31 Mar 2014

My mom was always going to write a book

We are our mother’s daughters. Whether we want to be or not.

me and my mom in zululand

My story starts with hers all wrapped up in DNA and days spent under the mango trees in Zululand.

I have her crooked smile and passion for late night movies and ice cream.

I have her love of dancing in the rain.

Her books. They’ve traveled to three different continents with me.

I have her DNA and her story – it beats here in my chest. This blood that aches for home no matter which country I’m in.

She was always going to write a book.

She wrote love poems to baobab trees. Africa ran in her veins.

She gave me her name.

And while I consider myself an accidental author it’s no accident that I see the world through stories. She took me out of school to take me to the movies. She drew timelines to explain time travel. She burnt food over happy endings.

I understand my faith best when I’m knee deep in the remembering of someone else’s life – even if they never actually lived.

I see faith in the pages of a book; on the big screen.

I see parables buried at the bottom of popcorn buckets and every, single story aches with the one universal ending – we are made for more than the right now, right here. It’s what makes cleaning the toilet so significant. That we are made for eternal significance.

So that what we sacrifice here is an echo of everything that has been sacrificed for us. By the God who wrote a love letter across the universe and plowed his life and his son into our universal ache for more.


My mom loved Bruce Springsteen. And charades. She sent us out to pick up chocolate during emergencies. She curled her hair. She had hips.

We can pretend we can outgrow our mothers, when really motherhood is all about making sense of the women who made us.

I am Jo’s daughter. Born under the mango groves on a mission hospital in the heart of Zululand. She died before she could teach me anything about love or sex or what comes next when a boy asks you to go out with him.

I watched her die with courage. She fought her way to the end, hands wrapped tight around her faith – determined to do justice to the God who had trusted her with this story.

When she prayed I felt Jesus in the room.

I was 18.

The day dad came home with her small blue suitcase.

I was 18 and still a long ways to go on the journey she’d left behind. No map. No plan. Just the blind belief that I would find my way home.

Tomorrow her book comes out. I wrote it. But her DNA beats in my fingers and her story lisps on through my three kids.


This unexpected full circle.

This legacy of grace.

This beginning.

A quiet, stunned thanks for how many of you took up the challenge to let Amazon know that we’re coming for Surprised by Motherhood tomorrow – you took our book all the way to #319 out of ALL THE BOOKS on Amazon.

Tomorrow is the official release date. I love doing this with you all because this is our universal story of the glory and the ache of motherhood. And daughterhood.


{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    This is beautiful. So beautiful. You made me cry, Lisa-Jo!

  2. 2
  3. 3

    Oh. Lisa-Jo. Your writing breaks my heart and touches my soul. My mother is Jo. Jo Etta. She had two strokes less than a year apart six years ago at the age of 59 & 60. I miss who she was and love who she is now. I can’t wait for the 3 copies of your book get here for me to give to my daughters. One the mother of two boys; one the mother of three girls; one expecting her first. God bless you.

  4. 4

    My mother’s story is one of love in the midst of struggle, one of compassion shown to others despite the lack of compassion shown to her. My mom will always be with me as I strive to live and love by her example.

  5. 5

    Oh, Lisa-Jo. This brings such tears to my eyes because I can sense your deep love for your mom and hers for you. You were both lucky to have each other, and I can tell you made the most of your 18 years together.

    The title of this post made me flinch a little–I think that’s what my girls are going to say someday.

  6. 6

    Lisa-Jo, your words and story are so beautiful and you made me cry – for you, and for me while my own mum is on her journey and fight for her life. But beautiful words to know we are made for so much more and if it’s her time approaching to go home, that then her true living will begin. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your strength, courage and of course – the book, I cannot wait!

  7. 7

    Breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing. What an amazing full circle it seems indeed.

  8. 8

    Let’s go, Lisa-Jo! :) GOOD LUCK tomorrow.

  9. 9

    I got chills!!
    Good luck tomorrow! I wish you all the best on your sales! Your book is on my list to buy really soon!
    -Much love and many prayers from Mississippi!

