The Connected Mom

Becky and Sarah had the privilege of talking with Lucinda Secrest McDowell in December 2022. Shockingly, it was one of the last interviews she gave before her death...and we cherish the time we had with her talking about being "soul strong." This is one of our favorite episodes that we're resharing as we talk about deepening our connection with God.

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 15 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her award-winning books include new releases Life-Giving Choices(2019) and Soul Strong (2020), as well as Dwelling Places, Ordinary Graces, Refresh, and Live These Words.  Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and AWSA, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Christian Writers Blog and (in)courage.

Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Storyteller ~ Author ~ Speaker ~ Teacher "Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength" Newest books are "Life-Giving Choices" and "Soul Strong"

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathetically connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to the Connected Mom Podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host today, and I'm excited to introduce my cohost, Sarah Wildman, because I got to tell you, listeners, she's really the brains behind the operation. Uh, so welcome, Sarah.

Well, I'm glad to be here, and you got to love technology when it works. We get to be here in three different states talking about awesome stuff and about how parenting is sometimes hard. Becky and, um, I'm feeling that this week, just this week, I was sitting down with my eight year old, and he was struggling with some changes, and I literally had to pause and go, lord, I can't do this without you. So I am so excited about this podcast. It comes at a perfect time for me because I am in the thick of parenting, so that's where I'm at, so I'm excited. Becky but tell us more about our friend and guest today.

Yes, so actually, that exact comment I had a young mom say that to me this week. She just is like, yeah, I don't even know if I can do this parenting thing this week. So I think we've all had those moments in our parenting journey, but I am super excited about our guest today. She is a dear friend of mine. Her name is Lucinda Seacrest McDowell. My kids joke about double namers and how important they are. Well, Lucinda is a triple namer, and that makes her even more important. But let me tell you a little bit about her. She is a storyteller, a seasoned mentor. She engages all kinds of, uh, audiences. She helps people connect their heart and mind with the Lord. She's a graduate of Gordon Conwell Seminary. I love that. She's the author of 16 books, and she also is the co director for Renew, which is a spiritual retreat for writers and speakers. And she mentors many mamas, more important, probably, than any of that. She is the mom of four kids who are all now married. She's got grandkids, which she and I both know is kind of the dessert at the end of a long journey. And, uh, she's just wonderful. But today, we're going to talk with her about her book, Soul Strong, which I love, because if there's anything else mama's need, we need strength. So welcome, Lucinda. Tell us about your family and what made you write this book.

Becky and Sarah, it's a delight to be with you on this podcast. I love speaking to mamas of all ages, and especially those young mamas who aren't sure they can make it through today, much less the entire lifetime of their child. So it's great to be here, and I'm particularly appreciative that we're going to be talking about my book, Soul Strong seven Keys to a Vibrant Life. You have asked me why I wrote that book. And, um, I wrote that book because so many younger women would come up to me. Uh, they would have heard me perhaps speak, or, uh, they would just want to chat. They would see my white hair, and they would say, how in the world do you do it? And I would go do what? And they would say, Stay positive and faithful and hopeful, uh, for so long. And, um, I realized that, um, everyone wanted to know the keys. How do you do it? And I thought, I don't know how you do it? And then I sat down and I talked to the Lord about what would I say to anybody that asked me that? And I'm kind of a list girl. So God just gave me seven, uh, areas that I think we all need to embrace in order to live vibrantly. And I wrote it really with people like our daughters in mind, people that want to go forward and stay that way no matter what life brings. So I kind of call it my legacy book, and that's how it came about.

I love that. And Lucinda, you have raised four kids, one of them special needs, and three of them adopted. So tell us a little bit about that journey.

