So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

The Christmas our daughter Krystal was two and a half, we knew exactly what she wanted. A jack-in-the-box. Not a doll, not a stuffed animal. A jack-in-the-box. Candy? New pajamas? Crayons, books, puzzles? Nope — just a jack-in-the box.

So we bought her a jack-in-the-box, but, of course, we knew better than she did. For goodness sakes, she was only two and a half. We also bought her a baby doll and a stuffed animal and new PJs, and candy and assorted other toys and clothing. She and her older brother had exactly the same number of gifts under the tree and exactly the same number of surprises in their stockings, and on Christmas morning they awoke to a wondrous array of presents.

Our son tore into his packages, laughing and smiling each time we handed him another. Krystal opened her jack-in-the-box. She hugged it and she turned the crank and listened to the tune and squealed with laughter when jack jumped out of his box. Then she pushed him back in and cranked the handle. He jumped and she laughed, again and again and again.

I gave her another gift, told her there was a surprise inside. No good. She was as happy as she could be. Even as unopened gifts piled up beside her, all she wanted was the jack-in-the-box. Not the doll, not the PJs or the stuffed animal or even her stocking. She had asked for one thing, and she was content.

I was not. What was wrong with this kid of mine? Didn’t she appreciate the Great American Dream, Christmas overflowing with consumer passion? What happened to the everyday normal child’s Christmas response, “Is that ALL?”

Finally my husband said, “She’s fine, Sue. She’s happy with what she has. Leave her alone.”

That’s when it dawned on me. Krystal, age two and a half, was acting the part of the adult. Me? I was the spoiled brat kid. That was a hard lesson. At least it seemed so on that long-ago Christmas morning.

I still love to give gifts, and our Christmas tree overflows, along with our hearts, every year, but that Jack-in-the-Box Christmas became the first lesson of many that God has taught me about contentment. As the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (chapter 4, verse 11.) After all, the best gift is Jesus, and the greatest joy is love.

This Christmas, after 14 years in my log dream-house, we will celebrate with our family in the loft apartment where we now live. No more crackling fires in a huge stone fireplace, no soaring Christmas tree. And this Christmas, after 14 years, we will celebrate without our good dog, Wofgang, who passed away in October. This Christmas we will celebrate with my mother in an assisted living home, and she may recognize us or she may not.

You see, God is still teaching me, because I still have much to learn. But I do know one thing. This Christmas, we will celebrate.

Sue Harrison

BIO: Novelist Sue Harrison is best known for her Alaska trilogies. Her novels, national and international bestsellers, have been published in more than 20 countries in 13 different languages. Her novel Mother Earth Father Sky was named by the American Library Association as a Best Books for Young Adults. Sue lives with her husband in Michigan, but has family here in Nebraska and love Nebraska's rich history. She is currently writing romantic suspense for the inspirational market. Catch up with Sue on her website and blog – www.sueharrison.com .

In Motherhood, Grace Makes up the Difference

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding young child

Today, I have been the mean mom, the tired mom, the overwhelmed mom, the anxious mom, the impatient mom, and the want to turn in my mom card mom. Mostly, I’ve felt like the I have no clue what I’m doing mom. I have raised my voice 47 times, told children to “suck it up, buttercup” 36 times, and have intervened in approximately 83 sibling disagreements. I have rolled my eyes 59 times, sighed 148 times, and visibly showed other signs of impatience, well, way too many times. RELATED: I’m a Good Mom, You Just Caught Me in a Bad...

Keep Reading

Jesus Meets Me in Motherhood With His No Matter What Love

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother embracing daughter in sunlit room

My toddler was that kid on the playground—the one who would push and bite, erupting into a tantrum and needing to be carried home screaming. As I would carry my child to the car, the other moms looked at me with sympathy, confusion, fear, and . . . judgment.  Parents of challenging kids know this look well. We see judgment everywhere we go. I knew others were judging me, and I knew our challenges were beyond the normal bell curve, but as an overwhelmed young mom, I did all I knew to do: I blamed myself.  At my lowest, I...

