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 





Transformation by Time Spent with Jesus

Everyone has sins they struggle with. On any given day, the main areas I struggle with are being patient, being respectful of my husband, not losing my temper, and controlling my tongue. And occasionally lust depending on the time of the month and if I happen upon a movie starring Channing Tatum, Idris Elba, or Zac Efron.

For years I thought, “I’m a Christian, so I shouldn’t struggle with sin so much. Why doesn’t God just take my sin and temptation away?” If God washes our sin away when we become saved then why do I end up gossiping on a regular basis? Why am I not overcoming sin?  Why am I still yelling at my kids? Why do I get so frustrated? Why am I not more like Jesus?

Then one Sunday in church I heard a word I’d heard a million times before, but for the first time, the concept stuck: Sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus . . . moving from a life of sin to a life that is holy. For the majority of people this isn’t an overnight thing, but a gradual daily transformation. Little by little. We become more like Jesus.

How does Sanctification happen? It doesn’t happen by saying a quick prayer or even going to church on Sunday. It happens by spending time with Jesus every day. Reading the Bible. Praying. Worshiping God. Memorize Bible verses and meditating on them. Fasting. That is all I need to do – keep my mind focused on Jesus and spend time with him every day. He’ll do the rest.

I’ve experienced this in my own life. I’m changing . . . ever so gradually. I still get mad. I still gossip. I still sin. But not as much. And the temptation isn’t as great as it used to be. And I can guarantee you I can’t take any credit for the changes in my attitude and behavior because I’ve tried to make changes myself and nothing worked long-term. I’ve gone to counseling, read self-help books, even joined support groups. Sure, I learned some helpful tools and had some accountability, but never experienced any deep heart transformation.

Until I started having coffee with Jesus every morning.

Then everything changed. Not overnight. Not anything noticeable to anyone but me (at first). But the old me has started dying. I leave a little piece of the old me behind every morning when I meet with Jesus. And I leave my daily time with Jesus with a little more of Him in me.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  John 17:17 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2 

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,  1 Peter 2:2

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, Deuteronomy 11:18-20 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:7-10

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Tools for Setting and Reaching Goals

Goal Setting: Resolutions, Traction and Progress Planner

I’m doing a something a little different this year for my resolutions/goals. Last year, my husband, girls and I, wrote out our resolutions on big sheets of paper using a vision mapping method I’d seen online (Blog post here). I reviewed the 2017 goals over the weekend and actually did a pretty good job of accomplishing the majority of them.

But this year, I want to go even bigger.

Here are the tools I’m using for setting and reaching my short-term and long-term goals:

  1. Progress Planner: I did some research on planners and finally chose this one based on the price ($19.99 vs. some of the planners that were $50+), reviews and format. It isn’t based on a calendar-year but instead based on two, 90-day periods. Also, the main focus isn’t day-to-day calendar items, but what I need to do daily to accomlish one major goal in 90 days. Find it here on Amazon. I started using the Progress Planner on January 1. So far: liking it. I like the layout, instructions, and daily accountability. Image result for progress planner
  2. Traction: Several months ago I read Traction by Gino Wickman. One of my clients is implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System outlined in the book. I’ve enjoyed watching their progress and seeing the success of the operating system. The website for EOS has free tools you can download. For my long-term and short-term goals, I used the EOS Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO). While this tool is mainly for business, I used it to focus on my personal Core Values, 10-Year Target, and 3-Year Picture. Traction/EOS works in 90-day time-frames, so fits perfectly with my Progress Planner. To determine my personal 10-Year Vision, I asked myself the following questions:
    • If I inherited $100 million today, what would I do with the rest of my life? What would I spend my time doing? How would I spend my days if money wasn’t an option?
    • If I found out I had one month left to live, how would I spend the next 30 days? What would be the most important things I’d want to accomplish?
    • What is my “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG)? Taken from the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, this is again more of a business concept, but can be used for personal life as well. The idea is to come up with a big, bold long-term goal that is action-oriented and excites me.
  1. CliftonStrengths Assessment or Gallup StrengthsFinder: I’ve taken my assessment before, but I pulled out the binder of my strengths and reviewed what I should be doing to optimize my strengths. If you haven’t taken your assessment, I recommend it. More info here. Also, if it is in your budget to hire a Strength Coach, I also recommend. I used a coach previously and it was very beneficial in helping me understand my strengths and how to use them to the best of my ability.

Armed with these tools, I headed to the coffee shop on New Year’s Eve afternoon for a three-hour planning session. Taking this time was important to get away from distractions and dream, pray, conceptualize, reflect, and let my imagination take charge.

One important step in the “Progress Planner” system is to set a 90-day goal and to tell others about it for accountability. My goal is focused on my blog: To write 28 meaningful blog posts in 90 days, mainly focused on what I’m learning in the Bible or how I’m learning to spend more time with Jesus. 

