Dear Cam Newton

Dear Mr. Newton,

We’ve never officially met. Probably never will.

I have no idea if you’re a nice person. Or have morals. Or live with integrity. Or, like they say in the media, really do think too highly of yourself.

But I can see a couple of things.

Your strength, agility and acuity are gifts from God. As you already know, you are not the only person to ever receive those gifts. But you are one of the rare gifted, who has chosen to do the private work no one ever will ever see. People don’t improve themselves because they keep doing things the same old way. They don’t get better by ignoring the advice of coaches and teachers. They don’t shine because they take things personally, pout and whine. It takes a certain kind of humility to improve. The kind of private humility that concedes, The way I have been can become better. How I’ve always done it, may not be the best way. My attitude was embarrassing, but I can change.

The person who improves is the person who humbly faces their private truth, then does the hard work to change. No one ever wakes up one morning, and lo and behold, overnight, they’ve become better than ever, with a better attitude, playing at the top of their game.

 

Every Sunday afternoon, you give evidence of the work we’ll never see.

And about all that celebrating and dancing and smiling. I haven’t seen every move or gesture. Maybe you’ve over-stepped or over-dabbed, I don’t know. All I know is, I hope you never lose your joy.

As the mom of daughters and sons, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the other game of futbol. And I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to cultivate joy in my kid’s hearts. In this crazy world, where evil abounds, and cool is always beyond our reach, the good expression of joy is so rare. Actually, too many of us have almost lost the ability to feel and respond with a healthy, right-placed, joy or sadness.

Seems like we’d be a lot better off if more people stood in front of their TV to cry and fuss and scold when evil displaces refugees, or enslaves women and children, or hordes money intended to feed the starving. Then, what if those same people stood to high five, and holler, and dab when good triumphs over evil, and lives are saved, and even when their favorite QB flies over a tall heap of linemen.

Shoot, in the little things, and in the gigantic things, I just wish we could all do a little better hurting for others when they hurt, and rejoicing with others when they rejoice. I think your great, big smile reminds a lot of people they have forgotten the joy of working hard. They have forgotten that some things are just flat-out fun. And maybe they have forgotten how to feel anything, until they watch you feel something.

I’m not saying I hope my kids grow up to be like Cam Newton, because I really don’t know you that well. But I do hope they appreciate the gifts God has given to them. I hope they humbly receive every instruction intended to help them become better. I hope they are willing to do the hard work no one will ever see. I hope they walk confidently onto the field of their chosen profession, and do the very best version of that thing they were made to do. And through every attack, and every tackle, and every get-up-and-do-it-again, I hope their hearts are filled with a joy this world cannot remove.

Next weekend at our house, we’ll throw our semi-famous Super Bowl party. We’ll have TVs and crazy, awesome food and college kids and high school students and a bunch of parents. Much as we respect Peyton, it will be an all-Panther house this year. We’re gonna have a blast watching you smile and dab and give away footballs. Then, come Monday morning, we’ll all go back to doing our thing.

I should tell you, I’m just a football watcher. Not a fanatic, or even a very good fan. I don’t know how fast you can run or how many TD passes you’ve thrown. You are not my role model, or my superman. I’ve tried to center my life around one man. Jesus Christ is my idol. My hero. My game-changer. My coach. My #1.

But Mr. Cam Newton, you sure do help us remember to make more room for joy. And I celebrate you and the joy you bring. If I was your mama I’d tell you a real and abiding joy is the greater victory, and when you have that, you have already won. Now get yourself out there on that field and light it up. Or as I say to my kids, Be the Sunshine!

And one more thing, Mr. Newton. Go Panthers!

© 2016, Angela Thomas Pharr. Angela is wife to Scott and mom to Taylor, Grayson, Storm, William and AnnaGrace. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Dallas Theological Seminary. Angela is a best-selling author and speaker who is every single day, humbled and grateful to do this thing God made her to do. You can find out more than anyone ever wanted to know at angelathomas.com.

Dear Cam Newton 2018-02-21T12:26:36+00:00

Count the Days

I just took William to his first day of preschool. Blink.

