A Mother’s Christ-like Love

Family at Browns Church

Galatians 6:10

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   

Thought for the Day:  Show Christ’s love to others

I am a mother!  I am a mother of two!  I am a mother of two precious boys who have created something in me that is so very special.  But, I have sometimes fallen short of being the mother I should be.  Today, I read a devotional about a caregiver that reminded me of my own mother and how she worked with my two brothers, stricken with Muscular Dystrophy.  And, how I as a sister sometimes fell short in helping my brothers with their needs.

My mother was amazing!  I have written about her before, but she was so amazing she deserves more words of praise. My sweet mama, Mary Jane Henderson, grew up in a small town in West Tennessee to two parents who adored her.  They were an older couple and she was “the apple of their eyes.”  Spoiled a bit, I am sure, but grew up with a kind and gentle spirit.

That spirit, I believe, is why God made her the mama of my brothers.  God knew that she was perfect.  She was the perfect person to take care of two boys who would be handicapped in wheelchairs from the time they turned 7-8 years old.  As I remember the story, I understand that the doctor shared with my parents that the boys would probably need to be placed in a home at some point because it would be impossible for my parents to take care of them.  With that statement, my mama made the promise to take care of my brothers in a way that only Mary Jane could do.  And she did!  For twenty-five years she did just that.  She took care of their needs of feeding them, turning them in their beds at night, lifting them into their wheelchairs to take them to the bathroom, managing to put them in the bathtub for their baths, feeding them when they couldn’t feed themselves, driving them to public school where friends took care of them through the day, taking them to college when each son majored in different areas and met in different buildings, taking notes for them in class when they couldn’t do it themselves, and crying for them when they were hurting.  The biggest thing she did was to make sure life was fulfilling for them including taking them on trips each summer and letting them participate in interests in school.  She was amazing.

I remember doing a lot for my brothers as well, but I know I didn’t do as well as I probably should have.  I did a lot, as a sister would do, but looking back I realize that I did not always do it with the spirit I should have.  I remember feeling at times tired of the “Donna, could you get this for me?” Why was I not like my mother, who was always ready to jump up and help?  I don’t know why, but I do know that I had a perfect example of someone living the Christ-life in my mother.

Now I look at myself and realize that God gave me children with needs just like my brothers, but without the wheelchairs.  I know I have not been that extraordinary mother as my mama was to my brothers and to me.  Where have I fallen short?  I have fallen short in always showing Christ’s love through my actions.  I have fallen short in giving the children what they need when they needed it.  And, I have fallen short in living the life with my children in the way my mother exampled life to me.  Last night, my youngest said, “Mama, you are always so nice and loving to me”.  That was a feel good moment and one that made me feel that maybe I, without knowing it, had become a tiny bit like my mother.  Today, and everyday, I promise (as my mother promised) to be the mother my children need.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for memories and thank you for placing examples of You in front of us each day. Thank you for loving parents who showed us how to show love to others. God, you see us, you know us, and you love us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Parents of Special Needs Children

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Extravagant Service

John 13:14

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anothers feet.

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading me today?

“What do we want to do this summer?” was the question asked in our home yesterday.  My first “want” was to get the house clean, as I have looked forward to school being out where I could dig into cleaning that has been put aside.  The next thing that came up was vacation…where are we going to go on vacation? Then the normal…of course…we will definitely be going to Lake Junaluska Music and the Arts week.  But today, I read the “Upper Room Devotional” for today which made me rethink my wants and dreams for this summer.  All of my “wants” for the summer had to do with ME.  The Upper Room Devotional for today shared the writer’s thoughts about her sister.  Her sister, from the time she became a believer in Jesus Christ, was known for her giving….extravagant giving to everyone she met.

Oh my, did that speak to me.  It seems that in my tiredness from teaching and directing choirs at this time of year, and being a mama to two boys has given me that thought that I’m doing what God has called me to do.   I do believe I am doing what God has called me to do in those areas of my life, however, am I giving extravagantly as the sister in the story? And, just as importantly, am I teaching my two sons to give extravagantly?  My honest answer to that is no…I am not.  I look at my sister in Christ, Christi, who teaches school but finds the time to volunteer during the summer in our church.  I see our MANY volunteers who serve in our Pantry Ministry in our church every Saturday morning serving friends in our community who need a little assistance.

So, what do I do? I take one step forward to begin doing something for others.  So, what do I do?  I listen for God to lead me and I prayerfully make decisions based on God’s words, not mine.

https://www.upperroom.org/devotionals/en-2019-05-26

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for your messages through devotional writings.  Those words, if we listen, can lead us to making decisions You urge us to make.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those thankful for where God has led them.

