Generational Wealth

“We will tell the next generation . . .”  Our pastor alluded to it last Sunday.  I re-read it this week in Psalm 78.  And I saw it in action recently in a Mom to Mom group where I spoke.

Meredith Moms

You could call it “generational wealth.”  I’ve heard the term used in the context of legacy giving and non-profit donations: inherited wealth passed on generation to generation.  Churches and charities love it.   

But the generational wealth I’m talking about is far richer than the largest donation, the greatest bequest.  The Psalmist expands on it in Psalm 78:3-7:

“. . . what we have heard and known,

what our fathers [and mothers] have told us

We will not hide them from our children

We will tell the next generation

The praiseworthy deeds of the Lord

His powers and the wonders He has done . . .

So the next generation would know them,

Even the children yet to be born,

And they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God. . . .”

It’s the Titus 2 principle, on which Mom to Mom was founded, fleshed out.  And I saw a wonderful example of it in a precious Mom to Mom group in Meredith, NH.  Four generations in Mom to Mom: Titus 2 leaders Mini and her daughter Mary, Mom to Mom member Carrie (Mary’s daughter) with her daughter Rose.  It was a first, for me, to meet four generations of one family in Mom to Mom.

Four Generations at Mom to Mom

In that same morning there were many memorable interactions with women about “real mom” life: particularly challenging children; grown kids in crisis; marriages that died—some brought back to life again by our resurrecting Lord, some still dead but with daily strength supplied by that same Lord.  And then there was the mom who wrote this in a note to me: [Mom to Mom] has inspired me to trust in the hope of Christ for those in my family who are still unsaved.  I also have faith that God will redeem the years that the locust has eaten—from all the mistakes I have made in raising my children.”     Can’t we all say “Amen” to that?!

A precious gift given to me summed up the morning.  One mom had painted on a beautiful plate a verse I had alluded to in their last session (Session 16 of Growing Together).  This same mom had several years ago painted Mom to Mom sayings on her bathroom walls—the only place she got to sit down in those days!  No, she didn’t present me with a piece of the wall.  But the verse on the plate captures it:

plate photo

Generational wealth: Pass it on!

Images courtesy of Susan Brown. Used with permission.


A Summer Treat: Bittersweet

Here’s a book to pack in your beach bag—or just curl up with at home when your kids are napping.  Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way,  by Shauna Niequist.   It’s a great “snatch book,” as each chapter stands alone (almost like a blog post), so you can savor it bit by bit as you have time.

I loved Shauna’s previous book, Cold Tangerines.   But this one is even better.  Maybe it’s simply because she has lived longer.  Shauna writes out of her life.  And Bittersweet is written out of a season in her life that has been just that.  A time of growth and accomplishment and fulfillment as a woman, a wife, a writer, and now a mother.  But also a time of great change, deep loss, and bitter disappointment.

How do we make sense of such a life?  It’s an important question to ask, because we will all live in such a season—if not now, then sooner or later.  When Shauna writes of finding grace and forgiveness and healing and hope—even joy—amidst hardness and heartache and barrenness, her voice rings true.

The book is also—trust me—a fun read.  The cover alone will get you.  Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.  When I gave the book to my daughter, her two year-old went for it immediately, exclaiming, “Mmmmm!  Chocolate!”  (A girl after my own heart, that child!)  You foodies will love how Shauna describes her journey in terms of memorable meals.  She loves to cook as much as she loves to write, and this is a delicious read.

But the book is more than that.  All mothers will identify with Shauna’s reflections on motherhood.  There’s such joy when she writes about her son, Henry.  And such wisdom in her call for community with other moms, rather than comparison and competition.  And her pleas for older, wiser experienced moms in her life. Of course, you know what I was thinking: “That’s just why we have Mom to Mom!”

On a personal level, I was deeply moved by the chapters dealing with miscarriage and infertility and loss: “Heartbeat,” What Might Have Been,” and “On Crying in the Bathroom.”  Having personally experienced the same kind of miscarriage Shauna had, it was “déjà vu” for me.  But it is important reading for all mothers—not only for those who have experienced loss, but also for those who want to walk well alongside another on this journey.

On a very practical level, the chapter “Things I Don’t Do” is worth the price of the book.  Shauna’s cure for the “Do Everything Better” syndrome is must-reading for every one of us recovering-perfectionist moms!

Ultimately, Bittersweet points readers to God.  As Shauna puts it:”My life is a story about God and what He does in a human heart.” (p. 240)   It’s a story worth reading!

Moms Encouraging Moms

Did I ever have fun this last weekend!  Mom to Mom had an exhibit at the Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington, IL, so two Mom to Mom friends and I got to spend two full days just listening and talking to moms.  What a privilege.  What a ride!

You know how I love moms.  And to hang out with over 4500 of them over a period of two days—that’s what I call a little bit of Heaven.  Of course we had fun talking about Mom to Mom.  We met moms who had never heard of Mom to Mom, moms who are currently in a Mom to Mom, and moms who are thinking of starting Mom to Mom in their church or community.