Keep Reading

Dear Child, God Sees All of You—And So Do I

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mom and young son painting together

Math has always come easily to him. Even from the beginning stages when we counted wooden blocks on the living room floor, the numbers just came to him. “How many blocks are there?” I asked him, pointing to the scattered row of blocks. I expected him to count them. He was only three or four years old. “Six,” he answered promptly. “Yes . . . but how did you know that?” I asked hesitantly. He had not taken the time necessary to have counted them. “Three and three are six,” he replied. And on it went. The math came easily,...

Keep Reading

Dear Girl, Give Jesus Your Mess

In: Faith, Living
Woman holding Bible, color photo

Oh, dear girl, Give Jesus the mess. Your mess. The mess you think is too much or too big or too unbearable. The depths of the mess. The very worst of the mess. Lay it at His feet. He knew you long before the mess existed. Nobody knows your mess like Jesus. I assure you—this will not catch Him by surprise. Even when you do not understand, even when it is most difficult, even when you have your head buried in your hands. Praise Him, for God wastes nothing.  Even when it feels like opposition is coming at you from...

Keep Reading

A Mother’s Love Is an Endless Pursuit

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Child on bike, color photo

I look at him and my heart breaks into a million little pieces. It simply hurts too much to know he hurts. He is my heart, and it squeezes and revolts when he struggles. I want to close my eyes and hold him close, and when I resurface, I want the world to be different for him. Look different, smell different, taste different. But, it remains the same, this pain.   In the beginning, when he was in my womb, I held my hands on my stomach and his tiny feet kicked me back. His bodily imprint on my skin. He...

Keep Reading

Motherhood Brings Me to the Floor and Jesus Meets Me There

In: Faith, Motherhood

I recently came across a short memoir writing competition with the theme, “Places that have made me, changed me, or inspired me.” I could write something for that, I thought. I’m by no means a jet-setter, but I do have a passport. I spent my 16th birthday in Russia on a three-week mission trip. During college, I lived in Thessaloniki, Greece for a four-month study abroad program. After my British husband and I got married, we settled in the UK, where we’ve spent the last 10 years. And now, I’m back in my sunny Florida hometown. These experiences and places...

Keep Reading

I Will Be a Friend Who Prays

In: Faith, Friendship, Living

You mentioned it casually. They had found a lump in your breast again. You’ve been here before, and maybe that means you better know how to navigate it. Except how can we possibly know how to handle such things? What emotions lie hidden behind your words? You tossed out words like lumpectomy and biopsy as if you were sharing a grocery list. I don’t know you well yet, but as you spoke the words, I had a deep desire to let you know I’m sorry. Seated around the table that night, you asked us to pray for you. I committed...

Keep Reading

I Wish I Could Tell You There Will Be No More Mean Girls

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mother and two daughters, color photo

Tonight before bed while I was tucking you in, you seemed really down. You are normally bubbly, talkative, full of laughter and life, but tonight you seemed sullen and sad. I asked what was wrong, and at first, you didn’t want to tell me. But then you shared with me what was breaking your heart. You told me about a mean girl. You told me the hurtful things she said and the unkind way she acted and the sneaky way mean girls bully by making you feel left out and less than.  It made me sad and angry. I didn’t...

Keep Reading

In the Hardest Moments of Motherhood, I’m Reminded to Look Up

In: Faith, Motherhood

It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, and you know the scene—I step on a tiny Barbie shoe as I’m walking to the sink. I shove it to the side with my foot and release a heavy sigh. I momentarily think about picking it up, but my back is aching from bending down to gather up treasures all morning. I place my half-filled coffee cup into the microwave to re-heat it for a second time. I need just an ounce of energy to get through the afternoon. My daughter heaves another basket of toys up from the basement, step by step. I can...

Keep Reading

Sometimes God’s Glory Shines Brightest in the Hardest Parts of Life

In: Faith, Living
Woman's hand with chipped nail polish

Half of the fingernails on my hands still show remnants of nail polish. It looks pretty awful. People might notice it and think, Really? You can’t take just five minutes to wipe off the chunks of color that haven’t flaked off already?  And I could. It probably wouldn’t even take five minutes. It’s not that I don’t have the time or that I’m being lazy. I just don’t want to.  You see, my daughter painted my nails almost a month ago. She’s five—they were never pretty to start with. They were sloppy with small strips at the edges left unpainted....

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections