Graduation Reflections

My mother was not at my graduation but at my son’s graduation I saw how God had transformed my life. My children were given what I never had in my life: a mother who shared milestones with me.

I remember the day I was at my son’s last basketball game in high school. He won that game. However the normal cheers were dampened by the tears in many mothers. One mother said to me, “This is the last game of my son’s life in high school.” I resisted being swept into the thinking which began with the sentiment “This is the last time…” Instead I clung to the excitement of new beginnings. So I wrapped my mind around the sentiment “This is the first time…” This is the first time my son will play basketball in a league bigger than high school. This is the first time my son  will test the strength in his wings and realize he can fly on his own. This is the first time for so many new discoveries and to find a world bigger than his neighborhood and high school. This is the first time he will be on his way to find his place in the world and what God created him to do. This is the first time he will leave the house a boy and return a man, a grown adult with a strength and convictions of his own who will no longer be a dependent but serve as a pillar in my own life. And in these sentiments of “first time” emotions I released my son to God and thanked Him for walking with my children the rest of their lives. God walked with me and never left me and I can trust Him with my children. He is faithful from one generation to the next.

The Greatest Sign of Your Insecurity

Are you a parent who is trying to force fit your values on your children? I know in my life, my mother totally spooked me about life. Perhaps because she was raped, she made me think there was a demon around every corner waiting to pounce on me. I grew up feeling very helpless against a world ready to devour me.

As an adult I realized that I looked to God’s Word for my security. But then something unhealthy happened. My older son once said to me, “Mom, why do you get so upset when I don’t agree with you theologically? I feel sometimes that you have to convince everyone to believe what you think because you get insecure if you don’t believe the same thing. The more insistent you get, the less I believe that what you are saying is true.” Wow! What a revelation! I had to confront myself, “What is your motive? Are you insistent because you are afraid of the consequences for those you love if they don’t follow what you believe is God’s will? Or are you insistent because you find security in believing what you believe and it rattles you if others don’t believe it.”

The answer was, “Both.” There are times I am warning someone out of my concern for them. And there are times I am insistent because I’m not sure and so it makes me insecure if you challenge what I am saying.

Oh from the mouth of babes, God corrects us!! Today, I stop myself when I get insistent and I ask myself, “How self-centered are your comments? Are you watching out for the person you are talking to or are you watching out for yourself?”

What about you? When was the last time you offered a strong opinion concerning someone’s behavior? Were you watching out for them or for how their behavior affects your world?

Emotional Footprints

There are times in life when we find ourselves at the same crossroads our parents encountered in their lifetime. My mother saw the political situation in her country and tried to convince her family to leave. They were afraid to leave the familiar and decided that no matter what happened, they were better off to stay where they were. She then took all the risk upon herself and left the country. I found out later that up until her death she had been sending money home to support 18 people.

Fast forward the tape of life and I found myself at a similar crossroad. God had called me into women’s ministry. I felt safe serving in this role under the umbrella of an established organization. But God made it clear that as long as I was under an organization that did not exist just for women, I could not fully represent the interest of women. So at the crossroad of life when I was given the chance to stay and accept a promotion, I was confronted with the opportunity to leave a safe place to venture into the unknown to establish a ministry to benefit women. At that time, I don’t think I remembered my mother was at a similar crossroad where she chose to take the risk but I believe her example was ingrained in my DNA. When faced with a similar situation I felt compelled to take the risk. In fact, not taking the risk felt like I was leaving a legacy of fear. And I was adamant I would not allow fear to determine my life.

Have you ever been at a cross road? If so, what examples from your past is driving your choices?

When you Cry, You Cry Alone

My mother used to say “When you smile the world smiles with you, when you cry you’ll cry alone.” The first time I heard her say that I thought, “That can’t possibly be right. Is everyone pretending then? Is anyone telling the truth?”

When God called me to encourage those in leadership I have found that leaders are the loneliest people in the world. The reason is because they are expected to take care of everyone else and tend to stuff their own needs. The first time this reality bruised my heart was when my house flooded. I had been teaching a Sunday school class and asked the director of the class if she would rally a few members to help me. Her response was, “I just wanted you to know one of the members said she didn’t think it was right for you to use your influence to appeal to the class to help you in a personal need.” I was immediately embarrassed that I needed anything and put up a mask that I really didn’t need help after all and that I was fine.

