Mother’s Day—The Gift of Perfect Daughters

Courtney and Michelle

Yesterday, I shared how thankful I am for my three mothers. Today, I’d like to celebrate another gift from God—my two beautiful daughters.

For me, Mother’s Day focuses on my children. My calling came from God, “I give you these two babies … for a lifetime.”

“Thank you, God, for entrusting them to me. Learning from my mothers’ examples, I will love, nurture, and pray for them. I will teach them about You so they are prepared to serve You. Thank you for the best job ever!”

garnish in blue

I wrote the following essay to audition for Listen to Your Mother. While I wasn’t a finalist, it was a priceless experience to recount some of our daughters’ childhood stories and recall the richness of my life—all because of them.

Perfect Daughters, A Mother’s Reward

My first pregnancy was like going to heaven. I helped build my baby’s strong bones—one dish of ice cream at a time. People offered me their chairs. Others wanted to carry my packages. I sure felt like a queen!

A new queen took the throne on the day our daughter, Courtney, was born. Appropriately, the focus turned from me to the new little one in my arms. Time to put on my big girl panties—motherhood arrived!

Determined to be the perfect mother, I pampered her. Like Johnny-on-the-Spot, I jumped up for every little cry. I wiped her runny nose until it was red. I kissed all her boo-boos, patched them with Band-Aids, and added more kisses.

Just about the time I had motherhood figured out, I announced my next pregnancy. Carrying a toddler and several shopping bags while pregnant didn’t evoke the same feelings of sympathy from passersby. But, in those two years, I seemed to have grown twelve hands, and was pretty self-sufficient.

All the pampering flew out the window when Michelle, our second daughter, was born. If she fell, I’d say: Jump up! Brush it off! Throw it away! Sometimes I missed seeing her runny nose until she was licking the snot from her lips. Yep, times were busier with two children, and certainly more laid back.

Children can be very opposite, and our family was no exception. Courtney was our book reader and adverse to risk. Michelle was our daredevil and limit-pusher.

One of the many mom rewards is spending time with her children. Our favorite activity was baking chocolate chip cookies. I taught the girls about the danger of getting too close to the mixer’s whirling beaters. To avoid injury, the girls measured the ingredients, and I added them to the mixing bowl.

One baking day, while they were measuring, I turned around to grab another ingredient. Yes, I should have turned off the mixer, but I didn’t. Courtney, my risk-adverse guard, was standing by. I guess Michelle couldn’t see inside the turning bowl, so she leaned a little closer. Suddenly, I heard panicked cries for help. I dove toward the girls. Michelle’s blonde hair was entangled with dough, and the still-moving beaters were smacking the side of her head.

I turned off the mixer and removed the beaters. Then I pulled two scared little girls into my arms. Once Michelle’s clean hair was in a ponytail, we threw out the batter and started over.

When we moved to Memphis, we intentionally chose a neighborhood of new homes with young families, lots of kids, and a cul-de-sac for safety. Naturally, new construction provides an amusement park of fun. There were mounds of dirt to climb and slide down. There were pieces of wood with which to build walkways. However, sometimes the wood had nails jutting upward. So I cautioned the girls to be vigilant when playing in these areas.

One day, Michelle came limping into the house, crying hysterically. Blood was oozing from where a rusty nail had penetrated the sole of her once-white Keds and then pierced her foot. I snatched her up into my arms and my husband drove us to the emergency room. Much to her chagrin, Michelle received a tetanus shot, with a big needle.

In her young adult years, Michelle brought the story back to life as she revealed it actually wasn’t an accident. Instead, it was the result of a dare—to see who could stand on top of the nail the longest.

When the girls started school, our house was a few blocks from the bus stop. On rainy days, I drove those few blocks, and we waited in the car for the bus to arrive. If driving to the bus stop to keep my girls dry would get me the Mother-of-the-Year Award, then drive I must!

One of those rainy days, Courtney and I were chatting in the front while Michelle was singing in the back. When the rain started to come down harder, I pulled on the electric window lever and started to close all the windows.

