Unearth the Treasure in Your Trial

This article was originally published at Gospel-Centered Discipleship .

It was a dream come true. The perfect business opportunity came to us shortly after my husband was laid off his job due to company downsizing. We would have to relocate from our life-long home in sunny California to not-so-sunny Michigan, but I was completely on board.

So, we sold our home, packed up a house full of belongings, and headed east with bright-eyed anticipation for a new life. As a homeschooling mom, I was ecstatic because we would be living on five wooded acres. It was perfect for our home-learning lifestyle. We were convinced that the Lord was leading the way for our family. We fully expected not just to survive but to thrive.

However, along with the first bitterly cold winter in the suburbs of Detroit, came the stark reality that this endeavor was not heading in the direction we had planned. Unless the Lord worked a miracle, the whole plan would fail.

The Best Laid Plans . . .

My husband had always dreamed of going into business for himself. He had been in corporate leadership positions before, but never had enough clout to make a difference. He believed that if he had a chance to be a major decision-maker in a company, he could make the organization, and himself, a success.

This exact kind of opportunity presented itself when Christian friends from Michigan approached my husband with a brilliant business concept for a high-tech, nationwide identity verification system. Being the techie he is, my husband was thrilled. The business plan seemed tight. The partners had decades of business experience. The idea was a surefire win, and my husband would be the Chief Operations Officer.

But within six months, the partners’ vital connections in the industry failed. One of the partners reneged on his part of the funding, became combative with the other partners, and then dropped out. Things unraveled almost before they began. This business was going nowhere.

Looking back, we see our mistakes, bad judgment and ambition. We had foolishly put our hope in a set of circumstances, assuming God would bless them. At the time, though, all we saw were hopes dashed and dreams destroyed.

Between investing in the business and living off our savings for a year and a half, we ended up broke. Our marriage suffered. He tried getting another job in Michigan but couldn’t. My ideal home-learning lifestyle on our wooded acres would have to be abandoned. I felt like we were now out in the middle of nowhere, with no way home.

Confused by Contradiction

But through those excruciating days, I learned invaluable lessons that saved my sanity, my marriage, and my faith. All I could see all around me was a devastating loss, but God was clearing the path for far greater gain—a grander concept of who he is, and deeper insight into how he loves.

My biggest challenge was confusion over the apparent contradiction I was witnessing. We believed God directed us to make this huge move, and we obeyed. I thought that meant favorable circumstances and success would follow. Instead, we had financial trouble and marital conflict.

I blamed my husband. He had assured me the gigantic risk we were taking would pay off. I trusted him and followed him across the country to this desolate place. I knew in my mind that God hadn’t forsaken me, but I couldn’t reconcile what I was experiencing with what I expected.

I remember sitting shyly at the county government aid offices, waiting to be interviewed about my application to receive financial assistance. Not a soul in the world knew me there, but still, I wished I had worn a disguise. I was ashamed. But more than anything, I was desperate for help.

Doubting Disciples

I did receive help, including an attitude correction, from a story at the end of the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. After a long day of ministry beside the sea, Jesus and the disciples set out across the water toward the country of the Gerasenes. Jesus told his friends where to aim the boat and then he laid down to rest.

When a violent windstorm suddenly arose, and water flooded their vessel, the disciples believed their lives were in danger. They woke Jesus, incredulous that he could sleep through such an emergency: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

I imagine the disciples thought Jesus had abandoned them. He appeared to be ignoring their peril, after all. They might have questioned why in the world he would bring them out onto the water only to let them be overtaken by the violent waves and die. I could relate.

Painful, confusing circumstances challenge our belief in the imperishability of the love of God. They certainly challenged mine when things did not go our way in Michigan. The business was not taking off as expected and our savings were draining fast. Where did we go wrong?

I thought if we followed the Lord’s leading everything would work out. I was tempted, like the frightened disciples, to question God’s tender care. Despite their doubt, the disciples were treated to an astonishing demonstration of power and authority as Jesus quickly calmed that storm on the Sea of Galilee: “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).

Jesus has all authority to command the wind and the waves. Thunderstorms are at his command. They subside merely at his word. However, I have found that the Lord typically doesn’t deliver us from trouble as speedily as he did that day. When he chooses not to rescue us right away, he has something greater for us right there amidst our storm.