Well, we all perhaps when we're younger and think about being mamas, we have in our mind what that will be like, or even about being married and that sort of thing. You forgot to mention that I do have a husband. That's okay. I do have the kids and the grands. Um uh, but for me, motherhood came in an atypical way, and, uh, it did come when, um, I got married. I actually waited a long time for the right person, at least for my generation. And so I was in my 30s when I got married. And I actually, at that point, adopted three children, ages nine, seven and four. And they were siblings, and, uh, so they weren't babies. And that was just a real, ah, sort of big jump into a whole new life. And, um, five years later, i, uh, was considered an older mother when I gave birth to our fourth child. But I do like to say that I have three of my kids are adopted, but I forget which one, because in God's grace and mercy, he blended us together as a family. But it did take many years. Every family has its own challenges, and I would say for sure that my oldest son, uh, who was born with special needs, um, that has definitely flavored our entire life. Mike and I've been married for almost 39 years. And, um, having your oldest child with special needs and then three others, it brings a whole new look to the family dynamics. Uh, I'm so glad that we have more than Justin. I've met so many special needs families who are so overwhelmed that they ended up just having that one child and that certainly God puts us in families. Um, my family just happened the way it happened, too. But, um, he has brought a lot it has taken a lot of my learning how to embrace small victory. Now, we have to do that as a mama anyway, with littles. But you have to realize, when I became a mother, they were nine, seven and four, but my nine year old was lower functioning than my four year old. Um, so just learning how to do this was a challenge. God was so faithful. Um, and Justin is now a young man and he, um, is an overcomer. And, um, I think back to those early days and so often people will ask me when I was trying to mother him, they would say, what are your hopes for him? And I said, we're just trying to get through today, mhm. But what we did was what we did with all of our other children, we taught the same. We, um, exposed him to everything. We were in ministry at that time. We were with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and had college students over all the time and internationals. And, um, of course, he was in special ed and I even took many classes to learn how to advocate for him. Um, I have worked with him every day of his life for reading. And he does read at about a third grade level. And I don't know if anybody out there needs to hear this, but there is a translation of the Bible called, um, all of a sudden, I lost the name of it. I'll think of it, it's all one syllable words. So this wonderful Bible Justin has, and like I said, even though he's an adult, he has a great Bible that he can read with the one syllable words. And, uh, he loves the Lord. Um, he's worked at Red Lobster for 26 years. And, um, so we're grateful for who he is as a person. Um, but it was hard and very discouraging at times.

I can imagine that there were many times back then that you probably had that feeling like you didn't have any strength left to parent the kids that you were given. Right. Can you think back to a time where you felt that and maybe how God you mentioned that God was so faithful. Is there a time you remember that might encourage young moms who feel like they don't have that strength left?

I certainly will. Well, I want to start with the first time, and it was when I was so overwhelmed. When I walked into that situation, I was a brand new bride. I didn't even know how to be married, much less be a mama. And I was a striver, I was a type A personality that figured, we are going to be the best mama in the whole world. We are going to be the best wife in the whole world. I'm going to make up for the years that these children when their first mother died. I'm going to make up for all of that, and I'm going to be super mom. And I tried to literally do everything. I had three kids in three different schools, but I tried just to totally overcompensate, and I crashed and burned. I really imploded inside emotionally, uh, even mentally. And that's when God literally stooped. Now, remember, this is almost 40 years ago. That's when God stooped and lifted me up in his grace. And I had been a believer for a long time. I had been a minister. And yet, uh, God's grace, the gift we don't deserve and can ever earn, changed my life because I let go and learn to release and learn to release all those I loved and learned to respond to God only in the way and what he needed me to do and to leave the results with Him. And, uh, so I talk about grace and teach about grace all the time, because it changed. It changed me from being a mama that had to orchestrate everything to make it all come out right in the end, right. Thinking that you would yeah. Just trusting God every day. Um um, that was the first place God stooped and lifted me up. Also, I talk about in soulstrong. I actually began the book with, um, the key that we have to live loved. And I think this is where you have to begin as a person and as a mama. You have to come to terms with God's love for you and receive that as your total identity. Because if you don't have that foundation that I am the beloved of God, then you are going to spend the whole rest of your life grasping for others to put meaning in your life. And you might do it with your husband or with your children or with your job title or whatever. So I do begin Soul Strong with we have got to learn to embrace that we are, first of all, loved, and we are the beloved. And out of that, we move forward and try to accomplish these things, but not to earn the love.

Lucinda I love that you start the book with that one, because I do feel like that is so essential. And it's really essential for moms, because if their identity is tied up in how their kids behave, it's going to be a problem. If their identity is tied up in whether or not their kids walk with the Lord as adults, it's going to be a problem. Right. Because even though we do our best to parent our kids, some choices are completely up to them, and we're separate. And so our identity needs to be completely grounded in the love of God. And so I love that that's the first key you give to a vibrant life. What are some of the other keys that you talk about in Soul strong. Lucinda, what are some other keys that Mamas really need to stay strong during this long journey of parenting? Because it's not a short journey, right? It's not a sprint. It's a marathon, and it goes on for a lot of years. And so what are some of the other keys you give in the book?

The second one in the book is called To Be Authentic, and I basically just want to lift up how all of us, um, as women, just need to learn who we are, who God created us to be, who he called us to be. And then we need to do that, you know what I mean? And do it in our flavor. From the way we're wired to the way we dress to the way we think to how we reach out. And the more we can get in touch with that, I have to tell you, that's the key to a great life. Because you know what you do well and who you are, but you know who you aren't. And I think we spend too much time trying to be something or someone we aren't. So get rid of that now, how that affects child raising. Every time I speak to young mamas, I say the most important job right now is get to know who your child is, how God created them. One of my children was literally created brilliant from the get go. I mean, just brilliant. Not that she was smart, and I had to learn how to do that as well. As I mentioned my other child, I had a child that was created musical, and I had to learn how do you hone and do all that and then encourage them to be who God created them to be? And guess what? It may not be who you wish they were, meaning career wise or even personality wise. Uh, that's our job. We are not living our lives through our children, are we? So that was the second one, but the third one I want to really lift up, because, um, the third key is called Dwell deep.