Michelle’s little voice said, “Mom, put the window down.”

Without turning around I replied, “Oh no, honey, it’s raining too hard.”

“Mom, PUT THE WINDOW DOWN!”

I turned to see her head stuck in the almost-closed window. Her smashed little guppy lips, were pleading for help. Sheepishly, I put the window down.

In spite of the childhood mishaps, motherhood has privileges beyond any other calling. I found rewards in things like teaching my daughters’ about life while their eyes reflected amazement, feeling their little fingers play with my hair, a hug from their tiny arms, the privilege of listening to their secrets, and hearing their voices say “I love you, Mom.”

And now in adulthood, the girls and I reminisce and laugh about the many crazy childhood stories. Our bond is anchored as best friends.

I’m not the perfect mother, but I’ve got perfect daughters … perfect for our family.

garnish in blue

P.S. Congratulations to my author friend, Dorothy Hill, who was selected for the cast of the 2016 Listen To Your Mother, Little Rock. You can also follow her blog, Dorothy’s Desk.

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Mother’s Day–Celebrating My Angels

Peona for Mothers Day

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.   Exodus 20:12

Mother’s Day celebrates those women who spend nine months being pampered while they carry a new life in their wombs. Pampering is the reward they receive while their bodies are ravaged with morning sickness, imbalanced thermostats, the inability to reach—or even see—their ten toes. Finally, they experience the pains of birth as their child enters the world.

Miraculously, looking into the innocent, dependent face of their newborn annihilates the memory of pain suffered in childbirth. They lavish their new baby with love.

Whether you’ve become a mother through blood, marriage, or adoption, it’s at this point that a mother is responsible for influencing and nurturing another’s life. Not just until the child leaves the home or becomes an adult, but until that child and mother are separated from this earth. We are never too old to need our mothers.

This privileged God-given role for a woman has been held in high esteem since the beginning of time. Indeed, it is a place of honor.

Today, on the beginning of Mother’s Day 2016 weekend, I would like to do just that: honor my mothers. I’ve been blessed to have the influence of three mothers actually. Louise (my birth mother), Doris (my stepmother), and Ruth (my mother-in-law).

What follows is a snapshot of the memories and gratitude I hold in my heart for these women. Each came into my life at different stages with unique influences and divine roles.

Ruth

Ruth was the birthmother to my husband and his sister. Like Ruth of biblical days, she was a loyal lover of her family. Ruth was an industrious woman who loved to cook and bake. She took food to those who suffered from illness or had deaths in the family. She possessed a servant’s heart. As a creative woman, there wasn’t a craft she didn’t know how to make. She patiently taught me how to stitch and sew (and rip out mistakes even when I didn’t want to) projects of which I could be proud.

Ruth, who is in heaven now, was especially gifted with a listening ear, discernment, and sage advice. I was blessed to have her be a part of my life for 20 years.

Doris

Doris is the birth mother to six children and a stepmother to four more. She makes time to see beautiful details around her. Like the baby bluebirds in the birdhouse that hangs in her rose garden. Hospitality is her gift. With flowers cut from her garden and placed in vases all around her house, she whips up food for friends to come enjoy and relax in her home. Having experienced much joy and pain in life, she lends an understanding ear and imparts grace and mercy. As a tenderhearted prayer warrior, she kneels before God bringing all  concerns for her family. Thankfully, Doris has been my mom for 37 years.

Louise

Louise, my Mother, and I have been together now for almost 60 years. I’m the oldest of her four children. She must have the best sense of humor to endure our pranks. For example, salt in her glass of water at dinner, or chocolate-covered dog food to look like chocolate-covered peanuts. Mother laughs easily and seems to know kids will be kids.

Mother sewed many dresses for her daughters—even matching smocked Easter dresses as was once fashionable. Mother loves holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas. We always had special foods and decorations for these events.

Some other especially delightful memories are that she helped teach me to drive (bless her heart!), and threw a surprise 16th birthday party for me.

Mother has showed me her love in many ways. Her most valuable gift to me is a love for God. She taught me to memorize Bible verses, pray without ceasing, and accept Jesus into my heart as my Savior.

