I Am Going to Die

Sooner or later, we are all going to die. Keeping our eyes focused on eternity helps keep life in perspective.

You’re going to die. I’m going to die. It’s going to happen.

One of my favorite movies is “What About Bob,” and there is a scene where Bob, an obsessive-compulsive neurotic, is discussing fear with his therapist’s son. The boy confronts Bob with his greatest fear: death.  

If we have put our faith in Jesus, death isn’t something we need to fear, but we need to be aware of it. Our time on earth is short. Eternity is forever. God loved every person on earth enough to send Jesus to die for them. God commands us to love others: we are to love our neighbors and love our enemies. We need to view ourselves and everyone else through an eternal lens.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” (Philippians 2:3-9 ESV)

When Jesus was visiting his friends Mary and Martha, Martha was preparing food while Mary was hanging out with Jesus. Annoyed, Martha asked Jesus if he cared that she was doing all the work while Mary was just listening to Jesus. Jesus answered: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 ESV)

Mary had an eternal perspective. Martha had an earthly view. Most of the time, I’m Martha. I’m worried about what someone at church said about me. I want the last word in an argument with my husband. I gossip about difficult family members, rather than praying for them. I’m impatient. I get stressed about things with no eternal value.

Statistically, I’ve lived half my life, give or take a few years, and I need to make those remaining years count. I need to ask myself if I am thinking and doing the things that matter for eternity.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-16 ESV)

Along with spending time with Jesus every day, I need to remind myself that this earth is not my home. Today could be my last day on earth. And the person I’m struggling with might not be here tomorrow either. I need to view myself and everyone else in light of eternity.

I need to live and love, every day, like it’s my last.

Being Content with a Boring Life

Am I the only one who feels inadequate? I want a life of significance. I want to do big things, but I never feel like I’m doing enough. I’m not a missionary overseas. I don’t volunteer every week or make huge donations. Realistically, I haven’t impacted that many lives.

I feel pressure to do more. I remember being a high schooler in youth group hearing speakers that would encourage us to go out and change the world. I had big dreams and goals, but now I’m just a mom who can’t even keep up with the laundry.

I recently read in the New Testament that Paul said the Christians in Thessalonica should “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV)

I keep waiting for God to reveal to me this incredible purpose He has for my life. Social media doesn’t help when I see other people doing things that seem so much more important. I read books about making a radical difference. I listen to podcasts about people selling everything to serve the poor.

But maybe, that isn’t where God is calling me. Maybe I’m “just” supposed to live a quiet, ordinary life. Perhaps my mission field isn’t another country or even another zip code. My missionary work might be with my own children.

This morning I read Paul once again, writing to another church and encouraging them to live a peaceful and quiet life of godliness and holiness.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)

I need to be content if God is “just” calling me to live a holy life and serve the people in my house and neighborhood. And honestly, it is easier for me to volunteer at a food pantry and hand out food to strangers than to be kind, patient, and loving while serving dinner to my children who are complaining because they hate what I made.

God told Joshua, repeatedly, to be “strong and courageous” when Joshua was taking over the leadership of the nation of Israel. Those words get me excited, and I imagine some adventurous calling that takes strength and courage. But if I drill down into what God is saying, He’s also telling Joshua to be strong when it comes to memorizing God’s word and meditating on it. He’s telling Joshua to be courageous when it comes to obeying God. (Joshua 1:6-9 NIV)

Right now, God is calling me to be bold in reading the Bible. He’s telling me to be content with my role as Mom. God is asking me to be courageous in serving, respecting, and submitting to my husband (and believe me, some days, that takes a lot of courage). He’s calling me to love my neighbors. He’s asking me to pray.

I have a quiet, peaceful life, which is right where God wants me. Maybe someday the call will change. But for now, I need to fold the laundry when I don’t feel like it and be patient with my children when they complain about my cooking. I need to be content and joyfully live my ordinary, and sometimes boring, beautiful life.

Should I Stay Married for my Kids?

I’ve often heard people say you shouldn’t stay in an unhappy marriage just because of the kids. What if the opposite is true? What if God intended children to be the glue to help keep a couple together as they go through hard phases of marriage?

