Solid Ground in Troubled Times

“On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

These words arose in my heart this morning as I was praying and pondering the condition of our country. A global pandemic, civil unrest, violent political division, and economic uncertainty swirled around in my mind.

Our nation has wound itself up into chaos. On the heels of those thoughts emerged the confidence that even though sometimes the world appears ready to spin us right off into space, there is solid ground in Jesus.

The words I recalled are from the hymn, My Hope is Built. It was written nearly two hundred years ago, in 1834, by a man named Edward Mote when he was 37. He had already endured significant personal difficulties and national upheaval in his life.

Born in poverty to parents that were struggling pub owners, he was neglected and left to roam the streets of London.

His family rejected religion, but Edward became a Christian at 15 when he heard a preacher for the first time. Before that he said he was so ignorant that he did not even know that there was a God.

During his early years, he had witnessed the rise and fall of the Emperor Napoleon in neighboring France and England’s war with the newly formed American colonies.

Locally, there was civil unrest over unfair labor practices, and the mass exodus of citizens from the crowded English cities into rural areas, changing the British economy significantly.

As an adult, Edward made his living by cabinet making until he was 55. At that point, he was offered a position as a minister which he gladly accepted, leaving his successful cabinet business.

He became a beloved pastor who never missed a Sunday in 21 years, finally resigning from the church in 1873 due to failing health. He died a year later at the age of 77.

His headstone at the church where he served reads, “In loving memory of Mr. Edward Mote … the beloved pastor of this church, preaching Christ and Him crucified, as all the sinner can need, and all the saint desire.”

Supported in the Flood

“On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.”

As I sang these words this morning, the first two verses bubble up into my mind. Then, wanting to sing the entire song, I looked up all the verses:

My Hope is Built

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil

His oath, His covenant, His blood
support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

I often wonder what event, joy or heartache inspires people to write songs. As I continued exploring the history around Edward Mote’s lifetime, I discovered something surprising. Something that we can relate to as we battle the ravaging COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.

When Edward wrote The My Hope is Built in 1834, the world was in the throes of a global cholera pandemic. It was the second such outbreak, the first episode beginning in 1817 and ending in 1824. The initial occurrence did not reach England, staying mostly in Asia, but the second one did.

The second bout began in 1826 and by the time it ended, it had taken hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, hitting hard in Edward’s neck of the woods.

Between 1831 and 1834, cholera killed over sixty thousand in England where the population was fourteen million. Three subsequent outbreaks in Edward’s lifetime took the lives of hundreds of thousands more.

How Hope is Built

When uncontrollable events occur, such as a pandemic, hurricane, the unexpected death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, it feels like we are losing our footing. It seems like we are at the mercy of whatever is coming against us to devastate us. And in a way, we are.

God sometimes allows us to experience the true instability of the world and its systems. He will expose human frailty and limitations.

Traumatic and destabilizing incidents show us that the only eternally solid place on which to build our lives is Jesus and his teachings. Our only security in pandemics, poverty, unstable relationships, traumatic loss, or ungodly governments is in him.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:24-27

Who would have thought that in 2020, scientists and medical professionals would not be able to stop a disease from ravaging every continent?

To date, this novel coronavirus has killed almost 100,000,000 people worldwide. That is a difficult number to even begin to comprehend and the future consequences from those deaths are yet unknown.

The Solid Rock

What a gift Edward Mote gave the world during another devastating pandemic in 1834.

My Hope is Built tells the story of the formidable love of God through Jesus that carries us to safety.  It recalls for us the assurance and comfort we have through his protection, not only in the storms of this life, but forever.

We cannot put our faith in “progress”, doctors, vaccines, governments, social systems, or in ourselves. But there is hope! Lasting confidence, joyful anticipation of good, and profound comfort are found only in the person of Jesus and in building our lives on his words.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts…

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

3 Crucial Life Lessons from a Father’s Failure

He fell off his seat backward, broke his neck and died. That’s how life ended for Eli, the high priest.

I’ve read the story of Eli, his corrupt sons, the routing of the Israelites by the enemy Philistines and the capturing of the precious Ark of the Covenant many times.

But today when I read it, it made me cry. For Eli.

Even though this God-appointed priest seems to have started out well, Eli’s forty years in that position did not result in the godly legacy that he might have hoped for.

