In anticipation of Mother’s Day I decided to compile a list of the most important things I’ve learned from my Momma over the years.

Some of these are lessons she taught me intentionally while others are things I gleaned from her character and actions.

All of them are priceless pearls of wisdom that I will be forever grateful to know.

1.  It’s okay to cry.

It’s a running joke that the women in my family are, shall we say, easily moved.  My favorite example being the Christmas that my grandma made chronological photo albums for each grandchild, full of pictures of ourselves with beloved friends and family members from birth to present day.  I was about halfway through mine, blubbering like a sea lion, when I looked up and saw my two sisters, my cousin, my mom, my aunt, and my grandma all in the same tear-stained state.

My mom and I often cry during our conversations.  Sometimes they are sad tears, other times happy tears, but they are always genuine tears.

Crying can be embarrassing, sometimes happening at extremely inopportune times and making my propensity for it a potential nuisance.  But, as I said in a previous post about this very trait, every time I cry a tear, it reminds me that I am alive and that I feel things and that there are things in this world worth feeling to the point of tears.

2.  Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I have Middle Child Syndrome.

If my dear mother had a nickel for every time I screeched “but that’s not fair!” at a decibel level that only a middle child can reach and only dogs and moms can hear, she could afford to move to the beach and make hats every day.  (This, oddly, was a desire she often expressed after one of my outbursts.  I was not an easy child to rear.)

Since my mom has the wisdom of a sage and the patience of a saint, her response to my whine was always perfect…

(After my older sister beat me to the front seat of the minivan *again*)

Me:  “But that’s not fair!  She rode in the front YESTERDAY!”

My mom:  “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.  And get in the back seat.  We’re going to be late.”

(When my older sister got a pair of [used] Doc Martens for Christmas, and I got a white sweatshirt with a smiley face on the front)

Me:  “That’s so not fair.  She gets everything she wants.”

My mom (wisely choosing not to engage in a discussion with me about how my sister does not, in reality, get everything she wants, and patiently refraining from pinching my head off):  “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.”

You get the point.

I tell these stories in jest, but the fact remains that life is, actually, not fair.  Deserving people get overlooked for promotions; kind people often get the short end of the stick; older siblings totally cheat on the front seat rotation.  Life’s not fair.  And thanks to my mom, I know how to take it in stride.

3.  Don’t decide you don’t like something without first giving it a chance (barring drugs and immoral behavior, of course).  This applies to everything from food to friends.

A restatement of the old adage about judging a book by its cover.  An oldie but a goodie.

4.  When in doubt, take a jacket.

You don’t have to wear it.  But if you get cold, you’ll have it with you to put on.  Solid advice.

5.  This, too, shall pass.

Let the record show that my mom still says this to me.  It’s the ultimate encouragement when you’re in the middle of a situation that feels both world-shattering and never-ending.

However, it’s also an incredibly poignant existential philosophy.

This moment, this day, this experience, this life will pass.  Cherish it.  Live it.

(see mom?  that philosophy degree isn’t totally useless.)

6.  In most cases, less is more.

When I was thirteen, I had an obsession with black eyeliner.  My cosmetic-consultant-mom watched me walk out the door every day looking like a raccoon.  And she never said a word.

One day, several years later, we came across photo evidence of my unfortunate choice, and I asked her why she never stopped me from wearing it.  She said she knew that if she forced me to take it off, it would only teach me that she didn’t approve of my appearance and make me want to wear it more.  Instead, she wanted me to learn, in my own time, that less is more.

And you know what?  I did.

7. Pretty is as pretty does.

I like to feel pretty.  Unfortunately for me, I’ve never much felt pretty.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve bemoaned my boyish figure and the dark circles around my deep-set eyes.  Since I was old enough to notice, I’ve envied other girls their beautiful skin, their womanly curves, their perfect teeth.

As good, loving parents do, my mom often assured me of my physical beauty.  As a cosmetics consultant, she taught me the fundamentals of skin care and makeup application.  When I was younger, she complimented my appearance when she knew I needed the encouragement.

