Legacy Living: Really? Now?

Legacy Living: Really? Now?

A Mom to Mom leader recently asked the question: “Our group will be doing the lesson on ‘Beginning at the End: Legacy Living from Day One.’ (Session One from Inside Out Parenting curriculum) It’s been a few years since you filmed that. Anything to add from ‘on up the road apiece?’ ”

Great question! Good enough even to make me do the unthinkable: sit down and watch my own DVD teaching. Tough. If you don’t think so, just imagine watching a 30-minute video of yourself!

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Watching God at Work ... Happy Mother's Day!

Watching God at Work ... Happy Mother's Day!

C.S. Lewis said it best: “We may ignore, but we nowhere evade, the presence of God.The world is crowded with Him.He walks everywhere incognito.”(from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, p. 75) 

Yes, He often walks incognito through our world. But now and then we get glimpses.I’ve had more than a few “God glimpses” recently—and most of them seem in some way to involve mothers.

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Got Mushrooms?

Got Mushrooms?

I’ve got a lot of mushrooms lately. I’d like to say it’s all Sarah Young’s fault. But since her beloved devotional Jesus Calling is written so thoroughly from Scripture, I need to rethink that. She always seems to have been hiding behind my couch (or more accurately, in the recesses of my foggy brain), knowing exactly what I’m thinking about and what I need to hear from God.

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When the Garage Door Goes Down . . .

It’s that time of year again. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. Schools have started. Churches have launched “Vision Sunday.”  Fall programs are beginning. Calendars are filling up. And everyone—especially moms—seems to be on the run.

Lives look full to overflowing. We’re connected all over the place. Not just through our smartphones, but right here in our communities—through the classroom, the gym, the coffee shop, the carpool. Or are we?  

When the garage door goes down . . . well, maybe not so much. I suspect—in fact, I’m quite convinced—there’s a lot of loneliness amidst all this busyness. A lot of emptiness on the other side of that garage door. Oh, I know, I know, folks are connected all over the world via the internet: texting, tweeting, emailing, posting statuses, checking Instagram. We’re overconnected, if anything.

But are we, really?  Who knows when you’re hurting via Facebook?  Who brings a meal when your kids are sick and you just had a miscarriage?  Who sees—across the internet—the tears that lie just below the surface when you talk about missing your family?  Who hears the pause in your voice when you’re asked how your kids are adjusting to school this year?

It can be pretty quiet on the other side of that garage door. A couple of statistics our pastor quoted Sunday back up my suspicions: one in four Americans say they have no one to talk to about their joys and sorrows.  One in four!  One in two say that, outside of family, they have no one to turn to in time of need. Yes, that’s half.

beautiful woman looking out through venison blinds

So . . . why do we need Mom to Mom? Why do the leaders need it just as much as the member moms? Why do we need to be on the lookout in our neighborhoods, on our playgrounds, and in our churches for people who, though they look busy busy busy,  are feeling lonely on the inside—and maybe a little scared?

It reminds me of a church we visited when we had just moved to a new part of the country. There was a shelf labeled “For lost and lonely Bibles.”  How about lost and lonely people, I wondered?  Or how about folks just needing a listening ear, a shared laugh, a word of encouragement, a helping hand, or just someone to walk alongside?  Where do they go? 

To Mom to Mom, I hope.  At least some of them. If they get invited.  

So this Fall, instead of just assuming all those busy busy people around you have all the community and support they need, take a chance.  Invite them to come along with you to Mom to Mom.  Or tell them about the group at your church.  Or invite your neighbors in for coffee.  Or a book club.  Or a Bible Study.  Extend a hand through that garage door. Then stand back and watch what God will do.

A Hug from God Every Wednesday

This week I got to do one of my favorite things.  I went to an end-of-year Celebration Brunch at a nearby church and listened as moms shared about their year in Mom to Mom.

It’s that time of year—and I love it!  Many Mom to Mom groups use their last meeting of the year to hear from women in the group about how God has met them in this year.  Sometimes I’m lucky enough to hear from these moms face-to-face.  Sometimes I get emails from moms in groups around the country.  But all the time there is a common theme: “God met me here.”

Yesterday I listened as one woman told of how God had changed her this year through Mom to Mom.  Changed her marriage.  Changed her perspective on what it means to build a Christian home.  Helped her prepare for the birth of their first baby.  (Yes, she came to Mom to Mom while pregnant with her first child in order to prepare to be a mom!)

