Tag Archives: Mothers and sons

Katrina Brooks: Ordinary Miracles: “Awake and Alert”

Our son came into the world completely awake and not missing a thing. The nurse brought him to me his first night saying, “This one is watching everyone and wants to see everything.” I remembered thinking awake and alert are excellent qualities for a disciple, but this will be an adventure.

Doing life with Joseph has been just that. Even as a wee boy he saw everything and watched everyone. And when Joseph played, he played hard. With the back of his head drenched in sweat and a grin reflective of his utter fascination with life, Joseph touched, manipulated, repurposed and reimagined everything he encountered. Even with his huge, advanced vocabulary, Joseph had little time for words. There were worlds to discover, parking lots to design, things to pull apart and put back together, speed barriers to shatter and sports legends to become.


Entering school was a challenge for our son. Not only did school insist on the use of words, school required Joseph to learn classroom boundaries and social etiquette. A man of action, Joseph entered the world of sports to balance his Monday through Friday world of words and rules.

Sports gave Joseph a place to pour his energy and later, his brilliance. Joseph was a powerhouse on the field and excelled in soccer, baseball and later, football. Over the years we found him asleep under his schoolbooks with at least one notebook holding his latest sketches of plays for not only his team, but for his beloved Auburn Tigers.

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Having become a disciple of Jesus at age ten, Joseph thrived in youth group. He thrived not only because he was comfortable in his own skin and could articulate the epiphanies that came to him, but because his steadfastness, patience and perseverance steadied the entire group. As his personality blossomed, so did his good hearted mischief and sense of adventure. Behind the scenes, acts of love became his signature.

Joseph entered college determined to turn his love for football into a career as a high school math teacher and coach. As easy as math came to him, the physical demands of college athletics drained him. His junior year, Joseph changed his major to accounting and finance and made math his minor. His love of problem solving, puzzles, statistics and all things having to do with numbers flourished in his new degree program and in May 2015, Joseph graduated from Maryville College.

Through camp, worship, ministry opportunities, youth group, mission trips and doing life with others, we watched God instill in our son a heart for ministry and missions. Our numbers guy became a passionate and gifted disciple. As God continued to call him, Joseph’s transformation into a minister became complete.

At 23 he is a fascinating minister to watch as he leads, loves and serves others with his whole being. Honestly, I don’t even think he considers himself to be a minister. When asked, he simply defers that journey to his sister who is a seminarian following a more traditional ministerial path.

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Our son may never attend seminary like his sister, but I have no doubt that he will minister in his church. I imagine he will be the cool professional who gives his vacation time to chaperone. He will be the one at the table of the finance committee as it imagines an annual budget. Having lived off church salary packages, Joseph will be the one to explain practically how much of a salary package actually gets into the minister’s paycheck.

Joseph will be that one at the table that advocates for creative ministry and missions. Joseph will be that youth parent the ministerial staff can count on for support and love, ideas and presence. He will be the adult who understands faith formation and establishes his family’s schedule around church ministries. Joseph will be the one who invites colleagues to church and passionately shares what is happening at his church. Joseph will serve his coworkers and engage them in conversations about Jesus. He will be the one to seek out discipleship opportunities and position himself to continue to seek God’s will and desire for how he lives life.

Regardless of how it happens, Joseph will minister. It is who he is at his core. Under his fascination with numbers, his curious nature, his insane problem-solving skills and his ease with finance and accounting, lives a disciple of Jesus determined to love God and love neighbor with all he has.

“Awake and alert,” he is on the greatest adventure . . . life.


Reverend Katrina Stipe Brooks has served as a pastor, campus minister and youth pastor. Part of a clergy couple, she is also a mother to a daughter in Divinity School and a son who just graduated college.

Starlette McNeill: Ordinary Miracles: “He Speaks”

We knew that it was coming. This was the reason why we had begun reading to our son John in the womb.

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He had a bookshelf and a personal library before he could hold up his head, much less turn a page. I purchased flash cards before he could walk. I asked people to talk to him using real words. No baby talk.

So, that last one might have been a bit of overkill but I was serious. OK. Full disclosure. I still am.

Words are important to me. I know how powerful they are. So when I took my then three month-old son to daycare after returning to work, I would say all of the good words that I could think of.

“You are an intelligent man, a righteous man, a kind and compassionate man, an honest man, a faithful man, a gentleman.” I wanted him to know how much I loved him and believed in him. I shared how proud I was to be his mother and how thankful I was to have him as a son.

Some would argue that he couldn’t have understood what I was saying, that it was a waste of time. But the affirmations continue.

And while at the park one day, I overheard my now two year-old son introducing himself to a new friend by pointing to himself and saying, “Hi. I genius.” He told his teacher, Miss Heather, the same thing and she now calls him “Genius John.”

Yes, I told him that he was a genius. But now he speaks for himself.

His first word was mama. I jumped out of bed when I heard it. I knew that it was coming. Every child says it unless deformity or disability prevents it. It is predictable and to be expected.

Still, It was no less a miracle for me. I had been speaking to him and now he speaks to me. I was speaking for him and now he speaks for himself.

It was a holy moment. Selah.

But, not only do I have a speaking son but I am in relationship with the speaking God, the Word-God. Sure, we know that God has spoken, that God has messengers. We have a personal library, sixty-six books to prove it.

But, we are quite surprised when He speaks—present tense—and more so, when God speaks to us directly. God doesn’t call me “Mama” though.

When the God that we have been speaking to speaks back to us, we might just jump out of bed like I did when my son said his first word. It is in these moments that we become aware that we are living epistles, that God is not only talking to us but writing on us, that we are being touched by the finger of God and becoming Word-people.

I knew that God’s word was coming but I might have only been prepared for baby talk, not the pure and righteous words that He spoke over me.

“You are a blessed woman, a highly favored woman, a holy woman, a called woman, a priestly woman.”

I am discovering more and more that it is in God’s speaking that I am revealed. Like my relationship with my son, what God says about me discloses who I am. So, I only repeat after God in my introductions, confident that He speaks for me.


Reverend Starlette McNeill serves as the Associate Pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland. She is a wife, a lover of reading, writing and Starbucks and the mother of one amazing son, John.