But, as excellent, God-fearing parents do, my mom just as often assures me of my true beauty.  She tells me she’s thankful to be my mom because I’m compassionate and caring.  She tells me she’s proud of me for loving and serving my husband and my little boy.  She rejoices with me when I tell her, through joyful tears, about what the Lord has been teaching me, and she tells me how happy it makes her to see me seeking Him.

She taught me to see others as she sees me, as God sees me.  To look first at their heart and regard not their outward appearance.  It is a skill that takes years to learn, and I’m still learning; but I see now how fortunate I am to have a mom who took the time to teach me.

————–

Thank you, Mom, for who are you and for who you taught me to be.  Thank you for the nights when you stayed up late to sew my Halloween costume and for the mornings when you rose early to make my breakfast.  Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for disciplining me, for encouraging me, for believing in me.

And thanks for making me take a jacket.

—————

What important lessons did your mom teach you?  What do you hope to teach your kids?  I’d love to hear all about it!

Dear Reader,

I wonder if you might be scrolling through your social media feeds today and wondering what in the world these people are smoking?

I wonder if you might be going through a divorce, or sitting next to a hospital bed where your wife lay dying, or nauseous from your last chemo treatment, and thinking, “What kind of fantasy are they living with their matching pastels and plastered smiles?”

Can I put my arm around your shoulder and quietly say that I get it?  I know how hard it can be to stare into a cropped, filtered, curated sea of apparent perfection when life is kicking your ass.

And can I cup your face in my hands and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, tell you that there is hope?  That although matching pastels are well and good, you and I both know life is lived in the trenches, in the mud, in the muck, and can I tell you that

Jesus will meet you there?

That all of the declarations of “He is risen!” on your newsfeed may feel overwhelming, but they are telling the truth–a truth more powerful than you may have ever dreamed?

That divorce and cancer and pain and death are all here because of sin.  And that Jesus died and then came back to life (what?!), defeating death and sin and cancer and pain and divorce so that, when we believe in Him, we have an assurance of living for eternity with Him–an eternity that is pain-free, cancer-free, divorce-free, death-free.  And that because we have that assurance, we can have hope today.  We can have joy in the trenches.  We can rejoice even in death.  Because, for the believer in Jesus Christ, dear Reader, death has lost its sting.

Jesus, God who became man, has declared victory over death, a victory that no man could win because of our sin.  But He will share that victory with you if you believe.

That’s it.

Just believe.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?'”

John 11:25-26

I can’t promise that it will take away your cancer or heal your pain in this life but Oh, Dear Reader, I can promise that it will bring strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

Dear friend, there is hope.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old selfwas crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:1-11

{I think I have to credit the movie The Family Stone with this phrase.  Sorry if that makes you cringe.}

I will always love you, Coach Fox.

I will always love you, Coach Fox.

{I wrote the post below on Monday night. It’s been on my heart for a while, this idea. I’ve had multiple conversations about it with multiple friends and my husband. I’ve found it commanded in scripture and necessary in real life scenarios. I’ve thought about possible ways to integrate this phrase and philosophy into our home in such a way that it becomes a focal point in our parenting strategy. And so I was finally convinced that it was time to dust off the ol’ bloglet and just write about it for goodness’ sake.

So, on Monday night, while my son was eating dinner, I jotted it down at near stream-of-consciousness speed (because doing anything slowly and deliberately during toddler wake-time hours is not a thing that happens. Which explains why I am writing this on my Notes app, in my grandparents’ guest bedroom, with my screen brightness turned all the way down while my son is asleep next to me in his pack n play). I finished the post, but it still felt like some key component was missing. Like I still wasn’t getting across exactly what I wanted to. So I saved the draft and promptly forgot about it.

The next day, my son and I traveled to visit my grandparents. I checked my email one last time before bed, and lazily opened a new message. I was halfway through the third sentence when I realized that I was reading an email from Jen Hatmaker telling me that I had been chosen to participate in the launch team for her new book, For The Love that releases in August.

Um, what?

A few days prior I had filled out an application for said team. The application form was short and simple, so I filled it out quickly (see above info re: toddler time-frames) and with exactly no nervousness since I was 100% sure I would never be selected.