Life requires much navigation. God called these three godly women to mentor and guide me. I pray that my daughters will also be deeply rooted in this generational blessing.

Thank you, Lord, for creating mothers. Indeed, they are your angels—messengers of love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

How to Build a House … The Easy Way

 

Framd Sabrina Beasley McDonald house under construction

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. Psalm 127:1 (AMP)

My husband and I were living in central Pennsylvania when he decided to look for another job. After much dreaming and discussion, we got out a map and said we’d target the southeast United States, an area that we love.

“I don’t want to live any further north than the Pennsylvania border and no further west than the Mississippi River,” I firmly declared.

With many unknown facts that were predicated on a potential future job offer, we made decisions about where we would live, where our children would go to school, and what house we would buy. After hours of Internet searches, we finalized our lives in a neat package, and then presented our facts to God.

While searching, but not finding this dream job, my husband had the opportunity to step out of the food-manufacturing world into the entrepreneurial world. We bought an Exxon gas station in our town. I can remember looking over the building and imagining what it would be like to own it. I even excitedly said, “If we owned this, I would be here all the time and never want to leave.” It was a self-fulfilling prophecy—we didn’t ever leave.

After several years of low margins, many long hours, and no vacations, I was so relieved when my husband was offered a food-manufacturing job in Buffalo, New York. It was a job above the northern PA border. What? This was not part of our perfect geographical plan. My husband commuted while I worked at the station until it was sold.

Three months after we moved our household belongings to Buffalo, we learned that the plant was closing. The next job offer he accepted was west of the Mississippi in Little Rock, AR. Seriously? Again, outside of our acceptable location.

God must get a good belly-laugh as He listens to our prayers of what we will and won’t do as we labor in vain to build our futures. Doesn’t He also know just the necessary touch to melt our hard hearts?

Best decisions are forged from knowing all the facts. Only God knows all the facts—past, present, future. In His arms, there are no wrong decisions. There is no nail biting about which way to turn or what to do. Instead there is joy, laughter, peace, and assurance that He is building our house and guarding our city.

Living in those states (still in Little Rock, after 11 years) may not have been of our choosing at the time. However, in retrospect, recalling the blessings that God gave to us would fill several books. Gratitude was a huge lesson we learned. I’m so thankful that He knew just how to build our house. He knew our labor would be in vain if He let us take action on our decisions.

Paraphrasing Joyce Meyer’s famous quote, I firmly declare:

I’m not where I need to be forever, but thank God I’m not where I used to be yesterday.

Love Is …

Love Is
My husband’s 2016 Valentine’s Day card…shhhhhhh

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  I John 4:16 NIV

Valentine’s Day conjures many thoughts and words:

  • Romance
  • Roses
  • Hearts
  • Chocolate
  • Cupid—the chubby, winged little boy who shoots his arrow and injects a dose of uncontrollable love and desire into our loved one’s heart

While many words come to mind at the mention of the famous February 14 celebration, perhaps the word most associated with Valentine’s Day is love.

For me, a sweet memory comes from the daily newspaper Love Is . . . cartoon strip from the 1960s-70s. In the cartoon, a tastefully drawn, naked boy and girl share their love sentiments for each other.

Human Love

When I was 20-years-old and newly engaged, I cut out Love Is cartoons and gave them to my fiancé so that we could commemorate our romance. It made my heart feel all mushy and gooey. Our love was heartfelt, but it was also immature and inexperienced.

Now after 39 years of marriage, here is my version of love:

Love is … something that survives and thrives through good times, hard times, and hardest times.

Love is … something that you think you feel for someone, but is not fathomed until you nurture it for many years.

Love is … something that you think is currently at its pinnacle, but isn’t because it grows deeper and more cherished each day.

God’s Love

There is a deeper and richer love available that’s beyond human perspective: God’s perfect love.

His love offered:

Love is … God. He loved us first.

Love is … withholding what we prayed for in exchange for giving us something better.

Love is … closing all the doors and windows in our life, except one.