Another mom told of how her group kept a prayer journal together.  How it had gotten her through this year to keep in touch with prayer requests by email even when she had sick kids and couldn’t make it to Mom to Mom.  Another told an amazing story of God’s healing in the life of her precious newborn as she was surrounded by the care and prayers of her group. The baby’s doctor said: “You know I am an atheist.  But I have to say this is a miracle.”

Another told of how hard it had been to learn of her child’s multiple food allergies; but God had “arranged” her group so that there were others with similar challenges that could walk alongside her.  Yet another told how she had modified her career plans and arranged her schedule to be at Mom to Mom.  “Tell your friends ‘You need to arrange your life to be here.  It’s that important.’”

There was a common theme summed up by one mom who said, “I’ve come to think of Mom to Mom as ‘the sisterhood of motherhood.’”  She was followed by a mom who shared a heart-wrenching story of her miscarriage at 19 weeks.  It happened on a Tuesday.  And she was at Mom to Mom the next day to be loved and prayed for by women who understood—not only in that day, but through the days and weeks that followed.  “It was like a hug from God every Wednesday.”

This group of moms has organized themselves to stay in touch over the summer.  They have a Facebook group of 77 families who try to stay connected.  They know they need each other.  One mom from another MTM group told of a time she was out pushing her twins on a desperation walk at the witching hour against a whipping wind.   Another mom drove by, rolled down her window and said, “It will get better.”  A message we all need to hear.

So I write this today as a salute to all the moms who come to Mom to Mom, and to all the amazing Titus 2 leaders who faithfully love and serve these moms.  We need each other! But we need God even more. A verse keeps coming to me from the Psalmist: “Where can I go to meet with God?”  Many places, of course.  But thank God that Mom to Mom is one of the best!

Gratitude, Grace, and Giving

I love learning from kids—and their moms.  Yesterday I heard and saw a “mom-talk” in action.  And I just can’t get the picture out of my mind.

Recently when I spoke at a local Mom to Mom group, I mentioned that we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of our daughter Erika and her family (including her husband, Richie, and their children, 3-year-old Gabriella and 9-month-old Judah).  They will soon be flying here from Dublin, Ireland, and spending over 6 weeks with us this summer.  YAY!!!   We can’t wait!!!

I also mentioned that I was looking to buy or borrow a few things for their use while they are here: things like a small bike with training wheels or a wagon or other outdoor/indoor toys.  One sweet mom came up to me afterwards and said she might have some things for us.  She followed up via email with a very generous offer.

So yesterday, Woody and I went over to her house.  There we had the privilege of meeting her three charming children: Taylor, 8;  Max, 6; and Samuel, 5 months.  We began to discuss some of the things she had put aside to offer us.  Such generosity!  She had all kind of “indoor toys” as well as a couple of small bikes to choose from, and a great wagon.   These were all available for loan, she explained, because of the age gap between her 6-year-old and her baby.

Every mom knows how hard it is for kids to part with treasured toys—often even those they’ve grown beyond.  One of the kids—naturally the in-between one who had most recently used some of these things—began to protest mildly.  Some of these things had been his favorites.   Even though he wasn’t currently using them, obviously he had good memories and wondered if they’d be returned for his brother—and be well taken care of.

Then came the moment of not only mama grace and mama-modeling, but also of mama-teaching.  Gently this mom reminded her kids of all they had and of how great it is to give and to share.  And I remembered the email she had sent me.  She had written of how God had been teaching her lessons in gratitude, and in giving, and how He had been working in her life to encourage her to be more giving and less grasping of blessings she was able to provide for her kids that many kids don’t have.

And so as I stood in her yard watching this mom teach her kids lessons of grace and gratitude, I saw her attitude become contagious.  Isn’t that how it often works?

It made my heart grateful—not only for the generous loans, but even more for the picture I saw before me: As He teaches us, the lessons overflow to our children.

Thank you, Heather—and Taylor and Max and Samuel.  And thank you, God!

What lessons is God currently teaching you that you can pass along to your kids?

I’m Praying for You, Mom

I’ve just returned from a fabulous weekend with over 6200 moms.  What could be better?   I was a speaker at the Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois.  It was a wonderful two days, full of laughter and tears, great ideas and Godly encouragement, and heart-to-heart conversations with moms at all ages and stages of parenting.  It was especially fun to connect with the Mom to Mom women who attended.  The above photo is of a wonderful group of women who have been doing Mom to Mom in Northern Vermont for years—love these girls!

