Dear Moms, It’s okay to be unremarkable.

I’m so glad I didn’t have the internet when my kids were little. The internet has become a measuring stick for young moms that constantly tells them that they aren’t measuring up. It hammers away at your soul, a photo, a click, a comment at a time.

I know that if the internet was available to me back then, I would have felt crushed under its weight, because the photoshopped images are just too much perfection to try to replicate.

I have a message for young moms, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: You will never thrive in life if you try to be remarkable in every area of life. You’ll sink, because it’s too much weight to carry.

unremarkable

Don’t believe the lie of Pinterest– that every aspect of your life must be remarkable.

When I was a kid, the women around me were known for their “one really good thing.” It was like their little badge of honor, and we were all willing to ooh and ahh and revel in that one thing.

My great-grandmother was excellent at making Italian food. From the moment I stepped into her house, I was greeted with the smells of onions hanging overhead and garlic simmering in the pan.

My grandmother had a wonderful garden when we were young. We’d snap the beans off the poles and eat them. The smell of the grapes in her arbor transports me back to my childhood to this day. She was also known as our sleepover grandmother because we all begged to sleep there and play with her little puzzles, and drink hot cocoa and eat blueberry muffins.

That’s no longer the case in our digital age. We can’t just be really good at making fresh salsa or baking bread: we must grow our own organic food, have a house that is way out of our means and looks like it should be on the cover of a magazine, our teeth must be perfect, and clothes up to the minute. Our kids need to be ready for Yale at the age of seven and they must all be athletic, musical, and Mary Poppins-ish—practically perfect in every way.

It’s plastic, and fake, and crushing, to both the child and the mom.

I spoke with an iron-sharpening-iron friend this week about life. We spoke of heart ache and real life and the hurts that are inevitable in a very fallen world. We spoke of embracing obscurity in a world that promotes fame, and of doing the big things which turn out to be the little things after all. We spoke of pursuing faithfulness locally, especially when it’s unseen.

“The world tells us we need to be exceptional, when we really need to be faithful right where we are,” were her wise words.

Isn’t that what we all need to hear shouted from the rooftops?

Isn’t faithfulness in the little things, the local things, what really matters?

Where has God placed you? Look around you. Are you in a room full of little kids? Well, don’t despise this chance to be “missional” because this is where God has called you.

What does being missional in your home look like?

It looks like brushing and braiding your daughter’s hair and taking time to add the touches she wants.

It looks like being present right where you are, and making life “special” for those in your home, and not just for company.

And it looks a lot like faithfully tidying your home to make it pleasant for those who live under your roof, serving meals with loving touches to the people you love the most, and living a kind, quiet, peaceable life right where you are.

It means teaching those chubby cheeked kids about God.

It doesn’t matter what your facebook friends think about how great your vacation was or how nice your home is.

Our goal cannot be to impress others with our lives, but to imprint God’s ways of walking in love into our child’s heart.

I don’t know about you, but I want the people closest to me to love me, not because I can do anything for them, but because they’ve chosen to love me with all of my flaws and failings. And isn’t that what everyone wants in the end, to know that they are 100% loved by their people? The three tiered birthday cake does not necessarily speak love, even if all the other Pinterest moms are making it. Especially if you are irritated and frustrated trying to duplicate it. A simple chocolate sheet cake made with love and served with a smile will do the job better.

My youngest daughter is extremely perceptive. She has super thick hair like me and there have been many frustrating mornings where we try to get the snarls out of her hair. Many times there are tears because getting out the tangles hurts. It’s frustrating to both of us and it’s part of our morning routine that we both hate.  My little girl watches my facial responses as I pick up the brush to help her untangle. She watches to read me, to see if I think she’s a pain to need the help, or if I’m pleased to help her. I’ve made the conscious effort to smile and talk to her while we brush her hair because she’s at that awkward age where she’s trying to figure out how others perceive her, and if they like her. And If your own mother acts like you are a pain in the neck, what message does that imprint about their worth on their hearts?

Aren’t we all like little girls, trying to read our own worth in the faces of others? Isn’t this why we are so drawn in by this Pinterest stuff?

The truth is this: God loves you. He’s remarkable, so you don’t need to be. You’re already loved and accepted. You don’t need to seek for approval that you already have.

In a disconnected world, where people post to social media to impress people they barely know, and where we measure our motherhood and worth by glossy graphics and Pinterest collages, we’d all benefit by simply dwelling well within our own borders to thrive there.