Did you know that divorce doesn’t make people happier? According to a 2002 study by American Values, when unhappy people got divorced on average they weren’t any happier:

Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages
Signatories

Does divorce typically make adults happier than staying in an unhappy marriage? Many Americans assume so. “Does Divorce Make People Happy?” represents the first serious effort to investigate this assumption empirically. The finding? Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier, on average, than unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.

Another study showed that 68% of couples who were unhappy in their marriage – but stayed together – were happy in their marriage 10 years later.

For those of you going through a rough patch in your marriage – there is hope. I’m not talking to you who are experiencing abuse or being cheated on. For the rest of you, your marriage won’t always be happy, but don’t throw in the towel. There are ups, and there are downs, just like everything in life. You’ll experience joy in marriage. You’ll experience pain in marriage. I’m talking as a child of divorced parents and divorced in-laws. I’ve been divorced myself. I’m currently in a marriage that has seen some very dark days where all I could do was cling to Jesus.

My marriage has also seen some great days.

But mostly, my marriage sees ordinary days. We bicker. He annoys me. I nag him. We laugh at inside jokes and at our kids. We coordinate schedules and run errands. He mows the lawn, and I handle the bills. He buys too much junk food, and I complain (while eating it). He’s a spender, and I’m a saver. I wish he’d be more romantic and he wishes I wouldn’t be so critical. We occasionally have date nights and occasionally have huge fights. We love each other, but don’t speak the same love language. Our life isn’t glamorous. There isn’t anything Instagram-worthy (outside of our pets and sometimes our kids). We are humans.

For those of you in a dark place in marriage, the pain doesn’t last. For those of you thinking you made a mistake in who you married, God doesn’t make mistakes, and He’ll use your marriage for His glory if you cling to Him. Try not to focus on your spouse – concentrate on making yourself the best version of you possible by spending time with Jesus, praying for your spouse, intentionally loving him or her.

For those of you wondering if you should stay married for your kids: Yes. Stay married for your kids. Stay married for your spouse. Stay married for Jesus. Stay married for yourself.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:3-6

Who am I to the World?

I’ve just started a Bible study by A Fruitful Woman (check out her blog – she’s an awesome writer with a beautiful heart for Jesus), and assignment #1 is to journal my story. So I figured I’ll make a blog out of it and accomplish my blogging goal (which I am way behind on. Don’t read my post where I said I was going to post twice a week. I might need to change that to twice a month!)

So . . . here is my story.

I grew up in a conservative, “Christian” home in middle America. I fluctuated between being homeschooled and attending Christian schools, we didn’t have a TV, we listened to Christian music. We went to a very legalistic church. I had prayed the “salvation prayer” a million times out of fear of hell, and I considered myself a Christian, but did I really trust God? No. Was I following Him? No. Did I love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind? No.

In high school, we moved to another town and I started public school. We also changed churches to a more Jesus-centered church. It was a good move. I made great friends and I stayed out of trouble. But when it came to Jesus, my heart was confused. I still believed being a Christian meant how modest I dressed (or didn’t), what music I listened to, what shows I watched. Was I out drinking or smoking pot, or was I at youth group?

I’d read my Bible or devotional books occasionally, but I wasn’t seeking God.

Like most teens, I was insecure. I felt out-of-place because of my home school roots. I had acne. Money was tight. And things were starting to crumble at home. I knew my parents were heading to a divorce.

It wasn’t all bad. My mom was my rock. My siblings were wonderful humans (not that I would have admitted it at the time). I had good friends. I had a job. I was doing well at school.

But, I was hurting and empty inside, trying to follow all the rules to be a “Christian”. I  still wasn’t seeking God.

And then I found what I thought would be my escape: a guy. I got married young, just a few years out of high school. I won’t go into all the details, but it was a hot mess. I was a terrible wife. He wasn’t a great husband. We fought. A lot. And still, in the middle of the chaos, I wasn’t seeking God.

My personal life was messy. My spiritual life was non-existent, even though I went to church every Sunday, taught Sunday school, etc. But there was one area I excelled – work. I wanted more than anything to be successful in my career. I wanted to be financially secure. I was juggling work, college, and a crumbling marriage. Since I sucked at marriage, I focused all my energy on school and career. By age 23, I graduated Summa Cum Laude while working full-time at a job in my field. I had a 401(k), a house, a dog, and a new car. I was set.