Love is … allowing us to walk through trials, but never alone.

Love is … offering us the ultimate, sacrificial Valentine’s gift: eternal life.

Our love response:

Love is … not having the answers, but holding the hand of the One who can always be trusted.

Love is … cleaning out our hearts to make room for the One from whom we can never be separated.

Love is … walking hand-in-hand through the dark with the One who lights our path, one step at a time.

Love is … accepting the love He offers through yesterday’s sacrifice on the cross. The love that bonds us forever with the One who created love.

 

The Bubble Bath

Cat Bubble Bath Bottle
Do you remember this?

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

After my father served in the Air Force, he moved our family to South Carolina so he could finish college.

One summer, when I was about 7-years-old, my grandparents invited me to visit them in Pennsylvania. Feeling “big enough,” I eagerly made the trip. But soon, homesickness made me miserable.

One day, a package arrived from my father. It was a plastic container, shaped like a tall-necked Siamese cat, filled with bubble bath. Attached to the cat was a note, written in a spiraled circle, from my Dad. He shared the horror he felt when my sister and brother got lost in their bubble bath water. He searched diligently through the bubbles, but couldn’t find them. So, he let the water out of the tub. He suddenly found them and barely had time to grab them before they went down the drain. That’s my father–always the joker.

My spirit was lightened as I laughed out loud at the silly bubble bath story and the creative way he wrote the note. Each time I used the bubble bath that summer, I recalled the story and giggled again. While he cured my homesickness, I couldn’t wait for the end of the summer so I could return to South Carolina and hug the man who just taught me the value of laughter.

To this day, my Dad always seems to discern what the problem is and noodles over options until he comes up with a solution. He magically adds his special touch to a hard or sad situation transforming it into fun.

Today I remember, value, and apply these lessons from my childhood. Lessons like: play pranks, tell silly stories, and keep life light.

Laugh–it’s good medicine. Yesterday’s sadness will be wiped away into forever gladness.

3-Step Recovery Plan

Courtney Thornsberry, model
Courtney Thornsberry, model

Concentrate! … Ignore all sideshow distractions.   Proverbs 4:20-27 (MSG)

Distractions: concentration fractures. Perhaps distractions begin as seemingly innocent hairline fractures, but they can quickly expand into damaging fissures or chasms.

Life is busy! We feel pressure and stress to complete our daily tasks under short deadlines. Additionally, social media demands an accounting of our activities, locations, and the company we are keeping.

Fortunately, we have a bevy of tools to choose from as we multitask with lightning speed. Most notably: the Smart Phone. (Can you hear the angels singing?) We can access the Internet, email, text, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter—all while driving, watching TV, or eating dinner. Why waste all those valuable minutes doing only one task at a time?

Recently, I’ve noticed the destructive role interruptions are playing in my life. Perhaps you too can relate.

While I’m making dinner, a text chimes from one of my children. Must be important! I stop to text my reply. I could make an old-fashioned phone call, but that takes too long. So, as we text back and forth, dinner burns.

As our children were growing up, I was a huge proponent of family dinners. During these times, we all sat down together to eat at the dining room table. We each shared the laughter, successes, and even tears from that day. These loving, bonding times built our relationships.

Fast forward to today, where our empty-nest dinner is still at a table, but now it’s in the kitchen so we can watch TV too. We receive texts from our kids or from work about vital matters that require immediate responses. During commercials, my husband and I begin to talk about our day, but then the commercials are over. Our attention turns back to the TV show. Dinner is just the prelude to a night of continued distractions. We fall into bed exhausted.

My morning devotional time is suffering too. I sit in my quiet-time chair. I pick up my Bible, pray for understanding of the Word, only to have my focus redirected by morning texts dinging in from family and friends. All the while, unanswered emails might be piling up, or I might need to stop for just one minute to read social media posts—after all someone might have a prayer request that I can address in my time with God.

Then, I glance at my Smart Phone clock. Whoops! Where did the time go? No more time left for devotions because our dog is pacing in expectation of her park playtime. I apologize to God, pray quickly for daily blessings as I drive to the park, and desperately try to recall a verse that will give me strength for the day.

