About Teresa

Hello! I am wife to a pastor and mom to three grown children. Author of #BecomingAPeacefulMom and a speaker. Connect with me at www.celebratethefamily.org!

Our First Love

I spent some time with my mom recently. (She lives a few hours away.) She has Alzheimer’s. As I approached her, the caregiver leaned toward her and asked, “Do you know who that is?” One more time I was blessed with her frail words, “It’s Teresa.”  And I whisper thanks to God.

At some point in our visits, I scoot my chair close to her wheelchair, wrap my arms around her and rest my head on her shoulder. Sometimes she brings her hand up to mine, and I feel like she’s holding me. I know that doesn’t make sense . . . Her touch simply represents the strength of her love over the years.

When I arrive and before I leave, I turn her chair to face me, look into her eyes, smile, and tell her how much I love her. Each time, I feel like I’m held in the moment, as I look into her blue eyes. Her words are few these days, but she still speaks love through those eyes. She always has.

A little over a year ago, a traumatic incident almost took Mom’s life. As a result, she was hospitalized, non-communicative, and only briefly opened her eyes to then sleep again. One night while I sat with her, she began to murmur, so I put my ear near her mouth. She never opened her eyes, but her words became clearer as she repeated this prayer over and over again, “Jesus make thou my heart humble; Make it humble unto thine.”

Jesus is always with us. Our prayers respond to His presence.

As much as I wanted to help her, I was comforted to realize she was being held by the One she needs.

Hard stuff is woven into the fabric of Mom’s life—just as it threads through yours and mine.  God was her Go-To and her First Love . . . and I trust Him, that He still is. Often she would say, “I know God must be tired of hearing from me.” Her words spoke instruction and inspiration.

Our First Love is the One who first loved us.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4.19)

Our primary go-to is the one we trust most, the one whose love we believe above all others.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.19)  In all that we ask for, God first gives our truest need—Himself.

As we spend more time with the One who first loved us, He grows us aware of His love for us. He becomes the one whose love we depend on, the one we trust above all others. Our First Love becomes our primarily Go-To.

Dear God,
May the truth of your Word—that you first loved us—permeate our heart, this day. Thank you that you loved me long before I was even born. Your love for us never changes. No one can love us like you. Help us draw nearer to know you as our First Love, our greatest love. Amen.

The Power of Comfort

When someone we care about hurts or struggles, we want to be a source of comfort. We offer words, hugs, our presence. And we pray. Our thoughtful gestures matter and certainly impact, yet when we pray, we rehearse our trust that God is with this person. We express the depths of how we desire Him to help them, and as we do we believe that He can do far more than what we ask or imagine.

Dear God, I lift my friend/ my child/ my co-worker to you. Please comfort them. Cover and fill those places that only you can fully comfort. Amen.

God hears our simple words and sees the truest version of the yearning in our heart—our inmost thoughts that we have not yet whispered. He delights that we trust Him to provide perfect comfort. He comforts them—and He comforts our concerned heart.

So, what about when you are the one who aches?

Do you ever forget that you are a child, God’s beloved daughter, his little girl? Sometimes I live like I’ve forgotten. When hard stuff happens, I ask for God’s help to persevere or to be strong. It usually takes me a while to remember, I need the comfort of my Abba’s loving arms right now. I need to be still and be held.

“For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” (Isaiah 51.3)

Fun, encouragement, rest, inspiration fill some of our days. Then another day, week, or season ushers in sadness, discouragement, exhaustion, overwhelm. Relationship tension or heartache, illness, financial crisis, work stress, and decision anxiety stir angst. Hard experiences can strip the part of us that was content.

God is with us—Immanuel. He is Comfort and covers our waste places and wilderness—those spaces of hurt, loss, confusion, and fear. Even though our hard circumstances may remain, God’s comfort soaks our soul that we may rest, secure and peaceful in Him.

“I, I am he who comforts you.”  (Isaiah 51.12a)

Thank you, O God, that you comfort us, even when we don’t ask. Help us come to you and learn to be still with you for soaking comfort. Thank you that though challenging times come, you will make our wilderness like Eden and our desert like the garden of the LORD. Amen.

What I Learned As A Mom About Sharing Two Stories: Savior and Santa

When I was a little girl, my parents shared the story of Santa, and my brothers and I were all caught up in the seemingly magical event—so much so, that before our home had a real fireplace, Mom and Dad would set up a 5-foot-tall cardboard fireplace for Santa to come down and none of us doubted that this would happen. Yeah, I know, really? And then, eventually, each of us ‘didn’t believe’ any more. My conclusive clue was the price tag dangling on my new bike. . .

Thankfully, Mom and Dad also shared  the story of Jesus’ birth in their best way.  We didn’t have a Bible or videos or colorful books, but we had them. They told us the story, played Christmas hymns (along with songs about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty), marked the Sundays of Advent with us, and took us to church.

Moms share with me their wrestlings regarding Santa. I had them, too, when our children were little.  The Santa story is an option. It’s not a parental command performance.

Telling our children about Jesus is a responsibility.

Santa is like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. He’s a character in books and movies and seems to be real when someone dons the character costume. He’s an option for enjoyment as we enjoy escaping into our imagination. He only becomes more if we make him more. Pray. Discern God’s leading for you and your family and go with this.

The most important story to us is the one we will talk about the most, the one that our home reflects, and the one that we are most strategic about for our children.

Terrell and I did tell the Santa story as a small part of our children’s home experience of Christmas. They had their picture taken on Santa’s lap, just like they had their picture taken with Disney characters in Disney World. When they came home talking about Santa-related events from school, I focused to be interested in them—and not the message of the activity. We made Christmas lists, baked cookies, sang carols, and watched some of the same Christmas classics on television that Terrell and I watched when we were kids. We read stories about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman—and we read storybooks about Jesus being born.

Our central, overarching emphasis was the story of Jesus’ birth and God’s love for us. We made an Advent wreath, lit it’s candle most nights, and shared devotionals at supper to build up to marking the birth of Jesus. Some days I used my parents’ old plastic manger scene to act out the story with the children, and then I let them play with it. In time, they wanted to show and tell me the story. Cute memories remind me of how much they absorbed. 

Yet, in my heart, I wrestled with the largeness of the secularization of Christmas and how to raise our children as we lived in the middle of it. My prayers were a mixture of vents of overwhelm and whispers of trust–God, draw their hearts to You. God helped me see that this challenge wasn’t something for me to win. Rather, it was a challenge to persevere through— to follow God’s lead, pray for each child’s heart and mine, and trust Him—that He is at work in all of us and that He is bigger than all of this.
We get to set tone and direction for our home, and the bent of our heart inspires this.
I had no idea of this at the time, but those years prepared me to realize that I would need strategy for our children regarding every worldly challenge that would come.
As our children grew and out grew Santa, the main challenge still presented:  How do I lead and influence our children to recognize the significance of learning about and contemplating the birth of Jesus … while at the same time participating in the glittery holiday atmosphere of decorations, parties, and exchanging gifts?

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for coming to earth for me, for my family, for this world. Fan into flame love and awe for you in my heart. Teach me how to share you, both boldly and gently. And may your love in me bend my heart to set tone and direction for our home. Amen.