In talking to leaders I find them doing a similar thing. When they took the risk to expose their vulnerability they are talked about behind their backs and find that those around them resent them for being in a place of need. They hear comments like “Are you still depressed?” and immediately feel compelled to hide their depression.

My heart bleeds for leaders because I detect their loneliness. I think my radar is especially sensitive to loneliness because I’ve felt so much of it when I left my country.

People tell me that Jesus should be enough. I’ve concluded that may be that is the case for an introvert but I do better with someone who plays the role of Jesus in the flesh. Some people have never experienced that relationship. Others were given such a gift for a season. Ultimately I believe that loneliness will be fully eradicated when I’m face to face with Jesus. Until then I give myself permission to grieve my losses with a safe friend who doesn’t rush me and for those who don’t relate all I can say is, “They must either be emotionally stronger or have never experienced a loss of someone who was an integral part of their lives. I am reminded of a pastor who publicly admitted he could never relate to people who suffered from depression and then God allowed him to experience a depression that came out of nowhere. He said he never again made light of depression.”

Those in leadership positions need a safe friend who cares. Is there someone you need to write a note to just to say you remember their loss with them or that you understand they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and trust God’s power in them to make the right decision? Is there someone you need to stop criticizing what they should have done and open your eyes to see a leader who is still leading with a broken heart and pray for him or her instead? I can think of ten people I need to write. What about you?

But They Said They’d Always Be There

When the person I thought would always be there disappears from my life I get distrustful of everyone. I withdraw into myself and I become afraid to conquer the world. In fact, I no longer want to conquer anything. I just want to stay in bed. But it is often while I am hiding under my blankets and never wanting to emerge into the world again that God meets me in my cave. And it is there that He assures me I am not alone. And then with the assurance from God, I emerge from my cave. But I stay out just a little while and withdraw again. It takes me time to build up the assurance to stay out of the cave.

I believe one way God keeps me out of the cave is to put the battle in front of me. When someone has a need and God places that need on my radar or when the ministry has launched with its calendar, I am pulled into activity whether or not I am ready. I find that deadlines can sometimes serve as a life saver because they force me to get out of bed. When I know God has put a conference on the calendar I know that no matter how I am feeling, I must get through the conference because thousands will be impacted if I just quit. And then I’m surprised at how staying committed to what God has put on the schedule pushed me to get up in the morning. And the more I get up, the more I keep going. And then the choice to keep going becomes my mode of operation. It’s like I’m on auto pilot and God has trained me to be a warrior He can trust to finish His mission.

That’s Not the End of the Story

The day my mother died, I wrote the words “The End” to her story. As far as I was concerned, hers was a legacy of defeat. She was a woman who allowed life to overwhelm her. I was terrified that I had her DNA and that I would end up just like her. But what God showed me was how His Spirit resurrects life out of ashes. What my physical eyes judged as “It’s all over”, my spirit sensed a restlessness from something that was still stirring. That something was God at work, rekindling the fire and writing a different end to the story.

 

Excerpt from the book:The ending is unfolding before us, in my mother’s grandsons, in the foundation of a ministry that will protect God’s dreams for thousands of women, beginning in Houston, Texas and spreading to cities across the nation and the world. The realization hit me like a thunderbolt: that my mother’s life, for all its losses, had never once lost its central, extraordinary idea. In this world of tragedy, the best we can do is look out for each other; the highest act of friendship we can perform is to help those we love…I carry with me her service and leave   behind her limitations. All of her dreams came true for me. I have the opportunities, the education, and the loving and supportive family that she always wanted for me.

 

In understanding the purpose of my mother’s life I understood better the purpose of mine. Her life unfolded in front of me like a screen play which represented the lives of millions of women.

 

When you think of the final chapter of your story, how do you think the story will end? If your physical eyes judge your situation as bleak, can you envision how God can transform your story with a different ending? Respond below

 

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Do You Have Trophy Children?

I remember my mother introducing me to her friends and smiling when they commented on how pretty her little girl was. She had dreams of me being a movie star one day. Then I grew into an ugly stage as a teen and I could see the disappointment on her face when glimpses of future stardom vanished into thin air. I learned from a young age how a woman can make her children into personal trophies and create confusion in their spirit.

