I will boast only in the LORD;

Let all who are discouraged take heart.

Come let us tell of the LORD’s greatness;

Let us exalt His name together.

Psalm 34:2,3


Bekah was born to us on a wild November night I can never erase from my mind. Too early and too fast, she came rushing into our world like a hurricane on the loose. Instead of pink and lovely, her skin held the colors of a storm—dark and grey.

Doctors whisked her away while a nurse stayed behind to explain: “Her lungs are filled with fluid and she hasn’t been able to take a breathe… we’re taking her to the resuscitation room and calling in a Neonatologist.”

From that moment, her fragile life was bathed in prayer.

We prayed, our family prayed, friends prayed, our church prayed… that little struggling baby was placed so firmly in the Healer’s Hands that I can’t help but believe that He had a purpose to draw from the terror of that time.

For, ever since that inauspicious beginning, I have treasured my girl.

A bundle of joy-filled possibilities, Bekah brought sparkle and laughter into our way-too-intense Comer home. She kept her neat-freak older brother messed up just enough to lighten up, begging with those big brown eyes to enter his world of army men and mud.

I insisted on bows in her ponytails, though they seemed to slip out of their own volition. I ironed wrinkles out of dresses, and wiped all those muddy streaks off her delight-filled face. Sometimes I’d hear that whispered warning from her Father not to wash away His unique flair in her life. As if He was letting me in on a secret: She’s just the way I want her.

As she struggled into womanhood, she demanded the freedom to be different than me. Then she charmed us all by creating a kind of beauty that could be stamped all her own.

There were tense times when my worry collided with her crying need to be unique, to craft her own version of femininity. Yet somehow in all those years we developed a sort of mutual “I really like the way you are” mentality towards each other.

I want to be like her— with all her openness and vivacity and quick intelligence and remarkable insight.

I study the way she breaks from man-made molds and makes her own way of loveliness.

I watch to see why she has so many friends, and I learn as she leans into other’s lives and gives all she has without restriction. She loves her not-quite-right-in-the-head neighbor, thinks the Satanists who live in her building are “really nice”, is fascinated by everyone and lets them know it.

And for reasons that I cannot quite understand, she wants to be like me.

No, no, not the conservative, let’s-not-rock-the-boat, people-might-be-looking me. But the me who’s changing and growing and emerging while holding tightly to my Father’s hand. The one who traded the silver civic for a vintage red Mercedes, ventured out of my safe shell and learned to dance, Haitian style.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every mother who holds a baby to her breast could catch just the barest glimpse of the person that child is to become?

How would it change the way we love— the way we discipline and correct and decide when to say yes and when to hold the line?

If I had known my son would emerge as a leader to his generation, would I have taken heart when he challenged my cherished-but-not-quite-biblical notions of right and wrong?

If I had known my daughter would flourish in a world of creative go-getters, would I have given her more freedom to explore the edges of my safe world?

I don’t know… and my story is full of “I wish I hads”, but I’d love to pass on to every woman a few things I do know, a few tidbits of wisdom I’ve learned along this journey of loving…