Okay, so talk about that one, M lucid, because what does it really mean to dwell and find our strength from the Lord? What does that look like? In the chaos of motherhood, in the carpool lines, in the soccer runs, in the running to music lessons and all the things, what does it look like to dwell?

To dwell deep looks like life. And I'm getting teary just because the truth is, we're all given lots of great gifts and talents. We could go for quite a while in our own strength. But I want you to know it gives out at times. You know that already. You Mamas. And when that happens, what do you have on reserve? What is in? Like, you talk about a bank account where you find out you're overdrawn. Hello. What happens with that account? Of reserves of spiritual strength that's deep in your soul, as the Bible calls it, the inner person. And, uh, that's what Christ says. He wants to make his home in you is within. He wants to dwell in you. He wants to come in and abide in you. If we are not taking time to make that happen, then when we get that phone call, that medical diagnosis, that crisis, we are overdrawn in that department. We have nothing to pull out. And so that's why when I say what dwell deep means is it means life to you, friend.

So one of the steps you have in here is called Overcoming Pain. And you had a child with special needs. Um, maybe moms out there don't have kids with special needs, but they have other forms of pain. Because God allows each of us to have a measure of suffering in our motherhood journey. So pain might come in different ways in different forms. And what does it look like to overcome pain in motherhood? What does that step look like for us?

That step looks like, um, release and receive. It's something that I do physically. Um, I literally every day, whatever that pain, whatever that suffering is, I release it to Jesus and I just give it to God. Uh, as a mama, it's every moment, the names of your children and all the concerns, and you know some of the concerns, but there are plenty that you don't know, I assure you. You give that child, you release it, you surrender it to God, who created them and loves them more than we do. But then you keep your hands open because he wants to give back and you receive. And this is how the overcoming pain, all those hurts, all that suffering, he will give you back what you need. Now, if your hands are clenched and you're just so stressed all the time, you cannot receive, nor can you release. And so, uh, the Overcoming Pain chapter is all about God bringing beauty from ashes. But we must make a choice. Um, I have a companion book to soul strong called Life Giving Choices. And we must make a choice every day. Are we going to, uh, respond? Are we going to react? Um, are we going to move forward? Are we going to stay in this rut? And so I believe with Overcoming Pain, we must choose to become better and not bitter. And some of our attitude is the choice. We don't have control over the healing part or the we don't have control over the paths our children's take. There's a lot we don't have control over, but that's where the surrender comes. And then we're receiving what God says. And if you are in pain with a child right now, I would like to just say the story is not over yet, dear friend. You keep releasing them to God.

M. I love that. Um I like you, Lucinda. Have four adult kids, and they are all married, and they all, um, have kids of their own. And one of my daughters was talking to me just the other day, and she was talking about, like, when does it get a little easier, mom? And I was thinking, motherhood is really never easy. There's always another child grandchild, son in law, daughter in law. There's always more to pray about. But prayer is such a gift to us as mothers because it releases our anxiety about what might be going on in our kids'lives. But God also chooses to answer those prayers, perhaps in ways that we can't even conceive of right now. And I know, um, a lot of moms out there maybe have kids that are far from God right now. That's not been my experience, and so I am grateful for that. However, I talk with a lot of moms whose kids are very far from God. And how does prayer help the prodigal?

Well, thank you. Pray always is actually, uh, my fourth key in the book. And that's one thing I've really just to say appreciated about all of your work, Becky, is it's so grounded in the word and the prayer and praise is so essential.

Thank you.

But, um, I tell Mamas that there is one gift you can give your child that probably no one else will ever give them. Maybe one or two other people, maybe a daddy, maybe a grandma. But one thing you could say to your child and give to your child is that you can say every morning when you awaken, I have already prayed for you by name and lifted you up to the Lord's throne of grace. And, um, you and I both have had kids, probably, that lived all over the world in different time zones, but I always told my children that. And, uh, by the way, my sons are not married, um, but my daughters are. When my daughter's married, I told their husband that I call them my sons now. And, um, I said, this is a gift I've given my kids all these years, and you need to know that not a day will you wake up when I haven't already prayed for you now, um, I don't know. And won't know till eternity if that meant anything to them. That's not something people say, oh, boy, I was so glad. But I will tell you, friends, um, that is one of the essential job of a mama, okay? And praying to God is simply conversation with him. And if you don't know how to pray for your child, you just lay her name before the Lord lift her up. I had a phone call from one of my grown children this morning, and they just needed to talk for 30 minutes, and they needed to listen. And at the end, when I prayed with them, um, they just said, thank you so much, that I just needed that and now my children are in their thirty s and forty s. So let me just tell you, I appreciate that, um, prayer is so important. And, uh, when our kids were growing up, all of our kids went to public school, and, um, we prayed with them every morning before they left for school. We prayed for their teacher or teachers by name with the child. And we live in New England, and we lived in Seattle in places where it's not the Bible Belt, where I grew up in the south. Um, and teachers at the public schools would hear about that. I'll never forget when one of my sons went into another grade, the teacher says, Are you that mama that prays for the teacher every morning? Well, I can use all the prayers I can get. And, um, so what has happened over the years is it was such a habit that every time I talk to a child on the phone, I end in prayer, whether they want me to or not. I mean, if they say no, I won't. But you know what I mean? In other words, it's this natural way of life. It's not a prayer life. It's a life of praying all the time. And my kids are just aware that I just say, well, let me pray about that. Or let's just do this. And you can do it very comfortably, and you're training them that they can stop in the middle of the subway and pray.

