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 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Resurrection

Tomorrow we celebrate a Resurrection.

“Resurrection”: The act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.

As I’ve been studying Mary of Bethany – and her role in the Passion Week – there is another resurrection story I’ve heard time and time again, but for the first time I understood the significance of it as I tried to view it through the eyes of Mary.

Mary lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. Jesus was a close personal friend. Biblical scholars believe that Jesus stayed at their home when he was in Bethany.

I imagine that Mary knew that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Hanukkah, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to kill him, but He escaped when they tried to capture him and left the area.

A few months later Mary’s brother Lazarus was very sick.

What it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in that home, watching these three siblings who loved Jesus, deal with a tragic situation.

I can imagine Mary and Martha, in hushed tones, debating what to do:
– People in town want to kill Jesus
– But we need Jesus to come here to save Lazarus
– But what if Jesus comes to save Lazarus and the people who want to kill him find him?

Finally they sent word to Jesus “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

Did the sisters ever doubt that Jesus would come? Did they doubt He could save their brother? Or that He would?

Mary knew what is felt like to watch someone she loved dying. She knew what it was like to call out to Jesus for healing. She knew what it was like to wait for Jesus.

When Jesus heard about Lazarus’s sickness He said: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11: 4 – 8)

Jesus knew that a visit to Bethany would ultimately lead to His death. But He went anyways, because He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He also knew said that the sickness would not END in death. It didn’t end in Lazarus’s death and it didn’t end in Jesus’s death. It ended in God’s glory and our resurrection.

Imagine Mary, sitting in mourning with her friends and family and experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of her beloved brother. When Jesus arrived she left her friends and ran to Jesus and fell to His feet, sobbing. She cried out to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

What emotions might Mary have been experiencing at that moment?
– Hopelessness?
– Anger?
– Desperation?
– Fear for Jesus?
– Gratitude?
– Belief?

And then when Mary lifted her eyes from Jesus’s feet to His face, she saw His eyes glistening with tears.

Mary watched as Jesus wept.

And then she watched Jesus raise her brother from the dead. She watched her beloved brother, whose flesh had already begun to rot, walk out of the tomb.

And just like Jesus’s disciples had suspected, there were people who watched the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus and instead of believing in Jesus, they went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done and they began to plot to kill Jesus.

When Jesus was on the road to Bethany and saw Mary running to him and crying at His feet He already knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that in resurrecting Lazarus the plot for His crucifixion would begin. He knew that after His crucifixion, God would raise Him from the dead. And He knew that through His resurrection, all humankind would have the opportunity for resurrection: the act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.

Jesus knew that the one He loved was sick and even though it would lead to His death, Jesus made the journey to Bethany to save him.

And He made the journey for Martha, because He loved her.

And He made the journey for Mary, because He loved her.

And He made the journey to the cross for you. And He made the journey to the cross for me. Because He loves us.

#1 Tip for Sitting with Jesus

Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV):  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 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.”

Making time in my daily schedule for Jesus has always been difficult for me.  I’ve usually spent 10 minutes in the morning – reading the Bible or a devotional book and saying a quick prayer.

Checking it off my to-do list.

But then after reading about Martha and Mary something dawned on me.  My time with Jesus should be my MOST important thing.  I’ve known it, of course.  But it never sank in before.

Time with Jesus is more important than TV.  More important than Facebook.  More important than work.  More important than spending time with my husband.  More important than spending time with my kids.

My days have always been busy – getting kids ready for school, working 8-10 hours, helping kids with homework, trying to get in a little downtime . . . and I’m sure all women experience the same thing.  There isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done.

But here is the thing.  I need to make my time with Jesus my most important thing.  Seriously.  More important than eating.  More important than exercise.  More important than housework.

Which means something has to give.  I need to accept I won’t get it all done.

I have to choose to let some things go.

There is freedom in discovering that we need less clutter in our lives.  And more time with Jesus.

I challenge you  to decide to let something go.  And choose time with Jesus instead.  Carve out at least 20 minutes a day.  The more the better.

It will be life changing.  I promise.

Joshua 24:15 – New International Version (NIV):  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.