Lessons From Mary, Part One
What do your children learn when you respond to circumstances with trust and openness to God’s will?
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a model of trust. Instead of responding as a victim with “Why me?” she asked, “How can this be?” and jumped into God’s plan. Sisters, our children see how we respond in difficult times. This week, encourage one another to trust God with the possibilities of the future and to eagerly participate in His will and plan for your family.
About This Journey
You’ve heard the saying that children are resilient. As a Military parent the only thing constant is change, so you must be more aware of your responsibility to make emotional and spiritual deposits into your family. Follow the stories of six people who were devoted to loving children and played significant roles in their spiritual growth for generations to come.
This Week's Readings
“Why?” or “How?”
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”-Luke 1:26-33
Too often, I view the story of the angel visiting Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus as a sweet Christmas story. However, when I reflect on the magnitude of this event, the story moves from sweet to monumental. Consider the major ramifications this announcement would have on Mary’s relationship with her fiancé, not to mention the way her society would view her when she became pregnant without being married.
How many of us, after getting over the shock of an angelic visitation would second guess the message and start mulling over the cost to our reputation? I am quite sure my response would have been, “Why me?” in the voice of a victim rather than a humble, willing servant of God. Thank goodness, young Mary did not respond that way. Mary embraced God’s will for her life and for her future family. She did not ask, “Why me?” No, she asked, “How can this be?”
An angel’s journey from God’s heavenly realm to inform Mary of her destiny began her unprecedented pilgrimage of obedience. She had the choice to respond with “Why me?” or “How can this be?” I have thought long and hard about the difference between the two responses, and I conclude that asking “Why me?” makes me a victim, but asking, “How can this be?” makes me a participant in God’s plan.
As a military mom, I have that same choice when issues arise. I can choose to ask, “Why me?” when challenges of military life seem overwhelming. I confess, at times I make that choice and I must tell you it does not get me anywhere but into a hole of self-pity. However, when I choose to ask, “How can this be?” I become energized by the challenge of trusting God with the possibilities of the future.
Mary’s situation had the component of God’s divine will as she fulfilled her part of the plan in birthing the Savior of the world. Sister, God has a will and plan for your family. He has a plan, but we must be willing to participate. Are you willing to say, “How can this be?”
Are you more of a, “Why me?” or “How can this be?” person? How might each response have an effect on parenting?
Lord, forgive me when I have had a victim mentality and cried, “Why me?” Help me to always look for possibilities as I trust you for the future. Amen.
When You Need to Be With Family
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.-Luke 1:39-40
A visit to grandparents and a special aunt and uncle became a retreat for my boys and me during my husband’s deployments and TDY (Temporary Duty) assignments. I would pack up our gear and we would head south. Often, the prescription to get through a month was the support and solace offered by family. When I needed help with my children, they offered extra hands. When I needed a spot to rest and recuperate from the frenetic activity of my community, they offered space. When I needed to be reminded of my place in the family, they offered roots. When I missed my husband, they offered comfort.
Scripture does not tell us why Mary chose to visit Elizabeth. We know the angel informed Mary that Elizabeth was pregnant. Such news had to get Mary’s attention because the description of Elizabeth in Luke 1 was that she was barren and “advanced in years.” Mary knew she was not the only one experiencing a miracle!
Even with such knowledge, I wonder if Mary worried whether Elizabeth might send her home when she saw Mary’s condition. Or did she know Elizabeth and Zechariah would offer her the support and needed space to process what was happening? Fortunately, Elizabeth’s welcome was without question. Upon hearing Mary’s greeting Elizabeth spoke the words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” You can almost hear Mary’s sigh of relief. As an unmarried pregnant woman, she could have been stoned, or at least disgraced, but Elizabeth offered blessing.
Notice that Mary did not go to Elizabeth with whines, sighs, and commiseration. She did not visit her family to hide from ridicule or escape responsibility. Mary expressed the joy of knowing she was helping to fulfill God’s plan for the world. No doubt she and Elizabeth shared their questions, discomforts, and amazement as confidantes and participants in a “mysterious mission.”
There are times when you need support from your extended family. During a deployment, or when a service member is unavailable, can be an appropriate time to look to family members for help. Needing support is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it can become an opportunity for the extended family to participate in your service to the nation.
God was working in Elizabeth in a special way that provided mutual encouragement and support for her and Mary. God can work in your extended family during a period to encourage and offer practical help for you as well.
How has your extended family supported your military family? Perhaps your family cannot be relied upon for support. How have you reached out to create a surrogate extended family?
Lord, thank you for friends and family who are willing to help in times of need. I am grateful for people who love and care for me and my family. Show me ways I can be a help and blessing to them as well. Amen.
Treasures of the Heart
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.-Luke 2:15-20
I looked out the window and noticed my five-year-old son taking charge of the neighborhood children gathered in our military housing yard. More than one of my friends pointed out his future as a military leader at best, or dictator at worst. He did not become either one, but others who saw leadership potential in my son encouraged me. Teachers and employers continue to affirm and develop his leadership skills. As his mom, I have pondered, prayed, and at times puzzled over how the pieces of his life would fit together to fulfill the potential I saw in that assertive five-year-old boy.