A Life-Raft in the Storm

After Jesus calmed the wind and waves, he asked the disciples two piercing questions: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

These men spent a lot of time with Jesus and witnessed astonishing things. They recently watched him cleanse lepers and heal a paralytic’s body and a man’s withered hand. They heard him stand up to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and cast out demons with authority. Yet they still did not understand who he was, and how much he cared for them.

In my fear and doubt during our rough seas in Michigan, I sensed Jesus asking me the same, probing, doubt-revealing questions about my lack of faith that he asked the disciples. Why are you so afraid, Marie? Have you still no faith?

I searched my Bible for a life preserver of understanding. I started to grasp that “all things working together for good” includes our sins and the sins of others against us (Rom. 8:28). When our decisions lead to our hardship, God promises to turn it around for good! Because of this, we really have no reason to torture ourselves with “what-ifs” when our choices lead to trials. There is no reason to blame others.

Slowly, it ceased to matter what went wrong, or whether we heard God correctly in going to Michigan. I started to comprehend that God’s plan encompasses even our fumbling missteps. Even—and perhaps especially—through our sins, mistakes, and bad decisions, he is transforming us into glorious images of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:15-18; Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:21), bringing him pure delight (Luke 12:32; John 15:8-11; Col. 1:19-22). He’s always working for our ultimate good and for his eternal glory (Isa. 48:11; Rom. 8:28-29; 11:36).

Takeaway Treasure

We never did realize the exciting, new life in Michigan we had envisioned. In his mercy, the Lord opened a job opportunity for my husband back home in California, so we moved back and started over. As insufferable as that season seemed, I am grateful for it. My spiritual life and my marriage are both stronger because of what God did in and through me during that time.

That testing forged unwavering faith and godly hope in me. I learned how to trust Jesus in the middle of my storm and ride it out to the end, holding fast to him and his promises (Heb. 10:23). I learned to accept the bumps and tumbles of my life.

Next time the wind and the waves rise in your life, instead of praying for a quick rescue, consider resisting the doubts, the fears, and the desperate desire to escape. Instead, hold fast to God’s promises. Treasure them through the turmoil. Be assured that he is sovereign and he is good.

Jesus Christ is at rest in your boat, and all is well.

Preschool Must-Have’s! Top Tips for Choosing the Right Preschool

Your kids are the most precious people in the world to you! At first, it’s hard to imagine giving them to a stranger to care for, isn’t it?

My first experience with preschool was traumatic! I don’t mean when I went to preschool, I mean when my first son did. I was a mess!

There he was, standing at the window waving goodbye while crying his eyes out. I plastered a smile on my face, waved back, got in my car and drove away. Then I let it all out and cried my eyes out, too!

He had a hard time there, so we moved him to another preschool that we were all very happy with. It was some work finding the right one, but it was worth it!

Where our children go to preschool is REALLY important! They are a critical time in their early development. Both positive and negative emotional experiences have lasting impact.

So, it pays to do our due diligence before we decide on preschool. There a lot of great ones out there but also some that aren’t so great.

Once you have a potential school picked out, I strongly suggest doing a classroom observation. A couple of hours or more would be great.

It’s true that a teacher might be on guard if you’re there, however, you can still get a sense of whether the children are happy and if the teacher has created a positive atmosphere.

 

“Must Have’s” for Any Preschool

DOWNLOAD MY FREE PRESCHOOL MUST-HAVE’S CHECKLIST!

Must Have’s – Preschool Teachers

Are they kind?

Are they patient?

Do they smile?

Do they use positive discipline and redirection instead of yelling, “Don’t!” or “Stop it!”?

Do they use positive verbal guidance instead of just demanding things from the children?

Do they get down on the child’s level when addressing them?

Do they listen to the child’s concerns and help them come up with solutions?

Do they use positive reinforcement of good behavior?

Will they allow observation?

Will they let you stay with your child for a while at first?

Must Have’s – Safety

Outlets covered or out of reach, all cleaning products in locked storage cabinets, no broken tiles or torn carpets that might cause tripping, temperature well controlled, exterior doors that children can’t unlock, bookcases and other climbable furniture bolted to walls or floor, clean sinks, surfaces and toys.

