Author and speaker Elisa Morgan offers hope and encouragement as she shares personal stories of brokenness to illustrate how God can bring about redemption from the tragic circumstances of our lives. (Part 1 of 2)
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(Sound of crashing, breaking glass)
John Fuller: Doesn't sound like good news, does it? Well, this is "Focus on the Family" and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, how can we hear a sound like that and know it's not good? I mean, that smashing sound, is it dishes breaking? Is it a baseball going through the windows? Accidents do happen and they're often out of our control. It might be a little thing like breaking dishes or you know, a baseball that's hit the window, but you know what? It could be something huge, as well, like a breaking marriage. It doesn't have that sound effect; it has others like arguing and discontent and tears into a pillow. In that moment, we're tempted to wonder where God is. Are you here, Lord for me? And why He allowed this tragedy, broken relationship to happen.
Elisa Morgan has experienced many, many difficult and challenging periods in her own life, but as she discovered, God's always right there with us in our suffering and He can turn those tragedies into something great if we're willing. And what we have today is a speech that Elisa gave at a recent American Heritage Girls conference and we appreciate the permission that they've given us to share that story today.
John: And for 20 years, Elisa was the CEO of MOPS International, which wraps its arms around mothers of young children and today she cohosts a daily radio program called "Discover the Word." Elisa has written more than 15 books and her message is based on one of them called The Beauty of Broken. Here she is now on today's "Focus on the Family."
Elisa Morgan: I remember this quiet Sunday afternoon. I had been traveling and I was tired. And when I got home on this Sunday afternoon, I also had the responsibility to take care of my then about 2 ½-year-old grandson, because he lived with us, with his single mom. And it was my turn to watch, because she was off at work where she cuts and styles and colors hair, thank you (Laughter) very much.
And I put Marcus down for a nap. It felt like a really good idea (Laughing), kind of an old thing to do for me. I wasn't that old, but it fit in that moment and I gave into it. And I was just starting to doze off when I heard this crash and this eruption of noise.
I actually wasn't even sure it had happened inside our house, but as I got up and I started making my way through the rooms, down the hall, into the entryway, into the living room and I rounded into the dining room. I knew exactly what the source of this sound was.
This three-shelf unit hutch that had hung on my wall in my living room and had housed my grandmother's antique china collection, had lost its grip and fallen, every bit of it fallen to the floor and it was broken. It was ruined. I couldn't believe it. These were the plates that my grandmother had bought as she toured Europe with other grey-haired ladies in little tour buses, you know. And she had gone in to purchase a plate at each little city and each little shop and bubble wrapped 'em and brought them home to me, because she couldn't wait to share that legacy with me. And honestly, it's the only thing I really wanted to inherit from my grandmother, this antique china collection.
And I bent down to all these shards on the floor and there was nothing I could do with them and so, I swept them up and I walked them over to the trash and I poured the pieces in. It felt to me as I continued to do this, round after round like everything was falling off the walls in my life in this season. And as I bent down, I had such grief and yet, I felt God wrapping His arm around me and saying, "I know you feel like you're beyond help here, but you're not beyond Me. And that moment has stuck with me. Thank God, I wasn't.
As we lean into this theme of leading from the inside out, from the heart, what I want to say is that, that requires a kind of honesty and I want to push it even further and say, an unapologetic honesty, an unashamed honesty about the state of the family, the state of our families, the state of us, you and me.
Within our own skins here, I want to ask you a series of questions and do not answer them out loud, okay? Answer them only in your heart. Don't look at me with your eyes and go, none of that, okay, just in your own heart. I bet no one's ever actually asked this series of questions to you and only you need to know the answers. You ready?
Are you a child of addiction or of divorce or of a single parent? Have you lost a child or a grandchild? Do you have a daughter who became pregnant as a teen and then a second time?Is someone in your family or your extended family gay?
Does someone in your home today struggle with alcohol or drugs? Has someone in your family been adopted? Or have you relinquished someone through adoption? Has someone chosen abortion? Have you received a recorded message from a school saying that your child is not there and you don't know where they are, or maybe a call from a lab reporting a positive drug test? Or maybe an eerie middle-of-the-night phone call that someone you love has been arrested or has been injured in an accident or maybe is drunk again? I told you I didn't want you to answer these questions out loud. I want you to hold them inside.
Chances are if you're in this room, you can answer yes to maybe one of those questions. Maybe someone in your family has answered yes to one of those questions. Maybe you've answered yes to many of those questions. And maybe no one else has ever answered yes to those questions except the same people who went through those moments with you and you have this kind of sense of shame about your life, that if anybody really knew, whoa! You wouldn't even be included in this room and you want to run for the door right this second.
I know, 'cause I've answered yes to every single one of those questions and I didn't want to, but it's true. I have answered to every single one and what I want to share with you is the fact that I come from a broken family. I do.