There in Bethlehem, Mary sat with her newborn baby. Sitting in that stable, did she wonder if the visit from the angel that told her she would birth the Messiah was a dream? Did she look around and think, “How can the Savior of the world be born here? I must have misunderstood the message.” Just then, a motley crew of shepherds showed up with the news that angels had told them where to find the baby—another angelic visitation bringing confirmation that her child indeed was special.
Do not be fooled to think that the words, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” is the equivalent of creating a sentimental Hallmark image. This young mom was not sweetly capturing a moment in the scrapbook of her mind. No, she was grappling with the facts and striving to “pull it all together.” She intellectually and emotionally analyzed the information. Her pondering was not a meditative exercise, but a prayerful and determined wrestling with the possibilities of what was happening. She wanted to glean the truth about her child.
Sometimes accurately evaluating the abilities and potential of our own children is challenging. Being a grandparent challenges this even more. Though we never want to let anyone define our children’s capabilities or determine their potential, we can be encouraged when others see the same good qualities in our children that we see. God can use others either to confirm what we think we see, or to notice some aspect of potential greatness that we have not yet noticed.
List the strengths you see in your child/children. What are you treasuring and pondering about your child/children right now?
Create a prayer for your child/children from the strengths list you created.
Band of Mothers
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord-Luke 2:22
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.-Luke 2:25-26
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.-Luke 2:36-38
This week I was introduced to the son of a good friend and fellow military wife. Her introduction of me to her son ended with, “She prays for you.” I had never met this young man, but I have prayed for him often—for a job, a relationship, a home, and most importantly, salvation. I remember the day a text came through from this mom about her son’s baptism and declaration of faith. What a day of rejoicing for answered prayer! The introduction reminded me of the dear military friends who have become like family to me. One sweet circle of friends has become known as the “Praying Aunties.” As the family of God, we have invested in each other’s children through our prayers.
The journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to fulfill the law of purification presents Mary and Joseph as faithful parents. As they entered the temple to make their offering, they encountered two elderly strangers who offered words of blessing over Jesus. Simeon and Anna were what I describe as prayer warriors. These godly prophets were regular fixtures at the temple who prayed and awaited the arrival of the Messiah. Their prayer life was obviously in tune with the Spirit of God, for they both recognized Jesus as the Messiah when Mary and Joseph entered the temple.
Once again, this family received confirmation that the strange events surrounding the birth of Jesus were not imagined. They must have found encouragement and hope as they listened to the blessing and prophecy concerning their child. This had to be a spiritual marker in their unusual parenting journey.
Anna and Simeon devoted their lives to praying in the temple for the Messiah to come. They watched for that special child who would grow up to be the Savior. Perhaps they placed a hand on the head and prayed for each child they touched. What a gift to a parent! If you pray for my child, you endear yourself to me! A more powerful group than a Band of Brothers who fights together for their nation is a Band of Mothers who prays together for their children.
Who are people who pray for your children? Write a note of gratitude to them today. How can you band together with other moms to pray for your children?
List the names of your friends’ children and pray for them today.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”-Matthew 2:13-15
I used to balk when my children were given the moniker Military Brat until I learned the origin of the term. It is derived from the British Army and, like so many military terms, brat refers to BRAT—an acronym that stands for British Regiment Attached Traveler. When a member of the British Army received an accompanied overseas assignment, the military issued BRAT status to the family. Over the years wives objected to the term, but the name stuck in reference to children.
Overseas assignments can be bittersweet events for a military family. On the sweet side are the opportunities for broadening experiences. My own children became more adaptable, empathetic, supportive, and creative because they lived in other countries. On the bitter side, we spent several years far away from family, and dealt with the stressful unknown expectations that come with living in a foreign culture.
My family adjusted to life on the other side of each ocean. My husband had accompanied tours of duty in both Germany and Korea. I know what it means to drive through streets and think, “This is a nice place to visit,” only to remember it would be my home for several years. I am still not crazy about calling my children military brats, but I am grateful for the experience the military afforded our family to travel abroad as we fulfilled God’s plan for our lives.
The family of Jesus experienced their first foreign PCS when he was a young child. The move to Egypt was not to serve in the military but to save Jesus from death by Herod’s military. As with military families, they went to Egypt for a limited time and later returned to their home in Nazareth. Nevertheless, for a season, they faced cultural challenges and language barriers as they confronted the reality of living in a foreign culture.
Even though Mary and Joseph moved to a foreign country to escape an enemy threat, the move was a God ordained, blessed, and watched-over event. The PCS to Egypt was all part of God’s plan for them. Mary and Joseph may not have been able to see it at that point, but their move was a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy from Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”
God has a plan for you and your military family too. In every assignment, in whatever country, look for ways God wants to work in you and use you in his service. He can take every experience and make something meaningful out of it—for your good and for his glory.
What concerns do you have about your child being a Military BRAT? What comfort do you find in knowing God’s plan for your husband’s military service includes you and your children?
Use the list of concerns you wrote about your child being a Military BRAT as your prayer prompt today.
Resources & Info
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