If you are feeling a little unremarkable by the world’s standards this morning, that’s okay. We don’t need to be exceptional. We need to be faithful in our little tasks. God is God, and He put you where He wants you.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

 

Thoughts on Waiting Well {When You Hate to Wait}

Thank you so much for praying for my niece, Addy. Her latest update is here and now all we can do is pray and wait and see if her spine straightens enough for the second surgery.

Waiting has been on my mind lately since we’ve been doing so much of it.

I’ve been thinking about what waiting is good for, and how to wait well when you really hate it and are 100% unable to change your situation.

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In a perfect world, we wouldn’t wait. The cashier at the grocery store would be focused and quick, the doctor would see my kids at the pre-determined appointment time and not a minute later. The UPS delivery would happen on the day they scheduled, fast food would be fast, and the repair man would come in the two hour window he promised.

Having to wait in a restaurant or in a line for long periods of time is frowned upon in our fast-paced, crazy busy culture. We equate movement with productivity, and waiting to inefficiency, bad service, and wasting our precious time.

(I’m not sure that all of our fast paced efficiency has benefited us. Has it made us kinder, more attentive neighbors? And I’m not sure what we did with the time we saved by hurrying?)

Maybe we’re mature enough to forbear a little inconvenience on our time in the grocery line or at the doctor’s office, but how do we wait when the trial goes on longer than we’d ever imagined and the issues are serious, like waiting for a spine to straighten, a cancer-free report, a wayward child to come home, a relational trial to be over, financial relief, or for someone entangled in life-dominating sin that affects you every day to get over it already, learn their lessons, clean up their act, and grow up? Do we despair or try to control the situation?

James reminds us to “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3)

I want the patience, and so do you, but usually we want to by-pass that trial part that brings the patience.

How do we change our mindset about waiting?

Elisabeth Elliot gives this insight: “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”

Waiting should realign our will to God’s. It gives us time to grow, and is a necessary dormancy, a season of rest, like a God-given time to learn, take in, draw closer, and rejuvenate our spirit,  like the ground as it rests in winter tucked under a blanket of snow.

Crop rotation is an important farming principle. The ground needs rest in order to produce higher yield. The soil’s life-giving minerals and nutrients are increase by resting so that in due time, a bud will break through the cold sod, bearing all the new life that was hidden below the ground.

Wouldn’t we benefit more if we stopped wrestling with God’s timetables, and embraced His sovereignty, and with eyes toward heaven willingly lay dormant–not in a depressed state– but in an eyes-toward-heaven, receiving state, like a newborn-babe-taking-in-milk kind of nourishment state.

Waiting reminds us that we are dust-made creatures who are dependent on the Creator.

It is God who works in us and through us, and His times for growth and change are His business. And His timetables for change for others are His business as well. Our business is to submit to the wait, be of good courage, expect Him to do what is best, and let Him give the increase.

The inconvenience of waiting teaches us patience, a virtue that our crazy-busy world could use a little bit more of.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Ps. 27:14

 

 

Interview with Karen Ehman and a Keep.It.Shut Giveaway

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER AND WE HAVE A WINNER. CONGRATULATIONS, BERNADETTE V! I’LL BE EMAILING YOU SHORTLY! :)

Today, we have an interview with KAREN EHMAN, a writing friend and hospitality kindred spirit about her new book Keep.It.Shut. Woo hoo!

Karen’s book A Life That Says Welcome is one of my all-time favorites and her super easy yeasty crescent roll recipe is now my old standby as well. (pg. 145)

IMG_3580If you’ve never read it, consider adding it to your hospitality library.

But, I digress, because today we’re here to talk about her new book Keep.It.Shut, a book about using our words wisely. And not just WHAT we say, but the WAY in which we say them.

 

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Here are a few great thoughts from the book:

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“God is patient. He doesn’t fly off the handle in anger. His love never runs out. His faithfulness never takes a vacation day. And God’s Son knew how to impart grace when he spoke while here on earth: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” Luke 4:22″

“When we flip-flop these two commands—being slow to listen and quick to speak—it often leads to the third part of that verse: we are quick to become angry.[sic] speaking too soon combined with not listening leads to conflict–and conflict leads to anger.”