Yesterday, he began his last year of high school. Blink. Blink.

And the whole thing went exactly like they said.

When I gave birth to my baby, they told me to take it all in because the days would go fast, and I nodded. When I wondered if he’d ever sleep through the night, they warned me not to wish away one day. I thought I understood.

Today, everything in me wants to yell, Would the whole, wide world please stop talking to me about college? Don’t you know that my boy just started preschool?! And while you’re at it, would you all stop rushing me along? I’m just about to figure out how to be his mom.

But here we are. It’s William’s senior year.

For the record, every smart person who admonished me with a sassy, Oh, honey, he’ll be grown before you know it, was right. They were so dang right. And this very minute, it’s awful how completely right they still are. I have officially decided to never say that to anybody, ever. When you cannot change the length of one day, it kills you to be reminded, over and over, of how it’s all gonna be gone before you know it. Then, when they’re right, and the years are gone, you’re mad at everybody who ever said it.

My first 18 years on this earth lasted an eternity. I was there. I lived them. And I can still testify to the truth of it. Growing up took for-ev-er. When the first 18 years feel like an eternity, a mom cannot anticipate what will happen on the day her baby takes his first breath. I’ll tell you what happened. When my son was born, his first breath turned science on its head and blew up every space-time theory I memorized in physics.

Scholars might define time as the continued progression of existence and events in apparently irreversible succession. Then mathematicians would add that when you use the same interval (one year) to measure the same progression (the earth’s trip around the sun), the answer will always be the same. One year is one lap around the solar system, is four seasons, is twelve months, is 365ish days. When our boys become 18, they will have circled the same sun, and celebrated on the same day, the same number of times. The time that measures their years is all the same, scientifically speaking.

Moms with seniors in high school know all that gobbledygook is a big, fat lie.

Science, schmience.

Something happens the day they are born that quantum physics cannot explain. It’s a factor for which science has no measure. When a mother falls in love with her child, equations can no longer compute the length of days. The earth may circle the sun at exactly the same pace, but when days have been wrapped in a mother’s love, time is never measured the same. And this is the thing no one tells you.

To love a child changes everything. Every. Single. Thing.

All the science breaks down in the light of a mother’s love. Theories get rewritten. Logic is ruined. And time—well, when a mother loves a child, the time we have will never be enough.

If you’re not there yet, one of those days will finally be the first day of your son’s senior year. On that day, here’s what I want you to do.

Make sure you walk him outside where you can take his smirky first-day-of-school picture. Stand there and smile while he runs back into the house for things he’s forgotten. The years have taught you well and now it’s fun to know what’s coming. Watch him get all that stuff into his car, readjust his seat, and then take way too long to find just the right back-to-school music. Now wave like crazy as backs his car down the drive and then turns it toward the most exciting year he’s ever known. This is a good day, I promise. You’ve worked like a mad woman to keep that boy alive and get him safely here. It’s a really good day.

When you’re back in the house, I want you to take a few quiet minutes to count it all up. The years. The days. The adventures. The tears. Before you leave the quiet, I want you to factor this equation. Add these things together:

All his years
+ all that you’ve given
+ all the places
+ all the people
+ every obstacle
+ every victory

I can tell you in advance, the sum total of your memories will not equal anything close to eighteen years. The math falls apart every time. You see, God gives moms a greater gift with an equation that usually goes like this:

(Your son’s days) + (all your memories) x (the power of a mother’s love) = a blink.

If you count every one of his days until they are done and the sum total of it all is a blink, get down on your hands and knees and praise the One who entrusted that boy to your love. God has given you a beautiful gift.

It’s the kind of gift that makes me wonder…When a mother’s love counts the days, is that the tiniest foreshadowing of what is yet to be? Maybe when we are in the presence of God’s love, trying to count eternity by years will require another kind of calculation altogether.

A hymn writer seemed to be thinking about that very thing when he wrote, “My soul will sing your praise unending, ten thousand years and then forevermore.” Just maybe it was God’s plan all along. Maybe, when we have known a mother’s love for her child, we have tasted the great love of heaven.