Must Have’s – the Classroom

Most preschool classrooms are organized into centers and a good preschool will have a combination of some or all of these, with variations, of course. I’ve offered examples of some of the equipment and toys that any preschool should have. They are also fantastic for your your home! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Art Center

Table, easel, paints, paper, staplers, scissors, markers, crayons, glue, seasonal items for holidays, etc.

Music center

Rhythm sticks, cymbals, triangles, bells, drums, autoharp, scarves for movement to music

Science/Discovery Center

Plants, rocks, shells, magnifying glass, balance scales, aquarium, animal/insect cage, small appliances to take apart and explore.

Manipulative Center

Puzzles, open ended toys like Lego or other connecting bricks, collections like keys for sorting, buttons, matching games

Reading Center

Picture books, phonics, first readers, classics, nursery rhymes, books with themes such as colors, shapes, and numbers. (Visit my Usborne Books & More for great children’s books for your home or your child’s preschool!)

Block Center

Wooden unit blocks, hollow cardboard bricks, plus farm animals, small vehicles, etc. to go along with them. Rug for added fun and to keep the noise down.

Housekeeping Center

Child-sized sink, stove, refrigerator, cupboard, pretend foods, dishes, cups, cutlery, pots/pans, telephone, broom and dustpan.

Dramatic Play Center

Dress-up clothes, hats, mirror, dolls and doll beds, armoire/dresser, coat rack.

Other centers ideas: workbench, sand/water play, writing, computer.

Must Have’s – Outdoors

There should be at least 75 square feet of play area for each child surrounded by a sturdy fence. If there is a gate, it’s locked, and children are unable to get out. All equipment in working order with no hazardous areas.

Look for a grassy area and a paved area, climbing equipment of the appropriate size, balls, hoops, ropes, sand/water play, garden, digging toys, ground level balance path/beam, play house, wheeled toys, messy art materials.

DOWNLOAD MY FREE PRESCHOOL MUST-HAVE’S CHECKLIST!

Follow Your Instincts

If you find a preschool that fits the criteria, great job! It might be worth a try. However, always follow your mom instincts. If you don’t feel good about it, even if it fits the basic criteria, move on!  There may be something out of whack that you can’t see.

When your child starts the new preschool, stay with them for a while, helping them adjust. If they cry when you leave, it’s normal.

However, if they continue crying long after you’ve gone or every time you leave them there for weeks, I’d consider taking them out. They might not be ready, or you just may need to try a different school like we did.

Remember, there is no rush!! Trust the instincts God gave you as a mom. Enjoy watching your child succeed in his new adventure!

You may want to read my post: 10 Things to Say to Preschoolers to Give Them Courage and Confidence. I tell you how to prepare your child for new adventures.

10 Things to Say to Preschoolers 1

Thanks for stopping by! Please like, share and pin if this information has been helpful to you!

If I Could Have a Stepmom Do-Over

What was I thinking?! Just before my twenty-seventh birthday, I married a man with two kids who were fourteen and eleven at the time. I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

But I guess that’s the same with anything, isn’t it? You don’t know what’s in the package until you open it.

Sadly, their mom had died. They needed me. The wonderful man God brought my way had been struggling to work a full-time job while trying to be both mom and dad to his kids.

It’s a common scenario.

I was sure that this marriage was God’s will. I wanted to help with all my heart. So, I did.

The next five years were difficult, frustrating and disappointing.

My good-intentioned aspiration to fill a gaping hole in their family with love, security, normalcy and support fell flat.

I had longed to make a home where these two children could heal from the devastating loss of their mother.

It never worked. They snubbed my affection. They rejected my input and railed against how I wanted our home to be.

They were angry at their father for diverting attention to me. They were uncooperative and secretive.

I became resentful and frustrated when they rejected me and my efforts.

Within five years, both of the kids had moved out.

The older went out on his own the minute he turned eighteen. The younger moved to her grandparents at sixteen when we couldn’t manage her anymore.

I felt defeated, frustrated, and helpless.

In retrospect, I see what I did wrong that added to the trouble in our relationship. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently.

Four Things I Would Do Differently

1. Avoid a lot of changes

Personal habits

Both my stepkids’ bedrooms looked like a bomb had hit and everything they owned landed on the floor. Clothes, toys, books, you name it.  It was literally a foot deep all over the rooms!

The obviously didn’t know how to keep a clean room, so I was going to help them.

Trying to make them keep their rooms clean was frustrating for all of us and not at all worth it. They didn’t want to change.

