Tag Archives: faith

A Thanksgiving Devotional for my Praying Mamas

21 Nov

Thanking “Jehovah Jireh”

(The Lord Provides)

Don't I look Peaceful? And grateful?

Don’t I look Peaceful? And grateful?

by Cindy McMahon

I had a pretty “church lady” kind of week (led a Bible study and a college moms prayer group, arranged a speaker for a women’s group at church, went to Sunday service with my hubby). But I boldly tell you that the most Godly thing I did this week was cancel my High School Moms In Prayer group for this morning. Yep. Pulled the plug 12 hours before it was scheduled to meet.

You see, I’ve been feeling  overwhelmed – it’s all good, godly stuff, but just too much of it! — and  I’m not in a very “prayer group leader state of mind.” When church commitments become obligations, it’s time to take a time out. So I did.

This morning, instead of racing out with my prayer sheets, Bible and verses in hand, I stayed in my robe after I got the guys out the door. I sat down with my Bible and my thoughts and began to dwell in prayer with God on thankfulness and provision. What a peaceful morning we had together. Here’s what resulted: a devotional for us — my praying girlfriends and me — as we approach Thanksgiving week.

Truth: God provides what we need when we need it (not always what we want or when we want it!) We don’t always get what we want, and we often get things we really don’t want. But, with apologies to the Rolling Stones, “we get what we need!” And we get them from the Lord.

God provides us with everything we need to seek and find Him, and to live a life honoring him on this earth until we see him in Heaven. That is his promise. (Queue: I never promised you a rose garden…”)

He provides for us spiritually, physically and emotionally, and even provides us with wisdom and proper perspective. And, He provided for us in the most significant and life-altering way by providing the sacrifice – Jesus – for our sins so that we might dwell with Him in eternity, cleansed by the blood of our Savior.

As I reflected on some of the ways God continues to provide for me, I sought out these verses. I hope they will serve as reminders to you this week, as they did to me, that as we lift up our thanks to the God Who Provides, we are thanking He who knows us by name, hears the yearnings of our hearts, and provides for our most basic needs.

God provides:

  • A way out of temptation

I Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

  • Strength to do his will

I Peter 4:11: If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen

 

  • Peace in times of fear or worry

Philippians 4:6,7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Necessities for Life

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  • Perspective about what’s important

Luke 10: 38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

  • Wisdom for dealing with difficult people/circumstances

James 1:18-20 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

After reflecting on these passages (thanks BlueLetterBible.org for making it easy to find them), I lifted up these prayers for all of us Praying Mamas and our families:

Travel: I pray for traveling mercies for all of us and our loved ones – whether going across country or across town. People get in a hurry and don’t necessarily look out for each other. Let’s have our heads up and our eyes bright and clear! Be defensive drivers and walkers! Don’t blame God if you crash your car while texting!

Harmony: I pray for peace and harmony in families where holidays mean strife. I pray that a true seed of thankfulness will be implanted in the hearts of all, and that the fruit of that thankfulness will be kindness and peace.

Freedom from Nagging: I pray that if our kids receive homework (now that’s evil!) to do over the break, that they will take ownership of it and that we can stay out of the nagging cycle with them. Same goes for those working on college apps – especially those that are due Nov 30 or Dec 1 (deep breath as I type that!) Again, I pray for us to offer a quiet, helpful spirit that is not pushy, nagging or badgering. Let’s keep this proverb in mind:

Proverbs 25:24: It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (OUCH!)

Health/Rest: I pray that all of us and our families will be able to listen to our bodies – rest when we need rest or don’t feel well, rather than trying to “push through.” I pray for our immune systems as we are exposed to new and exciting bacteria as people move all across the country and into and out of our fair cities!

Loneliness: I pray that if you are spending the holiday away from your loved ones, or are estranged from those you most desire to be with, that you will seek and find the God of all comfort, who knows your name, loves you and will never leave you. I pray that you feel this in a palpable way, and that you find a way to serve others in His name in order to alleviate that loneliness, such as through a women’s shelter or food kitchen for the homeless, or by befriending someone else who may be suffering from loneliness. As we know, sometimes you can feel lonely in a room full of people.