In raising my sons I had to learn to let them have their own process to hear God and determine their values. They needed to break free of what I expected them to believe. Thank God my two boys were not easily manipulated and they had the capacity to discern truth. They observe life and they won’t do things just because everyone else does it. I remember my older son challenging me and saying, “Why do you get so upset when we challenge ideas? It’s like you’re not sure because if you were really sure you would not feel the need to be so defensive! If it’s the truth we will find it. Do you not trust that?”
My younger son recently watched the movie Spotlight and I could tell what he was thinking. He’s not easily impressed by people with spiritual resumes, he watches their lives. And so it is with many in their twenties. They are not impressed with a title, they want to see authenticity.

As a leader of a mega Christian women’s ministry there are times I feel tempted to use my kids as trophies. I want what they do to reflect positively on me. But God reminds me they weren’t created for me they were created for Him. God also reminds me the time I found my path was when I no longer lived to be my mother’s trophy but to find my own identity under Christ. So that’s what I try to do for my sons. They must have the freedom to work their own process and settle their convictions. And I must trust that the same God who led me to truth is leading my sons. He is faithful from one generation to the next. How are you trusting God with the next generation?

When I serve I feel God’s Pleasure

The day I became an adult was when I realized I was created to serve God. This meant learning to hear God’s voice more than the messages from my formative years. There were many dreams my mother held in her heart for me, some were also God’s dreams, others were born from her own fears and even personal ambition. The day I could say “This is the me God created” versus “No this is not what God wants for me” I was set free. To truly live God’s dreams for me meant being set free of everyone’s expectations including my own. I was free to soar when I could finally say “I serve at the pleasure of God alone!” What about you? When you serve do you feel God’s pleasure?

Treasure I Didn’t Know I Had

After my mother died I found a biscuit tin in which she hid several pieces of jewelry she had saved over the years. Her intention was for those pieces to serve as an emergency fund for her children in case we ever needed money. I thought the jewelry in the biscuit tin was the last treasure my mother left me. I was wrong.

Excerpt from the book:I saw the treasure box as the only thing my mother had left me. But then, one day, as I was wrestling with my own life, I walked suddenly into a moment of clarity. My mother’s story was its own hidden treasure. She must have known that one day, I would find it, just as I found that box.

 

I began to piece her life back together and in the process, to reassemble my own. As I brought her back in my memories, I could almost touch her, see her, and smell the perfume she used to wear. I walked with her through her girlhood in the village, through the brief beautiful dreams that were fulfilled and the many more that were lost forever. From the ashes of the stories she had told only me after the rest of the family had gone to sleep, emerged a story of love and trauma and betrayal and disappointment—a story that can finally be put to rest by her daughter’s attempt to write the ending.

 

In unraveling my mother’s story, I discovered the real treasure was her unselfishness. She gave up education to work so she could help her mother feed her siblings. She left behind her first born when she left the country to find work to support the rest of the family. She was willing to take on risks that no one else in her family was willing to take on. To my surprise, she mirrored the sacrificial love of Christ. Could it possibly be that she was the one who planted seeds for my service? Does my service find its roots in her example?

 

Have you been too quick to judge what is wrong with your mother? What are the seeds she planted in you that has borne positive fruit? RESPOND BELOW

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She Was a Woman with Dreams

“Beyond my Mother’s Dreams: Unraveling her story to find my own” was a difficult book to share publicly because left to me, I would rather not bare my soul to the world. But God reminded me that our stories do not belong to us, they belong to Him. And He wants His story told…

 

In writing this book, I realized that all those years when my mother poured her stories and tears into me, her dream was that her daughter would not live with the same helplessness that she experienced in life. Deep inside, I believe she secretly dreamed that, one day, her daughter would emerge with the strength she never had and honor her tears by changing the world for women.

 

How did I miss that she wanted my life to be different than hers because she wanted more for me? For many years, I judged my mother for abandoning me. My views of her were totally derived by how her actions impacted my life. It never occurred to me till now that she was once a girl with dreams of her own and that she was dealing with regrets and disappointments. It never occurred to me that she worked hard to make a way for me before she lost hope for herself. It was like she set my life in motion before she lost hope for herself.

 

What life do you think your mother desires for you compared to what she accepted in her own life? Respond Below

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