I should have just shut the door so I couldn’t see it and saved a lot of aggravation.

Environment

We moved to a new home in a new town with new schools when we got married. It was to reduce my husband’s hour-long commute and to start fresh like many newlyweds do.

Looking back, it would have been better to stay put to minimize the disruption. They had lost their mom.

Uprooting them from home and school contributed to their loss and grief and possibly added to their difficult behavior.

Let the kids keep the same surroundings, schools and friends, if you can. They need continuity to feel safe.

Favorite Foods

My stepkids were used to eating a lot of frozen food, like frozen fried chicken, which I had never seen!

I came from a home with a mom who was a wonderful, Italian cook. So, of course, I wanted to serve them delicious, homemade, healthy foods and that’s what I did.

Never again did would they have frozen fried chicken.

Several years ago, my stepson’s wife told me that he won’t go near chicken and rice or bananas since he had so much of them as a teenager.

That kind of hurt but it also struck me as odd. I didn’t serve chicken and rice that much…and what is wrong with bananas?!

I think his aversion to those foods are more about his aversion to me and the changes I made as a young stepmom coming into his teenage life, than about the food.

If I had it to do over again, I would have continued to serve them what they were used to on occasion, even the dreaded, frozen fried chicken!

Letting them have some of their old favorites would have contributed to their sense of security and normalcy and it wouldn’t have hurt them to eat junk once in a while.

Time with Dad

I remember my husband taking the kids out for “dad time”, but it wasn’t very regular.

In his view, he had spent a lot of time with them after their mom died, and it was time for him to build his relationship with his new wife. We were newlyweds, after all!

I was all for him spending special alone time with them, but after a while, when they rejected me, I stopped trying so hard to encourage it.

I would do things differently now.

Keeping a strong relationship between dad and kids is vital, even if it means you get less time together as a couple.

If they have a good connection with their dad and feel he is giving them some attention, they won’t resent you as much.

2. Don’t take on too much responsibility for their world

I defaulted to the 50/50 parenting partnership model when I got married. It should have been more like 75% on him and 25% on me with my stepkids.

My husband wanted things to be better and he loved my ideas and wanted them implemented. So, that’s what happened! I took on the renovation of the family.

I was all about keeping things clean, so they had their chores. I wanted them to be healthy, so I cut out the junk food. I wanted them to be respectful, so their disrespect never got a pass.

But it would have made for a happier and more peaceful transition if they continued in the way they were running their lives, at least for a while.  Even though some things made me cringe!

Why? It would have been less disruptive for the kids and I would have avoided some of the confusion and hurt I felt when they rejected my efforts.

No matter how much you want to help, take a back seat for a while. You’ll be better off.

3. Let their dad handle most issues

Even though you are now an authority figure in your stepchildren’s lives, don’t advertise it!

I worked part time when we got married, so I was the parent who was home the most. Therefore, I engaged more with the kids on a daily basis than their dad did.

I tried to handle the school issues, completion of homework and chores, and anything else that came up.

Being on the front lines made me the bad guy a lot. I got loud push-back from one of the kids and quiet, seething resentment from the other.

I could have used the 1950’s cliche, “Wait until your father gets home!” Not as a threat, but to save myself from having to manage everything that adolescents have on their plate.

Plus, I would have dodged the rejection that they threw back.

Let dad be the enforcer, they already love him and have a depth of relationship clout that you don’t.

4. Don’t expect them to love, respect or appreciate you

I assumed that if I put my heart and soul into being a wonderful stepmom, I will be loved, respected and appreciated in return. How could they not love me?!

When my stepkids were grown and with kids of their own, I had heart-to-heart talks with each of them about those turbulent first years.

I apologized for the things I did wrong and it seemed like it was all good after that. I hoped that since we talked it out we could be closer going forward.

I pictured texting, phone calls, involvement in their lives.

But that was not to be. They’re just not interested in being close and you know what? That’s okay.

I hope your stepkids love you and appreciate your crazy, hard work trying to be a positive influence in their lives.

But they might not and, sadly, that’s not something you can change very easily, or at all. Especially if you make mistakes like I did.

We do our best with what we have at the moment. When we know better, we do better.

I’m confident that God knows our intentions and still counts our good efforts. The results are up to him!