By 25 I was divorced.

But I still didn’t seek God.

By 28 I was remarried. My priorities were 80% career, 10% marriage, 8% other, 2% God. We went to church and I went to occasional Bible studies. I prayed. But I wasn’t seeking God.

By 29, I was a Mom, but my priorities still didn’t really shift that much. My focus was still on my career and building a nest egg. If anything my career was still 80% of my focus, 15% kids, 4% husband and whatever was left-over went to God and other “priorities.” Thankfully, my second marriage was much better than my first. My kids were easy. Life was good. But God wasn’t my top priority. Not even close.

By 36, this life I was trying desperately to build came tumbling down. My career was extremely successful, but I was working from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., 6 days a week. I was never home. My husband was raising our kids by himself while struggling with his own inner demons. He couldn’t take it anymore. Things went from bad to worse. We ended up separating. My daughter was having panic attacks. I was a mess.

And I finally started to seek God. 

I pulled out my Bible and didn’t just read it to check something off my Christian to-do list. I opened it for answers. I opened it to find my savior.

There wasn’t some life-altering, noticeable change in me, but slowly God started to work in my life. He started to re-arrange my priorities. I started to see my husband and children with different eyes. I  started to really work at my marriage. I started to see Jesus, not just as a destination after death, but a daily companion.

At age 37, I attended a Bible study about finding God’s mission for my life. I went into the study thinking God was going to call me to some huge mission or massive undertaking. But God had a different message for me. He showed me my mission field: my husband and children.

At age 40, I “fired” all my clients, let all my employees go, and shut down my office. I read the entire Bible. I started my blog, “Becoming Mary”. I started making my time with Jesus my #1 priority. And He, in turn, has been changing me.

I’ll be 42 years old this year. I’m still a work in progress. If I go a day or two without reading the Bible my husband and kids can tell as I fall back into my old patterns. I still have to remind myself regularly to focus on the mission field God gave me, rather than chasing shiny career goals. I need reminders that I am not defined by my career, or lack of it. I am not defined by marriage or divorce. I am not defined by motherhood or the successes or failures of my children. I am not defined by the church I attend or my good works.

I am defined by my savior.

And when I go to bed at night and mull over my day, the question isn’t what I accomplished or failed to accomplish. But, was I faithful?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ Matthew 6:33

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:39-42 

 

 

 

Proverbs 31: A Virtuous and Capable Wife

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.

Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes.

She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Proverbs 31:10-31 NLT

The Kindness Challenge: I was Mean

#JoinKindness

I’m on Day 11 of the 30 Day Kindness Challenge. The recipient of my supposed “kindness” is my husband.

Days 1-5: went pretty well. I was excited, figuring out the challenge, seeking ways to be kind, etc.

Days 6-7: were OK. I was busy preparing for a trip with my daughter and was doing laundry, making to-do lists for my husband, packing, etc. I did give my husband a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers sunglasses, which he seems to like (and looks really sexy in).  I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into being kind, but I wasn’t mean either.

Days 8-9: I was out-of-town. Sent a few nice text messages about missing him. Easy!

Day 10: I was tired from my Passport2Purity Getaway with my daughter. My husband had been up late at a golf tournament the night before. He got a speeding ticket. The house was a mess. I was not nice. First thing in the morning I complained about him. Then I complained to him. I did a lot of grumbling with a side of yelling. For some reason housework makes my irritation level rise about 200 degrees. I definitely didn’t say anything nice. (Though I did begrudgingly give him a pocket knife he had been wanting) Last night we went to a birthday party and I had been planning to compliment him in front of his friends . . . but that didn’t happen.

My lack of kindness – and my abundance of frustration – brought the whole mood of my house down. My kids started complaining and bickering. My husband pulled back and didn’t really talk to me the rest of the day. It was not a good day. I was not a good wife. And I set a horrible example for my kids.

Day 11: 7:30 a.m. Only my dog and I are awake (side note, I love my dog because no matter how I act she never gets upset with me). It is just me, the dog and my coffee. And Jesus. And the reminder that God’s mercies are new every morning. Thank goodness for that. I need a lot of mercy.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:21-23 

Once the footsteps start I am going to need to apologize for my lack of kindness and losing my temper. And ask for grace.