So yes, I will never again say to anyone, That baby will be grown and gone before you know it. When I see a sweet mama holding her new baby, I think what I’m supposed to say is this:

I pray God does for you what he did for me. I hope when your boy is grown and the years have gone by, all those days feel to you like a blink. I’ve learned that the only way a length of years can ever equal a blink is when they have been lived in the presence of indescribable love.

Oh mama, I hope you blink.

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:4

 

Count the Days, is an excerpt from Angela's recent book, 52 Things Sons Need From Their Moms.

Count the Days 2018-03-21T16:21:12+00:00

52 Things Kids Need From a Mom

This weekend I had the great, great joy of speaking to moms at LifeWay’s dotMOM Conference in Chattanooga, TN. In Friday’s break-out session, I spent an hour with some very fun moms covering a few of the topics in my book called, For the session, I printed the 52 chapter titles from the book to give to each of the ladies, but ran out of copies. They asked me to post those titles and I promised them I would.

Just in case you weren’t in my session, please read a bit of introduction before I give you the 52 Things:

I want you to know that I have written these 52 things as prompts. Ideas. Creative reminders. Two of my girlfriends read this list before it was published and both of them called me to say, ” I haven’t done even half of them. I hope there’s still time left.” So I want to tell you what I told them: There is no guilt intended for you with this list of chapter titles. They have not been written as a checklist for women who want to be impressive moms. Each of these chapters was written out of longing, desire and love.”

Some of you could write 1052 other things kids need from a mom. My friend with an autistic son could help us all learn so much more about patience and championing your child. My friend with adopted children would be able to give us lists of things kids need to adapt to a new culture and make the transition from orphanage to family. Another one of my friends spends almost every moment caring for her baby, who has had life-threatening issues and too many stays in the hospital. Oh, the things she could tell us.

A list of things for moms could become very intimidating, but I did not write one word of this book to be intimidating. I have written from grace and for grace. So with these words of introduction, here you go . . . 52 Things Kids Need From a Mom:

Kids need their mom:

  1. To pray in secret with the door open.
  2. To never stop touching them.
  3. To hang hearts of love over their lives.
  4. To watch them go out of sight.
  5. To keep a date night with dad.
  6. To make them sit around the table . . . and linger.
  7. To let her yes be yes and her no be no.
  8. To be delayed, rerouted and canceled with poise.
  9. To make them wait to take a bite.
  10. To take Christmas to people who have nothing.
  11. To miss a few things they do wrong.
  12. To put down the phone.
  13. To learn their unique love language.
  14. To occasionally be a supermom.
  15. To turn their beds down at night.
  16. To ride a roller coaster . . . for the first time.
  17. To talk to them like they are fascinating.
  18. To treat their friends like family.
  19. To cheer wildly from the stands.
  20. To give grace-filled consequences.
  21. To be a passionate, alive, spiritual lover of God.
  22. To indulge their silly.
  23. To have a hallelujah party.
  24. To keep a family blog.
  25. To become physically and emotionally healthy.
  26. To become spiritually healty.
  27. To believe they will not grunt forever.
  28. To make a big deal out of God.
  29. To keep her promise.
  30. To wait on them hand and foot . . . they are sick.
  31. To tell them to buy another token and keep swinging.
  32. To pray them home and for the will of God.
  33. To be a “groovy” mom.
  34. To teach them how to know the voice of God.
  35. To believe in their strengths and speak life into their gifts.
  36. To make a home where grace lives.
  37. To throw down the “MOM card.”
  38. To tell them what she’d do differently.
  39. To make a big deal out of grandparents and extended family.
  40. To teach them how to keep their money straight, in order, facing the same direction.
  41. To be patient about things like thumb-sucking and pacifiers.
  42. To let them make really dumb mistakes without condemnation.
  43. To introduce them to her friend named Jesus.
  44. To set the tone for the family.
  45. To teach them to genuinely respect all people, cultures, denominations and creeds.
  46. To teach the boys how to love a wife.
  47. To teach the girls how to love a husband.
  48. To identify the characteristics of a fool and tell them what to do when they meet one.
  49. To train them to listen to her.
  50. To teach them not to be easily offended.
  51. To live as single moms with amazing lives.
  52. To teach them a gracious and generous hospitality.