Failed Fatherhood

Eli’s sons were priests like their father. But the Bible calls them sons of Belial – worthless, good-for-nothings.

They did not know the Lord.

They stole from those who came to offer sacrifices.

They defiled the house of God by laying with the women who served there.

It appeared that they did whatever lustful thing they desired, robbing and abusing the people who came to worship and serve.

How did these rebellious sons get away with their debauchery? Sadly, Eli didn’t hinder them. All he did was warn them that their behavior was deadly, saying,

“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:25a).

But those words of warning did nothing to stop them and the Bible tells us why.

“But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:25b)

Why did the Lord want to put them to death? It’s likely because Eli and his sons had been dishonoring God and the people for quite some time. Their time to repent was up.

God sent a prophet to rebuke Eli for putting his sons before God and making themselves fat with the choicest of every offering that the people brought to the sanctuary. God tells Eli that his bloodline will be cut off and his legacy ended in disgrace.

A Great Loss

Eli arrived at the end of his long life a weak, overweight, disgraced man. What sent him over the edge to death was the capturing of the Ark of the Covenant.

The enemy Philistines stole the precious presence of God from their midst. There was nothing left. Eli had been caring for the ark for forty years and now it was gone.

Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were set so that he could not see.  The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.” And he said, “How did things go, my son?” Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.” When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years. (1 Samuel 3:15-18)

Eli failed.

He was gluttonous and greedy.

He raised sons who were lustful and treacherous.

He couldn’t protect the ark of God.

Eli lost.

He lost his opportunity to leave a legacy of holiness and fidelity to God.

He lost his sons who the Lord himself killed.

He lost the most precious object on the planet, the ark, the carrier of the presence of God.

He couldn’t control himself.

There are only a couple of times in the Bible that we read that someone is heavy. This is one of them. Eli ate more than the priest’s share of the offerings that the people brought.

He couldn’t control his sons.

Hophni and Phineas were adults, but they were ungodly priests whose behavior should never have been allowed to go on.

I never used to relate to Eli. I saw him as a man who make huge mistakes and paid for it. I saw him as weak but never anything like me. That has changed.

God’s Mercy in Our Weakness

Now that I’m older, and I’ve raised my two sons into adulthood, I see the story somewhat differently. I can relate to Eli’s mistakes.

Maybe I was too hard on my oldest son when he was a teenager.

Maybe I didn’t require enough of my youngest.

There were times when I lacked self-control and raised my voice.

Did I ever place them above the Lord in my heart?

It amazes me that God gives these tiny helpless humans to parents who are so imperfect. In our 20’s and 30’s we haven’t yet learned so many lessons that would make us better parents.

We still tend to be selfish, impatient and lacking compassion. It’s parenting that helps to mature us, but in the process our kids can get hurt.

It’s painful. The past can’t be changed.

I can ask for forgiveness. I can do things differently now. That’s all good. But I can’t alter the consequences that came from my choices.

My hope and peace come from knowing that God loves and forgives and works all things together for good for those who are called and who love him. (Romans 8:28).

I’m grateful for that promise because I need him to work out a lot!

As hard as it is to see my mistakes, it gives me empathy for people like Eli.

The Bible tells us about folks with less than stellar records on purpose.

We relate to their weakness.

We learn to ask for wisdom in our choices, so we avoid the same mistakes.

3 Life Lessons from Eli

  1. Love and honor God above everyone and everything. Eli and his sons put themselves before God.

Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

  1. Don’t wait to turn around. Eli and his sons didn’t turn from their sins.

And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. (1 Samuel 3:13)

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

  1. Develop self-control. Eli and his sons didn’t restrain their lusts.

Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ (1 Samuel 2:29)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

There is Hope

Eli, Hophni and Phineas came to a terrible end.

Sadly, there are people all around us that go down the same road. We see it in the news and in our own backyard. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

If we will surrender our hearts to the Lord, he will give us the ability to love and honor him first and above all and not make our children into idols, serving them first.

The Holy Spirit will lovingly convict us of our sin so that we can repent and be set free from the burden and shame. One day at a time.

He will give us the fruit of self-control so that we do not fall into temptation.

There is always hope!

God sees, knows and cares. We can find encouragement in the fact that he will never stop working all things out for our good and for his glory.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. – Jeremiah 29:11-12

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.

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