The True Meaning of Christmas

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the true meaning of Christmas

Over the past weeks, since Thanksgiving, actually, the busyness of the Christmas Season and end of school semester has kicked into full gear.  Children’s musical, school observations, grading, planning for Christmas parties, Christmas Cantata rehearsals, etc.  My mind has been put to the ultimate test. This weekend has been spent doing the chores around the house that have been put off for weeks and now, I sit and ponder.  I sit and ponder what it is all about.

Our children’s musical, “Christmas Spirit”, was presented one week ago with children remarkably telling us about the True Meaning of Christmas.  Experiencing the cast members learning their parts so perfectly and so quickly (to my amazement) was such an answer to prayer, and the choir learning the music to such beautiful songs touched my heart.  My heart was touched several times during the rehearsals, but one thing touched me more than any other.  It was when I saw with my eye one cast member “getting it”.  As the lines were rehearsed, we noticed that this child smiled at times when the character should have been very serious.  In watching, we realized that the reason for the smile was that she didn’t understand what the lines meant.  How does a young child understand the meaning of the birth of Christ and the meaning of the Crucifixion? As we shared with the child that Christ is the Son of God who was born in a manger and who died by being hung on a cross for us – for her, she began having a look in her eye of understanding.  She had heard the story of Jesus Christ before, but had never understood the true meaning.  During the presentation, she was able to portray her character perfectly and was able to tell the true meaning of Christmas.  So, what is the true meaning of Christmas.  “That God loves me…He sent His Son beloved, to die on Calvary.  And on Christmas morning, a new hope was born – and now I know the secret.  That’s what Christmas means to me.”

The Christmas musical was about a little girl who saw all the hustle and bustle of the season in the gifts given and the craziness that surrounds the time.  In her heart, she knew there must be more…but no one gave her a satisfactory answer.  It took a dream, or was it a dream, for her to get the answer and for her family to see the answer as well.  That was the same little girl who “got it” in rehearsal.  And she told the true meaning of Christmas to those in attendance.

During the coming weeks, as we go through the hustle and bustle, keep in the forefront of your mind the true meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of Christmas is that God loves you…He sent his Son to die on Calvary…for you.  Hear that…for you, He died on the cross for you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for sending your Son to be born in a manger for us, and for sending Him to die on the cross for us.  This love you showed to each of us should not be overlooked by the hustle and bustle of the season.  Please forgive us when we let busyness and selfishness keep us from seeing You.  Be with us each day to help us hear over and over the true meaning of Christmas.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The True Meaning of Christmas

The Strawberry Cake

Nathaniel cooking

Galatians 5:25

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, so envy of one another.

Thought for the Day:  God wants a very close relationship with each of us.

What a blessing it is when one sees their child enjoying something special that the two can do together.  Recently, I have had wonderful experiences in the kitchen baking with my thirteen-year old son.  We started with cookies where I helped him with the recipe and helped him understand how to cook them in our “off-temperature” oven (set five degrees lower).  He was so excited to take the cookies to Sunday School the next morning to share with his friends.  Evidently, to huge accolades.  The next week, he wanted to make cookies to take as we visited some friends.  Two weeks, two batches of cookies, and two empty containers brought back into the house.  Last night, we took on the Strawberry Cake.  Putting the recipe in front of him then watching him set the temperature on the oven, grease and flour the pans, then measuring and mixing the ingredients came so naturally and he was excited as it went.  Now, I must admit that I took the second part of making the icing and then icing the cake.  Today, we take “his” strawberry cake to share with friends.

There are times as a parent when we seem at odds with our children and we can’t figure out what has created that distance.  Then, as my son and I experienced, things come into sync and a beautiful thing happens…the cake really looks so delicious!  Where are we in relationship with our Father?  Are we at odds with God because we are not completely allowing Him into our lives?   Or, are we enjoying life because we are experiencing life side by self with our Father?  Thinking about this recently, I realize that I seem to have to be reminded to talk to God.  That is not how it should be.  I want that relationship with God where we are in sync and where we enjoy that life together in a way I have never experienced before.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, You are so precious and You are Almighty.  Thank You for waiting for us to come to You.  Help us realized that You are waiting for us and all we have to do is welcome You into our lives.  Remind us that You are near all the time…as close as our next breath.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Cooking with our children

A Special Birthday

John 14:21

He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. 