“If we want to avoid offending our friends–or committing any number of verbal sins–we need to control our lips. And taking a first step can be simpler than you might imagine. When we sense the Holy Spirit telling us that things are starting to go downhill, we can simply say, “I’m sorry. I’m talking too much.”

There are just too many great quotes in this book to mention, so without further ado…let’s get started. :)

Sarah: When I think of Karen Ehman, I naturally think hospitality, family traditions, etc. What experiences prompted you to write Keep.It.Shut?

Karen: Having my mouth get me in so much trouble over the decades of my life! Seriously. It is the old case of any strength carried to an extreme becoming a weakness. I enjoy talking. But I let it get out of hand often. And when it does, I have often found myself in a heap of trouble.
Sarah: What hope would you give to the woman who has had a lifelong struggle with foolish/sinful speech patterns? What gospel hope could you offer?
Karen: Christ redeems and makes all things new. That even applies to our words! When we are intentional to follow his example and to be quick to ask forgiveness when we do sin with our mouths, we can start to form new habits and patterns over time. Then, instead of constantly using our mouths in a way that is not pleasing, we can begin to see that happen only every once in a while as the habit of our speech becomes more godly.
Sarah: Struggling with words is something we all struggle with to some extent or another. And then there are some women who seem to blurt anything that comes into their mind like a verbal drive by shooting. I have a friend whose mother in law has no “filter” and it can be hurtful. I know we’re not responsible for the behavior of others, but what  do we need to know about these women in order to be more compassionate to them and love them well?
Karen: Believe the best about someone before we assume the worst. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They mean well, their mouth just often misfires. It helps for us to remember that, although we might not regret our words as often as someone else, we too have an area of our life where we tend to trip up in sin. Having grace helps us to wipe the slate clean in our relationships with others so we can continue to relate without negative baggage from the past.
Sarah: How can young moms train their kids to be careful with their speech?
Karen: By modeling it. By asking forgiveness for our mama mouth when we blow it. And we will blow it! We don’t want our children to think we are perfect and that we never send in what we say. We want them to see a mom who is striving to be Christ like in her speech but who also knows where to go when she blows it. She goes to God and she goes to the person she has offended, even if it is one of her children.
Thank you so much, Karen, for such great advice!
Now, you can enter to win a copy of Keep.It.Shut. Giveaway ends Tuesday. I hope you win! :)

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*Post contains affiliate links to Amazon. I received Keep.It.Shut free to review. All opinions are my own.

Thoughts from the Sally Clarkson Own Your Life Webcast

First off, today’s my youngest’s 12th birthday! We’re celebrating by a special lunch and shopping.

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Last night I watched Sally Clarkson’s webcast for her new book Own Your Life. (There are big giveaways on her blog including a trip to one of her Whole Heart Mom Intensives! How fun would that be!?)

I’ve really benefitted from her wisdom over the years in the homeschooling arena of life and I appreciate her zeal and intentional approach to parenting. And although we would not be in complete agreement in several areas, I’ve learned so much from her over the years and thank God that she gets her “hands dirty” and serves others in the deep areas of our soul, instead of staying on the “safe” surface.

I’ve not read Own Your Life yet, so I can’t speak about it intelligently. But there were some great truths in the book endorsement webcast that resonated with me.

Crystal of Money Saving Mom said that women should take time to do what refreshes your soul so you can come back and serve your family well. YES. I couldn’t agree more. The strain becomes obvious to everyone around you. I am a much better person all around when I take time to do things I love: lunch with friends, write, paint, and look at beautiful things, be it teacups, neatly stacked ribbons or freshly laundered antique linens in an antique shop.

Crystal also mentioned that having a circle of “close friends” is imperative. She qualified these friends: they speak truth into your life.

So often, people only want you to hear the good. She appreciates it when people notice and tell her when she’s going the wrong way. These are truly the rarest and best types of friend. “Friends” who can’t/won’t receive criticism or really any negative feedback without feeling persecuted are not friends at all. We are wise to cultivate the true friendships, where mutual respect and truth reins. You can judge a true friend by the way they accept criticism from you and by how happy they are for you when you succeed, and vice versa!

From Angela of Loving God Greatly: First off, does she not have the most contagious smile? She kept bringing it back to “Get into the Word”–such great encouragement.