When I was 5-years-old, my father called me into his office and he had his beautiful white easy chair with an ottoman. He beckoned me up onto his lap and he turned me toward him and he looked straight into my eyes and he said, "Elisa, I've decided I don't love your mother anymore and we're going to get a divorce."
And I wondered what I had done. My family fell and broke in that moment and I wondered what I could do to fix it. My new broken family, my mom, my older sister and my younger brother and I, we moved across the continent of the United States and began a new life. And I remember when I was about 11-years-old, that my morning started with the sound of my mom's alarm clock going off down the hall in our ranch-style home in Houston, Texas. Ehhhh!! Like that.
And I would pull back the covers and I would go into the kitchen and grab a glass and plunk some ice cubes in it and pour Coca-Cola over the top and I would reach into the cookie jar and grab some of the chocolate chip cookies and I would take them down the hall to my mom's bedside, where I'd place them and turn off her alarm and begin the process of trying to wake my mom up, because she was a single mom and we needed her to go to work. And my mom couldn't get herself up, because my mom struggled with alcohol. It was my job to wake my mom up and I felt like my family fell and broke and I wondered what I had done wrong and what I could do to fix it.
I gave my life to Jesus and I could remember one night shortly after I had a dream where I was falling in slow motion like off of a cliff backwards. And I looked down below me and there were these flesh-colored jagged rocks, like the Red Rocks in Colorado. And just as I was about to hit them, suddenly I realized, they weren't hard at all. They weren't jagged at all. They were spongey, because I was falling into the hands of God. And I heard this voice that said, "I am Your heavenly Father. I will never leave you or forsake you."
Now I made this pledge in those days as I looked around at the lives of my neighbors, my friends, my schoolmates and I saw their happy little families--the moms with pearls and little June Cleaver dresses and pumps like these. And they would sit down at 6 o'clock and have dinner exactly the same every night, where everybody could count on it. I looked at that and I thought "That's what I want. And now that I have Jesus, that's what I'm gonna get, right?" And I gave myself to that incredible draw to build a perfectly intact second family.
As a young adult right out of college, I clarified God's call on my life and I enrolled in seminary. I felt Him calling me into ministry and there I met and married my husband, stable, rock of a man because we knew immediately from a health history, that we would be unable to have children biologically, we decided to adopt. Well, we began the process right then of waiting for a child through adoption.
During these years, I served as a dean of woman at the Bible college and I listened to the woes and the struggles and the joys of kids who'd been raised in families of faith--kids who struggled, who struggled with promiscuity, struggled with broken families, who struggled with things like cutting and crazy stuff goin' on. And I learned that even there, there were problems, but I decided I still would be immune (Sound of a click) from that.
Can I just say that adopting is something like being dilated to a nine for like four and a half years? (Laughter) It went forever, this wait for a child. First we finally received our daughter as an infant and then a couple of years later, our son as an infant. I loved these years. We hunkered down into them. We would read the Kenneth Taylor devotional books and count the lady bugs and get 'em right, you know. We would have "Jesus time" around our table. We went in and out of church constantly. Loved it.
But there were some moments that concerned me, like one afternoon when my daughter woke up from her nap as a toddler and we were in the throes of potty training. And I reached down to grab her and hug her and realized she'd had an accident. And I put her in front of "Sesame Street" in those days and I balled up the sheets and I was so frustrated because I thought, "I will never get this potty training thing down."
And I stomped down to the basement where our washer/dryer was and I shoved the sheets into the washing machine. And this really weird thing happened, I looked up and there was this box of detergent spinning around the ceiling in my washing room; I'm not kidding/ I'm not kidding. And I watched and it was going in arcs and I realized it was attached to a hand and the hand was attached to an arm and the arm was attached to, hah, me! I was hurling detergent. You've never done such a thing? (Laughter) And all the while I hear this, "Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah." And I translated it: "Why does the mom be the one who has to have all the answers? Why can't the mom be the one to ask the questions?"
I called this my "Suds Slinging Moment." It was a time when (Laughter) I came very clear into the reality that I was needy. And I was messed up. And during these years, no kidding, I've got like a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, the board of MOPS International calls me to see if I'd be interesting in applying to become the first president of this grassroots movement organization that had already been around 15 years, but it had never been formally led. And I'm like, "What!? Do they not know me, the woman who hurls detergent?" (Laughter) "Me, the one who turns into Monster Mom, that one?" (Laughter) I was like, "Do you have the right number? This is 'Mother Elisa,' not 'Mother Teresa.'" (Laughter) Oh, my.
But I hunkered down and doubled up my therapy sessions and figured out (Laughter) that as I went into the grocery story, praying all the way, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" He just directed me to look around to all the other moms in the store with their kids climbin' out of the carts, too, right?