Healing: I pray that if there is someone in your life – either dead or alive, someone who is long gone or who you might see – that has hurt you, betrayed you or abandoned you, that you will find it in your heart to forgive them. Not forgiveness in the sense of saying “oh, it’s ok,” but forgiveness in the way that says, “I won’t be defined by what this person did to me. By forgiving, I am handing their sin burden to the Lord to carry.” Remember that nothing that has been done to us that wasn’t also done to our innocent, sinless savior – often by those whom he should have been able to trust. He was abandoned, beaten, wrongly accused, lied to, yelled at, misunderstood, ignored, discarded, betrayed, and ultimately killed. HE KNOWS what we’ve been through and what if feels like. But his hurts and wounds do not define him – they were merely a chapter on his way to Glory – as are ours. And while you’re forgiving others, if you’re feeling guilty about something in your past that you’ve already asked God to forgive, provide yourself with that forgiveness now and move forward.

Stay thankful my friends.

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Our “Secrets” to a Happy Marriage

1 Aug

By Cindy McMahon

In the limo right after the ceremony.

In the limo right after the ceremony.

“So, what’s the secret?”

It was just a simple question from a virtual stranger in an email exchange. Mariana S., a hotel employee, was helping us arrange a few extras for our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary stay. She congratulated us on our marital longevity, explained that she was at year eight in her marriage, and asked us for “the secret.”

I could have been funny, or flippant, or politely brief. But she asked, right?

So without getting too heavy or long-winded, I replied:

The secret to a successful marriage? So many things come to mind — shared interests, shared faith, shared laughter, date nights, making each other a priority.  There’s a saying that sums it up perfectly: “The grass is always greener where you water it.”

Obviously, there’s more to it.  Like all couples, we have had some great times, some tenuous times, some fun and some sadness. There has been disappointment, failures, hilarity and joy. We’ve gotten on each other’s nerves, and we’ve yearned to see one another when we were apart.

 

So, why is it that our marriage has lasted – and flourished and gotten better through the years – when those of so many others who seemed just as well-suited to one another, have failed?

Only God knows that answer for sure, but after pondering the question for a few days, I’ve got some ideas on the subject (about 21 of them, as a matter of fact). I am certainly not here to judge your marriage, its potential for success or failure! We all work it out our own way and none of these are deal breakers, for sure.

[Note: This is our experience, and if there’s something you can apply now to your current marriage, or to your future marriage (or even to repair a broken or rocky marriage), please take liberally. If you’d rather not partake, ain’t nobody holding your eyeballs captive, so I hereby release you from the obligatory read. Get on along, now.]

So here they are, not in order of importance, but more in order chronologically:

The Top 21 Reasons I Think

Team Cindy & Joe are

25 years and still going strong

At a friends wedding, add decked out!

At a friends wedding last summer, all decked out!

1. We were friends before we were lovers. We worked for the same company, so we had an opportunity to hang out, occasionally work together, and get to know each other without any pretense or expectation. Over the course of many Red Onion Happy Hours with the crew from work, we found out about everyone’s past, lots of mistakes, and crazy stories that one might not tell a potential suitor.  The benefit of this start to our relationship was two-fold:

First, we had truly been transparent with each other – not necessarily the way things go when you’re getting to know someone through stilted first-date conversations.

 

Second, we knew what we were getting. No surprises!

2. We liked each other just the way we were.  This was huge, I believe. I didn’t expect to change the essence of who Joe was, nor he me. Sure, I made some wardrobe changes for him (goodbye Gilligan-style painter pants! He wasn’t a painter, ok?), and longed for him to write down appointments and events so that he didn’t double-book himself. He encouraged me to grow my hair long and to learn to snow ski, but those were just exterior things. If those things had never come about, they would not have been deal-breakers.

We ended up growing and changing together, but not because of expectations or pressure from one another. We matured together – with support from one another, but not with a push (occasionally there was a nudge though).

3. He was a good-hearted person who cherished me. Joe is and has always been kind – not just to me, but to strangers, old folks and children — even the crazy drunk homeless lady that wandered into our tailgate party at the Rose Bowl.

When we began dating, he doted on me. He bought me flowers and wrote me sweet notes. He took me out to dinner, and he gave me compliments. You can’t marry a mean, dismissive person and think you will change them into a nice, attentive person.

Ladies — if he doesn’t treat you right during the courting days, you’ll be in trouble once you are his wife.

Gentlemen — a demanding, belittling or drama-oriented girlfriend will not change into an accepting, encouraging non-dramatic wife once the ceremony is over.