From Sarah Mae of SarahMae.com: You don’t need permission to step out and do what God calls you to do and is clearly giving you a driving passion to do. God does give us the desires we should have when we are walking in step with His word. I love this about Sarah Mae–this past year she taught by what she didn’t do, and that was to blog. She poured her life into a daughter she felt was struggling a bit, and by her online silence, set an example for many. I love how she left public ministry for her sweet daughter, yes, I do.

Anyway, if you want to enter to win goodies, including this book, head over to Sally Clarkson.com

Would You Pray for Addy?

Today, I simply want to ask you to pray for my sister, Hannah, and her daughter, Addy. If you’ve read here at all, you know a little bit about Addy’s journey. With all of her difficulties, she is one of the happiest, funniest kids I have ever met and is often the life of our family parties because her humor is hysterical.

Addy

Some history for those of you who don’t know:

If you don’t know Addy, her story is here: CaringBridge 

I’ve praised my sister’s faith during trials by sharing a bit of her story here.

I’ve told you what every parent needs to know before seeking medical attention if you have a special needs child, and about how Children’s Hospital in Boston failed Addy because of Code Slow.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

Thy Will be done

I’m just telling you that my mom-heart is praying for a successful surgery and that Addy will walk again.

Somehow, when I pray the fragile words, “on earth as it is in heaven” I’m forcing myself to see the connection between the two places that I miss when life is trial free.

Trials give us eyes to see life as it really is: fragile, dear, precious, connected to eternity. Like dew sparkling on a singular spider web, we catch a glimpse of the connection between heaven and earth when we acknowledge that God envelopes both, controls both, and oversees both. And we’re not so scared to pray “Thy will be done.”

A word about praying that comforts me: I can pray in Jesus name.

If you’ve grown up in a Christian home and have prayed this way since infancy, this may seem like ho-hum news. We don’t always realize that it’s a privilege to use His name because we’ve never known anything else and were never taught the significance. “In Jesus name” can become like the closer–like a “sincerely yours” scribbled mindlessly on the end of a letter.

It’s honestly a privilege and a trust given to believers and this is how I like to think about it:

When I was a child, I was proud of the fact that my father was not only a good and godly man but an expert in his field, one of the areas most knowledgeable cranberry growers. As his daughter, I learned from observation that people knew him and respected him, so when he gave me his “permission” to use his name, as in “Go tell them to fill the car up with gas and just charge it to Larry Harju,” I had no qualms about ever having any problems. As his daughter, I was entitled to the respect he had earned in many areas. He trusted me and gifted me permission to use his name (or credit card!).

Praying in Jesus name assumes sonship and alignment with His heart and will. Jesus is entrusting you to ask on His behalf, like saying “You and I are one in purpose. You ask the Father.”

I often think about that when I do things, {i.e. pray, minister, work} in “Jesus” name. It’s an awesome gift that’s entrusted to us and one that we cannot, in good conscience, abuse.

I am praying that God’s will would be done. I trust that God has all of our best interests in mind.

Would you pray for Addy as well? And ask your churches to pray?

Thanks so much, friends.

The Immersion Bible Study Plan (And A Printable)

Yesterday I talked about a few of my resolutions for 2015, which you all know I hold loosely. I told you how I picture entering the New Year as Israel standing on the side of the Jordan river, about to enter the Promised Land—new phases, and new promises to grasp hold of.

If I could encourage you to have one resolution–a lifelong resolution–it would be to study your Bible. If you don’t have a plan, now is the perfect time to begin.

Immersion Bible Study

There are so many great Bible Reading Schedules available online. My friend Kara has a page of resources here..

This year I’m using the Immersion Method outlined here by John MacArthur.  He states:

First, I begin with reading the Bible. That seems obvious, but quite frankly, it’s where many people fail. Too many Christians are content with a second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They read books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. Books are good, but collateral reading can never replace the Bible itself.

Studying the Bible is more than reading a passage once and consulting a commentary. That’s studying the ideas of another man. (Although commentaries are super helpful for many things!)  For more info on how to study the Bible accurately, I highly suggest Jen Wilken’s Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.

The immersion method is about saturating your mind for a season with one particular passage.

Here’s how it goes:

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what’s in that book. Write out on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you’ll begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you’ll develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

John MacArthur 

I always benefit from this type of study and I know you will too! We use this method on a smaller scale with our teen youth group to get them ready for Bible Quizzing. Also, over the years, I’ve used this method to study books I needed to know more about (Ephesians, James, Philippians, Titus, etc…) and it really has helped me gain a better understanding of each book as a whole.