Long story even longer, it’s now Wednesday night; I just finished the introduction to For The Love, and I now see why my original post was not translating like I wanted it to:

It’s because I forgot to say that it’s all because of love.

What I’m calling generosity of spirit is not a masochistic ritual to be endured. It is a joy. It is a privilege. It is a gift given to us from Jesus himself. It is a Biblical denial of self For The Love of God and his people.
So, there will be other posts about Jen’s book in the near future (I’m still beside myself that this is happening), but for now, here is my original post…with a bit more emphasis on the love.}

Recently a good friend of mine had her third child.  Her kids’ ages are now 4, 2, and newborn.  So, about 10 days after his birthday (I make it a point not to visit a mom of a newborn in the first week of the baby’s life unless I am explicitly invited, but that’s another story for another day), I had an opportunity to visit my friend sans my toddler (I also make it a point not to bring my rambunctious child when I visit a mom of a newborn).  I made a pit stop at Target on the way and got various healthy/tasty/filling snacks and some nursing pads for my friend as well as some goodies for her two older kiddos.  All in all, it cost me a few bucks and half in hour in the store.

As I drove away from her house after our visit, I felt full to the brim.  Technically, the gesture did cost me something.  If we’re going to look at the ledger, I should be partially depleted. But what I have learned, and what I want my son to learn, and what the Bible teaches, is that giving generously does not deplete, it fills up.  Where physical, temporal resources decrease, eternal joy and glory increase.  I did not feel poorer.  I did not feel tired from the shopping trip.  I did not feel anxious about the monetary expense.  I felt appreciation for the resources God has given me.  I felt thankful for friendships with sweet women.  I felt love for my dear friend and her babies.

And here’s the real kicker: this also applies to the immaterial.

Generosity of spirit.

Giving generously when it comes to your time, your emotions, or your words can be costly.  It can cost you your pride, your comfort, your entitlement, your self-indulgence.  But, when given from a true sense of generosity flowing from appreciation and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it will always give more than it takes.  It will give life to dying relationships.  It will give joy of an eternal nature to ceaseless striving.  It will fill your heart with love for God’s children as it eradicates annoyance, anger, and indifference.

You may be thinking, “That sounds great, but how am I supposed to live this way?  That sounds difficult.”  It is.  But there’s a helpful secret.  This secret is the key to finding joy, happiness, freedom, love, you name it.  It’s four words.  Get ready.  It will change your life.

It’s not about you.

“What isn’t?” you say.

Everything.  Nothing.

Everything is not about you.  Nothing is about you.

Marriage.  Parenting.  Relationships.  Church.  Life.

It’s not about you.

It’s about Christ.

“But wait,” you may say, “I have to take care of myself in order to be the best [wife] [parent] [friend] [church member] [person] I can be.”  You’re right.  What I’m saying, though, is that you “take care of yourself” so that you can be the best [all of the above].  And the point of you being the best [all of the above] is so that you can love and serve the other people in each of those equations for the glory of God alone.

“This is why we live and breathe: for the love of Jesus, for the love of our own souls, for the love of our families and people, for the love of our neighbors and this world. This is all that will last.”

Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

I know that’s the point because that’s what the Bible says.  Because the Bible says that loving and serving others means we love and serve God.  And that’s the point.  That’s what “it” is about.  This life is not our own.  This life is not my own.  I have been bought for a price by the blood of Jesus.  I am a child of God.  Called to a higher purpose.

And for me, a selfish, self-absorbed, ego-centric, anxiety-ridden, approval-seeking, sinner, that fact is my freedom.

The gospel of Jesus is ripe with gorgeous paradox:  giving up your life for Jesus’ sake will bring eternal life (Matthew 16:25); the Lord will exalt the humble and will humble those who exalt themselves (Matthew 23:12); the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 20:16).

Give of yourself–give generously–pour yourself out, for heaven’s sake love on each other.  Seek Christ and his Kingdom.  Seek the Lord and his glory.  And as you are emptied you be filled with a joy eternal.  Amen and amen.

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