Sadly, I have seen this misperception play out with some friends over the years. Were they perhaps so in love with the idea of being in love that they overlooked the personality flaws or red flags? Maybe they just wanted the ring, and the promise of a non-lonely future? Maybe they thought that marriage would “change everything.” It didn’t. I imagine, it rarely does.

4. We share a common faith.  Neither of us were living the poster-child Christian life at the time that we met. And, in fact, I might venture that despite early commitments to Christ when we were adolescents, our faith was unrecognizable from the outside. However, as our friendship and courtship intensified, we had a few heart to hearts on long drives and camping trips, and realized that despite our failure to practice our faith other than at Christmas and Easter, we held in common the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the only son of God, and that he died for us, was buried, and resurrected, and that we believed the Bible to be true.

Although that faith was indeed the “tiny acorn” of scripture, it became the mighty oak of the shelter for our marriage. We have both had some pretty profound spiritual experiences over the 23 or so years that we’ve been seeking a closer relationship with God. I can’t imagine how sad I would be NOT to be able to share those experiences with the one person I’ve committed to spend the rest of my natural life with, or to miss out on the blessing of praying, worshiping and serving together.

Our commitment to living a life that honors Christ has given us guidance in all matters of marital life, from honor to patience to commitment – especially in the moments where our human nature would have sent us in a different direction – away from one another. Shared faith has been huge.

5. We already had common interests, and created more on purpose.  Our first date was to a Raiders game (that is if you ask Joe…I didn’t know it was a date!) We both have always loved sports — especially baseball, football, and – a sport that Joe introduced me to – hockey.  He wanted to teach me about hockey and I wanted to learn since it was important to him. We still laugh about my first Kings game back in 1986 when I asked why some guys were wearing the “hats” and others weren’t. (Yeah, they’re called helmets, just like in football. Who knew?)

One of those common interests we've developed over the years: skiing/showboarding!

One of those common interests we’ve developed over the years: skiing/showboarding!

Nowadays we do the hockey fanatic thing together as a family. We enjoy water sports and snow skiing, fitness and movie-watching, and entertaining, even when one of us perhaps isn’t as interested as the other person (I semi-enthusiastically tent-camped for a number of years before I threw in the dusty towel on that one!).

While it is great to have your individual interests, my caution is that if your hobby consistently takes you away from your mate, and they have no clue what it’s about, it’s probably not helping your partnership at all. My husband wouldn’t set foot in my hip-hop class – and that’s okay. But I also don’t go out partying with the hip-hop class group. If I did, I’d bring Joe.

Check out your local parks and rec listings of classes. Is there anything you both might like to try? (Joe, take this as foreshadowing: I want us to do Stand-Up Paddleboarding!)

6. We were a couple before we were parents.  We were friends for about six months before we got romantic. Then we dated for almost two years before we got married. We were married four years before we became parents.

Add it all together and we had six years of double-income, no-kids fun, worked out some of the chaffing things we discovered about living in the same house, figured out how to handle friends and chores and responsibilities and family and bills and people dropping by with a 12-pack, etc. before we went into that four- or five-year survival mode that two little boys three-and-a-half years apart brings. In survival mode, it is quite difficult to work on anything except the daily to-do list.

7. We both wanted to raise a family – and we both wanted me to stay home with the kids. (Again with the shared values…see a trend?) We both came from very family-oriented crews, and so that one was easy. And when the time came, there was no doubt in my mind that I would stay home (which really makes no sense given my career-girl beginnings. I don’t know what happened, but I am so glad it did!)

With the blessing of being a stay-home mom all these years, I was further able to nurture our marriage by taking care of the myriad details and demands of family life during the day. When Joe returned from the office, we had family dinners, and down time, and then, when the kids went to bed, we could sit and be together. I know that’s a rare financial feat these days, and as I said, we know it was a blessing that not everyone can experience—or that everyone would find joy in. But I sure have – still do!

8. We sought outside help when things got prickly. When we married, we both brought life habits, coping mechanisms and ways of handling challenge culled from our families. There were good things, bad things and downright dysfunctional ways of handling strife that we had seen modeled through the years. We went through a patch where we needed a wise, trained third party to help us navigate those rough waters that involved extended family and personal history. We then began to forge our way of doing things, that held onto the functional legacy and, hopefully, jettisoned that dysfunction. (Of course, our kids will probably find something to seek counseling about our legacy someday!)