Distractions have now morphed into justifications. Feeling justifiably worn out from the disrupted lifestyle, I’ve decided to refocus on what is important: relationships—first with God, then with family and friends. God is the Inventor of relationship. Relationship is how we love. Isn’t that the whole content of the Bible?

Recovery Plan

I’ve developed a 3-step recovery plan for when distractions occur:

  1. Follow God’s advice: Concentrate! … Ignore all sideshow distractions.
  2. Turn off the Smart Phone, computer, and television … focus.
  3. Ask God for help!

I hope I don’t get distracted!

How to be Successful in Achieving Your Desires

2016 New Years Photo option 2New Year’s resolutions are our way of saying: I desire change that will bring me success through an achieved goal.

Desires bombard our minds. Desires cause us to wish for something that may feel elusive or unattainable.  Time constraints or lack of planning are two of the biggest goal-stealers. When desires are transformed into achieved goals, we are content and fulfilled. We feel successful.

In this New Year, I want to make an intentional path to turn my desires into achieved goals. In December 2016, I want to look back and see a list of accomplishments, rather than a list of fleeting, unfulfilled desires.

IMG_0983

Would you too like to learn about a plan to achieve success in your life?

I’d like to show you an easy, and successful, method to turn your desires into achievable goals. It’s a tool that I call a Desire and Action Plan (DAP). Sometimes a DAP is very simple (see the example below). Other times, it might be a version that requires a lot of thought, consultation with others, and planning. It might be a written and edited version.

Do you find that a DAP conjures thoughts of fear, discouragement, or frustration? Actually, we all use DAP’s, whether consciously or subconsciously. Here’s a silly, but true, DAP example:

Desire:  

I want to brush my teeth every morning.

DAP:

Why do I want to brush my teeth?

  • So my husband will love to kiss me
  • To rid my mouth of stink and grime
  • To prevent decay
  • To add sparkle and whiteness to the ole pearly-whites

What tools do I need?

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Water
  • Muscles from my hand and arm

What are my success milestones toward the final goal?

  • I see my teeth getting whiter as I’m brushing
  • My mouth is starting to feel cleaner

How do I measure success?

  • Got that sweet kiss from my husband!
  • No chattering dental drills and fillings

Think of tasks that you do and run a quick mental DAP. I think you’ll find that what I’m sharing is true.

Now It’s Your Turn

Now, let’s create a more robust DAP. What do you hope to accomplish this year? Use the following questions to guide your thoughts.

  • Define your desire.
  • Why do I want to _______________?
  • Who’s my audience?
  • What ways can I reach my audience?
  • Who can I consult with to help with ________________?
  • What are my milestones to reach success?
  • What tools do I need?
  • How do I measure success?
  1. Using the answers to these questions, outline each step and milestone for your journey.
  2. Assign a due date to each task. The due date will keep you focused. If you miss a due date, don’t stress; just set a new one. Caution: do not constantly change the due date or you will never finish.
  3. After all tasks are completed, congratulate yourself. You just completed your DAP and transformed your desire into success.

Please don’t discount this effective process. Be sure to formally write down your DAP, rather than just build a mental picture. You may find many gems unfolding in your mind that you didn’t know were there. I promise, not only are you creating a masterpiece, but you also will reach your desired goal successfully.

Bring on your New Year’s resolutions! Transform yesterday’s desires into an organized DAP for a successful forever.

Are You Fighting the Fog?

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

Arkansas River at Two Rivers       I love water! Swimming, boating, hoses, oceans, rivers… if water is involved, count me in!

I enjoy visiting the park next to the Arkansas River. This provides the perfect vantage point to watch the water rush over the dam as it travels east toward the Mississippi River. The water glistens from the reflected sunlight. On the opposite side of the river from me, the deer cautiously sip water at the edge of the river. In the coves of water off the main stream, the cranes wade in looking for their next meal. This serenity that soothes my soul is a God-thing.