And He was like, "Look, you have the same Swiss cheese holes that they have. Just minister hole to hole. Let Me take your deficits and make them your offering." That's what it means to lead from the heart, from the inside out, unashamed as to who we are, not covering it up, but clearly being who we are, because of Jesus and what's He's allowed and also what He's done to provide for us.
John: You're listening to Elisa Morgan on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and this inspiring message is available on CD or as a download at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . While you're there, look for her book which captures the story in much more detail, The Beauty of Broken. Again, that's at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY and now more from Elisa Morgan on today's "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note
Elisa: An interesting thing happened. I had a dream, another dream one night. And in this dream I was walking through a home that was under construction. My kids were in their teen years by now. My husband and I both served in full-time ministry. We divided up the chores. We stayed way focused on them and said "no" to so many things so we could be present.
But in this dream I was in this home under construction and Jesus was my tour guide. And He walked me first by one bedroom and He said, "This room is for your daughter." And then He walked me be another bedroom and He said, "And this room is for the baby." And I said, "Well, we don't have a baby." He said, "Oh, yes, you do." And I woke up goin', "Weird." In just a few nights, no kidding, the dream repeated itself. Jesus, tour guide, home under construction, this room is for your daughter; this room is for the baby.
A few days later I'm in a meeting at MOPS International, sitting around a conference table and we're discussion how to form an entity called Teen MOPS for moms who are themselves teenagers. I felt God lean and whisper to me, "Elisa, you're gonna know more about this than anyone else in this room." I decided I better go home and talk to my daughter. And I asked my beautiful state-ranked swimming daughter, five-foot-seven, amazing teenager, "Is there any reason you could be pregnant?" And she nods.
And me, never-before-pregnant me, I drive to the grocery store and purchase an at-home pregnancy test and take it home and wait outside my bathroom while my daughter pees on a stick to find out indeed, (Whispering) she's pregnant(Speaking Loudly) President of MOPS International, my family fell and broke in that moment.
And I again, wondered what had I done and how could I fix it? It wasn't just my daughter who surprised me in these days. My son began to veer off of the road that was prescribed as he entered his adolescent years, as well. He began to lose himself into drugs and into alcohol, a little bit at a time until other issues began to surface—truancy, some legal issues.
There is so much more to my story. There's so, so, so, so, so much more to my story. But here's the thing. I come from a broken family and despite my very best efforts in the hands of Jesus, led by Him, having quiet times, goin' to church, being in full-time ministry, not ignoring my family, I still come from a broken family. I still come from a broken family.
But here's the thing. We all come from a broken family, every single one of us. And so, in some way, we all end up creating broken families. In the beginning, God created man and woman, Adam and Eve. They were a family--a man and a woman evidencing in their beings the image of God, right? Created as an expression of Who He is, holding the divine imprint upon them.
But before they even got around to making children, they fell and broke. The original family is a family that was divorced, divorced from the heart of God and God's heart grieved over them. The very first child is born into a broken family and it continues breaking in the space of the first five chapters of the Bible.
The first couple disobeys God's only prohibition for their own good and then gives birth to two sons, one of whom murders the other? The result is that by Genesis 6, God is so grieved over the state of the family that He decides to wipe it out and start over again with Noah.
God, the perfect Father, the Creator God, Who pants to bring His children into being and then His heart tears in pain as we push away from Him and demand our independence and say we know better, that our Father, who christens us sons and daughters and then He stands in the road waiting for us to come back home after we hightail it out of His kingdom purposes.
And our hereafter God dreams of redemption when we are restored to the original purposes that He imagined when He first made us, that only come as we know Jesus, the Redeemer. We come from a broken family. The family fell and broke before it was ever fully made and just as my efforts will fall short of creating a perfectly intact second family, so will all of our efforts.
Think of it this way, if God the "perfect" parent, didn't create a perfect family, why do we think we will? I think it's time to talk. From the vantage point of survival, I can see that I swallowed wrongly the thought that it was my fault that my family fell and broke. And so I decided wrongly that it was my responsibility assigned to me by God to create a perfectly intact second family. Neither is really true.
And I want to say this to you right now. The problem is that every one of us is broken. I'm broken. All of us are broken. We share in brokenness. God's children are broken. And I've come to understand that God can offer a form of 'broken family values, that we can still shape [into] a beautifully broken legacy. We don't have to apologize over our neediness.
It's not like once we become Christians (Sound of clap of hands) we're done struggling, okay? We're not. Every day we get up and we mess up. Pretty much, if you're just "Mother Normal," you are messin' it up by 9:30 in the morning (Laughter). We all are. If we were done, we would be dead, okay? So, we're not done.