We even had a little mini-reunion with four moms from Vermont who are now in their fifth year of Mom to Mom.  They’re going through the curriculum a second time, with lots of new moms and some who’ve been there from the start.  It has grown into a wonderful outreach in their community, as the vast majority of their moms are not from their church.   I just love hearing Mom to Mom stories like theirs!

But in addition to talking Mom to Mom, we had wonderful opportunities just to listen to moms.  To look into their eyes and listen—really listen.  There were physician moms and farmer moms, single moms and blended family moms, biological moms and adoptive moms, moms of all sizes and shapes and ages and circumstances.  Each has their own story.  But they had one thing in common:  They all needed encouragement.  They all needed to know that “You mean I’m not the only one who...?”

Of course they got tons of encouragement from the conference speakers and singers and emcees and humorists.  But I also watched them encouraging one another.  And I watched my colleagues, Karen and Tonya, pour encouragement into moms with their big smile, bright eyes, and listening ears.  It’s what Mom to Mom is all about, really.   And Hearts at Home, too.  (Check out their website for future conferences, and come see us again!)

So here’s my takeaway: Encouraging another mom is one of the best things you can do.   And as much fun as it is to hang out with thousands of moms, you don’t have to be at a conference to encourage another mom.  You can do it right in your own backyard.  Or preschool.  Or supermarket.  Or via email, text, twitter, or Facebook.

It’s what Paul was talking about when he said “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  (I Thessalonians 5:11)

Encourage another mom today!

Cute shoes, a Clutzy Speaker, and Great Questions

In the past 10 days, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to two groups of terrific moms—one in North Carolina and one in Wisconsin.  My only regret is that I didn’t get pictures of each of these groups.  (If I get to speak to your Mom to Mom group sometime, will you PLEASE be sure we get pictures?  I always forget that!)  But you can be sure they look a lot like you—and other moms you know. My morning in North Carolina brought a new “first” in my speaking experience.  I actually spoke sitting down with my foot iced and elevated!  It was quite a scene—I really do wish we had gotten a picture!

I didn’t start the morning with a foot injury.  No, I waited until just moments before I was to speak and then I performed a feat (no pun intended) that would be absolutely non-reproducible, by me or anyone else!   In walking across the room to get some water, I managed to catch the toe of my cute red shoe on the leg of a chair.  Nothing really unusual for me about that.  But read on: my big toe actually came out of the shoe and got caught on the front edge of the shoe—and bent backward!  OUCH!!

“How in the world does such a thing happen?”, you may be wondering.  I could never do it a second time — at least I hope not!  It was all about the cute shoe . . . and I have my friend Kay to blame for that. Kay is a real Southerner (she grew up in Alabama and now lives in Atlanta), and thus is my chief clothing consult when I speak in the South, where even moms always seem to manage to look really cute all the time.  Or at least that’s my impression.  Those of you who live in the South may take it for granted — but for us northerners, it can be a little bit intimidating.

So I ask my friend Kay about what to wear when speaking in the South.  In the Fall, for example, where it is actually HOT in October.  As I stand in my Wisconsin closet eyeing the woolens that hang there in ready protection against the winters which seem to start here in October, I think of Kay’s advice (only half tongue-in-cheek): “Just wear cute shoes and carry a cute purse.  The rest doesn’t matter.  It’s all about the cute shoes and purse.” So of course last week when I was speaking in North Carolina I was wearing cute red shoes.  Now these cute shoes are actually very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable.   I bought them really cheap at Marshall’s and only wear them for short periods of time — never, for example, in airports or when walking long distances carrying grandchildren.

Last Wednesday I obviously wore them too long—even though it was early in the morning!  But the women there were wonderful, producing ice packs, towel wraps, a chair to elevate my very red big toe, plus lots of great mom-TLC.  And, despite my clumsiest intro yet, we had a great morning together.

The best part, I thought, was their questions.  They had asked if I would do a Q&A after my talk (which I love doing) and had submitted some terrific questions.  A wonderful discussion grew out of both what I could share with them and the great, creative ideas they shared on various topics.

Then this week I had a similarly great discussion time with moms at a Mom to Mom here in Wisconsin.  (Just for the record, some of those moms had cute shoes, too, I think.  The only reason I’m not sure is that being a northerner, I don’t always tend to notice shoes.)  These moms also had great questions.

And it got me thinking: one of the most important things in life is asking the right questions.  It’s the starting point for so much learning—and growing.  Over the years I have often agonized over what was the “right thing to do” in various situations.  Often when I bring up these questions with Woody he will say, “Well, for starters, at least you’re asking the right questions.”

So I’m thinking that in the next few blog posts I would like to share a few of the questions these and other moms have asked me recently.  And share some of our discussions in response to them.  I say “discussions” because good, hard questions don’t tend to have easy answers.  And I definitely do not see myself as an “”answer lady.”  I am most definitely still learning as I go through my mom-life.  And I learn so much from all of you.

But there are some great guidelines—from God, above all, and also from experience.  And from other moms.  So I hope you’ll stay tuned for some great mom-questions in the future.

And watch out for those cute shoes!