How has your mother shaped your life?

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you’ve met my mother. You’ve read about the gorilla who came to her wedding (a story that comes with a side dose of hope for those who’ve lost spouses they love); you know she goes boogie-boarding in the snow (because age is a number, not a lifestyle); and you’ll remember how she helped save the day when the bus we’d hired to transport Annesley’s wedding party left the bride and groom at the church.

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And in a brand new book called Faithful Daughter:  True, Inspiring Stories Celebrating a Mother’s Legacy and Love, I’m telling the story of how Mom taught me to get back at people who hurt me.

Mother-Daughter Book

Faithful Daughter is the brainchild of noted writer and editor Ami McConnell. Ami asked 35 of her friends (award-wining novelists, best-selling authors, and gals who just love a good story) to write about how their mothers’ lives had shaped theirs. The compilation of essays–some marked by joy, others by searing pain–is as varied as the women themselves. But there is one common theme:  Namely, that there is no such thing as a perfect mother. And no perfect daughters, either. We’re all just women, daughters of God.

Who loves us just as we are.

If you want a chance to win a free copy of Faithful Daughter, pop on over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook (@jodieberndtwrites) and leave a comment about your own mom. I’d love to hear how her life, or her faith, left its mark on yours. And in the meantime, here’s my story…

An Inheritance of Blessing

I could hear him back there, bouncing his basketball. We were on our way home from elementary school, together and yet not. Thomas, the coolest boy in the whole third grade, walked twenty feet behind me. I didn’t look back.

Suddenly, the bouncing stopped. A split-second later, I felt the breath leave my body. Thomas had thrown his ball and—since he was also the most athletic boy in third grade—it had hit me, square in the back.

I took off running.

Three blocks later, I burst through my front door. “Mom!” I cried through my tears, “Thomas Mayfield [not his real name] just hit me in the back. With his basketball!”

My mother has never been known for her nurturing personality. She could tell I wasn’t seriously hurt and so, rather than letting me wallow, she pointed me toward the door.

“Jodie,” she said, “Thomas will be walking past our house in about one minute, and when he goes by I want you to say, ‘Have a nice day, Thomas.’

“And then I want you to curtsy.”

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that my mom sounds a little bit crazy. And she is, in a mostly good kind of way.

Like, when my sixty-one-year-old dad was battling brain cancer and lacked the strength to get from the car to their condo, and my mom told him to sit on the sidewalk. “Stay right there,” she said (as if my father had another option), and then she disappeared into the building. Five minutes later she returned, carrying the cushions from their lanai, a bottle of Pepsi, and a bag of Doritos.

Which is how my parents wound up spending an entire afternoon sunning themselves in a parking lot until my dad found the strength to begin again. Crazy right? Yeah. Crazy good.

Repaying Insults with Kindness

But back to Thomas.

Per Mom’s instructions, I went out to the street and saw him coming my way. Thomas didn’t acknowledge me but, as he drew abreast of our house, I spoke up:  “Have a nice day, Thomas.” And I curtsied.

(Having seen The Sound of Music at least three times before I turned eight, I knew how.)

If Thomas was surprised, he didn’t show it. If anything, he looked a bit worried. He probably figured my mother had called his—and that he’d have to face the music when he got home. That’s what most moms would have done, back in the day:  called and tattled. But not mine.

Claire Rundle may have been short on maternal sympathy, but she was long on the Bible. She knew what it said. And whenever anyone tried to hurt her or one of her kids, she always found a way to pay them back.

With a blessing.

“Do not repay evil with evil,” the Bible says, “or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

That’s 1 Peter 3:9. And it worked. Thomas never bothered me after that day; in fact, we became friends. And my mom’s crazy counsel—to repay insults with blessings—has stood me in good stead, over the years. Because what I’ve found is that the more I try to extend kindness to people who hurt or offend me, the better life gets. It’s like grace finds a way to get rid of the sting.

“That’s the ugliest thing I have ever seen.”

I have four children. They’re all grown up now, but I tried to raise them in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:9. I’m sure there were times when they thought I was as crazy as I thought my mom was. I’m sure there were days when they thought I was worse. One year, for instance, they gave me a homemade Mother’s Day card where they’d picked a word to go with each letter in the word MOTHER. Next to the e they wrote EMBARRASSING.

Honestly, though? I didn’t care if they thought I was nuts. I just didn’t want them to miss out on a blessing. And so I encouraged them to invite the mean girl to their party. To bake cookies for our grumpy neighbor when he complained about the noise they made. To pray God’s richest favor over the middle school bully.

I did not, however, ever ask them to curtsy. So there’s that.

But here’s the thing:  Repaying meanness with kindness almost never makes sense, nor is it usually easy. Yet it opens the door to a life full of freedom and blessing—one that refuses to take up an offense—and for that wisdom nugget, I will be forever grateful to my mother.