9. Date night: vital! When our first-born was about 10 months old, we were blessed to meet the best babysitter in the world! Tara was an education major at the local university, and had replied to a job ad for our church nursery. The day I interviewed her, she and my little guy fell in love. Nearly every Friday for the next 8 years, she babysat for us so that we could go out. Sometimes it was dinner and a movie. Other times to a pool hall. Once we even had a picnic on the beach. We stayed in touch with each other as a couple, not just as parents. (And now Tara is a wife and mom!)

10. We talk to each other – about everything – and we don’t have a “better” friend that gets more info. Communication is key to any relationship, but in a marriage, especially when kids come along, sometimes the verbal exchange amounts to a rundown of the calendar and a to-do list.

Often I would find myself too tired to recount a situation to him – some complicated challenge with a friend, or a concern about something at the kids’ school that I wasn’t even sure he cared about. It would have been much easier to vent to my girlfriends and let that be the end of it.  But I didn’t.

He could have done the same with work issues. But part of that connection was sharing the things that were important and that were dominating our thoughts. We are each other’s  number-one confidante. No co-worker or bestie gets more info or more input. Not even my mom or my sister.

11. We tell each other the truth, even when it is not a happy truth, and we don’t store it up. We are both non-confrontational people by nature, but we were given this advice early on in our marriage: If we’re mad at, disappointed with, or irritated by something the other person has done, is planning to do, or is doing, we say so. Get it out, talk it out, deal with it and move on. (A side note here: Bring up these issues at a time when you are both sober and have energy. Not after a bottle of wine; not when one spouse is about to doze off. Trust me on this!)

My folks always abided by the scripture from Ephesians 4:26-27: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Good advice!

12. We don’t air the marital strife in social situations. Now, I’m all for being transparent, and not putting on some façade that leads others to wrongly believe that we are perfect, but being critical of a spouse to others (whether he or she is present or not) is not beneficial.

No fair making passive-aggressive or flippant comments at a couples’ dinner about something that’s been bugging me. Nope! It’s disrespectful and awkward for everyone.

No fair griping to my girlfriends about an issue we’re having in a way that damages my husband’s reputation or would make them look at him in a different light.

While having a trusted friend who is wise counsel and keeps you accountable is important – vital – care still needs to be taken when sharing about struggles in your marriage.

Are you truly seeking advice and help, or are you just bitchin’? In the case of the latter, I recommend that it stay within the family cone until it’s resolved. Then and only then, with the other person’s permission, share it if your experience can help someone else.

13. We – and our parents before us — were in it for the long haul. Divorce has never been an option in our minds. We promised God and everyone important in our lives that this was the real deal, ‘til death do us part. We meant it.

At the time of this photo (taken at our engagement party, our parents had about 60 years of combined marriage under their belts. Look how happy they were!

At the time of this photo (taken at our engagement party, our parents had about 60 years of combined marriage under their belts. Look how happy they were!

We are blessed with two sets of parents who stayed married. My hubby’s folks had been married over 40 years when my father-in-law passed away. My parents are on year 59. They are still having fun and sharing their common love for sports, socializing and card playing. What a rare legacy we have!

14. We were faithful to each other – and turned away from potential temptations. As my husband said when we were discussing some of these topics, “Who knew monogamy could be so great?” We were laughing, but we meant it. Adultery does not mean the absolute end of a marriage – and if you have worked through infidelity in your marriage and arrived at forgiveness and reconciliation, you are my hero! However, I would venture that most marriages do not survive it.

Although I don’t have first-hand info on this, my hunch is that most extra-marital affairs begin with a seemingly innocent flirtation, glance, comment or gesture at a point when someone can still walk away. There’s a scriptural promise that God always provides a way out of temptation (1Corinthians 10:13).

Everyone is tempted. Who hasn’t felt that rush of being noticed or flirted with, in person or online? It takes a strong, confident person, one who is being honest with him or herself, to recognize that temptation as potentially dangerous and to literally and figuratively walk away from it. If a marriage is in trouble already, the ability to do that is superhuman. God help you. Seriously.

15. We assume the best about each other. If Joe says something, or does something that bugs me or downright pisses me off, I first assume that he didn’t do it to purposely hurt me. Whether it’s an off-the-cuff comment, or a bathroom left in a state of nasty, I remind myself that he loves me, and that really, does any husband purposely want an angry wife?

16. We express gratitude and encouragement to one another. Whether it’s, “Thanks for making the coffee,” or “Thanks for putting out the trash,” – even if we do it almost every single day, we verbally thank one another. And, we speak words of encouragement often, whether it’s a comment on appearance, “You look handsome in that shirt,” or a nod for our effort toward a thankless endeavor:  “I know you’re working you butt off for XXX volunteer project – keep up the good work.” It’s sincere appreciation (no BS-ing!).

17. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  I would say that Joe is better at this – he doesn’t sweat the small details. If he wants to go to a movie, and I really want to stay home and watch a video, he’s more likely to shrug than dig his heels in. I try to be that way, but I often realize after the fact that I missed an opportunity to shrug and acquiesce. See, we always have room for improvement!

18. We didn’t blame problems on circumstances. If you fight about money when you’re poor, you will most likely fight about money when you’re rich. If you blame marital woes on your finances, your bad neighborhood, or anything else that you cannot personally control, chances are, your woes will tag along even if all those things are miraculously fixed.

It’s not the problems and challenges that will get you. It’s how you handle them. We did our best to take responsibility for our actions, make changes when we could, and communicate with each other. That’s where a good therapist will help greatly – to help you see what the core of the problem is.

There are really happy couples who have very little wealth, and really miserable couples who have treasure troves of money (watched any reality TV lately????)

19. We are intentional about intimacy (and not just that kind of intimacy). There are ebbs and flows in the physical part of a marriage. Generally women who are chubby from childbirth, and exhausted from nursing and being up in the night, aren’t thinking about the bedroom (unless it’s daydreaming about taking a nap, right?). That would be what you’d lable an ebb!

As marriages “season,” male and female hormonal levels shift and change. During the “ebbs” it’s important to remember that intimacy isn’t just physical. It’s about connecting on a level where you share your innermost thoughts, your hopes, fears and dreams – being vulnerable with one another. As I mentioned before, you should be sharing this type of intimacy with your spouse, not with your co-worker (especially one who is the opposite sex. Danger zone, and I mean it!)

And on the physical front (no pun intended, really), sometimes you have to trust your hubby’s lead, or he yours if one of you is not feelin’, ahem, “romantical.” And if things really go desert-like in the bedroom, get thee to a counselor! Sex is God-given, fun and free, husbands and wives! Just do it!

20. We divided the responsibilities of marriage, but Joe is the head honcho. I know this will seem weird to some people. Honestly, it would have to me about 30 years ago. Some would call it old-fashioned or outdated, or an affront to women’s rights. But much like a movie production needs a producer, a director, a screenwriter and actors – all of whom are vital to the finished product – marriage and running a family requires that couples take on many vital roles to bring it to success and fruition.

However, someone needs to be ultimately in charge if unresolvable issues arise. Otherwise, production stops.

It is not always easy – I would characterize myself as a strong, opinionated woman. However, I am married to a reasonable, smart, strong man whose opinion I trust and value. We both have our areas of “expertise,” but should a huge disagreement on a family decision occur, I would acquiesce. Thankfully, we have only had minor challenges in this area along the way. That, I believe, comes with compatibility!

21. I am a wife first and a mom second. And I’m not just talking chronology. Maybe you can cross out the period of time when each of our boys were born — first six moths or so – but we tried to put each other ahead of the kids.

It is really easy to get so wrapped up in your children that you hardly speak to one another about anything else. But the truth is – and here it comes, running toward us at an alarming pace – that kids grow up and move on, and you’re left back where you started – only you’re 20 or so years older and wiser, chubbier and more wrinkly.

With intentionality – the intimacy, date nights, etc. – we have maintained our identity as a couple. This certainly makes the prospect of an empty nest (in about 13 months – yikes!) seem less scary.

Nothing says happy like a fancy dinner and gourmet dessert!

Nothing says happy like a fancy dinner and gourmet dessert! Thanks to the Ritz-Carlton @ LA Live staff!

What will my days look like without the demands of Booster Club business and laundry baskets full of track clothes? What will our nights look like with dinner for two as the norm again? That will be a new journey. Thankfully, I will not travel it alone, but with the love of my life, my best friend, my confidante, my lover: my husband.

Here’s to the next 25!

Mary & Martha Revisited: It’s Attitude, Sister.

13 Dec

It’s not how much you have to do, it’s how you feel about it doing it.

(Note: Wow – one MOPS meeting results in three blog posts! What a morning it was! First, Potluck; then My Fave  Five, and now, Mary & Martha. Yahoo!)