Hindsight

Hindsight is 20/20!  I was a young woman with the best intentions, and I gave step-parenting my best shot. It didn’t turn out the way I planned, and even though it was disappointing, I’m okay with it now. I learned a lot about kids and life through that experience.

Remember:

  • Relationships are more important than performance.
  • If you build the relationship, the respect and love will come and then they are more likely to cooperate with you when you instruct them.
  • It’s okay to relax your high standards and just enjoy the journey.
  • Every attempt to love, care for, nurture, guide and support your stepkids still counts. No matter the outcome.

Thanks for visiting my blog! Please share and comment. I’d love to hear from other stepparents about your trials and triumphs.

4 Things Great Moms Do – Lessons from the Life of Mary

My second child was due on Christmas Eve. It made me feel kind of like Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Knowing how big and uncomfortable I would be during the whole month of December, I had all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving (the first and only time that ever happened!).

After that was out of the way, I had time to ponder what it must have been like for that young girl two thousand years ago. Mary was expecting a child when she wasn’t married.

Scandalous. Miraculous.

Gabriel the archangel announced the coming of her baby, Jesus, and said that Mary was highly favored, blessed, chosen. Different from all the rest.

We only hear a few things about Mary’s life after Jesus was born. But they are enough to give us a glimpse into what kind of mother she became. The unique girl that God chose to be the mother of the Messiah must have some things to teach us about motherhood.

Here are four things that Mary did, and that we can do, to be great moms.

4 Things Great Moms Do

1. Provide a comforting presence in tough times

Your undivided, caring attention is what your children need most when times are tough for them. Put down the phone, stop everything, look into their eyes, give a hug. They need you really present with them, not just in the room.

We know Mary was a comforting presence at the cross when Jesus was dying (John 19:26).

A scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ shows us a couple of things that might also have taken place in Mary’s life as a mom.

In this scene, we watch Jesus carrying the cross down the narrow street in Jerusalem. He was struggling, in agony. Soldiers were trying to move him along with whips and the jeering crowd was yelling insults.

Jesus’ friends had abandoned him, except for a few that looked on sheepishly from a distance. Mary, grief-stricken, stood nearby trying not to watch her son drag himself to an early death.

As he’s straining to take each step, Jesus stumbles under the burden of the heavy cross. In that moment, we see a flashback from Mary’s perspective.

In the memory, Jesus is about two years old. He’s running along a dusty street in Nazareth and suddenly, he stumbles and falls.

A young mother at the time, Mary hurries to his side, like most mothers would. She lifts the crying toddler into her arms and rocks him reassuringly, saying, “I’m here”.

Now it’s Good Friday. Mary watches her grown son stagger and fall to the ground. His body is beaten and battered. He’s exhausted and weak.

Pushing through the chaos of the crowd, Mary rushes to his side, just as she did so many times when he was small. She crouches down next to him to comfort him. Once again, she whispers, “I’m here”.

I could relate to the profound distress Mary would have been feeling. I cried my eyes out the first time I watched that part of the movie! It’s what every loving mother feels when her children are enduring pain.

Even knowing ahead of time that being a mom means experiencing your child’s pain as they do, doesn’t diminish it. Mary was once told clearly and directly that she would suffer along with Jesus.

When she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised at eight days old, a prophet, Simeon had said to her,

“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many may be revealed”. (Luke 2: 34-35 NASB)

Our first instinct when our children are hurting is to make it all better. However, sometimes we can’t prevent their difficulties, nor should we.

We feel helpless, but it’s through difficulties that our children learn endurance, patience, independence, problem-solving and other valuable character traits that will prepare them for future challenges.

Most importantly, in hard seasons, our kids have the opportunity to trust God for themselves.

Even Jesus, the perfect Son of God, learned obedience through the things that he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

Mary wasn’t supposed to prevent her son’s suffering and death on the cross, but she was there with her comforting presence. Maybe even whispering a quiet, “I’m here”. (John 19:25)

Your children need your warm, comforting presence more than anything when they are struggling and challenged.

2. Hope in God, not in outcomes

Optimism is the expectation of positive life circumstances. For instance, an optimistic person expects to avoid things like life-threatening diseases, serious accidents, etc.

None of us wants to suffer and we especially don’t want our children to suffer. However, life is difficult and bad things happen. That’s why we need hope, not just optimism.

Hope is trust in the fact that the love of God holds fast regardless of our tough situations.