  10. 10

    I lost my mother 9 years ago when I was 45 years old and I’m still working through the feelings and history between us. The last 8 years of her life she had early onset Alzheimer’s and wasn’t able to really talk with me. Not long after she was diagnosed she had already forgotten who I was. We had a distant relationship for most of my adult life. One of her closest friends told me that I had all the best parts of my mother without the negatives. I still wonder if she’d be proud of me and what I’ve accomplished in my life.

  11. 11
    AineMistig says:

    Ookay, this one made me cry! For many reasons. I don’t have the heart to explain now. I’m looking forward to your (plural) book coming out tomorrow!

  12. 12
    Marinalva Sickler says:

    Soon my mom at 84 is still alive in Brazil. I miss both mom and dad. For twenty years away from them. My heart ached and no tears rolled on my face. The pain of my soul swallowed them my tears through my body and I shake with the emotions that perhaps in near future I will visit with mom. I loved your story. We are indeed our mom’s DNA. You are an admirable woman. Your writings are life lessons. They reteach me the art of being a mom again as I raise my nine years old grandson.


  13. 13
    Kim Ballantine says:

    Dearest Cuz
    How I love you and how proud I am of you. This post had me in tears. I remember baby sitting you at the ages of both the pictures. I felt so grown up and proud to be the one to push you in the pram. I remember the letters written by your mom from you to me describing your first taste of ice cream and your love of mangoes at age 1. I have the poem of the baobab tree written after a trip to our farm. Sweet memories. She is so proud of you Lisa-Jo. I can feel her smiling. Well done. I told our local Cum Books that one of SA’s christian authors was launching her book and to get ready to put on a magnificent display. I’ll send a pic once it’s up. Love you more than a tea pot loves tea bags. Kim

  14. 14

    I had tears in my eyes as I read this. Looking forward to your book. When will it be out in South Africa?

  15. 15

    I’m so glad you decided to write her book, and I’m looking forward to reading it. :)

  16. 16

    This is me wearing my motherless daughter hat right now…Thank you for writing this for us. Thank you a million times for knowing that none of our stories ever ended where our mother’s did. In fact, for knowing that our mothers’ stories didn’t end where they seemed too. This book is a resurrection story- a story of immense hope for those of us mothering motherless. I love you sweet friend and I love that I don’t ache alone and that you SO get this part of the journey.

  17. 17
    Elizabeth Duncan says:

    You. are. spectacular.

    That is all.

  18. 18

    This is so touching Lisa-Jo. How delighted your Mom would be. Yes – it comes full circle, and she left you with a beautiful gift.

  19. 19

    I just read the first three chapters sneak peak over the weekend. Our kids must be just a few years younger than you so that part of life is long gone. But there is something about your words, your heart, just like this post, that pulls me into your world and your heart. Lovely, so lovely in all its imperfect perfection.

  20. 20

    Lisa-Jo, I started singing, “Toooo-MORROW, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow…” the minute your blog post popped up in my inbox. The way you honor your mother and her desire to write is a thing of deep beauty. And, add me to the list of mamas who love you so for sharing your heart (and hers) here. I can’t wait for that Amazon package to arrive tomorrow!

  21. 21

    A friend sent me a link to one of your posts and it was exactly what I needed that day. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for putting into words what I feel most days. Can’t wait to read your book.

  22. 22

    Beautiful! Looking forward to reading your book. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  23. 23

    Can’t wait to get my hands on it! Thank you for being the cheerleader for weary mama’s everywhere.

  24. 24

    Your words filled up my heart today and I felt it break in to many pieces. A GOOD break ! Your heart spoke to mine and shattered a false idea that I had allowed to rest there and steal away truth. Thank you for writing this book, which I am finally purchasing today, and thank you for honoring your momma in a way that spoke to my heart so clear and so loudly. You wrote.. “when she prayed, I felt Jesus in the room.” I have been missing my dear grandmother so much and today your words reminded me of the stories and the life and the joy she lived, even in the middle of chaos, pain, and loss. Thanks for writing exactly what I needed to read today.
    You are a blessing and I pray that God will surprise you with His abundance today!

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