The thing is, is that God gets it that abnormal is pretty much normal, that His children are wayward beings and His heart leans toward us. He is so committed to us that He knows that we are never, ever, ever, ever, none of us without hope, without the hope of what He can do in redemption. And this is as true for you as it is for the moms and the girls that you serve. Do not swallow the myth that there is some kind of (Squeaky High-Pitched Voice) big, big, big, big thing out there of perfection. (Laughter) What you are calling yourself and others to is a life of yieldedness to God's formation in you. That will not always look perfect. That will look real.
That will look messy at times and that will give God glory in every single moment, unapologetically. This is the time we're supposed to be human. We'll be perfect later. Right now we're human, humans in need of a Savior, sinners in need of a Savior.
The brokenness—I want you to hear this—in your first family is not your fault. It is not up to children to keep their parents married. It is not up to children to make sure their parents don't abuse drugs or alcohol. It is not up to children to earn a living for their family. It is not up to children to make sure their parents have appropriate sexual boundaries. It is not your fault if you come from a broken family. Yes. (Applause)
And there may be ways in which honestly, there are pieces of our second family which is broken. Okay, I told you not to raise your hand. Don't look at me, but you know. There are things in our second family that are broken. Some of those may be part by our hand and if so, we need to say we're sorry.
But here's what I love, love, love, love, love about God. When that hutch clattered off the walls in my home and it felt like everything was toppling before me, yes, God bent down next to me and He said, "You're not alone; You're not beyond Me. I'm here." Because God does not sweep up the shards and walk them over to the trash. He picks up one shard and He looks at it and He knows exactly what He has in mind that, that can become, because God takes the pieces of our brokenness and He crafts a beautifully broken legacy that becomes our offering.
John: What a wonderful message of hope and redemption from Elisa Morgan on today's "Focus on the Family." I'm John Fuller and our host is Focus president, Jim Daly.
Jim: John, this month at Focus on the Family we've been talkin' about the storms in life and people have heard various stories of what that means--a struggling marriage, an unplanned pregnancy, a prodigal child, like Elisa was just describing. Humanly speaking in those situations we see failure, because it's not the champion. It's not the winner. It's the person who's struggling to get there.
We see mistakes. We blame ourselves and live in shame when things aren't going perfectly in our family. We've talked about it a handful of times, that formulaic approach. I do this and then God does that. God has a different perspective though. He can pick up all those broken pieces and humility that is learned through them and turn it into something incredible. And I'm looking forward to hearing more from Elisa's story next time. I really can't wait, because this is where we learn.
John: Well, I am, too and it's a good reminder that we've gotta have that long-term perspective that's so hard, to trust God right in the middle of those storms. Certainly there are so many of our listeners who are right there though. They're thinking, I'm glad things worked out for Elisa, but I'm still strugglin' over here.
Jim: And we want to be sensitive to that. As John is describing where you're at, I hope you'll contact us here at Focus on the Family. We are here for you. That is part of our mission. We want to give you the resources, the tools that you need to work through whatever pain or storm you're experiencing right now. And we have a team of Christian counselors here, people have supported the ministry to the point where we can provide that--Christian counselors on the phones. You may have to leave a message, because the call volume is pretty strong and we're grateful for that, but call us if you need us. That's why we're here and why we're sharing this important redemptive message from Elisa Morgan.
John: And our number here is 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
Jim: And for our friends that have been consistent faithful partners to Focus on the Family, let me say thank you. If you haven't given in a while or maybe you've never given at all, could I ask you to send a gift to Focus on the Family? Let's not leave it to the other person to do that. We need to hear from you. Every day 200 to 250 phone calls come into our counseling department. We need you to stand with us so we can deliver that hope and that advice that will get people to a healthier place. Please, please support the efforts here today, so together we can help those that are in need.
John: And our counseling team has helped so many over the years and personally, they've helped me with some struggles that we've had in our own family and so, I hope you'll call today. Don't be worried about asking for help. Do call. Take advantage of the services that we offer and then support the ongoing work of this effort if you can. The number again, 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
And this month, any gift you send will go twice as far in helping hurting families thanks to some special friends who have created a matching grant opportunity. It's a two-for-one deal that'll have a lasting impact on marriage and families for years to come. And if you send a gift today of any amount, we'll also say thank you by sending a complimentary copy of Elisa Morgan's book, The Beauty of Broken. Again, our number, 800-232-6459.
Our program today was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow to hear more about how God loves broken people and He can use your brokenness for His glory, next time as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Elisa MorganView Bio
Elisa Morgan is a popular speaker and author who's written more than 15 books including She Did What She Could, The Beauty of Broken and Hello, Beauty Full. She is co-host of the nationally-syndicated radio program Discover the Word and President Emerita of MOPS International, a ministry dedicated to meeting the needs of moms. Elisa is also the co-founder of the online women's magazine FullFill. She and her husband, Evan, reside in Colorado and have two grown children and two grandchildren. Learn more about Elisa by visiting her website: www.elisamorgan.com.