Lessons learned from Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary had been waiting 30 years. Thirty years earlier, an angel had come to her and told her that as a virgin, she would miraculously conceive God’s son. She was to name him Jesus and he would be given the throne of King David, and he would reign over Jacob’s descendants. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary’s response: “I am the Lord’s servant; may your word be fulfilled.”

Mary most likely experienced ridicule as an unwed, pregnant teen. Her fiance almost left her. She gave birth in a barn and then had to move multiple times to escape a king who wanted to kill her baby. She had experiences that she knew pointed to Jesus’ destiny, and she stored those things up in her heart.

I wonder what Mary experienced spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I wonder what she thought when Jesus followed Joseph’s footsteps in becoming a carpenter. Did she worry she had misunderstood something the angel had told her? Did she doubt? Was she relieved that his ministry hadn’t started, thinking about Simeon’s prophesy that a “sword would pierce her soul” or was she anxious for Jesus to show the world who he was?

After 30 years of waiting, things were starting to happen. First, Jesus was baptized by the son of one of Mary’s relatives, John, and God spoke from heaven during the baptism. Then, a few of John’s disciples left John to follow Jesus, and Jesus recruited a few more followers. The wheels were starting in motion.

Then there was a wedding. Mary and Jesus and his disciples attended. Mary noticed that they had run out of wine, and she saw the chance for Jesus to shine.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

John 2:3-5

Even though it wasn’t yet Jesus’ time, he obeyed his mother and turned the water into wine, performing his first miracle.

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:6-11

What lessons can I learn from this story?

  1. God is in Control: God had a plan for Jesus that had been in the works since the beginning of time. God had a plan for Mary. Jesus knew when his ministry should start and how. He knew the time and place. God also has a plan for my children, and He sees the bigger picture. One of my daughters is having a tough situation with a friend and it is eating me up, but God sees the bigger picture. Maybe there is something my daughter should be learning from this tough situation she is going through. Maybe there is something I should be learning. Maybe this is an opportunity and a blessing, rather than a curse. He loves my kids even more than I love them. So much he sent His son to come to earth, to be born to a virgin, and die for me and my kids. God has it under control. My job is to trust Him.
  2. It isn’t my job to try to “fix” everything for my children: I’m really struggling with this one right now. As I’m mentioned, one of my daughters is having a tough situation with a friend, and I want to jump in and fix everything. I hate seeing her hurting. But in reality, I can’t. I can’t control her friends. I can’t control her friends’ parents. And God never calls me to smooth the road for my kids or open doors for them or fix things for them. God commands me to train them up in the way they should go, to discipline them, and to teach them about Him. God’s commands should be my first concerns when it comes to parenting.
  3. Be Patient: God isn’t finished with me or my kids yet. Mary waited 30 years for her son’s ministry to begin. I imagine these were 30 years of praying and pondering, but being human, probably also doubting and wrestling with all the emotions that mothers feel. God knows the perfect timing. My job is to keep loving, keep praying, keep obeying. And to wait on Him.
  4. God is bigger than my mistakes as a mom: Jesus clearly stated that it wasn’t yet his time to begin his ministry, but in obedience to Mary, he started his ministry. No, it wasn’t the right time. Maybe there was another “start” that would have better, but God worked it out. Mary’s mistake as a mom didn’t derail Jesus’ ministry. It didn’t make God abandon His plan. God is bigger than my mess ups as a mom. He’s bigger than my sins, and temper tantrums, and poor timing and poor parenting. Regardless of what Mary did or didn’t do, Jesus still fulfilled his mission and died to save us.
Advertisements

Loving an Unbelieving Child

Jesus knows the experience of loving a child whose eyes are blind to the truth of the salvation he offers.

In Luke 19, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt, with crowds praising him and singing about the miracles he had done. He came up on a road between two towns called Bethphage and Bethany to a mountain ridge called the Mount of Olives. (If you are a visual person, I highly recommend checking out this video and these photos to get an idea of where Jesus was and what it looked like).

From the Mount of Olives, Jesus looked down at Jerusalem. Looking down the slopes he could see his beloved city, full of God’s chosen people. His heart was so full of love for his children, but also full of sorrow. He knew that salvation, and peace, and healing were were offered to them, free of charge. He also knew that they were rejecting the gift they were being offered. And that the consequence of that rejection would be their own destruction and death.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44

For all you moms out there whose hearts are breaking watching your children make bad decisions and reject Jesus, Jesus knows exactly how you feel. For all you dads who wish you could just fix things and open your kid’s eyes to see the truth, Jesus understands.