God rules the world with benevolence and is watching carefully to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are his. (Romans 8:28)

If we are simply optimistic, challenges can derail us. If we’re truly hopeful in God’s care and concern no matter the situation, nothing can.

Mary was a hopeful, young girl and trusted God when she heard the fantastic messages about Jesus’ future. Gabriel said,

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33 NASB)

Did Mary expect that Jesus would reign on a physical throne in Jerusalem? Most of his followers did. What a disappointment for those whose optimistic expectations weren’t met.

From what we can tell, Mary, was not angry at God or let down when Jesus didn’t reign on a physical throne in Jerusalem.

From the very beginning, we read that she trusted God for even the most unbelievable thing – that a virgin could bear a child.

It’s evident that she trusted God for the rest of the story as well, even when things seemed bleak. After Jesus died, he rose again and is reigning on a heavenly throne. Her hope in God’s word and his love was rewarded.

We naturally have positive expectations for great futures for our kids – and we should. However, life doesn’t go the way we desire, how will we respond?

If we hope in God’s love and his good plan, we have a rock-solid foundation. Despite any of the challenges that we and our children will face in life – sickness, accidents, relationship trouble – this foundation will never crumble.

3. Listen and learn

Several years ago, when I was going through a particularly tough time, one of my sons sent me a song called, “Believe Me Now” by Steven Curtis Chapman.

It’s a song that reminds us that we can believe God’s promises no matter what. It was exactly the reminder I needed at that moment. It touched my heart deeply and changed my perspective from fear to faith.

Jesus was Mary’s son, but also her Teacher.

Once when Jesus was teaching a large crowd, someone told him that his mother and brothers were outside trying to get in. Instead of bringing them front and center, Jesus said,

“My mother and brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21)

In our culture that sounds harsh but was it? Maybe Mary had begun to understand that Jesus was born for a mission that was far beyond her family.

He was her savior as well as her son. The Bible tells us that she was a believer in Jesus as Messiah with the rest of the disciples. (Acts 1:14)

Even small children can say and do things that teach us important lessons. If we’ll humble ourselves and listen, God can use them to give us encouragement, insight and comfort.

Our children might even grow up to be people who change the world with their unique gifting and calling. We can be the first in line to benefit from all they will offer.

4. Let go a little at a time

The moment your child is born you have to start letting go.

It’s not that obvious during the first few years since our kids are so dependent on us. But once they start to venture out into the world, even if it’s only to preschool, we face a challenge.

We have to trust that they will be all right in the care of others. We have to trust that we have given them the tools to navigate on their own.

One day they are learning how to tie their own shoes. Blink and you’re giving them the car keys. Blink again and they’re moving out!

Each step is a challenge for them and for us.

When the angel Gabriel came to Mary with the baby announcement, she knew Jesus would be like no other child ever conceived. However, she still had to learn day by day that his calling and mission superseded his role as her son.

When Jesus was twelve, he stayed behind by himself in the temple at Jerusalem after the feast. His parents frantically searched for days for him after they realized he was missing from the traveling caravan.

When they found him, he was surprised that they didn’t know where he would be. He had to be in his Father’s house. (Luke 2:41-50) He was on a mission from God.

Mary had to let go.

About ten years later, Jesus told the listening crown that whoever hears his words and does them are his family, not just those he grew up with. (Luke 8:19-21)

Mary had to let go.

On that dark Good Friday, Mary’s first-born was fulfilling the purpose for his life which was announced by Gabriel decades before.

He was dragging his cross up to a lonely hill. He was dying, just as he planned.

Mary had to let go.

Our children are gifts from God, but they don’t really belong to us. They belong to God and he has a reason for their lives above and beyond the blessing they bring to our families.

They have a mission from God.

Mary Mindset

Mary was the most important mother who ever walked the face of the earth. Yet, in many ways, she was a mother just like us. She felt the same love, joy, fears, concerns and helplessness that we all do.

Mary learned to mother well. She’s a strong, loving, faithful example that we can look to for guidance on our own journey of motherhood.

The famous Serenity Prayer fits this “Mary mindset” perfectly.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as he did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that he will make all things right

if I surrender to his will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with him
forever in the next.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

I would love to hear the lessons you’ve learned as a mother. Please comment below.

If this post has been helpful, please share!