John 14:21

Thought for the Day:  He knows Christ and Makes Him Known

Fifty-nine years ago, a baby was born to Reeves and Mary Priscilla Locke.  What a blessing that fourth child was and what an amazing man he has become.  Yes, there was the time he got excited about holding a soda bottle, spun it around and let go of it straight into a huge store front window (Men inside went flying!)   Yes, there was a time he began throwing his dad’s church keys up in the air then catching them…only to throw them up one too many times with them coming down into one of the church chandeliers.  But then, there was the time, at one week old, that he began his campmeeting life at Joyner’s Campmeeting.  There was the time he walked into his parents’ kitchen to tell them that he had decided to direct church music for a living….they were not excited about that decision at that time, but boy were they proud when he became one of the best around.  And, there was the time he began his time offering his music love with the folks at Joyner’s Campmeeting as he became song leader.  Personally, there was the time yours truly visited Joyner’s Campmeeting with her parents and talked for the first time with this man…and she realized there might be life again after losing her first husband over a year before.  There was the time a little red-headed baby, and later a little black-haired baby (yes – black-haired), were placed in his arms making him a Daddy.  More than anything else, fifty-nine years ago God placed an amazing baby on this earth who became a wonderful musician, a wonderful pastor, an awesome friend to many, a tremendously perfect husband and father, and a man created to share his love of Christ with everyone he met.  Mark Locke became a God-fearing, God-loving, Ordained Deacon in The United Methodist Church to show Jesus to the World.

So, Happy Birthday, Mark G. Locke! May God bring His loving arms around you.  May God bless all who come into your presence as You show them God’s love.  You were born to “Know Christ and to Make Him Known” and you do that very well.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing people in our lives who show us how to live in love for you.  Be with all of us to help us become Your face to the world, as others have been to us.  

Prayer Focus:  Born to be a Follower of God

The Red-Winged Blackbird

 

Matthew 18:6

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us

How can it be that in one hour of walking around our park, I witnessed red-winged blackbirds tormenting other birds.  I haven’t seen it before so I was a little surprised, as I know nothing about that bird species.  As I began exploring the internet, I quickly realized that the reason they seem to attack larger birds is that the birds fly over their nesting areas.  So, much like geese do not like it when other animals get too close as they are nesting, and the blue herons scream out loudly if other animals get too close, the red-winged blackbirds are just protecting their babies.  As a mother, I know I can be almost over-protective of my children.  I hover over them when they are sick and make sure they know about harmful possibilities in the community.  So, am I over protective or am I similar to the red-winged black bird in my want to be a good mother and to help my children succeed in life as I make every attempt to teach them to live a God centered live.

Now, I look to our Parent, God, who loves us and will help us whenever we need Him.  He sends His angels to protect us and He guides our hearts in the way we should go.  All we have to do is read the Bible and we will find the hundreds of stories where God led people to where they needed to go, and opened the doors that needed to be opened.  God showed His love to us.  So, red-winged blackbird, protect your babies where they will know how to live when it is their time to fly free.

Prayer:  God, thank you for leading us where we need to go and for directing our feet.  Thank you for the birds of the air as they show us that they, too, protect their babies.  Help us look at all of nature to see how God shows His love to even the smallest animal – which shows us how much He loves us. 

Prayer Focus:  Parents

Animal Mamas and Their Babies

Job 12:7-10

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

Thought for the Day:  God loves it when His children take in His creation

Watching the animals at our park nearby reminds me that God’s creation is absolutely amazing.  As I watch the squirrels scurrying from tree to tree and finding nuts to hold in their tiny paws to eat, I am completely in awe.  These creatures, no matter how young they are, know instinctively what they need to do to take care of themselves.  How do they know that they need to stash nuts to be available during the cold winter months – how do they know that?  And what about the beaver?  How do the beavers in our park know they are to gnaw and claw trees to make beaver dams.  Looking around our park, we see dams built in different areas and we can see the gnawed markings on the trees. Then, how is it that we do not see the beavers – we know they are there, but we hardly ever see them.  Then, there are the four adult geese that are always with the baby geese.  One can actually see the adults nudging the babies to go certain directions and the adults stand firm beside the babies to make sure nothing happens to them. And my favorite animals to see are the blue herons that nested in the tops of trees and now are beginning to teach their babies.    As I watch, I can see the mamas and their babies, and I can hear the squawking as they tell their mama they are hungry.  I can then see her fly off soaring through the air to find food to bring back to her babies.  There are a lot of God lessons to be learned at the park.

Reflecting on these and so many more animals, I am reminded of how God takes care of His children.  In those times of need, we often get down and can’t get up on our own.  Then God comes in, with either someone to help us through a situation or with some instance that leads us in the way we should go.  Sometimes we do not recognize that it is God who helps us until we look back on a part of our lives and we see it very clear.  God is our Father, and He will nudge us in the right direction.

Prayer:  Father God, we thank You and praise Your Holy name today as we realized how wonderfully You take care of us.  Thank you for the animals in our midst that remind us about how You take care of our every need.  Thank you that we and the animals are wonderfully made.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Animals taking care of their young.

Jesus in the Children

Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Thought for the Day:  See “Jesus” in the smiles of children

In my daily routine, I work with students on different grade levels.  I have been blessed to be in a place, for a time, where I work with small groups of children.  In my time with them, I have given some of myself to teach them.  Seeing the “light bulbs” go on when they understand a concept, and witnessing excitement when they know an answer, makes my heart leap as I know something has gone right.  But what I have received from them seems to be a true gift for me.  These precious ones, these children who appreciate you for just being you, have given hugs, fist bumps, and those special words, “Are you coming to get us today!” – with a “Yes!” called out after I have affirmed their question.  What a precious blessing I have received from these darling children!