  • Every child is a uniquely crafted individual made in the image of God. We know this, but find it so hard to believe. Our culture insists on sameness, on rigid boundaries that keep beauty confined. While behavior must be carefully kept in check, creativity and personality and giftedness should be fully explored and encouraged to thrive.
  • Mothers who intentionally set out to discover their child’s uniqueness will be like kids at Christmas. Instead of rolling their eyes at the embarrassing antics of out-of-control children, there are mothers who are so fully present that they are molding their child’s life, polishing the jewels so they sparkle and shine. These moms are having a blast! Instead of whining and complaining and criticizing their kids, they’re delighting in those few short years in which they have a chance to make a difference.
  • There will always be critics. Always! Having the wherewithal to graciously ignore them is a sign of emotional maturity in a woman. It’s not my job to defend my children or to explain away their idiosyncrasies. I never set out to raise perfect people— my hope and my prayer and my aim was always to raise men and women who love God with passion and have the heart to love people on purpose. The fact that they stumble a little in the process is just the way of humanity.
  • Heap approval on your children… even when they’re no longer kids. Be generous with encouragement. Make your mom space a safe place within which your children can revel in the limelight. Coax from them the accolades and accomplishments that would sound like boasting anywhere else. There’s no such thing as bragging to mom. Tell them what you like about them. Admire them.  Respect your sons and lavish love on your daughters. Keep doing this as long as you’re alive.
  • When they’re really little be really tough… so that when they get older you can be really gentle. The mistake too many moms make is that they do just the opposite. We overlook those irritating habits in the early years: temper tantrums and rudeness and bad attitudes. Then when all that ugliness grows up, we try to stomp it out of them! What if instead, we were to diligently discipline during those exhaustingly intense younger years? What if we denied out own pleasures long enough to do what needs doing in order to present our children as well behaved, self-controlled young adults? Might that not change everything?
  • Remember your goal. It’s not to raise super stars, nor to insist on perfection. Your child will not be The Best at much of anything, no matter how hard you push.  He needn’t be exposed to every sport or every “opportunity”. You are not obligated to remove all obstacles in her path, nor must you absorb your life in developing every potential. As followers of Jesus, our goal is the same as His, that our children would “…love the LORD your God with all your heart,all your soul, and all your mind…” Only God can make that happen, but you’re the primary tool He has to create that kind of passion in your child’s heart.
  • Saturate your child in prayer. Prayer is the most powerful weapon in a mother’s arsenal. To leave it locked in the gun case when the enemy is prowling around, taking shots at your child’s soul is ludicrous! To think that we can worry our way through every problem is ridiculous!  James 1:5 holds God’s irrevocable promise to parents: “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously…” We have the wisdom of God at our fingertips! Just by asking and     waiting with faith-filled anticipation for His answer, we are promised what no book, or seminar, or parenting magazine can hope to offer— wisdom from God.
  • Get over yourself. I know it sounds a little harsh, but remembering that this whole mothering thing is not about me is imperative. My children are not supposed to fulfill me. I am not supposed to need them. They are not meant to be a reflection of my worth. Instead, they are unique individuals made in the image of God and I have the honor to nurture that image in different ways for as long as I live.

Not needing my son is the greatest gift this mom can give a man who is needed by so many.

Not needing my daughter allows her to thrive and soar and develop as a woman and as a mother in her own right.

Not needing my son who is in college gives him freedom to figure out who he is and what he wants.

Not needing my daughter who lives far away allows her to fully embrace her husband’s vision for a different kind of       life— a life far from my safe suburbanite world.

They need to know and be assured that I don’t need them to make me happy. I am happy.

  • Do not fear failure. When you are praying that your children will love God with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and that they will follow hard after Christ, you are almost guaranteeing some missteps. I have never in my life met a passionate Jesus follower who has not been humbled into dependence by personal failure. Failure can be terrifying for a mother, but it is often the gateway into that intimate, grateful relationship that makes a man truly godly. Instead of fearing failure, we ought to lead our children to the Redeemer, whose specialty is picking us up out of that miry pit we dig ourselves into, and setting our feet on the Solid Rock. Could David ever have become a “man after God’s own heart” without the humiliation of discovery? Wasn’t it Elizabeth’s barrenness that caused her to raise a son willing to stand against the tide? Could Peter have written the words that encourage and inspire us had he not failed so miserably? For your son or daughter to follow in the footsteps of the heroes of our faith, they must meet God in their own brokenness.

That little girl who rushed into my arms with so much drama is a woman now. She is beautiful and smart and creative and overflowing with love.

She and her husband inhabit a culture alien to me. They have purposed to bring the Redeemer into that world, to present Jesus to a people who are searching for meaning and worth.

God’s plan for Bekah is different than His use of me. I get the distinct feeling that He’s having fun with her! That He delights in our differences, that He needs us to be different.

And so, with all of you, I wish my daughter a Happy Birthday.

I will celebrate this date for as long as I live. I am so grateful that God chose to shake up my world on that November day so long ago, so incredibly honored to have your life in mine.

Rebekah Ruth (Comer) Opperman, I am thrilled with the woman you are and excited to see the woman you will become.

I love you, Bekah!


My HeartIntentional Parents