Jesus knows what it is like to share the truth in love and have it rejected. Jesus knows the pain of watching a child suffer and not being able to stop it because it is the child’s choice to make bad decisions. Jesus knows what it is like to be willing to sacrifice everything to save a wayward child.

He knows because he did it. He gave his life for Jerusalem. He gave his life for me. He gave his life for you. He gave his life for our children. He loved, sacrificed, and told the truth. He prayed and cried for his and our wayward children.

And he didn’t stop.

Moms and dads, don’t stop. Keep praying. Keep loving. Keep sharing. Take the hurt to Jesus. Take the love to your kids.

 

 

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 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 

 

Spiritual Leadership: A Mom’s Role

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, two things stood out to me:

  1. 1 Kings shows two kinds of leaders – leaders who followed God and did what was right in God’s eyes and leaders who did what was right in their own eyes and rejected God. And the people of Israel and Judah followed. When the king obeyed God, the people followed God. When the king followed other gods, the people followed other gods.
  2. Psalm 78 tells about the importance of teaching children about God.

I realize there is debate as to what a woman’s role is in terms of spiritual leadership in the house – especially if her husband chooses not to be a spiritual leader or if she is a single mom – but regardless of what a man is or isn’t doing in the house, a mom has a crucial role in shaping the next generation.

A Mom’s Role in the Spiritual Leadership of her Children

  • Reading and Teaching the Bible: As a mom, I need to be reading the Bible, meditating on it, studying it, memorizing it. And I need to be talking to my children about what the Bible says and what God is teaching me. 

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Grandmas: this applies to you as well.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— Deuteronomy 4:9 

  • Honoring their Father: I love my husband, but this struggle is SO real. I catch myself rolling my eyes behind his back, teasing him a little too much, complaining about him in front of my children. But how can I teach them to honor him, if I am not demonstrating it myself?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 

  • Loving your Children: This is a no-brainer right . . . but what is love? Love is patient. Love is not irritable. Again, the struggle is real! I’ve got teen and tween girls with hormones and attitudes, and it is summer, so they are together all day and frequently arguing. And they have an often-irritated mom!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13

And once again, I’m back to Jesus. The only way for me to be full of love, rather than irritation, is to be spending time with Jesus.

Also, I try daily to do something intentionally loving –  in each of their love languages – to show them love. For my youngest, it usually involves playing with her one-on-one for 20 minutes (“quality time”) and for my oldest it usually consists of an “act of service.” And it usually involves food since she is always hungry.

  • Praying for Them: Again, a no-brainer, but sometimes easier said than done. I’ve found it helpful to keep a prayer journal with a list of things to pray for my children:
    • Their walk with God
    • That they will make good friends and be good friends
    • For their future husbands and in-laws
    • That they will make good choices
    • For God’s protection of their bodies – for their physical, emotional, and mental health, for protection from accidents, and for them to honor God with their bodies

 

Being a mom isn’t easy, and along with everything else in life, I mess up, daily. But the blessing of children comes with a responsibility to teach them about God and set an example of living for Jesus. The only way I can do it is by clinging to Jesus and asking Him to live and love through me.

 

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

Passport to Purity

#PassportToPurity #Passport2Purity @DennisRainey @FamilyLifeToday

I’ve been offline for several days . . . creating memories, bonding, and having important talks with my almost 12-year-old daughter. We had a Passport2Purity Getaway.  I highly recommend for parents of 10-13 year old kids.

travel guide

Passport2Purity is a product created and sold by Family Life.  The package includes CDs, a parent guide and a student journal. In the CDs, Dennis and Barbara Rainey cover topics like peer pressure, the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, making wise decisions in dating, and puberty and sex. All from a biblical perspective.

My daughter was very apprehensive of the trip. She absolutely did not want to talk to me about sex. Before we left she told me “this trip is going to be worse than my 7th grade shots.”  But on the last CD she said “Oh no, this is like being on the last chapter of a great book.”

Not only is the information on the CDs great and presented in a fun, age-appropriate style; but the way they have the getaway organized makes for a very memorable trip.