I just completed one of the most schedule-packed, busy, speaking-writing,-cooking-socializing 9-day chunks of time in my adult life. The culmination event was leading the devotional and discussion time at the Mothers of Preschoolers group at my church Monday morning. Not surprisingly, given my audience of busy young moms and my recent schedule, I chose a verse that is often studied this time of year — Jesus at the Home of Mary & Martha: Luke 10:38-41. Check it out:

“38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

In my many years of studying this passage, the revelations just keep on coming.

In my early days of reading the Bible, I marveled: This is in the Bible? It seems like such a mundane, slice of life passage. But Jesus cares about the details of life! I have, at various times, identified (silently!) with Martha – Seriously, can’t somebody help me around here? And at other times, when my kids were little and the demands on my time precluded periods of “sitting at Jesus’ feet,” I yearned to be Mary: Please leave me alone and let me just sit quietly!

This year, however, as I revisited this passage with the intent of sharing admonitions against over-committing, and tips for doing what’s really important and lasting during the Christmas season, I had a new reckoning.

It’s not that Martha took on too much, per se. It’s how she felt about her decision – worried and upset. It’s attitude, sister.

After the 9 days of  crazy scheduling I just had – that included producing and co-MCing a women’s event at church, coordinating food for a memorial service at the high school (and I was a speaker there too), baking for a cooking exchange and a care package for my finals-burdened, out-of-state college student, three dinners out, cooking dinner at home every other night for my hubby and my busy 16-year old, hosting three meetings at my house (with food and bev, naturally), coordinating with the dryer repair man, doing announcements at church, going to the holiday fireworks show in our town, and then, speaking at the MOPS group on day nine, you might think I was being Martha – overscheduled and bitter about having to do so much.

But unlike many of those busy times in my adult life when I have over-committed and grumbled, this was different. I loved every minute of it! I mean, I was seriously joyful!

What was the difference this time? Well, the only explanation is: God.

As I approached this season – which I knew would be busy, even without foreknowledge about the death of our beloved Track Coach and his Memorial Service – I was praying fiercely and obediently. And I asked others, whom I knew would really do it, to pray for me. Before accepting responsibilities or offering to help others, I laid my ideas before God and asked Him – Should I? I didn’t respond to any requests immediately. I let the decision marinate in prayer.

Did I hear a voice? Well, that’d be weird! But “hearing” isn’t necessary when all the answers I need are in the Bible. This verse, which I had memorized long before, resonated with me as I prayed and sat quietly, “listening:”

“Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” Colossians 3:23

So, I felt God was saying – Hey, Cindy, it’s really up to you if you decide to do this stuff. But if you do, remember that you are doing it for me, you are representing me, so don’t go all Martha on me. If you decide to do more than that “one thing that is needed,” don’t be worrying and upset. And definitely don’t try to pass the buck to someone who has chosen differently. No guilt trips, girl.

So, with God’s blessing, I discussed the scheduling with my wonderful, patient, also-busy husband, and we figured it out. And then, there was the matter of a couple of giant and key naps on last Sunday afternoon and this past Saturday afternoon. Those kind where you wake up and think it’s a different day! So awesome!

So, as you go forward with your to-dos and your plans, and all those “shoulds” that you have on your calendar, it’s probably too late to decide whether or not you can get out of them. But it’s never too late to lift up your attitude for a recalibration. Remember who the Christmas season is really for, and ask Him to help you get to a place where you can joyfully serve, work, cook, clean, shop, host, whatever, as though He were going to be right there with you. Because, ya know, He is.

Now, as the real “meat” of my Christmas season looms (and yes, it’s Dec 13 and I have only bought 3 gifts), my challenge will be to maintain my joy, my daily conversation with God, and the act of laying my schedule out for prayer and approval.

Stuff to think about while you’re in line at Costco…or on the freeway….or trying to fall asleep:

When have you missed a moment because you were more Martha than Mary – grumbling about all you perceive you must do instead of enjoying it?

In what areas do you struggle for perfection – often hampering your own – and others’– joy?

What can you do this Christmas to be more “sit at the feet of Jesus and enjoy the moment” rather than “Hey, why isn’t anyone helping me do all this crazy stuff I think I need to do?”

Identify what you can let go of, and let go. Identify the “have-to’s” and work to change your attitude about them.

And pray!

“Mary” Christmas!

Pray, Pray, so you won’t be so Cra’y Cra’y!

11 Jan

 

 

This is an excerpt from one of my “McTopics” presentations for the Mothers Of Preschoolers group I mentor.