She and my dad enjoyed their last parking lot picnic back in 2001, the year that my father went to be with the Lord. Mom got remarried several years later—her name is Claire Gilman now—and I love my stepdad. John is just as generous and crazy as she is.

They downsized recently, moving from a big house to a small condo, taking only their most beloved possessions. As John pushed his favorite stone bench into place outside their new front door, a neighbor approached.

“That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen,” the neighbor said, inclining his head toward the bench. “Where do you plan to put it?”

John straightened up. “Well I guess I will put it wherever you like,” he said with a smile. And then he invited the man and his wife over for dinner.

Which is not, to be perfectly frank, what I would have done. But it’s the sort of thing I want to do when someone gets under my skin. And so, even as I ask God to help my children “repay evil with blessing,” I pray that 1 Peter 3:9 prayer for myself:

Lord, make me willing to return kindness for cruelty. Let me meet meanness with love.

Lord, make me more like my mom.

Mother-Daughter Book Quote

 

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Why does God allow suffering?

Robbie and I were in Colorado last week. We had a blast hiking with friends and taping a couple of shows (Focus on the Family and Rebel Parenting; I’ll keep you posted on air dates in case you want to tune in), but there were at least two other highlights on our trip.

The first was that we did not get eaten by a bear. (There’s a story there, but it will keep. Maybe next week.)

The second big plus was seeing our friends, Ann and Ty Saltzgiver. Ann’s the one on the left in this pic…

…and Ty, as you know, is our featured author this month. We spent some time catching up, the way that friends do, and as we looked back on the peaks and valleys of our lives, Ty made an interesting observation:

“If I graphed my life by the times I was experiencing more of Jesus,” he said, “and then overlaid that graph with another graph of the difficult times in my life, the lines would match up. The graphs would be nearly the same.”

That was both a sobering and an encouraging thought. I mean, given the choice, I’m pretty sure I’d “just say no” to pain…but if difficulty or suffering serves as a kind of conduit to Christ, I want to at least be open to experiencing it. Or rather, to experiencing him.

Ty writes about suffering in his book, Longing to Experience More of Jesus“Suffering, pain, trouble, and affliction happen to each one of us,” he says, but it’s never “all right.” It’s a mess. It is crushing. And it can sometimes lead to despair.

And also to questions.

A lot of people, Ty says, find it difficult to trust God in the face of their hurt, or someone else’s. “How could God allow pain and suffering, when he could so easily fix it?”

There are, of course, no easy answers. We may find it hard to read Scripture in the midst of our pain, and our prayers can seem pointless or empty. We long for God’s presence, for some reassurance, but when we feel like we need God the most, we don’t sense that he is anywhere near. Ty quotes St. Teresa of Avila, who once said to God, “It’s not at all surprising You have so few friends, considering how You treat the friends you have.”

We get that.

But we also, if we are honest, get what Ty means about graphing his life. Pain has an uncanny way of making us realize that we are not in control. And in our desperation (marked, as it often is, by a diminishing sense of independence), we may find ourselves moving closer to God.

And when we come near to him, he comes near to us, enfolding us in his embrace.

In writing about the place suffering has in our lives, Ty says he is not trying to “put a smiley face” on our pain. Rather, his aim seems to be to remind us that Jesus took on the crush of our hurt (Isaiah 53:4) and that he understands exactly how we feel. After all, he he has been there before (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Suffering is just one of 30 sometimes-challenging topics Ty covers in Longing to Experience. There’s also stuff about trusting God, going deeper in prayer, discovering your true identity, and much more. None of the chapters are long–they’re designed for use as a daily devotion–but they’re rich.

And if you’d like to win a copy…

…hop on over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook (@JodieBerndtWrites) and leave a comment. Or tag a friend who might want to experience more of the Lord.

Which is what I want to do.

Even (and I’m struggling to type this next part) if it means also experiencing pain. I think it was maybe Joyce Meyer who said that, having tasted the incredible blessing of God’s comfort, she found herself almost hoping she’d need it. As in, she was open to the hurt because the hug was just so much more.

Yeah. I’m not quite there yet. But…I want to be.

Heavenly Father,

You are close to the brokenhearted, you comfort us in all our troubles, and you know exactly how it feels to be despised, rejected, and familiar with pain. (Psalm 34:18, 2 Corinthians 1:4, Isaiah 53:4)

Come near to us as we come near to you. Draw us into your loving arms, and may we take refuge in your embrace. (James 4:8, Song of Songs 2:6)

Amen

❤️

P.S. This post marks the end of our September with Saltzgiver…but there’s more to come! In fact, Ty has a brand new book that’s set to release on November 1. Designed especially for families, Ready or Not (clever title, eh?) is an Advent devotional that will help prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas. You can’t pre-order the book, but jot yourself a note to visit SaltResources.com in early November and pick up a copy for everyone on your “nice” list! 🙂

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