Over the next 90 days, I’ll keep you updated on my progress and how the “Progress Planner” journal is working. I’ll also keep you updated on how I’m doing on my goal of 28 meaningful posts by March 31. Feel free to keep me accountable and also share any goal-keeping tools you have found useful.

Thanks for reading and for your feedback!

2018 Bible Reading Plan

Interested in reading through the Bible in 2018?

Join the Facebook Group here:  This is a place to be encouraged, share what you are learning, and keep motivated. In just 15 minutes a day – reading or listening – you can complete the entire Bible in a year.

Reading Plan: Found here
Start Date: January 1, 2018

I promise . . . this will be a life-changing journey!

What Matters Most

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her,“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

There is only one thing worth being concerned about: knowing and loving Jesus

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work hard and do my best in other areas of life – I should. But my #1 priority should be spending time with Jesus and getting to know Him better. Falling in love with Jesus. If I’m not spending time with him every day I need to re-prioritize.

This lesson took me 39 years to figure out.

Up until a few years ago, I’d try to read the Bible regularly, but I’d lose momentum or get distracted. I’d do Bible studies and try different devotional books, but I’d lose interest. My time reading the Bible and praying was very inconsistent. I was swamped with work and marriage and parenting . . . and Jesus got my leftover time and energy.

Then a perfect storm of things happened:

  1. My work-life had become unmanageable. I was working 60+ hours a week, traveling all the time and completely stressed out.
  2. I read the book The Divine Mentor and it was like a lightbulb went off: devotional books are fine, but the most important book – really the only book I need – is the Bible.
  3. I applied “S.O.A.P.” while reading the Bible. I don’t do it by the book, but I keep a journal with me and write done what I am learning in the Bible. This helps keep me focused and on track.
  4. My small group at church discussed the idea of reading through the Bible in a Year.

This perfect storm led to a breakthrough for me. I put my devotionals away. I opened my Bible. I signed up for a “Read through the Bible” in a year plan on Bible.com (I use the corresponding YouVersion app). I started going to bed earlier so I could get up an hour earlier and have an hour of peace and quiet to spend with Jesus before my family woke up. Eventually, I let all my clients go and made some major career changes.

The change has been amazing.

I’m far from perfect and realize I never will be on this earth, but Jesus is changing me. I still get stressed. I still lose it and yell at my kids (I did this morning when my daughter refused to get ready for school). But I don’t get nearly as stressed as I used to. I don’t get as angry as often. I feel peace. I feel love. I’m a better mom and wife. I know that God is in control. And I know that the time I invest in my relationship with Jesus is the most important investment I’ll ever make and it can never be taken from me.

Slowly but surely, by the grace of God, I’m being more like Mary.



Am I sinning on Facebook?

They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Titus 3:2

My siblings and I quarreled frequently over petty things like a brother having his leg touching “my seat” in the car; a little sister touching my stuff; a sibling “looking” at me (seriously, how is that an offense? My girls get mad about the same thing!).

I’ve noticed in my #DailyBibleReading a command to “avoid quarreling” today as well as a few days ago, so I’m giving this seemingly simple – even childish – concept a bit more thought and study.

  • The original Greek for that verse is: ‘To Be “Amachos” (peaceable) and “Epieikēs” (gracious).’
  • Other verses translated “Quarreling” from the Greek word  “Eris” (altercation, strife, contentious disposition).
  • Strife: “Angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues, conflict” (Dictionary.com)

The Bible is full of strife. There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot’s livestock. The Israelites fought among themselves. There was quarreling in the early church.

Today is no different. Read the Facebook comments on any post on a hot topic. Over the last two days, my Facebook feed has been full of posts about NFL players kneeling at games, Donald Trump, etc. Reading through the posts and comments is pretty depressing, no matter what side you are on. Hate and anger dominate so much of discussion  . . . regardless of the topic.

I’ve made comments or occasionally posted to stir up discussion or make a point . . .  but does it ever lead to peace? In the Bible, “strife” is listed along with sins like murder and sexual promiscuity.

Paul is pretty clear that strife/quarreling are not godly: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 (italics/bold added for emphasis)

Christians are to be known by their love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. We should avoid altercation and strife. This is a real struggle – how do I stand up for my beliefs and/or influence public discourse without causing strife? How do I fight injustice without causing quarrels? By even writing this blog post am I adding to the strife in the world?

As a Christian, how am I called to respond? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have at least one. I am called to Love.

What is the loving response?

  • To the NFL player kneeling during the anthem? Love Him
  • To Donald Trump cursing at the players? Love Him
  • To the people on Facebook bashing Donald Trump? Love Them
  • To the people on Facebook protesting the NFL? Love Them

My battle isn’t against flesh and blood and my calling isn’t to judge or to solve all the world’s problems. My two greatest commands are to Love God and Love Others. And my Facebook activity should reflect that.