5 Simple Steps to Cutting Your Holiday Stress

Is Holiday Stress Inevitable?

The holidays can be stressful! And they’re starting earlier and earlier every year, like in September, have you noticed?

That means that the stress can start earlier as well.

I searched the internet for “holiday stress” to find advice. The articles I came across were more about what to do once you’re already stressed out, rather than how to avoid the stress in the first place. But it doesn’t’ have to be that way!

We can reduce the holiday stress by doing a few simple things before the holidays run us over!

Some simple preparation and focusing on what’s most important will go a long way to preventing that anxiety from taking the joy out of the season!

5 Steps to Cutting Holiday Stress

5 Simple Steps To Cutting Your Holiday Stress:

Step #1 → Remember the Reason for the Season

Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas or some other special day, remember why. It’s not really about gifts, parties or food!

Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on Christmas. He was born over 2000 years ago in an ordinary stable in a small town and laid in the animals’ feeding trough to sleep. Though he was King of Kings, he came as a humble child.

This scene of peace is meant to point us to the Savior of the world. We celebrate his birth because of what his coming to earth meant for the world – salvation. Not just at Christmas, but always.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:1)

Whichever reason for the season means the most to you, if you keep it in the forefront of your mind, the stress of the season is less likely to overwhelm.

Step #2 → Schedule Family Times First

Schedule dates for your own family traditions and gatherings before committing to other holiday events. That way, it’s less likely these cherished family events don’t get pushed out by a company party you have to attend or a church volunteering commitment.

Your children will treasure these special family times forever!

You might also be interested in my 20 Fun and Meaningful Holiday Family Traditions for some ideas for memories you can create.

Step #3 → Schedule Outside Events After Family Events

  • Make sure everyone in the family is aware of the schedule, so you don’t overbook and stress out!
  • Post a physical calendar in a common location, so it’s in plain view every day.

I found a fun calendar that’s also super practical: Sandra Boynton’s Mom’s Family Calendar.

The days are in horizontal lines, instead of little squares, giving plenty of room to add everyone’s important happenings!

Click here for a closer look!

Mom’s Family Wall Calendar 2019 – $9.98

Here are some of the activities that you might need to add to your calendar during the holidays:

  • Parties with friends
  • School productions
  • School parties
  • Special religious services
  • Volunteering
  • Work-related parties
  • Vacation days
  • Extended family gatherings and more!

Step #4 → Prepare Meals Ahead and Freeze Them for Busy Nights

Make a double batch of dinner for several nights and freeze half. Then all you have to do is defrost!

If you really want to get ahead, make a couple of weeks or a month’s worth and glide right through the holidays!

Here’s a super popular cookbook that takes it to that next level. You can see more here.

Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook Revised and Expanded Edition by [Fisher, Jessica]
Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook

Step #5 → Give Yourself a Break!

Add relaxation, rest and rejuvenation into your schedule.

  • Schedule time that isn’t focused on the season. Not everything has to be holiday-themed! Take a break.
  • Exercise. It’s a stress-reducer, especially if you can get outside and enjoy the fresh air and beauty around you at the same time.
  • Don’t trade sleep for tasks. Your body needs good rest to replenish its stores of energy. Pare down the schedule if it’s interfering.
  • Eat well. We sometimes grab what’s in front of us when we’re busy and it’s usually not that healthy. Keep fresh fruits, veggies and nuts around for energy-giving snacks.
  • Relax. Get a quick 15-minute shoulder and neck massage while you’re at the mall or schedule and hour! Or, click here to treat yourself to one of these so the gift just keeps giving! My son gave me one of these neck massagers this year and it’s an oasis of relaxation!
Massagers for Neck and Back with Heat  $64.95
  • Remind yourself that you’re not in a competition. In many ways, our culture has manufactured the stress of the holidays. You don’t have to participate in the race!
  • Accept that you can’t do it all. It’s just not humanly possible to accomplish everything on the to-do list before Christmas. It’s OK!
  • Enjoy! laugh and have fun as much as you can. If your kids are small, ignore their tantrums (they get stressed, too) an focus on the wonder.

Hope these 5 Simple Steps To Cutting Stress Out of Your Holidays have helped you!

If so, would you please share this post? Thank you!

See also:  20 Fun and Meaningful Holiday Family Traditions

I’d love to hear some of the ways you cut stress during holidays in the comments below.