got to hold you, or bounce you on my lap.  I never got to read to you, or watch you as you nap.  You slipped away so quickly, before I said your name.  And I want the world to know I loved you just the same.” ~A. Peterson

Saturday, May 9, 2015

We're Rich!



With mother’s day tomorrow, I cannot help but reflect on all of the things my mom has seen me through, supported me in, and taught me.  There are many things mom taught me that I hope to instill in Ada as she grows up; but one lesson my mama taught me particularly stands out, as I am only weeks away from our due date.

As a young girl, I remember asking my sweet mother, “Mama, are we rich?”  The question was usually spurred on after playground conversations with friends as they chatted about how much money they were given for their good grades, how extravagant their Christmas gifts were, or even how much money their parents made.

Mama’s response to my question was always the same.  “Sydney, we are rich in the things that matter most.”

For a girl in elementary school, the answer alone seemed sufficient.  Mama said we’re rich, so I believed we were.  It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I really began to understand all that she meant.

You see most of my childhood was spent in a single-parent household.  My mom, brother, and I have lived through many various difficulties, but in the midst of them, mom never gave a hint that things were in turmoil.

We were rich in the things that mattered most.

Mama had every earthly right to complain about finances, but she never did.   My brother and I never did without anything we needed, and mama worked hard to make sure that most of our “wants” were covered, too.  Growing up, I never knew the stress that mama carried concerning the needs she had to meet for our family.  Mama always said, “It is just money, kids.  We can’t take it to Glory with us.”  Or, “God’s got us.  We can’t worry about it too much.”  Now, as an adult, listening to the stories of how the Lord carried us through during the days when her income didn’t cover the expenses, Mama’s trust in Him cultivates more trust within myself.

My precious mom never put herself above my brother and myself.  She selflessly attended countless ball games, baton competitions, and singing performances, cheering us on and smiling as we played/preformed.  She worked long hours in our school’s concessions stand after she had worked all day, just to help our school raise money.  She used her vacation days from work to chaperone church camp trips over the summer, only after she single-handedly planned all of our fundraising for our group to even be able to attend the camp.

She never complained.  Rather, she would say, “When I chose to be a mom, I chose to be apart of your lives.”

Mama has taught me the importance of truly understanding the beauty of the blessings we have been given.  By the world’s standards we may not have much.  But because of the lesson Mama instilled in me, I know that we are rich.

We are rich in love.

She’s always taught us the importance of family.  Regardless of our circumstances, I’ve always known that our family would help one another.  She’s taught us how to love deeply and serve one another well.

We are rich in laughter.

For anyone who knows my mom, you know that she laughs with her soul.  Mama has led our family well in many, many ways.  Always telling us not to take ourselves too seriously and laughing with us (and at us) has developed a unique bond between us where we can be serious in one moment and laugh hysterically with one another the next.

 (Picture from Mom's 50th birthday trip)

We are rich in trust and commitment.

The seasons of life that the Lord has led our family through has cultivated a great deal of trust in Him, but also in one another.  We are a family committed to looking after one another’s interests.  Mama’s words when my younger brother and I would argue growing up were, “When I’m dead and gone, you two are all you will have left of this family.”  Her intent wasn’t to sound morbid, but to teach us the importance of us seeing the bigger picture.  We are a family that sticks together regardless of our differences concerning different matters.  We can trust one another because of that commitment.

We are rich in faith.

My mom’s routine of taking us to church every time the doors were open wasn’t a matter of religious duty.  Mama’s life embodies genuine faith.  Her persistence in prayer, in good and difficult life seasons, taught us what to value most.  Going to church growing up, I witnessed my mother serve those who were hurting in the congregation.  I witnessed her using monetary resources that we could have used elsewhere to buy groceries for other single moms.  Most parents wouldn’t buy a mini-van just to make sure they had enough seats to take all of the kids to church that came to our house after school on Wednesdays --- but mine did.  Her faith is truly who she is.  She admits that it’s scary at times, but having the faith to press on, she continues to live what she believes.  The Lord will provide.  We believe in His goodness, even when it isn’t always evident in the moment.

We are rich because of you, Mama!

There’s no way I could adequately articulate all of the things that you have taught me over the years.  The lesson that we truly are rich because of the Lord’s goodness and His steadfast love for us far surpasses anything you could have taught me about making as much money as I can as an adult. Thanks for teaching me what’s really important. 

Thanks for showing me that loving and serving others is not an inconvenience.   You always opened our home to whoever couldn’t go home for the holidays; you fed the study groups (and football team) we brought home; and you offered our couch to anyone who needed a place to crash for the night.  She, you embody what it means to serve one another and see to it that no one is in need (Acts 4:32-35).

“Thank you” doesn’t seem like near enough to attempt to express my gratitude for you and your life.  But it will have to do, so… “Thank you, She!”

We are rich; we are rich indeed!

Happy Mother’s Day, She!!

Proverbs 31:29 – "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”