I’ve decided to read each NT book 10-20X (such a compromiser, I know. Sorry to disappoint, Dr. MacArthur!) from shortest book to longest per this article, “How to Change Your Mind” by Joe Carter (read it! excellent!). I’ve made a PRINTABLE {Immersion Bible Reading Plan}to stick in my Bible to help me keep track. Feel free to use.

It may take you well over a year, maybe even 2 or 3 years, especially if you have little kids. If the thought of committing to the entire NT is overwhelming, choose a book and start there. Something is always better than nothing. I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed. Take it in small chunks.

Your turn: Did you choose a reading schedule? What’s worked for you? What advice would you give to younger moms who don’t have chunks of time but want to get into God’s word?

Guest Post and My Sorta Resolutions

Happy New Year! First order of business is to tell you that I am guest posting at Overcomer Outreach talking about all the possibilities a new year presents and how to walk into the  future with confidence, while taking “possession” of all the blessings we have in Christ.

Several readers have asked about my goals, and more specifically, what Bible readying plan/books I’m reading this year. I’ve told you before that I’m not a huge New Year’s resolution maker. I do have areas I’d like to change and several goals, so here are my “sorta” resolutions:

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Bible Reading and Study. I’m using the immersion method to study the Bible this year in order to get a better grasp on each book instead of reading through in order. This means that I’ll take a book and read it about 20 times and then move on. I started last week and can already tell that I will benefit greatly from this method. I’ll share the books I’m planning to read in another post.

Family. Meeting the needs of my family, means giving them the tools they need to grow, which translates to love, guidance, meals, time, orderly home, a listening ear, support, or whatever else. These are my people and I love them! :)

Learn. I have several topics I want to learn more about: painting light in watercolor, photography, understanding essential oils, the process of finding a literary agent and submitting a manuscript, web design and more. I’m thankful for all of the online resources I have at my disposal for these tasks!

Friendship. I have several friends that I meet with on a regular basis for Christian growth and encouragement. We sometimes read a book together or talk through topics relevant to Christian living. I’m purposing to spend more time with these women. They are such gifts!

Blog. Encouraging other women with this blog has been such a blessing to me. I don’t follow many “blogging” tricks to gain traffic and build exposure, like using shocking headlines or talking about controversial things, so as far as blogging goes, I’m kinda hokey and unconventional. I don’t even read a lot of blogs, truth be told. I mostly think of what I want my daughters to know someday and write it here. I’m amazed at how God has used a simple diary of days to encourage other women to live for Him. I will continue freelance writing and see where the Lord leads.

Priorities. We lead a busy life. This means that I have to cut out the extras to make room for what we consider the “best” for us. Peter and I did pretty well at this last year, and I hope to use the same method this year.

We’ll most likely travel to see Rebekah graduate college, to attend a conference for Youth Ministry Staff, and a family vacation.

Whatever comes in 2015, I know that God goes before us. I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. My prayer is that I would walk in the light of His presence, love the people around me well, and be faithful to obey His word without compromise. I know I can trust Him to work out the details of my life. 

What about you? Have you made resolutions? What is your prayer this year for your family?

Gospel Hope When You Feel Like A Failure.

We’re coming to the close of 2014, and now is the time when many evaluate the past year to set goals and make changes for the new year.

If I’m not careful, this simple exercise can either lead me to feel proud of my accomplishments or, more commonly, to despair over failures, real or perceived.

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I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs this year. I can think of times that I’ve missed opportunities to speak for the Lord, said words I wish I hadn’t, and had moments of failure as a wife and mother.

I’ve majored on minors, been impatient, let emotions get the better of me, slacked on things that needed to be done. I’ve flat out neglected my devotions on days and allowed busyness to steal my joy. I’ve served without heart, and have barely tolerated people I should have loved.

In short, in 2014, I was a sinner. Maybe you’ve had your share of failures as well. I want to give you several reasons to hope when you reflect and see failure. Gospel hope, friends.

1. 1 John 1:9 is still in the Bible. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We serve a forgiving and patient God who knows our weakness, and that we are but dust, and loves us anyway.

2. I am “in Christ” and my standing “in Him” is not dependent on my works at all.  The Bible calls all my good works “filthy rags” which amount to nothing. Jesus lived a perfect life in my place, and His righteousness was credited to my account. Justified: Just as if I had never sinned. Just as if I’d always obeyed. All I can say is thank you, Lord!