And I am going to need to come up with some pretty off-the-charts kind words and actions for today.

Lamentations 3-22.jpg

 

The Kindness Challenge: Respect

#JoinKindness

Speaking words of praise and affirmation seems simple on the surface. It is easy for me to say things like “I love you” and “You look nice” to my husband, but I might not be speaking the language he wants and needs to hear.

For the 30 Day Kindness Challenge I want to choose my words of affirmation/praise carefully and make sure they count.

I am reading “For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” by Shaunti Feldhahn.  Shaunti is also the author/inventor of the Kindness Challenge. For this book she conducted qualitative and quantitative research to find out what men really think and really want from women.

Shaunti found that 74% of men would rather feel “Alone and Unloved” than feel “Inadequate and Disrespected”.  Bottom line: Men need and want respect.

She also makes another significant point – most women want a man to love her unconditionally. I know I want my man to love me (and think I’m hot) even if I’ve gained 25 pounds, am getting gray hair and have sagging boobs. I want him to love me even when I nag, complain, don’t clean the house, yell at the kids, etc. I don’t expect anything less. He married me for better or for worse, and some days he definitely gets the “worse”. That is marriage. That is life.

On the other hand . . . and this is something I really struggle with . . . I don’t give him unconditional respect. I know the Bible repeatedly tells wives to respect their husbands. And it never gives the caveat, “if they earn it and deserve it.” Actually, the Bible says quite the opposite:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
1 Peter 3:1‭-‬2 NLT

Wow.

If I want to be a missionary to my husband and set a good example to my children then I really need to get a handle on this “respect” concept. But honestly, I don’t even know if I grasp what it looks like in practical terms. In America’s society there aren’t exactly a lot of role models of strong, successful women submitting to and respecting their husbands. Especially in an unconditional way. And a healthy, biblical way.

Shaunti gives some concrete examples in her book:

  • Conflict – if my man get’s angry during a conflict most likely it is because he feels disrespected. 80% of men said they feel disrespected by their wife during conflict. That is something to tune in to. If my husband and I are having a disagreement and he gets angry most likely it is because he feels disrespected. Of course the damage is already done, but hopefully I can be discerning enough to figure out what I said and change it for the future.
  • His Judgement – “A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions” Shaunti wrote about her findings. “No one wanted a silent wallflower (nor would I advocate becoming one!”), but many men wished their mates wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue  with their decisions all the time.” Thinking back, I see so many times when I do this to my husband for no reason, other than I want to prove I’m right. Even about super stupid stuff. Like if he sings the words to a song incorrectly I’ll google the lyrics and tell him the correct words.
  • His Abilities: Here I just need to keep my mouth shut or tell him I trust him. He doesn’t need me to give him advice on how to do everything . . . from proper mowing technique to how to handle his business to parenting.  Or if he is folding towels instead of just thanking him, I’ll also insert a helpful tip on the correct way to fold towels. Even when I am genuinely trying to offer advice or be helpful, he may see it as me not trusting his abilities. Shaunti had a great point: “The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself which is more important: being on time to the party or his feeling trusted? No contest”.
  • Shaunti found that 7 out of 10 men would rather have their wife notice and thank them for an action, rather than say “I love you”.  And not add a “but” to the end of the thank you.  Just “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen”. Not “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen, but you forgot to take out the trash.”
  • The majority of men take a “reminder” as his wife expressing disappointment.
  • Don’t put my man down in public, even if I am just teasing. I can wound him. Deeply.
  • Praise my husband in public. Brag on him.
  • Assume the best about him.

My goal for today is to be as thoughtful and reflective as possible when it comes to praising and affirming my husband. And outside of that, to keep my mouth shut. To a man, not saying anything negative goes beyond outright mean remarks. It means to keep my mouth shut – no “helpful” reminders or suggestions or corrections – for 30 days.

There was a great response from one of the survey takers in “For Women Only” who said, “You know the saying ‘Being every good man is a great woman’? Well that is so true. If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere. By contrast, very few men can do well at work or a home if their wives make them feel inadequate.”

P.S. Thanks to last year’s craze of loom bracelets I now have a lovely rubber bracelet on my wrist, handcrafted by my daughter, to remind me to be kind.

Proverbs 31-10‭-‬12.jpg