Now that I’m home and have some time to reflect, I’m realizing what God’s major message to me out of this weekend is.  It’s the power of prayer.  The absolutely astounding, takes-your-breath-away power of prayer.

I saw it in so many ways.  First, in myself.  I am easily traumatized by technology, and the prospect of doing five workshops in two days in various large lecture halls at a state university with varying technological hookups for my PowerPoint slides was enough to send me over the top on the worry scale.  But I had many people praying.  God brought along wonderful folks to help.  And in the end, it all worked out just fine.   Not only did the presentations work fine (despite many last-minute, down-to-the-wire glitches), but amazingly, my techno-trauma did not get in the way of the message.  When I stood up there and looked in the eyes of the precious moms in each audience, it was just me and them—and above all, God.  Truly an answer to prayer.

One of my talks,  “Top Ten Messages You Want Your Kids To Get,” highlighted the crucial role of moms in praying for their kids.  I shared with the women Woody’s way of signing each note and card and email to the kids with these three things: “We love you.  We’re proud of you.  We’re praying for you.”   I told them that one day their prayers for their kids would come back to them as their kids would pray for them.  And words from my daughter’s last phone call from Ireland ran through my mind: "Mom, I just called back because I forgot something in our last conversation.  I wanted you to know how much I love you, how proud I am of you, and how I will be praying for you at the conference this weekend.  I’m praying for you, Mom.”

And now that I’ve been home a few days, I find conversations I had with moms replaying through my mind.  I remember a mom who needed to be released from guilt over something her kids and God have already forgiven.  I think of the intense mama-love I heard in the voice of a mom wondering if her autistic son is getting the message of her unconditional love for him. And I see the tears in the eyes of so many moms in the audience as I reminded them that “There’s no place your kids can go that’s so far God’s love can’t find them.”  And then I assured them by way of a story that God will carry us when we feel we can’t go one step farther in this mom-marathon.

I find myself praying for these moms—and for all the moms who attended the conference. I pray that God will call to mind just the encouragement they need at the moment they need it. I pray that they will remember they are prayed for.  Not only by me.  But—far more—by Jesus at the right hand of God (Hebrews 7:25) and by the Holy Spirit in “groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26 KJV).

I find myself praying for every one of you reading this post, whether you were at the conference or not.  Prayer is the power which makes this mom-marathon possible.  Not only possible, but joyful. “I’m praying for you, mom.”

You Found a WHAT?!

This is a story you’re not going to believe.

In Mom to Mom, I frequently encourage young moms to focus on the things that matter most and to give up  “Supermom” expectations.   I admit that one of the things I gave up was fanatical super-clean housekeeping.  Order and organization—yes.   But obsessive cleaning in every nook and cranny—no.

Recently, however, our house has been looking better than usual because we are getting ready to put it on the market.  As part of that process, I had a cleaning team come in this week to help me out.   And you’ll never guess what they found.

Here’s how it went:

“Uh, Mrs. Anderson, do you have a bag or something where I could throw this away?”  One of the cleaners is standing before me with a strange look on his face, clutching what look like two white towels or dust rags in his hands.

“Oh, sure—just throw those rags here in my kitchen trash. “

“Um, um, Mrs. Anderson, do you have any stuffed chipmunks in your house?”

My mind scans the assortment of stuffed animals throughout our home.  A chipmunk?  I don’t think so.  But, well, maybe…

Before I can answer, one of the other cleaners approaches: “That ain’t no stuffed chipmunk!! It’s got bones and everything.”

“Yikes!  You’ve got a live chipmunk in those towels?!!”

“Oh, no,” the girl responds: “He’s not alive.  He be dead.  Very dead. Stiff, actually.”

This is the truth, I swear.  The cleaning team found a dead chipmunk in my house.  And what’s worse, guess where they found it? Under my bed!!Yes that’s right—under my bed!  It was wedged between the headboard and the wall in one of those impossible-to-get-to places that had not been cleaned, I can assure you, for a very long time.  Obviously.