 

Prayer Life – if Jesus made it a priority – and He’s Jesus! – then we should too! But in the hectic lives of moms with young kids, it can be challenging to fit it in. I know – I was there, and to prove it with apologies to Laura Numeroff (author of the “If You Give a Mouse…” books), please enjoy:

If you give a mommy a free hour …..by Cindy McMahon

If you give a mommy a free hour of quiet time to spend in prayer and meditation while her baby naps, she’s going to need a hot cup of coffee to go with it.

When she goes to get her favorite coffee cup, she notices that she never started the dishwasher. While rinsing out her cup, she sees that there are some additional empty spaces in the dishwasher, so she tours the house, gathering up a few dirty dishes to fill the dishwasher.

While her coffee is brewing, she gets a text from her best friend, who wants to know if she’ll be able have a playdate at the park later in the week. She opens up her laptop to check her online calendar, and realizes that she never scheduled her dental checkup – three months late! Quickly, she looks up her dentist’s phone number, whose name is alphabetically next to her in-laws’ and she realizes that she never got around to ordering her mother-in-law’s birthday gift from Amazon.com.

She goes online and sees that she has 12 notifications on Facebook and 32 unread emails. As she checks those notifications (mostly on a cute pic she uploaded of her sleeping angel) , she sees that someone has shared a Pinterest pin with her.

Ooooh – it’s a darling craft she wants to do with her older kids. But she’ll need clothespins. She goes into the laundry room to see how many clothespins she has, and realizes that she never put the last load of clothes (from two days ago) into the dryer. She notices they smell kind of funky, and so she decides to run them again with a little baking soda to refresh them.

Heading back into the kitchen to get the baking soda, she smells her coffee. She tries to pour it without putting down the baking soda, and drops the baking soda, which was wide open, onto the kitchen floor. She puts down the coffee pot and sweeps up the spill – and the rest of the kitchen, for good measure.

Finally, she fills her favorite mug and carries it over to her cozy spot on the couch, where her prayer list and Bible, open to Proverbs 31, is waiting. As she sits down, she wonders if she’ll be able to stay awake if she closes her eyes in prayer. Just as she does, she hears crying on the baby monitor, looks at her watch and realizes that naptime is over.

If you give a mommy a cup of coffee, she’s going to need a free hour of prayer time to go with it.

Have you been there? Me too! With so much to be done – both the “have to do’s” and the “want to do’s” – it is challenging to make the time to just sit and spend time with God. But as I’ve found over the years, it is such a key component of living a Spirit-filled, “slow-to-anger,” wise-decision-making kind of life. Jesus, at the height of his ministry when he was in high demand and being sought after by thousands, made solitary prayer a priority.  That’s humbling, really, because as busy as I am, my schedule is certainly not as full as his! And yet, he stole away for quiet time with God. Obviously, we need to as well!

Get started:

1. If you haven’t been regularly spending time in prayer, start small – how about 5 or 10 minutes? Can you wake up a bit earlier? Lock yourself in the bathroom? The car?)

2. Grab a pen & paper: As you sit quietly, plenty of forgotten tasks will flood your mind. Write them down, and get back to prayer (don’t go off and do them!)

3. Cellphone goes to another room.

4. Read the Bible: Psalms are my favorites – reminders of how amazing God has been through the ages – and certainly, that my situation isn’t as bad as David’s was at times! And, it helps to settle me in. You can even print a Psalm out from a Bible website like BibleGateway.com the night before.

5. Prayer routine: I’ve followed the *Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch) fours steps of prayer for the last 10 years and so I begin with praise for God, then I move into a moment or two (or more sometimes!) of quiet confession. Next comes a period of thanking God for what he’s done or answers to prayer that I’ve received. Then, finally, I begin asking God for his help in certain areas. *momsinprayer.org

Benefits: I love the phrase Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us. He wants to hear from us (what parent doesn’t want to hear from their kid?) But our time with Him makes us better folk.

Spirit Girl: What I’ve experienced in the days when I begin with prayer (and I confess this is not every single day – but I try!) is a wiser, more calm approach to everything. From long lines in the market to inconsiderate drivers, broken glass to sass from my kids, my reactions are more in the *Fruit of the Spirit category than the “react now, regret it later” mode, which seems to be my default. The new jar of salsa still breaks and splatters when it hits the kitchen floor, and people still don’t understand what a four-way-stop means (that all four cars have to stop in order for it to work!!), but that stuff bothers me less. I have even been known to shrug and laugh about it.