A couple more thoughts before I leave you. The list you just read is a list of CHAPTER TITLES, not rules to keep. This list is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, nor have I just given you the be-all-end-all of motherhood. These things were written because of God’s grace to me and they are only intended as encouragement to you.

I am running alongside you, longing to love them well today.

Angela

PS – if you’d like to read the chapters that belong to the titles, you can order 52 Things here.

52 Things Kids Need From a Mom 2018-02-21T12:26:36+00:00

Life Lessons From Mama

White, half-runner beans. Not pole beans. Not wax beans. And for goodness sake, not those skinny, little French beans. According to my mama, the only bean worth an afternoon of stringing and snapping are the locally grown, white half-runner beans. As far as I can tell, mama was right. I guess I’ve eaten green beans all over this world, and not one of them has ever tasted as good as the half-runners mama cooked and canned for our family. Course, mama was right about a lot of other things too. I can still hear her talking to me as clear as day:

  • Always look for white silver queen corn at the farmer’s market.
  • Messing with that dough too long is gonna make your biscuits tough.
  • Dress that baby like a sweet little baby. She has the rest of   her life to dress like a grown up.
  • Don’t let your husband leave the house in a wrinkled shirt. You want him to look like he’s loved when he goes into that meeting.
  • Dry your clothes in the sun and the whole house will smell better.
  • Wait ‘til the first of May to set your flowers out. Anytime before that and sure enough, it’ll come a frost.
  • Make your red velvet cake the day before you’re going to serve it. Store it somewhere cool and the next day it’ll be perfectly moist and delicious.
  • At the first sign of a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water. And do it often.
  • Get your ironing caught up so you can rest awhile.

Mama went to heaven last November and this summer all I can think about is how much I miss her. Mama was an amazing care-giver and home-keeper all year round, but she really shined in the summer. Fresh flowers from her yard. Fresh veggies from her “little patch.” Fresh canned beans and tomatoes and chow-chow.

Nothing made mama happier than a breeze through the window, clean sheets on the beds and dinner on the stove. She kept several snap-on aprons at my house and hers. Better coverage. Easier to slip on. I can vividly see her in that apron standing beside the oven, watching the bread and waiting for the family and friends she loved to bless.

I am one of the lavishly blessed.

When mama and daddy came to live down the street from my family, we didn’t know her time left on this earth was so short. We thought the new chemo and the new doctor could make her stronger. And sure enough, the last night we talked it seemed like she was taking a turn for the better. She laughed when I told her a story about one of the kids. She said I should find her jambalaya recipe because it was a good one. She seemed stronger that night and so very much at peace. Daddy and I were thankful and glad.

The next morning mama was barely able to respond and we couldn’t understand the drastic change. A very kind doctor explained that many times a new strength comes just before God calls His beloved home.

God was calling mama home.

I’ve had several months to think about it and I’ve decided that a believer’s weary soul must fill with new strength to hear the Father say, It’s time to come home. I am keeping my promise. You are mine. I have not left you. I have not forsaken you. Come and be with me always.

Looking back to that night in the hospital, I believe daddy and I witnessed the strength of God’s promise being kept. Her Father came to take her home, so our sweet mama said goodbyes to all of us and hello to heaven.

Today she sees fully what we still live by faith. God is stronger than every weakness. He is stronger than our fears. He is stronger than ovarian cancer. And hallelujah, Our God Almighty is stronger than death.

All of us miss mama so much, especially when we’re gathered around a table, but it comforts us to think of her now. The suffering is over. She is healed and rejoicing in the presence of God. She sits at the feast of His goodness and I have to believe somewhere on that table, there are half-runner beans and homegrown tomatoes. And mama is smiling.

You can download a free sample of my new Bible study, Stronger, here

Life Lessons From Mama 2018-02-21T12:26:37+00:00