How did this unfortunate little creature manage to get into our house and all the way upstairs to the master bedroom?   Here’s my theory: months ago (too many to admit!) we left for a trip just after our granddaughter, Gabriella, then 2 ½, had been visiting with us for several weeks.  There had been plenty of coming and going through our patio sliders, and I’m not sure they had always been kept closed.   Then, while we were gone, our burglar alarm was set off by a motion detector.  When we came home, we found a few mysterious droppings in odd parts of the house—including our bedroom and the tub in the adjoining bathroom.  At the time we thought it must have been a mouse, inspiring regular visits from the exterminator ever since.   Now I’m thinking it was another kind of visitor…

The moral of this story?  I don’t know.  Maybe “Don’t ever have a cleaning team  come to your house.  You never know what they might find!”

It’s very humbling to share this story.  But it’s just too funny not to.  At least it attests to my authenticity when I tell you I’m not a fanatical housekeeper.

I also think there’s more here.  How ironic that lately Woody and I have been complimenting ourselves on how great our house looks, given recent touch-ups and “staging” efforts as part of getting ready to list it.   We’ve been especially admiring of our bedroom.  Honestly—it looks really great!  On the outside, that is.

But what was it Jesus said about “whited sepulchers” and “dead men’s bones”?  I think there’s a deeper lesson here somewhere.  But that’s for another time.

For now, just laugh with me.  And take comfort in your own housekeeping struggles.  Surely none of you have dead chipmunks under your bed!

Babies, Brain Freeze, and January Thaws

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. One of the reasons for that is that we’ve had a houseful of babies. Actually, only one real baby. We had the great delight of having Gabriella (and her parents) here for almost two glorious weeks. We loved every minute. What a gift this Nana has had—first, nearly three weeks in Dublin with Erika, Richie, and Gabriella and then nearly two weeks with them here.

And we had other “babies” as well. Of course Bengt at age three and Soren at age two are definitely not—as they would be sure to tell you—babies. Bengt is even sleeping in a “big boy bed,” and Soren is clearly a “big boy” compared to his baby cousin “Gabby-umbrella.” But still, they are (don’t tell them) our grandbabies.

And they brought their parents along—you know, the ones who used to be our babies but somehow, when we weren’t looking, grew up and learned to fly airplanes and lead groups and direct ministries. And move far away—too far, as a matter of fact.

But we had them all here for a few short days over New Year’s. It was a house-full—wonderful, glorious chaos. But then they left. And now the house is quiet and neat and organized (well, sort of) again. And I’m not liking it much at all.

It’s also led to a fairly serious problem—brain freeze. For the past week or so, my brain has been frozen. I have things to do, blogs to write, teaching and speaking to plan. But my brain seems to be frozen. No motivation. No new ideas. No creative bursts of energy. All I want to do is go back and relive the chaos days, when everyone was home and the house was messy and noisy and full of life.

Any of you experiencing brain freeze? In talking to a few other people, I’m learning that it does seem to afflict others, especially in January. Now here in Wisconsin you could say it is weather-related. We’ve had many below-zero days and wind chills as low as 30-40 below. But it is actually quite warm and toasty in my house. I really don’t think I can blame it on the weather.
I think it’s kind of a January thing. It comes for different reasons for all of us. For some of you, there actually may be some relief in January in having the kids go back to school. You’re still scratching your head about how I could wish to go back to a chaotic, noisy house. But then there’s the stuff you left to do until after the holidays. The return to the routine. The weather. I know—those of you in the south think it’s cold even down there in January. Just don’t tell us Northerners too much about it!

Which leads me to the last part of my blog title: January thaw. OK, this part is wishful thinking. Though we are experiencing some temperatures in the 20’s, there’s no January thaw in the Milwaukee area. But I’m thinking it would be nice. And it may come someday—by, say, April.
But I do think my brain may be beginning to thaw out just a bit. After all, I’m writing to you . . . Now if only I could get some great creative bursts of energy in my writing and planning of talks.
Which is where you come in. I’m curious: Do any of you have January brain freeze? Any ideas on how to thaw out?

Also, I could use your help. Mom to Mom is planning a fun new event in Austin, Texas, this February 20-21. (Read about it here.) The event theme is “Motherhood: Simplified,” and we’re very excited about it. In fact, even despite my brain freeze, I’m at work right now on three keynote talks.

Of course, all you moms know we don’t mean “Motherhood Made Easy.” There’s certainly no such thing! But we can make it less complicated than our culture seems to say. So I’d love to hear from any of you who have some insights or hot tips on ways you’ve found to simplify your life.

Who knows? Maybe the warmth of hearing from you will even help my brain thaw…