In the fall, the river’s warm waters collide with the cooler land air. The result is a thick, cotton-like curtain of fog. Traffic on the bridges is almost at a standstill as each driver’s vision is significantly limited.

Despite the fog-enveloped river, I recently parked my car at the park to visit with God. While I couldn’t see the river, I knew from experience that it was only a few feet in front of me. Not actually seeing the river didn’t change reality. I brought my Bible and a heart full of questions about some decisions that needed to be made. The fear and worry regarding these impending challenges overshadowed my joy. Inside, my warm joy collided with the cold angst of fear and worry. Thick fog rolled into my soul, and my spiritual vision was diminished.

I read the Word which provided a quietness and focus on Him. Then, looking first into the river’s fog, I closed my eyes and prayed for help, wisdom, and direction. You see, my previously fogged vision was formed by a need to understand without trusting and leaning on Him. My fog did not blind God. He maintained perfect clarity all along.

God gave me a peace that assured me He would provide crystal clear answers in His timing. With renewed joy, trust, and clarity, I was ready to face my day. Finishing my prayer, I opened my eyes to an amazing sight: the river’s fog had vanished.  Before me was a clear vision of the beautiful Arkansas River.

Trust in and lean on the Lord Who brings forever clarity to yesterday’s fog.

Blindness: A Gift?

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.    John 9:3

Yesterday

Gift of Blindness
Photography by Ed Hansberry

Don’t know his age, but he was a man blind from birth. Perhaps it was just a condition that he’d learned to live with because it was all he knew. I wonder if he felt inferior? Insignificant? Angry? Cursed? I doubt he considered his blindness a gift.

One day, Jesus came to this blind man’s town. The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

These words almost jumped off the page at me. What a revelation! I’d read this story before from the perspective of a miracle. But I never saw that God created a baby without sight so that as a man his restoration of sight would be the deliberate avenue to glorify God Himself. That’s a gift!

Jesus then made a mud patty from His spit and some dirt, applied it to the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Imagine the excitement he must have felt after washing the mud away from his eyes and, for the first time in his life, seeing his new world. Can’t you see him sprinting back to town to share the miracle with the townspeople?

Back in town, he was immediately escorted to the Pharisees whose focus was not on this beautiful miracle given to a blind man. Instead, they plotted to discredit Jesus and convict Him of a crime.

The once-blind man repeatedly answered the Pharisees’ tedious questions. “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Can’t you hear the hearty belly laughter from the healed man as he mocks the Pharisees?

He further testified, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this were not from God, he could do nothing.” The Pharisees cast him out of the synagogue. Was the now-sighted man feeling reassurance in his gift, or was the ugly head of rejection rising?

I love that at the apex of societal rejection his gift of blindness opened the door to significance. Upon hearing the man was cast out, Jesus found him and bolstered his faith. Jesus taught about spiritual blindness giving the man a purpose. He gave value and a future mission to the man’s life.

Search

In my early years, questions about my value filled my mind. Retreating into hopelessness, insignificance, and fear, I wondered what God was thinking when He created me. Surely I have something of value to offer someone, I hoped.

For many years, hope was deferred. I listened to, and embraced, the enemy’s lies. I reasoned: I’m not important because… I’ve not won awards. I’ve not delivered life-changing speeches to millions of people. I’ve not discovered the cure to a great illness. I’ve done nothing of significance. I blindly looked at what the world values instead of looking for my gift that would bring glory to God.

Forever

Then, Jesus found me. He washed my blind eyes. He refocused my eyes and showed me the accomplishments that had brought Him glory.  The painful experiences, that I’d perceived as harmful, were actually my pre-ordained gifts from God. Discovering these gifts transformed me forever.

Like the blind man told of in John 9, I had to be trained by difficult discipline in order to bring glory to God. Today, with new vision, I recall His words to me, “When you were cast out, I found you. I healed you so that you will be My tool to help others. You are significant to me. My works will be displayed in you.”

What other God-given gifts feel like a disability or trial? How will God use them to bring Him glory somehow? Yesterday’s blindness is now a gift of sight, forever.