3. God’s love is not dependent on our performance or failure. We don’t have to “qualify” for His love. Even in failure, God loves us and wants us to draw near to Him.

4. God uses imperfect people. Don’t let a day or week of failure freeze you from pressing onward. There are so many people around you who need to see the love of God through you. You can be the hands and feet of Christ to someone. Don’t let condemning thoughts stop you. Grace is for sinners for saving faith and for daily living!

5. When I am unfaithful, He is faithful. 

I love this passage from Spurgeon:

You fell in Adam; did he cease to love you? No; he became the second Adam to redeem you.

You sinned in practice, and brought upon your head the condemnation of God; you deserved his wrath and his utter anger; did he then forsake you? No!

He sent his minister after you; you despised him; he preached the gospel in your ears; you laughed at him; you broke God’s Sabbath, you despised his Word. Did he then forsake you? No!

And at last he arrested you by his grace, he humbled you, he made you penitent, he brought you to his feet, and he forgave you all your sins.

Since then, has he left you? You have often left him; has he ever left you?

You have had many trials and troubles; has he ever deserted you? Has he ever turned away his heart, and shut up his bowels of compassion? No, children of God, it is your solemn duty to say “No,” and bear witness to his faithfulness.

I can attest to God’s faithfulness and my own fickleness. I’ve had times of “leanness” in my soul” and didn’t desire Him or feel like praying.

I’ve had days when I wanted to be served and resented serving others.

What about you? As you reflect, are you discouraged by your failures?

Let me encourage you to run to Christ at the start of this new year. There you’ll find grace and mercy. Repentance is a beautiful “turning around” moment where we agree with God when He tells us who He is and who we are.

Friends, we are His beloved. However flawed and sinful, He loves us.

THAT is what gives you the courage to go to Him, move in close, and talk to Him. Even when you don’t know what to pray or what to say, do it anyways. He’ll pick you up at the first sign of distress. Moms, you know how quickly you’ll pick up your whimpering baby who can’t fully communicate their needs. You pick them up at their first “whaa!”  God’s the same way. He’ll help us because His heart is for us and He loves us.

And that’s good news in my book.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary’s secret for peace {for all of us.}

Do you find peace elusive? Do circumstances dictate your mood? Does the behavior (or misbehavior) of others rattle you and threaten to steal your joy?

On what does your happiness depend?

One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that peace is not dependent on circumstances when you are in Christ. When my peace is threatened, I know my focus is on the wrong things: problems, injustices, situations.

Getting alone with my Bible and some time with the Lord is really the needed re-calibration for my anxious heart. “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.”

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Perfect peace.

One of my favorite examples from scripture, as you already know, is the humility of Mary.

Mary exemplifies a peace filled heart.

Mary’s world was turned upside down and we see her in a state of surrender. Angel appears, news delivered: You’re going to deliver the Messiah.

Peace. Belief. Surrender.—>And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Mary was living in a time when women had few rights. She was not master of her own destiny. She was dependent on God and she knew it. She called herself a servant–one who does the will of another.

Mary had few resources. She didn’t have riches or influence or people in high places that could get her out of a fix.

It’s easy to romanticize the manger scene with a soft-focused nostalgia. But think about Mary in her material state, flesh and blood, pregnant and uncomfortable with no where to give birth after traveling on a donkey to get to her birthing room, which turns out is no where, because there was no room for them. Plan B: Give birth in a stable on the ground.

Picture her giving of herself in order to give life to another, like every mother does. Her delivery wasn’t sterile or pain free. Shaking, sweating, panting, cold, hot, writhing in pain, holding her breath, frantic to survive another contraction and hoping the excruciating pain would soon be over. Her attitude on the dirt floor and hay bed of a birthing room: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”

When shepherds interrupted the scene to see the newborn, and people were invading their space, chattering on and on about the angels and the stars, about the news, and why they were there…

with all that noise and confusion after you just gave birth.in.a.stable.

and we see that Mary is not joining in with the noise and confusion, and is not agitated or demanding her space or rights, but is simply quiet. At rest. Pondering. Unaffected by the outward circumstances. She knew her God and she simply trusted Him. “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

We see very little of Mary during the Lord’s 33 years on earth. We assume she did what normal mothers do. Night after night she nursed baby Jesus. She changed diapers, rocked, burped Him, cleaned a home, made meals, swept floors, cared for Joseph. Nothing spectacular by the world’s standards. Just faithful care for the people around her in her own little sphere of influence. But when we do see her, she was doing the right thing, and following the teachings of God. She followed Joseph when he was warned in a “dream” to flee to Egypt. We don’t see any recorded resistance to Joseph’s leadership. Then, years later, she was faithfully bringing the Lord to the temple when he was 12. Before Jesus first miracle, we see her instructing the servants to “do whatever He tells you.” Her steadfast heart was the same. She still saw herself as a servant of the Lord and trusted in Him.