Here is our itinerary and my recommendations:

  • I reserved a cabin at a state park about two hours away. This length of drive worked well for us, though I recommend finding a place to stop part way through the drive to complete Project One (you’ll need a flat table to do puzzles). Then you can finish more of the CD on the drive.
  • We left on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t start my shopping, preparing my projects, etc. until Wednesday morning. I DON’T recommend that! Read over the to-do and to-pack list at least a week in advance and start preparing.
  • For the puzzle project, instead of 100 piece puzzles (which I couldn’t find at Wal-Mart in my frazzled, last-minute shopping trip) I bought her a 1,000 piece puzzle. It got the point of the lesson across, but it also had pictures of dolphins, which she loves. We worked on the puzzle during some of the downtime. I did bring the puzzle box . . . I just kept it hidden until after the project was complete. Going forward, my plan is to take the puzzle out each summer and do it with her . . . and reminisce about the Passport2Purity Getaway. Or maybe we will finish the puzzle and I’ll frame it for her.
  • We didn’t eat out as there weren’t any restaurants nearby, but I packed foods that I knew she would like. (My healthy diet went completed out of the window as I gorged on powdered donuts and strawberry shortcake the entire time).
  • Thursday morning we listened to a CD – took a short hike – and listened to the next CD. Then we had lunch and headed to the pool. After an afternoon of swimming we went back to the cabin for more CDs, dinner and relaxing in front of the campfire.
  • I bought her a special gift to commemorate the weekend – a (lab created) ruby necklace and earring set. I found it for $49 at the Kay Jewelers Outlet. She hasn’t taken the necklace off since the trip and it looks beautiful on her.
  • I recently read The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman. Her top love languages are “Acts of Service” (by far), followed by “Words of Affirmation” and “Receiving Gifts”. I tried to incorporate all of these into every day of the getaway. I am also hoping to be more intentional about incorporating these into my daily life. If you are interested, you can have your teen take the quiz here to determine the best way to express love to him or her.
  • The Passport2Purity getaway is good for either boys or girls – there are different CDs and sections to listen to, depending on the sex.

I need to remember that my job as a mom is to:

  1. Love my daughter
  2. Pray for her
  3. Model a Christ-led life
  4. Equip her with knowledge and tools to make good decisions
  5. Encourage her in her walk with Jesus

I am not responsible for the decisions that she makes. She may choose to follow the advice of Dennis and Barbara Rainey and make good decisions about choosing friends, setting boundaries and dating. Or she may not. She may choose to love the Lord with all her heart and soul and seek his will, or she may treat God like a spare tire – only calling on him when she is in trouble and needs help (which is exactly how I treated him for 30+ years). I can’t control her decisions. I can’t control her heart.

But I can love her with all my heart, forgive her when she messes up, and keep pointing her toward Jesus.

mother and daugther-103311_1920.jpg

 

Stumbling (Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #2)

I don’t ever feel like I’ve got this motherhood thing down, but some days are worse than others.  I have moments when I pat myself on the back for handling a situation well . . . but then there are mornings like this morning when I wonder how much counseling my kids are going to need someday. Seriously.

I try to put safeguards in place. I try to have rules and consequences. I try to make sure they know I love them. I read plenty of parenting books. I pray for them. I read the Bible to them. I take them to church. I search for the balance between mercy and consequences.

There are many a days when life gets in the way of attentive and intentional parenting: Housework. Work work. Errands. Reality. A migraine. Emotions. I lose my temper. I don’t give my kids the time or attention they need. I am human.mother and daugther-863050_1920.jpg

Then there are other days when I feel like I am really on my A-game, yet still I watch my child making bad decisions. I catch her disobeying. And sometimes it isn’t just a little thing. Sometimes it is a big sin.

And I feel sick to my stomach.

But I have to remind myself: God is in control. He loves this kid more than I do. I will answer to God for my job as a parent and a wife . . . but she will answer to God for her own sin. I can shepherd her and guide her, but I can’t control her. She will make her own choices. I don’t answer to God for her choices.

I stumble. I fall. But if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I get back up.

She will stumble. She will fall.

And just like I am sure my heavenly Father aches for me when he watches me screw up; my heart breaks when my daughter makes bad choices.

My job is to be there for her; encouraging her to get back up. And reminding her to keep her eyes on Jesus.