Lucinda these are all really so helpful, and I definitely relate with that with children in public schools. What a beautiful legacy you've instilled. Um, but I know this might kind of come out of left field, but I think that we in our world often value strength in other ways, right? I mean, there's the fitness part of strength. Um, are you a good cook? Are you strong in the kitchen? Whatever. But why would you say, um, kind of getting back to the title of your book. Why is the soul really the focus of what should be the strongest in our life? Can you tell us about that?

Yes, I can tell you our strength. Um, in the other areas, the upfront strength, the stamina, all of that sometimes can vary. It doesn't just have to do with age. Yes, sometimes as we age, there are areas that we have greater limits, but it's not even just that. Your strength physically can change at the drop of a hat, no matter what age you are. And yet, the person who you are inside I'm just going to keep going back to Scripture, where it talks about the inner man, the inner woman, your, uh, soul. Where Christ resides, is where the Holy Spirit wants to empower you, to do things you could never do, to say, to be to give you insight, to nudge you, to be that empowering from within. And so that's why I wanted to write about soul strength. Because I believe the more we focus on how to be strong within, we've got to keep pouring in and filling up M so that we can pour out. Because everybody needs us, right? Everybody who's listening to this have little people or big people who are pulling on them and needing them. And we all have to learn about limits. And that'll be another podcast. But here's the thing. How can we pour out if we are not filled up? And that's why it must be the strength that begins in the soul. And the soul I'm not trying to be real woo woo or or anything, but the soul is the inner person who we are. It's where Christ wants to live inside, and he wants to fill that up so much that it bubbles over. It will change our countenance, it will change our attitude. It will change our demeanor, and it will change. And even if I just immediately became crippled and whatever, I mean, look at Johnny Eric Santata, who's one of my amazing heroes in life. She's been a quadriplegic for 55 years, and yet look how strong she is in the Lord.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, we are almost out of time, Lucinda, but I really want to recommend your book to our mama's. Listen, Soul Strong is written well. It's easy to understand. You could take one key for each week and do it over seven weeks. I know a lot of you, uh, especially those of you that are in the toddler age, maybe you don't have a lot of time to read. This is not a hard book, but this is a profound book. And if you want to be strong 20 years from now to face whatever God allows in your life, I can't recommend this book strongly enough. Um, and then I want you to connect with Lucinda. Lucinda sends out an amazing blog newsletter. You send it out once a week, right, Lucinda? I read it Wednesday morning. Yeah. And so sign up for Lucinda's blog. We're going to have her website in the show Notes, and we want you to connect with her because, um, we need women that are a little further along than us, especially in the journey of motherhood, because some days are just complicated and hard. And yet you can make choices now on how you're going to connect with God. Uh, especially as I look at where we're recording this. We're recording this right before the new year. What a great way to begin 2023 to make that decision. Hey, 2023 is going to be the year where I'm going to go deeper in my connection with God. And this is a great way to do that. Read this book. Soul strong. Get into the word of God with Lucinda, and then, um, for sure, make prayer away of your life.

I'd love to hear from any of you. So see you, hopefully on the socials or on my blog. And I want to thank you for that. I don't know if we have time, but I really would like to end with a blessing. Is that possible?

Yes, I would love you to end with a blessing. And then I'm going to do a wrap up. I was just getting ready to ask you that, Lucinda. So go ahead and bless our mamas, if you would.

The Lord bless you, the Lord keep you. May his love ever ah always around you, protech you and guide you in all that you do. My prayer for you. Um amen. Amen.

M. Thank you, Lucinda. That was beautiful. Hey, friends. Thanks for joining us today on the Connected Mom podcast. We hope you'll join us next week for another episode where we help you connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. Join us next week, and hey, if you get a chance, would you leave a rating on our podcast? Because that definitely helps get the word out. And we want more moms to connect with us here at the Connected Mom podcast. Thanks so much. We'll connect with you. You again next Thursday.