And this is the secret to our peace as well. We need to see ourselves as servants of the Lord, to do what He commands, to walk where He leads, to serve in humility where He puts us.

Your life may seem mundane and maybe you are doing small things by the world’s standards. You may be obscure and poor and hidden. Maybe you are changing a baby’s diaper, or maybe caring for an elderly parent. And while you’ll never receive recognition for these things, an nobody seems to notice or care, God does see and notice. In fact, you are His servant doing His bidding right there as you feed that baby in the middle of the night, and as you calm that anxious loved one with Alzheimers.

Mary taught us that the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, are to be embraced as “unto the Lord” and as “from the Lord.” This should teach us to say, with Mary, “Yes, Lord. Anything. Everything. Whatever you think is best for me.”

Mary held the “The Prince of Peace” in her physical arms. We have something better: We are “in Him” and have Him in our hearts.

Col. 3:1-3 “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This Christmas, why not hand over that thing that has toyed with you and robbed you of your joy for so long. Why not meditate on the Prince of Peace and the one who did so much to bring peace with God to your life, heart, and eternity? Like Mary, why not trust God with everything and proclaim yourself a handmaiden/servant of God?

Why did we allow that small thing to steal our joy and peace again? What can threaten our peace now?

Humility hands over the controllers.

Do you struggle with control issues?

I have. I always joked about being a “smother”–you know–one of those moms.

There’s a certain lunacy to trying to be in control–a fantasy world, really. The truth is that we can barely control ourselves let alone anyone else.

My kids enjoy playing video games. I watch with amazement as their fingers dance and scurry over their controllers at break neck speed and precision. They are expert controllers of the PS3.

ps4-controller

Well, the Christian life is about handing over the “controllers” because we know that God understands life better than we do, and that He’s actually capable and powerful enough to handle life, while we are not.

I know we live in a culture that defines  a successful woman as someone who is calling the shots, controlling others, influential, assertive, mouthy and equal, if not equal-er, to men. If you want to be seen as “someone,” you need to take charge, be sorry-not-sorry, and be in control of your destiny.

But a successful Christian woman realizes that she’s not a controller, but is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. God has plans for us, and they are good and best.

A controller makes her own plans and works to make sure everyone else carries them out. A controlled woman seeks God’s face each morning to find out His will for her day. “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

A controller takes matters into her own hands. A controlled woman takes God’s hand and allows Him to lead and direct her steps. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…”

A controller says too much, does too much, meddles too much. A controlled woman is cautious about running ahead of the Lord’s plans. “Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

A controlling woman, in her pride, thinks that she is the only one capable of handling the situation but humility hands over the controllers.

Let me just say this: we are not Spirit controlled woman when we are controlling women.

You may seek to control your kids, your husband, your friends and manipulate to make life work your way behind the scenes. But has all of your striving brought inner peace?

There’s great peace in handing over the controller to the Lord:

  • You don’t always have to be the driver.
  • You don’t always have to be right.
  • You don’t always have to fix.
  • You don’t always have to perform. 
  • You don’t always have to speak or give input.
  • You don’t have to be angry when your plans are disregarded.  
  • You don’t have to be bitter or critical when your expectations were not met.
  • You don’t have to get impatient when people are in your way or not doing things your way.

Instead, just like watching your kids play a video game, you observe and rest.

When God has the controllers

You can watch what He is doing in your life.

You can be at peace knowing that He can handle anything that comes up. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

You can be at peace knowing that He is in control.

You can trust your Heavenly Father because He’s promised that He’ll use the controllers to passionately pursue your holiness and best interests.

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be:
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy Rest

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me,
My poverty or wealth.
Not mine, not mine the choice
In things or great or small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength,
My wisdom, and my all.

Horatius Bonar