As I arose this morning, I remembered a little boy who helps me with one of my groups.  Each day, he comes in to help me with my last group of the day giving encouragement to the children.  After that time, and before dismissal, we ask each other about what our plans are for the evening or for the weekend.  We wish each other well and give the words, “See you tomorrow!”  My day ends with this boy, this precious boy, bringing my heart to a grand place before I leave for the day.  Who are these children? Who is this boy? My answer is, “God!”  To me, these children with their special hugs, smiles, and sweet words are “Jesus” to me.  These children remind me of His love and compassion.  These children bring me a special gift each day, and I can only pray that they see even a tiny glimpse of the love of Jesus in me.  God has brought me to this place – even for a small time – to be with “Jesus” through these children.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me the Bible tells me so.”

Prayer:  God, thank you for children and for the love they bring.  Thank you for their innocence in the way they accept us adults right where we are.  Help us each day to show You to them in the way we speak and by the smile on our faces as we greet them.  As we see You face in them, may they see Your face in us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Children

The Turtle and the Log

Proverbs 19:20-21

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future.  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. 

Thought for the Day:  Listen to the voice of wisdom.

The turtles that swim and climb logs in the lake nearby always intrigue me.  Seeing parents and babies swimming together catches my eye every time because I see how they resemble each other, except for the difference in size  As I continue to watch, I see that the baby is trying to do everything the adult turtle does.  Speaking to a gentleman at our park recently, he said that he enjoyed watching the turtles on the logs as they congregate close to each other.  As he watched recently, he viewed a turtle trying to climb up on the log.  Every time the turtle would get its feet up on the log, his weight pulled him off.  As the gentleman continued watching, he saw the turtle doing this over and over again.  Then, as he watched, he said that he could almost hear the other turtles saying, “Hey you will never get up there – you have to swim to where the log goes under the water – there you can climb up!”  After some time, the turtle seemed to understand and after more struggle, and “listening”, he finally swam to where the log dipped under the water and he easily swam and then climbed onto the log.

Isn’t that how we are sometimes.  We have to try things on our own, sometimes making something easy very difficult.  When we finally listen to wise voices, we decide to follow their direction and then find out we were making things much too hard.   Is this what we do with our faith in Christ?  I know I tend to make things hard because I struggle to hear the words that He wants me to hear.  Faith can be very simple, we simply need to listen and turn toward Christ’s voice.  Then we will understand his love and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  Climbing that log should be simple.

Prayer:  Father God, You are our awesome Lord who we love.  Thank you for always begin there for us leading us to where You want us to go.  Be with us as we go through our day and help us hear Your voice of wisdom as we make decisions through the day. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Listening to Wisdom

Studying for the Test

Psalms 73:21-26

Nonetheless I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand.  Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Thought for the Day:  God is leading, take His hand.

Studying over the past few weeks for a test on English to Speakers of Other Languages has given me knowledge about how to teach children who attend our schools but do not speak English.  Now, I find myself with deeper thoughts about these children as well as all the children who sit in our classrooms each day.  We are different from one another, yes, but we are all in this life together.  Some of us are children who speak a different language than those around us.  Some of us have different ways of learning new skills because of the differences in the way we learn.  Some learn visually while others learn through reading books and listening to lectures.  As we teach, the key word for many, many years had been “differentiation” where we look at how children learn and where they are in their learning levels.  Then, we work to find the best groupings of children where they will learn best.  In my studies, I have read information from different professionals in the field giving their thoughts about how children learn, how much more difficult it is for one child to learn a new language over another, and what we need to do to touch each child where they are in our teaching.  It has been amazing to study this information as it has given me a reminder of the best techniques in teaching and has reminded me, once again, of my desire to touch each child where they are.  All children can learn and I am apart of making that happen.  What a wonderful thought.

Over the past week as I have begun work as a long-term substitute in a school nearby, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet teachers and faculty, but mostly to work with some of the sweetest children ever.  I feel blessed beyond comprehension to be a part of this faculty and pray God’s leading each day as I go into the school building.  God has led me to this place and although there have been hardships in the process, I have prayed for His hand to guide me and I believe He has led me to this place, and He has led me to study and take the ESOL exam.  Not only will passing the exam (which unofficially I did) give me the endorsement I so desperately needed, but the study of the material has given me special tools and reminders for my teaching.  God led me to teaching many years ago and God will lead me to the place He wants me to continue through passion and love.

Prayer:  Precious Lord, take my hand lead me on, let me stand.  I am tired, I am weak, I am lone. Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light.  Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God leads us through the storm.