Wise-time management: Regular prayer has me in the habit of reflecting upon any day’s to-do list and figuring out which things are important, and which things can wait (or go away, or be delegated – that’s my favorite!). Lots of paring down this way – there may even be time for a cup of coffee later!

Now that quiet time with God has become more the norm than the exception, when I do miss that morning window, I will regroup when I remember and take a moment right then to check in with The Creator. Usually that realization hits after I’ve made an error in judgment (did I really need to walk up and down every aisle at Costco, picking up several impulse items, just because I was there to save $12 on trash compactor bags?) or meted out harsh words for someone I love. Sigh. It’s a process folks.

Finally: I think of it like this: Going through my day without prayer is like going to the supermarket without a list. I might get what I need, but more than likely, I will forget something important and come home with several things that I don’t need and won’t use.

Happy New Year to you – enjoy the fresh start!

*Fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5:22-23

New International Version (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Hockey and the Here and Now

20 Apr

It was loud. So loud. Ear-itching loud. The cheers, whoops, heavy metal music, screams, applause, a roar of a soundtrack filling the building, and increasing. A flurry of white towels, twirled in small circles with abandon, was juxtaposed against the black garb of every die-hard Kings fan.

As the tension of anticipation rose – along with the decibel level – I put my arms and my towel down for a moment and got still. I felt a vibration in my chest – so much bass. I looked at each of the men in my life – my husband of 22 years who lured me into this hockey fanaticism when we were dating, and my sons, 18 and 14, who had been attending Kings game faithfully since they were in utero. I smiled at the pure joy of hope, of expectation, of promise that was obvious in their screaming demeanors, their fists pumping the air wildly to “This Is LA.” Yes!

18,000 of us, hollering exultantly because the puck had not yet been dropped on this first home playoff game of the season. We could all celebrate this moment, the culmination of a grind-it-out fall and winter that qualified us for late April play.

I breathed it in, savoring every sound, every sight. The smell of my ice cold beer, the taste of it so perfect after my onion-laden hot dog. The cold blast of air from some unseen vent that had chilled us at every game since we began sitting in Section 218, Row 12, several years before.

This time next year, not one of us knows where we’ll be. Let’s be honest – we don’t even know IF we’ll be. Certainly we hold hope and expectation that our oldest will be away at the University of Texas-Austin navigating his way through his freshman year of college. We expect that our youngest will be moving forward through the challenge that the sophomore year of high school inevitably brings. We expect that we will all be able to successfully respond to the change in our family dynamic – that party of four becoming a party of three. That we’ll be alive, and healthy. But we don’t really know.

And that’s what makes living in the moment – one of those buzz phrases of our time – so important. It’s certainly not new. Jesus himself advised us not to worry about tomorrow for “tomorrow will worry about itself.”

He knew then that our tendency is to focus on the goal, the destination, and to worry about all the steps that lead there. And while we must do our share of planning if we are to be successful, prepared people (and not end up lost somewhere, either literally or figuratively), if we are to go to college, lose weight, remodel our homes, coordinate a fundraiser, even make a healthy, balanced dinner, we must look forward and plan.

But not at the expense of missing what’s happening right now. Today. This minute, this right now, that moment before the hockey game begins. While others shouted, “Drop the puck!” because they just wanted this game to get started, to get closer to that hoped-for outcome, I just wanted to languish in this anticipatory revelry a few more moments. Tears pushed at the edges of my eyeliner and I thanked God for these seconds, this slice of sheer joy that had risen up in the strangest of places – downtown LA in a sea of fluttering rally towels, with rabid fanatical hockey fans, and with the most precious people in my life. This is a blessing from God. This is the experience. Marinate in it. Experience it with every one of the senses. Rejoice. Be thankful. Soak it up. And I did.

If you follow hockey, you know how the rest of the night went. We got to scream hysterically in celebration of four unanswered goals – some coming so close together that we hadn’t finished cheering for the previous one– only to end up losing the game in overtime, 6-5. Oh, yes, quite the buzzkill. People will certainly talk about this game for years – how the Kings blew a four-goal lead and the San Jose Sharks were amazingly able to rally in this game after losing the previous game 4-0.

But I will never forget this night for what happened before the main event. I will always cherish, relish and reflect on that blessing of being right where I was, happy, safe, secure and profoundly thankful in experiencing the joy of hope and promise. Unlike a four-goal lead, no one can ever take that away from me.